An Introductory Guide To The Spring 2020 LCK Playoffs.
Brace yourselves, the LCK Spring Split Summer 2020 playoffs are here. Starting on the 18th April, five hungry teams will be looking to rise up and take home the coveted title of LCK Spring 2020 champion.
Glory and respect await the winner as well as the chance to represent the LCK at the Mid-Season Invitational and bring international glory back to South Korea.
There are five teams remaining and only one crown.
There can only be one King of the LCK.
Viewers unacquainted with the LCK may find themselves perplexed by the unfamiliar playoff format, especially considering the recent alterations to the LEC and LCS playoff brackets.
Unlike the western leagues, the LCK playoffs are reserved only for the top five teams in the regular season.
The LCK has rather controversially opted to keep its iconic King of the Hill, single elimination style bracket. Seeding is based on regular season performance with the 1st Seed being automatically locked into the final.
Unlike the LEC and LCS, the LCK has opted to keep its single elimination style making one thing clear- perform or face the consequences.
The winner of the LCK Spring Playoffs will be the LCK Spring Champion and will represent South Korea at the Mid-Season Invitational.
The first round of the playoffs between the 5th and 4th seed, known as the Wildcard match, is a best of three match. All other matches, including the final are a best of five.
This style of format has faced criticism in the past from fans and analysts alike. On one hand, the 1st place seed only needs to win one best of five to win the title, thus rewarding a strong regular season performance.
The downside? Fans of the 1st place seed will only get to see their team play one best of five series. Analysts have also criticised the format as the 1st place seed suffers from a lack of on-stage best of five experience.
The other upside of this format is it can make for some truly historic runs. In the 2019 LCK Summer playoffs, SKT showed the world that they were the definitive Kings of the Hill as they made an unprecedented climb of going from 5th place all the way to first, beating Griffin 3-1 in the finals to win the Summer Split to become South Korea’s first seed representative going into the 2019 World Championship. A legendary series of events.
Without further ado, these are your five LCK playoff teams.
Damwon Gaming- 5th seed
Nuguri- Top Lane
ShowMaker- Mid Lane
Nuclear- Substitute ADC
Hoit- Substitute Support
Damwon Gaming are your LCK 5th seed going into the playoffs- sporting a 9-9 series record.
Why watch Damwong Gaming?
Following a 3-1 quarter finals defeat at the 2019 World Championship at the hands of eventual finalists G2 esports, Damwon Gaming opted to keep their topside of the map intact by bringing back their solo laners in Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon and Heo “ShowMaker” Su, as well as jungler Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu. Despite their inexperience at the tournament, Nuguri, Canyon and ShowMaker displayed immense potential and fans were eager to see them develop going into the 2020 Spring season.
Damwon Gaming made the decision halfway through the regular split to recruit former Sandbox Gaming ADC Jang “Ghost” Yong-jun to replace Sin “Nuclear” Jeong-hyeon. Ghost is a consistent carry threat in the bottom lane, especially when paired with Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee. This stability in the bottom lane has unlocked Damwon Gaming’s solo laners, with Nuguri and ShowMaker showing fans that they were worth getting hyped about.
Who to watch on Damwon Gaming?
The true definition of a hit or miss player, Nuguri is the player most analysts will have their eye on during the playoffs. In the words of Nuguri’s teammate ShowMaker-“ When Nuguri falls behind, he falls behind HARD. But when he has a lead, there is no other top laner like him in the world.” Nuguri has brought an array of carry picks to the top lane this split including Jayce, Kennen, Akali and Irelia.
Nuguri has also shown proficiency on more conventional top lane picks such as Sett, Aatrox and Ornn and can play more conservatively if needed. Going into the playoffs, will Nuguri be the explosive force that drives Damwon into a playoffs victory, or will we see a spluttering flame like we saw during the 2019 World’s Group Stage?
"When he [Nuguri] has a lead, there is no other top laner like him in the world."- DWG ShowMaker
KT Rolster- 4th Seed
SoHwan- Top Lane
Kuro- Mid Lane
Ray (Substitute Top Laner)
Malrang (Substitute Jungler)
Looking to truly upset the split is KT Rolster your LCK Playoffs 4th seed, going into playoffs with a 10-8 series record.
