How T1 made history with LCK’s first-ever 18-0 split
T1 went undefeated in the 2022 LCK Spring Split.
With their win against DRX on March 21, T1 became the first-ever LCK team to not drop a single series throughout the course of a split.
The ‘perfect split’ is one of the most highly sought-after accolades in League esports. It’s also practically unheard of.
Fnatic did it in 2015 Spring, not dropping a single game in the EU LCS. PSG Talon did it in 2021 Summer, going undefeated in the PCS and subsequently making it to their first-ever World Championship semifinal.
And now, T1 have joined this illustrious club, going 18-0 in the LCK 2022 Spring split for the first undefeated run in the tournament’s history.
Their victory is a little different from the others, with the LCK running on a best-of-three format rather than the best-of-one that was in place in the EU LCS and PCS. But it’s still an incredible achievement, and one that encapsulates the growth of an organization that many considered to have somewhat fallen from grace in recent years.
A brief history of SKT Telecom T1
But T1 have only been around since 2020, and they’ve never even won a world championship in that time! How could they once have been the best in the world, you ask?
Technically, you’re correct. T1 has only been in the LCK for two years. But before that, the organization went by a different name, and a name that you’ve inevitably heard whispered in hushed tones if you’ve been around the world of competitive League of Legends.
T1 was formerly known as SKT Telecom T1, three-time World Champions and the only team to ever have won multiple Worlds titles. They were widely considered one of the best teams to ever, and as of yet, no team has come close to matching their level or longevity of dominance.
SKT had been struggling domestically for a while before their rebrand to T1. In 2018, they failed to make finals in either Spring or Summer, and missed a World Championship for the first time in the organization’s history
They’d gone from consistently being one of the highest-performing domestic teams to occasionally falling down to the middle of the pack. But 2019 saw a resurgence for the roster, winning both Spring and Summer finals versus perceived favorites Griffin.
The T1 years
But two 2019 domestic titles weren’t enough to bring T1 out of the woods.
They’ve been consistent in the LCK, never missing playoffs and even winning a few domestic finals. But the spark feels like it’s been absent for T1 in recent years, and they’ve been unable to replicate their former glory at international events.
Mid laner Lee ‘Faker’ Sanghyeok, widely regarded as the greatest professional to ever play League of Legends, has been substituted out multiple times in order for the org to test out new blood in the midlane, with varying levels of success.
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But at the start of 2022, it clicked. Faker isn’t the person you need to be substituting out to give young talent a shot. He’s the player you need to mold that young talent into something special. And thus, T1 arrived at their 2022 roster.
T1 in 2022 has some of the youngest players in the LCK. Top laner Choi ‘Zeus’ Wooje is only 18 years old. Faker, at the ripe old age of 25, is the only player above the age of 20 on the roster. Memes of ‘Faker and his kids’ have been a long-standing joke for LCK fans this split, but the formula of surrounding a storied veteran with rookie talent has truly paid off for T1.
this might just be the year pic.twitter.com/w8JI4O97gw
— Marc (@Caedrel) February 23, 2022
But how did T1 go undefeated?
One of the most significant things about T1’s 2022 run is that the organization has finally realized they don’t need Faker to carry every single game.
AD Carry Lee ‘Gumayusi’ Minhyeong and top laner Zeus have been standout carries in their respective roles, with Gumayusi breaking the record for the most kills in an LCK split with 219 kills across their Spring games.
Gumayusi and Keria have each broken the record for the most kills and assists respectively in a single LCK regular season, with Gumayusi at 219 kills and Keria at 462 assists.@T1LoL #LCK pic.twitter.com/PO1t1Xg2zV
— Kevin Kim (@KevinKimLoL) March 20, 2022
Support Ryu ‘Keria’ Minseok, formerly a hot-headed youngster who was famous for flipping the coin on incredible engages or spectacular ‘ints’, has become one of the LCK’s best.
He, too, broke records this split, with the highest number of assists on record for an LCK player at an astonishing 462. Jungler Moon ‘Oner’ Hyeonjoon is a consistent, steadfast presence across the map. And Faker is… well, he’s Faker.
Unfortunately for T1, this split will always have an asterisk next to it. The continuing health crisis in Korea meant that multiple teams were forced to field substitutes on their rosters, meaning that arguably, T1’s victories often came against teams who were not at their full strength.
This is particularly relevant when examining the gap between first and second place in the LCK. Gen.G, who are arguably T1’s fiercest domestic rivals, were forced to field substitute rosters in both their matches versus T1 in the regular season.
Would the standings have looked different if not for these unique circumstances? Maybe, but that does not devalue just how strong a team T1 is. They won 18 best-of-three series, dropping only seven games out of the 43 they played throughout spring.
With the LCK playoffs beginning on March 23, it’s looking increasingly likely that T1 will represent the LCK at the upcoming 2022 Mid-Season Invitational. They’ll be tested there, and we’ll see if this Spring dominance is just a flash in the pan, or whether we may be seeing the beginning of another T1 dynasty.