T1 got their LCK 2021 campaign off to a solid start with a 2-1 victory over a new-look Hanwha Life Esports. The young squad — all featuring players born in 2000 or later — trumped the experience of HLE, and they’re looking to keep drinking from the fountain of youth as the season goes on.
LCK Spring 2021’s opening day was marked with a chance to truly see what the new era of Korean League of Legends has in store. However, ultimately
In the day’s first match, an unchanged Gen.G managed to take down KT Rolster in a convincing 2-0 series, with veterans Kim “Rascal” Kwang-hee and Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk putting on a master class against the young KT squad.
However, the tides were turned in T1 vs Hanwha Life. Off the back of a huge off-season roster shuffle, and a decent showing at the KeSPA Cup, Hanwha Life were expected to put up a solid fight against T1.
It even looked that way, at least on paper, when T1 benched Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok for the entire series, bringing up young guns like Lee “Clozer” Ju-hyeon and Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong.
Then, the two teams booted up onto Summoner’s Rift, and there was a cataclysmic difference. T1 almost pulled off a perfect game in Game 1, holding Hanwha Life kill-less, tower-less, and with only two dragons to their name. Choi “Ellim” El-lim’s Olaf build with Ghost and Ionian Boots of Lucidity took the game by storm, terrorizing the backlines of HLE.
Hanwha did manage to regroup in Game 2 though. Oh “Vsta” Hyo-seong’s Rell and Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon’s Orianna paired up perfectly to catch everyone on T1 off-guard.
While Gumayusi mounted a strong defense, his 7/2/0 performance on Jhin wasn’t enough to stop the onslaught, especially considering his adversary in Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu went 8/1/3 on Kai’Sa.
Game 3 ended up being what most people expected from the series — a close, scrappy fight. Gumayusi was once the star of the show on Samira, posting a huge 12/2/7 scoreline and an unofficial pentakill, but it was Clozer’s signature Irelia that ended up getting the POG votes.
After solo killing Chovy in a flashy play, he helped snowball the leads across the map, partnering with Ellim’s Taliyah to pick apart Hanwha Life at key objectives and start off the year with a win.
“[This win] is really important — I was a little bit nervous because it was the first match of the season. It was hard, but I’m happy we overcame it,” Clozer said in the post-game interview.
The young line-up T1 fielded turned heads. Without their veterans in Teddy and Faker, the young squad could have easily lost their head after Game 2. However, they kept their cool — and there wasn’t even really any pressure on the likes of Ellim the ‘older brother’.
“With this squad, I’m the oldest member. I think, I guess, I’m old now. [There’s not much pressure]. Nothing much actually. These teammates don’t really treat me as an older person, so we’re just hanging out like friends,” he said.
Clozer getting his power pick in Irelia certainly helped T1 stabilize. The 17-year-old pushed for what he knew was strong, and he certainly showed off why.
“[Zefa, T1’s head coach] told us to stay mentally strong and he let me play the champion I’m most confident in [Irelia], so he helped me out a lot with my confidence,” Clozer said.
Now, with reigning World Champions DAMWON KIA on the horizon, the stakes are even higher for T1. However, they’re going to tap into the fountain of youth once again and show that the rising stars are here to stay on T1’s starting lineup.
“DAMWON are indeed a strong team, but I want to show people what we’ve got. We want to give our best shot,” Ellim said.
“I always thought Showmaker was a great player, but in the next match, I’ll show him the power of youth,” Clozer added.
T1 will face off against DAMWON on Friday, January 15.