PoohManDu: Bloodthirster – A look back at one of League’s most underrated players

Oddball 2020-10-13 11:25:43
  Introduction Something often ignored I always find fascinating is the backgrounds of in-game items. One of my favorites is this: Unearthed near the marshes of Kaladoun, the Bloodthirster is thought to have belonged to a powerful soulstealer named Frax Van Itt. The wielder of this dangerous weapon is forever bound to the blade and its thirst for the blood of others. Bloodthirster is obviously an item commonly used on marksmen. It’s interesting, because when I read that, what comes to mind is a support player. It comes looking at that last line, the “thirst of the blood for others.” For me, there aren’t many better descriptions for Lee “PoohManDu” Jeong-hyeon. PoohManDu. A fundamental piece of one of the greatest dynasties the game has seen. An innovative maverick that still hasn’t seen a true successor. And one of the most unique stories in League of Legends, in game and out. Although brief, the Korean Support player carved out an impressive and fascinating legacy. Hong “MadLife: Min-gi, Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong, and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyun have all been fondly remembered as some of the best supports of all time. PoohManDu has largely been forgotten. This may be because of his much more storied teammates, the brevity of his career, or his sharp downfall. No explanation stands as absolute truth. One fact I will vehemently defend: he shouldn’t be.    Amateur Auteur   Before even appearing on the rift, PoohManDu was already highly respected. He was considered a legend in Chaos, a Warcraft III mod hailed as the Korean version of DotA (a game also played by Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong, and Park “Shy” Sang-myeon). Already a seasoned MOBA player, his venture into League of Legends was no doubt a smooth one, quickly joining the amateur team GSG for Champions Winter 2012-2013. 
There, PoohManDu showed himself to be an unpolished but creative support. His aggressive laning almost seemed reckless, and his unusual picks like LeBlanc and Lux never really worked out. Still, by already showing supreme confidence in his debut tournament, it was clear he had promise. GSG did not perform well in Champions, dropping down to the secondary NLB league. It was there that PoohManDu and co. would make history. Slowly progressing through the tournament, GSG engaged in many close sets, most stretching out to the maximum. Although inconsistent, the team of amateurs (many of whom would have highly successful careers in later seasons) proved they could keep up with professionals, eventually winning the entire event. Two matters are particularly noteworthy about this victory. Something not mentioned nearly enough is just how extraordinary it was for an amateur team to win NLB. Of all the times NLB allowed professional teams, GSG’s triumph stands as the only time an amateur team won in its history Giants of esports like CJ Entus and KT Rolster fell at the hands of a team that didn’t even have a logo. Sure, the Korean scene was still underdeveloped, but no team before or after has accomplished anything close to what GSG did. It stands as one of the most peculiar tournament runs in the game’s history. The second notable fact about their run in NLB, was what they accomplished in the finals. Game 5 of the 2012-2013 NLB Finals is one of the most interesting games ever played. A match against the formidable CJ Entus,(fostering future stars like Bae “Dade” Eo-jin and Choi “inSec” in-seok) GSG used a strategy that can wow viewers 8 years later. With PoohManDu utilizing Heimerdinger’s turrets, with his teammates alongside him shoving the mid lane, GSG took one of CJ Entus’ inhibitors before the 10 minute mark. As expected, they won shortly after. Remember, this wasn’t a ranked game, or even a scrimmage. This was the finals of one of the biggest competitions in the country. The deciding game. The most competitive region. Running such an unthinkable strategy is something we rarely see in competitive play. Even more uncommon when it works. In many ways this game summarizes the excellence of PoohManDu. Wacky innovation. Cutthroat fearlessness. A style that makes fans question if he’s playing the same game as them. If he had retired the night they won, he would have made an interesting footnote in history. However, a certain team afterwards gave his name a little more cache.   Captain For Kings Champions Spring 2013 marked the entrance of the legendary SK Telecom T1. Their venture looked promising, boasting a hand-picked roster by the legendary Reapered. Their second squad seemed much more of a wildcard. The roster PoohManDu joined was mostly made up of talented but largely unproven players. Still, the team was hungry, and they had the most anticipated rookie, Faker, at center stage. SKT T1 performed great at Champions Spring 2013, but Faker heavily overshadowed PoohManDu and their teammates. This was not to say PoohManDu did poorly. His synergy with Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin was already starting to take root, and his tenacity for odd support picks started to see success. He actually won a game using Mordekaiser, and was credited with bringing Support Fiddlesticks into the meta as a standard pick. He still had not come into his own, however. The team still had to fully rely on Faker to carry the game. Although his play was decent, he never struck fear in teams the way MadLife or Mata did, and was largely ignored in the draft phase. The team ended up losing in the semifinals to MVP Ozone - one of the main reasons being the disparity in skill between their bottom lanes. 
Related: The Woong Impression - A look back at one of League's most misunderstood players
The rise of SKT T1 in Champions Summer 2013 is a story too often told. SKT T1 turned from 100% the Faker show, to a quintuple-threat powerhouse. Individually, as well as on a macro level, it became clear no team had a definitive answer to defeat the squad. They’d reverse-all-kill the finals of Champions Summer 2013, lift the Summoner’s Cup at the Season 3 World Championship, and win Champions Winter 2013-2014 without dropping a game. At this time, PoohManDu proved to be one of the best supports in the world. 

