LEC: SK prove sweeping changes aren’t always the solution

League of Legends. Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Courtesy of Riot Games. /

SK Gaming are proving their doubters wrong after a great start in the LEC

‘Hyped up roster disappointingly misses out on playoffs and is immediately disbanded to be replaced by a new bunch of unproven rookies.’ Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the story of almost every competitive League of Legends team since the dawn of professional play. So it was almost shocking when the LEC’s ninth place team returned after the midseason break with just one new recruit on their roster.

SK Gaming defied the natural order of dismantling an entire line-up after an unsatisfying result or performance and instead opted for a conservative approach to roster changes during the ‘offseason’. While many SK fans and LEC viewers expected sweeping changes and a plethora of new signings after the team finished the regular season with just four wins from eighteen games, SK surprised everyone by retaining four of the five players that ended the split in ninth.

2019 EU Masters champion Dirk “ZaZee” Mallner was the only SK signing during the LEC season interval, accommodated by Janik “Jenax” Bartels changing roles and moving to the top lane. These moves certainly raised some eyebrows, but not as much as the decision to keep Kim “Trick” Gang-yun on the line-up after an abysmal Spring Split performance.

In isolation, these changes seemed ineffective and unlikely to improve the downtrodden SK roster who looked destined for another split in the bottom half of the LEC standings. However, the signing that went under the radar was the addition of former SK player Jesse “Jesiz” Le as the new head coach, tasked with the difficult job of transforming a ninth place team into playoff contenders in a matter of months.

A near-perfect opening weekend displayed a new direction for SK Gaming

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SK have played three incredible games in the LEC Summer Split so far, besting Origen and Schalke 04 through excellent map rotations and shotcalling, and falling to MAD Lions purely due to their draft’s inability to come back from a gold deficit. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but SK fans will undoubtedly be delighted with their team after a very positive start to the regular season.

Jesiz has already imprinted his play style and philosophy onto the SK roster as they looked lightyears ahead of their Spring Split performance when beating Origen at their own game through intelligent macro decisions on day 1. Not only that, but they also repeated this convincing display against Schalke 04 on day 2, cleaning the Rift of any objectives efficiently and leaving no room for S04 to stage a comeback.

The only question is: Can SK keep it up? Three impressive performances in a single weekend is a great start but there are eighteen games in the regular season and SK will need to be on the top of their game to finish above their rivals and accrue enough championship points to compete in the playoffs.

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With four World Championship qualification spots up for grabs, the 2020 season presents the best opportunity any LEC team can ask for to reach the pinnacle of competitive League of Legends. Despite their failings during the Spring Split, SK are in prime position to secure a place at Worlds and prove that sweeping roster changes should be left in the past.