Damwon Gaming. That’s the name burned into everyone’s mind at this present moment in time. Whether it’s from word of mouth about their scrim prowess (NA heartthrobs Cloud9 had a few choice words around Worlds), or multiple analysts giving opinions about their path to the LCK 2019, Damwon Gaming are indeed the new kids on the block to start looking out for.
Nobody took these rumors particularly seriously, as most “scrim god” teams always had the burden of expectation placed upon them and often faltered come actual showtime on stage, and yet… well. One disappointing showing in the group stages of this very same tournament, versus amateur - not even Challengers Korea - team KeG Seoul, resulted in a somewhat questionable 2-1 victory for Damwon Gaming. With all the hype around them all but dispelled heading into yesterday’s* series, DWG looked like just another brief stop on the hype train to finals resident superteam SK Telecom T1 were riding.
Game 1 was certainly indicative of these beliefs being justified, with SK Telecom remaining in clear and firm control for a majority of the early and middle games. Confident rotations from World Champion support player Mata on a frequently questionable Tahm Kench pick paid off to the favorites’ advantage, and a massive lead topside accrued in tandem between SKT Khan and Clid resulted in DWG’s Nuguri unable to find any semblance of footing on a prioritized Viktor pick. In fact, the biggest question mark for this SKT lineup in Game 1 was the foundation of this roster’s building blocks himself, the undisputed greatest player of all time Faker. Looking uncharacteristically lost on a near-signature Lissandra (for this tournament, anyway), our fan-favorite made a questionable engage practically 1v5 that gave DWG a way back into the game. A second won fight meant that Baron was secured for the LCK’s newest addition, but Faker was unperturbed by his earlier misstep - finding pick after pick with Lissandra and paving the way for Teddy to clean up on a fearsome Ezreal.
Game 2 was Nuguri showing that Game 1 wasn’t about to tilt him, almost mirroring Khan’s early game impact from the previous game of the series - except this time on an Aatrox that was unable to be matched. Khan’s Urgot did not have the luxury of being relegated to waveclear duty like the Viktor in Game 1, and Damwon Gaming’s toplaner showed that he could be a star when given a chance to shine. Shoutout to Hoit’s Rakan, which facilitated some phenomenal plays for DWG in Game 1 (but ultimately overcommitted and threw what little of a lead they were clawing back for themselves), and continued to have a similar influence in Game 2 - resulting in a ban heading into the final game of our series.
Game 3. Our first questions come in the draft phase - for example, who dares to give Damwon Gaming the Camille and Galio duo that they attributed much of their success to? Not only are these champions beautifully paired regarding kit synergy, but their playstyles favor a DWG that thrives in skirmishes and hard engages. Credit where credit is due, however, as SK Telecom’s support Mata was all over the map regarding early game influence on a very respectable Alistar pick. Single-handedly carrying his team through the early game, it was an overcommit from him and Faker that ultimately spelled doom for the team this time around - SKT again faltering before the finals of the KeSPA Cup.
LCK SPRING… AND BEYOND
Lessons learned from this series are that perhaps people weren’t overhyping Damwon Gaming - toplaner Nuguri looks especially potent, though time will tell if their mid/jungle synergy will be equally impactful when Galio and/or Camille are removed. If you are an LCK team, I imagine at least one of these bans will be in the cards for you when facing down against the newest threat for a playoffs spot. Could this be the second coming of Griffin?
On the other hand, it’s not all doom and gloom for SK Telecom T1. Moments of brilliance accompanied their swift fall from grace, and with superstar players, in each role, it will take longer than the already allocated three weeks for them to gel together. But when they do?
Korea - and the Worlds stage - better watch out.