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The second week of League Champions Korea started with the two rising teams fighting for the early first spot in the Summoners’ Rift. Afreeca Freecs, formerly Anarchy, were getting better and better in Spring finishing 5th. Samsung Galaxy, on the other hand, acquired a promising talent Ruler (previously known as Bung) and their mid, Crown, massively improved during the course of the last split. Samsung already defeated the ROX Tigers last weak, and winning this week’s match solidified them as a top contender in Korea, while AFs needed to prove that they are more than a mediocre team.
The hyped up match between AFs and Samsung started with a lot of surprises and interesting picks. AFs decided to substitute ikssu and LirA for Lindarang and SeongHwan in the first game. This was an unexpected move because they played with their main roster against Longzhu, which is much likely the weaker opponent, given their records in the Spring Split.
Interestingly, neither of the teams picked or banned Lucian, who is widely regarded as the best ADC currently in the game. Instead, AFs opted for the Kalista-Blitzcrank combo. Targeted heavy crowd control abilities in top, jungle and mid, allied to a heavy engage bot duo, nicknamed Balista, showed a great deal of confidence coming from Afreeca Freecs. If they had gotten a lead, they would have been able to style on Samsung with relentless engages, but the composition is difficult to execute and crucially, it must not fall behind.
Samsung responded with a 1-3-1 splitpush composition with the arguably strongest late game splitpusher Fiora for CuVee. Ambition got his hands on Graves, his preferred jungler, and Crown rounded up the team with AP Ekko in the mid lane. Given the team composition, Samsung were going to win the late game, the question was if they could stop the snowball coming from AFs.
During the pick and ban phase, it seemed AFs had a lot of confidence in themselves and in SnowFlower who had an outstanding Week 1, but after few minutes into the game, it became obvious that the team composition was more a desperate attempt to throw Samsung out of their comfort zone than anything else. Sangyoon and SnowFlower died very early to Ruler and Wraith after a failed all-in. Directly after, Mickey hesitated to flash and missed the last executing auto-attack on Crown. Afreeca Freecs were not playing their game and were crumbling under pressure.
Samsung continued to catch Sangyoon and SnowFlower out of position and even though AFs killed Ambition who was playing overly eager twice, it didn’t seem to matter after such rough early game. With Blitzcrank, the only realistic win option was to ward the jungle and to catch singled out opponents, but with Samsung keeping their lead, AFs had to play defensive, and silently watch how CuVee’s Fiora grew to a split pushing monster.
Afreeca could have turned the tables around the 28-minute mark when they nearly aced the Samsung line-up after an ill-advised baron call. However, the lead which Samsung gave up was thrown right back to them. Perhaps out of desperation, AFs started the baron only to be picked off by the respawned members of Samsung. The last nail in AFs’ coffin was hammered, and they lost their nexus five minutes later.
In pick and bans, both AFs and Samsung decided to pick completely different champions from game 1 with Wraith on Nami being the only returning pick. Samsung opted for a late game team fighting composition with Viktor and Ezreal as their carries, while AFs ran a more early to mid-game oriented composition with Poppy, Lulu and Lucian. It should be noted that Lulu and Lucian is the infamous combo SK Telecom T1 liked to run. If Lucian builds for the late game, (therefore, not the popular Youmuu’s Ghostblade and The Blackcleaver) and if Sangyoon can pilot him well, he becomes a solo carrying threat buffed up by Lulu. Bang, the AD of SKT, had one of the best ADC game with this composition against CJ.
However, nothing worked for the Freecs. Game 1 was already a disaster for them, but game 2 was complete destruction. Again, the game started with two kills in favor of Samsung with this time ikksu and LirA overcommitting against CuVee and Ambition. And from there, Samsung stomped AFs with multiple skirmishes and catches. After 20 minutes into the game, the kill score was 10 – 2 with Samsung being ahead by 5k gold.
Reminiscent of the first game, Samsung once again overestimated their power, and AFs won a skirmish in the top lane after killing three Samsung members while only losing SnowFlower in the process. But this time, AFs managed to slay the baron without any counter-engage. With the baron buff AFs destroyed their first five towers of the game and equaled out their gold deficiency.
For a moment, the game looked even. After a rough early to mid game, AFs was back into the game. Only the team composition was in favor of Samsung. But SnowFlower was caught when LirA unnecessarily tried to contest the blue buff. Samsung hunted the scattered AFs members down, killing Mickey through the keen teleport use by CuVee and closed out the series, with the game time stopping at 27:41.
Samsung were the favorites to win this match, however, it was more one-sided than one could have expected. Because of the few big mistakes from Samsung’s side, the two games might have looked competitive (especially the first one), but Afreeca Freecs were running an early game oriented snowball composition and started to fall behind right from the get-go.
There were no lane-swaps to speak of, so it was not a macro game issue either. Simply put, the players of Afreeca Freecs were outclassed by their counterparts from Samsung. Mickey is currently a shadow of his former self, and SnowFlower, who was phenomenal against Longzhu, dropped the ball. It might not have been Afreeca’s day, but if they continue this level of performance, they will not be playing in the playoffs.
Samsung looked good with strong players across the board, especially Ruler and Wraith were outstanding (we might see a Nami ban against Wraith), but their tendencies to throw big leads away will be punished sooner than later. Ambition getting caught multiple times is only one of the issues Samsung is facing right now. They have to improve communication in team fights, and their shot calling if they want to have any chances against the elite teams of Korea. Because Samsung will not overpower SK Telecom T1 or KT Rolster just by having good players.
Photos courtesy of SPOTV