This year, though, they prevailed on an even bigger stage. Beijing’s Bird’s Nest famously hosted the 2008 Olympics, when China hosted one of the greatest spectacles in sports history. Samsung did their best to replicate it. Their bread and butter all tournament has been slow, methodical play that chokes their opponent out. And not even SKT could escape the Samsung death grip.
The two teams played somewhat contrasting styles. Whereas SKT relied heavily on Faker to make plays from the middle of the map, Samsung relied on their side lanes to win the outside of the map. So SKT wanted to win mid and expand outwards, and Samsung wanted to win the edge and collapse in.
And win the edge they did. CuVee in particular had an absolutely dominant set of games. In an inch-by-inch manner, he accrued one small advantage after another over Huni. This snowballed into multiple games where Huni was unable to contain CuVee as the game wore on. In Game 1, CuVee’s Kennen built to 1v1 Huni’s Gnar and ended up generating enough pressure to allow Samsung to rotate their lanes all over the map. First blood didn’t even come until around the 25th minute after a sloppy Baron attempt.
Samsung’s early try saw Peanut successfully steal Baron from Ambition, but SKT lost four members for it. The chase-down kills prevented the tide from swinging, and from there Samsung continued its boa constrictor-like play. The game eventually ended 7-0 in Samsung’s favor, and only the Baron steal and an early turret trade prevented the perfect game.
Samsung didn't let that get to their head, though. Crown said that after the first couple of games, "The players, the coaches – just said one thing. After each win, we said, 'It’s still 0-0. SKT is still going to come back.' [And] after we won Game 2, [we said], 'It’s still 0-0. SKT still has something in their pocket. They’re still SKT.' We just kept on focusing on not getting excited and just staying focused the entire time."
Game 2 featured a Yasuo pick from Huni, but like many of its solo queue iterations, it failed to make an impact on the game. Some early success from SKT was eventually mitigated by Samsung’s team fighting prowess in the mid game, and from there they routed SKT in even quicker fashion than Game 1.
The defending champs found themselves in their biggest hole ever at Worlds. And Samsung had three opportunities to do what no team before them ever had -- kill the unkillable. All tournament, teams had shown there were cracks in the SKT armor.
Game 3 looked like what we’d seen so many times before. SK telecom T1 came out and swung the way we’d expect from a champion. Haymaker after haymaker knocked SSG into the ground to start the game and opened up an 8k gold lead. But they wiped the dirt off each time. And each time they stood up.
A pick here and pick there allowed them to secure a Baron, and the Baron allowed them to knock on the SKT Nexus, but SKT managed to hang on. Just barely. The game hung on the tightest wire you could imagine. The teams traded jabs back and forth until finally, the one person who has proved elusive for years found his feet tied together. A flash forward from Ruler caught Faker and from there SKT fell one by one.
Crown said, "We kept encouraging each other and saying, 'We can still do this. We can do this. Just 10 more minutes. Just a few more items and we can team fight.' One by one, I started to believe we had a shot and could come back. But even though we killed [Faker] – when we were pushing in, we were saying, 'Can we finish it? Is this actually happening? Can we finish it?' Until we actually destroyed the Nexus and my teammates were shouting and screaming… that’s when I realized we actually won."
And for the first time in the history of League of Legends, SK telecom T1’s nexus fell not once. Not twice. But three times. Now Samsung Galaxy can claim something no other team but SKT has managed to claim in three years. They are your new World Champions. And they are the best team in the galaxy.