In the words of of Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho, the coach of Griffin:
"We are the condensed essence of the well of knowledge that is the LCK."
Such was the description of his team. Currently on a 6-game win streak, Griffin is elevated above its peers in League Champions Korea. Even the promised kings of SK Telecom T1 provided little challenge when Griffin dominated the "super team" in both games of the series.
The true strength of Griffin lies not in its individuals, but in the team's collective power to weave individual talents together into a cohesive game plan. The squad's ability to intelligently work towards win conditions, yet switch into explosive aggression at any given moment, has drawn comparisons to 2015 SK Telecom T1, which set a standard for other LCK teams for years to come. Griffin represents a similar evolution of that playstyle.
"We are aggressive, yet sophisticated in our aggression," said cvMax as he described the playstyle of Griffin. "The way that Griffin initiates fights is inherently different from other 'aggressive' teams. Hanwha Life Esports, for example, has a playstyle similar to the LPL. Aggressive, pro-skirmish. Yet, Griffin is nothing like the LPL teams.
"LPL's aggression comes from the hot-blooded proactiveness, while Griffin's aggression comes from calculative cool-headedness. We are very rational in the way we orchestrate and execute the game plan."
While various facets of Griffin's team play can be praised, from Lee "Tarzan" Seung-yong's intelligent jungle pathing to the team's proactive skirmishes, Griffin's playstyle is most distinguished by the ability to win impossible teamfights. In a game against Hanwha Life Esports, Griffin came back from a 7.6 thousand gold deficit by winning a series of unfavored teamfights.
Choi "Sword" Sung-won credited the trust between the players as a fundamental factor in these uphill battles.
"When someone shotcalls and other players doubt it, it might create noise in the teamfight," Sword said. "However, when someone shotcalls among us, we go, let's go, let's go, let's go. The trust between the players is so huge, the teamfights just go according to the plan."
cvMax agreed that trust between the players is a crucial factor in Griffin's teamwork. "It directly leads to [a good performance]," he said. "You require a trust that goes beyond trust, a cultish blind faith [for one another]. However, the players are not idiots. There must be grounds for such a trust to blossom. I'm the person that provides this ground. So that in the end, the five become a single being. When the players trust one another, you cannot help but have a good performance. It's something that I must facilitate."
As Griffin continues to dominate the other South Korean teams, it seems likely that they will march through the spring split unchallenged. The gap of performance between Griffin and the rest of the teams, however, raises a question: Is Griffin truly a tier above, or is this merely a sign that South Korea as a league has declined?
"Griffin has gone through a period of trials and errors during 2018," said cvMax. "We experienced a variety of strategies and players [in the LCK], maturing as a team. We took the best parts and became an essence of these experiences."
The lingering question will not be answered until the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational, where Griffin, yet to compete in an international stage, will likely qualify for and finally be tested against teams from other leagues. cvMax already thinks that Griffin's performance will be a net positive for South Korea, calling back to the glory days of South Korea's past while asking for other LCK teams to look more towards the future.
"Griffin has upgraded to the next version of the LCK and will continue to play games of this level. Now, it's up to other LCK teams to see [Griffin], decide whether they like what they see, and if so, copy us. Everyone's performance will eventually be elevated to the next level, everyone will become 'Griffin.' Then, as a league, we can unlock the next stage of growth ... The competitive strength of the LCK as a whole will take a leap further. Success in the international stage will inevitably follow."
cvMax hopes that Griffin will become an inspiration for the rest of South Korea to follow its suit - heralding, once again, the golden age of South Korean League of Legends.
"We are not an LPL-style team." cvMax said. "We are the next generation of what an LCK-style team is."