The last of the League of Legends World Championships [official site] quarter-finals sees two Korean teams going head to head as they try to secure that final spot in the semi-finals: KT Rolster will be taking on KOO Tigers. I'll be on-site asking questions, peering at games and wondering if there's room on my shelf for a plush Gnar BUT before that let's take a look at the teams:
The KT Rolster team as it currently stands was formed after the Korean league (the LCK) was restructured. Organisations could no longer field more than one team and so KT Rolster Arrows and KT Rolster Bullets were collapsed to form a single team.
Sidenote: It's the same decision that meant the two SK Telecom teams (S and K), CJ Entus' Blaze and Frost, Incredible Miracle 1 and 2, Jin Air's Stealths and Falcons, and the NaJin teams, Sword and Shield, were rejigged into single entities. Samsung was also affected by the ruling but chose to totally overhaul its roster, with all members of Samsung White and Samsung Blue leaving the organisation.
The current starting lineup comprises ssumday and Arrow from the Arrows, Nagne and Score from the Bullets and newcomer Piccaboo. Piccaboo plays support. He was formerly part of the SKT organisation and has been credited with helping KT Rolster finally bring a team to Worlds after failing to qualify in previous years.
"There was a change in the sense that he brought a lot of positive energy into the team because he's very proactive with his feedback," KT's coach, Chang Jong, told Riot. "While they're playing the game, he's also very confident and willing to talk about the tactics during the game. And I think that also influences the other team members to be more enthusiastic and willing to put in their input as well."
The team has put in a decent performance so far at Worlds, dropping just one game to Europe's Origen at the group stages – it was a loss they made up for in the rematch the following week, controlling top laner SoaZ and securing the game as well as the top spot in their group.
Thing is, it didn't feel like the two other teams in their group put up much resistance – LGD and TSM had a horrible time at Worlds – so today is when we'll get a better idea of how KT measure up against the rest of the competition.
This was initially an essay about how I was hoping to see a lot of lovely autumnal knitwear on the Worlds stage and how my disappointment with KOO Tigers on this front is now so great that I am no longer able to even look at them.
"I have been led to believe the clothing line and variations were somewhat frowned upon after they had a special thing prepared for IEM and then it never came to pass," is the word from shoutcaster Trevor 'Quickshot' Henry.
On a slightly more play-focused note, KOO's recent performance in the LCK and the summer playoffs has dipped since spring. In the regular summer split KOO ended up fourth – two places behind KT Rolster and three behind SKT. They reached the semi-finals of the summer playoffs but then fell 3-2 to... KT Rolster.
They're a team from a dominant region so other quarter-final match-ups could have looked more favourable but, as it is, they're going up against another Korean team and one who have shown recently that they can beat the Tigers.
So What About Today?
"It's one of these things where it's similar to Fnatic – how much can these teams improve from week two to week three?" says Quickshot.
"I think KOO may be more likely to pull out some weird and wonderful champions, I also think [the teams] may even be willing to let some of the champions like Gangplank or Mordekaiser through just because of how proficient they are with Azir. KurO and Nagne [KOO and KT's mid laners, respectively] are some of the best Azir players from Korea so it'll be fun to see how that plays out."
I don't have a deep knowledge of the Korean scene but based on what I've watched it feels like today's match-up could be the one to go to a full best-of-five. The teams know each other from the regular season so there's a familiarity which I'm hoping leads to some interesting exploiting of both sides' strengths and weaknesses.