The most recent League of Legends season witnessed a turning point in the game's history as it ultimately ended with Korea's demise on the international stage for the first time in five years. After a tough year, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok will remain on SK Telecom T1, where he has a chance to retake the world title for his home country -- and SKT, the only team he's ever known -- in the upcoming season.

​​With Faker's contract approaching its end this month, a number of fans speculated the Korean player would retire or even possibly leave his home country for another region following Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s departure from Cloud9. Even the Chinese region looked like a potential home for the mechanically-gifted mid laner after the performances of teams like Royal Never Give Up and Invictus Gaming throughout the year.


As the most competitive regions, Korea has long since been regarded as the Olympus of the competitive League of Legends scene. A large number of players have emerged from the region as some of the most talented in the world. Time and time again, Korea out-performed others from around the globe, demonstrating the high performance level of the region.


This year was much different. Teams adopted their own play styles in a unique meta and took advantage of the recent changes in the game to make a name for themselves. Korea’s final hopes in worlds fell to the likes of Invictus Gaming and Cloud9, and the region failed to make it to the semifinals for the first time in League of Legends history.


Even the former world champions SKT experienced difficulty in maintaining its position of strength within the region. Faker became the face of SK Telecom T1 after he joined the organization in 2013 and has been a part of the team in each of their victories at the World Championship over the years. Season 8 introduced a newfound challenge in the team’s legacy, as it struggled throughout the regular season and eventually reached an all-time low for the organization when it found itself at seventh place in the region’s standings.


The team failed to make it to the World Championship as a result. Even before that, the three-time World Champion fell to Samsung Galaxy in 2017, where the vivid image of Faker shedding tears on stage became etched into fans’ memories.

​​SKT will now rebuild its roster during the off-season, after the majority of its players including departing from the team, and will look for its shot at the world title in 2019. Faker's dominance comes from his carry potential without relying to heavily on the rest of his team, so the organization has flexibility in who it can bring it to complement the mid laner. With the right roster, the team can unlock the mid laner's potential and allow him to return to his former glory.


China’s usurpation of Korea's throne should have come as a wake-up call for the region. With Faker remaining in the region to play for SK Telecom T1 next year, the mid laner should be able to find the motivation to help both his team and his home region return to their legacies once more.


Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games