The first round of the LCK Playoffs 2023 is over, and we're already being surprised. The first edition of the playoffs with the new format began with a traditional single-elimination bracket between teams that finished regular season 3rd to 6th. Two teams moved on to the double-elimination phase, two teams are out until Summer 2023. Let's take a look at what happened.
Liiv Sandbox vs KT Rolster
KT Rolster's impressive end to the regular season paid dividends in the seeding. Finishing 3rd place matched them with Liiv Sandbox, who were by far the weakest team in the mix.
The series was mostly business as usual for KT, although they had one of the now infamous throws in Game 2. This was the first series played in the LCK on patch 13.5 and draft differences were very evident. Ashe was completely ignored in every draft after her recent nerfs, and Lucian was only present for a second round ban by KT in Game 3.
KT were the much superior team in this series and Liiv Sandbox kept looking like a shadow of their former selves. Envyy played pretty well, but Clozer looked especially off and was outclassed by BDD in all four games. It was a 3-1 win, but the only reason why it wasn't a sweep is because KT needed to have a happy game.
The Rolster squad keeps looking very dangerous with their more unconventional drafts and both BDD and Kiin seem to have endless champion oceans. I also feel like they didn't have to show much here, the drafts were very similar throughout the series from both teams. They have some surprises saved for Round 2.
DK vs HLE
Wolf and Atlus kept mentioning this point on the broadcast, and with good reason. Did Hanwha Life win this series, or did Dplus Kia lose it? That is obviously a fallacious question, but if you watched this series you'll know what they mean.
HLE played a really impressive Game 1. Clid and Life seemed to find a synergy that was lacking for the entirety of the regular season and were dominating the entire map in the early game. Zeka pull an unconventional Tristana mid pick and was very proactive with it. Kingen had one of the most insane Gragas flanks I've ever seen in pro-play. This team was looking even better than they did in their two series against T1.
Game 2 seemed to be the start of an exciting 5 game affair. HLE made the mistake of thinking that giving Deft Lucian was fine, as long as you took the Nami away with Viper's Draven. Kellin answered with a Sona pick and Dplus absolutely dominated this game as they were doing in the beginning of the series. Canna also got his hands on Renekton and absolutely dismantled Kingen in the 1v1, leading DK to an even more dominating win than HLE's.
The series effectively ended in Game 3, from where I stand. Dplus give Lucian/Nami over to HLE and answer with the classic Zeri/Lulu losing matchup. Canna picks K'Sante into Kingen's Gnar and Showmaker gets the Taliyah into Yone matchup, with a short-ranged team full of dashes to counter.
DK actually win both theoretically losing side-lanes. Canna just outplays Kingen and a crucial early bot gank helps Deft and Kellin snowball in impressive fashion. Yet, HLE show the resilience they showed against T1 again and, unlike T1, DK crumble. A few late game mistakes from DK and sheer 5v5 outplays from HLE got them a comeback win that should never have been theirs, and DK headed into game 4 broken.
No one expected a Hanwha Life win at LCK Playoffs Round 1, especially not a dominating 3-1. DK looked uncoordinated and their shotcalling seemed all over the place. Their players still looked individually great. Deft and Canna especially had an incredible series, but HLE just worked better as a unit and punished the many mistakes DK made.
LCK Playoffs Round 2
Round 2 brings double-elimination to the LCK for the first time ever! T1 will face KT on the 25th of March at 6am GMT and GEN will have to battle against HLE the day after, at 7am GMT.
T1 are definite favorites to win the entire tournament, but the Telecom Wars seem to always be a close affair. Can KT bounce back from the 0-2 destruction of the second round robin? Or will T1 look even stronger in patch 13.5?
GEN vs HLE will be a close match. This is the first playoffs ever for Peyz, GEN's star for this season, and the nerves might get to him, especially when facing former World Champion Viper.
The issue is, can HLE win games without having a chance to outplay late game 5v5 teamfights? GEN are one of the best teams in the world at splitpushing and at taking objectives without ever needing to fight you.
Let's see what happens! Esports Heaven will be covering the remainder of the LCK Playoffs. You can watch the games on Twitch and Youtube
Images courtesy of LCK and Lolesports.
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