Pobelter - A Wake-Up Call
Four years ago, fifteen-year-old Eugene "Pobelter" Park played for Curse in the 2011 Newegg Summer Wanfest tournament. Curse beat TSM twice en route to winning the event, earning $2000 in the process.
Pobelter was considered a prodigious talent at this point in time, dominating solo-queue and tournament matches alike, despite being the same age that Justin Bieber was when he released his controversially popular single 'Baby.' On a team that boasted names such as Doublelift and Nyjacky, Pobelter was seen as a talent that would most probably develop into a legend of the North American competitive scene.
Four years on, his team - Winterfox - has just been relegated from the NA LCS. While he has continued to dominate the NA solo queue ladder, he has failed to translate this into meaningful performances in competitive play. There has not been a split since he made his debut in the LCS that his team has not finished in the bottom three.
Previously, his team always re-qualified for the LCS, and his inability to step up and carry the team in the regular split was met with the belief that he would finally step up and lead his team to better things in the following split. However, this split he finally found himself on the losing side of a promotion tournament series.
It would be unfair to place all blame at Pobelter's feet. EG/Winterfox has had players who were past their primes (such as Snoopeh and YellowPete), as well as players that could not consistently compete at an LCS level (such as Innox and Avalon). Additionally, there were practice issues at the beginning of his time at EG due to him still attending college while he was playing for the team.
However, despite all of the problems that the team has had, Pobelter has failed to step up on an individual level, too. He has unquestionable talent, which has seen him finish in the top two of the NA solo queue ladder in every season it has existed. He also reached the top of the Korean ladder during the boot camp the Winterfox team underwent ahead of Season 5. However, he did not look to be anything more than an average mid laner during his time in the NA LCS. While part of this may be due to the team often playing from behind, he has not stood out even within the context of weak EG/Winterfox outfits.
Luckily for him, his talent and reputation mean that this should not be the end of the road for his professional prospects. There are multiple paths that, due to particular situations in the NA professional scene, he may be allowed to take. These include:
Perhaps the obvious option to many, Cloud 9 have just lost their mid laner, Hai. While reports originally claimed that Cloud 9 are choosing between Incarnation and Yusui, Winterfox's surprise relegation may have thrown a spanner in the works. Now potentially looking for a new team, Pobelter provides the option of a player who has significant experience at a competitive level. While some may argue that a gamble on the favourite to replace Hai, Incarnation, could pay dividends due to the Dane's legendary mechanics, Pobelter appears to be a much better fit into the team-centric outfit. Pobelter's laid-back personality would appear likely to mesh well with the likes of Meteos and Sneaky, whereas Incarnation has a history tainted by accusations of (among other things) toxicity. While Incarnation appears to have cleaned up his act, and while Yusui has developed a reputation for being incredibly talented, Cloud 9 seem to be the sort of outfit that value experience and friendship over unproven enigmas.
Counter Logic Gaming
CLG fans, along with NA viewers in general, have been calling for mid laner Link's head for months (if not years). After another disappointing split for CLG, in which the team placed in the bottom half of the table, now may finally be the end of the road for Link. If Link is to be released from the starting roster, Pobelter seems to be the logical choice as his replacement. After foreign, risky investments such as Seraph and Dexter ended poorly, CLG owner HotShotGG appears to have prioritized experienced NA players over wunderkids. After signing familiar NA faces ZionSpartan and Xmithie at the beginning of the past split, signing Pobelter would continue this trend, and it would also provide the opportunity for countless 'potential' jokes about CLG.
Back to the Challenger Scene
While Pobelter's talent is unquestionable, he has failed to convert it into meaningful results. It may be wise for him to take a break from the limelight, and instead attempt to improve his competitive play in the Challenger series. He could look to form part of a super-team, with the likes of Nien, Nintendude, Impaler and Sheep all being talented players looking for a way back into the LCS. Alternatively, he could stay with Winterfox and attempt to claw his way back into the LCS with the team. There are talented players such as Altec and Helios on the roster who would be expected to dominate the NA Challenger scene, so if the team was to be moulded around the two of them and Pobelter, a place in the next promotion tournament would be likely.
Relegation may be a blessing in disguise for the teenager. He is still fairly young by LCS standards, and there appear to be many potential paths in front of him that would provide better opportunities than those he has had while struggling with Winterfox in the bottom of the LCS standings. However, he has reached a point where he can no longer seek refuge under the excuse that he has 'potential.' If he does not step up in the upcoming months, he may find himself forever remembered as a solo queue god who could not perform when the stakes were raised.
Photos via Youtube and lolesports.