Remember the Titan: The Story of MadLife Part 1

Oddball 2021-01-22 01:22:38
  Introduction Eternity is in love with the productions of time. It’s interesting how absent-minded League of Legends fans can be. A player in one moment can set the world on fire, only to fade away in obscurity a year or two later. A lasting impression on such an unforgiving group is no easy task. Even leaving a legacy of success and skilled-play, that isn’t enough to become immortal.  We see this looking through history. Of all the players from LoL’s first two seasons, barely any still register with current fans. Some are known from their current work in esports, but by and large they’re forgotten. MadLife is not one of them. MadLife, the first great Support. The first star of Korea. The first “god”. As others fade away, MadLife’s name continues being heard. The originator of the eponymously titled “MadLife” hook, the Korean Legend has instilled himself into the game’s culture, the name immediately referenced when someone pulls off a similar move. 

Related: MadLife: League of Legends' BoxeR
It might seem minor that he lives on through a cool play. It’s poetic. The “MadLife” illustrates who he was. One of the most exciting and technically brilliant players in history. A clever innovator whose ideas continue to affect the game. And an enigmatic superstar trailblazing throughout the world. That’s who he was. That’s MadLife. A Sleeping Giant MadLife’s story starts at the very beginning of Korean League of Legends. At the time the game still lacked dedicated hosting for eastern players, meaning Koreans wanting to compete endured high ping on the North American server. A fan of the StarCraft mod Aeon of Strife (the foundation of MOBAs), MadLife was one of the first to actively play the new title.
For a while, MadLife was unknown to top-level players, even amongst the small Korean community. Citing the toxic environment seen in ranked play, it took 3000 wins in normal mode for him to switch to the more competitive game type (hard to blame him, though). This didn’t inhibit his skill, however. Just like Faker’s switch to ranked, MadLife hit the ground running, becoming one of the top Korean AD carries. Even from the early days, MadLife oozed talent, showing impressive skill on Corki. One could suspect that his understanding of the marksman role improved his synergy and relationship with future bot-lane partners.  Impressing his fellow Korean players, MadLife was invited to join a team called |UltimatexDarkness|. See, South Korea was hosting the 2011 World Cyber Games, one of the only major competitions for League of Legends at the time. This was the perfect opportunity for Koreans to test their strength against the best of the world. Players scrambled to form teams for qualification. |UltimatexDarkness| (the coolest name ever, by the way) was made up of Woong, RingTroll, Rapidstar, and Dun1007. Joining as the AD carry, MadLife was ready for his first taste of competition, at the Korean Qualifiers. MadLife’s team did well, progressing through the tournament. Then, history changed. Woong made the controversial move of kicking RingTroll from the team, replacing him with Locodoco. The move initially didn’t seem effective, as they lost in the finals (additionally, Dun1007 was replaced with Cornsalad). It might’ve been the best choice they made, though. It might’ve been one of the best decisions in esports. Locodoco was an AD Carry. He stayed one. Guess who didn’t? MadLife. The short-lived marksman made the permanent switch to Support. From there he changed the way we see the game, blowing millions of fans’ minds across the way. Switched On Going into 2012, a lot changed for MadLife’s team. Rapidstar and Cornsalad were both off the team, replaced by mid laner Mask and jungler CloudTemplar. The team acquired their first gaming house (rather, a child’s shoebox disguised as a gaming house), hired a coach, and created a second squad to practice against (known as Blaze, to their Frost). As they sharpened his skills in local competitions and online tournaments, MadLife and co. were ready for their next major test, the OnGameNet League of Legends Invitational in January. Lacking the resources to commit fully to high-level competition, the tournament was the perfect chance for them to attract sponsors. MadLife’s team (at this point known as MiG Frost) needed to win. The Invitational was an interesting tournament. It was the two top Korean teams versus two of the top international teams - North America’s Counter Logic Gaming and China’s World Elite.

