We Four Kings: League of Legend's History of Shot Callers
In the history of League of Legends, we rarely see players stay relevant within the scene for very long. The struggle of relevancy could be boiled down to numerous things, yet there have been players that have found success and relevancy in other areas. Leadership is something that players don’t do well -- with upwards of 8 hours of practice a day, let alone time to review games and time dedicated to eat. There is not enough time in the day for a player to learn how to become a strong leader. It either comes from somewhere like a sports background or perhaps even military training. For others they are naturals, they step up to the task of teaching, leading and guiding their peers. These are the unsung heroes of League of Legends throughout its history. These are the 4 kings that shaped the League of Legends landscape.
The Tale of Chauster
One of the oldest members of Counter Logic Gaming's, Steve “Chauster” Chau held the title of the original pilot. He trained legendary North American talent Doublelift from a solo que fiend to one of the best AD carries to ever play the game. Head Master at Chauster’s School of Hard Knocks, Chauster never pulled his punches when it came to teaching the young prodigy.
Doublelift goes on record saying; “...I was the physical representation of what Chauster would have looked like if he played AD.” Not only a was he a good mentor, but he was brilliant in every sense of the word. He was the brains behind some of the earliest forms of lane-swapping, innovated the triple teleport compositions, and would toy around with Promote as a summoner spell.
“No matter how godlike your mechanics are, if you're just a smarter player, it’ll make all the difference in the world.” - Steve “Chauster” Chau
Chauster molded Doublelift into a North American version of China’s WeiXiao. Being compared to one of the best AD carries of all time, Doublelift, a student of Chauster, could meet the god of AD on the battlefield and hold his own. The idea here isn’t that Doublelift was amazing -- he was -- but the idea that someone could foster that much talent to such a degree is amazing. Chauster was pivotal in CLG and Doublelift finding success. “...We were the best, the team played around us.” Doublelift commented in an interview with Thooorin .
Counter Logic Gaming’s style back in 2011-2012 was summarized in one apt quote from Doublelift “... this is going to make me sound really cocky, but generally our style is based around me.”. As CLG’s support he and Doublelift were on of the most lane dominant bot duo in their time. At the time majority of bot lanes would trend toward In their time in Korea, Doublelift stands firm on the idea that he and Chauster were the best bot lane in the world all the way back in 2012.
“People think the game is about champion-on-champion, but the game is just simply about towers and creep waves.” - Steve “Chauster” Chau
Chauster always felt like his mechanics and game sense were wasted on the support role. Changing to jungle, he felt like he could take those mechanics and skill to support the map. This was the fatal flaw when it came to Chauster’s career; trying to indoctrinate the entire CLG roster to the Chauster’s School of Hard Knocks just did not find its fruition. Shortly after switching to jungle, he would retire in October of 2013.
Lining up their career’s back to back, it was clear that the student surpassed the master. Doublelift would continue on with CLG, finding success with dominant lane partner Aphromoo. As a duo they would carve their own path, but Steve “Chauster” Chau will go down in the history books as the brains behind not only a star player, but the brains behind a strong brand that carries on today.
The Legend of Reapered
Many legends have come from Korea, but when it comes to leadership and shotcalling no one rivaled Reapered. Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu” started his professional career on MiG Blaze. During the first ever League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) in 2012 with the Blaze roster. The MiG sister teams would then be merged into the Azubu teams we known and read about today. The new Azubu Blaze would travel to MLG’s Summer Arena and steal away the gold. Reapered’s path would lead him to cross through the SK Telecom organization as well as Jin Air under the Jin Air Falcons.
Not only has Reapered played Jungle, Top and Mid professionally, he has done so while being a coach and in-game leader. Communication from Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) New York is an apt example of what Reapered brings to the table, even today. While majority of teams would all be constantly flooding the information stream that influenced every player's decision in game, Reapered was literally the only one talking. He played the game like it was a real-time strategy game, micro managing every decision his team mates did, down to the items.
