All Kings Must Die: The Story of MadLife Part 2

Oddball 2021-02-02 09:28:39
  This is Part 2 of an article series detailing the career of MadLife. Read the first part here. MadLife didn’t win the World Championship, but he ended 2012 considered one of the best players in the world. A hero helping lead Korea’s strongest team. Uneasy is the head that wears the crown, however. Following their Finals loss, Frost played in 2013’s IEM Katowice. This was when most felt beating top Korean teams to be impossible. Most expected Frost to meet their revitalized sister team Blaze in the final. It didn’t even come to that point. In one of the most famous Moscow 5/Gambit Gaming performances, the Russians swept through both Korean teams in quick succession. With two failures in a row, prospects of making a third Champions final didn’t seem great. Teams were getting better - big time organizations like KT Rolster and CJ Entus started getting involved. Players had time to learn from them, and newcomers were no doubt eager to take the Support God’s throne.  Concerning MadLife, his Winter performance was business as usual. Nobody in his position could even compete with him. His champion pool was even deeper than before -  experimenting with crazy picks like Brand. His team fighting was still top notch. Using champions like Sona and Lulu to completely alter the course of games. And of course: when teams gave MadLife Blitzcrank, teams gave MadLife the game. MadLife

A more common sight than Bernie Sanders memes

For Frost as a team, they didn’t look anywhere near as dominant. Before, each player contended for best in their role in Korea—except for Woong (sorry, Woong). This was no longer the case. Yes, Shy could still dance with the best of the top lane - but it ended there. KaKAO and inSec were better than CloudTemplar. Ryu and Ambition were better than Rapidstar. For them to win games, it required more reliance on their teamwork, as well as MadLife and Shy carrying the load. Though they placed first in their group, their performance didn’t point to an easy playoff run. KT Rolster B, Azubu Blaze, and even NaJin Sword all looked like stronger teams. Could MadLife actually bring his team back to the finals? It‘s crazy how underrated Frost’s quarterfinals against CJ Entus is. It’s got razor-close games, great action, and shows the come up of some legendary players. What began as a one-sided affair turned into a blood-pumping blind pick matchup (thanks to inSec Dragon Kicking CJ Entus into something resembling a good team). The game was very close, clocking in around an hour. At the end of the day, bad nerves by CJ Entus and some heroics on MadLife’s part led to a Frost victory.  The semifinal matchup against Blaze is also fantastic. It boasted an interesting format experiment, having them play multiple series in a best-of-three (or rather, a “best-of-five-of-three”). It was a ten-game smackdown. Over two separate nights they played some incredibly close games. Cpt Jack even helped bring the first professional comeback from three inhibitors down. At the end of it all though, Frost’s superior coordination seized the day.  MadLife had a stellar series, and once again showed the insane value of his Blitzcrank. In both blind-pick game fives (oh, how I miss these times) MadLife  opted for his staple champion. Watching the games, his Blitzcrank completely turned the tide of the entire series. MadLife If you want even more evidence of how great his Blitzcrank was, look to the finals. Not to see any sick grabs - to see how much NaJin Sword respected it. They banned it every time. They didn’t let him get near it. He couldn’t play it in blind pick either, since they never made it past game three. NaJin Sword picked them apart in a quick three-game sweep. None of the games particularly close excusing some silly hijinks from Sword in Game 2. MadLife played well, but found himself held back because of Woong’s failure to show up against PraY. Though their finals performance wasn’t great (with MaKNooN delivering his magnum opus performance) it’s still amazing they were able to make it to the finals three times in a row.  MadLife It’s also worth mentioning how dominant MadLife was for this period. Even though he lost Champions Winter, nobody would ever argue Cain was better than him. Nor Lustboy, nor anyone in the world. As far as the Support position went, nobody was close to being his equal. Top players in other roles existed, but they either had established rivals or contenders on the rise. MadLife had none. For the King of Frost, though, spring would  come. Spring Following the winter tournament, MadLife continued building his mythos. At the IEM World Championships, they not only scored revenge against Gambit Gaming, but took out almost every team with ease. Some vengeance cast upon themselves, however, as their sister team edged them out 3-1 in the finals. Though not competitively relevant, his All Star performance was a shining showcase of his skill - winning the positional tournament as well as dazzling the world with continual plays in the main event. As always, MadLife was on top of the world. MadLife It all changed in 2013’s Spring tournament. Many factors were at play in MadLife’s fall from grace…actually, that sounds wrong. He didn’t even really fall off yet, his performances were still top notch. It wasn’t as though the monastery of eminence he built had started to crumble - it simply wasn’t the tallest anymore. That Spring season wasn’t his fall from grace. Rather, it was his failure to stay on top. Anyway, there were many factors in his dethroning. The first was the departure of Woong. His trusty bottom lane partner and team captain, Woong was a fundamental part of MadLife’s career. No longer. Many praised the exit, pointing to his controversial reputation and questionable play making. It didn’t work that way though. Yeah, he sometimes lacked in mechanical skill, but he was still one of the most brilliant players the game has seen. Moreover, he and MadLife had several years to build clairvoyant synergy. There was an understanding between them. Even if the replacement, Hermes, was better than Woong (he wasn’t), the bottom would without doubt be weaker. Hermes was one of the most boring players in history. A solid five out of ten in every category. At best he was as good as Woong, but the lack of experience compared to what the latter had made the difference. MadLife
Related: The Woong Impression - A look back at one of League's most misunderstood players
Second was a similar factor to the Winter tournament. Frost’s players were staying the same, and the rest of the league was getting better. It was even worse than before. Shy proved inferior to Flame. CloudTemplar had to try his luck against inSec and Dandy. Rapidstar was outshone by the likes of Ambition, Dade, and a rising rookie named Faker. And MadLife’s partner Hermes was no match against Cpt Jack and imp. Still, MadLife was great, and neither Cain, Lustboy, nor PoohManDu had ascended past him. It seemed he still would be the Support king, as none of the former competition had improved enough to beat him. That’s because it didn’t come from a previous opponent. The man that took MadLife’s crown hadn’t even played professionally up to this point. It was the breakout season of a rookie that became the greatest Support of all time: Mata. The third and final factor. In this Champions season, the famous Support player won the entire event. Though still quite raw, his play was excellent. Many at the time looked at this as a lucky run from a young upstart, but history has proven this to be anything but the truth. We can consider this the end of MadLife as it was the start of Mata. MadLife

