Right then. The LCK Academy Series 1st Championship is set for a rousing beginning. The seven-team event consisting of Korea’s best amateur teams serves as a platform that is used by players to showcase their skills and development that often leads to them graduating to play for the main team in the Korean League.
Teams have a double round-robin format which means each side will play 12 matches. All matches are best of two, with the top four at the end of an exhaustive league phase qualifying to the playoffs. Let’s dive straight in.
One of the reasons why academy tournaments have gained massive importance lately is to ensure teams aren’t stranded should their A-listers be unavailable for unavoidable reasons in the middle of a big tournament. Take for example DRX itself.
They had to field their challenger squad for a week in February during the LCK season due to a covid outbreak in the main squad. As unfortunate as the situation was, DRX, one of South Korea’s top teams, used the adversity as a stepping stone for bigger and better things.
The country’s quarantine rules means teams couldn’t find a way of competing online. Kim “Zeka” Geon-woo, Taeyoon, and Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee, Hong “Syosik” Chang-hyeon, and Hwang “Kingen” Seong-hoon were all riding the bench.
For a team that was looking to bounce back from an abysmal summer split in 2021, where they ended with two wins and 16 losses, they had to dig deep into their academy roster to compete.
The strength of their roster and the improvements they have made as a development squad over the years have made their structure streamlined. Players coming through are battle hardened, and therefore, you’d be a brave person to bet against them to take the opening honours against Nongshim Academy.
Last November, Nongshim RedForce parted ways with midlaner Bori. They also left out substitute bot laner Hwang “Wayne” Seo-hyeon, and the academy roster’s support Kwak “Yusin” Yu-sin.
It was particularly deflating because they had to make up for time and effort invested in getting their players up to speed. Gori had joined the team in May to replace Park “Bay” Jun-byeong, who was then transferred to the academy roster. Whether by accident or design, this helped the team’s next crop of players develop adequate skill sets.
Being guided by an able hand proved to be a catalyst for their remarkable development through the ranks. And here they are now, looking to carry forward that development at LCK Academy 2022.
Yes, the odds are against them when it comes to victory, but don’t count them out for a draw. They are more than capable of holding their own.
Much of Kwangdong Freecs success at the 2022 LCK Spring playoffs – their run to the semi-final for example – has been a resultant of a support system in place. Situations like they found themselves in there – making it through after overcoming a tiebreak match – are built through systems such as the KDF Academy.
That they’re able to stand up and look into the eye of top teams such as T1 are a result of the processes put in place. That said, when they take on the academy team of T1, comparisons are bound to arise.
While they’re not favourites, expect them to compete hard. As things stand, KDF stands a better chance of drawing the contest than winning.
That T1 are favourites is because of the presence of a strong field. It’s hard to look beyond Moon “Dal” Jeong-wan for offensive proficiency. The bot laner is as effective as they come, and it’s his partnership with Kang “Minous” Kang-Min-woo that has upset the apple cart of many a teams in the academy set up. Expect them to set the house off fire again.
The ultimate goal would be developing the next Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. That T1 rode roughshod over the others was down to his proficiency. How many more such players of quality can they unearth?
Liiv Sandbox Academy
Like it happened with KDF, Liiv Sandbox have also been victims to covid, causing their roster to wear a depleted look during the regular LCK season. Outside of that, a part of the problems they faced during the regular season was coming up with a style of play that looked templated and jaded, one that led to them becoming predictable.
Cho “Joker” Jae-eup and Heo “PawN” Won-seok, their coaches for Liiv SANDBOX’s League of Legends division, have worked hard at trying to shed this template and develop new strategies.
The focus has now shifted to looking inwards, developing different plans, identifying different players and trying to create pathways that can help them rise to the top in the competitive world of the Korean league.
One of the hallmarks for Fredit BRION at the regular LCK split is their ability to wriggle out of tough spots. During the regular LCK, there were a number of times when with the games tied, they let the advantage slip in the decider, only to fight back in style when it mattered.
Like in the game against Liiv Sandbox, where they conceded a massive gold lead only to eventually finish with 15k gold more than their opponents, with Zeri playing a pivotal role.
Zeri’s rise through the ranks has been freakish, but for a system developing players at the level below, this is a perfect platform to gain experience. The winning odds are with Liiv SANDBOX, but don’t count BRION out to draw the game.
|LCK Academy Information|
|Teams||DRX Academy, Nongshim Academy, KDF Academy, T1 Academy|
|Location||Conducted in Korea|
|Time||Saturday, April 30 at 1.00 AM EST onwards|
|How to watch||Official Twitch channel|
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