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Oh My God (OMG): Against The Grain – How the Chinese team became one of the best in history

Oddball 2021-03-03 08:48:27
  When I first saw OMG play at the Season 3 World Championship, I was curious about their interesting acronym. It was unusual seeing a Chinese team share the name of an abbreviation mostly used by adolescent girls. I thought about what it could mean. It might’ve just been a coincidental name, something like Online Master Gaming (sorry that this is the best I could come up with, don't tell me it isn't accurate). Or perhaps it was something beautiful, like an ancient Chinese proverb translated to English. It was neither. OMG literally means Oh My God. Still one of the weirdest (and coolest) team names in esports. Although maybe it isn't. For the legendary roster in Season 3 and Season 4, the name makes sense. Dictionary.com states “Oh my god is an exclamation variously expressing disbelief, frustration, excitement, or anger.” With that definition, I can’t think of a more fitting name for them than OMG.  The second great dynasty of China, OMG were the quintessential Chinese team: a raging bull of constant pressure, tower dives, and team fighting. They mean so much to the game. Their dominance left fans in disbelief. The heartbreaking losses preventing them from very top brought frustration. Their style both defining and straying from traditional Chinese play gave sheer excitement. And the way they played, the way they crushed opposition was pure, unadulterated anger. That’s what OMG means. The team began with humble origins, dating back to mid-2012. The esports organization OMG picked up a team of rookies, most of them fizzling out within months. The only player left from the initial lineup was the top laner Gogoing. The team dropped the rest of the squad, bringing in players from respected amateur team Noah’s Ark. Most of these players weren’t significant for OMG, with the exception of mid laner Cool. Competing in online tournaments and small LAN competitions, they made a name for themselves as a decent young team. None of their results in 2012 were notable, but what’s worth mentioning during this time is the players they picked up. Amateur players san and LoveLing joined the squad, with Pomelo on board a few months later. As 2013 approached, the team hadn’t won a single tournament. What they had done was form the core of one of the greatest teams in League of Legends history. To claim the Chinese throne, they needed to unseat the current ruler. See, World Elite (WE) was bashing everyone’s skulls in. The only team that ever came close was Invictus Gaming (iG). WE was so dominant, the Chinese meta literally centered around beating them. With genius macro, skilled players, and the best team fighting in the game, nobody could beat them. At their own game, at least. 
Related: World Elite: The First Dynasty - A comprehensive look at the first great Chinese team
Not going into OMG’s gameplay yet, just know that they were incredibly aggressive. It was the perfect counter to WE’s playstyle. Season 3 saw the newcomers’ rise. They qualified for the inaugural season of the LPL, Spring 2013. Though WE initially continued their stranglehold on the country, OMG strengthened as the weeks rode on. By playoff time, they’d achieved an impressive 21-7 W/L ratio—second overall.  The playoffs started a new era in China. What’s surprising was OMG didn’t enter second to WE, but iG. Placing third in the regular season, WE were outmatched in their series against OMG. Even more interesting, they played against their old-time rivals iG in the third place match, who received a toppling of their own against Positive Energy. The playoffs were a peek at trends to continue. WE declined as teams improved. The meta drastically changed. And OMG began their reign as the new kings of China. It was only the beginning. OMG’s Summer was scary. At times, it didn’t seem like they were trying in competition—more using tournaments as cheap practice for Worlds. There was a short respite for suffering of the fans of old at IEM Shanghai, where WE beat out OMG, but overall they seemed unbeatable. They’d trounce through StarsWar 8, beating some of the best teams in Asia. For LPL Summer, their performance was more dominant than Spring. It was almost hard to