NRG Take My… Energy? – An Article on North America’s New Powerhouse.
On Monday 16th November, it was announced that NA LCS side Team Coast had (as rumored for weeks) been bought out by a new organization looking to build a completely new team, a team worthy of not only competing domestically, but internationally. This new team is “NRG”, a pseudo-acronym for the word energy.
“Our name comes from the idea of the "energy" the results from the fighting spirits of all of our players united on stage. We hope that the significance behind our name will inspire our entire staff and lead to great results in the upcoming split.” – NRG eSports official announcement
OWNER: Gerard Kelly
OWNER: Andrew Miller
One question that most people had was “who is even on the roster”, would NRG field Team Coast’s roster? Would they make a few roster swaps? Or would they overall the roster completely? NRG went for the latter. NRG made a roster swap in four out of five positions, deciding to only keep up and coming American-Korean support Koo “KonKwon” Hyuk Kwon. The roster is as follows:
TOP LANE: Jung “Impact” Eon-Yeong
JUNGLE: Galen “Moon” Holgate
MID LANE: Lee “GBM” Chang-seok
AD CARRY: Johnny “Altec” Ru
SUPPORT: Koo “KonKwon” Hyuk Kwon
Not only have NRG managed to acquire an immensely talented roster, but they’ve also managed to pick up what is in my opinion one of the best western coaching staffs:
GENERAL MANAGER: “History Teacher” – Former Head Coach for Team8
HEAD COACH: “Charlie” - Former Analyst/Head Coach for Cloud 9/Cloud 9 Tempest
STRATEGIC COACH: “Hermit” Former Analyst/Head Coach for Origen
HEAD ANALYST: “Empyre” – Writer/Former Analyst for Origen
ANALYST: “Baby Zeus” – Former NACS Mid Laner
ANALYST: “Archon” – Former Origen Analyst
In this article I’ll be going over the players on this roster, the coaching staff, realistic expectations/predictions and the slight controversy over the team’s forming.
IMPACT. It makes sense to start in the top lane, and what better player to introduce first than one who needs no introduction. Impact was the top laner for Korean team SK Telecom T1/SKT from February 2013 to December 2014. Impact won the world championship with the team in 2013, and made a name for himself as the stable top laner who could go even/win against any top laner in the world as the rest of his team secured advantages in their lanes. This isn’t to say Impact isn’t a carry though, he stepped up for SKT on numerous occasions on his trademark Jax and Renekton. Impact is another product of the mysterious and possibly magical feeder organisation: Xenics, where he played support mostly (Xenics are a team famous for producing world class talent such as Impact, CoCo and Ohq amongst other famous names). After the season 4 world championships Riot/Kespa announced the single team rule, forbidding organisations from having more than one team, meaning all of the Korean organisations who had two teams, had to go down to one team. This left Impact in a rather awkward position, as it meant he would possibly have to share game time with sister-teammate Jang “Marin” Gyeong-Hwan. Impact was never dropped from the new SKT team, but unhappy with having to share game time, he went overseas with friend and almost SKT teammate Lee “Rush” Yoonjae (note: Rush never officially signed for SKT, but was an in-house practise partner/try-out jungler). Impact joined newly rebranded Team Impulse (former LMQ) and instantly showed North America why he was a world champion, proving that he was still a top calibre player, cable of destroying any NA top laner. Impact is an amazing pick up for NRG as he can play almost any style (carry/utility/tank), he has a plethora of experience and his Korean ethnicity will no doubt help mid-laner GankedByMom as he makes his transition from Korea to America.
MOON. North American rookie jungler has recently been making a name for himself by performing strongly for NA Challenger Series side Team Imagine. Team Imagine lost in the promotion tournament against Team 8, but not before Moon catching the attention of many team owners. It was rumored during the off-season that Moon would be joining NA LCS side Team Liquid as veteran jungler Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera had nothing but praise for Moon, allegedly reaching out to him to become an understudy as Dominate potentially moved out from a starting position. Moon has spent most of the summer/autumn in Korea boot camping like many North American pro players chose to do. Moon however, spent a lot of his time in Korea playing/practising with coach Nick "LastShadow" De Cesare, ex-coach of Team Gravity and Supa Hot Crew. LS is an individual known for his high level of one-to-one coaching, a few months of Korean SoloQ and LS coaching could lead to Moon developing as a top North American jungler in the following split. Moon is definitely one of the question marks on this roster, but if he continues to develop and work alongside NRG’s coaching staff, he could very well become a top tier jungler.
