Preview of the 2016 World Championship: SKT vs. Samsung Galaxy

SKT vs SSG splash art, courtesy of Riot Games
SKT vs SSG splash art, courtesy of Riot Games /

It all comes down to one match on Saturday. One match to own the Rift and Summoner’s Cup. So who has the edge?

In case you haven’t been following, this has been The. Best. Worlds. Ever.

An exciting group stage filled with upsets, comebacks and incredible stories? Check.

A bracket stage that featured pocket picks, solo-kills and a five-map series that went down as the best match ever in international play? That too.

And tomorrow, we get to finish the journey with SK Telecom T1 and Samsung Galaxy as they square off for the Summoner’s Cup. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok vs. Chanyong “Ambition” Kang one more time, this time for legacy. Can Faker get three Worlds titles in just four years? Can Ambition shed years of disappointment and finally overcome both his Worlds curse and the curse of Faker?

And that’s just two of the players. Everyone has something riding on the line, from veterans to rookies. Let’s take a look at this matchup in detail to see what we can learn.

Individual player matchups

Top lane: Hoseong “Duke” Lee vs. Sungjin “CuVee” Lee

As we’ll allude to in our meta discussion, the current game state favors both of these players in different ways. Duke wants to split push and keep splitting. CuVee had an okay split in the LCK Summer but then started solo-killing people all over the place:

Duke is a pretty strong laner, too, though and it will do a lot to the rest of the matchup if one of these players can prove superiority. Going in, it seems pretty even.

Jungle: Seongung “Bengi” Bae and Sungu “Blank” Kang vs. Ambition

Bengi vs. Blank has been one of the biggest storylines of Worlds. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess what to expect from those two. Bengi on Nidalee? Sure thing. Blank being brought in after Bengi earns wins? That too.

Despite the uncertainty in SKT’s jungle, I’m not sure Ambition can be the one to take advantage of it. Ambition likes to play passively, working through mid laner Minho “Crown” Lee for vision and pressure. Same with Bengi and Faker. Both of them are more counter-gankers than gankers.

Blank is more inconsistent early, and at times SKT look like they have no idea how to play around his pressure. Ambition can certainly take advantage of that. But Blank is also a superior team fighter and major carry, something Ambition is not. Another matchup that could go either way.

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Mid lane: Faker vs. Crown

Faker is getting all the superlatives. but for those ready to call this match simply by virtue of Faker being the best in the world, hold on to your pants.

Crown is really good. Sure, the best mid laner he’s played at Worlds has been Soeren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, but he’s dominated everyone else he’s faced. H2K’s only hope in the semifinals came down to Yoo “Ryu” Sangook’s signature Ryze, and Crown would have none of it.

Faker is expected to win this matchup, but Crown is not going to take it sitting down.

ADC: Junsik “Bang” Bae vs Jaehyeok “Ruler” Park

Another interesting matchup, the veteran vs. the rookie. Ruler can be caught and his teamfight positioning is nowhere near as good as Bang’s, but Ruler has stepped up for ROX since the lane-swap change and has rewarded his team for putting their faith in him.

Support: Jaewan “Wolf” Lee vs. Yongin “CoreJJ” Jo

CoreJJ, courtesy of Riot Games
CoreJJ, courtesy of Riot Games /

Ever since bringing CoreJJ into the lineup in the regional qualifier, Samsung’s bot lane has gained new life. Not that previous support Jimin “Wraith” Kwon was bad — the opposite in fact. He is a strong team player but CoreJJ seems to have unlocked the bot lane in a way Wraith never did.

CoreJJ also showed the Miss Fortune pick that caused Wolf, Coach Kim “KkOma” Jung-gyun, and the rest of SKT so many problems. If they have to ban that as well as Crown’s Viktor, it could get dicey for SKT on the red side.

Wolf serves well as a protector for Bang, but he likes to roam as well. Sometimes, when he doesn’t play around jungle pressure, it gets dicey. When he plays squishy supports like his Zyra, he can be caught out. KkOma may not have needed to ban Miss Fortune against ROX Tigers if Wolf could just dodge an Ashe arrow. SKT rely so much on his vision control though and he often serves as a major barometer for the team.

The macro: a bot lane focus

Since the lane swap change, both teams want to focus and win the bot lane. They like to leave the top lane largely alone. Bengi will gank for Duke sometimes, but it’s usually to get him an item spike that he can use to split push. They want him to be self-sufficient in lane and pull the enemy team into bad decisions.

Samsung leave CuVee even more on an island, and he’s rewarded that faith. Samsung wants him to shove waves and the roam with proactive TP plays. They use his pressure to unlock the other parts of the map proactively while SKT like to play all the lanes and farm for late game.

Both teams play through their mid laners for pressure and really want their ADCs to carry the late game. And both are very, very good late. SKT is the best late-game closers in the world, but Samsung has really shown an ability to win that phase as evidenced by their

Orianna_0 /

five-map win over KT Rollster in the regional final.

The one advantage that SKT has: they have more potential carries. I don’t expect to see Blank in the series, but he gives them damage that Ambition just doesn’t have. And nobody’s better than Faker at bringing both utility and damage — just ask ROX about his Orianna.

Finally, as polished as Ruler has looked, it’s hard not to see him as a step below Bang. Bang’s champion pool is bigger, though Ruler can play the champions important in the meta.  But Bang’s positioning and mechanics are so clean, and SKT is so good at controlling late-game objective fights while keeping him safe.

Our prediction: SKT in five

Samsung does so much well. The read and react to situations. They adapt. They stay patient and know how to close games.

But SKT do all of those as well. Remember, they are the original counterpunchers, a team supremely confident in their ability to strike back. A small gold and tower deficit seems to mean nothing to them as they control late-game objectives.

SKT celebrating the 3-2 win over ROX
SKT celebrating the 3-2 win over ROXCredit: lolesports /

Samsung’s win condition will be to roam more proactively and try to stop SKT from using Duke’s pressure to tear them apart. Problem is — that’s exactly what ROX tried as they picked a teamfight comp to blow SKT up. For two glorious games, it worked. They caught Wolf again and again and turned Bang into a nonfactor.

But that was only two games. SKT brought in Bengi’s Nidalee and that was all she wrote. ROX could never get an early advantage again and that’s suicide against a scaling team like SKT.

SKT just has more ways to win the series. And that’s why they’re our pick to win their third World Championship.

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