The Unsung Heroes of the West
It is natural for most sports fans to gravitate towards flashy players. In soccer, it is usually the goal-scoring forwards who hog the limelight. In american football, the playmaking quarterbacks tend to garner the most praise.
In e-sports, and particularly League of Legends, it is no different.
Highlight videos invariably feature Doublelift tumbling about as Vayne, or Bjergson dodging Thresh hooks with Zed's deathmark. Such attention is completely warranted, as it takes incredible mechanics and intelligence to pull of such plays.
However, in light of former Cloud 9 mid laner Hai's retirement, his value to Cloud 9 over the seasons has been analysed in meticulous depth. There appears to be a common agreement that Hai contributed massively to his team's success, despite Meteos and Sneaky historically taking a lion's share of the plaudits.
With this in mind, I have decided to highlight some other unsung heroes, whose contributions to their teams have often been overshadowed by their more flashy colleagues'.
Cyanide - Fnatic
Two players represented Fnatic from the team's inception until the end of Season 4. One of them was xPeke, the poster-boy of the EU LCS. He stole the limelight due to his good looks, unpredictably aggressive plays, and legendary backdoor against SK Gaming (which subsequently prompted solo queue players across the regions to run towards exposed inhibitors and nexuses at inopportune times, spamming "XPEKE" in chat before dying).
Behind the scenes, however, xPeke's dominant performances were fueled by Fnatic's jungler, Cyanide. He regularly gave up large portions his jungle to xPeke, and camped his lane - all in the name of the famous xPeke snowball.
Cyanide's value to Fnatic was largely found in his ability to perform his job as a jungler despite having less resources than his counterparts. He did this with remarkable efficiency, but instead of receiving praise, he was often criticised for not dominating his opponents as much as xPeke and former top laner SoaZ did.
Another aspect to Cyanide's game that was often underrated was his uncanny ability to smite-steal major objectives. He was the anti-SaintVicious, if you will. Perhaps powered by the same efficiency that allowed him to perform well with less gold, dragon and baron attempts were never safe when Cyanide was alive.
Genja - Moscow 5/Gambit Gaming
Despite being a team that played together for a long period of time, Moscow 5 (which became Gambit Gaming) will always be remembered by their individual players. There was Darien, the super-aggressive top laner who was prepared to feed as long as his team was ultimately victorious. In fact, if one were to find the term YOLO in a Russian dictionary, it would not be surprising if a droopy-eyed Darien stared back at you, pulling a peace sign. Diamondprox was arguably the best jungler in the world, using numerous surprising picks which he single-handedly forged into the meta. Then there was Alex Ich, one third of the legendary European mid lane trinity (alongside Froggen and xPeke). He also served as the leader of the team. Edward was a talented playmaker, matching the aggression of the likes of Darien with incredible hooks and unpredictable engages.
Lastly, there was Genja. Many considered him a relatively insignificant member of the team. Rarely did he receive the praise afforded to his teammates, and he was sometimes even considered to be a burden. He didn't accrue the piles of kills and perform the types of outplays that the more popular AD carries of the time did.
However, it was precisely this that made Genja so valuable. In a team packed with superstars, there was a need for someone who was prepared to take a backseat. Genja was that man, purposefully picking more supportive champions so that incredible talents such as Alex Ich and Diamondprox could afford to play as aggressively as they did. With the knowledge that they had an Enchanted Crystal Arrow from Genja's Ashe, or Chains of Corruption from his Varus, Ich and Diamondprox could select more damage-centric, aggressive champions, and still know that the team had sufficient crowd control in teamfights.
As the original Gambit Gaming line-up has faded away, it has come to light that Genja was largely responsible for the tactical side of their play. It is no small feat to be the brains behind one of the most legendary League of Legends teams of all time. Their dominance was as much a result of their unorthodox teamplay as it was of their talented individual players. While he didn't take on the limelight with actual mechanics, his contributions to the team were absolutely crucial behind the scenes.
Cop - Curse/Gravity
It serves as no surprise that as simple a player as Cop has such a simple name. There is nothing flashy about the Gravity AD Carry, but neither is there much to criticise.
The only large criticism that has followed him throughout his LCS career is that he rarely steps up and carries games. For most of his career, it has been an accurate summation of his play, but perhaps also an irrelevant one.
Cop has never been a hard carry. He instead embodies the basic job of an AD Carry - to deal out consistent, reliable damage from the backline. He doesn't dominate lane, and snowball on champions such as Vayne to a point where he can 1v5 the enemy team. What he does provide is stability. You know what you get from Cop, and it allows you to build team compositions and develop tactics with a clear idea of what he can do. In a Curse team that housed enigmas such as SaintVicious, VoyBoy and Nyjacky, Cop was a reliable foil to their antics.
These unsung heroes thrived away from the spotlight, but it is only fair that they are occasionally afforded it. It was their performances and playstyles that allowed other, playmaking stars to thrive. As another of their ilk - Hai - leaves Cloud 9, one wonders if talented players such as Incarnati0n and Yusui can properly fill the differently-shaped void he has left behind.
(Photographs via lolesports)