Easyhoon signs with Vici Gaming in deal reportedly worth $860,000

A League of Legends franchise in China just traded one of last year’s world champions for a newer version

A League of Legends franchise in China just traded one of last year’s world champions for a newer version.

Vici Gaming today signed mid laner Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon, the understudy of SK Telecom T1’s dominant Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. While Easyhoon rode the bench for most of SKT’s road to winning the world championship this year, it wasn’t for lack of skill. Many consider him one of the best mid laners on the planet, but he’s been overshadowed by Faker, the best player to ever touch League of Legends.

Moving to Vici Gaming will give Easyhoon a chance to prove his skill. It will also pay him a hefty salary topping $860,000 a year after a bidding war between three teams, Korean news site Fomos reports.

In an interview on Korean news site Inven, translated by Reddit user shasty, Easyhoon talked about why he made the decision to leave Korea.

“The reason why I decided to transfer…is not because of my teammates or the coaching staff,” he explained. “That decision… I held after playing the Semifinals match at the 2015 World Championship. I had gotten the opportunity to play on a big stage, and the first, second matches were satisfactory. So, I thought that I would be able to play the third match, but ultimately ended up being substituted out. After I descended from the stage and Sang-hyeok showed up, everyone started to chant out his name, ‘Faker.’

“After coming down from that stage, I had a lot of thoughts. ‘What kind of meaning will I end up having on this team?’ ‘And in the end, isn’t what people want the most, ‘Faker’…’”

He compared that feeling to another Korean who signed in China, Heo “PawN” Won-seok. After winning the world title in 2014 on Samsung Galaxy White, PawN had to face a crowd chanting “Faker” after an interviewer asked him who the best mid laner in the world is after his triumph. In China, Easyhoon can escape those questions and emerge from the shadow of League’s greatest player and biggest star.

It’s also a prudent decision for his future. At 24 years of age, a pro gamer for four years, Easyhoon is now an esports veteran whose career may not last forever.

“If I was a little younger, I would’ve liked to move to another Korean team and face off against [Faker],” he said, “Due to the ambitions of being a player. It would be a meaningful challenge, if I were to face against him once more.”

As a member of Vici Gaming, that won’t happen unless Easyhoon helps take his team to the international stage. If he continues to build off his impressive form on control mages like Azir and Ziggs, that just may be in the cards for Vici Gaming, a team that now features a premier mid laner and world champion to pair with their world champion jungler, Choi “DanDy” In-kyu, who won the championship last year alongside PawN.

Easyhoon’s addition means Vici Gaming must make another roster move. Cho “Mata” Se-hyoung, another world champ alongside PawN and DanDy in 2014, will be leaving the team, Naver reports. The support player won the Worlds MVP last year but had a rocky season in China on Vici Gaming, and with only two slots allowed in the starting lineup for foreign players on a Chinese team, Mata is the odd man out.

Still, even with losing such a superlative support, this is likely a good move for Vici. Easyhoon has a lot to prove after spending one of the prime years of his playing career as a backup player. Vici Gaming will give him the chance to really show that he’s truly world class.

Photo via Riot Games/Flickr

Check out even more Korean roster changes with the latest edition of Rostermania.