tell if their unique champion picks were strategies or intentional setbacks for fun. They won either way. It looked like business-as-usual at the Season 3 China Regional Finals. After some convincing wins against iG and Royal Club Huang Zu (RYL), most expected them to take the finals with ease. Especially since it’d be a rematch against RYL. A team marred with instability, it didn’t seem likely for them to win against a roster as polished as OMG. But RYL had one thing they didn’t. One person, rather. The one man who stood in the way of OMG paving a proper dynasty: Uzi. Arguably the greatest AD carry of all time and the bane of OMG’s existence.  His team was finally able to incorporate their “Raise the Puppy” strategy, funneling gold to Uzi to transform him into a dangerous late-game team fighting threat. It worked. The legendary marksman performed some incredible heroics, carrying RYL to a finals win 3-1. Although they still qualified for Worlds, they lost their chance at a playoff BYE, as well as the pride of winning the year’s penultimate Chinese tournament.  To Western fans, there have been few group stage performances as shocking as OMG’s at the Season 3 World Championship. Currently, the Western fan base for LPL is small. In 2013, it was microscopic. OMG coming to the United States was like martians coming to Earth. Yes, teams like WE had played for Westerners before, but their playstyle was at least standard. OMG didn’t look like they were playing the same game. They relentlessly sought for kills before minions spawned.  Their champion selections seemed inverted from the meta. And they feared turrets less than the B.A.D. from Bloons Tower Defense. Despite all of that, they kept winning. Actually, they dominated. In almost every game, they ran circles around their opponents—leaving them with nothing but a daze and a large kill deficit. Ending the group stage saw OMG tied for first at 7-1, only losing a game to the legendary SK Telecom T1. In 8 games, OMG gained the respect of the rest of the world and were viewed as one of the favorites to make the finals. They were on top of the world. Their old friend Uzi, however, had other plans. OMG was matched up against RYL in the quarterfinals. For what analysts still have not found an answer to—OMG opted to play in the heavy team fight style RYL is known for, rather than the more Korean macro style they used in the group stage. It didn’t work at all. The loss was even more brutal than the last time, their team fighting nowhere close to the well-oiled machine that was RYL. Uzi and co. climbed their way to the World Finals. OMG climbed the stairs of their plane back to China. On their return home, OMG’s vulnerability was more apparent. Although still a very strong team, they no longer had the aura of invincibility as in the past. Their results were great—just not flawless. They still dominated many tournaments. At the same time, there were some tournaments they didn’t win, and that was concerning. Though their loss to CJ Blaze at WCG 2013 was unsurprising, they lost two big events to someone who soon became a big problem for OMG: NaMei. The AD carry for the largely untalented Positive Energy roster, the man was so skilled he could carry them to trophies. If he had the right players surrounding him—he could be more detrimental to OMG than Uzi.  How cruel fate can be. Recognizing the talent of the player, Edward Gaming formed a super team with NaMei as the centerpiece. On top of that, former WE players Clearlove and FZZF featured on the roster. After OMG ascended the throne over China, remnants of the kings of old were in a prime position to take it back. LPL Spring 2014, everything seemed dandy for OMG. Uzi’s team had gone through a major rebuilding process—not looking close to contend for the championship. EDG looked strong, but was still wholly inconsistent. And OMG—even at this time featuring the mid laner Xiyang instead of Cool—looked as great as ever. The team replicated their regular season performance from the previous summer—ranked first by the end. This led to an invite for All-Stars 2014 Paris. OMG performed well throughout most of the tournament (an early iteration of the Mid Season Invitational). However, Korea was simply on another level at this time, as SK Telecom T1 K swept through the event without dropping a game.

