Photo by: LCK Flickr
Griffin can bleed. We knew that much.
Not many teams were able to scar them, but even though Griffin led the LCK undefeated, they did drop a couple of maps. SANDBOX challenged them early in the season when Griffin were already 5-0 but couldn’t close the series in game 3. The rookies continued to be on Griffin’s tale for the weeks to come but never really came close to usurping the throne from them.
Then, there were SK Telecom, the proudest LoL dynasty in Korea. After Faker and co suffered an embarrassing loss to Griffin in week 3 — the one that put Chovy on a record-breaking 104 KDA — they met Griffin again four weeks later to make for the best LCK series this season. Yet Griffin were stronger again. While their weaknesses had started to show, particularly their passive early game approach, they still had the mental fortitude to engineer a clutch, series-winning move that saved their perfect record.
Set sail for perfect split
After escaping defeat against SKT, Griffin went on to blank SANDBOX a few days later and finished week 7 on a 12-0 note. They had dropped only two maps on the way to a 24-2 game record.
The writing of a perfect split was already on the wall for Griffin. With three weeks to go, there was nobody really left to challenge them. They had already beaten every other team in the top 5 and defeated the #2 and #3 seeds twice and there were few teams that could realistically oppose them by the end of the split.
Kingzone would be one option. After early season struggles, the Dragons had found their footing to win four of the last five games. They had beaten the likes of DAMWON, SANDBOX and Hanwha Life so maybe they could do miracles against Griffin too. DAMWON Gaming and top laner Flame were another side untested for a second time against the LCK kings but they had looked shaky in series they shouldn’t had (vs. Afreeca Freecs) and the last time DWG played Griffin, it was a 2-0 stomp.
Set sail for perfect Griffin split indeed. And it would start with Gen.G in week 8.
Fall of the mighty
It’s been rough months for Gen.G ever since Worlds 2018. After winning the 2017 World Championship under the Samsung name, the core donned the colors of a new org and started the new year with understandably high expectations. But the Summoner’s Cup holds no magic powers and in 2018. Gen.G were reduced from world’s best team to somewhat of a laughing stock by the end of the year.
Not since 2013 had a Korean team flopped out of Worlds’ group stage so for Gen.G to finish dead last in their group behind western sides like Team Vitality and Cloud9 was shameful, even embarrassing. Gen.G tried to redeem themselves as they returned home and contested the KeSPA cup trophy, but the final ended up a very one-sided 3-0 for Griffin.
The 2019 LCK Spring Split treated them worse yet. Gen.G lost their first three series, two of which to the rookies from SANDBOX and DAMWON Gaming. At first, fans clumped Gen.G in the same basket as KT Rolster, Kingzone and Afreeca, convinced this is only a temporary underperformance by LCK’s marquee franchises. But as weeks went by, the ugly reality set in — this wasn’t temporary; this was a Gen.G that was only fit for the grounds floors of the standings table.
There was little Gen.G could write home, individual players-wise. CuVee was not making any difference up top. Peanut, who joined after a disappointing 2018 with Kingzone, lacked impact as well with the fifth lowest kill participation and GPM ratios on the league. Fly was outgunned by both the young stars like Chovy and Tempt and the LCK veterans like Faker and PawN. The only mids he could beat were Afreeca’s and JAG’s — two of the worst teams in the entire league.
Things on bot were looking good at least, with Ruler laning with a machine-like precision rivaling that of Teddy and Viper, but just one lane would not be enough to make Gen.G a playoffs team, not to mention beat any of the top teams.
No bookmaker would’ve given favorable odds for Gen.G to best Griffin. The gap between the two teams was too big, both in terms of playstyle and in actual standings. Griffin were on the way to a perfect split. Gen.G, on the other hand, might face relegation three weeks from now.
No one thought Gen.G would be the first to solve the Griffin puzzle. But they were.
Abusing Patch 9.4’s buffs to Vayne and AD Neeko, Gen.G built a high-damage composition, designed to punish Griffin’s passive early game. It was a simple plan, but quite effective: Griffin have never been a team to seek confrontation, meaning more and safer time for Ruler to farm on Vayne. It wouldn’t matter how behind they would be in the early and mid game, as long as Vayne and Neeko could come online.
Once Ruler started racking up items, it became increasingly difficult for Tarzan’s Nocturne to engage. His dives ended up in a dead jungler and from there not even Chovy’s 30K damage Corki could turn the game around. Vayne has always had a reputation for being the ultimate late-game carry and Ruler kindly reminded Griffin of the fact as they took game 1.
Griffin had the right idea in mind as the draft for game 2 began — ban out Gen.G’s best player. Yet instead of Vayne, LeBlanc got the axe, leaving Vayne free for Ruler to take once again.
The story of game 2 was almost identical, as Ruler played the kind of series he used to have in Samsung. With QSS and Cleanse on his person, Ruler was untouchable from Griffin’s Zoe/Ryze/Galio composition and a Vayne that’s always moving is a Vayne that’s always killing. When the game ended at minute 37, Ruler had secured 12 of Gen.G’s 13 kills.
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At the end of the day, this is a result that hurts Griffin more than it helps Gen.G, weird as it sounds. For eight weeks, Griffin lived with the conviction they were immortal, the last undefeated team in all regions. Today, they fell to a team that had only ever won against the LCK bottom-feeders.
Gen.G solved Griffin and the rest of the LCK knows it too. Future opponents that Griffin didn’t have to worry about now have an idea how to give them as hard time as possible. Now, the LCK leaders have to act. They cannot be passive anymore, insider or outside the game. At 12-1, it may not seem like Griffin need to change, but they do.
Nobody cares how you finish the regular season. The championship is the only thing that counts. Today, a loss is just a neck wound. Tomorrow, it’s your head gone.