The Rise and Fall of the LCK Dynasty
The last two years gave birth to an unexpected twist: the fall of the LCK dynasty. There was never a region as strong and dominant as Korea.
But it’s not just the fashion in which they dominated that left a mark but rather the duration of their reign. Korea dominated for so long that we felt their dynasty would never end. They were so commanding in their triumphs, so better than everyone else, that the idea of them ever losing seemed less and less possible.
A Significant Shift
For such a tectonic shift in the world of competitive League to happen, many things had to transpire. The meta had to change irreversibly. Other regions had to catch up in skill and infrastructure. Korea had to make multiple egregious errors in succession (primarily in judgment and strategy).
They had to slip up more than they ever did. Such a string of developments seemed nigh impossible, which made competitive League a bit stale. We always knew what was happening. While the road up to that point sometimes changed, the outcome was still a given. Watching an LCK team get showered in confetti was as frequent as possible.
But the game changed. Other regions caught up. They focused on their strengths. Most importantly, Korea was too stubborn to adapt and follow suit. And that string of developments that once seemed so distant and impossible? It came to fruition.
The months that followed were exhilarating. For the first time in a long while, we were entering uncharted lands. A world freed of LCK dominance — who would’ve thought? In the end, we saw that no kingdom was immune to immense meta shifts, and that included the Korean dynasty — the only one we knew up to that point.
The game needed to change in a great way for Korea to lose its grasp over the world of competitive League.
Change Is Needed
The faint prospect of things changing made us all tune in year after year. We rarely saw Korea get challenged. Yet, we felt that such a thing could transpire eventually. It was a fascinating narrative that grew as the years went on. Once it happened, no one was quite sure how to feel.
It was like the present you longed for, which eventually came but was long overdue. By the time it materialized, you lost a bit of interest. We all knew we were watching history being written, and yet we were caught off guard. Furthermore, this seismic change wasn’t accompanied by any huge dramatic battle (not as big of a battle as we expected, at least). Instead, the LCK giants lost in the same fashion as they had been winning in the years prior.
At first everyone thought of it as a one-off occurrence, a strange slip-up by the best region in the world. Everyone expected a return to form in record time, but it never happened. 2019 certainly didn’t bring them any redemption for the LCK dynasty after a lackluster 2018. Korea is, at the time of this writing, still the third-best region in the world (results-wise).
That’s a strange position for them to be in. They’re not used to it and, frankly, neither are we.
Assessing their most recent competitive season isn’t nearly as simple as it might seem. On the one hand, they fought a good fight. On the other, they fell short for the second year in a row.
Whenever we’re talking about the LCK dynasty, the expectations are immense. We became accustomed to their dominance and therefore expected both a certain level of play and a couple of trophies to boot whenever they compete at an international tournament.
Yet over the last two years, they haven’t been able to win even one. For a region that wanted to find redemption, they sure didn’t do enough to impress. At least not by LCK standards.
Korea had three exceptional teams at the 2019 World Championship and all three presented a unique challenge. SKT T1 became the experienced veteran line-up with immense talent, Griffin had supreme confidence and bravado (not to mention mechanical prowess), and DAMWON Gaming brought something extra to the table that many teams weren’t prepared for.
Despite their many strengths, these challengers failed to play the game in the best and most optimal way. They might not be considerably worse than their LPL and LEC peers, but they’re certain is a palpable difference. At this level of play, all you need is but a single weakness — no matter how small — for another top-tier giant to capitalize and get the win.
2018 showed us an LCK that refused to adapt. They wanted to win but on their own accord. 2019, however, was slightly different. Korean teams changed, but not as much as they had to. They were still trying to combine multiple different approaches to the game, and it simply didn’t yield the results they wanted.
Three teams in the Top 8 doesn’t sound particularly impressive given whom we’re talking about. Griffin and DAMWON were right above J Team, Cloud9, Royal Never Give Up and Team Liquid — all teams that imploded in one way or another.
Things aren’t as grim for the LCK dynasty as they might seem at first glance. They still have some of the best players in the world, they didn’t lose many of them during the off-season, and they’re slowly (but surely) evolving, now that the meta forced them to. With time they’re bound to once again reach the very top primarily because of their innate talent and spectacular work ethic.
But how fast such a thing will happen depends solely on their preparation and willingness to adapt. One would think that two years has been enough. To the best LCK teams, these two years must have felt like an eternity spent in exile.
To them, any position other than the one at the very top is a failure. That’s what happens when you dominate for so long — you become accustomed to it, and the same goes for success.
If anything, the fact that they now must adapt and overcome a string of hurdles is exciting. We’ve never seen the best LCK teams so out of sorts, so out of their comfort zone. Given their spectacular track record, they’re sure to emerge stronger than ever, with newfound confidence and vigor.
When that happens, however, it remains to be seen. If the meta shifts in 2020 it could happen far sooner than anyone expects. But they’ll need to fight harder than ever, now that the LPL has taken control. They’ve been waiting for their shot and they have no intention of relinquishing their throne.
A Brand-New Narrative
A world in which the LPL is challenged is a world filled with exciting and breath-taking League of Legends. The LEC stepped up, but they cannot overthrow the Chinese champions by themselves. They need help and to do what is necessary, they need to ally with the unlikeliest of allies.
A world in which all three major regions stand shoulder to shoulder is a world we all want to inhabit. Fortunately, the fall of the LCK dynasty should motivate Korean teams more than ever to enter the limelight once again and reclaim their long-lost throne.