On Oct. 31, the KOO Tigers and SK Telecom T1 clashed in a battle of the titans in the season five League of Legends World Championship to see who would take home the Summoner’s Cup and the $1 million grand prize. Although both teams were Korean, their backgrounds could not have been more different.
Two years ago, SK Telecom T1 entered the Korean LCK, and they did so with a dynamic force. Faker and company would eventually lead SKT to first place in their group, going 7-3. This took the world by surprise as SKT, a team with three rookies on their team in Faker, their Attack Damage Carry Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin and their jungler Bae “bengi” Seong-ung, took down the likes of current powerhouses CJ Entus Blaze and Najin Black Sword.
After their dominating performance in the spring season of 2013, SKT had high expectations going into the summer split that year, and they delivered. After sweeping their group, they entered the LCK playoffs. There they would play and ultimately defeat the Jin Air Greenwings in the first round, the spring champion MVP Ozone in the semifinals and KT Rolster Bullets in the finals, advancing them to the Season three World Championships.
Despite being drawn into a strong group with the likes of North America’s Team Solomid, Europe’s Lemondogs and China’s OMG, SKT’s fan support had them projected to advance to at least the finals. They dominated the group stage 7-1 putting them in the quarterfinals. There they beat the first place team out of Taiwan, the Gamania Bears, in a 2-0 sweep, advancing them to the semifinals. Their next opponent was the first place seed out of Korea, Najin Black Sword. With Najin slumping SKT were favorites to win the series, and they did, to advance to the finals. The finals matchup would be between SKT and Chinese team Royal Club Huang Zu, and for the first time in a long time, SKT were no longer the favorites. Young caster and analyst Cristopher “Montecristo” Mykles was the only one on the analyst desk who believed SKT would win and coined the phrase “The Korean Hype Train.” He was right; SKT won the series in dominating fashion, clean-sweeping Royal Club 3-0, and setting in place the stepping stones to Montecristo becoming well known as the best analyst in the world.
After being shut down in season four by eventual world champions Samsung White, SKT reformed their roster and proceeded to secure first seed in both the spring and summer seasons to make it to the season five world championship as the best team out of Korea.
The KOO tigers come from an SKT-esque background, having just been formed this year. Known as the GE Tigers back in spring, they dominated the scene with a roster of fresh faces. For a majority of the spring season they held first place in the league, even over SKT. This would be changed quickly in the finals that split where SKT beat them out 3-0. The summer split looked more like that, they held a solid second seed for the entirety of the season with SKT holding first. They were upset by KT Rolster in the semifinals but still auto-qualified for Worlds that year by Championship Points that they had acquired over the course of the year.
In Worlds this year, SKT emerged from the group stage undefeated, while KOO held a 4-2 record. In the quarterfinals, SKT faced off against the first seed from Taiwan, the AHQ E-sports Club, and defeated them in a resounding 3-0 finish. On the other side, KOO went head-to-head against the rivals from just two months earlier, KT Rolster, and left their mark in a 3-1 victory. In the semifinals, SKT went on to defeat Enrique “xPeke” Cedeno and his team of veterans on Origen still without losing a single game. KOO had to battle against Europe’s first seed and favorites for the matchup Fnatic. They brought up a huge upset, going 3-0 and moving on to the finals to play against SKT who was looking to be both the first team to win a World Championship title twice and the first to do it undefeated. It started off utterly one-sided and eventually SKT would prove victorious, but not before KOO took game three off of them in destructive fashion. Still, a victory is a victory and SKT was crowned World Champion for the second time. Faker and Bengi both became the first players to win the title twice, and MaRin was crowned MVP of the series.