Thanks to DAMWON Kia’s performance at the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), the Korean League will receive an additional seed for Worlds, with a total of four teams. This will make the competition all the more interesting, as there are many teams which can clinch that fourth spot.
Fredit Brion and Liiv Sandbox: training grounds?
FB and LSB didn’t have a strong performance during the LCK 2021 Spring Split. Ending 10th and 8th respectively, the two teams showed that they still need to improve a lot in order to fight for a playoff spot.
As a result, Fredit Brion decided to stick with the same roster that played in the spring. No changes were announced (so far), and it seems like the organization wants to work with its youngsters (everyone is 22 years old or younger) to increase their chances of success.
Liiv Sandbox, on the other hand, did make some changes to the roster. Both marksmen Moon “Route” Geom-su and Han “Leo” Gyeo-re left the team, with the two new rookies Jeon “Howling” Ho-bin (top laner) and Byeon “Kingkong” Jeong-hyeon (ADC) filling the spot. The two, both born in 2003, will likely play as subs, with chances of starting towards the end of the split.
Both organizations are hoping to turn a profit on some of these players. This, however, also means that both FB and LSB might not have the individuals to make playoffs, and they are therefore expected to finish at the bottom of the standings.
Afreeca Freecs, KT Rolster, Nongshim RedForce: playoff material
These three teams will fight for the last spot of the LCK playoffs. It is very clear that there is a big gap between the top half and the bottom half of the league.
Afreeca Freecs are hoping to get back on track off the back of the addition of former Team Liquid head coach Jang “Cain” Nu-ri after a disappointing 9th-place finish in the Spring Split. They also hired the former LSB player Leo, as he will contest Bae “Bang” Jun-siks’ starting spot for summer.
KT Rolster was the last playoff contender in the spring and they’re looking to replicate this result during the summer. They are looking to do so after some serious roster changes, having benched Lee “HyBriD” Woo-jin and allowing the rookie Oh “Noah” Hyeon-taek to become the starting ADC in his stead. They also promoted support player Lee “Harp” Ji-yoong from their academy team.
Of these teams, Nongshim RedForce is unquestionably the one with the biggest upgrade. Mid laner Park “Bay” Jun-byeong, considered by many the weak link of the team, was replaced by Kim “Gori” Tae-woo, who was previously the substitute for Edward Gaming, the team that finished 2nd in the LPL. Considering he used to be a substitute on T1, people will have high expectations of Gori — and he will likely become a starter for years to come If he performs well and consistently.
With Gori joining NS, it looks like NS will be the last playoff contender, even with the roster moves by AF and KT taken into consideration.
DRX and T1: Fight for a Worlds seed
Both teams left their roster unchanged: DRX is still growing with its rookies, while T1 is trying to nurture them alongside the big veterans. Both saw success with their approach.
Of these two sides, T1 seems to have the upper hand: though they had a slower start, they were considered top 3 in the LCK. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok will surely want to get back to Worlds and he’ll do anything in his power to get there.
Don’t discount DRX, though. They did showcase some strong performances in the previous Split and they might be the dark horse this time around. Bear in mind that Head Coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho is looking to return to the team: we might see some surprises under his leadership.
Generation Gaming and Hanwha Life: threats to the crown
All the top teams are sticking to the same roster: Gen.G and HLE are no exception.
Now that Worlds is on the line, HLE must deliver. After the third-place finish in the spring, the team will want to secure the ticket to China. They have the individuals to win it all: Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon and Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu are two of the strongest players in Korea. Will this be the one time HLE rises up to victory, or will we see Chovy 1v9-ing again?
Gen.G, similarly, has the golden chance to battle it out for the top spot. Even though they were destroyed by DK in the finals, the team did pretty well in the Spring Split, ending in 2nd place, and they are strong contenders again for the summer.
DAMWON Kia: the kings — but for how long?
After a strong showing at the Mid-Season Invitational, DK go back to Korea with some international experience under their belt.
They were able to take RNG to a five-game series, demonstrating that the team has what it takes to fight with the best of the LPL. However, some of DK’s weaknesses emerged at MSI: questionable drafts and performances were two big issues they couldn’t fix during the tournament.
Seeing how the players didn’t have much time to rest and prepare for the summer split, we might see a rough start for DK. The question is whether this will penalize the reigning champions in the long run.