Griffin continues to soar in the LCK with a win over Gen.G, Hanwha beats SKT

Examining Griffin, LCK's hottest team (5:12)

After blitzing through Challengers Korea with a 14-0 record in Spring, new LCK team Griffin has made a name for themselves in their short time in the big leagues. Riding a soft early schedule, Griffin (6-1) find themselves perched atop the LCK standings. (5:12)

Griffin 1, Gen.G 0

Griffin continued its domination of the LCK 2018 Summer Split by taking down Gen.G at the end of a surprisingly close 2-1 series early Friday morning in Seoul, South Korea.

In a highly anticipated series, this match was critical for the standings of both teams -- both Griffin (8-1) and Gen.G (6-3) -- and it was also the first LCK match to take place after Rift Rivals between two teams that didn't attend the event. Thus, it was presumed that both Gen.G and Griffin would have a bevy of new strategies that they could execute on cleanly.

The first game certainly failed to show anything particularly revolutionary. Gen.G fell back to a number of comfort picks, while Griffin piloted a jungler-centric composition built around Lee "Tarzan" Seung-yong's Nocturne that only just managed to make it over the finish line before being completely outscaled by Gen.G's far more powerful late-game composition. An unfortunate overextension by Gen.G's jungler, Park "Haru" Min-seung, cost his team the game, as Gen.G's desperate attempt to follow up on Haru's play onto a Guardian Angel protect Nocturne not only handed Griffin the very teamfight victory it needed in order to not stall out, but it also handed over both an Infernal Drake and a Baron buff, which ended the game in short order.

Games 2 and 3 proved far more interesting, however, as not only did Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong sub in for Haru, Gen.G also decided to sub in Lee "Crown" Min-ho for the first time in the Summer Split. The difference was apparent immediately, as Gen.G's play in Game 2 was a far more perfect version of its patented defensive style than what was shown in the first game. This time there would be no massive overextension to throw the game, as Ambition's Sejuani proved an impassable frontline behind which Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk's Kog'Maw could take refuge, the combination of which was potent enough to earn Gen.G an almost perfect game against Griffin.

Unfortunately, Griffin turned things completely around just in time to not cede the series, as a series of smart picks in Game 3 made it all but impossible for Gen.G to not play on the back foot. Choi "Sword" Sung-won instantly picked up the Darius to counter CuVee's Dr. Mundo when offered, and the matchup proved just as unwinnable for CuVee as it was for those unfortunate few who have piloted it before; Darius' ability to slice through Dr. Mundo's health pool made it so that Gen.G were simply biding time till the inevitable. An unfortunate face-check around the Baron pit by Crown -- who had been, up until that point, the saving grace of the team -- initiated a nearly two-minute long string of good fortune for Griffin, who earned nearly 10 kills, a Baron, and a handful of structures in the blink of an eye, allowing them to coast to an easy victory just afterwards.

Griffin's next match will be against Afreeca Freecs at the beginning of its second round robin at 4:00 AM ET on Tuesday. Gen.G, on the other hand, go on to face Hanwha Life Esports at 7:00 a.m. ET this Sunday.

-- James Bates

Hanwha Life Esports 1, SK Telecom 0

Hanwha Life Esports finished up its part of the 2018 LCK Summer Split's first round by defeating SK Telecom T1 2-1.

That SK Telecom T1 (3-7) were even capable of taking a single game off of Hanwha Life Esports (7-3) was something of an unexpected twist. Not only has SKT T1 spent the majority of the season on the bottom of the standings, it also has only just returned from Rift Rivals in China. However, the decision to blind pick Dr. Mundo on the side of Hanwha opened up the door to what is quickly becoming Park "Thal" Kwon-hyuk's most famous pick, Darius. SKT T1 clearly had been preparing a new composition, as its Game 1 lineup featured some new picks such as Kang "Blank" Sun-gu's Kindred and Bae "Bang" Jun-sik's bottom lane Karthus. The lineup quickly proved itself as SKT T1 managed to turn around what looked to be a hopeless game thanks to a bevy of potent teamfight ultimates, but the weaknesses that the side showed in Game 1 -- most notably its lethargic map movements and a total lack of a respect on the top side of the map -- would come back to haunt it later in the series.

Game 2 was a different beast entirely, as Thal had his Darius banned away, and this time was forced to stare down a Mundo with naught but a Swain pick -- a very easy matchup for the excessively tanky Mundo. Thus, SKT T1 found themselves on a clock in Game 2, and it was a clock that they weren't capable of keeping up with as the debut of Kim "Lava" Tae-hoon's Talon in the mid lane helped maintain control over the entirety of the map for Hanwha, as Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok's Yasuo could do little to stop him from parkouring wherever he pleased. While Lava did not find a great number of kills himself -- an unusual feat for an assassin pick on a winning team -- he certainly helped enable his team's easy victory in Game 2, as the map slowly fell apart for SKT T1 after Blank was killed four times without accomplishing anything in return.

It was the series' final game that was truly worth watching, however, as Hanwha ultimately allowed SKT T1 to pick a composition very similar to the one they selected in Game 1, but with one difference. This time it would be Hanwha's jungler, Yun "SeongHwan" Seong-hwan who would be taking Kindred onto the Rift, while Blank would be on the back foot with the Sejuani that SeongHwan had piloted in Game 1. The difference in jungler was critical, as SKT T1's composition no longer could fall back upon Lamb's Respite to buy it crucial time in teamfights, and instead found much of their burst damage foiled by Kindred's trademark ultimate. To compound SKT T1's troubles, Hanwha also learned from its struggles on the top side of the map in Game 1 and this time chain ganked Thal's Darius to the point where Lindarang's Dr. Mundo was able to win what is usually a hopeless lane. Hanwha made short work of SKT T1 from that point, as it was far more manageable without an unstoppable split pusher on its side.

Hanwha Life Esports' next match will take place at 7:00 a.m. ET on Sunday against Gen.G. SK Telecom T1 will wait to make its return to the stage until 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, where it will face MVP.