Grading the Revamped SKT Lineup

INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 03: Supporters watch the Finals match of 2018 The League of Legends World Championship at Incheon Munhak Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 03: Supporters watch the Finals match of 2018 The League of Legends World Championship at Incheon Munhak Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) /

Following the massive roster shake-ups for SKT this offseason, we examine whether their roster has improved or faltered going into the 2019 LCK Spring Split.

Last fall, the professional League of Legends scene saw something that had previously been unthinkable: a World Championship without SK Telecom T1 and superstar Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. The dynastic franchise of professional LoL, SKT had a tradition of winning.

Three world championships, four worlds finals appearances, the undisputed greatest player of all time in the mid lane, a world-class ADC/support duo, and one of the best professional coaches ever, SKT was an unstoppable dynasty. Until last year.

That was when the train came completely off the tracks. The top lane and jungle roles were disasters following the departure of two great – though not all-world – veterans in Huni and Peanut. Their replacements, first rookies Park “Thal” Kwon-hyuk and Park “Blossom” Beom-chan then later veterans Park “Untara” Ui-jin and Kang “Blank” Sun-gu, struggled to be even average let alone great.

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Their bot lane, normally a reliable position to carry alongside their star mid laner, struggled as stalwart support Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan retired, then unretired, then became a jungler, then retired again, with Lee “Effort” Sang-ho performing serviceably. ADC Bae “Bang” Jun-sikhad a down year as a result of all this turmoil in the bot lane while the rest of the team failed to pick up the slack.

Faker was relegated to supportive champions (especially in the dreaded Funnel meta) and couldn’t backpack his teammates at nearly the same level as he had before. Kim “Kkoma” Jeong-gyun, once an unquestioned strategist, began to have his picks and bans become more heavily scrutinized. Every piece of the SKT puzzle seemed to not fit last season.

Unexpectedly, SKT completely overhauled their roster in this offseason, save for Kkoma, Faker, and Effort. With so much turnover, there was initially a lot of hope, then trepidation, as to whether these moves could help SKT recapture the glory years.


Out: Untara, Thal

In: Kim “Khan” Dong-haKhan, Kim “Crazy” Jae-hee

Back in 2017, was considered to be the next great up-and-coming top laner in Korea with the fabled Longzhu Gaming team including Bdd, Pray, and Gorilla. In 2018 as a member of Kingzone Dragon X, Khan’s stats cratered as his team struggled. His KDA, GPM, and Kill Participation all cratered from his 2017 totals. Khan will be looking to bounce back to his Longzhu form, but even at his Kingzone lows, he would still be an improvement over Thal and Untara.

As for Crazy, the former bbq Olivers top laner certainly wasn’t a world beater. His 2.2 KDA, 60.3% kill participation, and 8.5 CS/minute are all on par with the man he’s charged with replacing, Thal.

Both of these young top laners will get a chance to compete for the role, but even in a down year for Khan he outpaced Crazy in KDA, GPM, CS per minute, gold share, and kill share. Expect him to have the inside track, and hopefully for SKT fans, a return to the good times of 2017.

Grade: A-


Out: Blank, Blossom

In: Kim “Clid” Tae-min, Kang “Haru” Min-seung

There is no way to say this kindly, but in 2018 there may not have been any jungler worse than Blossom. He was last or near last in all LCK junglers in KDA and Kill Participation, and worse yet the team only won 20% of their games with him as the starter.

While Blank, who played the lions share of the season, did perform much better, it wasn’t by much. Though his KDA was respectably in the middle of the pack, his kill and gold shares were very much in the bottom of the league, indicating that Blank really wasn’t affecting game outcomes too often. Watching his games revealed a very passive jungling style that relied on his teammates to carry him.

Haru, though limited in his appearances, massively outpaced Blank in those key areas – kill participation, gold per minute, and gold share – indicating that SKT wants a more aggressive jungler to enable his carries in the lanes. Similarly Clid, who spent the 2018 season in an LPL environment filled with aggressive junglers like Clearlove, Ning, Mlxg, Haro, Karsa, and SofM. Yet Clid kept pace with them all, staying firmly in the top half of the league in all major statistical categories.

