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The Griffin awakens: An LCK Cinderella story

Team Griffin Worlds 2019

By the end of the Spring and Summer splits, Griffin had been embarrassed, beaten in the LCK finals by an SK Telecom T1 side who’d already ruined their perfect seasons. Worlds 2019 has seen their resurgence, and now they play for a chance at revenge.

Internal turmoil

It all comes on the heels of a tumultuous number of weeks before the World Championships. Kim “cvMax” Dae, the team’s coach and veteran of the League scene, split with the team just seven days before the start of the tournament.

This was the culmination of a series of behind the scenes issues that had plagued the team. In statements about their former coach, Griffin blasted cvMax as “childish,” criticizing his coaching style and methods, and alleging he’d been spreading false claims about the squad. In a highly public rebuttal, cvMAX explained that he’d had a number of conflicts with Griffin’s management. In effect, he was told in no uncertain terms that he was fired, regardless of the team’s Worlds results, due to missing out on an LCK championship once again.

However, with all this controversy floating around, Griffin surpassed many observer’s expectations in the group stages of Worlds 2019. The team lost only one game – their opener to G2 Esports, before defeating all other opponents on their way to a series group topping 5-1 finish.

Could Griffin’s passive play be their trump card?

Team Griffin Worlds 2019 Group Stage

The way Griffin did this was by playing their signature style. Some analysts and commentators have described this as playing “fast but not aggressive” League of Legends. The team rotates around the map, pushes lanes, and takes objectives decisively and quickly, but doesn’t seem to take many team fights or make aggressive moves as it does so. They rarely tower dive. They rarely take 50/50 engages. 

In a way, calling this “not aggressive” is unfair. Griffin simply doesn’t take chances. The team are masters of the “best case scenario.” When they play, their jungler, Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong, will seemingly shadow the opposing jungler, and always arrives for a 2v2 on time. Similarly, Griffin’s lanes never seem to push out of turn. If Tarzan isn’t near, don’t expect to see Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon shoving out his opponent and aggressing. These things aren’t non-aggressive. It’s just best practice. 

And yet so often, this methodical style is underplayed by analysts. Their play isn’t flashy, so they’re usually not highlighted. In fact, it’s hard to find a single official clip of a Griffin outplay or winning fight. Even in this well-executed four-man dive, the focus is on Luka “Perkz” Perković’s miraculous survival, not Griffin’s clean play. Griffin, by the way, would go on to decisively win this game.

Griffin’s Worlds 2019 Run: A fairytale ending?

With their exacting style and perfect execution, perhaps now is Griffin’s chance for that ideal, picture-perfect result. But for Griffin, the storybook ending has always been just out of reach. They rose from obscurity in the Summer Promotion tournament of 2018, and surged through the regular season, only to narrowly miss out on a Worlds 2018 spot in the first year in LCK. The following year, each time Griffin made a run for the top spot, they were cut down by Faker and SKT.

Griffin have two obstacles on their way to the final. Former world champions Invictus Gaming, and the winner of FunPlus Phoenix and Splyce. And yet it’s hard to imagine a situation where Griffin’s measured and deliberate play-style would lose to any of these teams. Their real challenge comes after, against their rivals SKT. If these two teams meet in the final, it will be Griffin’s chance for retribution. A time to step up and prove that the team deserves a championship after two straight years of heartbreak.

Worlds 2019 continues on Saturday, 24 October, from 12:00 CEST, with Griffin facing off against Invictus Gaming. Catch all the action on Riot Game’s official Twitch channel, and head to the Worlds 2019 website for full brackets and additional information.