A Force of Nature: Altec and Gravity
In an off-season filled with drama, there was one roster move that caused an uproar on social media: Johnny “Altec” Ru replacing David “Cop” Roberson.
After a split filled with turmoil, Altec’s previous team Winterfox ultimately succumbed to newcomers Team Dragon Knights, resulting in their relegation -- this left the star marksman without a home for the coming summer split. So why the uproar? Well, Cop has been touted as ‘consistent’ and hailed as a top marksman in North America over a long period of time.
However, before the addition of Altec to the team can be analysed, the elephant in the room must be discussed -- Winterfox. A lot of people have been dancing around the subject of this organisation, some even exaggerating the negatives. To properly examine the situation, the effects of the organisation must be weighed over the past two splits, starting with the Evil Genuises (EG) team where Altec was first introduced to the League Championship Series (LCS).
The EG brand entering League of Legends was a big deal -- it was understandable then when changes were made after a disappointing initial split. The solutions to their problems? The acquisition of a former OGN Champion in Dong-jin “Helios” Shin to replace Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis, and in the bottom lane, Peter “yellowpete” Wüppen would be replaced with the star marksman for Cloud 9 Tempest, Altec, who had been playing rather well alongside Nicolas “Gleeb” Haddad in the challenger scene. The Canadian born marksman would partner Belgian and long-time support hero Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels in the bottom lane.
Problems for EG started almost instantly, as they failed to field their full roster in the first week of the summer split, with two members missing on the first day (including Altec). After the roster returned to normal, there became the issue of former members that had been replaced living in the house after being removed from the team, even forcing Altec to sleep in unfavourable conditions while bedrooms were occupied by the former teammates.
An unfortunate split saw the team face relegation for the second time, and though they retained their LCS spot, changes needed to be made. Tyson “Innox” Kapler and Krepo left the team as the remaining members went to Korea to boot camp, scouting replacements for their top and support roles as a new image was formed to represent the young team: Winterfox.
It would seem that the best way to describe the events that would occur over the coming split as a League of Legends adaption to the old game ‘musical chairs’, but these were not the only issues of Winterfox. The community quirked their brows at the knowledge that a relatively low ranked (low relative to other professional players) player was being brought in to replace Innox -- the player being Deongyheon “Avalon” Shin, brother to the jungler of Winterfox, Helios. Many cried ‘nepotism’, but the only relevant thing would ultimately be his play, which he would struggle with for the majority of the split.
However, it must be appreciated that the roster never really had a chance to play together in the first instance. Altec was reunited ‘temporarily’ with former C9T support Gleeb for the initial weeks of the split, but even this was not without controversy. Gleeb, who was meant to be playing as a substitute, ended up playing for five weeks before the starting support Hyeonsu “Imagine” Jang (who had limited experience in playing the role) arrived in America. Unfortunately, this was just another debacle as the team ultimately failed to synergise with the player, and returned to using Gleeb after some questionable roster decisions where the coach, Hyun-il “Paragon” Choi, played as marksman and Altec supported.
The entire split for Winterfox was problematic. If the initial line-up was given time to develop after a decent start to the split, they may have made playoffs. In the end, analysts and fans alike can only speculate at what the team could have been.
All this said, what does it mean for the players?
Consider this: during a split that lasted 9 weeks, Winterfox had a different roster in 7 of them. At one point, they even changed their roster 4 weeks in a row, with the majority of the changes coming in the bottom lane.
Words cannot describe the influence this has on the results of the team. It is absolutely massive, and it is daunting that a team can be so mismanaged even with how far the infrastructure has come in the west.
While the team management can be held accountable for poor performances, the players are not immune. Aside from Altec, almost no one in the team stood out in their performances at all -- although this was partly due to Eugene “Pobelter” Park being the main target for most of Winterfox’s opposition.
In fact, statistically, Altec had some very impressive performances despite the distractions and drama surrounding him. If there was any stand out player in the duration of EG/Winterfox, it would certainly be him.
In his rookie split, those performances elevated him to the top echelon of players in North America by the end of the season, seen here:
In the summer split of 2014 while playing on a relatively unstable team, Altec proved himself as a top marksman in North America, being top two or three in many various statistics (of which were from the entire LCS, not only the marksman role) for his debut split, with a game less than other competing marksmen.
While individual champion statistics might not be the most relevant thing in the world, despite all the drama surrounding Winterfox in that awful split, he still managed to garner some impressive results on specific occasions.
One example of this are his outings on Sivir and Graves -- with 4 games on each champion, the cumulative scores were 22 / 6 / 33 and 26 / 5 / 29, respectfully. Ultimately, he ended the split with a KDA of 4.16, which was unfortunately off-set by the two Leona games he played. Had the star marksman played his main role for the entirety of the split, it’s possible he could have had a KDA of over 5, though 4.16 is very impressive considering the circumstances on Winterfox.
The skill of Altec is considerable, much like his impact in his debut season where he could be seen hard carrying a struggling Evil Genuises team to surprising wins. This was due in no small part to his bottom lane partner at the time, Krepo. In terms of eSports personalities, Krepo is larger than life -- this aggressive and knowledgeable player formed a devastating partnership with one of the best up and coming marksmen in the region.
