EDG Viper – A Vertiginous Ascent

Mush 2021-11-17 03:06:32
  On November 6th a new World Champion was crowned. In the eyes of most of the audience, Damwon already had one hand holding the Summoner’s Cup, but EDG had other plans. When the Nexus finally exploded as game five came to a close, Viper rushed to hug fellow South Korean Scout. The whole team erupted into sheer happiness while the word “CHAMPIONS'' filled the background. EDG’s road to success was an arduous trek, filled with some of the most hard-fought BO5s in League of Legends history, but their sweet reward made the effort more than worth it. For Viper, this later half of 2021 is the defining moment of a short, yet already incredible career. Less than 12 months ago, uncertainty surrounded his name after Griffin’s collapse and HLE’s failed experiment. Now, his main concern is which champion will be chosen for his Worlds 2021 skin. False start Success came quite early in Viper’s career. He was a key part of the unbelievable run Griffin did in Summer 2018 and, although the team fell short later that year and never reached their true potential in 2019, these two years were still incredible to behold. What followed, on the other hand, wasn’t. The roster suffered a shuffle amidst some conflicts and accusations and their 2020 season was absolutely atrocious, ending with relegation in the last LCK split before Franchising came around. Viper’s skill was undeniable, but it was considerably tougher to gauge his true form when he had only found success surrounded by one of the most stacked rookie rosters of all time. The careers of players like Lehends and Sword show how inflated some players looked just because they were playing for Griffin.  Viper’s story wasn’t panning out as most expected. He left Griffin for an entirely failed experiment with Lehends in HLE — a much weaker roster than the one seen on this year’s Worlds stage— but it wasn’t over yet. His time in the LCK was a bittersweet mess of extremes in which he was either standing at the top or sliding down the bottom, so it was time to write a new chapter.  A beaten path with new opportunities Since the Korean Exodus of 2015, it's been common for LCK players to move to the LPL, but a lot has changed since then. For years this kind of move was seen as a downgrade in competitive possibilities, but from IG’s 2018 win onward the tables have either turned or have been matched. So Viper did what many have done before, and crossed the ocean to join the LPL, in quite a similar trajectory to that of the legendary ADC Deft. Funnily enough, he joined the same org Deft did back in 2015: Edward Gaming. EDG have a long history in LoL esports. They have been an elite organisation with hall of fame players like Clearlove, Namei among others, yet their highest achievement is their 2015 MSI title. Although that is an impressive win, especially since their opponents were 2015’s SKT line up, it is not as prestigious as a World Championship and it happened more than 6 years ago now. So, the organisation was still respected, but was often seen as a shadow of its former self.  As we all know by now, 2021 is the year where that all changes, and it began with two crucial roster changes. Flandre and Viper joined the team in December 2020 and leveled up the roster immensely. Jiejie seemed to be a competent jungler, Scout has always been an incredible mid lane talent and Meiko is one of the best supports in the history of the game. The addition of a strong ADC and a stable weak-side top laner seemed to be the last pieces of the puzzle, and the improvements were clear. Spring 2021 was a revelation for EDG and the only teams capable of stopping them were previous World winners FPX and the reigning MSI champions RNG. The first split for this roster was just a glimpse at their potential. If anyone doubted Viper’s true power due to his turbulent months after Griffin’s demisal, their minds became clear when Viper and Meiko proved to be one of the most fearsome bot lanes in the entire world. A pairing between one of the most experienced support GOATs and one of the most exciting new GOAT candidates in the ADC role. A bot lane of Gods. The Ascent begins Still under FPX’s shadow and now, after the MSI win, well under RNG’s, EDG fought for their World’s spot in LPL’s Summer split and had to go through a tough lower bracket. A 2-3 loss to WE in Round 4 started a BO5 madness in which they beat LNG, WE and FPX to secure the #1 seed for the biggest tournament of the year. That loss to WE was the last BO5 they lost.  Viper, despite his early success in Griffin, has often been in the underdog position. Griffin had incredible regular seasons, but their failures in playoffs planted enough doubts in everyone’s minds to expect the losses. Back then SKT were the favourites. Now it was Damwon. EDG might’ve won the toughest league in the world in quite dominant fashion by the end, but the World just saw the reigning World Champions, Damwon KIA. “They’re too strong. The LCK might not be as good, but Damwon are too strong”. This sentiment (among others) was echoed throughout social media and even the broadcasts. The head to head matchup left some questions in the air due to how much better Viper and Meiko were than Ghost and Beryl, but even the meta seemed to be following the narrative and was heading towards DK’s strengths. Unrelenting climb When Group Stage came to a conclusion, Viper somehow found himself looking up at SKT (T1) again, in a twisted reminder of his time in Griffin. Faker and the young roster managed to top the group after winning their last game against EDG, and the team was quickly being discarded as a favourite, especially after LPL’s apparent collapse in this first stage of the tournament. The road leading here hadn’t been easy, and it wasn’t about to become any easier. The quarter finals draw put EDG facing the only LPL giant they had dodged in Summer Playoffs, RNG. Likely anchored by Meiko’s leadership and inspired by Jiejie’s Worlds buff, the team showed their determination in winning two five games BO5s to reach the finals. RNG and GEN were tough opposition, but between Viper and the Summoner’s Cup stood his biggest challenge yet, Damwon Kia. Viper’s story with Damwon Kia began before his name was known around the world. Griffin’s short reign in South Korea began in the challenger’s scene, and one of the rosters watching their dominance from below was precisely Damwon Gaming. The roster was different, but Showmaker was already holding strong in the middle of the map. For these two, the story leading up to this World Final began 3 years ago, but now the star mid laner was looking down on Viper.  Reaching the summit Predictions were almost entirely in favor of Damwon Kia (often 3-0) and the World was watching Khan’s Last Dance conclude in the beginning of a new South Korean dynasty. Instead, we all watched the best World Finals in a long time conclude in a much deserved EDG win. The puzzle that was finished back in December 2020 showed its true colours when it mattered most. Yes, the meta might’ve moved away from bot lane and focused heavily on Mid/Jungle and Top with supports permanently roaming, but EDG were ready to move away from the meta.  Flandre absorbed Khan’s pressure like a sponge. Jiejie stood up to the best jungler in the world and punched back. Scout rose to his full potential and out performed the best midlaner in the World. And Viper and Meiko came into the series ready to exploit Damwon’s weak point. Those who thought the series between DK vs T1 was the “real finals” did not know what EDG could bring to the table, but the newly crowned 2021 World Champions proved their worth in the biggest stage in League of Legends.  Viper came into the tournament as one of the best adc’s in the world and a potential candidate for GOAT in his role — he was even mentioned in a Summoning Insight episode. He leaves the tournament a world champion, the undisputed best adc in the game and a true GOAT candidate at only 21 years old. With how stacked the LPL is a region, it is hard to predict what the future holds for EDG. Regardless of what that is, do not underestimate the best bot lane in the entire World.  On November 6th Viper jumped in joy as he was crowned a World champion, leaving behind the weight of his last months at Griffin and his stint in HLE. In a vertiginous ascent he rose from the bottom of the LCK to the top of the world. And he is not going anywhere.  
If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @Kaaaosh. Check out our LoL section for more coverage Images courtesy of Riot Games.  

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