Why watch KT Rolster?
Simply put, KT Rolster winning this split would be perhaps the biggest underdog story in LCK history. In 2019 Summer, KT roster fielded a legendary roster with absurd amounts of talent starring jungler savant Go “Score” Dong-bin, mid lane superstar Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong and renowned ADC Kim “PraY” Jong-in. The result? A whimpering 8th place finish going 6-12.
Going into Spring 2020, KT’s roster looked as though it lacked the super team status of teams such as Gen.G, DragonX and T1. KT Rolster started this split off with a 2-10 game score with a disappointing 0-4 series record. No one was getting excited about this KT roster. And in true KT fashion, they turned it around climbing from 10th place in Week 3, all the way to 4th in the regular season.
Will KT Rolster pull off the true underdog run and make the unprecedented run from 10th place to 1st?
Who to watch on KT Rolster?
KT Rolster’s team is greater than the sum of its parts. Despite this, Lee “Kuro” Seo-haeng is the player to watch going into the playoffs. Having made LCK playoffs 9 times in a row (excluding his time on Bilibili Gaming in the LPL), Kuro will need to be the level-headed veteran for this team. Kuro is no stranger to winning the LCK having won the 2016 LCK Summer playoffs with the ROX Tigers. Kuro will need to show up big time, or we may witness an early exit from the playoffs for KT Rolster.
"It's never a bad thing to have big dreams, so I want to go on a 13 match win streak."- KT Kuro [on his team's five series win streak].
DragonX- 3rd seed
Doran- Top Laner
Chovy- Mid Lane
The LCK 3rd seed going into playoffs is DragonX with a 14-4 series record and a 30-14 match record.
DragonX were unable to steal away the 2nd seed as they needed to 2-0 APK Prince in their final regular season match. APK Prince did not go down without a fight, managing to seize a win despite losing the series 2-1.
Why watch DragonX?
DragonX’s management believes in Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu. As the only remaining player of the 2019 Summer roster, it was clear to LCK viewers that Deft is the sort of player that you build a roster around. With the introduction of four new players to the starting roster, many expected DragonX to encounter the typical synergistic issues you might expect going into the Spring split.
Instead, DragonX erupted onto the scene in a truly dominant fashion. This team has an exciting mix of upcoming talent in rookies Hong “Pyosik” Chang-Hyeong and Ryu “Keria” Min-seok. Likewise, this is only Choi “Doran” Hyeon-joon’s second ever playoffs. Inexperience be damned however, as they are under the watchful gaze of coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-hom who has shown wonders working with rookie talent. Deft and Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon bring talent and playoffs experience to this fascinating young roster. Will this DragonX roster fly high above the rest?
Who to watch on DragonX?
Whenever a roster is built around you, you need to show up; and show up Deft will. With an impressive 4.9 KDA and 28.6% share of his team’s damage, Deft has proven to DragonX fans that the risk of a completely new roster has paid off, and he will carry this team.
Going into playoffs, Deft brings championship winning experience to the roster. Deft has won 2 LCK titles with Samsung Blue in OGN Spring 2014 and most recently with KT Rolster in LCK Summer 2018. He is also one of the few players to win in another major league, having won LPL Spring 2015 and beating out SKT 3-2 in the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational finals. Deft will need to be the shining star for this DragonX roster.
“In order to bring the trophy home, we have to be the best anyways. We’ll prove ourselves from the bottom up.”- DRX Deft
T1- 2nd seed
Canna- Top Laner
Faker- Mid Laner
Roach- Substitute Top Laner
Ellim- Substitute Jungler
The T1 organisation, formerly known as South Korean Powerhouse SK Telecom T1, is no stranger to strong regular season finishes as they claim the 2nd seed with a 14-4 match record and 30-14 game score.
Why watch T1?
T1 started off this split looking very hot, going 8-2 in their first 10 series. Beating out Gen.G in Week 2 and Week 7 led to many concluding that T1 were once again the perennial best team in the LCK. However, an 0-2 loss to Damwon Gaming in Week 7, coupled with a surprising 0-2 defeat at the hands of KT Rolster in T1’s final game of the regular season, led to T1 finishing the season rather flat as they were unable to pip Gen.G at the post and claim the 1st seed. T1 has shown time and time again that until their nexus falls, they are not out- expect to see them battling for the LCK Spring 2020 trophy in the finals.
