DWG KIA beat T1 to take 2021 LCK Summit Split title
Defending champions DWG KIA took down challengers T1 in a convincing 3-1 final of the 2021 League of Legends Champions Korea Summer Split on Saturday evening.
T1's interim head coach Son "Stardust" Seok-hee, in a pre-match broadcast interview, offered that the theme of the finals might be "the student versus the master"; it was a reference to how T1's Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok had been coached by DK head coach Kim "kkOma" Jeong-gyun, and he himself had learned a lot from DK strategic analyst Yang "Daeny" Dae-in.
On the night, the masters ended up taking their former students to school.
Riot Games Korea chose to hold the match at the CJ ENM Studio in Ilsan, Gyeonggi, which did not allow for a live audience or proper press access. The choice of venue was presumably made in order to debut a new stage design involving mixed reality graphics for the finals.
While some creative ideas were indeed put on display, whether the overall optics were a massive improvement over LoL Park's usual sleek setup felt debatable. Furthermore, the pre-match trash talk segment between the two teams' players was poorly scripted, the customary musical act was omitted and the prerecorded quiz show aired between sets was irrelevant to the actual finals taking place.
Purely in terms of production value, it was one of the least inspiring finals in LCK history — a cause for some concern, considering this is the league's first year of franchising. In terms of gameplay, however, it luckily turned out to be one of the most entertaining in recent years.
The first game made for an energetic start to the night. T1 went for a full batch of comfort picks, placing Kim "Canna" Chang-dong on Gwen, Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon on Viego and Faker on Azir. DWG KIA, on the other hand, opted for strong meta picks, taking Camille for Kim "Khan" Dong-ha and Trundle for Kim "Canyon" Gun-bu. Both players had piloted their respective champions well this split, but only once.
Things were fast-paced and both teams took turns taking the lead, but Khan's strong performance on Camille and Heo "ShowMaker" Su's standout side lane play on Ryze eventually led to a win for DWG KIA.
Canyon put on a one-man show on Olaf in the following game, relentlessly ganking top to force-feed Khan's Camille an advantage over Canna's Gwen. The T1 top laner responded to Canyon's incessant visits remarkably well, managing to at least take someone with him each time he fell prey to a gank. The problem was that while Olaf and Camille were becoming unstoppable, T1 were not scoring any points on the other side of the map. Canyon was later able to convert his massive lead into a victory for his team.
With the score at 2-0, Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyung was subbed in for Park "Teddy" Jin-sung. This bode well for T1's chances of getting back into the series; while Teddy was hardly to blame for either of their losses, T1 tend to play at a slower tempo with him on the Rift. Playing the younger bot laner would help T1 switch up their approach to the game, which clearly had not been working so far.
T1 did end up winning Game 3, but it was less about Gumayusi's introduction and more about DWG KIA's overly confident draft, in which Canyon and ShowMaker picked Diana and Kassadin together and Jo "BeryL" Gun-hee last-picked Seraphine. While DWG KIA did have some impressive moments, T1 was able to press their compositional advantage to claw back into the match.
The beginning of the fourth game went very smoothly for T1, with Faker's Ryze and Canna's Gragas exerting strong control over their lanes and the team working well towards a snowball win. Yet due to three consecutive mistakes from Ryze and a series of jaw-dropping displays from ShowMaker's LeBlanc, DWG KIA were able to steal a comeback victory and call an end to the finals.
In the post-victory broadcast interview, kkOma said he was elated at having become the first person to have ever won 10 LCK titles, but also took care to pay respect to Faker, saying that winning ten titles as a player is by nature "far more difficult" than doing it as a coach.
Khan, who has repeatedly stated his plans to retire at the end of the season, said he was very happy to have won his final split in the LCK, and vowed to end his career on a high note by performing well at the coming World Championship "no matter what it takes." The veteran top laner now holds six LCK titles, and his legacy as the best top laner in domestic league history has become unquestionable.
ShowMaker said he felt emotional when thinking over his "tumultuous" journey over the summer split, which involved coming back exhausted from the Mid-Season Invitational, undertaking a temporary role swap for the team, and suffering from burnout issues.
He took time to thank everyone who helped him recover, and also expressed support to his former teammate Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon, who will soon play in China's League of Legends Professional League (LPL) finals.
Jang "Ghost" Yong-jun, Daeny and Khan also shared their eagerness to meet Nuguri again at Worlds. BeryL concurred, and noted it would be preferable if they could avoid meeting FunPlus Phoenix early in the tournament. The two teams will be seeded into different groups if FPX wins the LPL.
When asked for his thoughts on DWG KIA's chances at Worlds, kkOma shared that he was feeling very confident.
The Finals MVP was awarded to ShowMaker. The mid laner was happy to have won the honor, but said it was a shame that it didn't go to Khan, as he would not have another chance at the accolade.
BY JEON YOUNG-JAE [firstname.lastname@example.org]