As to which has the edge on getting the starting job, that will be tough to say. Both are young, with equal amounts experience, but Haru has the advantage of having participated in two World Championships with Samsung Galaxy and Gen.G. Conventional wisdom says that he’ll be the front-runner, but make no mistake Clid can certainly match him. In any case, either would be hard-pressed to be worse than Blank and Blossom were last year.

Grade: A


Out: Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik

In: Kim “Gori” Tae-woo

Let’s be real here, this is Faker’s lane. Ever since Easyhoon left SKT, no one on the roster has ever really challenged Faker’s claim to the mid lane throne.

Sure Pirean got some games last year and Gori will probably get some this year, but these are just stunts for motivation or rest for the Unkillable Daemon King. As long as Faker is on SKT, he’ll be the sun that all the planets revolve around.

Grade: C (who cares)


Out: Bang

In: Park “Teddy” Jin-seong

Now, this is perhaps the most interesting position swap of all. Bang was, by all accounts, SKT’s second-most valuable player behind Faker last season. While the rest of the roster was in shambles, Bang was still a reliable damage threat to help carry SKT to its few wins, so jettisoning him for another ADC doesn’t strike most fans as a straight upgrade.

Looking at the stats, it’s easy to understand why fans feel that way. Teddy is near last in key categories among ADCs such as KDA and Deaths per game, indicating that the young player wasn’t positioning properly enough to stay alive. But this betrays one overlooked fact by most LCK followers.

On Jin Air Green Wings, Teddy wasn’t just the AD Carry, he was the only carry. His kill share and gold share is off the charts not just among LCK ADCs but LCK players in general. He accounted for one-third of all his teams kills – the best of any player at any position – and 24.8% of his team’s gold – 0.1% behind the LCK leader and fellow ADC Ruler.

In both of those categories, Bang was respectably in the middle of the pack, but unfortunately being middle of the pack wasn’t good enough to help Faker carry SKT to another Worlds appearance. Another consideration not often considered is that in 2018 Bang posted some of his lowest GPM, KDA, and Kill Share statistics in his career.

Does this mean Bang is washed up? Certainly not, he’s a solid ADC in the LCK and will likely be towards the top tier in the LCS, but it’s understandable why SKT might have chosen to go with a carry who has tons of potential like Teddy.

Grade: B (high risk, high reward)


Out: Wolf

In: Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong

The calculus for this is fairly simple, and really doesn’t even need much statistical digging to come to the easy conclusion. In 2018, Wolf looked washed up. He retired at the beginning of the year, had a brief stint as jungler, then returned as Bang’s partner in the bot lane with zombified results.

Among LCK supports, Wolf had the worst KDA and GPM of any player in the league and posted the most deaths of anyone in the League. When Effort became the starter, he performed much better (his GPM and Kill Participation are higher than Mata’s) but even still Mata has the track record of being one of the top supports in the history of the LCK.

Though it might be a bit of an adjustment for him playing without his partner-in-crime, Pray, you’d still expect Mata to be one of the top supports in the LCK. This is a clear upgrade, through and through.

Grade: A

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Did SKT get better? It’s very tempting to say yes, but the question is whether all these parts can gel together. With Khan and Teddy now demanding more resources than Thal and Bang did, we could again see Faker forced into a more supportive role. And even though Clid and Haru played some supportive junglers last season, they’re certainly both better known for their carry performances.

This roster almost harkens back to the 2017 SKT team that had such promise but failed to win a third-straight world title. On that team, there was plenty of talent to go around between Huni, Peanut, Faker, Bang, and Wolf, but it almost felt like there were too many mouths and not enough to feed. Finding someone on this roster who can provide the stabilizing pace will be key.

However, that’s why I’m so excited that SKT brought in substitutes in the top and jungle roles. Crazy has certainly shown himself to be a much more capable tank player than Khan, so depending on whether the meta favors carries from the top or jungle, Kkoma will have the tools to easily adjust the roster to fit his gameplan.

Do you think that SKT will return to their status as the kings of the LCK? Or will these signings flame out spectacularly? Let us know in the comments!