Mata pictured on the left

In the beginning stages of OGN Summer 2013, prospects started looking up for MadLife and Frost. A new mid laner referred to as Ganked by Mom joined Rapidstar in the team’s lineup. With CJ Entus sponsoring the Frost/Blaze organization, the team decided to use the company’s former marksman Space. With some fresh blood in the squad, it looked like Frost would turn a new leaf.

Through the group stage, MadLife and Space were excellent. Together, they showed a natural understanding of each other’s playstyles and game philosophies. Individually, MadLife continued making plays, while Space followed up to stretch those advantages as much as possible. It seemed Frost had finally found a perfect complement for their star Support. How young we were. MadLife As mentioned before, their group stage performance was great. They placed first in a group containing the formidable KT Bullets and MiG Blitz. Against the latter, MadLife made history. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but MadLife plays a champion almost as iconic as his Blitzcrank. One that was practically made for him: Thresh. With a similar hook mechanic,  and a skill set centered around making plays, the Chain Warden was a perfect choice. Against MiG Blitz, the team made the unwise decision to give him to MadLife. It was a slaughter. He prowled the map grabbing loads of kills for his team. But one stands above all others: 
So simple, yet so beautiful. It’s cool to watch, but at the time was unprecedented. It set its own precedent: forever throughout the world, whenever Support players did something flashy or innovative, cries of “MadLife!” would be heard. Many expected the Summer to be Frost’s chance at another finals berth - or even another championship. The team was performing well, and with a convincing 3-0 sweep over NaJin White Shield, the Frozen Throne would seem to hold over. That is until they met KT Bullets in the semifinal. The defensive style of Score and Mafa prevented MadLife from gaining any real advantage in the bottom lane, allowing the Bullets to completely obliterate Frost’s solo lanes. They quickly fell 0-3. All the encouraging signs were for naught. MadLife once again found himself in the situation of the previous season: out of the finals. He’d had one last chance to place better than in Spring. MadLife

