Coming off three consecutive major tournament wins, SK Telecom T1 K are easily one of the most important teams in the world at present. Yet, the team's stock has gone down since the temporary benching of support PoohManDu, and T1 K have never quite regained their championship form. Months of trauma culminated in their elimination from Champions Spring 2014 at the hands of rivals Samsung Ozone, but a championship team does not go down easily.
A top laner held in the same regard as CJ Entus Blaze's Flame, Impact makes his return to international play in a highly volatile top lane metagame. Although his adaptation to recent patches has been lackluster, Impact has a strong foundation in strong split-pushing champions such as Jax and Shyvana.
Impact's greatest strength is his incredible presence of mind in team-fights, as well as his selfless decision making. With more supportive picks being integrated into his champion pool (such as Lulu), spectators should expect to see many early rotations out of lane from Impact, as well as confident use of Teleport.
While Bengi's name has always been in the conversation for Korea's best jungler, his recent performance has seen him fall behind compared to others such as KaKAO and DanDy. Like Impact, Bengi's contribution to his team seems to be heavily influenced by his choice of champions, most notably Nunu and Lee Sin, making him a patch-reliant player much like his teammate Impact.
Bengi's tactical, control-oriented play has seen him dominate the vision war and snowball his lanes in the past, but T1 K's jungler now faces a new challenge in a metagame filled with carry junglers. Yet, Bengi still commands great respect during Champion Select, with his Lee Sin being banned often. All-Stars will be an opportunity for Bengi to show how well he has adapted to the changes in the jungle.
The biggest name on SK Telecom T1 K since the team's creation, 17-year-old Faker is undeniably the world's best mid lane player, and remains so even through his team's struggles. Much debate exists as to what makes Faker such an incredible force, but for T1 K, Faker's ability to play every champion at its highest level is what makes him an invaluable resource.
However, to sing solely of Faker's praises would be an erroneous assessment of his ability. Faker's unhinged, formless playstyle has caused a loss on more than one occasion, and while his competition at All-Stars may not be of the highest caliber, Faker must restrain his ego in order to achieve a clean victory.
Along with Faker, Piglet has been one of the forces carrying SK Telecom T1 K through their rough patches. This is almost certainly due to his incredible desire to play a perfect game, as evidenced in an interview after Champions Winter 2013-14, where he tearfully bemoaned his poor play after sweeping Samsung Ozone in three straight games.
Piglet is a unique AD carry in Korea, in that he is one of the few remaining players willing to split push on a marksman. With a devastating Vayne pick in his pocket, teams should be careful when drafting compositions, that they do not allow Piglet to pick a strong late-game carry and farm empty lanes. To his competitors' advantage, Piglet is an emotional player, and may become a liability if sufficiently held back.
Returning from a leave of absence spurred by his deteriorating health, PoohManDu has begun the slow road to recovery, both physically and competitively. Once renowned for his impeccable vision control and superb mechanical ability, PoohManDu will find comfort in his lane partner Piglet, who has steadily improved in his absence. So far, PoohManDu's performance has been mixed, with his greatest strength being his ability to initiate fights, and his greatest weakness being relative short-sightedness in engagements.
At times, PoohManDu's replacement Casper seemed as if he would succeed his predecessor with his incredible mechanical ability, but it is difficult to deny Casper's part in many of SK Telecom T1 K's losses. It remains to be seen if Casper will play his first international games in Paris, but it's possible given coach kkOma's desire to develop all eleven of his players.
Spectators should pay special attention to SK Telecom T1 K's controlled, sharp decision making, especially in their snappy mid-game rotations. Even in defeat, T1 K has been a calm, decisive team, and this will be their foundation when playing in unfamiliar territory. For their opponents, the best opportunity for victory will be their unstable early game, especially from Bengi and PoohManDu. Though far from an easy task, disruption of T1 K's vision game will open doors for global objectives and possibly victory, as seen in their recent narrow victory against Prime Optimus.
Despite their recent weaker play, T1 K is still one of the best teams in the world's most competitive region, making a first place finish a perfectly reasonable prediction. For all spectators, a chance to see the incumbent world champions on the world stage once more will be an absolute treat.
For more information on the 2014 All-Star Event head to lolesports.com.