After their first loss in the group stage versus OMG, SK Telecom T1 looked like a well-oiled machine who was knee-bent on crushing enemies game after game. Their quarterfinals match against the Gamania Bears displayed the same level of brilliance as they dismantled SEA’s last hope. However, in their series against regional brethren Najin Black Sword, SKT showed some troubling missteps of gameplay that may haunt them in their finals match against Royal Club.
Impact’s Ineffectiveness on Shen
Thus far at the World Championship, Renekton and Shen have been the definitive picks for SKT’s top lane. Aside from fringe picks such as Jarvan IV, Kennen, and the Trinity Force-enhanced Jax, Impact has relied on these two champions to dominate the group stages and the brackets up until the grand finals. However, in his two matches played against Expession and the rest of Najin Black Sword, it wouldn’t be harsh to judge his performance on Shen as anything less than sub-par.
Not to discredit Impact as a player since champion picks are often a teamwide decision, but during games 1 and 3, his mechanical use and decision making could be questioned. Perhaps it was coming off the high of facing the less intensive matchup against the Bears or just overconfidence, but in those two games his Shen was the most ineffective champion in the map as he was underleveled and underfarmed.
Shut Down Early and Hard
In the opening match of the series, one might say that SKT did not respect Expession during the picks and ban phase. Unlike Gambit Gaming who banned Jax away from Expession due to his reputation of traditionally playing carry oriented tops like Impact, SKT placed higher priorities on Shen since he excels greatly in pick compositions, synergizing well in particular with Faker’s Ahri. Sword jumped at the opportunity to pick Jax against Shen and immediately drafted an excellent game plan to combat SKT’s skirmishing goals.
Instead of opting for a 2v1 lane to deny Shen farm, Sword instead pits Jax against him hoping to take advantage of Shen’s inability to itemize well against Jax’s mixed damage in the early stages of the game. After unsuccessfully roaming bottom and middle to gank Faker and the 100-acre-lane, Watch set his sights to the top lane where Expession was pushing heavily while warding the river side. Knowing that a countergank wasn’t a possibility and Bengi’s preference for sticking to the bottom side of the map, Watch set up camp in the top bushes and after a successful Cocoon, Expession picks up First Blood on Jax.
Once again, Sword realizes the benefits of investing their resources into Jax and gives up immediate gold gains in exchange for top lane dominance. As SKT takes position around the dragon area, Watch rotates to the topside of the map and helps Expession take down the outer turret. Since the rest of SKT1 is occupied around dragon, Expession takes this opportunity to wail on the turret while Watch goes to counterjungle wolves. However, Impact decides to taunt Expession into tower and Watch immediately returns back to land another Cocoon and the two take down Shen and feed another kill to Jax. At this point, Impact’s decision to fight even whilst under turret has cost him the chance to duel Jax in the future by essentially giving him a free kill. At this point of the game, Shen can’t handle Jax with a Trinity Force unless he purchases a Randuin’s Omen or gains a significant level advantage.
At about the 16 minute mark into the game, PoohManDu was caught out while warding by an Elise Cocoon and was soon bursted down to 1/10 HP by Nagne’s Gragas and Impact used Stand United to teleport in. Although SKT decide to teamfight as 4v5 with Ezreal pushing the bottom lane, when Impact does port in, he missed a critical Shadow Dash on Elise and that decision allowed both Gragas and Jax to continue DPSing without worry and the trade results in Sword destroying the outer middle turret.
After dragon spawned at the 26 minute mark, it seemed as if SKT wanted to contest it away from Sword. However, Sword had positioned themselves with 3 bodies in the pit and with the remainder of the team near the banana brush. SKT warded that same brush that revealed Jax and Gragas in it but due to the possibility of being caught out in a bad teamfight, SKT decided not to engage and let the dragon fall. However, Impact was left in a bad position and was forced to taunt out of the bush dragging Jax and eventually the rest of the team along with him as Nagne knocked him back with an Explosive Cask. With Impact out of the fight, Sword yet again took another turret as a result of Impact’s positioning.
And at the 30 minute mark, a teamfight broke out at middle while Impact was split-pushing the bottom lane. To join the fight, Impact used Stand United but on an incorrect target. At the point of his teleport, Faker had been severely chunked and the shield would have allowed him to live on Ahri whose damage could have turned the fight. Also, PoohManDu had positioned himself aggressively near the team hoping to snare and keep threats away from Piglet who had been as far away as possible from the fight. Instead of Faker or PoohManDu, Impact chose Piglet who was already at full health and during the rest of the teamfight, Impact whiffed two Shadow Dashes and eventually fed another kill to Nagne’s dangerous Gragas.
