The announcement of the SKT LTE- A League of Legends Masters (LTE Masters) has incited a flurry of roster changes in the Korean League of Legends Scene with many rosters being disbanded and reshaped entirely. Some of these roster changes have been bizzare whilst others have made sense. Here is a rundown of some of the players you should watch this season.
Jin Air Stealths
Captain Jack was once considered the best ad carry in Korea and one of the best in the world. His initial performance at a Netcafe tournament impressed MiG Frost so much that they decided to recruit his team as their sister team. Helmed by Reapered and supplemented by the mechanics of Ambition and Captain Jack, the team would go on to clinch their first place finish at the inaugural OGN Champions tournament and dethrone their sister team as the best team in Korea until the OGN Summer semi-finals.
Once known for his exceptional Graves play and his immaculate Sivir spell-shield and cleanse mechanics, the ever illustrious Captain Jack has had a fair bit of trouble escaping the authorities lately. Constantly dying in laning phase whilst on CJ Entus Blaze and various hot and cold days have led the International community to believe that he is washed up. His inconsistency has led to CJ Blaze replacing him with the rookie talent of Emperor. Relegated to the bench in OGN Winter, things seemed bleak for the former Blaze captain and his eventual release from the team he lead to two OGN Spring finals seemed to signal another downward trend in his career.
Now on Jin Air Stealths, the Captain has to prove that he isn’t what his detractors claim him to be. His initial games with the Stealths have so far been positive, with solid games vs Samsung Blue, IM #2 in the NLB and CJ Frost in last week’s OGN Masters. His match against Frost proved to the world that Jack can still play solid games and his performance on Caitlyn showed glimpses of the Captain Jack that used to impress many in early 2012. His 7.5 KDA against Frost and general synergy with XD has signalled a positive start to his new career with the Stealths. Whether or not Captain Jack re-emerges as one of Korea’s preeminent AD carries will be a superb story to watch.
Najin White Shield
Once one of Korea’s most aggressive junglers, Watch has taken akin to playing and failing with Nunu lately. His trend of camping for Nagne hasn’t exactly planned out – with Sword suffering their 2nd straight OGN group stage exit. Watch’s aggressive style has also toned down since Maknoon’s departure, with Expession Sword preferring to play a more controlled split push game rather than the ‘do-dive’ philosophy that guided Maknoon Sword. Overall it seems that Watch isn’t playing the way he’s most used to and has now been taken out of the spotlight with the growth of players such as Bengi, Daydream and KakaO.
Now on Najin Shield, the former BroodWar professional has been given an opportunity to redefine his image and enter the top tier of Korean junglers once again. Shield will be undoubtedly hurt by their loss of their Captain Nofe and Watch’s play with Elise, Lee and Evelynn can help shape Shield into an aggressive and proactive team rather than the reputation of passivity they have managed to accumulate over the years.
Shield seemed to agree and allowed Watch to play extremely aggressive in their match against the KT Arrows, with his Elise invading and ganking at prime opportunites. If this keeps up then Shield could be a very strong threat this OGN Masters and this OGN Champions Spring season. And please, no more Nunu, Watch.
Najin Black Sword
Well I wasn’t exactly sure what Najin were planning here. Helios has been lambasted as one of Korea’s more mediocre junglers. His struggles whilst within CJ Blaze were masked generally well due to the strength of Blaze’s solo laners: Flame and Ambition, however, his weaknesses became apparent when Ambition began to struggle. His performance in Frost as well has been extremely mediocre. It really did seem he just disappeared after the OGN Spring 2013 finals. Released from the CJ organization, Helios wound up as the starting jungler for Najin Sword. As the primary jungler on Sword, he has once again obtained an opportunity to prove himself.
The Helios that entered Summoners Rift on Sunday was an entirely new Sun god. Helios’ impressive Evelynn performance stunned the majority of the International community and lead his team to a convincing sweep over the KT Bullets. Granted, that Helios was essentially playing PvE since the opposing duo of Ryu-Zero being totally non-existent but his Evelynn actually managed to apply pressure this game. If he keeps this up then OGN Masters could signal a change in his fortunes. We’ll have to wait and see against more competent opponents but it seems that the rider of the chariot of the sun has finally awoken. His performance in the OGN qualfiiers only helped solidfy this opinion with great Evelynn games versus Incredible Miracle 1 and God-Sin. How he performs on other champions versus some of the best teams in the world is still up in the air.
Samsung Galaxy Ozone
Dade used to be hailed as one of the best midlaners in Korea during the time of OGN Spring. His performance against Ambition and the rest of CJ Blaze on Zed brilliantly exploited the holes and weaknesses of a team that achieved a 13-0 record and sent them spiralling into an enormous slump that only a significant number of roster changes could revert and was crowned the MVP of OGN Spring because of that. His reputation has taken an extreme nosedive after his comical performance at worlds however, and it seems that he is slowly losing his ability in the midlane. The assassin and tear nerfs have hurt him significantly and it doesn’t seem that he was going to recover anytime soon. Samsung, sensing this decided to instate a roster change and move Pawn to Samsung Ozone.
