The Pathos of Pobelter: A Struggle of Talent
For years, Eugene “Pobelter” Park has been destined for greatness. Though his original foray into the professional scene was cut short due to his age, the young prodigy never gave up. Pobelter survived in the competitive scene for years, playing with various teams until he finally turned seventeen and got his big break: a professional debut on Evil Geniuses along established names such as Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis, Peter “yellowpete” Wüppen and Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels.
Still in school but already well-established in the scene, the mechanically gifted Solo Queue star had massive expectations levied upon him, not to mention he would be stepping into the shoes of the best western mid-laner to ever plan the game in Henrik “Froggen” Hansen. With all the excitement of the Evil Geniuses brand entering the NA LCS, along with such a talented roster and a fighting mentality from the veteran players, Pobelter never could have guessed that he would be trapping himself.
For a year, they struggled. The first split was a surprise, but fans thought they would bounce back. It was the majority of CLG.eu after all, wasn’t it? It became apparent that whatever made the famous European team tick was not present in this outfit, as they progressively deteriorated in their play, eventually resorting to roster changes to breathe fresh life into the team. Snoopeh and yellowpete would be dismissed mid-season, replaced with Shin “Helios” Dong-jin and Johnny “Altec” Ru, respectfully.
Summer Split came and hopes were high. It seemed so good in theory, didn’t it? Pobelter and Helios had fantastic synergy, Krepo and Altec were stars in their respective roles, and whatever negatives Innox had surely were outweighed by the positives in the overall team. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. The team had a very similar split to Spring, and then it was over. Evil Geniuses were no more. The New Year had come, and with it came a new owner and a brand change to ‘Winterfox’ (WFX).
Another six months of hell followed the previous year, this time worse than the last. WFX was a circus, and for the confined Pobelter it must have felt like agony. Promises upon promises, split after split. By the end, when the team finally gave in and succumbed to relegation on their third consecutive outing, he was done with this organisation. This prison that had been morphing around him for the last year and a half was destroyed -- Pobelter was free.
Of course, why would any top team ever look at a free agent that had been to consecutive relegation tournaments, and had a team built around him only to collapse? Well, not to dwell on WFX too much but it should be noted there have been a lot of comments from players surrounding the organisation, most of them negative. More than that, however, Pobelter was the only point of consistency in that team. Avalon struggled, Helios was forced top constantly to help him, and Altec, despite his impressive skillset was held back because of the support musical chairs WFX were playing (which even saw he himself play support for a weekend). This all left Pobelter vulnerable and exposed as the only potential threat from a disorganised team. It was hard to hide this fact, and as a result it was capitalised on aggressively by almost everyone they faced, with mid-lane often being the focus of the opponent’s resources in order to shut Pobelter down.
Despite this, he had proven immense mechanical talent on multiple occasions and had displayed a tenacious mentality, never giving up and performing admirably even in high pressure situations. Put simply, Pobelter did the best he could with what he had and there were a lot of underlying circumstances surrounding his multiple teammates, the organisation, and other factors that held the team back. It was very easy to look bad in WFX, but with Altec being a top tier marksman in North America now, Pobelter going to the final with one of the best teams in the region and Helios performing for a period of time on Team Dignitas earlier in the split, we can see that for everything WFX lacked, it did not lack individual talent.
Shortly after Pobelter had left WFX, the news that Austin “Link” Shin had parted ways with Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) presented a genuine opportunity to the teenage mid-lane star. Already one of the most historic teams in the region, Pobelter joined them to fill their open position. However, it wasn’t immediately clear that he was the main mid-laner as the organisation also signed Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun alongside the former WFX carry.
Week one came, and there was no sign of HuHi. Pobelter put in some good performances, playing a supportive role with Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng as the main carry for the team. Then week two, and three, and four and so on. Soon, the split would end without a single substitution in the mid-lane. The same was true for the role of marksman, where Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes had been signed as an alternative to Doublelift. Even when the star marksman injured himself playing basketball, Stixxay still would go unused which left a distinct impression that CLG never initially wanted to mimic Korean teams such as SK Telecom T1. More likely, their goal was to acquire young talent and associate these names with the team to potentially bring them into the starting roster if this iteration of the team would fail. It’s a practice often employed in traditional sports, and while just a theory, it’s an intelligent use of resources. Of course, needless to say, Pobelter and Doublelift both had a fantastic regular season which did not warrant substitution.
