MSI Semi-Final Preview: SK Telecom T1 vs. G2 Esports

League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /
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Faker, SK Telecom T1.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /

The 2019 MSI knockout stage continues on Saturday with SK Telecom T1 taking on G2 Esports for a place in Sunday’s final. The winner will face North America’s Team Liquid after their impressive victory against Invictus Gaming in the first semi of the weekend.

So far the 2019 Mid-Season Invitation has been an incredibly exciting tournament with dozens of star players showing up on the international stage producing several upset results, none more shocking than Team Liquid’s huge win facing defending world champions, Invictus Gaming.

The victor of Saturday’s contest will face Liquid in Sunday’s final, but it remains to be seen who the favourite heading into the semi is. SK Telecom T1 finished the group stage in style, taking down Invictus Gaming on the final day to secure 2nd place with a 7-3 record. On the other hand, G2 Esports were unconvincing after qualifying for the knockout stages and finished 5-5 in 3rd, despite a very strong start to the tournament.

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Much like the IG v TL battle, this will be another clash of styles between two teams who have their own strategy when it comes to operating in the current meta. SKT are one of the most patient teams at MSI and are firm believers in their slow, methodical approach to games. Whereas G2 destroyed their LEC counter-parts throughout the spring split due to their very high tempo skirmishing across the map in the early game, often closing out within the first 25 minutes.

There’s no doubt it will be a thrilling contest between two sides determined to secure a place in the MSI final as it presents a huge opportunity to lift an international trophy.

SK Telecom T1

Absence from the 2018 World Championship had fans questioning whether we’d ever see the return of the legendary SKT team that won the tournament in 2013, 2015, and 2016. However, despite their struggles last season, the Korean giants look on course to challenge for their fourth title at the end of the year.

Replacing their entire 2018 roster (other than Faker) has been key to the team’s success this year. With the acquisitions of Khan, Clid, Teddy, and Mata, SKT have created a super-team that look destined to dominate both in Korea and internationally throughout 2019. It may have been a slow start to their season back in January/February, but they soon cleaned up their play and looked unstoppable during the spring playoffs, taking down both Kingzone DragonX and Griffin 3-0 to life the trophy and qualify for MSI.

Not only has the reformed roster been vital to SK Telecom’s rise back to the top, but their play style has been essential to their success also. Originally adapting around a number of different strategies, the South Korean champions finally decided on their current patient, top and mid approach around half-way through the spring split and has resulted in them becoming a rather scary outfit.

The consistency of Khan and Faker in the solo lanes combined with Clid’s extremely aggressive play-making abilities creates a very powerful top side for SKT. On top of that, in the bottom lane they have a late game win condition in the incredibly reliable Teddy, as well as Mata, who looks just as good as he was in his RNG days, if not better. Overall SK Telecom T1 has every chance to win this tournament purely from a talent standpoint, but they’ll have to take down a very capable G2 team on their way to lifting the trophy.

One to Watch: Kim “Clid” Tae-min

Clid has been a revelation for SK Telecom T1. Following years of languishing without a powerful jungler to guide the team to success, SKT have finally found the right man for the job. An impressive spell on the LPL’s JD Gaming caught the attention of fans from across the globe, and Clid’s greatest admirers were none other than three-time World champions SKT.

With the hope of adding some play-making to a jungle focused meta, Clid was introduced to the team to bring more balance in the mid lane 2v2 and produced game-winning plays across the map. It was an electric start to the LCK for the South Korean jungler, as he picked up where he left off on the JD Gaming roster, being present across the map during SKT’s games and matching this with an excellent 5.4 KDA.

There’s no better indicator of SKT’s progress with their new roster than Clid’s impact on the team during MSI so far. Boasting a 7.0 KDA and a massive 70% first blood percentage, the jungler tops the charts for almost every statistic amongst junglers in the first international tournament of the 2019 season. Not only that, he’s continued to deliver top performances on carries like Lee Sin, Elise, and even Vi, against some of the best teams in the world.

In the current meta, the jungle is key. Clid will have his work cut out for him when facing Europe’s greatest ever jungler, Jankos, but he’ll be more than up to the challenge. Both sides will be looking to get their solo laners ahead, and in many ways this match-up is a question of who can carry more? Regardless of the outcome, we’re in for a treat on Saturday when two of the world’s best junglers face off for the first time in a BO5.