By securing their second LCK grand final this season, Griffin collected enough championship points to be a lock for the 2019 League of Legends World Championship. This marks the third split in a row where Griffin place top 2 in the regular season, making them one of the most consistent teams in the latest LCK era.
Griffin now have ample time to prepare for the LCK Summer grand final on August 31, waiting for the other four teams to determine who’s the most worthy among them.
Round 1: SK Telecom T1 vs. Afreeca Freecs
Despite having a monstrous nine-series win streak in the second half of the season, SKT’s rough start which saw them rack up five losses in the first three weeks was ultimately what kept them out of the top 3. SKT finished on par with Afreeca Freecs, edging them out in the final standings with just 3 more tiebreaker points in an otherwise tied 11-7 series record.
The bad news for SKT is that they have a long and hard playoffs run ahead of them, if they want to repeat their LCK Spring championship. The good news is that the aforementioned trophy gave them a good head start in the championship points race. As it stands, with Griffin already qualified, the only other team close to SKT’s points is DAMWON, with 100 points to SKT’s 110. For DAMWON to qualify for Worlds based off of playoffs, one of two things need to happen:
- DAMWON wins LCS Summer, which would qualify them for Worlds, alongside Griffin
- DAMWON advance to the grand final and SKT lose to AFs in Round 1. This way, DAMWON 120 points to SKT’s 110
In any other scenario, SKT will have just enough points to still be ahead of DAMWON and secure their Worlds spot.
Whether SKT can beat AFs, however, is entirely different matter. If this was a best-of-5, than SKT’s experience might give them an edge, but Round 1 in LCK is best-of-3. SKT have won three of the four best-of-3’s against AFs this year so they still have the statistical advantage, but the format is more volatile one than best-of-5 and an unforeseen cheese or two from AFs can mean the series.
Round 2: SANDBOX vs TBD
SANDBOX had a great season, carried in large by the synergy between top laner Park “Summit” Woo-tae and jungler Kim “OnFleek” Jang-gyeom. They traded blow for blow with all the top teams of the split and the one team they couldn’t beat was DAMWON — the split’s runner-ups.
SANDBOX are likely hoping to get AFs as their opponents, considering they beat them twice already in the regular season. Their one win against SKT was during the period where the reigning champions struggled and the last encounter vs. the in-form SKT did not go SB’s favor. Considering this will be SB’s first high-pressure best-of-5, they would not want to face a team that has made their name by being incredibly hard to kill in the format.
Round 3: DAMWON vsTBD
DAMWON Gaming came closer than anybody to challenge Griffin’s #1 spot to the point that Griffin only beat them on a tiebreaker difference of four points. So DAMWON can now look back at the games they dropped to the likes of JAG and KT — and especially the loss to Hanwha Life in week 8 — and shake their fist at them for costing them the top spot.
Like SANDBOX, DAMWON have never played such a critical best-of-5 match, and they will have to bring their best if they want that Worlds 2019 spot (which they do, of course). The team is coming to the playoffs with jungler Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu having won MVP of the split which, despite being somewhat controversial in a league where there are more valuable junglers than him like Kim “Clid” Tae-min and Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong, will be a massive confidence boost to DAMWON. At the same time, they have Heo “ShowMaker” Su in the mid lane, who beat Griffin’s Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon KDA-wise (and this is the same Chovy who once had a 104 KDA) and is one of the best mid laners this season.
DAMWON are in a good position to make Worlds even if they don’t win the season, but they have to rely on SKT’s Round 1 loss for that. They had a fantastic season beating all of the teams at least once, and even going 2-0 against SKT and SB. This could very well be the year where LCK sends three very young teams to Worlds.
Grand final round: Griffin vsTBD
With back-to-back regular season wins and their near miss of Worlds in 2018, it can’t be argued that Griffin are perhaps the best team domestic team in modern-day LCK. What’s missing from their resume still is an international appearance, something they are guaranteed to fix as the first Korean team to qualify for 2019 Worlds.
While no one doubts Griffin’s power, there’s still the issue of them losing the big-stage matches that truly count. Their loss at the 2018 Summer finals and subsequent fall in the gauntlet wrote the most tragic storyline of that season, which ended with Gen.G qualifying for Worlds instead of Griffin only to bomb out of the group stage, making every single League of Legends fan wish for that alternate timeline where the team that deserved it the most actually made it.
There’s still no telling whether Griffin can hoist a trophy of their own. They were supposed to be the favorites against SKT in Spring, but ended up blown up 3-0 and missing MSI. They at least have the advantage of best-of-5 experience to DAMWON and SANDBOX, but their “choking” curse is chasing them still.
Everybody knows that Griffin can perform. The question is: will they?
Photos by: LCK | Flickr