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T1 is Dominating the LCK

Nikhil Kalro

T1 have been on fire this season. Even that might be an understatement for one of the best and most improved teams in the world in 2022. The team have razed their way to 16 straight wins in the LCK as they have cruised to the top of the table in the spring split over in Korea. 

t1 roster

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND - OCTOBER 30: (L-R) T1's Ryu "Keria" Min-seok, Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong, Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok and Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon walk on stage to compete at the League of Legends World Championship Semifinals Stage on October 30, 2021 in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo by Lance Skundrich/Riot Games)

This run of 16-0 is a record in the LCK. In fact, they broke the record one win earlier, when they beat Kwangdong Freecs in Week 8 of the 2022 Spring Split. T1 beat their own record of 14 straight wins from the 2015 Summer Split, when they were named SK Telecom T1. What are the factors that have led to this unprecedented dominance, not just in Korea but also on the professional League of Legends circuit? We take a look at those factors and analyze whether the team could actually go undefeated through the split.

T1’s Dominant Roster

A good place to start this analysis would be T1’s roster. Credit to the franchise for holding on to arguably the best player in the world of all time in their mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. He has generated returns of 3.66 kills, 1.97 deaths and 5.45 assists per map at a KDA of 4.61 with a creep score of 285.5 and a CSPM of 8.37. 

For a mid laner, those are solid returns because they improve the probability of successful one-on-two flanks in either lane, in the top lane in the early game or even in the bottom lane in team fights ahead of the spawning of neutral objectives.

During the course of this season, Faker registered his 2,500th kill in the first map of T1’s game against second-placed Gen.G with his signature choice of champion in Leblanc. Faker is the only player in the world to reach that landmark in professional League of Legends. And so, T1 have been assured of a mid laner that can overachieve at his role in terms of kill production, and also bring a low death rate. 

That is experience. In February earlier this year, Faker also became the first player to reach 700 games in the LCK. He has won three Worlds titles, and was the Worlds MVP in two of those editions (in 2013 and 2016). 

“What I consider to be critical now is how you shake off your losses and improve from them,” Faker said in an interview back in 2019. “If I only lingered on purely winning and losing in the past, I’ve now made it a habit to find how I can improve from the process of winning or losing. Every single person who’s succeeded in life has experienced failure at some point in their lives, so I think failure takes a bigger part in people’s lives than one may think.”

While Faker has been typically stellar in the middle lane, T1 have been blessed with excellent production in the bottom lane from Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong, who has managed numbers of 5.37 kills, 1.97 deaths and 5.34 assists per map at a KDA of 5.43 along with a creep score of 345.5. Compared to Faker, Gumayusi has the same low death rate but has a much higher kill participation rate. 

Here is why that is so important. The LCK is a slower league, in terms of pace of aggression, than the LPL or the LEC. In a slower-moving league, creating a point of differentiation is key. And that is what Gumayusi has produced. Other teams, including one of the best in DWG Kia, have simply not been able to withstand the pressure and experience coming from T1’s mid and bot laner pairing of Faker and Gumayusi. 

Over in the top lane, T1 will be extremely pleased with the progress of their rookie Choi “Zeus” Woo-je. A rule of thumb for a top laner in professional League of Legends is to maintain a positive K/D ratio. Zeus has managed 2.47 kills, 2.39 deaths and 5.61 assists with a KDA of 3.37. That KDA is the lowest in T1, another indicator of why this team is so successful. 

An AD Carry usually teams up with a support player to flank oppositions in the bottom lane to create a man advantage (4-on-5 or 3-on-4 for team fights). Support players are not recognized as much as the stars in the mid or bot lanes, but their role is so crucial to creating areas of vulnerability. Ryu “Keria” Min-seok has been incredible in that role this split. 

In fact, he is leading the LCK in assists with 10.82 per map in spring. His overall returns are 0.74 kills, 2.39 deaths, 10.82 assists and a KDA of 4.82. Most support players in leagues across the world don’t even come close to that level of production and efficiency. 

Lastly, T1’s most efficient player is in the jungle. Moon “Oner” Hyeon-joon has a KDA of 5.54, the highest for T1 in this spring split, built through 3.45 kills, 2 deaths and 7.63 assists per map. Oner is one of three players in T1 to have a kill participation rate of over 10.

Will T1 Go the Distance?

If you look at the previous splits of the LCK, you would see why DWG Kia were so successful. Several of their players had a kill participation rate of over 10 and others had KDAs in excess of 4. That is the template to success in professional League of Legends. And that has been followed with immaculate precision by T1 this season. 

T1 are now set to carry this incredible run of form into the playoffs as they have guaranteed themselves a first-place finish in the LCK regular season of the spring split. The format of the LCK is helpful to T1 because they will receive some well-earned time off before the playoffs commence. However, they will have to be careful of complacency and even the more intangible law of averages. There are several quality teams in the LCK, including Gen.G and Worlds runners-up DWG Kia. 

If they can maintain their current level of form, though, which has included 32 map wins out of 38, there is no team in the world that will be able to compete at the same level as T1, especially with the experience of Faker in the mid lane and Gumayusi in the bot lane. 

No other team even comes close to this level of map efficiency: T1 have won 84 percent of their maps and have won six matches in a decisive third map. Even if their incredible streak comes to an end in the regular season, there is still a long playoffs series for other teams to contend with against one of the best teams in the world, at the top of their game.