SK Gaming is a team with a long history in both competitive League and eSports as a whole.
We will gloss over the days of Ocelote; the story of the current SK started in late 2013. The team was almost entirely rebuilt at this time, with CandyPanda as the lone holdover.
The fledgling team made it back into the LCS by the skin of their teeth, defeating the Supa Hot Crew in a Promotion match 3-2. Off this result, and the weak résumés of their new players, most predicted SK to be a mediocre team in the upcoming Split.
SK initially appeared to fulfill this prophecy, starting off the Season in 4th, but as the weeks went on SK quietly climbed until they eventually stood atop the League. In the Playoffs, they took 2nd.
In the Summer Split SK appeared to slump a bit and many predicted Millenium as the third team to go to Worlds. SK closed strong, however, and gave eventual champions Alliance a hard time before crushing Roccat 3-0 for the 3rd and final Worlds berth.
Top Lane – Simon “fredy122” Payne
The man in SK’s top lane is a consistent player and one willing to adapt to the meta. Fredy didn’t enter the scene with a lot of hype but over time he has quietly earned the respect of his peers as a tricky lane opponent, yet also capable of surprising roams. He doesn’t boast a high KDA but that can be attributed towards a willingness to die for the greater good.
Fredy is one of the players credited as keeping Aatrox in the European meta, having a good understanding of how to bully people with the champion’s unusual power curve. While he primarily focused on lane bullies during the Season, he’s been seen on tanks, Nidalee, and even oddballs like Yorick at times.
Jungle – Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen
Svenskeren’s competitive career dates back some time. He played for then-LCS team NiP for some time but left amid a great many roster moves. The Swede (a literal translation in Danish) has competed and held his own against many a fine European jungler. Today, he stands alongside Jankos and Shook as perhaps the best in his region.
Svenskeren stayed mostly within the core jungle meta this past split but in the past he’s branched out and played champions such as Amumu, Shyvana, and the delicate Fiddlesticks. He didn’t play the popular Rengar but even so, should a new jungle champion emerge at Worlds, good money’s that Svenskeren can play it.
Mid Lane – Jesse “Jesiz” Le
Jesiz gets the least credit of any player on SK. Why? The answer is, of course, Incarnation, the coach that SK quietly hides in their closet. In truth Jesiz is a pretty strong player in his own right. In fact, Jesiz actually attained the most kills for a mid laner during the regular season.
Jesiz has been criticized as “just another passive Ziggs player” in the past but over time he’s grown comfortable with more aggressive champions. In the Playoffs he favored the assassin Ahri heavily and at other times he’s favored other pick-oriented play makers, such as Twisted Fate and Kassadin.
Jesiz still isn’t quite the solo threat that some other teams have but he’s grown into a role that works for SK.
AD Carry – Adrian “CandyPanda” Wübbelmann
CandyPanda is the oldest member of SK. There have been interruptions, but his tenure goes all the way back to Season 1. At times he’s had his name in for one of the best AD carries in Europe. The conversation mostly centers on Rekkles and Tabzz these days but CandyPanda would tell you he’s never lost a step to his rivals.
Like most others at his position CandyPanda follows the meta to a T. In today’s game that means Tristana, Kog’Maw and Corki, with just a pinch of Twitch. If a new champion comes in, it gets played until it’s comfortable.
Support – Christoph “nRated” Seitz
SK’s support nRated was the last player to join the current roster and the man with the most reputation at stake. A year ago nRated was unceremoniously kicked from Regional Champions Fnatic and his work ethic disparaged.
He worked as an analyst for some time for both EG and Lemondogs but the competitive fire still burned within him. nRated worked his mechanics back into shape and eventually found a spot on SK.
nRated is commonly known as a calculated game strategist but he likes risk more than you’d think. He’s not afraid to pull out ringers like Gragas, Vel’koz, or even Galio if he sees a use. No matter what champion he’s on, nRated plays with surprising aggression. This sometimes gets him into a little trouble but for the most part nRated fits SK as the initiator and big playmaker.
SK has a reputation for strategic soundness but lets dig a bit deeper.