“...he even tells them what to buy, ...everything. They don’t even use their own brain.” - Steve “Chauster” Chau
Reapered would retire from professional play and move to a coaching role. He packed his bags and traveled to China where he would be a part of the coaching staff to Edward Gaming (EDG). During his stay in China, EDG collected wins at LPL’s 2015 Spring Season, The Mid-Season Invitational and Demacia Cup. Under tutelage from Coach Aaron, they are still credited as being the brains behind the brawn that EDG wrought. To this day, 2015’s MSI is the only “major international event” that a non-Korean team has won. This was a major victory for non-Koreans, inspiring the west and even other Chinese teams. 2015’s EDG with Aaron and Reapered as coaches, proved that Korea is mortal, the west can win.
“I want to be someone who takes the next big step, and leave my mark...in a good way” - Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu
Going off the radar late in 2015, he stepped down from the coaching staff of EDG. Reapered reemerged, now coaching North America’s Cloud 9. With a slow start to 2016, C9 qualified for world, where they were handedly dispatched by Samsung Galaxy 0-3. In the start of 2017, C9 look to be one of the strongest, if not the strongest team in North America at the moment.
Very few players reach the level of play to become professional, let alone play 3 roles at the top level. While doing so, Reapered used that knowledge of the game to lead his team to multiple victories across the globe. What is even more rare is the legend that surrounds Reapered’s legacy. He was the first person that transcended the game; his accolades we're talking points whispered about amongst friends and colleagues. His long standing history as a enigmatic leader places him on my Mount Rushmore of leaders in League of Legends.
The Dominance of Hai
When you think of Hai, your mind's eye would tend to gravitate toward the dominant Season 3 upstart whose team crushed their way to an NA LCS victory. But, where in your mind is the Hai that started as Orbit Gaming’s Jungler? Where is Quantic Hai who was renowned for making a questionable base race call versus Team MRN, which would lead to them barely not making the first season of LCS? All of these iterations of Hai made him what he is today; he is the quintessential North American Golden Boy... the best shot caller in the west: Hai "Hai" Du Lam.
Let’s start around the beginning -- Orbit Gaming. The roster was Nientonsoh, LemonNation, WildTurtle, Yazuki, and Hai. They would find little success, break up, and then reform under Team NomNom and later Cloud 9. After their loss at the hands of Team MRN, the team would shatter once again. At this point, Hai is near the point of an early retirement. The departure of Nientonsoh and Yazuki forced Hai to recruit 2 new players. This came in the form of Balls and Meteos, staples on what would normally consider Cloud 9’s most successful roster. Months later, we would see WildTurtle sub in for TSM, smash out a penta-kill vs Team Complexity, and subsequently get approached with an offer he couldn’t refuse. Hai didn’t and wouldn’t let him refuse either, it was a deal that WildTurtle could not pass up. This was the final key to unlocking Pandora’s Box; enter SnEaKyCaStRoO, or better known as just Sneaky.
This was the beginning of a dynasty that to this day is beloved by its die hard fans; this was the origin of Cloud 9. This roster would go on to win multiple NA LCS titles and were the first team to have repeat victories (2013 Summer - 2014 Spring).
It was not just Hai, but his team that performed up to the level of expectation we hold Could 9 or now within Fly Quest. But, at the helm of that team was a leader, a shot caller that was blooming into something amazing -- something we couldn’t quantify until his retirement in April of 2015. Not only did he lead an amazing team, but Hai was quite the player himself. In his latter years, his level of play diminished, but never his leadership. That is one thing you can never strip away from Hai; he will always find a way. That way might not be optimal, or the most successful, but with he’s degree of success, who are we to question him?
“Hai forces you up to a certain level. He forces you up to that elite level because he is one of the best shot callers League of Legends has ever seen.” - Duncan “Thooorin” Shields
Hai would contemplate and follow through with retirement twice throughout his career, citing his wrist as something he “couldn’t ignore any longer”. With being the only player to win 3 MVP titles for North America in 3 different roles (Jungle, Support, Mid) you cannot expect someone with this level of competitive drive to stay stagnant for too long. He now finds a home in the Mid lane for a new team, consisting of mostly the Cloud 9 Challenger Team, on Fly Quest. Some things never change, and for one, I hope Hai never does. A great attitude coupled with nothing short of legendary skill, Hai will make an incredible coach one day. If not in League of Legends, in any game.
