2016 World Championship: SKT take a hit, then take RNG down

SKT on stage, courtesy of Riot Games and lolesports.com
SKT on stage, courtesy of Riot Games and lolesports.com /

RNG didn’t give up, but after they threw the first punch, SKT came back with a vengeance.

Over the last few years, professional League of Legends has been dominated by organizations from two majors regions. While China’s LPL has been in a couple finals, Korea’s LCK won the last three. After a disastrous showing in 2015 and a stumble at the 2016 MSI, Chinese teams were out to show that they are still at the top of the international stage.

Unfortunately, both Chinese teams at Worlds would have to go through higher seeded Korean squads to advance. RNG had the bad luck to face SKT, the one favorite actually playing like a major contender. As we wrote in our preview, it would have been a big upset to pull this one out against Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and the World Champs.

RNG strike first

With odds stacked against them, RNG came out fast and strong and proved they weren’t going to lie down without a fight. Top laner Jang “Looper” Hyeok-seong solo-killed Lee “Duke” Ho-seong at the five-minute mark and Duke never found his footing again. SKT was forced to play reactively to the threat that Looper’s split-push Jayce presented, RNG got some good drake RNG and built a sizeable lead.

But you knew SKT was going to come back in the mid-game, and sure enough, around 30 minutes, they started winning fights and taking towers. The game got super close, but it felt like SKT was playing with three members. Duke never got in the game and jungler Bae “Bengi” Seong-un, playing Lee Sin, did not find the initiations they needed. RNG pulled out a teamfight when off an aborted SKT Baron and took the game.

SKT fought back in Game 2

Blank on stage with SKT, courtesy of Riot Games
Blank on stage with SKT, courtesy of Riot Games /

After getting punched in the mouth, SKT decided they needed to strike quickly and decisively. A lot was made before the match of SKT’s choice between Bengi and Kang “Blank” Sun-gu and the decision to start Bengi in Game 1. The first move was to bring Blank in for Bengi. Bengi was supportive of his lanes in Game 1, but Liu “mlxg” Shi-yu’s greater uptime on Rek’Sai limited his early effectiveness. Bengi fell behind early and never got back into it.

Needing more aggressiveness, Blank picked Zac and it was on! Talk about an immediate impact. He found mlxg’s Olaf contesting for river vision early, mlxg misplayed, and SKT got a quick 2-0.

With that lead, Blank turned into a monster, marauding around the map, and SKT went deathless aside from three deaths on Duke.

RNG fell behind again in Game 3

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Watching SKT all year, it feels like they just hang around until two or three items and then turn on the afterburners. Early kill and tower deficits just bounce off of them. Unless you have a substantial lead by 20-25 minutes, get ready for the onslaught.

Give SKT an early-game lead? Good night.

Also, give ADC Bae “Bang” Jun-sik his Ezreal? Good night again.

Despite the Game 1 loss, Bang actually outplayed Jian “Uzi” Zi-hao on the Ezreal into Jhin matchup, shoving Uzi in early and surviving the Jhin/Zyra power spike. With the same matchup in Game 3, Bang again dominated. It was extremely surprising how one-sided this premier duo lane matchup was in favor of SKT:

Bang and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan survived an early all-in from the RNG duo lane and later picked up a kill for themselves with help from Blank. And for the first time all series, Duke showed up. Playing Gnar into Looper’s Rumble, the boomerang-tossing Yordle solo-killed his mechanical counterpart a couple times and also made this happen:

SKT close the deal in Game 4

Faced with elimination, RNG pulled out one pick that did stymie SKT in the group stage: Aurelion Sol. And for a while, it worked. They got Uzi an extremely early first blood on Wolf’s Zyra. That only seemed to make Wolf mad.

Wolf and Bang went OFF, completely pushing Uzi and Cho “Mata” Se-hyoung out. The fact that we haven’t even mentioned Mata until this late in the recap is telling: Wolf solidly outplayed him in SKT’s wins.

Meanwhile, Duke built an enormous lead on a favorable matchup, playing Irelia into Looper’s Kennen. And this time, Duke was on-time to fights, creating havoc on the RNG back line.

Blank again had a strong game and Faker was Faker. Around 15 minutes, his team down in kills, it was Faker roaming first on Malzahar and going on a rampage in the bot lane. So many times, RNG tunneled on trying to kill Faker while their own team was torn apart. SKT played coordinated League, won every teamfight, and at the end, flashed all five of their icons at the RNG nexus.

SKT looked like favorites coming out of the group stage and despite dropping a game, looked like favorites again.

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