The Best Team in the World Wasn’t Even at Worlds


The best e-sports team in the world didn’t make it to the world tournament. (Flickr)

By Griffin LaMarche

In the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), one of the strongest teams entered during the Summer Split: Griffin. The rookie team came up from the LCK Challenger Series and was not expected to make such large ripples.

The lineup consisted of top-laner Choi “Sword” Sung-won, jungler Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong, mid-laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon, bot-laner Park “Viper” Do-hyeon, and support Son “Lehends” Si-woo. Griffin burst out of the gates in the Summer Split, beating MVP, Hanaha Life Esports and BBQ Olivers, but it did not make headlines until they swept three-time champions SK Telecom T1, Spring Split champions Kingzone-Dragon X, and 2018 Worlds semifinalists Afreeca Freecs. By Week four, Griffin held a record of 8-1, only dropping one match to the eventual Summer Split champions KT Rolster.

With picks such as Aatrox top, Irelia mid, Urgot mid and Singed support, Griffin found players that satisfied the aggressive meta of the Summer Split and rolled over the competition in the first half.

However, the picks are just half the story. Griffin oriented its team with the mindset of “five as one.” All three laners, including the jungler, had the potential to carry games on their own picks such as Trundle, Irelia and Urgot, with other picks such as Sejuani and Ornn providing a healthy amount of crowd control to disrupt the enemy team. The most notable player on the team, Viper, posted up an average 6.7 Kills/Deaths/Assists in a champion pool including Kai’Sa, Ryze, Yasuo, Irelia, and Vladimir. The most notable games included an AD Carry Morgana with a record of 2/1/15, and a Kai’Sa game with the record 12/3/7. Griffin was able to find early success with very powerful team synergy, and a calm demeanor during team fights.

While Griffin posted up an impressive second place in the Summer Split, its hopes of going to Worlds were unfortunately cut short. It was beaten first in the Grand Finals by KT Rolster, which sent the rookie team to face Generation Gaming in the regional gauntlet. The veterans proved themselves worthy again, beating Griffin in a close 3-2 series, denying the rookie team from its first World Championship appearance. Nevertheless, it bounced back and swept the 2018 KeSPA Cup, defeating Afreeca Freecs, Damwon Gaming and Generation Gaming without dropping a single game to any of them. Even though Griffin may have missed Worlds, it has proven to be one of the best teams in the world through its regional dominance and ability to adapt to the meta flawlessly.

Griffin is a sign that a new wave of Korean talent is coming. Rookie teams Damwon Gaming and Team BattleComics also are entering the LCK, replacing MVP and BBQ Olivers as the ninth and tenth seed. As veteran teams such as SK Telecom T1, Generation Gaming and Kingzone Dragon-X began to falter in the summer of 2018, new teams began to rise take the spotlight. This year will be a huge year for rebuild, regrowth, and a change of guard in the Korean League of Legends scene, and Griffin is the head of that new wave.

The 2019 LCK Season began on Jan. 16.