Pawn’s transfer to Samsung Ozone was welcomed by the majority of the International community. The former Samsung Blue and MiG Blitz player has played well in his games on Samsung Blue and Samsung’s coaches have determined that Pawn maybe a better fit than Dade for their ‘A’ team. It is still unsure, however, as to how well he’ll mesh with the rest of the team, so this roster change only applies to OGN masters and not Champions (this may be amended at a later date if Pawn and Ozone do well together)
Pawn’s diverse champion pool is certainly a substantial improvement over Dade’s fairly limited one, with Pawn creating the OGN trends of mid Lulu and Nidalee, however, Pawn has shown to be inconsistent at times – stomps lanes when you expect him to but falls harder than expected when facing competent opposition, and his synergy with Ozone is still untested. His Fizz and Nidalee plays have been spectacular at times whilst his Gragas and Orianna have been slightly unsatisfactory.
Scouted by Woong himself when he ordained the moniker Wonsek and as one of the few players to ever beat SKT T1 Faker in Lane* he possesses exceptional midlane skills that may aid Ozone in toppling the best team in the world.
*It can be argued that SKT T1 were recovering from their vacation after winning the Season 3 World Championships and Faker did manage to easily beat Pawn in lane the next time they clashed.
Jin Air Stealths
Hoon’s Good Day is an interesting case. The team, initially formed as ahq.Korea with Promise, Hoon, Actscene, Trace and Loray (Casper). Looking at these names, it makes you wonder why this team never really accomplished much. All of those players are very high profile names nowadays: Actscene is the substitute jungler for Najin Sword, Casper is the starting support for SKT T1 K, Hoon was the captain of Jin Air Stealths and now the current starting midlaner on Team Olympus. Only Promise hasn’t really achieved anything significant as of late but he was 2nd in line for Najin Sword’s AD Carry position when they were first established (losing out to Pray). I never understood why they switched Promise for LOAD since Promise was, in my opinion, a better AD Carry.
As the only member remaining from the previous Jin Air stealths team, Trace is one of the key people to watch this OGN Masters season. It’s rare to see someone go even with Flame in lane. It’s even rarer that said person proceeds to convincingly defeat Shy in lane almost every game. For me Trace is the best toplaner of the pre-season.
Once known widely as one of the best Rengars in Korea, the former ahq-korea toplaner has expanded his champion pool significantly. With fantastic performances on Aatrox and Shyvanna, Trace would out CS, kill and push Shy in the Battle Royale tournament. Even when his team failed he would still try his best to rescue the game from the brink of defeat.
Despite Trace’s best efforts and impressive laning skills, things didn’t always go as planned for the Jin Air Stealths due to them not being able to qualify for ‘OGN The Champions Spring 2014’. It’s a shame to see this talented toplaner missing out on Korea’s most prestigious tournament but at least Masters gives us a glimpse at his brilliant play.
SK Telecom T1 S
Wolf has grown a lot since his days in Najin Shield. Despite some shakiness whilst on Sheild, Lee Jae-wan had completely transformed himself by OGN Summer. Delivering excellent performances whist in CTU, him and Riris were the highlights of the University’s League of Legends team. Riris eventually became the starting AD Carry for the KT Arrows whilst Wolf would be picked up by SKT Telecom T1 S to be their support.
SKT T1 S entered their first OGN season with an enormous amount of hype behind them. MaRin was considered the Faker of toplane and the team was in general expected to do extremely well. Unfortunately they were put in the same group as their Sister team and CJ Blaze. Although they performed admirably for a new team, they were unsuccessful in getting past the group stage of Champions Winter. Their NLB participation was also cut short when they were defeated 2-0 by the KT Arrows in a close series. SKT T1 S’s Masters debut was also fairly shaky, their win against IM #1 was due to a brilliant shockwave-last breath combo which is fairly difficult to do consistently.
Wolf has always been a player with immense raw potential. His Thresh and Sona have always been excellent and his Lulu was pretty good as well. SKT T1 has always been lauded for their ability to turn raw talent into champions and how they manage to do this with Wolf and the rest of SKT T1 S will be interesting to watch.
Najin Black Sword
Home to the giants of Maknoon and Expession, the toplane has always been a hallowed position in Najin Blacksword. Much of Sword’s playstyle has revolved around who helmed this position. Under Maknoon Sword were an aggressive team that foused on teamfighting and diving. Maknoon’s signature champions, his synergy with Watch and his resurrection of Kennen would lead them to a Champions victory.
Expession Sword was different. They preferred a split push oriented passive meta. This was a much more stable team as evidenced by their constant finals places in NLB, but it was too predictable. Their safeness and general inability to tactically orient and play a more coordinated game led them to institute numerous roster changes (such as Peng for Nagne and Ssong for Cain in group stage) which lead to them bombing out of two Champions group stages in a row.
