Tonight at 8pm PST / 11pm EST, the first of two semifinal best-of-fives will get underway, this one being an ALL KOREAN match between the incredibly hyped, super-dominant SK Telecom T1 and the veterans of NaJin Black Sword.
This is a must-watch match for any eSports fan, period. It’s being broadcast from USC’s Galen Center, a fricking massive stadium. I’ll be on the floor in second row, trying not to squeal from excitement.
What more, Korean eSports is a decade ahead of any other region in the world. SKT T1 is sponsored by our equivalent of Verizon/AT&T, as well as Nike. This is a MASSIVE industry in South Korea, the OGN Summer Finals were in the Olympic stadium in Seoul where the Mayor of Seoul announced plans to build a dedicated eSports stadium. What does this mean for tonight’s matches? If I haven’t made it abundantly clear by now, this means these organizations are able to…
- Travel with three coaches and support staff, all formulating strategies in secret
- Field the most elite players in the Korean scene, the most competitive scene in the world. NaJin Black Sword might not have done well in OGN recently, but they’ve stuck together long enough because management believes this team is the best possible.
- In the case of Najin Black Sword, ship over the entire sister team Najin White Sword, to have as a dedicated in-house scrimmage partner
This best-of-five will be the showcase of Korean League of Legends.
SKT T1 will put on display its world-class mechanically-driven ramp-up strategy, each lane performs at the highest caliber of play and when they’re ready, the teamfights are explosive, the rotations exact and the positioning is pinpoint accurate. Faker has proven the hype is all real, Bengi is always lurking, Impact has been a rock, and the Hundred Acre Woods duo of Piglet and PoohManDu have the kind of synergy most bot lanes can only dream of. There’s a reason this team didn’t drop a game during the OGN Summer Season, won the OGN Grand Finals then immediately won the Korean Regionals to get to Worlds. At Worlds, they dropped their first jet-lagged game against OMG then went on to win seven straight games finishing with a revenge stompof OMG to finish the group stage. They crushed the Gamania Bears in the Quarterfinals, and now they’re ready to take the stage at the Galen Center. MonteCristo’s hype train is justified in every single way possible.
NaJin Black Sword is, in the Korean eSports world, an ancient team. Yet they’ve stayed mostly intact and always relevant despite a less-than-spectacular Spring and Summer showing. Many Korean organizations would’ve scrapped the roster, but NaJin has faith in PraY and his teammates, they know what they must do, and they know each other. This sense of familiarity and perseverance can be seriously helpful traits to have in a best-of-five on one of the biggest stages in eSports. Aggression and surprise are two other big advantages, and Sword is familiar with both. The team that coined the motto “Do Dive” will be looking to do just that during SKT T1’s dominant lane phase. What more, Sword has already shown us they can pull out their sub mid Nagne to change the rules of engagement at the drop of a coin. With their practice partner NaJin White Shield here in America, it’s guaranteed Black Sword has be developing strategies to catch SKT T1 off guard.
My prediction? This will be the toughest opponent SKT T1 has had since arriving in LA, Sword knows them and has prepared for them better than any team they’ve played yet. Their styles are different in execution but are incredibly familiar, the players on stage tonight are a Who’s Who of top players. That being said, after watching NaJin make even a few small missteps against the inconsistent Gambit Gaming in the Quarterfinals, I can’t argue against an SKT T1 squad that has simply gotten better in every game they’ve played since landing in the US. SKT T1 will take this series 3-1….maybe 3-2, but they will move on to the Grand Finals against Fnatic or Royal Club (we’ll find out who tomorrow night, stay tuned for my preview of that game tomorrow afternoon).
Regardless of who does win, this will be a series for the ages. Tune in at lolesports.com