LoL Gauntletology 101: The LCK's six-man race

Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok (left) and SK Telecom T1 have seen a fall from grace during the 2017 LCK summer split. Can they pick up the slack in time for the gauntlet? Provided by Riot Games

At the start Week 8 of the League Champions Korea summer split, all eyes were on Samsung Galaxy and KT Rolster. After Game 1, it looked like Patch 7.14 was just the push Samsung needed to overcome its poor matchup record against KT over the past year.

But Games 2 and 3 were both over in less than 30 minutes. It was another KT victory, important leverage in future playoff seeding over Samsung.

The summer split is nearly at a close. With almost all playoff teams locked in for the gauntlet, there is still a lot to be seen swirling in these last dregs of the regular season, including an unlikely but possible chance that the Jin Air Green Wings usurp the Afreeca Freecs in its closing series of the week.

Here's a brief overview of how high each team can climb and how low it can fall.

SK Telecom T1

Series record: 11-5
Overall record: 22-13 (nine points)
Highest possible finish: Second
Lowest possible finish: Fifth
Schedule: KT Rolster, bbq Olivers

Followers of SK Telecom T1 might feel like a sigh and an "Ah, how the mighty have fallen" are appropriate, considering the team's more recent performances, but this is only due to SKT's consistent ability to dominate regular-season, playoff and tournament standings. This gives an odd filter to longtime followers of Korean LoL that place SKT retroactively first in the standings every season, even if the team wasn't deserving of it. Memories of 2016's ROX Tigers are already starting to fade, especially because they struggled against SKT specifically.

SKT can still finish in fifth, but that would require Afreeca to win both series and SKT to lose their matchup to KT Rolster and bbq Olivers. Last week, a resolved SKT snapped their losing streak and cut their Patch 7.14 teeth on Ever8 Winners and ROX Tigers. Although the Ever8 series wasn't impressive, SKT looked more formidable against ROX, making it even more unlikely that they'll drop to bbq, a team they swept earlier this split. SKT also have a strong matchup against KT, and this appears to be even more in their favor on the latest patch, despite SKT's post-Rift Rivals woes.

Samsung Galaxy

Series record: 12-4
Overall record: 27-12 (15 points)
Highest possible finish: First
Lowest possible finish: Fourth
Schedule: ROX Tigers, Longzhu Gaming

Despite their recent Week 8 loss to KT, Samsung looked strong in their second series of the week, a 2-0 victory over Afreeca with veteran Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong starting in the jungle. This isn't a slight to Kang "Haru" Min-seung, but the shift toward tankier team-fighting champions in the jungle suits Ambition well. If it wants to go for more of an aggressive jungle style with Haru, it has enough flexibility to tailor its draft like it did with Haru's Rengar in a Game 1 win against KT.

In order to grasp the coveted first place in the standings, Samsung Galaxy have to win both of their series against ROX Tigers and Longzhu. There is a chance that the team could slip to fourth, if SKT sweep both of their series and Samsung lose to both the Tigers and Longzhu.

KT Rolster

Series record: 13-3
Overall record: 28-14 (14 points)
Highest possible finish: First
Lowest possible finish: Fourth
Schedule: Longzhu Gaming, SK Telecom T1

The famed Telecom War dominates LoL headlines every time KT Rolster face off against SK Telecom T1. Even their regular-season matchups tend to feature some of the more entertaining and higher levels of play in professional LoL.

That said, it's KT's series against Longzhu Gaming that kicks off Week 9, an important factor in playoff seeding. If KT lose to Longzhu, their chance at an automatic seed to the 2017 LCK Summer Finals will also be lost, which would have put the team in a more advantageous position to qualify for the World Championship by points. KT have the most difficult Week 9 schedule of any of the teams aside from Longzhu and have yet to prove that they can play beyond their obvious, upfront firepower.

