The 2019 SK Telecom T1 roster was born out of a historic year for the all-time squad, albeit, for different reasons. For one, the former back-to-back World champions had their worst playoff finish back in Spring at fourth place; their worst regular season finish in Summer at seventh place; their first time to miss the LoL Worlds Championship since the LCK became a thing.
Understandably, casual viewers and fans alike were disappointed and surprising by the turn of events for the former champions. Following South Korea’s defeat in front of their home crowd, the clamouring only grew more intense as most wished for an SKT that they could trust once again — a team that would never fail them on the international stage.
SKT weren’t resting on their laurels though. As soon as the team’ season ended, reports came in about how much more aggressive the organization had become in acquiring new talent. As the contracts expired and the free agent marked burst wide open, SKT was among the first to make their movements official. First, they let go of most of their roster, aside from aside from Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, Han “Leo” Gyeo-re, and Lee “Effort” Sang-ho. Next came the acquisitions, with Kim “Khan” Dong-ha and Kim “Crazy” Jae-hee in the top lane; Kim “Clid” Tae-min and Kang “Haru” Min-seung in the jungle; Park “Teddy” Jin-seong in the bottom lane; Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong as their support.
Fans were quick to label the 2019 SK Telecom T1 roster as a super team. Some even went as far as to call them a dream team. But, are those mere monickers, brought about by fans hungry to see the former powerhouses succeed? Or is there some truth to it all?
Here is our preliminary analysis of the 2019 SK Telecom T1 roster.
2019 SK Telecom T1 Roster — The Top Lane
In the top lane, we have Khan and Crazy, two players that have been in the LCK for a while. Khan is known in the entire world and has been in contention to be called the best top laner in the world since he joined Longzhu Gaming in the summer of 2017. His carry performances on champions like Jayce, Fiora, and Riven are impressive. He has often been labeled as ‘one-dimensional’ as he prefers to play carries and does not often take the hit for his team in the drafting phase. However, the truth is that Khan is perfectly capable of handling tanks in the top lane, and is able to turn around matchups that are quite unfavorable for him. The only downside to Khan so far is that his usage of the Summoner Spell Teleport has not been above par. This, of course, can be corrected through effective coaching.
Crazy, on the other hand, could be seen as a balancing element to the risk that Khan might not be up for tank play. While he was on the relegated team bbq Olivers in the past few seasons, he has been performing admirably on tanks. His Cho’gath games have shown him in a completely different light, and he has hard carried his team on the champion.
Historically, the top lane has served as a pressure valve for the team, or where they place an essential shotcaller and playmaker.
With Khan and Crazy, they have two players who can develop into both.
2019 SKT Telecom T1 Roster — The Jungle
The jungle has been one of the most problematic parts of SK Telecom T1 ever since Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong departed. For two seasons, SKT has tried to fill his shoes, but perhaps that was not the wisest course of action.
For 2019, SKT has acquired Clid and Haru. Both are aggressive-minded junglers, and both are used to playing around their mid laners, albeit for different purposes: Haru used to play for Lee “Crown” Min-ho, who was more of a utility mid laner, which means he was more used to covering for his laner’s deficit. Clid used to create advantages for Zeng “YaGao” Qi and help him snowball to be the big carry for the team.
Both are mechanically talented junglers and would do well in a carry jungler meta. This is a clear indication that SKT’s general playstyle, one that prefers scaling and macro-oriented play, might soon change. A faster-paced and more aggressive SK Telecom T1 might emerge in the near future.
One possible problem is that both Haru and Clid have not had much experience in a tank jungler meta, and if the game shifts into that direction, SKT might have no clear alternatives.
2019 SK Telecom T1 Roster — The Middle Lane
Was there ever any doubt that Faker would leave SKT?
Faker was the cornerstone upon which the roster was built. After all, despite the team’s failings this year, being able to keep Faker despite him being subbed out for Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik towards the end of summer is a testament to how they plan on using the greatest player to ever play League of Legends.
Faker is always capable of generating leads, whether he has jungle attention or not. Even on utility picks like Lulu or Galio, Faker has shown great outplay potential and strong mechanical play. He is also capable of influencing other lanes after building up some advantage in his own.
With Faker in the middle lane, the possibilities are rather endless.
2019 SK Telecom T1 Roster — AD Carry
While we are aware that the dynamics of the bottom lane has greatly changed post patch 8.11, and that the bottom lane champion pool has greatly expanded, I would still refer to this part of the team as ‘AD Carry’ rather than ‘Bottom Laner’ as marksmen have been slightly more viable in recent patches.
Teddy has been in the Jin Air Greenwings since his debut, but he has been a shining ray of hope for the team despite its close calls towards relegation. There is a reason why people usually call him the “Fountain Laser Teddy”. In the later stages of their games Teddy just single handedly carried Jin Air to victory, even on utility picks like the Jhin or the Ashe. In addition, he does not lane passively. Teddy does not just sit in attempts to scale. He engages in aggressive trades, and he can do so even without receiving much jungle attention.
He can either become a late game insurance for the team, or he could be a source for utility. His flexibility, lane prowess, and team fighting makes him an asset for SK Telecom T1. With that being said, however, it must be noted that Teddy has huge shoes to fill: Bae “Bang” Jun-sik has been the pillar of the team, often being referred to as SK Telecom T1’s last bastion. He used to be the last hope of the team whenever Faker would not seem to be performing to his usual level.
Teddy, along with Leo, will most likely be where most heads will be turned to once everything goes south.
2019 SK Telecom T1 Roster — Support
Mata was the hottest free agent in the LCK. A former World Champion and the Most Valuable Player of the 2014 World Championship Final, Mata brings a lot into any team. His playmaking and shot calling is of top value. On champions like Alistar and Thresh, Mata truly shines. Even on more supportive champions like Tahm Kench and Braum, Mata can be of great value.
As of late, it seems as if Mata’s champion pool has been suspect, but the actual support champion pool in the last season has been rather shallow. Hopefully Mata can show us a little bit more flexibility if the meta allows it.
In a team that has so far been full of loud voices wanting to bend the games towards their will, Mata will be the one to rein them all in.
Effort, on the other hand, is also a great playmaker in his own right. We have seen his Pyke games, where he solo carried SK Telecom T1 to victories. However, his game sense could use some work — he is often out of position and this costs the team every now and then. This is correctable, though, and with Mata as a possible mentor, Effort can only improve.
It is important to note that SK Telecom T1 also made a coaching staff change: Bengi and Lee “PoohManDu” Jeong-hyeon have both left the organization. In their stead now is Kim “Fly” Sang-cheol. Coach Fly formerly hung out with the Jin Air Greenwings. His drafting helped Jin Air remain competitive, but the team had a lot of problems executing their gameplan. In addition to this, Fly also previously worked with Mata when he was on Royal Never Give Up back in 2016.
In the end, we see what SK Telecom T1 has realized about the current state of the game and what how the former roster fit with it. As of now, lane priority dictates most of the things in the game.
Should the jungler invade? Can the jungler even invade? What objectives should we take? How should we roam? All of these depend on then priority in the lanes. SKT must have seen this and put togother players that could play well with priority in addition to their innate talent.
But will the 2019 SK Telecom T1 roster win next year’s Worlds championship? We don’t know just yet. But, what we do know is that we have a full season ahead of us to help us answer that question.