It was when All-Stars was over that OMG’s feet were put to the fire. With EDG already showing strong potential (they beat OMG at the International Esports Tournament 2014), they were finally becoming cohesive. Leading up to the Season 4 World Championship, EDG won every event OMG entered—five separate competitions. The latter wasn’t stable as before, churning through multiple roleswaps and roster changes. Doubts were cast if they’d even make it Worlds.  It all came down to the Regional Finals. EDG was already qualified, but several strong opponents stood in their way. iG proved strong, LGD Gaming (LGD) looked on the rise, and Star Horn Royal Club’s (SHRC) Uzi was known for playing his best when it really mattered. It started off very encouraging. After winning a close best-of-three against SHRC (their closest competition), they quickly defeated iG 2-0. Uzi once again turned it up to eleven, sweeping them 2-0 and earning the second Chinese seed for Worlds. OMG had one last chance to qualify. LGD came swinging, putting up their best fight to take OMG out. The story of OMG was not over, however, clutching out the series 2-1 to qualify for a Worlds. Though entering the tournament in far sloppier shape than the previous year, the team was still highly skilled. Gogoing and Cool were one of the best solo lane pairings in the world, and the team was still an aggressive force more formidable than most.  One of the major problems with their roster at this time was with the Support position. The most competent for the role was the skilled player Cloud. However, there were reportedly many personality issues associated with the player (at least with this roster), meaning they only used him in short bursts. They got along far better with Dada777. The problem was, he sucked— basically a ball-and-chain that crippled the team from top performance. The round robin OMG was placed in—Group C—would not be easy. They’d have to rematch the ever-powerful Fnatic, the European squad coming off of a very strong EU LCS season. If that wasn’t enough, they’d have to try their luck against Samsung Blue—the two-time Korean finalists—one of the favorites to win. And to make things even worse, they’d have to face LMQ, the team who…actually didn’t make things worse and were probably the biggest breather for OMG (this was the Chinese team that caused the import rule, by using the NA LCS as an easy booze cruise to Worlds). Overall, it wouldn’t be as easy as last year to make the quarterfinals. OMG fans were no doubt nervous as the group stage progressed. LMQ surprised by taking a game off their former overlords, and Samsung Blue proved too strong for the LPL team to handle. The closing games of groups saw OMG in a do-or-die situation: beat Fnatic or go home.  If you haven’t seen the deciding group stage game between Fnatic and OMG at Worlds that year, crawl out from under your rock and witness one of the most nail-biting (though controversial) games of League of Legends. The game was easily the match of the tournament, perhaps of all of 2014. 
Many of the most memorable games come in the form of a backdoor—a last-minute sneak into the enemy’s base to slyly take down the Nexus. This was different: in a back-and-forth game running longer than an hour, though OMG's Nexus was exposed, their composition was stronger than Fnatic's. If nothing crazy happened, the former looked to win. Fnatic made the move to pull the rug from under them—have their AD carry stall the team, as the rest ran to take OMG’s base. It was no doubt a horrifying sight to LPL fans: three full powered Fnatic members running up and grabbing chunks of health off the Nexus.  There wasn’t enough damage though. There was damage to Jatt, Joe Miller, and Rivington’s vocal chords. There was damage to the blood pressure of everyone watching. There wasn’t enough damage to kill OMG’s Nexus. With a sliver of health left, the Chinese team prevented their base from being destroyed. Shortly after they scored an ace, won the game, and began preparing for the quarterfinals. They had kept themselves alive despite the smart maneuvering of Fnatic. When they went in through the backdoor, OMG shot them dead where they stood. Their quarterfinal opponent was NaJin White Shield. Though certainly weaker than the other two Korean representatives, this was a mountain to climb. Somehow, they won the set. Actually that’s not accurate. They demolished the set: it was 3-0, with none of the games looking particularly close. When you look into it, this was crazy. During Korea’s reign over Worlds from 2013-2017, no one had ever beat a Korean team in bracket. Only OMG. You can certainly argue the strength of NJWS, but sweeping a top Korean team was impressive no matter what.  OMG had swapped in their substitute Support player Cloud, and new life was breathed into the team. The team turned back to the dominance of the year before. Their next opponent would be SHRC, a team with a much shakier quarterfinal. After such a statement made against NJWS, fans and analysts alike expected OMG to emerge victorious. However, as their old friend Uzi would show, old habits die hard. It wasn’t even as though OMG dropped the ball—they looked just as motivated as the last series. Owing to some fantastic performances from Uzi and inSec, SHRC chaotically clutched their way to the finals. For the second time, Uzi had prevented OMG from reaching greatness. There was about to be a third, but not in the way you’d expect. The third time was when in the next season OMG acquired Uzi. It actually marks the downfall of this era of the team. That’s weird, isn’t it? Pairing one of the most legendary marksmen with a legendary team needing bottom lane fire power—could there be a better marriage? Actually, there could. There could be basically any. Hell, I’d argue Kim and Kanye as a better marriage. The team did not work for a couple of reasons. Uzi was a beast, but was hard to control. To be effective—he needed a ton of gold, a Support fully in sync with him, and a team that could pull him out of danger when he got too bloodthirsty. OMG were none of these things. The playstyle Uzi demanded from them ran counter to what made them successful—they were not a team well versed for him. It was not a good season for Uzi. Without a Support he was comfortable with, he wasn’t as lane dominant. With no one constantly handling him in team fights, the loose cannon that he was exploded in their face on more than one occasion.  