Gen.G 3 -- SK Telecom 2
Gen.G took the first step towards getting to the League of Legends World Championship Wednesday morning when it defeated SK Telecom T1 at the end of a 3-2 battle.
Both teams began the series with rosters that defied expectation, as SKT T1 brought top laner Park "Untara" Ui-jin back into the roster after an entire split to play alongside jungler Kang "Blank" Sun-gu and substitute support Lee "effort" Sang-Ho. Together with mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok and ADC Bae "Bang" Jun-sik, the three substitute players formed a team with low expectations coming into the series. Gen.G, for its part, started off the series fielding mid laner Song "Fly" Young-jin for Game 1, but swapped him out for Lee "Crown" Min-ho for the rest of the series.
Measured aggression defined the series, as each game was simply a waiting game to see which team composition would ultimately win out. For the first half of the series, it was Gen.G that put itself in the driver's seat, largely thanks to two unconventional Xin Zhao picks from jungler Kang "Ambition" Chan-young that succeeded at getting his team early game pressure. Both Games 1 and 3 featured the pick, and while it would be unfair to say it was the sole cause of Gen.G's defeat in those games, as Fly and Crown had subpar moments of their own that brought the team down, it was a contributing factor. While Game 2 proved that Ambition and the new aggressive style he had trained for had merit, he was subbed out by the time match point came around Game 4 for Kang "Haru" Min-seung.
It was in Game 4 where the script started to get thrown on its head. The prior three games followed a very narrow storyline: if the team with Kai'sa managed to escape the very early game unscathed, that team would win. The queen of the late game would sit out the rest of the series, however, and the series quickly reverted to the playoff metagame featuring heavy doses of Varus and Ashe to the exclusion of all else. With the bottom lane being the focus, Haru played a somewhat passive role on Camille early on in Game 4, and was still pulled the trigger when he needed to make the big play to win the game.
Game 5 was where the fireworks truly went off, however, as SKT finally walked headlong into the trap Gen.G set for Faker in Game 4 when SKT picked Akali for the star mid laner. That mistake proved to be its undoing, as Gen.G proceeded to draft an entire team of champions that were hostile to Akali. The results were catastrophic for SKT, who lost the game with nearly the same speed it had won the totally one-sided Game 3, largely thanks to a riveting overperformance from top laner Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin's Gangplank that made Untara look like the second-string top laner his reputation makes him out to be.
Gen.G move on to face off against Team Griffin, the runner-up to the LCK title, in the next round of the South Korean regional qualifier at 4 a.m. ET on Friday.