GANKED BY MOM/GBM. GankedByMom aka GBM is to date arguably the biggest ‘East to West’ import. Most (not all) Korean’s who left the LCK/Korea to join NA/EU teams were players who were either unproven rookies or washed up veterans, with all the elite Korean players staying in the LCK or going to China’s LPL. This isn’t the case for GBM, as he is as we speak in his prime, he’s been a professional player since 2013, but it’s only been in the last two splits where he’s shown the world that he’s a player that deserves respect. Joining CJ Entus Frost in 2013, GBM was a shaky youngster known for his almost unparalleled Orianna mastery. For every game GBM won for CJ Frost, he lost them just as many, the most famous of these being the “GBM vs Wall” situation in which GBM’s Zed failed to dash over the baron pit wall, allowing Samsung Ozone’s Choi “DanDy” In-kyu to come steal baron from CJ. In 2014 GBM joined the Jin Air Green Wings Falcons but the team had a VERY poor record so after two splits the Orianna Master looked to join a foreign team. It was this point in his career where everything changed for GBM, with the Jin Air Falcons and Stealths combining to one team due to the one team rule and Stealth’s mid laner Fly going to China, GBM had a chance to prove himself once again. With the new Jin Air squad, GBM showed that a lot had changed in his play since the last time people had seen him, picking up new champions and developing his safe conservative style in to one of a late game team fighting carry. In the spring split when poke champions were strongest in the mid lane, GBM looked untouchable on the likes of Xerath and Ezreal, proving to the world that he was a top 3 mid in Korea. It was announced on the official Jin Air Green Wings social media accounts that GBM had left the team for a North American LCS side on November 6th. Since then it’s been a waiting game to see which NA team picked up the eccentric and bubbly mid laner, with NRG clearly being the lucky team that did. GBM’s play aside, he’s often regarded as being one of the funniest pro players around, something clear to your average viewer that tunes in to see GBM sat with the biggest smile on his face, wearing his trademark bow-tie (he’s a huge Dr. Who fan). Plenty of people were debating over twitter/reddit the level of which GBM spoke English, since then LCK caster PapaSmithy has come out and said on his twitter that GBM does not have the best English, but “but he has right personality and attitude to learn fast.” A big relief to fans who were worrying about possible communication issues within the team. I’m sure in no time that GBM will acquire a huge fan base in the west with his bubbly personality, much like KR-> EU import; Fnatic’s Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo.
ALTEC. I could honestly spend hours writing about this player. Having caught my eye playing for NACS side Cloud 9 Tempest back in 2014 spring split, since then I’ve always been a massive fan of his play so I’ll try my best to control my inner fan boy (I can’t help it, I have a weird love for good players on bad teams, I think I have a problem) and be impartial with my biography/analysis of Altec in this segment. Although Altec is only 18 years old, he’s been around the scene for a very long time, playing with Curse Academy and The Walking Zed (later rebranded to Cloud 9 Tempest). He spent a brief stint as a Team SoloMid substitute but never played for them. On the C9T squad Altec was without a doubt their best performing member, something that wasn’t lost on other teams as he was picked up by the very team he lost to in the relegation tournament; Evil Geniuses. Unfortunately for Altec, management and player issues within Evil Geniuses led to poor performances by the team. EG ended up in the relegation tournament again, beating Team Coast 3-0. Due to the newly instated one team rule, Evil Geniuses were forced to be sold/rebranded, and the team was from then on known as Winterfox.
WFX replaced their top laner and support with two Korean players to make a predominantly Korean team with the only two non-Korean players being Eugene “Pobelter” Park who is of Korean ethnicity and as such can speak the language, and Altec, the only non-Korean speaking player on the roster (until visa issues required them to use NA support Nicolas “Gleeb” Haddad). Visa and subsequent communication issues led to the team performing poorly and end up in the relegation tournament again. With the team Altec was on ending up in relegations twice in a row, an uninformed person who doesn’t watch any of the LCS could safely assume that Altec probably isn’t that good. They would be wrong. Even with the team performing horribly at times and all the management issues surrounding the organization, Altec managed to cement his position as one of North America’s elite players. Player rankings are near impossible to do and are completely subjective but out of everybody I’ve ever spoken about NA ADC’s with, Altec is at worse ranked 3rd but is mostly placed as 1st or 2nd. Altec then moved to newly re-branded Team Gravity (former Curse Academy) at first the team looked like contenders for the top spot of NA, spending many weeks at first/second in the standings. Meta shifts and adaptations in strategy however allowed teams to expose the fact that Altec was the only real damage threat of the team. Gravity subsequently finished fifth and did not qualify for the world championships. I think NRG actually put it best in their announcement of Altec’s signing;
“He has spent his career held back. He has been the center of multiple rosters, rosters unable to match his pace. He has spent 2015 as the sole damage threat on both Gravity and Winterfox. He has never before been able to share the burden of carrying.”
