Magic Bullets: Royal Never Give Up vs. SK Telecom T1

Everyone is weighing in on the upcoming Mid-Season Invitational Semifinal between China’s Royal Never Give up and Korea’s SK Telecom T1. Opinions are falling on both sides, though on PrimeTime League today all three panelists (Quickshot, Phreak, and Sjokz) called for an RNG win.

Here are a few of my own preliminary thoughts on the match-up.

RNG will win because…

  • They have very much improved their strategic play, compared to what we saw from them in the LPL.
  • They were the most consistent team in the group stages.
  • Their talent has been on clear display, with especially strong individual showings from mlxg, Mata, and xiaohu.
  • Their natural aggression and bloodthirst has proven to be an effective counter to SKT’s typically Korean, slower, more passive, scale-to-late play style.
  • Home field advantage and plot armour.

SKT will win because…

  • They’re on an upswing: they’ve won their last four games, while RNG are 1-2 in their last three games, with their win coming against SuperMassive.
  • There’s a learning curve to playing against Chinese aggression. SKT are on the upper half of that curve now.
  • They’ve have played so much worse than their best, but still went 1-1 with RNG in the group stage, in two very close games. Bang has played really antsy, at times stepping aggressively forward or even Flashing to try to produce kills out of nowhere. Blank has struggled to match the pace and influence of the other junglers at the tournament, and hasn’t been allowed to sit back and farm to the late game like he could in the slow-ramping LCK. Faker has made puzzling errors and has showed indecisiveness and a lack of confidence all week. SKT have a lot of issues to address, and yet they’ve still managed to match RNG blow for blow. Fixing just one or two of their issues could put SKT over the top.
  • RNG still struggle to consistently convert kills into objectives. They’ve been much better at MSI, and often do find Towers or Dragons after a won skirmish, but too many of their kills still go unrewarded. That allows a team like SKT to scale into team fights, even if they fall behind early.

Prediction: SKT 3-1

RNG have showed, as expected, that their strength lies in manufacturing kills and control in the early and mid game. But against SKT especially, RNG have had a lot of difficulty turning those kills into objectives, and turning their leads into clean wins. SKT, for their part, have hung in against RNG and even beaten them despite getting subpar individual performances. With a week off for SKT’s coaching staff to work on their mentality, I expect we’ll see a much crisper SKT in the Semifinals. If kkOma really gets them back on track, we might even see a somewhat one-sided series.

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Tim “Magic” Sevenhuysen runs, the premier source for League of Legends esports statistics, and writes for theScore esports.

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