Should KT beat Longzhu, SKT will be waiting for them, and though KT were supposedly designed to beat SKT, they have yet to do that this year. KT can take that coveted first place spot, but they need to win out to do so.

Longzhu Gaming

Series record: 13-3
Overall record: 29-11 (18 points)
Highest possible finish: First
Lowest possible finish: Third
Schedule: KT Rolster, Samsung Galaxy

Longzhu have already secured a second-round spot in the playoffs and are gunning for an automatic seed into the finals. It seems almost unheard of, as this is the same organization that used to be Incredible Miracle.

The team has seemingly rid itself of internal issues that led to an eighth-place finish last split and designed a new starting lineup around mid laner Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong, rookie jungler Moon "Cuzz" Woo-chan and top laner Kim "Khan" Dong-ha, with veteran duo Kim "PraY" Jong-in and Kang "GorillA" Beom-hyeon anchoring them in the bottom lane.

The team kicked off their split by sweeping KT Rolster in Week 1, though both teams have grown throughout the split, albeit with similar strengths and weaknesses to what they had from the start. Should Longzhu fall to KT, they can still clinch a finals berth if they beat Samsung later in the week because Samsung are already a series behind both KT and Longzhu going into Week 9.

Jin Air Green Wings

Series record: 7-9
Overall record: 19-19 (zero points)
Highest possible finish: Fifth
Lowest possible finish: Sixth
Schedule: Ever8 Winners, Afreeca Freecs

Accompanying the downfall of spring playoff team MVP this past split was the rise of the Jin Air Green Wings.

By Week 3 of 2017 LCK summer split, everyone's favorite "gladplane" already tied its total win record of 2017 LCK spring split. The team even did it with the same roster that had a 4-14 spring series record and had to fight its way through the promotion tournament just to make it back into the league.

This reinvigorated Jin Air focus much more on their early game and, unlike last split, actually succeed in snowballing leads, especially with more focused play from jungler Eom "UmTi" Seong-hyeon, a breakout season from AD carry Park "Teddy" Jin-seong and a new head coach in Lim "Ccomet" Hye-sung.

Unfortunately, the Green Wings are not in control of their own playoff destiny. They must rely on the Afreeca Freecs losing to MVP 0-2. At the same time, Jin Air will have to beat Ever8 Winners 2-0. Beating Ever8 isn't out of the question, but Afreeca are favored against MVP, a team that the Green Wings could have beaten this past week if not for sloppy misplays.

If Afreeca lose to Ever8 and Jin Air beat MVP, both in sweeps, the two teams will face each other for their final match, in which the Green Wings will need another 2-0 victory.

Afreeca Freecs

Series record: 9-7
Overall record: 24-19 (five points)
Highest possible finish: Fourth
Lowest possible finish: Sixth (out of playoff contention)
Schedule: MVP, Jin Air Green Wings

Although it's still mathematically possible for Afreeca to miss playoffs, the chances are not high. The Freecs dispatched both Jin Air and MVP 2-0 earlier this season and have been reliable in series against teams below them in the standings, even with recent 2-1 victories over the ROX Tigers and bbq Olivers. Where the Freecs have been far less consistent is in their series against teams higher than they in the standings, although this won't affect their playoff seeding.

This can be a strong meta for the Freecs. The team already donated more than the average amount of resources to their side lanes over mid laner Lee "KurO" Seo-haeng, who is given a lower percentage of gold than any mid laner currently in the LCK and less gold than top laner Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-hwan. Although this is only a tenth of a percent, it shows where Afreeca's priorities lie. Support Park "TusiN" Jong-ik has been in his element, roaming on tanky initiators.

The problem is that Afreeca are not consistent. Previously, their Game 1 record was peerless in performance; the only problem was that the team was usually outsmarted in Games 2 and 3 for a seemingly inevitable 1-2 loss to South Korea's top teams. More recently, jungler Lee "Spirit" Da-yoon has looked like a bigger liability than usual.