I was pretty hyped for NRG before they announced Altec. I literally can’t contain my excitement now that they have announced Altec as their starting ADC. Altec is a player that can play almost any ADC/ADC style, whether that be a lane bully like Lucian, or a late game hyper carry like Twitch. Altec is somebody who you can rely on to win you games and with the players surrounding him on NRG, I believe he will finally be able to reach his full potential.
KONKWON. KonKwon has been mulling around the challenger scene as one of the better NACS supports for just under a year, going from Team Dragon Knights to Final Five then eventually to Team Coast as part of a swap deal between Coast and Final Five as the former had almost guaranteed relegation from the NA LCS and looked to try get back in the very next split by moving some of its players to an NACS team just before the split ended. As a result KonKwon got to play a few games in the NA LCS, whilst he lost all games it was in no way a reflection of his skill. KonKwon is the only Coast player to remain on the roster after NRG purchased the spot/team/organization/whatever it was they actually purchased. KonKwon is mostly known for his disengage/peel based play style, something that will fit perfectly with ADC Altec. KonKwon was born in Korea but is an NA citizen and has lived in America for most of his life. It’s assumed that KonKwon will be helping with translations for Impact and GBM, both players speak English but not at a conversational level, so KonKwon will help them with adapting to America/speaking English.
To top of the star-studded roster NRG has built, they also have some of the best minds from the LoL scene on their coaching staff.
HistoryTeacher – HistoryTeacher was a high elo… you guessed it; History Teacher. He went on to coach Team8. HistoryTeacher will be the Manager for the team.
Charlie – Charlie was the analyst for Cloud 9 back when most teams didn’t have coaches, and was known for his great collaborative pick ban with support Daerek “LemonNation” Hart, he received a lot of criticism after moving up from analyst to head coach, but it’s hard to blame Cloud 9’s issues on his coaching, as the team had just been through a large roster swap replacing shot-caller and captain Hai “Hai” Lam. Charlie is no doubt looking to prove the non-believers wrong and show the western LoL audience that he is a high caliber coach.
Hermit – Hermit was one of the most hyped coaching free agents coming in to the next split as he was the lead analyst for Origen in the summer split, and was then their head coach during the world championships where the team secured a top 4 finish within their first year of formation, something I’m sure Hermit would love to achieve with NRG.
NRG has three confirmed analysts; Empyre, BabyZeus and Archon.
Team Identity - I think the scariest part of this team is their potential identity as a team. In all three carry positions they have incredibly versatile players, allowing for NRG to run any kind of style they want. One game they could show a large amount of mid priority and give GBM all of the resources to allow him to carry, the next game they could do protect the AD carry and do just as well. If I had to hazard a guess now, I would say the team plans on playing around Altec with ADC-centric compositions. Season Six is looking to be centered around marksmen, so it would make sense for NRG to just put GBM on a safe-scaling control mage, Impact on a tank/bruiser and Altec on a hyper-carry like Jinx and watch the wins come pouring in. NRG has never played a game, but if I had to hypothetically compare the team's "style" (they don't even have a style yet but still, humour me) to another team, I would compare them to EU titans Origen; a safe farm heavy mid laner, dependable versatile top laner and a young prodigious AD Carry. It probably helps that NRG's coaching staff is made up of three ex-Origen staff members. Obviously this is all hypothetical as the meta could shift before the split starts and NRG have never even played a game.
There was some controversy following the announcement of NRG as many LCS viewers were under the impression that a team just promoted from the challenger series could not replace more than two members of the squad that played for them in the promotion tournament. However, it appears that NRG has found a way around this rule as they are technically were not a team just promoted from the challenger series, they are a new team that purchased the spot of Team Coast. This led to a small amount of backlash from the community who are confused/upset by the rule/breaking of the rule, but the large majority are still more excited for NRG and are looking forward to cheering for them in the upcoming split.
Realistically the team should be looking for a top four finish in the spring split as they adapt to the league and playing together. With a roster/coaching staff as talented as they have, a top two finish in summer should be easy work.
I hope you enjoyed the article, I probably rambled on a bit too long at points so thank you for reading this far, if you enjoyed it please feel free to share it with your friends! If I have made any errors or you disagree with anything I’ve said please feel free to message me on twitter @jakeduggan_
picture sources: nrg.gg, lolesports.com, azubu.tv
sources: nrg.gg, lolesports.com, thescoresports.com