The Instruction of Mata
The Spring of 2013 began the rise of our 3rd king; Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong. OLYMPUS Champions Spring was his freshman performance, where MonteCristo regarded him as the rookie of the year. This prediction would ultimately end up with Mata becoming on of League of Legends first “Royal Roader”. Royal Roader is a term that comes from Starcraft: Brood War, wherein a player’s first introduction to professional play, they win.
Mata would find success on champion such as Thresh, where he was often compared to the best support at the time, Madlife. His team MVP Ozone would evolve after a poor performance at 2013 Worlds. Being acquired by the Samsung organization, Mata and his lane partner imp, would star and the Samsung White roster. Mata and imp had a very odd relationship, think about the idea of Yin and Yang. Now, try to encapsulate that with in one League of Legends team, specifically the bot lane. Mata would constantly have to babysit and pay a close eye on imp. His over aggression always seem to get the better of him, and Mata was his tranquilizer. Now, don’t let me lead you astray; Imp was very good, arguably one of the best AD carries the game will ever see, but Mata was his antithesis; he was his handler.
“If Faker is God, then Mata is Buddha.”
This brings us to 2014’s League of Legends World Championship where Samsung White finally bests their sister team and captures the gold. Many people credit Mata and DanDy on their innovations to the game. Mata was always known for his abuse of vision; he know exactly what you could and could not see, and leverage that to dominant wins. In 2014 we knew exactly who the best support in the world was, and it wasn’t even close. After the climax of the World Championship, Mata was given the title of MVP and everything seemed right in the world, but the team thought otherwise. This marked the beginning of the “Korean Exodus,” where a good handful of Korea’s best players traveled west.
“There's Faker, there's Mata, and there's everyone else… Mata knows everything about the game.” - Lu "HunTeR" Wenjun, Vici Gaming CEO
Mata chose China, as well as many of his former teammates. He was first drafted to Vici Gaming where his performance dropped considerably. Many eyebrows were raised when Mata would play so uncharacteristically. Was it China? Was it his team? No one, still to this day, is quite sure exactly what went wrong with Mata’s performance during his time on Vici Gaming. After approximately 2 years on the Vici Gaming roster, he was traded to Royal Never Give Up (RNG) where he would play with legendary AD carry, Uzi. Now, Uzi was also one of those wild tigers that Mata tried to keep in his cage. Mata is quoted in saying that he’s always played with some of the most “crazy AD carries” that he needed to “train”. Within his time on RNG he did just that, not to Uzi, but for his entire team.
Royal Never Give Up started out as a rising upstart team. Plagued with inconsistency, motivational issues and overall bad play at times, they still were considered to be a potential world class team IF they shaped up. With additional coaching staff and Mata stepping into the mix, they really came into their own. He became the Godfather inside the game that RNG needed to succeed. Capturing LPL’s 2016 Spring Playoff Title, it seemed like something was still missing for Mata. They continued their success coming into the summer where they took 2nd at the playoffs. But, rumor spread that some of the other Koreans were interested in going back to Korea. This resonated with Mata once he heard that former Samsung Blue AD carry, Deft, was interested in going back home to play in LCK.
We finally reach 2017 where Mata was reunites with Deft, and friends, to form Korea’s Super Team, KT Rolster. He again has a super star AD and a team that is considered world class, to hopefully add just 1 more trophy for his case. Mata was not only an innovator but mastered a role while calling the shots for his team back in 2014. It is safe to say he is a king amongst kings and his story continues on to this day. Mata will more then likely go down as the best support to ever play the game, as well as on of the best players we’ve ever seen.
Written by: @Volamel
Images courtesy of Lol Esports, GosuGamers, sk-gaming.com, Esportspedia.com