As the game came to a close with Sword taking Baron and sieging the top inhibitor tower, Impact’s targets for Shadow Dash became increasingly limited as Nagne built a Zhonya’s Hourglass and PraY’s Corki would be in the backlines and would require more magic resistance to reach without dying. In a last ditch effort before the tower fell, Impact dashed into Nagne but he just simply went invulnerable and the rest of Sword was free to wreak havoc on SKT. Although Faker died immediately, Piglet was still left alive and if Impact had landed a Shadow Dash onto a mispositioned Corki, SKT might have been able to turn the fight around and eventually delay the game.
Falling Asleep While Splitting
As game 3 went underway, the drafting phase went similar the first game of the series where Shen was a high priority pick for SKT. However, this time instead of countering it with a Jax, Expession picked Renekton, another laner who could easily outpace Shen in the early part of the game if allowed to farm or go even.
In the early portion of this game, Sword and SKT traded turrets back and forth and at the 19 minute mark, there was a 1.2k gold difference in favor of Sword with three towers down for each team. No carries were incredibly fed at the moment but Faker did have 2 kills and his Deathfire Grasp while Watch’s Lee Sin had accumulated 4 kills thus far in the game. After Bengi spotted Watch near his red in the topside jungle, the rest of SKT backed away since they were not looking for a teamfight. However, Impact made the decision to continue split pushing without enough forward vision and the reassurance that the rest of his team would be shoving the other lanes for map pressure. While skirmishing with Renekton for a pair of golems, Impact used his Shadow Dash and was left without an escape as Watch and Nagne closed in to get a free kill from Impact.
At 22 minutes, the dragon had spawned again and it looked as if Sword was conceding the dragon to SKT without any intentions of fighting for it. However, after a botched Dark Flight from Aatrox with Shen Stand Uniting on top of him, SKT backed out to finish dragon while Impact initiated into Sword 1v5. He died immediately and while retreating led Sword to the rest of his team to lay waste without their only beefy tank to soak up damage. Although Sword was unable to pickup anymore additional kills, Nagne and Expession chose to push the inner middle turret. And there, Nagne was able to outduel Faker in a 1v1 and immediately after Bengi died after he tried to kill Nagne’s Gragas under tower. If Impact’s Stand United hadn’t been wasted earlier at dragon, he could have turned the outcome of that skirmish and perhaps propel Faker into a snowball.
Since SKT’s inner middle inhibitor had gone down, it left both sides of the jungle available for Sword’s taking. In order to relieve map pressure, Impact attempted to split push the bottom lane but was once again caught offguard. Without vision, Sword once again collapsed onto Impact and his death led to another turret. Since almost every lane was pushing, Sword gained control of the Baron area, hoping that SKT would blindly check and allow for a pick. SKT ended up out of position right outside their base and a fight ensued. Once again, Impact’s decisonmaking in the teamfight was less than ideal as he taunted Expession and Watch rather than PraY and twice fumbled Shadow Dash while attempting to escape which led to PraY picking up another kill on Corki. And following after at 35 minutes, Impact was trying to split-push top lane while SKT knew Sword was at Baron. After giving up his life for free, Sword pushed the top lane and destroyed the inhibitor, rotated bottom to siege, and eventually took the game.
Impact’s Imprint on the Games
Although Shen wasn’t the only reason why SKT dropped two games against Sword, Impact’s performance on the champion was indubitably one of the largest factors contributing to those two losses. Whether it be to mechanical error, map awareness, or target selection, his decisions affected the global map and without having the capability to split-push and alleviate or create global pressure across the map, Shen’s utility as a champion rapidly plummets. During game 1, SKT refused to ban Jax away from Expession and paid the price dearly when Impact was rendered useless ingame since he had no way to duel with the grandmaster. Therefore, Impact resorted to sticking with his team for 5v5 engagements but those didn’t turn out as smooth as SKT would have wanted. And during game 3, his Shen was the focal point of Sword’s strategy as they specifically targeted Impact to tilt teamfight numbers in their favor. If SK Telecom T1 hope to take on Royal Club and come out of the finals as the victors, they’ll need to reapproach the way Impact is utilized on Shen since his current play will not cut it on the big stage.