T1 vs Hanwha Life Esports
Depending on your personal preference, T1 taking on Hanwha Life Esports is either a match-up that is hype beyond belief, or a pretty dull LCK vs. LCK clash that doesn't really move the needle. And, frankly, both takes are fairly valid. On the one hand, we've already seen these two teams clash off in the LCK Regional Finals and, well, there's very little uncertainty in the air which means there's very little hype overall. On the other hand, both teams have grown tremendously since the last time they had fought, so this particular Best of 5 might yield a couple of surprises!
In any case, it is a far more interesting match-up than you'd expect, so definitely make sure to tune in!
This Best of 5 can be distilled down to just a single question: has Hanwha Life grown *enough?* They've evolved quite a bit ever since Worlds began, but T1 are -- without a shadow of a doubt -- the second best team in the LCK, and are rightfully favored in this one. They might not be head and shoulders above HLE, but they were better whenever it mattered, so there's no reason to start doubting them now. The fact that they had dropped just a single game throughout their Group Stage run also tells you all you need to know when it comes to their readiness and current power level. They've also changed in small but hugely important ways. Faker, for instance, is playing in a wholly different way -- and his stats don't reflect the fact. On paper he's underperforming tremendously, but in actuality, he's empowering his team in ways we haven't seen from him before. An absolute legend, is what he is, and the fact that he can still pick up a few new tricks despite playing at the highest of levels for what feels like an eternity is a true testament to his resilience and staggering work ethic.
Hanwha Life, on the other hand, are much better than expected. Their play throughout the second Group Stage round robin has left no one indifferent. Heck, they could've ended up in first place had they drafted a bit more for the late game in their tiebreaker against RNG. Still, a second-place finish in such a tough group speaks volumes about their skill and ability to adapt, and if they bring their "A-game" against T1 today, they'll no doubt stand a chance of making it out. And we really cannot stress that enough: they have a puncher's chance. Their early games are immense, with Willer always generating leads and influencing the map from the very moment he spawns on the Rift. He's not exactly a premier jungler, but he's been doing a ton of work thus far and has definitely turned heads for his better-than-expected play.
That's sort of been HLE's M.O. thus far: you watch them play and go "how are they getting away with this?" They're far more proactive and prone to skirmishing than you'd expect from the fourth-best team from Korea. They fight with the utmost urgency, and it is a virtue that has truly given them an edge throughout the Group Stage.
And, well, they'll need it, too. This particular incarnation of T1 is mighty dangerous and with Faker at the helm, they're arguably as capable as ever. He's a veteran through and through, and with young studs like Oner and Gumayusi by his side, T1 will no doubt look to make a statement today and advance further into the semifinals.
This is also a most interesting clash of styles. T1 have an exceptional read on the meta and have very pronounced strengths, all of which can easily be harnessed through today's most powerful picks. HLE, on the other hand, prefer to go the opposite route, with short-range skirmish-heavy team comps without any late game insurance. They *have* to dictate the pace early on a build a big enough lead or else they tend to fall behind and eventually lose the game. It's all so mighty interesting, but we simply have to give the edge to T1, even though we'd be remiss if we didn't say that HLE have a very respectable shot as well.