Before 2014, any Korean League of Legends fan will tell you that CJ Entus is one of the solid and occasionally dominant team in Korea. Once one of the most dominant teams in Korea qualifying final after final in Champions. Come 2014 preseason, many would assume the CJ organization would at least still hold their position as being one of the top or solid teams in Korea, always giving top teams a run for their money and constantly beating average or lower tier teams.
However, as the preseason went on and ended as of today 20th of December, we see CJ Entus ending in terms of standings at the 5th out of the 8 teams, above newly replaced Samsung, Jin Air and the gate keepers Incredible Miracle (IM). Now seeing this we can say ‘they are still in the middle not the best or the lowest’. However, in the context of the whole preseason and their opponents this is not a good sign for CJ. Firstly, lets look at what has happened to the team in the preseason, they are one of the few organizations in Korea that still retained most of their old line up from Season 3. Out of their 10 original players in Frost and Blaze, they held on to 5 of their members with the other 5 other original members leaving to other regions or free agents. On a team wise aspect we can see that they have a lot going for them, they have the synergy that they developed from Season 3 among most of the players, many veterans in the Korean scene and very strong individual players like Shy and Madlife.
Ok great, but what seems to be the problem? Lets examine CJ in the context of the whole league. They lost 0-2 to HUYA tigers, a team that was formed recently with Smeb from IM and many old Najin players like Gorilla, Pray, Lee and Kuro. On paper this team should match evenly in terms of veteran status and individual players with Pray and Gorilla being huge play makers in their time and arguably even now. Since this is a newly formed team we can logically say that ‘They are strong but may lack synergy and the team has yet to gel together.’ This however was not the case as HUYA defeated (Stomped is more accurate) CJ. CJ doesn’t seem to possess their one advantage we talked about coming in to the preseason which is team synergy. This is where we begin to see cracks in their team in terms of their individual players. Ambition can’t seem to perform well in any other jungler besides Kha zix and doing mediocre or even poorly in other junglers. Shy seems to be bottled occasionally with his picks and also misplaying teleports which happened in the HUYA games. Madlife seems to have lost his play making potential as he was missing hooks or was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The team performance as a whole seemed lacking and even disjointed in the games, with miscommunication and uncoordinated team fights which CJ has been so well known for.
‘It is just one game in the whole preseason, we can’t say much about it’ True, however, if one is to watch all of CJ’s preseason games one will see a average performance at the start and slowly see them bank and crash towards the end, the end being 0-2 by HUYA. As mentioned their team’s cracks began to show as the preseason went on and teams have picked on it. This can be seen with HUYA banning 3 junglers against Ambition in the last match. Their communication also can be seen to falter as the preseason went on.
One would think that teams such as SKT and Najin would have these issues as well as they too held on to most of their old players and have a resemblance of team synergy just as CJ did. However, the one factor that they got going for them is that their team’s play makers are still that, play makers. Faker is still Faker, Ggoong seems to still be able to play decently and occasionally do well such as the pre 10 minute unofficial penta kill he had on LeBlanc against Jin Air Green Wings. In short their team seem to still have the coordination and play making abilities, something which CJ severely needs and is not being shown by their players such as Madlife.
Although this is far too small a sample size to judge and say that CJ is declining, fans however would be worried with CJ’s preseason performance. The hope now is that they can find ways around these handicaps. Madlife will be Madlife again, Shy can hard carry like he did with Kayle in their match against KT to even out the series. Perhaps this sign will be a blessing in disguise and a wake up call for CJ to work out their problems before Champions Spring 2015 comes along.