The stage is ready for the 2019 LCK summer playoffs.
After ten dramatic weeks of competition, five teams made it to the next phase of the tournament.
The LCK follows a King of the Hill format, as whoever wins moves up to the next round to play a higher seeded team. This is a single-elimination bracket that starts with a best-of-three wild card match. Starting in round two, all of the matches are best-of-five.
Both of these teams finished the season with the same record, but the story for the squads are very different. Coming off the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational, SKT started the season with a five-game losing streak.
The team struggled to find their footing with all of its members underperforming. Everything changed in week four, as the team found its first victory in over a month against long-time rivals KT Rolster. SKT was back on top, and they even took the first place for a brief period of time.
The ever-changing nature of the LCK then pushed them back down in the ladder. SKT was one game away from missing the playoffs at the end, but they’re not a contender that should be underestimated.
Afreeca Freecs was a middle-of-the-pack team. After losing most of its big names in 2018, the team put together a squad full of talented but young players. If this team stays together for another year, they could potentially match the teams at the top of the ladder.
The young squad went from finishing the 2019 LCK spring split in the eighth place to qualifying for the 2019 LCK Summer playoffs. Still, this is a team that needs a little more time to mature.
Sandbox Gaming is the next opponent in the gauntlet. Starting in round two, the matches are best-of-five series.
Sandbox is part of the new wave of teams taking over the LCK. This is a top-three team, but perhaps the least menacing of the trio. Sandbox is the type of team that can snowball an advantage out of control. Playing from behind, the team looks completely different.
In the final match of the season, Sandbox faced SKT in a series that finished in a full three games. In a post-match interview, SKT’s mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok said that he could feel how Sandbox slowly lost control of the final game and gave up.
This is a team that can make mistakes and has a hard time getting back in the game when they’re at a disadvantage. In a best-of-five series versus SKT, Sandbox would likely be the underdog.
Damwon Gaming’s popularity skyrocketed at 2019 Rift Rivals. They completely destroyed the LPL competition and made a name for themselves in their first international appearance. Domestically, Damwon is one of the strongest contenders for the 2019 LCK summer title.
Led by the 2019 LCK summer MVP Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu, Damwon is the type of team that can adapt to its opponent and waits patiently for their mistakes. Damwon’s players work as a unit and none of them require more attention from Canyon than the other. In a league where the mid and bot laners are the typical stars, Damwon top laner Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon has become the biggest threat on his team.
Damwon is not unbeatable, as the team dropped games versus Sandbox, Afreeca, and SKT. Out of the three teams in the previous rounds, SKT is the only one that can likely challenge Damwon in an extended series. Versus SKT, it would come down to the match-ups in the top lane and the jungle.
Griffin is looking to become the Cloud9 of the LCK. A team that is creative, has good international performances, and always finishes in second place. This is the third time in a row that Griffin finishes the regular season in the first place. No matter the outcome of the final, they’re guaranteed to attend the 2019 Worlds Championship, their first World Championship appearance.
Griffin’s weakness was in the top lane. Not because Choi “Sword” Sung-won was not a top-tier player, but because he was passive compared with the rest of his teammates. Rookie top laner Choi “Doran” Hyeon-joon is now the starting top laner for Griffin. The difference between Sword and Doran is important to the team’s perforamance, and the team has maintained its chemistry and works strong as a unit.
To pick Griffin as the 2019 LCK summer champion is a gamble because the team consistently disappoints in the finals. Unlike the LEC and the LCS that have clear number one teams, the LCK has an assortment of great teams fighting for the title.
Will Griffin take the title for the first time? Will SKT pull off the best gauntlet run in LCK history? Is this the Damwon season?
We’ll find out soon.