The year is 2018, it’s the summer split. SK Telecom find themselves in 7th place in the LCK with five matches remaining. After a disappointing 4th place finish in the spring play-offs, SKT are staring down the barrel of a play-off-less summer. Queue Pirean.
Going into the summer split it was vital that SK Telecom picked up their form if they were to have any chance or re-gaining the World title. Things got off to a rocky start, however, as they finished the 1st week of the summer split with a 0-2 record after losing to Afreeca Freecs and Gen.G. Things didn’t get much better in the 2nd week either, finishing 1-3 after losing to MVP but picking up their first win over Jin Air Green Wings.
SKT’s form showed little improvement over the next few weeks. Despite a vital Telecom Wars win over KT Rolster in week 3, struggles to adapt to the summer’s meta meant that SKT ended week 5 in 7th place, where only the top 5 will make it to play-offs. To make matters worse, 4 out of SKT’s remaining 6 matches were against teams that had previously beaten them 2-0 during the split – Gen.G, Afreeca Freecs, Griffin and Kingzone DragonX.
Up until this point, SKT had rotated Faker and Pirean in the mid-lane with varying results. However a busy week 6, one in which SK Telecom would play 3 Bo3 series, Pirean would play every game.
SKT would go on to win all week 6 games and launch themselves to a joint 5th place going into week 7. Inspired performances from Pirean, including an especially dominant display in their series win against Gen.G, have cast some doubts as to whether Faker will find his way back into the team in the near future.
It was only in May of this year in which Faker himself, whilst speaking to InvenGlobal, said that he only ranked as the 4th best mid-laner at that moment in time – adding that ‘I need to put in more effort again, but I’m not sure that I’ll do well again’. More recently, Bang (who has played with Faker on SKT for almost 4 years) described a strengh of Pirean as being ‘a bit more stable in-game’ than Faker, which may have helped SKT’s recent turnaround.
SKT now have 3 games remaining to secure their play-off spot, where only 3 wins can guarantee their position. Even with their sudden resurgence this will be easier said than done, with both spring finalists in Afreeca Freecs and Kingzone as well as the current top-spot Griffin to come up against.
If SK Telecom do make it to play-offs with Pirean’s help, it will also be interesting to see whether Faker will return to the starting spot for these games given his vast experience or whether SKT will continue to place their trust in Pirean. Either way, a loss against Afreeca Freecs tomorrow will all but end SKT’s play-off hopes, and will make their road to Worlds far, far more difficult.