One of the more surprising news reports to come out of the European LCS last offseason was Misfits’ signing of South Korean jungler Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon.
After making name for himself as a key member of the OGN-Champion KT Rolster Arrows, he left for a big payday in China. There, like many South Korean pros who cross over, KaKAO fell off the map. His move to Misfits was such a shock that KaKAO made our Players to Watch list before the split.
The team seemingly picked him up out of nowhere, and many old KaKAO fans were anxious to see whether he could reclaim his past form. But after just one split of play, it seems like Misfits has seen enough. According to a report from ESPN, the team is buying out KaKAO before the Summer Split starts.
KaKAO showed flashes of greatness throughout the Spring Split, but for the most part, was incredibly inconsistent. Like any veteran League jungler, his Lee Sin play was amazing. From bold invades to clean ganks, Lee continued to be his best and favorite jungler.
The problem was, as the meta shifted to lethality-based junglers and later to carry champions like Graves, KaKAO struggled to adapt. Such is the issue with signing a jungler who was last relevant in 2014.
His struggles came to a head in Misfits’ playoff semifinal loss to Unicorns of Love. It may sound harsh to judge a jungler by a loss to Unicorns, who have been the second-best European team all year. But KaKAO really struggled in that series. He was a liability in their losses and didn’t leave his mark on their lone win in game three.
UOL banned his Lee in all four games and it became apparent through Misfits’ drafts that they had completely lost confidence in him near the end. They basically drafted pushing lanes that could give him access to the opposing jungle and played a solo queue style. It worked for a game, but Unicorns closed out the series easily after that brief hiccup.
KaKAO’s rumored replacement is Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. It’s unclear what they see in Maxlore, other than his ability to play Rengar and Graves. Maybe that’s enough. He’ll get an upgrade in his mid laner to help him control the map, and it’s possible that communication may improve as well. Jungler is the toughest position to incorporate a non-native speaker into given the amount of information that runs through the spot.
It was great to see KaKAO prove that his Lee is still clean, but his champion pool left him behind, and today, so did his team.