It can take smile to beat MadLife

They were to face the formidable Samsung Ozone in the Third Place matchup. Here he finally was in a position to play against Mata. An opportunity to show the young upstart who the true God of Support was.  The matchup actually was very close. The matchup throughout the games was neck-and-neck for Mata and MadLife. If you can draw one development from this series, it’s this: Mata’s was better than MadLife’s. While Space performed okay, he was nowhere near the quality and skill of the mighty imp. Dade outclassed Ganked by Mom. While Shy was still a talented top laner, the lack of jungler support he received prevented him from carrying the series. While very close, Ozone prevailed 3-2. After an embarrassing second sweep to the Bullets a few weeks later at the Korean Regionals, MadLife found himself watching Mata pack his bags for Worlds, while he sat in Korea. It was hard to say if he was the best player in the World this time. All Kings Must Die From this point on I’m going to cover the rest of MadLife’s career a bit more sparingly. Not only will it help prevent PTSD flashbacks, but explaining his downfall gets redundant. Trust me, this is better for all of us. The entirety of 2014 was quite depressing. For Champions Winter, MadLife helped Frost to their very first quarterfinal exit - again facing Samsung Ozone. This time it wasn’t  as close of a fight, with Ozone beating them 3-0. It was a disaster. MadLife no longer carried like before. He was weaker, and his teammates were too heavy. Even his signature champions couldn’t do anything. In the post-game interview, Mata commented that he didn’t even think MadLife was that good at Thresh. It hurt. Spring was more of the same. Another quarter final loss. In Summer, they didn’t even make it to the playoffs. From a year ago where people were seriously considering their chances of winning the World Championship, to dropping out of groups. What’s sad to note was that fans had come to expect it. No one thought Frost was gonna make an impact. The question was more: how bad could it be? CJ Entus was  an absolute train wreck that year. Shy disappeared in the pack of hungry top laners. Since the retirement of CloudTemplar, the team struggled to find a cohesive replacement.. The mid lane position was a revolving door of mediocrity, until CoCo brought some sense of sanity to fans. And Space, the once-promising young player. The new hope for MadLife fans. Now dubbed “Space Prison”, he was viewed as the ball-and-shackle that held MadLife back from making a bigger impact. With his consistent mediocrity, it definitely felt that way.

None shall escape Space Prison

The truth is, MadLife wasn’t the same either. He wasn’t pushing the envelope anymore,  every Support was following in his footsteps. Many were taking the lead ahead of him. His signature champions fell victim to nerfing,  soon far less fearsome in his hands. A Blitzcrank selection used to receive thunderous applause from the audience, as he showed off his impressive skills. Now, watching MadLife play his ol’ reliable was like watching Charles Barkley after getting his skill stolen by the Monstars. All things told, their only victory in the entire year was a first place finish in the online NLB Spring.  2015 was different. Because of new regulations requiring all organizations to only field one team, CJ Entus combined Frost and Blaze to a single roster. That year they enjoyed considerable success - placing third in both season tournaments. On top of that, MadLife was once again showing off exciting gameplay. An old dog could learn new tricks.  On paper, MadLife looked to be back-in-business. Looking closer, it was far more bittersweet. CJ Entus was successful, but this was at the time the majority of Korea’s talent left for big contracts in China. MadLife improved compared to the previous year’s meltdown, but his untouchable aura did not return. Although it was a nice return to memories of the past, it was the last hurrah of his career. It was about to turn ugly. MadLife 2016...was sad. CJ Entus changed around the entire roster besides MadLife, and it did not fare well. During Spring the team had spurts of promise, but it never amounted to anything. Summer saw CJ Entus become simply awful. MadLife didn’t look like he lost his luster. It was worse than that. He looked bad. The team was by far the worst in the tournament, and their Support’s lackluster play was a big part of that. CJ Entus faced relegation as a result, soon swept by ESC Ever. With that, one of the most iconic organizations in esports was out. And even more notable - MadLife was out of serious competition, forever. After a brief stint in North America, the legend decided to finally retire.
It wasn’t the goodbye we had hoped for. After such an incredible reputation, it was sad to see such an iconic player fizzle out so feebly. If competition wasn’t that brutal, however, it would take away from how amazing his prime was.  It goes to show how competitive and unforgiving the discipline MadLife chose. How impressive it was for him to be so good for so long. And the thing is, he still isn’t forgotten. Though his final years we’re disappointing, though we pull our hair out at how wasted his prime was, he still lives on. Our third and final series article will examine how MadLife has shaped the game, and how his memory will live on, forever.  Go to Part 3
If you enjoyed this article, follow the author on Twitter at @OddballCreator. Image credits in respective order: Riot Games, Azubu, Cowboytv, Inven, OnGameNet, Unsplash, KeSPA, CJ Entus

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