Shock, confusion and uncertainty was the taste left in the mouth of the average eSport viewer, upon hearing the plethora of roster moves facing the Korean empire. Have the untouchable finally crumbled, descended from the heavens and joined the common? Lost to China’s streaming exposure, lavish and opulent lifestyle plus, above all, the incomparable pay, Korean expatriates have flooded across the globe. Departing from the prestigious waters of Champions, our favourite figures have sought refuge in new regions. Flame, PawN, Mata, DanDy, Imp and Deft – you name it; the Korean stars have dispersed and found teams and homes elsewhere.
Playing out over the final month of the year, the 2015 Champions Spring Preseason has reinstated some confidence in Eastern supporters. Korea remains a force to be reckoned with. Whilst there was a glimmer of hope for Western teams, hoping the hybridity of language and lack of talent would weigh China and Korea down respectively, there’s an entirely new storm brewing.
The Young Gun
Who would have thought the two greatest ADCs in Korea, united under the Samsung banner, would be replaced so… effortlessly? Lee “Fury” Jin-yong typifies every stigma attached to the ADC role, in relation to their mechanical ability. The fact that he’s secured a spot within Samsung’s relatively untested roster is a pairing fans can only hope for. Young talent? Check. Insane carry potential and play-making? Check. Previously of Optimus Prime, Fury was rarely given the chance to thrive. Coupled with Wraith, an amateur talent with his rookie experience on SK Telecom, Fury has all the tools he needs to shine. And shine he did. Debuting against KT Rolster, Samsung’s soon-to-be prodigy wasn’t all too impressive. Pitted against a more seasoned player in Arrow, he established a sizeable CS lead both games, but ended on relatively mediocre scores. It didn’t take long to rectify his inaction though. Bouncing back the following week, Fury racked up a standout 8-0-5 score as Corki in what seemed flawless and only marks off perfection.
The One-Trick Fish
Hailing from the same squad, the next puzzle piece in Samsung’s make-up is BlisS. Solo Queue talent is always disconcerting for fans and teams alike, knowing the translation isn’t simplistic or binary from Challenger to competitive, but the gamble paid off. Samsung’s coaching staff have, yet again, exhibited their merit and worth in their recruitment of Park “BlisS” Jong-won, or as he was previously known, Bell Park. Bell Park generally finds his way into any conversation concerning Fizz, having become somewhat of an underground legend. With over 900 ranked games on the fish this season, the mid-lane magician saw target ban after target ban in their early Preseason run. That was until SKT thought they had the answer, which ended in a solo kill for BlisS onto Faker, only minutes into the game. While he has his work cut out for him, having to fill some very large shoes with PawN and Dade departing the organisation, but if his mastery on Fizz is any indication of his potential, BlisS will be one of the biggest names of 2015.
Black and White
A pillar of Korean eSports, across gaming titles, has always been Najin e-mFire. These consistent giants have given consummate performances in Champions, from both Sword and Shield. However, time and time again Najin fans let out a heavy sigh when the seemingly successful roster is torn apart and restructured, almost as though it’s an annual, Najin event. With the new tournament format and team requirements, Najin e-mFire seem to have profited from the culling, refining and final selections to create a core squad from two teams. Presumably fielding Duke, watch, Ggoong, Ohq and Cain, Najin have a roster with some solidity and promise. Finishing in an impressive second place with 10 points (three behind leaders SK Telecom on 13), Najin have hopefully weeded out the issues between their two teams and formed one that will return them to some of their former glory. You can be certain they weren’t happy with their shortcomings at the 2014 World Championships and will be aiming even higher heading into the next season.
The Miracle Worker
Regardless of your favourite team; regardless of your favourite player — nearly every enthusiast of the game has considerable respect for this one individual. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok has become a household name. No one can easily forget the elegance of his play and his cerebral presence of mind in Season 3’s finals, but even after his team fell from grace, Faker fulfilled the proverbial “1 vs. 9” somewhat regularly. Back, hungry after their near-miss qualification for the latest World Championship, SKT and Faker have amalgamated their two pockmarked teams and (hopefully) rid themselves of any weak links. Without discrediting any of the other members, SKT simply wouldn’t be the same without their star. With Bengi showing character in his play and flashbacks to his former self, SKT’s play-making solo lanes will be primed for success. Adhering to their strengths, allowing the top half of the map to be proactive and aggressive, their bot lane creates a perfect marriage with their tame, passive nature. Bang and Wolf, formerly of the SKT T1 S roster, have been brought along for the ride, having proven themselves consistent and dependable, they’re a strategic and sound fit to round out the 2015 starting lineup.
Although it is important to understand the nature of the pre-season matches, if these explosive figures aren’t getting you excited for another year of Korean eSports, what will? And while we can only hope for their Western counterparts continue to bridge the gap, some of these players and teams seemed to be delivering textbooks plays and an overall clinic on competitive League of Legends, which is hopefully an indication of the year to come.
Images Courtesy of OnGameNet, Riot Games and Najin e-mFire.
Article by Jish