This split, the shackles have come off. Unlike WFX where the emphasis and pressure were on Pobelter to carry, he’s slotted into a very different environment in his new team. To exemplify this point, let’s look at his season on WFX and compare it to CLG, assessing only playstyle and champions. We can do this courtesy of Games of Legends.
Now, in WFX he clearly had a preference for assassins, favouring them strongly. Now, this is of course somewhat due to the metagame at the time, but let’s not forget that WFX also emphasised both he and Altec as the main carries of that team. Something that CLG does not do. For perspective, Pobelter played an assassin 11/18 games in Spring Split of this year.
However, in the Summer Split playing for CLG he has played none. Not a single assassin, which is strange given his talent for playing these champions, isn’t it? Well, no, it isn’t. Pobelter has prioritised scaling control mages and supportive mid-laners to aid Doublelift. Indeed, unlike his time in WFX, CLG runs a clear structure in the team which suits their roster.
So it’s pretty obvious then that Pobelter, while extremely important to the team, is not the main emphasis. So aside from his supportive role to Doublelift, what makes this young man such an exciting talent?
Throughout his entire career, he’s been forced into high pressure situations where he has risen to the challenge and performed. From multiple relegations, to his first ever playoff appearance (in a semifinal, no less) there was never a sign of him succumbing to pressure. Indeed, he played at a higher level and rose to meet the challenge.
In his first season on a competitive (meaning top tier) team he performed at the level demanded from him. A level of performance that many critics didn’t think he could rise to. In short, Pobelter has played as well as has been needed from him so far, constantly raising his level as new challenges presented themselves. Now, along with this team he is facing the biggest challenge of his professional career. Matched up directly against the best player in North America, Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, as the underdog, playing in a Grand Final on one of the most prestigious sporting stages in the world, against the most dominant team in NA LCS history.
On the topic of the Grand Final against Team SoloMid (TSM), there are some interesting things to note in regards to Pobelter’s part to play here. Firstly, the champions he has performed best on include Kog’maw, Azir and Orianna. In particular, since Bjergsen also has displayed a proficiency on Azir, we can expect this pick to be heavily prioritised from both teams, or potentially banned. These two players have different emphasis placed upon them by their teams though, with TSM relying heavily on Bjergsen to win lane and make his presence felt across the map where Pobelter plays a supportive role, which we’ve established. Despite that, the CLG mid-laner still has impressive damage percentage for his team (31.9%) with a relatively low share of average total gold earned (23.7%). This is in stark contrast to Bjergsen who has an arguably unhealthy damage percentage of his team (42.5%), with a higher share of average total gold earned (27.2%), meaning that TSM theoretically lacks a reliable secondary carry.
CLG doesn’t have that problem, but despite their theoretical advantages over the map, analysts seem to be placing the weight of the match on the mid-lane. Considering that CLG has shown superior tactical ability compared to TSM when lane swapping allowing for both Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaha and Doublelift to get leads over their respective opposites, then the emphasis (and with it the pressure) is absolutely on Bjergsen to defeat Pobelter. However, if the CLG mid-laner can hold his own against the best player in the region, then his team stands a good chance of finding victory in New York.
This young man, this talent that has struggled against so much adversity and fought against the odds is finally here, where he belongs: fighting the kings of North America in a Grand Final.
So far, Pobelter has proven that his skill ceiling rises as he meets new challenges. If he continues that trend this weekend, the world will be at his fingertips. You might feel sentiment for Pobelter for having to struggle for as long as he did, but that’s over now. There’s no more wasted talent, and no more barriers.
The dream of every professional League of Legends player is now within Pobelter’s grasp. At Madison Square Garden, with the help of his teammates, it could come true.
Written by Mitchell "Zeju" Smith. For those who might be wondering, the "Pathos of Pobelter" is the sentiment of regret that the Evil Genius / Winterfox saga confined him for an extended period of time. However, he fought against the adversity he faced, and through the struggle his talent won out to show what we've seen this season. You can follow the writer on Twitter.