SK Gaming wasn't supposed to be here. They started the year in relegation, a team with a rebuilt lineup that lacked the star power filling Europe's other top teams. But today they showed you don't need stars in League of Legends, earning the last available spot for a European team at the World Championships, where the best League of Legends teams will clash for more than $2 million in prizes.
Yesterday’s semifinals were superb showings for both teams, and promised an exciting game today. ROCCAT lost 3-2 to Fnatic in a series they easily could have won, if they had avoided a few key late game mistakes. SK Gaming had a similar 3-1 loss to Alliance. But today, ROCCAT capitulated. It seems the Polish team suffered from the lack of preparation; instead of a week to prepare for Fnatic, they had one night for SK Gaming, and it showed in their gameplay.
SK Gaming controlled the series from the get-go, methodically crushing ROCCAT in a steady march to the win and to Worlds. The games were slow-paced and low action, with only 58 kills between the two teams.
Mid laner Jesse “Jesiz” Lee answered criticism regarding his play against Fnatic with a superb performance, posting a 12/2/18 KDA line. Teammates Adrian “CandyPanda” Wubbelman, who was shut down by Alliance yesterday, also put up a great 13/3/18 KDA line.
"After losing yesterday, it made it clear to me how much I wanted to win," Lee said after the match. "I gave 150 percent today. Yesterday, I surely gave 100 percent, but I was sad to lose. I was mad. I wanted to win more than anything."
It was a well-deserved victory for SK Gaming, who proved they are one of Europe’s top three teams this year.
"We will represent Europe as best as possible," said the team's support, Christoph "nRated" Seitz. "We might be able to surprise some people with our picks and bans. I think overall our play style is very solid. We've improved so much when you see that before people were calling us out for having not good lanes, but we keep improving and we're winning our lanes."
Few expected SK to reach such heights. The team fell to relegation at the end of last season under the leadership of mid laner Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago. The organization cleaned house entering this year, putting together a new lineup with Wubbelman as the only holdover. The team lacked standout talent, but made up for it with amazing team play and solid team fighting. In the spring split, SK Gaming ranked first at the end of the regular season. This season, they ranked in the top two until a late fall in the standings, but they quickly recovered in the playoffs, where they looked dominant against both Millenium and ROCCAT.
Now, no one can say SK Gaming does not belong on the world stage.
Screengrab via Riot Games/YouTube