It wasn’t just Uzi that slumped—all members of OMG struggled. None of the supports—neither Cloud, Luo, nor Xiyang—could figure out how to work well in the bottom lane with him. Gogoing was a player used to high resource allocation. With Uzi now dipping into his pockets, the aggressive top laner could no longer be as bold. The same thing is true of LoveLing, someone used to a lot of gold by Jungler standards. Cool was the least affected of the bunch, but with his entire team crumbling around him, he wasn’t as aggressive or risky as before. They performed well in Spring’s Regular Season, but completely melted down by the playoffs—dropping 0-3 to LGD in the quarterfinals. Summer was worse: finishing seventh in the regular season and dropping out in the second round of the playoffs. Besides a nice requiem of the past at the 2015 Demacia Cup, the OMG of old was effectively over. Gogoing, Lovelin, and San were all gone. Cool was the only member left of the iconic core. It was over. The Uzi experiment was a failure. This isn’t a hit-piece on Uzi though—just one factor among many leading to OMG’s downfall. The meta was shifting out of their favor—the strategies they’d perfect no longer worked. This season coincided with the Korean exodus, so many teams were supercharged with top talent. Finally, the men of OMG were tired. As a great team spanning two seasons of fantastic play and great success, it was time to call it quits, and let a new dynasty form. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to speak on players in roles I find important to the story of OMG.  If I had to choose one clip to represent OMG, it’d be this one:
They were bloodthirsty. The entire idea of Chinese teams being aggressive was because of them. This isn’t to say they were mindless savages searching for any kill, but one of the most creative and intelligent teams of the era. Dirty but disciplined. To discuss OMG’s gameplay we need to again discuss their predecessor WE. WE was anything but aggressive—stalling to the late game to farm their champions and begin team fighting. This was a strategy giving them complete supremacy over the region. Nobody could do it better than them. OMG’s solution? Change the meta. Rather than the standard tactic of centering the team around the AD carry, their squad allocated most resources to the top side of the map. And instead of fighting WE in their final form, OMG went for the throat as soon as they’d left the fountain.  They were famous for their use of a composition known as the “Freight Train”. A team based around Hecarim, Thresh, and Graves—this gave OMG the perfect set of weapons to create picks early and engage constantly. With equally potent team fighting capabilities, OMG got ahead early. With a sizable advantage in the midgame, they could shut the old masters down. They could shut everyone down. The bottom lane was the quietest for OMG—both for the team and the region as a whole. San had to make do with his teammates eating up all the minions that would have been his, meaning he didn’t ever dominate games. He wasn’t as good as an Uzi or a NaMei, but compared to the rest of the world, he was world class. Even while having to fast from CS, he was consistent in lane and a strong addition to teamfights. Their Supports were hit-or-miss, ranging from excellent (LoveLing basically the Chinese MadLife) to awful (Dada777 basically a Chinese iPhone). All mostly stuck with San to play a pretty passive game, and none of them made huge impressions. The real magic was on the top half of the map. Gogoing was an anomaly. He was arguably the only player in the world that could compete with the mighty Korean top laners. The way he brutalized lanes, constantly made plays, and carried from his position was something unprecedented in China.  The most interesting aspect of Gogoing’s play was his engagements. He was the backbone of OMG’s aggressive team fighting style. By having the confidence and proper sense to jump into the middle of the enemy team, OMG gained tons of kill opportunities not normally present. Using the likes of Renekton, Lissandra, and Kennen, Gogoing flashed into a group of targets like a wrecking ball—allowing the rest of OMG to capitalize on the havoc.
In the early years of League of Legends, Chinese Junglers were either misunderstood (Clearlove) or forgotten (illuSion). There weren’t any junglers that wowed people. Then came LoveLing. As a Jungler, he was one of the most unique and fearsome carnivore players of his era. And when I say carnivore, I mean Joey Chestnut with a tapeworm level carnivore.  He was fearless ganking, even when eating turret hits. With dive-heavy champions like Aatrox and Rengar, LoveLing was an ever looming danger for enemy teams — always having to worry about him feeding his team kills or even carrying the game himself. Paired with some magnificent mechanical skill, and LoveLing turned the tide of games single handedly.
