SK Telecom T1 is crowned three-time World Champion of League of Legends

ByTimothy Lee ESPN logo
Sunday, October 30, 2016

The League of Legends World Championship final became an instant classic as the first Worlds final to go five games, and SK Telecom T1 defeated the rebuilt and remodeled Samsung Galaxy for their second straight Summoner's Cup and their third title in four years.

The matchup started in an SKT rout, but Samsung Galaxy clawed back and pushed the set to the full distance. In the end, the paper matchup favorite won and the upstarts lost; once again, Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok emerged triumphant with another victory on his resume and a share of the $5 million purse.

SKT dominated the first half of the grand final, taking down Game 1 in 54:37 minutes with a grinding pace and a bend-but-do-not-break defensive style that prevented any real potential for a comeback. Faker was a monster on Orianna in terms of teamfighting, damage output, and playmaking. SKT, as a team, prioritized better trades in objectives, split push, base damage and damage-dealer targets in teamfights. In Game 2, reactionary rotations benefited Faker, Bae "Bang" Jun-sik and Lee "Duke" Ho-Seong's early-game farm and itemization. The snowball from the rotational kills and higher farm led to an easy 31:26 minute game.

The turnaround: Samsung Galaxy

Samsung Galaxy gambled in the draft with a Lee "Crown" Min-ho Aurelion Sol for added control, despite the mid laner's limited champion pool. SKT controlled the early-game pace and thoroughly crushed the opposition in the lane phase. Because of the slower pace, SKT mounted a 7-0 kill and 1K gold lead at 25 minutes.

SKT attempted Baron with half their team and Samsung Galaxy punished the movement with three clean kills, taking Baron and three turrets to climb back into the game. Both teams stalled out around the next Baron with three pseudo-fights, with no clear victory for either side. Eventually, SKT re-established their map control behind the power of Faker's Orianna and several winning fights around the Baron and Dragon. However, Samsung Galaxy, behind an Elder Dragon snipe by Ambition and a Baron take, barreled down the SKT base and took down the second-longest game in Worlds history at 71:20.

The unheralded star, Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in, was the star for Samsung Galaxy. He was second in team damage and routinely picked out and separated the core players from SKT in teamfights.

Samsung Galaxy over SKT in 45:58 in Game 4

SKT controlled the entire lane phase and slowed the game to a crawl. Just like Game 3, Samsung Galaxy swung the game in their favor after a winning Baron fight and a Faker pickoff. This allowed them to take control of the map. With the Baron buff, Samsung Galaxy took down two inhibitors and jumped to a 4.4K gold swing.

Despite another Baron take from Samsung Galaxy, SKT isolated and chased down perfect kills to stall the game at 42 minutes. Samsung Galaxy flexed their teamfighting strength and forced an engagement to take down three uncontested Dragons and push into the SKT base for a Game 4 victory.

The finish: SKT finish in traditional style

SKT returned to the careful and methodical style that earned them the recognition of best team in the world. The team brought back Bengi to jump-start SKT's early game and allowed the lanes to stabilize. Samsung Galaxy's Ambition and CoreJJ focused their attacks on the bottom lane with multiple tower dives to funnel farm onto AD carry Crown. Instead of a disaster at the Baron pit, SKT punished the overzealous movements of Crown and Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk to establish full map control over neutral objectives. With Baron buff, discipline and poke, SKT collapsed onto the Samsung Galaxy base and crushed their last defenses.

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