Royal Club rides Uzi into the semifinals at Worlds

The top two teams from China met in a quarterfinal clash at the Riot World Championships in Korea yesterday

Image via Riot Games

The top two teams from China met in a quarterfinal clash at the Riot World Championships in Korea yesterday.

Star Horn Royal Club, lead by their fierce young marksman Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, challenged Edward Gaming, the team that’s won the last two seasons of the LoL Pro League (LPL), China’s top competition.

Last year, Royal Club rode Jian and his support Pak Kan “Tabe” Wong all the way to the World finals. This year, Jian looks even better. The marksman put on an absolutely dazzling display as Royal Club bested their local rivals. He put up a 32/10/54 KDA through the series. But that doesn’t mean it was easy, despite a quick start.

Royal Club came out on fire, jumping to a two game lead by smashing their rivals in two matches that were not particularly close. Edward Gaming looked completely outmatched against Jian and company. Their hallmark, a steady late game focused style different from the traditionally instinctual Chinese play, seemed to be replaced by a mistake-filled mess.

Jian posted a wicked 14/1/6 KDA in the second game using Twitch, the supposed signature champion of his opposing marksman Zhu “NaMei” Jia-Wen.

It looked like Edward Gaming’s tournament was over, a disappointing end to a disappointing Worlds for what was supposed to be China’s best team. Based off their form through the group stage and the first two quarterfinal games, they looked lucky they got into one of the easier groups; they may not have survived a tougher draw.

But Edward Gaming clawed their way back.

The next two games were tilted heavily in their favor. The key difference came in the jungle. After two poor games, including a silly misplay at dragon pit that got Royal Club snowballing in game one, Ming “ClearLove” Kai turned his play around. He shut down his opposing jungler, Choi “inSec” In-seok, allowing his team to build into their late game wheelhouse. Mid laner Ceng “U” Long also turned in two solid performances on Syndra and Orianna, landing a number of key stuns and ultimates to keep Edward Gaming rolling.

After the second loss, the Royal Club team exited the stage to discuss their strategy going into the fifth game. But Jian stayed at his computer, focused inwardly, angirly shaking off managers pleading for him to join his teammates. He didn’t care about their next strategy. He was ready to win the game himself.

And that he did. Edward Gaming took an early lead in large part due to Ceng’s stellar Syndra play, but Jian turned the game on its head after an engagement in the top lane. With Edward Gaming chasing Royal Club, Jian jumped into three player on the enemy team. When the dust settled, his Tristana had three kills and Royal Club had a lead—the lead they needed to win the series.

It was an impressive performance for Jian, one that solidifies his claim on the title of best ADC in the world. No player at worlds has managed to best him in lane. He’s avoided making the kind of catastrophic mistakes some other marksmen have had at this event, despite playing an aggressive and risky play style. That’s because Jian is just that good—he can put himself in a losing situation and usually come out on top.

Edward Gaming’s Zhu was hyped as a contender for best marksman entering the tournament. Zhu has played in the past four LPL finals, winning three of them. Jian has never even managed to reach a final. On paper, Zhu’s team performance makes him the better player. But on the world stage, there’s been no contest. Instead of showing off elite positioning and perfect team fighting skills, Zhu got caught out in multiple games, leading to Edward losses. It was an uncharacteristic and disappointing display. That’s not uncommon on the World stage—last year, Samsung Ozone’s Bae “dade” Eo-jin had a dismal display that saw his team suffer an embarrassing early exit. This year, Bae is the best mid laner in the world, and he’s played like it. Will Zhu recover? That’s a question worth answering, but we won’t get to. At least this year.

The question that will be answered this week is how far can Royal Club ride Jian? He’s making a case to be not just the Most Valuable Player at this tournament, in terms of impact on team success, but also for the best player bar none. As a team Royal Club is getting some solid play up and down the lineup. But they know what they need to do to win, and that’s support ride Jian.

And boy, is it working.

Royal Club will face the winner of Sunday’s match between Najin White Shield and OMG in the semifinals next week. Edward Gaming took home $75,000 for their top eight finish.