Towering over all

PoohManDu was a template of excellence for practically every aspect of the position. Literally everything. His champion pool was among the deepest in Korea, even developing powerpicks like Nami and Zyra that could draw out bans from opponents. His refined aggressive laning and playmaking turned matchup advantages on their heads. His synergy alongside Piglet appeared almost telekinetic, and he seamlessly worked with Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong to keep the map festered with SKT wards. By the way, he helped shotcall. PoohManDu was a gem - a perfect example of how good a support player could be. In his prime, only Mata could challenge his supremacy. So what gives? A player so damn great—so skilled—why don’t we remember him the same way as other support legends? To answer that, we have to look much further back. Following his undefeated streak in the aforementioned tournament, PoohManDu announced in his Afreeca stream that he was taking some time off from professional play. A user from the Korean gaming community pgr21.com provided this summary:  “Poohmandu (PMD) said that he was involved in an electrocution accident during third grade. After this incident he has been experiencing pain in his chest starting from his middle school years. When describing the nature of his pain, PMD mentioned that his chest would feel as if he was drowning. At one point the pain was so severe that he even feared for his life. Unfortunately, none of the many doctors he sought out could diagnose his condition accurately, which is why he was required to fulfill his mandatory military duty (presumably without any significant incidents).  As PMD started his career as a pro following the military service, the pain started coming back. Given the team’s dominant performance, PMD says it was difficult to find an appropriate time to take an extended break, and finally got the permission to do so after the 13~14 Winter OGN season.  PMD seemed to imply that if the new support is able to acclimate and perform well, it will be tricky for him to come back, and will likely retire at that point. If they do struggle, however, he is willing to make a comeback as soon as possible, provided that he makes a full recovery. Nevertheless, he believes that SKT K will be just as strong without him, and the rumors of conflicts between teammates are untrue.” Even with the greatly talented Kwon “Casper” Ji-min replacing him, the team was never as good. Other teams were capable of overcoming the former gods. Their stint in Champions Spring 2014 was their worst ever, failing to make it past the quarterfinals. PoohManDu rejoined the team, but his brilliant hyper aggression did not.

Some shoes are too big to fill.

Along with everyone on the team but Faker, the former master was a shadow of himself, never looking like more than a middling support player. In the Summer Champions season, the team again fell out at the quarterfinals, and narrowly missed qualification for the World Championship that year. PoohManDu would no longer play for SKT, and ultimately retired from professional play.    Conclusion Where does that leave us? Many view Mandu as a flash-in-the-pan. At the time an overrated player with way too happy of a trigger finger. There are a few reasons I can’t fully accept these conclusions. PoohManDu indeed had a brief career, but that doesn’t negate just how much he accomplished when performing well. He brought long-standing picks to the meta, showed genius in nearly all facets of good support play, and was a cornerstone to one of the greatest teams of all time.  Although it’s based on conjecture, it’s almost certain his health problems affected his play later on. As we read earlier, PoohManDu didn’t rejoin the team because of a swift recovery, he rejoined out of a sense of obligation because of their poor results without him. Thrown back into the bullpen when it was clear he was not 100%, it’s odd fans were surprised at his poor performance. A good comparison for PoohManDu would be to NBA legend Bill Walton (not just because they’re both tall). Like Mandu, Walton for a brief period played in a way that could be described as nothing short of transcendent. He redefined what his position could do, was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player, and won the 1977 NBA Championship. After this two year victory lap, however, Walton’s play took a nosedive due to health problems. He never truly recovered. Even when he could play, it wasn’t comparable to the true greatness of his glory days.  Despite that, nobody would argue against the fact that Walton is one of the all time greatest players. Although only playing professionally to an elite level for two years, he will always be recognized as one of the best centers in history. It’s odd then that with PoohManDu, someone in a competitive discipline with far shorter career spans, the same reasoning isn’t applied. He wasn’t on for long, but when he was it was lighting in a bottle. I don’t think PoohManDu was simply carried by Faker either. As mentioned earlier, he already showed great proficiency on an amateur team. A team that won in large part to their support’s skill. Additionally, the fact that the team immediately hit their slump with the loss of Mandu is a telling sign to his value. Their primary shotcaller. The catalyst of Piglet. Their sage of warding. Mandu: SKT T1’s Captain. Although largely forgotten, Mandu is still one of the greatest supports in history, and one of my favorite players ever. A player frighteningly aggressive, who brought champions to his role others found to be simply bonkers, all while helping the best team in the world cement their legacy. A player whose health issues potentially robbed us of future seasons of greatness. A criminally underrated genius the game still hasn’t seen the likes of again.  That was PoohManDu. Sure, he was a flash-in-the-pan. But he set the world on fire.
If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @OddballCreator. Cover Image courtesy of Riot Games. Article images courtesy of OngameMnet and Inven respectively.

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