Who: Samsung Galaxy (South Korea, 8-1) vs. H2k (Europe, 8-2)
When: Saturday, Oct. 22 at 6:00 PM Eastern/3:00 PM Pacific
Where: Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York
What's at stake
Friday's prime time meeting between the ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1 is a culmination of a two-year rivalry between the two best teams in the world during that timeframe, and only one will make it to Los Angeles for the Summoner's Cup Finals. It is arguably the biggest match in Worlds' history, and that's saying a lot for a match not even taking place in the final.
Saturday's semifinal in comparison is a matchup between two teams that have been facing internal obstacles over the past two years to make it to this point.
Samsung Galaxy, the organization that won the 2014 Summoner's Cup Final with Samsung White, was looked at as a cheap club after letting all of its roster's players move to China for bigger contracts in the wake of the World Championship. Two years (and a laundry list of roster movements) later, and Samsung has made it back to the final four of the biggest tournament in League of Legends.
SSG took its own way back to the top. Instead of investing a million dollars by picking the shiniest names in free agency, it doggedly chiseled on a slab of stone before ultimately finding the right pieces to craft a roster from. It wasn't easy, and at times it felt like the rebuild would lead to nothing but mere middling status, but Samsung pulled through with key acquisitions and rookie signings when needed. The signing of veteran Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong was huge for an inexperienced roster, and the position switch of Jo "Core JJ" Yong-in from AD carry to support was the last change to finally get the team over the hump from an above-average team to an elite one.
Europe's H2k was seemingly in turmoil less than three weeks ago. It started the tournament with an 0-2 record, and it needed a win against wildcard INTZ from Brazil to keep its bracket stage hopes alive going into the second week.
"I would prefer to go out as first seed but that doesn't seem to be very likely because our team is very inconsistent, although we're all really good players and actually a really good team," said the team's ace AD carry Konstantinos-Napoleon "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou to ESPN following his team's first week performance
Since then, H2k has found itself as a team and is on the roll of a lifetime, reeling off seven straight wins to top its group in the first round and blow out the other wildcard team, CIS' Albus Nox Luna, in a one-sided quarterfinal sweep. With the semifinals now in front of it, all bets are off. H2k doesn't need to be the most consistent team in the world, but if it can put together two stellar performances in a row, the European second seed might very well end up in Los Angeles pushing either ROX or SKT to the brink.
Matchup to Watch: Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk and Jo "Core JJ" Yong-in (SSG) vs. Konstantinos-Napoleon "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou and Oskar "Vander" Bogdan (H2k)
Ruler is in the rare position of being a complete rookie, only having begun his pro career in the summer of this year, and suddenly being on the verge of making the Summoner's Cup Finals. His bottom lane partner, Core JJ, while not an inexperienced player, can also be considered a rookie when it comes to the role of playing support, as he switched from AD carry to that position in large part due to Ruler's signing to the team. Weirdly enough, the bottom lane has been a strength of the team throughout the tournament, and the odd pairing of pro-gaming rookie and position-swapper has only resulted in wins for Samsung.
Core has played seven games this tournament, and he's perfect, winning in every single one.
For H2k's bottom lane, this could be Europe's best chance at making its first Summoner's Cup Final since Fnatic and Against All Authority did it back at the inaugural Worlds in 2011. FORG1VEN has had one of the best tournaments of any player at the competition, and he'll be a frontrunner for the MVP award if H2k can slip past the South Korean favorite in the semifinal.