Looking forward, he’ll surely be aiming for the same kind of on-rift performances with Michael “Bunny FuFuu” Kurylo, a player who wields a similar champion pool and playstyle to Krepo. Possibly the biggest similarity between the two supports is their calculated aggression and being known for a scary Thresh, with readers in particular being reminded of Bunny FuFuu’s ridiculous double prediction against Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng last year.
The potential for a successful partnership between Altec and Bunny FuFuu seems high. With the two sporting an aggressive and positive outlook on how to play the game, Gravity’s bottom lane just went from being solid and reliable to fierce and overwhelming,
And so, what does Altec bring to the table? More pointedly, the question everyone is debating is whether Altec is better than Cop, and so there are a few points to make before the topic is discussed.
Firstly, this move is not about player vs. player -- Cop did not want to continue playing, as can be seen here. Secondly, the idea that Cop is leagues above Altec makes no sense. Both players have their strengths and weaknesses, and that will be expanded upon soon. Thirdly, the general analysis of the situation seems to be incorrect, as the consensus regarding both Cop and Altec seems warped -- there are important points that are being left out / underappreciated in the instance of Cop, one of which has already been touched on (he wanted to coach the team).
And as far as Altec goes, it seems the community generally undervalues exactly how atrociously the Winterfox situation was actually handled: here is a stand out performer on a team that has been as poorly managed as Evil Genuises/Winterfox, despite this, two splits in a row the player has stood out. Obviously, this season less so because of all the ridiculous anarchy happening on his team, but particularly, in Evil Genuises the Canadian flourished - writing him off or saying he is worse than Cop because of this single split with Winterfox is silly. Altec deserves a shot on a team that won’t destroy itself.
And finally, the changes are designed for what is best for Gravity. People seem to be desperately undervaluing the development Gravity could make with the acquisitions they’ve made -- their roster is incredibly young and very talented.
Cop vs. Altec - the discussion should not exist. They are two different competitors from essentially two different generations of the game. Cop was known as being reliable for putting up with several different supports over the duration of his career and being solid on basically every team he has played on. While not known to make flashy plays, his positioning was good, and was always relevant through his constant damage output. The downside to Cop is, in essence, his longevity -- it is both a blessing and a curse. While experienced and a very solid marksman, it can be assumed that he has been, after this many seasons, at his peak for some time. In other words, he has reached his skill ceiling.
How then, does this compare to Altec? The Canadian is much flashier and decidedly more aggressive, constantly hunting down multiple kills in his tenure as the marksman for Evil Genuises. Despite this, his positioning is excellent, almost never getting caught out of position or throwing a game himself. Altec essentially takes the reliability that Cop offers and mixes it with his own aggressive style, something which almost dares to hint of similarity to the Chinese superstar, Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao. Complete with the potential to explode with resets and carry his team on playmaking champions. So what then is the downside? Altec’s skill ceiling is undeniably larger than that of Cop, however this change, while positive for the team over a long course of time, will likely suffer immediate drawbacks while they settle in with their new roster.
The fact that Cop is in good spirits and is going to apply his vast knowledge and experience to the team cannot be understated. The atmosphere of Gravity seems fantastic, thanks in no small part to their former marksman turned coach. Having the respect of his players and being a figure of longevity in the scene, this transition with Altec replacing Cop, who would then go on to become coach, is a good move. One would hope that Cop can help nurture Altec into the next superstar product from North America -- they both definitely have the potential.
So, with this in mind, the general consensus is that the marksman position is in safe hands. Attention then turns to the jungle, which has seen the departure of Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco, one of the key figures of the organisation, choosing to move on.
Not just a jungler, Saintvicious brought experience, skill, and a wealth of in-game knowledge to a team he helped build from the ground up. The in-game leader and main shot-caller for Gravity, the veteran is a figure that demands respect both on and off the rift. There are obviously many downsides to the departure of Saintvicious, and his strong voice will be sorely missed by the team. However, his decision to retire presented an opportunity to the organisation to find a young, talented replacement to match his teammates.
Enter: Min-su “Move” Kang, a Korean jungler formerly of AD Gaming (sister team of Edward Gaming) is almost an absolute unknown entity. Looking back, the performances he displayed in China were quietly praised and he has shown impressive mechanical ability on several occasions, however this roster change is difficult to read. On the one hand, there could be language barriers depending on how good his English is. Even so, there is always the option of Lae-Young “Keane” Jang serving as a translator, but Move’s mechanical skill ceiling is an upgrade over Saintvicious and he should already understand basic map movements, etc. This should be a long term upgrade over Saintvicious, although they may struggle for the first few weeks as the team settles. It’s unclear as to whether the shot-calling role will remain with Move in the jungle or not, however the onus is now on the more experienced members of the team to be leaders and guide the team forward.
The winds of change are blowing and for now, they appear to be flowing in Gravity’s favour. With the addition of Altec and Move to the team, already the prospect of seeing a more energetic and explosive Gravity is exciting, especially with Altec’s tendency to come alive after the laning phase. Time will tell, and they might be sluggish at first, but they’ve given themselves the ability to reach far greater heights. The chance to leave a mark on the League Championship Series is well within their grasp.
In due time, Gravity may just pull their competition back down to Earth.
Credit to LoL eSports for the statistics and images.