Qiao Gu : China's Dark Horse
Week 8 of the LPL was postponed due to the Demacia Cup's final stages that took place in Beijing. Ultimately, EDward Gaming took the crown and didn't even seem to break a sweat in doing so, defeating World Elite 3-0 in the quarterfinals; Invictus Gaming 3-1 in the semifinals and OMG 3-0 in the grand finals. Now that the Demacia Cup's summer edition has been finalized, it's back to business in the LPL where EDward Gaming aren't even sitting alone at the top of the ladder. They are tied for first place with another team. Indeed, even among other League of Legends enthusiasts, you may not even know the five starting members of this new contender in China : Qiao Gu. They are rather unknown despite the fact that most of these individuals actually have a rich history behind them. Let me take you on a stroll down memory lane and ultimately a closer look at the team that nobody talks about but should consider doing so.
Qiao Gu started to capture some attention when they finished third place in the 2015 Demacia Cup's spring season despite being a secondary pro team (equivalent of Challenger Series but in China) at the time. To do so, they notched notable victories over OMG, Snake and World Elite. They eventually qualified for the LPL's current summer split and quickly scrambled China's hierarchy by stunning teams like LGD, Invictus Gaming, World Elite, Vici Gaming and Unlimited Potential with 2-0 victories. On a side note, they are the first team to hand Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu his first loss on Jinx in a 1-1 tie with EDward Gaming. Thus, they sit in first place in the LPL with a 5-0-9 (W-L-T) record and 24 points tied with EDward Gaming who hold on their part a 6-2-6 record and 24 points also.
Also, we should consider the fact that EDward Gaming haven't been using their five starters for most of the summer split due to many reasons, attempting to give their new recruits Shek "AmazingJ" Wai Ho in the top lane and Kang "BaeMe" Yang-hyun in the mid lane some valuable experience. While EDG tried to sort out their morphing identity, Qiao Gu remains one of 4 teams without a loss in their respective format among the 5 grand regions (NA LCS, EU LCS, LMS, LCK, LPL) alongside Fnatic, ahq e-Sports Club and SKT. That has obviously been possible thanks to the impressive performances of each player. But who exactly are these 5 misfits?
Swift : Time to shine
Baek "Swift" Dae-Hoon has somewhat been an urban legend for a long time. Swift has frequently been on the receiving end of highlight videos instead of having highlight videos actually dedicated to his plays :
Often quoted as a renowned solo queue genius in the Korean ladder, he enjoyed limited professional success thus far. Near the end of 2013, Qiao Gu's jungler was a part of Xenics Storm's roster consisting of GimGoon, Swift, CoCo, Arrow and Piccaboo. He then switched to CJ Entus Frost along with CoCo, receiving an appealing offer from a resourceful organisation such as CJ. The mid/jungle duo wreaked havoc during their tenure with CJ Entus Frost displaying standout performances to give both SKT 1S and SKT 1K a run for their money. However, Swift apparently didn't resign his contract with the team, opting for other options. Eventually landing in the LPL with Qiao Gu, Swift is well on his way to living up to the hype that he built during his shining days in solo queue. Swift may be victim of highlight videos of Team Impulse's Lee "Rush" Yoonjae or even Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok (who isn't?) but, in truth, I'm sure Swift can have highlight videos that feature him soon enough with the success that his team has been having in China.
Doinb : the newcomer
The second Korean of the Chinese squad is Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang, their mid laner. Doinb is quite a mystery to be honest. Qiao Gu is his first professional team. Like Swift, he gained fame through the Korean solo queue. What we do know is that the LPL's mid lane is full of talent. By the numbers, although he has little experience, the rookie has been able to keep his cool like a god against the likes of Cool, Rookie, GodV and BaeMe with a KDA of 5,08 this summer split. While putting up good numbers, he also displayed that his champion pool has a decent diversity :
The mid laner is able to fill the shoes that his team needs. Whether his role is more supportive or whether he is a major damage dealer, Doinb is ready to bring coherence to Qiao Gu's team compositions. That's his true strength.
