When considering who the best mid laners in the LCK are, three names will immediately float on top.
The first, of course, is T1’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. League of Legends’ GOAT recovered from a horrible 2018 to reinvent himself and lead T1 to the semifinals of Worlds 2019, proving one more time that he’s not to fade out any time soon.
The second would be Jeing “Chovy” Ji-hoon, who declined lucrative deals from LCS teams to join his former Griffin coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho at DragonX. And finally, there’s Heo “ShowMaker” Su, mid laner for DAMWON Gaming, whose raw mechanical skill pundits expect to only grow as time goes by and the 19-year-old gains more stage experience. At Worlds 2019, ShowMaker and top laner Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon showed the world the potential of DWG and instantly became the solo laners to watch in 2020.
On Wednesday, February 5, two of these mid laners will face in LCK Spring’s opening match. At 09:00 CET, T1 goes on stage against DAMWON Gaming in one of the most exciting matches of the week.
Spotlights on the mid lane
Let’s make one thing clear: this isn’t the LCK equivalent of the Invictus Gaming vs. FunPlus Phoenix opener in the LPL. T1’s brand legacy is in stark contrast with their current League of Legends roster. If 2019 SKT tried to secure the best possible player on each position — and more or less succeeded — 2020 T1 is on a journey of growth.
In the top lane, T1 have to choose between Kim “Roach” Kang-hui, who spent the 2019 Summer Split a sub to Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin in Gen.G; and rookie Kim “Canna” Chang-dong, who was just promoted from the T1 training roster. In the jungle, they secured veteran Moon “Cuzz” Woo-chan but he still feels like a downgrade to Kim “Clid” Tae-min, who was often the best player on T1, especially during their MSI and Worlds campaigns. And even if Faker is still Faker, he’ll still need to establish a new dynamic with an unfamiliar jungler, and lead T1 through perhaps yet another identity change.
On the other side of the Rift, DWG made no changes, but that’s no guarantee for success either. Albeit boasting outstanding solo laners and winning their group, DWG showed exploitable holes in their bottom lane with Sin “Nuclear” Jeong-hyeon showing as the weak link and blindly endorsed Nuguri’s over-reliance on greedy builds in the top lane — holes that G2 Esports exploited to trample DAMWON 3-1 in Worlds quarterfinals.
To expect an ace-tier 5v5 bout between T1 and DAMWON on opening day, therefore, is a wanton hope, but the mid lane face off between Faker and ShowMaker remains one to watch. Both of them have great jungler partners too: Cuzz for Faker and LCK Summer 2019 MVP Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu for ShowMaker. It’s a classic battle between the master and the young blood who already has everything he needs to overtake him. Everything but time.
Is this the most exciting LCK opening match we could’ve had? No, far from it. If the off-season shuffle and the KeSPA Cup results are any indication, we should all be watching Gen.G, Afreeca Freecs, and DragonX this season. The first have by far the scariest jungle/mid duo of Clid and Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong; the second won KeSPA Cup on the back of a monstrous Kim “Kiin” Gi-in; and the third are channeling the spirit of 2019 Griffin, with cvMax once again leading a young roster on the promised path.
But for those good match-ups, we’ll have to wait for weeks 2 and 3. As week 1 goes, T1 versus DWG is the best on the menu.