For years, the LCK has served as the peak of competitive League of Legends. Whether it be in storied organizations like SK Telecom and KT Rolster, or the legends who fuel them like Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Go “Score” Dong-bin, the region has set the gold standard of professional League for the better part of half a decade.
However, in the latter half of 2018, an unproven group of misfits rose from nothing, nearly grabbing the region’s title in the process. That group of unproven nobodies came to be known as Griffin, and in 2019, we could see a total transformation of an organization right before our very eyes – one that takes a few seemingly unknown variables and embroidens them directly into the fabric of dominance that has been established in Korean League of Legends for years, now.
Last year, the roster of Choi “Sword” Sung-won, Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong, Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon, Park “Viper” Do-hyeon, and Son “Lehends” Si-woo stormed into the LCK, winning 12 of its first 14 games in the professional scene, while eventually finishing the Summer Split with a record of 13-5 over the course of 18 series. Additionally, the team blazed a path through the entire league, finishing with a game record of 28-13. And while Griffin managed to finish 2nd during the regular season of LCK Summer last year, the team faltered to eventual Worlds participant KT Rolster in the LCK Summer Playoffs. On top of that, the team came just one game away from a date with KingZone DragonX in the LCK regional qualifiers, potentially setting up a berth at the World Championship.
Regardless, the fact that Griffin was able to rise from nothing and make waves in the most competitive region in the entire world right off the bat is nothing short of incredible. And now, with a perfect run at the 2018 KeSPA Cup under its belt, Griffin is looking like a serious threat going into the 2019 LCK Spring Split.
With a 2-0 series win over the new-look Afreeca Freecs and a 3-0 sweep over LCK newcomers Damwon Gaming, Griffin later met with 2018 Worlds qualifiers Gen.G, who were of course, subsequently swept, resulting in a perfect KeSPA run for Griffin.
Of course, it’s important to realize that while team results are always important, sometimes individual potential can speak volumes, as well. In 2019, look for an incredibly stacked LCK to be dominated by Griffin. With every member of last year’s ridiculously successful lineup returning to the team this year, there’s no reason why Griffin shouldn’t be poised to sit near the top the LCK standings yet again- the numbers definitely point towards it. Not only did the team lead the league in win percentage last split (68%), but every player on the roster ranked first among their respective positions when it came to KDA, save Sword, who finished just .4 points behind Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho’s mark of 2.7 in that department. Additionally, while on the subject of KDA, it’s important to note that Chovy, Viper, Tarzan and Lehends ranked 1-2-3-4 in that statistic in the entire league.
On top of incredible performances when it came to KDA, the team, specifically Viper, refused to slack when it came to farming. In fact, the top 3 farming performances of the split all belonged to the Griffin bottom laner. Although he may have finished 3rd overall in CSM when the dust settled, performances against SKT and Afreeca where he posted marks as high as 14.8 and 15.5 CSM proved that Viper may just be the most proficient farmer in the world.
And now, as we sit just hours away from Griffin’s first match of the regular season against KingZone, it’s impossible to not be excited about Griffin. The team is sharper, more refined, more perfect. It’s hard to believe that four months ago, this roster of rookies was dominating the world’s strongest league from front to back, throwing a massive wrench in the plans of anyone who believed that the top of the LCK leaderboard was set in stone. What’s even more incredible is that over the course of the winter, there’s a real possibility that they’ve gotten better.
Going into this split of the LCK, of course it’s fair to say that the entire league is stacked with talent and genuinely any team could take home the crown. However, I’m very excited to see not only how Griffin performs, but how they’ve evolved since last season. I’m excited to see how Griffin reacts to an ever-changing pool of talent in the LCK, as they’ve obviously kept the same stalwart, winning mentality that propelled them to success last season. And most importantly, I’m excited to see how far Griffin can go. To me, this team has more potential to grow and succeed (especially in 2019) than any other team in Korea. With a roster full of young talent and budding stars, it’s clear that this team can go places – not only in 2019, but in the years to come, as well. Keep in mind that every player on the roster received a 3-year extension at the end of the 2018 season.
Whenever a professional team, regardless of game or sport, brings back all of its players from the previous season, there’s an obvious trust between the lineup and the front office. And with a more polished version of Griffin set to take the stage and take the LCK by storm yet again, it would be foolish not to put your trust in them. If anything, 2019 should serve as a redemption tour and then some for Griffin, as the team came within arm’s reach of Worlds in its inaugural split. With plenty of unfinished business left on the table, expect Griffin to not only be the most striking team in the LCK, but the hungriest. Last year, they were unknown newcomers with something to prove. This time around, they’re certified professionals – and they’ve only gotten stronger.
Photo Credit: League of Legends, Riot Games