The most impressive weapon in his arsenal was his warding ability — top three of any Jungler at the time. Like a gallant explorer machete in hand, LoveLing traversed the enemy jungle, placing wards deeper than anyone else. Only with nerves of steel (and strong coordination with Gogoing and Cool) was this possible. As we’ll mention later, this was instrumental in OMG’s macro strategy. Cool was the team’s Swiss Army knife. An incredibly diverse mid laner, whatever the team needed he could do. Need a farm-heavy mage to scale into the late game? Cool’s got you covered. Want an assassin to roam the map and grab kills? Cool’s your man. Need a top-of-the-line Misaya impersonator to play one of the best Twisted Fate’s you’ve ever seen? Just call Cool. His champion pool was so large that teams many times had to ban out their own comfort picks just to stop him. In his prime he was probably the best non-Korean mid laner. Along with top-notch laning, mechanics, and team fighting skill — Cool was a tour de force.  Even more exciting was how they worked as a unit — a well-oiled death machine killing everything in its path. Watching OMG in their prime is some of the most exciting gameplay seen. They many times showed a permanent drive to tower dive, no matter how dangerous the situation looked. It was joked that the team’s game client removed towers from their view. Look at this example with Team SoloMid. At 2:40 in game, they’ve put themselves in the perfect situation to tower dive. They’re in a two-on-one against Dyrus, have a dive-heavy Jungler with Aatrox, and immediately have shoved the lane. It leads to the easiest tower dive you'll see, before three minutes. Their knowledge of when to dive opponents was unparalleled.
It wasn’t just for a kill though. They’d take the enemy’s corpse and wring it out for all it was worth. They wouldn’t just knock down towers, but shove lanes and create a nightmare scenario for opposing teams.
We see here Gogoing and LoveLing sitting between enemy towers—something possible because of their deep warding. The bottom lane has to sit and watch OMG have their fill of CS as their own is vaporized before their eyes. This led to huge gold and experience discrepancies. Few teams have matched the fun aggression of OMG. With unique champion picks, great coordination, and bold strategy, they were one of the most effective and unique teams of their era. They completely defined the idea of Chinese aggression. Everyone loves when underdogs succeed. That's one of the reasons this team was so beloved. OMG in many ways showed what was possible; in Chinese competition, League of Legends, and life. While other teams in China found success with a repeated formula—honing a talented marksman and surrounding him with roleplayers—OMG found success in other ways.  They turned standard ideas on their head, focusing efforts on every player but the marksman. Gogoing, LoveLing, and Cool were all the best in the region for their roles, something that no doubt empowered future Chinese carry players in these positions. In a world of slow-paced grind fests, the team lent credibility to a more ferocious style of play. This developed the Chinese region to show some of the most exciting games available. It wasn't just OMG—many teams followed suit and either followed OMG's example, or even brought their own strategies to a table. It makes for good gameplay when there is a lot of variety and many ideas being tried out, and OMG made that happen.

Finally, something that's stuck with me isn't even gameplay related. It is, however, what inspired me to write this piece in the first place. In Season 4, Gogoing was featured in Riot's Road to Worlds series. I still get chills watching it several years later. It's one of the most inspiring tales in esports. A young Gogoing wished nothing more than to play video games—facing opposition from his family. As he continued with his life choices, he found himself estranged from his parents. His life was in misery. With competition though, and with talent and hard work, he reacquainted with his family and proved the value to them of his way of life. It's a touching story, one that many can identify with: an underdog in the purest sense.

That's the biggest thing OMG brought to the game—constantly proving people wrong. With enough dedication, what was thought impossible could be achieved. In a world of top AD carries, a team without one could reign supreme. In a world of passive teams, an aggressive one could stand with the best of them. And in a world of misery, a young man could realize that life was good. 


If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author at @OddballCreator.

Images courtesy of Riot Games and Tencent

 

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