The LCK put an exclamation point on professional League of Legends last season by sending three of its teams to the World Championship semifinals. And although none of those representatives took the Summoner’s Cup, the overwhelming presence of the LCK as a league was hard to ignore.
Despite a representative from the league only claiming one Summoner’s Cup in the last four seasons (DAMWON Gaming in 2020), the LCK has remained a constant threat at the top of the international scene throughout professional League’s history. And now, moving into 2022, Korea has once again assembled a slew of teams capable of claiming international glory.
Still, before the Summoner’s Cup even enters the conversation, there’s a full season of domestic play to get through. The LCK has historically been one of professional League’s deepest, most competitive regions, and 2022 is shaping up to be yet another fierce season for the historic league. Heading into the Spring Split, here’s how the Korean teams stack up against each other.
|10)||Hanwha Life Esports||—|
A lot to prove: Liiv Sandbox, Fredit Brion, Hanwha Life Esports
The offseason shuffle left the LCK relatively top-heavy, with teams like Liiv SANDBOX, Fredit Brion, and Hanwha Life Esports fighting for the scraps of free agency. Hanwha Life lost two of its biggest and most successful players in Chovy and Deft, while Liiv SANDBOX replaced four of its five starters from last season’s playoff-qualifying team. Fredit Brion, who finished last and second-to-last in the Spring and Summer Splits respectively, will be bringing back four-fifths of its 2021 starting lineup, adding depth in the top lane with the signings of former Hanwha Life top laner Morgan and former Griffin top laner Sw0rd.
For each of these three squads, a year of rebuilding and growth is most likely on the horizon. Still, the LCK has been known to play host to underdog-led chaos in the past, with teams like Fredit Brion and others earning shocking upset victories throughout last year. In fact, six of Fredit’s 10 wins last season came against playoff teams. If these three teams can harness a bit of giant-slaying magic once more, they have serious potential to play the role of spoiler again in 2022.
On the fence: KT Rolster, Kwangdong Freecs
KT Rolster and Kwangdong (formerly Afreeca) Freecs aren’t quite strong enough on paper to break into our top five, but they still don’t have nearly enough glaring weaknesses to place them into our bottom three.
The top five teams in our table seem stalwart in terms of talent, but if KT and the Freecs can find ways to hang around, win a few matches they’re not supposed to, and turn out to be pesky playoff contenders as they were throughout 2021, one of these underlying threats can break the top half of our rankings. Even though established players like Life, Kiin, Teddy, Aria, and others don’t have the same star power behind their names as some of the LCK’s top talents do, they’re still strong enough to make noise. The teams at the top of our rankings simply have more depth in comparison to these two. Teams like Gen.G and T1, in particular, boast a proven superstar-level talent at every position, while KT and the Freecs only have a few respectable names, at best, to go around. While these two teams aren’t as easy to slot into the deeper sections of the playoff bracket, they won’t necessarily be pushovers, either.
Genuine threats: Nongshim RedForce, DRX
Although these two teams don’t have enough front-to-back star power to solidify their places in the league’s upper echelon from the jump, both DRX and Nongshim RedForce are littered with impressive players across their rosters to keep them in the playoff conversation throughout the year.
For DRX, a seasoned bottom lane pairing of Deft and BeryL, two veterans of pro play with a combined tenure of 13 competitive seasons, makes for one of the most intriguing player combinations of the 2022 season. These staples of the league are pairing up to create one of the most experienced bottom lane duos in the world. Since 2018, Deft and BeryL are two of the most successful LCK players at their positions in international play. Deft has won 21 international games across the last four seasons, and BeryL has won 59 individual games at both MSI and Worlds since his debut in 2019. Should DRX make it to the international stage in 2022, the team’s bottom lane pairing will certainly have the experience to stand against all foes from opposing regions.
Nongshim’s additions of Bdd and Ghost at the carry positions represent a new direction for the team—one that prioritizes a “win now” approach, as opposed to last year’s growth-focused, rookie-filled lineup. Both of these teams have the potential to go on a run at some point during the season and catapult themselves into the top three. But for now, the back-end of the top five feels like a strong starting point for these two contenders.
Fresh off a trip to Worlds: Gen.G, T1, DWG KIA
Despite some earth-moving roster shuffles, Gen.G, DWG KIA, and T1 found a way to enter the 2022 season as the definitive strongest teams in the LCK. Last year’s LCK Worlds representatives (sans Hanwha Life) are poised to lead the way for Korea once again in 2022, with Gen.G and T1 ranking first and second in our power rankings, respectively. Judging by the strength of their rosters and the combined past achievements of the players present on these two teams, one surefire prediction of ours would be to slot Gen.G and T1 into the LCK Spring Finals. T1’s young core is sticking together after coming within one game of the Worlds finals, while Gen.G built around its franchise AD carry Ruler, adding other legendary names in jungler Peanut and mid laner Chovy, among others, to its roster this offseason.
In the case of DWG KIA, the dynastic roster that brought the organization to two straight World Championship finals has been ultimately torn in different directions, but the team did find a way to hold onto its two most important pieces: Canyon and ShowMaker. The jungle-mid duo are two of the most effective players in professional League, with the two of them winning back-to-back LCK MVP awards across the 2020 Summer Split (ShowMaker) and the 2021 Spring Split (Canyon). Last season, ShowMaker ranked first in the world among all mid laners with a KDA of 6.5, while Canyon ranked second among all junglers with a mark of 4.9, according to League stats site Games of Legends. Any team that sports their talents alone is good enough to earn a spot in the upper bracket of any domestic league.
If proven pedigree is worth anything going into 2022, there’s no question these three teams will not only be among the best in Korea, but also the best in the entire world. As the season rolls on and we eventually get into the international portions of the schedule, look for T1, DWG KIA, and Gen.G to all be not only present, but also thriving.
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