Ryu has come under scrutiny as of late due to his underwhelming performances towards the end of his two year stint in Korea, as well as his turbulent journey through European competition. A player considered at one time to be an incredibly good mid in Korea with very strong Zed and Ahri play; so what happened?
Ryu started his career in March 2012 by being picked up by team Startale, after some unremarkable finishes in OGN summer and spring, team Startale disbanded in late August of the same year, allowing Ryu to join the KT Rolster Bullets.
It was here where his career took off, with consistent top 3 finishes in major LAN events beating likes of Azubu Blaze and also Gambit at MLG Winter 2013, which was Ryu’s first offline tournament title. KT Rolster Bullets went on from that to beat top Chinese team World Elite with revered players Misaya and WeiXiao 2-1 in a Bo3 at the Asian Indoor Martial Arts games 2013.
Despite everything KT Rolster Bullets had going for them, they hadn’t had the chance to make it to a World Championship, in order to do that they had to overcome a team which is now renowned as their Achilles heel in SK Telecom T1K at Champions summer 2013.
Showdown of the Century
In the run-up to this game both teams had been on an absolute tear, KT Rolster managed to win out 3-2 against CJ Entus Frost before dispatching their sister team Blaze 3-0 in the semi-finals. SKT on the opposite side of the bracket dropped a single game in their ascent to the grand finals, with a 3-0 win against the Jin Air Falcons, followed by a no less convincing 3-1 victory versus MVP Ozone.
The game was billed to be one for the ages, the two best teams in Korea at the time would butt heads in a Bo5 series; and it went all the way, a single blind pick game would separate the two teams with both Ryu and Faker opting to select Zed.
The game is fondly remembered by the community for one of the best Zed vs Zed duels to grace the rift, with Faker edging out Ryu with a clever cleanse of the death mark. SKT eventually took the final game winning OGN Summer 2013.
KT Rolster was still in with a shout however as they, along with SKT and the CJ teams competed to decide the third team behind Najin Black Sword and Samsung Galaxy Ozone, that would qualify for the Season 3 World Championships at the Korean Regional.
The Bullets started slow, losing 2-1 to CJ Frost to decide the 4th Seed in a king of the hill format, which meant KT Rolster had to start right at the bottom and work their way up. Correcting earlier mistakes they 3-0’d both CJ teams, only to be beaten again by SKT in the finals 3-1 in a much more comfortable fashion than their previous encounter; taking the worlds spot from the reaches of the KT Bullets.
KT Rolster Bullets Decline
This is where a lot of fans called KT Bullets into question, having lost two finals against SKT, KT Rolster Bullets had a shoddy start to the new season despite winning IEM Katowice and went through a host of questionable roster changes and role swaps. This saw current KT Rolster mid Nagne take Ryu’s spot as he himself moved to the jungle void left by Kakao, who had earlier joined KT sister team the Arrows.
This constant change hampered KT Rolsters 2014 season and their performances left something to be desired. This eventually meant that Ryu was dropped from the team to the subs bench and then eventually released completely in August.
Ryu’s European Expedition
This lead to a quiet few months for Ryu until the extraordinary move came to light that he was transferring regions to join the EU Challenger team Millennium along with fellow Korean K0r0 to replace Kerp and KottenX.
This was seen as a team that was all but guaranteed a spot in the EU LCS through the expansion tournament and were widely considered the favorites. The first tournament they were seen in was the Black Monster Cup, where they finished a mediocre 3rd place behind H2K and winners SKP.
Various reasons or explanations arose as to why this team that looks so good on paper lost out on a minor tournament they were expected to crush handily, Communication was considered the biggest factor although the team was still very new at this point.
So the expansion tournament swings around and the hype behind the new look Millennium was still very much in full flow, this was abruptly halted however as they failed to reach the offline stage at all, losing 2-1 to Giants. Millennium failed to qualify for the LCS and subsequently disband.
This left Ryu in a difficult spot, he was in a completely different environment and culture to the one he was used to back home in Korea and without a team, the community had begun to disregard this once king of mid as this was the second team he was part of with high expectations that failed to make the big time.
Strut your Stuff
Ryu got another chance at IEM Cologne to show off as a sub for team Roccat, this team was widely regarded as the best team there and expected to take the tournament fairly easily due to their recent acquisition of Woolite and the transition of Overpow to the top lane. The first game was against the Dolphins of Wall Street, a relatively unknown challenger team, who they dominated with a 2-0 victory.
The Semis was a different story, despite them taking game one off of a ramshackle CLG who also ran a sub in Thinkcard, CLG came back to win 2-1 and again Ryu was largely transparent, not doing awfully but at the same time not having the impact you need from a player of his pedigree.
H2K, who had recently lost mid laner Febiven to Fnatic, snapped him up as their starting mid laner. This is likely the last chance Ryu has with competitive League of Legends. So what are the pros and cons of H2K taking Ryu over some of the other challenger mids in EU now we know about his story as a player?
He’s got it in him
The Ryu who finished top 3 in all those tournaments is still in there somewhere, there is no such thing as mechanics declining with age, if he still has the fire and the determination to do well he is fully capable of putting on a masterclass.
Experience is key
Many players have been around the block and done it all, Ryu is one of those, he has competed in OGN finals and IEM’s alike; the experience he could provide may be invaluable to the explosive young roster that H2K possess.
Something to prove
Although he doesn’t show it, I highly doubt Ryu would want to go out on a bum note, this is his opportunity to show that he can still trade blows with the big boys; and Europe boasts an impressive mid lane roster for him to do just that.
The unfortunate track record for Ryu would take a toll on any normal human being, with each team he joins having high expectations of him and themselves and each time failing to deliver at the final hurdle.
It has been said a million times, but it is still worth saying, Ryu will struggle to communicate with his team, although terms like “Go” or “Back” will suffice initially, it’s not ideal in the slightest.
What if he just doesn’t?
Linking back to an earlier point, Ryu has a less than stellar track record, and nothing concrete suggests that this time will be different.
In conclusion, Ryu is in the last chance saloon with H2K giving him an opportunity that he shouldn’t snatch at, if he truly is gunning for that worlds opportunity and isn’t joining H2K for the ride, it’s perfectly reasonable to say we may see the Ryu of old, and, if we do, then we are in for some very exciting games, but in the end; only Ryu knows if he’s ready.