After winning Worlds 2020, DAMWON Kia continued dominating the Korean scene in the spring. However, their Mid-Season Invitational run showed that they are no longer the best in the world.
DK’s MSI run: drafting issues
Following a dominating 2021 Spring Split, DK represented Korea at the Mid-Season Invitational. Considered by many one of, if not, the favorite to win it all, they didn’t start in the best way possible. Despite winning five out of the six group stage games, the team didn’t have that the overwhelming aura many expected.
Why was that? The answer can be found in the drafts. All the way throughout the tournament, DK’s drafts were always suboptimal. Most of the time, they forced themselves into playing disadvantageous team compositions. This would transition into the series: DK had the better players and synergy, but this handicap made everything a lot harder.
For example, in the two games against Cloud9 during Groups Stage, DK drafted all-in team compositions. C9, to counter them, started picking specific anti-engage champions like Viktor. Despite realizing that, DK still continued the champ select without adapting. As a result, DK actually lost one of the two series.
The individual stats also took a dip. At MSI, the main culprit was support Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee. His micro gameplay was getting worse, with random engages and very bad positioning. It got so bad that people started memeing about how he spent his time playing Genshin Impact rather than training on League of Legends.
While it may not be completely true, he was clearly underperforming. Analysts and casters saw him as one of the worst supports of the tournament. After returning to Korea, his form did get better and it looked like DK fixed the problem… but it didn’t. Why? Because now the underperforming player was his ADC, Jang “Ghost” Yong-jun.
DK found themselves dropping a few series during the first week of the 2021 LCK Summer Split. The main reason was that the team’s bot lane duo wasn’t doing their job properly. While the rest of the players were playing well, the bot lane found themselves getting punished too often, ultimately dragging their own team down. Paired with the fact that Ghost had trouble playing the short-range champions like Kai’sa and Kalista, the bot side struggled really hard.
The risky experiment
In order to win again, Head coach Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun attempted a very bold move: he benched Ghost and put Heo “ShowMaker” Su as the ADC. Consequently, jungler Kim “Malrang” Geun-seong stepped up as the new starting jungler, with Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu filling in the mid laner role.
Basically, three out of the five players played off-role on stage. Surprisingly, the roster change worked decently: DK won three of the next four series, rising to second place in the LCK standings. While that may be a great result, it is also worth noting that the team faced the bottom teams in that period, masking their real level of performance. While subbing players in from time to time for their X-factor, using three off-role players might mess up with the team’s overall consistency in the long run
Back to basics
That is probably the reason why Ghost is already back on the starting roster. They are slowly fixing some of their issues and the results are proving that, at least in terms of draft.
DK will surely continue with the Senna-Tahm Kench combo, which guarantees a relatively safe laning phase, as well as good scaling. Not only but we might see Ghost on longer-range champions, like Varus.
After Ghost’s return, DK did find some success. Despite losing to Nongshim RedForce, DK bounced back, beating both first-place Gen.G Esports and Liiv Sandbox.
We still have to see whether they can maintain their form but for now, DK is showing good signs of recovery. Will this be enough to fight for the LCK title? It should be. Will it be the same for Worlds? I still have some doubts…