Limit’s introduction into the team was a result of hard work and dedication. In his interview with Michael Kiefer (TL_Chexx) on LoLesports, he stated that he had six months to prove to his family that he was pro-gamer material and that the Najin BlackSword trial was his last chance. Despite his previous experience with Nagne as an amateur, his ability to fill this hallowed spot was questioned.
His debut match was excellent, with his Shyvanna running circles around Insec’s Olaf in their LoL Masters match. KT B’s appalling performance unfortunately didn’t allow us to see what he truly could do as Zero’s and Ryu’s performances ensured that the Bullets were fully routed before Limit could do much.
Sword’s next SKT LTE A – LoL Masters match is against Samsung in Week 4 and both Looper and Acorn will be a good test for the newest addition to the LoL Masters’ toplane.
KT Rolster Arrows
The KT Arrows. The team has been a disappointment to their fans and the KT organization due to their inability to qualify into Champions consecutively despite the talent on the team. Once again restructured, the team finally managed to qualify for their first Champions season in a year and have seemingly surpassed the Bullets as the stronger team after KT’s puzzling decision to move Zero to the jungle.
Ssumday, KakaO and Arrow have all been hyped up as some of the most promising and experienced talent in the Korean scene but it was Rookie that shined the most when it came to the do-or-die game for the KT Arrows*. Rookie’s Leblanc play helped secure the Arrows’ entrance into the Champions for the first time since Spring 2013.
In the NLB he had great games with Riven (7/1/6 vs SKT T1 S [W]), Gragas (4/2/10 v SKT T1 S [W]), Zed (10/2/7 v Samsung Blue [W]) and Leblanc (10/5/6 v Samsung Blue [L]). Rookie has been an impressive midlaner and it paints a clearer picture as to why Zero was instated into a substitute support position.
His tendency to play aggressive in lane even with a disadvantage may bite him and whilst he has shown exceptional performances so far his over aggressive style may cost the team games despite his awesome synergy with KakaO. To give you an example of his mechanics, here is the clip of his Leblanc.
*Well, not really die since they did have a wildcard spot ensured, but it would have been super embarrassing once again for the KT Arrows.
Samsung Galaxy Blue
There was a time when Deft was one of the most promising AD Carries in Korea. Constantly impressing with Varus and Ezreal he would be quickly picked up by MVP Blue to supplement their new GSG Roster (GSG’s previous AD Carry, Cheonjou (Acorn) would move to the toplane) and his skills helped cement MVP Blue as one of the most hyped teams heading into the pre-season of the 2013 OGN Spring Champions season.
Deft and MVP Blue, whilst starting strong would eventually falter and Blue would head back to the drawing board again. Deft would eventually become overshadowed by Imp whose impressive mechanics with Vayne and Caitlyn at that time lead to him being heralded as the best AD Carry in the world.
In the pre-season of OGN Winter, Samsung Blue would return with a vengeance and convincingly swept SKT T1 K in the WCG 2013 qualifiers before falling to CJ Blaze in the finals. As the first professional AD Carry to play Lucian, he would show the world that Lucian wasn’t as useless as the general consensus was. Samsung Blue’s Nidalee Lucian comp would proceed to be replicated with much success all over the globe.
Sitting on the top of the Korean challenger ladder, this pre-season Deft again is impressing many and his (and Samsungs) introduction of Jinx to the Korean professional scene is once again making waves. The question is, will Deft and Blue falter in Champions again?
SKT Telecom T1 K
Loray aka Icebear, has always been a great support in solo queue, His main is currently ranked number 11 on the Korean Challenger Ladder and his smurf Wraith is currently ranked at number 23. Despite his solo queue success he never really managed to achieve a huge amount of success with the Jin Air Stealths.
To be fair, LOAD was not a good ad carry so it is hard to make a fair assessment of his skills. His Thresh and Sona have been excellent and the botlane of ahq.Korea was one of its strongest strengths when he was laning with Promise and running interesting champions like Kayle support. It’s a shame that ahq.Korea didn’t make playoffs due to a rule misunderstanding between Inven and Ongamenet and a shame that Promise was removed/left the team after the Spring 2013 season since we never really got to see Icebear play with a top tier AD Carry (Mystic was alright, but Piglet is superior and is World Class.).
Well, we’ve got that opportunity now. Renamed Casper the former Jin Air Stealths support has been selected to replace Poohmandu on the best team in the world: SKT T1 K. Paired up with Piglet, we once again got to see Casper impress on Thresh and Sona against as fairly week IM #2.
Overall I think Casper will do excellently in SKT T1 K as he’s had experience with playing with 3 of the 5 players of SKT T1 K from his amateur team (The team was meant to be under the sponsorship of IBK Bank and consisted of Faker, Bengi, Ssumday and ASD but it never went through). But we’ll have to see how he does on something other than Thresh and Sona first, since Mata is ripe and hungry to get revenge on SKT T1 K.