SK is fundamentally based around team fighting (to my eyes). They generally do not rely heavily on solo-laner split push. When they do, it’s with the goal of generating map pressure rather than individually taking a turret. They’ve focused a little more on pick champions like Ahri, Twisted Fate and Elise as of late but, if anything, they prefer to focus on the sieging aspect of those compositions.
The part of the game where SK shows their strategic prowess is in the early game
This used to be a weakness of SK; they often struggled in the laning phase during the first half of the Season. The early-game meta of lane swaps has subtly evolved over time, and with it SK has developed a sound sense of how to generate early advantages.
SK is also a solid team in picks and bans. Combined with good early-game sense and a strong individual jungler this allows SK to win or break even during lane phase.
The primary weakness of SK is actually just getting out-played in team fights. It’s not frequent but SK does sometimes botch their initiation or get blind-sided late game. While they have good teamwork overall, Jesiz and CandyPanda are also a bit more passive than their teammates and sometimes not quite on the same page (compared to nRated, who, as mentioned, can be reckless at times).
Many have suggested that SK can tactically out-match TSM. I don’t quite agree due to SK’s predilection towards team fighting. TSM is and has always been great at the 5v5. Many classic TSM victories are born of simply snowballing a Dragon fight.
SK may play the map well and perhaps generate a lead for one of their side lanes early game. It is unlikely, however, that they will gain an advantage in more than one lane. Bjergsen is a fearsome laner 1v1 and while Jesiz is good at breaking even, Svenskeren will probably have to spend at least some time around the mid lane to ensure his farm or protect him from Amazing.
Whatever happens during the laning phase, SK is likely going to give TSM what they want eventually: full on 5v5’s instead of smaller skirmishes. The latter gives them much better odds of actually winning but SK’s team-oriented players prefer grouping up as a matter of comfort.
I would say that could be their downfall. However, despite recent improvement, TSM has sometimes faltered in picks and bans. If SK manages to out-pick TSM, they might negate any real or perceived team-fight advantage and close out the game cleanly. Stylistically, TSM does match up well and is my pick to win, but careful attention should be paid to Champion Select.
The Taipei Assassins are, as always, a mystery to many due to the GPL’s low Western exposure. A perusal of their three Playoff Series would suggest that they are not a serious contender in this Group but, given Season 2 World Championship results, can you ever count them out?
Their jungler Winds has gained some recognition as a Korean solo-queue star and a mechanically proficient player but TPA also hosts two talented mid laners in Morning and Chawy. Both are serious threats and so the largest risk the rest of Group B has in playing against TPA is in the jungle-mid 2v2. SK is no exception and should approach that part of the map with caution.
With that said, TPA’s side lanes are not as impressive. They are competent but most of the kills they get are from plays that Winds or the mid laner makes. Top laner Achie also may have a strange champion pool, having been seen playing Jax several months after the champion was nerfed out of the meta.
SK is a better overall team than TPA. As long as they keep good vision around the center of the map and avoid getting picked, SK should be able to win a side lane and win off smart objective play.
Rumors abound about the relationships within Starhorn Royal Club but, all that aside, SK actually matches up fairly well here. Their aforementioned early game is the key to victory.
SHRC is undoubtedly a team with poor communication in planning and early execution. It’s really just the Insec show. For better or for worse, he goes where he pleases, letting the chips fall where they may.
Barring some misplay early, I think SK will have a field day if they lane swap against SHRC; they will see a mistake and capitalize on it. This also allows them to avoid playing 2v2 with Uzi, which is probably the most threatening potential matchup.
From there it’s about how well SK snowballs. If they generate enough of a lead by the mid game, they’ll probably close it out without trouble.
If they don’t, then they might be in more trouble. If SK misplaces their aggression or fights 5v5 without enough of a lead, SHRC could turn the game. It’s cliche but history has shown that Chinese teams (and LMQ in America) are capable of scraping out comebacks through aggressive and creative skirmishing.
SK shoudn’t necessarily be “afraid” of SHRC’s late game but it’s probably for the best if they carefully and methodically stamp them out early. SK should beat SHRC but they need to play with discipline and not get drawn in by the League equivalent of a drunken brawl.
Group B Predicted Standings
2) SK Gaming
SK’s relaxed play and clear shot-calling should net them First or Second