Melany M. June 8, 2019
SK Telecom T1 started the summer season with a win, but didn’t look especially good in the process.
After a disappointing result in the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational, SKT returned to Korea for the 2019 LCK Summer Split. The season started with a match against Jin Air Green Wings, led by star jungler Kim “Malrang” Geun-seong.
The early stages of game one favored Jin Air. With a combination of smart rotations, strong objective control, and aggressive play on the rift from Malrang, Jin Air grew a considerable advantage that allowed them to secure two baron buffs.
SKT waited for the right time to counterattack and that opportunity came when Jin Air went for baron number three. After wiping out Jin Air and scoring the baron steal, SKT made the push to end the game there. Jin Air bottom laner Moon "Route" Geom-su held them back for a time but SKT still managed to secure the win minutes later with a backdoor play.
Jin Air learned from their mistakes in game two. SKT enjoyed a strong start, sprinting ahead in gold and punishing Jin Air’s passive play. Though it seemed like Jin Air was poised for an early loss, the team capitalized on their second baron buff to steal the win and even the series.
On match point, Malrang and top laner Heo “Lindarang” Man-heung played aggressively right from the start. That paid off for a time but the aggression quickly became punishable greed, which SKT capitalized on to negate Jin Air’s early edge. SKT’s Kim “Clid” Tae-min, Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok pressed that advantage further by roaming to the top lane and fighting in the jungle.
A desperate Jin Air attempted to force a baron at 21 minutes, which SKT punished with an ace. That rout was the final nail in the coffin for Jin Air, forcing the team into a defensive shell. At 30 minutes, SKT killed four out of five enemies and marched into the enemy base to seal up the series 2-1.
Though they didn’t come out with a win, this was a strong showing by Jin Air. The team posted a disappointing 10th-place finish last season, which forced them into relegation. They managed to retain their LCK spot by taking second place in the LCK 2019 Summer Promotion tournament and that might have injected a little bit of life into the team.
On the flipside, SKT looked a bit shaky and will next face Afreeca Freecs and Kingzone DragonX. These teams are less forgiving than Jin Air, with Kingzone in particular looking like a serious contender. Jin Air will return in week two and will look to get a win against Damwon Gaming.