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Can T1 Repeat in the 2022 Summer Split?

Nikhil Kalro

The 2022 LCK Summer Split has gotten off to a rollicking start, with each of the top teams – DRX, Gen.G and T1 – having posted dominating wins to open their campaign. 

t1 2022 summer split

BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA - T1 poses at the League of Legends - Mid-Season Invitational Features Day on May 8, 2022 in Busan, South Korea. (Photo by Lee Aiksoon/Riot Games)

Even as the league has shaped up like a three-horse race after the first two weeks, the question on everyone’s mind, yet again, is if T1, the first team in LCK’s history to pull off a perfect split during the spring, have it in them to sustain their record-breaking all-win spree and pull off a repeat. 

One of the things T1 have done consistently over time is promote young talent from their academy setup. They haven’t chopped and changed; one may argue they don’t need to if they can go on an 18-0 spree. 

On the face of it, consistency in their roster has been a massive part of their success. So this time around, with three of their players moving on – Kim “Canna” Chang-dong, Park “Teddy” Jin-seong and Moon “Cuzz” Woo-chan – this philosophy will be put to a serious test. They have been forced to make minor changes as a result. Choi “Zeus” Woo-je, the top laner, and Kim “Asper” Tae-gi have moved to the main roster.

Their form coming into the new season has been patchy. Losses to G2 Esports, Evil Geniuses and Royal Never Give Up, winners of MSI 2022, haven’t helped their confidence. Even in the first two weeks of the summer split, while they managed four wins, their manner of victories have been far from convincing.

Against Nongshim Redforce, they struggled in the second game, squandering several opportunities to kill the game. They eventually won in 46 minutes, a good 20 minutes more than they should have. 

In their second game, against KT Rolster, T1 went off-meta and this move backfired spectacularly, with KT dismantling them in 31 minutes. T1 hit back to level the game at 1-1, but the third game was strewn with errors from both sides; T1 eventually finished the game in 40 minutes to squeeze out a win that didn’t look possible at one stage.

“We’re relieved that we won, but our performance was very disappointing,” T1’s Ryu “Keria” Min-seok told Inven Global after the win against KT Rolster. “From the draft in game 1 to how we should’ve kept the lead in game 3, we were done in by our opponent’s plays that we honestly should’ve anticipated. Very disappointing. We weren’t too confident in our team comp, but we felt that the game was winnable if we played well. This isn’t really a good sign. After game 1, we just played our standard game, where one lane doesn’t need babysitting, while the other champions were scaling champions.”

“The quality of our gameplay is very low. I hate it. We’ll need to play smarter. We need to be good at the things we’re good at, and not give any room for the enemy to make good plays. In the current meta, it’s hard for the support to make plays on their own. It’s different from my playstyle, and it makes me a bit angry. It’s hard to make something happen through roams or tower pressure. Right now, the support’s role is to follow around the jungler, prioritize objectives, and take care of the carries to hit their power spikes. Almost like a nanny.”

Keria also spoke at length about their choice of champion during that win. “After the durability patch, it felt like any champion can have a decent laning phase, as long as the champion functions well. That’s why we prepared Camille support, and we even had great results with her during practice. We didn’t plan to play her tonight, but we ended up playing her anyway. Looking back, I don’t think it was a Camille support angle tonight. We never tried the Diana-Kassadin duo, but we thought that the duo was playable, so we tried it.”

One may argue saying wins are wins however they may come. While that holds good with T1, they are, rightly or wrongly, judged by their own lofty standards. And because both those wins, against teams ranked lower than them, have come in such a shaky manner, it has fans worried and pundits wondering simply how they can rustle up the magic from three months ago.

The thing about strong teams like T1 is they aren’t known for knee-jerk reactions. A loss in the MSI final may have been considered a massive setback by many; not them. They have signed jungler Mun “Oner” Hyeon-jun until the end of 2024, one more season than initially planned. He’s a player they scouted and brought into their academy setup and nurtured over a couple of pandemic years, before he cemented himself as one of the most promising talents in Korea.

He was promoted to the main roster within a year of making his academy debut and has become a reliable jungler since. In the spring split, he had the best average KDA among all junglers, and had the second-highest gold count at 10 minutes behind DWG KIA’s Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu. This is perfect vindication of their mantra of backing their own players at all times.

One heartening aspect in the build-up is, despite a few changes, their roster is so strong that no one’s even talking of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and the thunder he brings to the fore. It’s a given that Faker’s presence has the potential to ignite any map, any scenario and give T1 a massive power boost. That we’re now talking of them dominating teams, even if they may not always win, is a testament to how well the others have pulled along.

What we have seen over the past two weeks is there are a few weaknesses in teams that have crept up, which RNG superbly exposed at MSI 2022. T1 continued to be a strong team, but whether they can go on an all-win record is a big question mark. 

Another perfect split may be stuff for the history books, but on paper, such a prospect appears a little far-fetched at the moment. That said, don’t worry about them not being a contender – they’re very much in line for that, as well as being at the World’s later this year. They can’t and shouldn’t be a victim of their lofty standards. 

“Winning this split is an obvious goal for the Summer, but with the way we’re playing, I can’t say whether or not we can win Summer,” Keria said. “We’ll need to work harder to fix our mistakes so that we can be the championship team for the Summer. Thank you to everyone that came out to the fan meet. They only happen when we win, so we’ll need to continue winning. We’ll make sure to improve our gameplay so both the fans and I can enjoy the fan meets.”

So let an all-win record just be treated as a rare spectacle rather than great while it lasted. They were always bound to come back to earth and teams were bound to catch them off-guard at some point. This doesn’t make T1 any less effective or proficient.