Telecom Wars: Breaking down the SKT vs. kT Rolster rivalry
For multiple decades, across many different competitive scenes in different esports, the kT vs. SKT rivalry has always been a fierce one. Stemming from their early matches in the first edition of Starcraft I, the drive to be the best has always been at the forefront of both organizations as they’ve strived for excellence time and time again across a variety of games.
In League of Legends, SKT has been the more dominant force since their start in 2012. Although kT Rolster Arrows had their miraculous Summer Split of 2014 under the guise of KaKAO, SKT has overshadowed their moment of brilliance with three World Championship titles, three LCK titles and two MSI victories in the past five years.
kT Rolster entered a bit of a renaissance in 2017, completely revamping their roster and switching everyone apart from their jungler, Score. Joining Score in the Top lane was none other than the highly-renowned carry from the 2016 ROX Tigers dynasty in Smeb. PawN also made his return to Korea with his former EDG teammate Deft. To round out the roster, kT made the most important free agent move of the 2016 off-season with bringing Mata in at the Support role. Heading into the 2017 season, with five mechanically adept players on the map and Mata widely known as the shotcalling guru that he is, it was only right for this team to have extremely high expectations with their new look roster.
In virtually every lane, this team looked like a top three, if not top two material squad heading into the 2017 season. They started off Spring well, going undefeated alongside SKT all the way up until the first Telecom War of 2017, which they then lost to SKT in what turned out to be one of the greatest series of the LCK that entire year. Later on in the playoffs, kT put the pieces together to make a run to the finals, but ultimately fell short as Faker put an end to kT fans hope of an upset victory as they routed the kT dream team in a resounding 3-0 series.
The regular season performance for kT was never an issue. It always seemed to be a lack of execution in the clutch moments for players like Smeb and Score, who regularly looked to dominate with their picks and priority in the draft but ultimately fell short in the Summer playoffs as they once again lost a hard fought series to SKT, this time losing 2-3 in the semifinals. The added pressure to make Worlds for this star-studded lineup was at an all-time high, but once again, kT failed to live up to the pressure in do-or-die moments as they were ousted in a resounding 3-0 sweep by eventual World Championship winners, Samsung Galaxy.
Turning of the tides?
This season, kT Rolster took an extremely mature approach to the free agency period as they kept the same roster intact for another go, and only added sub players to bolster the squad during regular season play with a young prospect like uCal and Rush, formerly of Cloud 9. In eSports, and especially in games like League of Legends, it’s very easy for teams to blow everything up when things aren’t working as planned, but kT made the right moves for longevity and this past week in the LCK, all their hard work paid off immensely.
Before the 2018 season, this current iteration of kT Rolster played six series against SKT in 2017 and lost every single one of them. Although SKT have all the necessary historic components that make them an outright favorite, the past week for them in the LCK have shown big holes in their game as they’ve resorted to using Wolf in the Jungle to make room for their new rookie Support in Effort, and things are not exactly working as intended.
Even though kT lost their opening series to Afreeca Freecs, the preseason Kespa Cup win put a lot of wind in their sails as AD carry Deft felt like winning a cup in that fashion, taking a 5 game series over Kingzone Dragon-X who are the most recent LCK champions, gave them added strength as they were able to overcome the odds for the first time in a playoff structure.
This week’s series in the LCK started off in surprising fashion right off the bat as SKT were able to catch out Smeb on his patented Jayce pick at level 1, but the resounding lane pressure from kT made that little advantage nullified as Smeb came back and picked up a kill on Untara as a rebuttal. kT Rolster continued to pounce on the rookie mistakes of SKT’s new support as Smeb and Deft jumped out to gigantic leads on the back of Score’s fantastic jungling as he was making things happen all over the map.
In Game 2, SKT’s coaching prowess came into play as they subbed a lackluster Untara for their other prospect at Top lane in Thal. Although Wolf has been flexing his muscles in the Jungle position as of late, Blank continued in the series and that proved vital to their success to level out the series. kT pulled ahead early on the back of exquisite map play from Score and Smeb as they got an early turret lead. But Faker playing Azir is almost forcing defeat upon your team as his constant pressure mid made it difficult for kT Rolster to react in an effective manner. All in all, it was a sound victory for SKT as they bounced back with Faker and Bang leading the charge.
A game three between SKT and kT is par for the course, in 2017 every series went to a third game to decide, but SKT were consistently able to stay on top with their ice cold demeanor to win those series. But there was something in the air this week for kT Rolster that saw them reach new heights and break barriers like never before, and that is what took place in game 3 as they played a tense first 15 minutes of action that saw PawN draw first blood at the 18 minute mark. The mid game was all Faker as he started to take over the 2v2 mid duel with Blank on his lethal Vladimir. But advantages quickly turned to hubris for SKT as they were overextended in key fights that saw PawN’s Azir take over the game. Even still, it was a back and forth affair until the 41st minute which saw Faker get caught out using flash and Deft quickly pounced on his opportunity to turn the fight and ultimately win the game for his team.
After the game, kT’s Deft could be seen getting emotional in the player booth as he was overcome with joy, relief and happiness at finally slaying the red SKT dragon that loomed over them all of last season. In the post-game interview, Deft remarked over the 2017 season, claiming that not beating SKT may have been a sign of their ‘limit’ in the league. With a win this week over their sworn rivals, it’s clear that those limits have finally been broken, and thus, a new era in the Telecom Wars begins.