Who to watch on T1?
Keep your eyes on Kim “Canna” Chang-dong. Readers might be surprised to not see Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok here. However, Faker has proven to the world time and time again that you can count on him when needed. T1 fans shouldn't worry, Faker will bring his A game just as he has every year.
However, this is Canna’s first playoffs and if ever there was a time to thrive; it is now. There is a distinct absence of storied veteran top laners in this year’s Spring playoffs. Kim “Rascal” Kwang-hee is the most experienced top laner in playoffs, with 3 playoffs attendances to his name. Gone are the veterans, and in its place stands several talented but inexperienced newcomers. This is ideal for Canna, as he can show his competing top laners that what he lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in mechanical talent.
This could be Canna’s opportunity to show T1 fans that he can join the likes of Jeong “Impact” Eon-yeong, Jang “Marin” Gyeong-hwan and Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, as one of T1’s elite top laners. Canna is currently undefeated on Renekton and Jayce, with an incredible 12.0 KDA in 4 games on Renekton. Having played 14 unique champions this split- Canna has demonstrated that no playstyle is outside his wheelhouse. Be careful versus this top laner, give him an inch and he will take a nexus.
"Canna is already a player with great mechanics... he'll become an amazing top laner."- T1 Teddy.
Gen.G- 1st seed
Rascal- Top Laner
Bdd- Mid Laner
Gen.G are your definitive best regular season LCK team going 14-4 in series played with an impressive 31-13 record. They are your LCK Spring Split playoffs 1st seed and go in as the team to beat.
For reference, the reason Gen.G are the first seed despite DragonX and T1 having the same match score is that they won more matches 2-0.
Why watch Gen.G?
After a lacklustre 2019 season, Gen.G come into playoffs as the first seed and favourites to win the whole tournament. A fan of high-quality League of Legends will take great pleasure in watching Gen.G play. If you are a fan of elegant teamplay and strong individual performances- Gen.G is your team to watch this playoffs. Whilst considered a favourite, Gen.G will be praying that either Damwon, KT Rolster or DragonX take out T1 as they are 0-2 versus them in series this split. Could T1 be Gen.G’s kryptonite or will Gen.G show them that they are this year’s super team. Gen.G have constructed a true Korean super team this split- will they be rewarded for their efforts?
Who to watch on Gen.G?
In 2017 and 2018, Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong was the name on everyone’s lips when discussing the future of LCK mid lane talent. In 2019, that talent was wasting away on a disappointing KT Rolster. How many times had this happened? How many times had a future star of esports wasted away their prime years on a disappointing roster? This was not one of those times.
Bdd has picked up right where he left off and has dominated the LCK this split as the best mid laner in the regular season. Topping the Player of the Game Standings with 1200 points, he is the frontrunner for MVP this split. Bdd has had outstanding performances on Zoe and Azir and is the proud owner of a remarkable 6.7 KDA across the split. There are only two things missing from Bdd’s resume- an LCK playoff win and attending an international tournament.
With just one playoff series standing in his way, this is Bdd’s chance to kill two birds with one stone and show League of Legends fans everywhere that he truly is the future of the LCK.
"I'm always confident, and I'm always aiming to be on top."- GEN Bdd.
The LCK playoffs commences on the 18th April at 17:00 KST (8:00 GMT, 4:00 ET and 1:00 PT) with the 5th seed Damwon Gaming, taking on 4th seed KT Rolster in the Wildcard best of three series.
The winner of that match will play DragonX in Round 1 of the playoffs on the 20th April at 17:00 KST.
The winner of Round 2 will play T1 in Round 2 of the playoffs on the 22nd April at 17:00 KST.
The eagerly anticipated finals will be between Gen.G and the winner of the Round 2 playoffs match on the 25th April at 17:00 KST.
The LCK playoffs are soon upon us. Who will hoist the coveted LCK Spring Split 2020 trophy and represent South Korea at the Mid-Season Invitational?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below