V : Catching a break
It took 3 splits struggling in China's LoL Secondary Pro League (LSPL) for Bao "V" Bo to finally get his chance in the LPL. After his stints with Kx.Happy and Energy Pacemakers.Carries where he failed to qualify for the LPL, he found Qiao Gu. Originally your typical top carry, drawing Kassadin and Irelia bans in the past, V also had to master tanks such as Maokai and work on his zoning instead of diving deep in the back line no matter the circumstances. That process definitely helped the top laner in evolving as a player. With the rise of the triple threat meta nowadays, V is as comfortable as ever with his dominant Hecarim pick, boasting a KDA of 8,25 with the pony. Now open to go back to his old habits or utilize his new found ability to play tanks if needed to, much like Doinb, V brings to the table some important versatility. The sky is the limit for the chinese player.
TnT : Ready to explode
Remember when Royal Club's attendance at the season 3 World Championships caused considerable noise throughout the League of Legends scene? We can mostly agree that most of the noise was made by Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao. From then on, Uzi was often considered as the best AD carry in the world. Unfortunately, once Royal Club came back from Worlds, their star bottom laner was the only member remaining, with the 4 others opting for other ventures.
In an odd turn of events, Uzi ended up becoming the new mid laner for Royal Club. In his stead, the AD carry role was filled by none other than Feng "TnT" Qing Yu who was known as "Quiet" at the time. In some way, yes Uzi was somewhat out of options in ultimately transitioning into the mid lane for that period but, from another perspective, TnT was considered a worthy replacement also. With Qiao Gu today, TnT has built a rivalry with Uzi, dating back to the good old Royal Club days. No longer in the shadow of Jian Zi-Hao, Qiao Gu's AD carry has shown that he can fly with his own wings, becoming a premier marksman in the LPL with a 5,25 KDA in the summer split and a notably stellar performance against LGD Gaming that still stands in 3rd place for most kills in a single game (14) in the chinese league's present split. He usually has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to carry Qiao Gu's games when noticing the amount of resources his team enables him to gather. With his high level mechanics, TnT shines in these scenarios and, by the looks of their results, the resources have been well spent.
TcT : The God of Death
Many may remember Hongwei "TcT" Zhang when he played in the North American LCS's 2014 summer split under the LMQ banner, better known as Mor.
Now reborn with a new summoner name and a new team, TcT is aiming for his second World Championship berth. Thus far in the summer split, he has impressed with his 4,84 KDA and his 77,5% kill participation. His most proficient pick has been Janna, putting on the board 9 wins and 1 loss for a KDA of 7,13 in ten games. He has been providing the support that his carry TnT needs. Swift often prioritizes the bottom lane for his ganks. Therefore, the duo of TnT and TcT must deliver to get ahead and indeed they have. If you consider that his performance with LMQ wasn't as polished as it is now with Qiao Gu, TcT may very well find himself once again on the Worlds's stage with his considerable improvement.
Week 8 of the LPL is reinstated this week and Qiao Gu may continue their chase for a spot at Worlds once again at the helm of their Korean coach Lee "Hiro" Woo-suk. However, largely due to the fact that they were in the LSPL instead of the LPL during the spring split, Qiao Gu find themselves in a very precarious situation. They may be tied for first at the moment and their playoff route can consequently be easier if their results stay similar for the remaining weeks, but they're short on circuit points:
Hiro's squad currently holds 30 circuit points as a result of their first place finish in the LSPL to automatically qualify for the LPL where they now stand. Moreover, they were eliminated early in the Demacia Cup's summer edition, in the round of 16 against LGD Gaming to be more precise. Luckily, the summer split isn't over and it's the most important part of the season in terms of circuit points, having the opportunity to gather much more than the spring split :
With the conclusion of the Demacia Cup, EDward Gaming displayed their spring form, the form that captured them the Mid-Season Invitational crown. Whether Qiao Gu can still stand toe-to-toe with their newly rejuvenated rival remains to be seen. Sure, Qiao Gu might need the help of fortunate events that rely on the results of other teams but what's conceptually simple is that they must play to the best of their abilities to earn a chance to prove themselves on the greatest stage of League of Legends. Thus far, when they do so, the kings of team fighting have shown that they may very well be considered a true contender instead of a dark horse soon enough. Better keep an eye on them!
My name is Christopher "Wave" Phakjarung and, as always, I want to give you my sincerest gratitude for reading.
Credit : lolesports; leaguepedia; gamesoflegends