It’s only the third day of the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational and SK Telecom T1 have already been crowned champions in nearly everyone’s mind. Players, support staff, casters, and analysts are all expecting SKT to take the event easily.
In 2017, SKT aren’t a hype train anymore, they’re an inevitability.
Firmly in control of first place at 6-0, the question whispered in the hallways of the Jeunesse Arena, shouted by boisterous fans in the upper levels, and asked by various casters on the analyst desk is whether SKT will, for the first time, go undefeated at an international event.
“If we keep playing at this level, and also fix some of our mistakes that we have made, it won’t be that difficult to achieve no losses this championship,” SKT support Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan tells me after their victory over GIGABYTE Marines.
Wolf echoes the conviction of SKT top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, who has stated numerous times throughout the event that no team can beat SKT.
“A lot of it comes from the experience we have,” he says. “Especially from LCK teams where all of the top teams are competing and have created new and interesting strategies like [last year’s] ROX Tigers and force us to change tactics. For Game 1 [Flash Wolves] 1-3-1 is a really familiar style for us, something that we play and compete against. We prepare a lot of strategies simply from our experience.”
Wolf is one of the veteran members of his team, with professional experience spanning four and a half years since his time on NaJin Shield, where he also played with laning partner Bae “Bang” Jun-sik. Although most fans came to know Wolf and Bang from their time on 2014 SK Telecom T1 S before the two joined SK Telecom T1 proper in 2015, Wolf insists that their coordination together and more aggressive style the two have shown across the past year is their preferred style of play.
“If we go all the way back to NaJin, Bang and I were very aggressive players,” he says. “We picked champions such as Fizz and Lee Sin that no one was playing. We also practiced hard on Leona and Annie, which are aggressive picks. We didn’t suddenly become aggressive, we just fit into the meta and our team to play at the top level. Now we are, so I think that’s what happened.”
They now bring this proactivity to SKT, where the two have continued to grow together. Bang became a breakout star for SKT during their 2015 LCK Spring playoff series. Along with then-top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan, Bang stole the show at the 2015 World Championship with Wolf quietly supporting him the entire time.
Like any player on a team with one standout player — in SKT’s case, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok — teammates are often mere shadows to their star. Wolf, a true support, is a shadow not only to Faker, but his laning partner.
Since he so rarely stands in the spotlight, I begin to ask him where he would rank himself among all Korean support players. Wolf laughs and shakes his head as I ask, fully understanding my English. He continues laughing while responding in Korean.
“Of course, number one. Not just in Korea or of Korean supports, but number one of all support players.”
He smiles and fist-bumps his translator before turning to me.
“I can’t think of anything specifically I can do better than other supports because I’m a 10/10 in every quality,” he says. Although there’s a smile on his face, Wolf is also fully confident in his words.
“There are obviously a lot of other good players. But I’m good at all qualities.”
Emily Rand’s love of the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.