SK Telecom T1 got pushed to the limit but emerged the victor in a five-game series against Misfits Gaming in the League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals Friday at the Guangzhou Gymnasium in Guangzhou, China.
Misfits became the first non-Korean team to take two games off of the reigning Worlds champion during the knockout stage and the first Western team to take any games off of SKT post-groups, per ESPN Stats and Information. Although the team certainly made its mark, SKT proved itself in the most crucial moments of Game 5 and will face off against the winner of Royal Never Give Up and Fnatic at 3:30 a.m. ET on Oct. 28.
SK Telecom T1 started off the series with a swift 25-minute victory in Game 1 where it dominated Misfits from start to finish. While SKT focused on the late game in its drafts during the group stage, it decided to break the pattern in Game 1, and Misfits didn't stand a chance. SKT mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok made a huge impact by roaming from lane on Galio, allowing SKT to maintain constant pressure on Misfits. The European squad tried to set up ambushes, but every engage turned into a loss.
While SKT seemed to have fixed most of the problems that critics pointed out during the group stage in Game 1, it relapsed in Game 2. SKT drafted a slow-scaling team, fell behind early and never recovered. Misfits support Lee "IgNar" Dong-geun was put on Blitzcrank and delivered with plenty of Rocket Grabs throughout the game on his way to Player of the Game honors. There was little that SKT could do as it got picked off by IgNar's hooks and pushed further back into its base. The favorites lost without securing a objective.
Misfits Gaming looked to build on its momentum in Game 3 as it drafted yet another strong bottom lane duo in Tristana and Leona. Again IgNar delivered a stellar performance that this time included securing first blood in a Level 2 skirmish. The bottom lane for Misfits quickly took down first turret and then roamed the map to wreak havoc across the rest of the Rift. SKT kept getting picked off throughout the mid and late game, and all was lost after Misfits stole Baron around the 36-minute mark.
The defending world champions SKT got to play to its strength in Game 4 as it drafted another slow-scaling composition. This time, despite several picks from Misfits, SKT reached its late-game power spikes. The first half had Misfits winning some early skirmishes and securing good positioning, but SKT was able to keep the gold close and started to turn things around late through immaculate teamfighting. After scoring aces in back-to-back teamfights, SKT quickly pushed down mid lane to victory.
No one expected the rookie European team to put up much of a fight against SKT, but it managed to go the distance and reach Game 5. However, MSF couldn't be the early-game bully it was early on in the series. After an invade of Misfits territory gave SKT top laner Seung-Hoon "Huni" Heo first blood, he turned into a split pushing nuisance and slowly bled Misfits of turrets throughout the mid game.
Some mistakes from the top laner almost cost SKT the game, however. The squad started to lose control during the mid game as Huni got caught overextending in side lanes, but Misfits couldn't cash in on its five-on-four advantage. A risky call for Elder Dragon by Misfits several minutes later was the decisive moment. SKT stole the buff and engaged four a four-for-none teamfight win. The death timers were too long for Misfits to have any chance at stopping the defending world champions from advancing to the semifinals.