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League of Legends news » A Semifinal for the ages

Madison Square Garden was electric for our first Semifinal of Worlds 2016. A rematch of last year’s Finals, ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1 were about to give us a lesson in the irresistible force paradox.

That is -- what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? ROX, the unstoppable force, have shown time and time again that they’re the best proactive team in League of Legends. They set up their aggression perfectly, know the limits of their champions, and are impeccably clean in their engages and team fighting.

SKT, on the other hand, is the immovable object. The reigning World Champions not only have the weight of history behind them, but are also the best reactive team in the world. They turn their opponents aggression on its head and have historically been incredible at adapting to whatever you throw at them.

Though it was ROX who showed one of the greatest adaptations of Worlds thus far. After losing a nail biting Game 1 that could have gone either way, ROX then came back with a support pick that would have made Likkrit proud -- Miss Fortune.

It was instantly locked in as a last pick and the crowd erupted. The referees checked with the translators to make sure it wasn’t some sort of mistake, and the translators assured the referees that it was in fact legit. PraY and GorillA swapped Ashe and Miss Fortune back and forth as the jumbo screen showed their laughing faces. Not even the casters knew what to expect.

Miss Fortune proved to be a fantastic counter Zyra, a champion that had been highly contested by the Korean teams in Quarterfinals. With Miss Fortune, the ROX duo of PraY and GorillA easily matched the early aggression of SKT’s bot lane, and once they hit level 6, the combination of PraY’s on point Crystal Arrows and GorillA’s Bullet Time gave Wolf and Bang a seriously bad day. The pick potential and dominance in lane was enough for ROX to take both Games 2 and 3. 

With their two wins it was match point to the Tigers. SKT were on the cusp of falling from their throne, and if they wanted to keep their chase for the Summoner’s Cup alive they were going to have to make some serious changes. Blank was subbed out in favor of Bengi, and Miss Fortune was instantly banned. 

“I assumed that I would already be subbed in, so I was already ready” says Bengi. “I told myself that even if this is a very big stage, I’ll be just fine if I be myself. And that’s what happened -- I was very comfortable.”

The adaptations were enough to keep SKT in the series. Bengi showed that, despite his time on the bench this split, he is still a world class jungler who can perform when it matters most. He played Nidalee -- a champion he had never played competitively before -- and absolutely crushed it, going 6-2-7 to give SKT a convincing win. 

“I used to play Nidalee in solo queue,” says Bengi of his Nidalee pick. “Not often -- but Peanut is very strong on Nidalee, so there was a lot of weight to pick it first. It was for the team.”

Bengi also gave everyone what they were hoping to see here tonight -- the first five-game series of Worlds. There, it would be decided which of these two titans would break first.

The game was too close to call -- up until a Baron attempt that backfired for ROX in a big way. Things swung heavily in SKT’s favor, but it was a subsequent Baron taken by Faker and Bengi that truly sealed the fate of the series. The duo showed a synergy befitting the only two-time World Champions in League of Legends history, and Faker staked his claim back on the title of No. 1 player in the world.

SKT now head into the Finals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as heavy favorites, while ROX will go home with heavy hearts. For Bengi, Faker, and kkOma, the venue has a special significance. The last time they stepped out onto that stage they walked away with their first World Championship. Now, they return to LA for a chance to win their third, and cement themselves in League of Legends history.

As to how they were going to prepare for the Finals? Bengi wasn’t so sure. “My head is really hazy right now,” he says. “I’m drunk on Red Bull from the matches. I just need some sleep.” 


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