The KeSPA Cup is upon us and brings to us viewers even more high quality League of Legends after an entertaining, to say the least, World Championship in Europe. After ascertaining its country’s supremacy as the first and second seed of Korea actually took first and second place at Worlds, it feels almost natural to feel excited about this newly inducted tournament. We get to see all three Korean representatives of Worlds back in action sooner or later, which includes KT Rolster and SK Telecom that are already waiting for their respective opponents in the Best-of-8 because they were both the finalists of the LCK summer split playoffs.
Unfortunately left out of Worlds, the veterans of CJ Entus will look to redeem themselves in the KeSPA Cup. CJ have always been a top-tier team in many regards. They were especially prominent at the beginning of the year with an impressive spring split. Their 6-3 start even earned them an invitation to the Intel Extreme Masters – Katowice event. However, they crashed and burned, ousted by Team WE in Group B’s loser bracket.
A defining moment
Nevertheless, their disappointing performance at Katowice didn’t seem to waver the Korean squad as they finished the regular portion of their spring split 4-1 and dominated their Best-of-5 series against Jin Air Greenwings in the first round of playoffs 3-0.
What came next definitely broke CJ Entus’s hearts. Their series against SK Telecom in the second round of the LCK’s spring split playoffs was an absolute nail biter. Towards the second half of that very split, SKT looked like the SKT of old, which meant being the best team in the world. They concluded the split on a 7 series-winning streak and that streak didn’t show signs of ending anytime soon. MadLife and his crew changed that.
If there were signs of breaking SKT’s streak at that point in time, CJ Entus certainly broke the ice as they lead 2-0 the series. Unfortunately for them, Bengi came back in the lineup for the third game and that’s when things started to fall apart for CJ. The return of Bengi threw CJ off to say the least as his comeback game culminated in a 13-2 rout by SK Telecom. The true heartbreaker of the series was game 4. That 70 minute thriller was as back and forth as a game could get. Aspect of the Dragon, multiple Barons, high level team fights, you name it. This game had it all. Thanks to a key teleport and ensued proxy farming by MaRin but also a clutch performance by Bang, SKT’s hopes were still alive. Here are the highlights of this gem of a game :
Every team that faced SKT unquestionably banned Leblanc due to Faker’s otherworldly proficiency at the champion but, in a game 5 of the LCK playoffs, there are no restrictions. Faker got his hands on the Deceiver and sealed the reverse sweep, leaving CJ Entus wondering what went wrong. Many assume that if CJ would have won that series, they would have went on and win the spring split crown. That would have then prompt a substantial circuit point lead, something very important to a World Championship berth. So many “What if’s”…
An ordinary summer
Like so many times before, in this year’s summer split, MadLife and his squad placed highly in the Korean league’s standings, ending the regular portion with a 12-6 record for 3rd place which should’ve eased their road through the playoffs. However, it wasn’t meant to be. When discussing on which three teams would represent Korea at Worlds, SK Telecom was a certainty while CJ would rarely come to mind. Their solid summer split was overshadowed by KT Rolster’s ramp up with their newly designated support Piccaboo and KOO, or even Jin Air, seemed more likely to fill in the third slot. CJ indeed fell as most analysts predicted. Their playoff run was cut short by a rejuvenated KOO Tigers in the second round with a 3-0 mark and their gauntlet quest was terminated by Jin Air in a close 3-2 series. Nonetheless, a notable highlight of their summer was the fact that they are the last team, and amazingly enough they still are, to beat SKT in a series which occurred in Week 10 of the LCK’s summer split! Still, they are the 1 in SKT’s 17 and 1.
A third chance
Considering that they’ve managed to maintain their focus and practice, the advantage for the teams like CJ that missed Worlds is that they’ve been in the dark for so long and that might throw off the likes of KT Rolster, KOO Tigers or even SK Telecom. Also, while these three world contenders probably don’t have much information on the other teams, the other teams have a lot of content to analyze from Worlds.
For CJ Entus, in their inaugural match of the KeSPA Cup, they shouldn’t have that much trouble against in their first series against Winners, a team that placed third in the Challengers Korea Summer 2015 Playoffs. After all, it’s sink or swim for CJ, for their current roster at least. The organisation placed all their eggs in one basket as they’ve parted ways with all three of their subs : Helper, Trick and Max.
What remains is their longstanding roster composed of Shy, Ambition, CoCo, MadLife and Space. From the interviews that I’ve read, Shy seems fairly motivated for this tournament and for what’s to come in general. MadLife stated that he’s confident in his team’s ability to go far in the tournament. We’ve seen it before. At the peak of their abilities, these two can be god-tier players. The question remains whether they still have the ability to do so. As for Ambition and Space, these are the players that the community will mostly have their eyes on in terms of improvement. Both of them have been CJ Entus’ main targets for criticism and if the team seeks to reach the top once again, stepping up to the plate of this stacked tournament should be proof of their resolve.
The player that has often kept CJ competitive in the LCK has undeniably been CoCo and his immense champion pool. Arguably the best mid laner in the world after Faker, CoCo has put up stellar performances throughout the year and impressive numbers to back it up. Most notably, in the summer split, he was ranked first for Damage Per Minute (674) over Faker who placed second. In that same period, he dished out 32.5% of his team’s damage, placing second while Mickey of Anarchy placed first and Faker placed third.
As the team’s star player, CoCo will probably have to carry his team once again as the rest of the members will rely on him for the defining plays that lead to victory. Yet, relying too much on him hasn’t lead the team anywhere this season. In turn, to accomplish goals that they’ve never achieved before, the team as a whole has to play in a way that they’ve never played before. As CJ Entus will try to redeem their failures of 2015, they have one last chance to end the year on a high note.
My name is Christopher “Wave” Phakjarung and, as always, I sincerely thank you for reading!