Melany M. August 22, 2019
SK Telecom T1 is moving to the second round of the 2019 LCK Summer Playoffs after a victory over Afreeca Freecs.
The match was the first playoffs series worldwide to be played on Patch 9.16. The live update drastically changed the meta, hitting some of the most popular champions in professional play.
SKT defeats Afreeca in the draft
The draft had a number of surprises take place.
Bottom laner Kim "Aiming" Ha-ram continued to pick Ezreal despite the nerfs to his E. Mid laner Son "Ucal" Woo-hyeon locked in Qiyana, a champion that hasn't seen much action in the LCK.
The early game was slow. Jungler Lee "Dread" Jin-hyeok played around Ucal, preventing any possible ganks from Kim “Clid” Tae-min. The mid lane quickly became a hotzone, with the first battles of the game taking place there.
Confident about their draft, SKT collapsed in the mid lane and attempted to catch Dread. Ucal turned the play around with a flash over the wall and a Qiyana ult. Afreeca found another favorable fight around the Rift Herald. Both teams walked away with three kills.
While they split those early engagements, Afreeca’s good fortune ran out quickly. The team's lane assignments were not easy to pull off and the players found themselves in difficult matchups that they couldn’t pull off.
SKT aced Afreeca 22 minutes into the game. The squads were fighting for the dragon when top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha on Vladimir flanked them from behind and slaughtered Afreeca in a matter of seconds.
The first baron allowed SKT to break the base and keep the pressure on. Afreeca found two kills and managed to secure the second baron. The buff only kept them alive for a couple of minutes, though. Inside the base, SKT pulled the trigger for a third ace and the win.
SKT closes the series
Afreeca bounced back in game two. The team locked in Draven for Aiming, one of his most successful champions in the regular season.
SKT played a passive style this time around. They couldn’t respond to Afreeca in the bottom lane and Khan struggled to keep up with Kim “Kiin” Gi-in. Both teams made minor mistakes, but nothing particularly ruinous for their chances.
The game was standard and slow, a pace that allowed Afreeca to wrap up SKT and even the series.
SKT jumped into game three with a new perspective. The team drafted a bottom lane that could absorb pressure, and solo laners with a strong presence in the early game.
This time it wasn’t about giving players their comfort picks, but instead going for whatever is working in the current meta. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok locked in Qiyana, his first time playing the champion on the LCK stage.
SKT roamed to the bottom lane early in the game. The skirmish put Park "Teddy" Jin-seong in a comfortable enough position to survive the rest of the laning phase. After that fight, Clid and Faker moved to the top lane to get more kills.
The synergy between Faker and Clid was the game-changer for SKT in game three. The duo moved together around the map, boosting the side laners and securing vision on the enemy’s jungle.
Aiming inevitably fell behind and the rest of the team suffered for it. Afreeca’s opportunity came after multiple mistakes from support Lee "Effort" Sang-ho. The team turned those mistakes into kills and vision around the baron buff.
Afreeca managed to stay alive with the second baron spawn of the game. Despite having an exposed nexus, the team repelled attacks from SKT. The final fight happened around the elder dragon.
SKT positioned themselves to get the buff and Afreeca was ready to contest. Behind the pit, Faker waited patiently for Kiin in anticipation of a flank. That paid off as Faker intercepted him and got the kill before he could do anything. The rest of the team pounced and aced Afreeca as they tried to run. Faker and Clid finished the game with 100% kill participation.
SKT is heading to the second round of the playoffs to face Sandbox Gaming. Afreeca still has a chance to compete at the 2019 World Championship. They will play the first game of the Regional Finals versus Kingzone DragonX.