Counter Logic Gaming in South Korea

To even face such frightening beasts, MadLife competed in a small qualifier against the best teams in the nation. This didn’t phase the rising Support player, confidently helping Frost sweep Startale 2-0.  A monumental task lay before him. EDG at this point were seen as the country’s best team. WE’s victory at IEM Guangzhou made them one of the scariest squads in the world. And CLG’s roster was more stacked than a Magic: The Gathering unboxing. Simply put: it wouldn’t be easy. Frost lost every big competition they played. They always seemed to choke. With endless roster changes and no proven results, victory looked unlikely. To win the tournament, it’d take something crazy. Something mad. MadLife’s style wasn’t as unique as it’d become. He preferred traditional sustained based support champions rather than ones centered around engagements. That’s what he used for this tournament, and to great effect. The team, however, still looked very raw. They scored revenge in a win over EDG (Extreme Dive Gaming, not the modern EDG), but proved outmaneuvered in a drawn-out game with WE. To advance, they’d have to defeat CLG, arguably the strongest team in the world. In a miracle, they actually won the match. Their reward? Face CLG again in the finals.   Even though they just defeated them, CLG was fully expected to win the series. It was clear the Westerners didn’t take the previous game seriously, choosing a joke-composition for the inconsequential matchup. Given their ownership of Doublelift and Chauster, a dangerous amount of ego and skill packed into a single bot lane, CLG were expected to win with that pairing alone. This time they’d play serious. It didn’t matter. Frost came out firing at all cylinders. MadLife proved to be one of the strongest Supports in the world. In the first game he showed strong instincts for team fights, playing perfectly in every situation. A model support player. In Game 2, he took that model and burned it to the ground faster than T1’s public relations department. Using Janna, a champion highly unusual at the time, he completely owned the game. MadLife not only created his own opportunities for kills, but created positions to win entire team fights. Most of the game looked like an inevitable victory for CLG. Somehow, a gold-starved Janna completely changed the winds of the game. Victory for Frost.  That match is where we saw MadLife completely change the concept of his position. His teammate CloudTemplar said, ”I once thought that support couldn't make a big impact in the game, but after playing with MadLife and then playing with other Supports in solo queue I realized it. If you look at the minimap there is no fog of war when MadLife is in your team, MadLife  helped me realize Supports can carry the game.” The position was different from that point forward. No longer a glorified ward shopper. No longer a spectator to team fights and other engagements. MadLife brought a sense of aggression and purpose to the role that hasn’t left us since. Hitting the Grab Nothing groundbreaking for MadLife happened at OGN Spring 2012, but we got more evidence he was something special, not just a one-hit wonder. His partnership with Locodoco proved to be one of the strongest in the world. His playmaking and aggression continued on other champions, most notably a raging Alistar. Throughout the tournament he created kills and properly shielded his teammates. Even with top western teams like CLG and Fnatic, MadLife once again found himself in the finals. Going against their sister team Blaze, Frost were the favorites to win. As famously known, Reapered and co. shocked the nation, sweeping Frost 3-0. What’s interesting to note, is how Blaze’s strategy targeted MadLife. Not only did they focus bans on the Support player, but Blaze used an extremely unconventional laneswap. Partly that was to fast-push turrets, but also to avoid having the bottom lane face Frost’s duo. Even this early on, MadLife instilled fear. In earlier tournaments MadLife changed how the Support played. At OGN Summer 2012, he changed how the Support was seen. Here is where he became a superstar. How did this happen? Well here’s one explanation: Blitzcrank.  Very few things are synonymous as MadLife and the Great Steam Golem. See, our friend wasn’t just an innovator. He was also incredibly talented mechanically and a student of the game. It once was noted that he’d individually memorized every champion’s movement speed along with the boot speeds. The result? An unprecedented ability to hit Rocket Grabs. It almost seemed auto-targeted. 
MadLife now could provide unreal value from his position, constantly grabbing kills from thin air. Blitzcrank in most cases worked as either a free ban or a free win for Frost. Enemy teams now had to walk on eggshells in the fog of war, never knowing if they’d be pulled into oblivion. And with every grab, he’d grab the hearts of fans. Almost all of his skillshot landings were met with electrifying cheers from the OGN audience. MadLife didn’t just make the Support effective, he made it fun. This wasn’t just about our friend’s personal glory. His team had an extremely memorable run in the tournament. They started off slow in the group stage, tying in wins with NaJin Sword to advance. In the quarterfinals they once again dismantled North America’s CLG, meeting Blaze in the semifinals. This time Frost was ready, besting their brothers in a close five game set. Their final test was Counter Logic Gaming Europe, one of the best teams in the world, with the mighty Froggen at the helm. Froggen was arguably the best player in the world at the time, and made a strong case in that summer’s finals. The key word is “arguably”. I think MadLife was better. Yes, Froggen played with virtually no star talent, and made CLG.eu an incredibly successful team. He carried almost every game and was the focus of enemy aggression. Still, think about MadLife. His team had more successful results than CLG.eu  and consistently looked stronger. Frost also had Shy, but MadLife was always considered the better player. You can argue Froggen had a bigger ingame impact, but he was blessed with copious amounts of gold and items. MadLife made a large impact as a Support player. That’s the difference. Now, that may have seemed tangential, but trust me, it isn’t. If you want evidence of MadLife’s strength over Froggen, or everyone for that matter, watch the OGN Summer Finals 2012. One of the most exciting sets in history. The series started off in Europe’s favor. With stellar victories in the first two games, CLG.eu seemed destined to imitate the sweeping victory Frost received in the previous OGN tournament. Froggen was on another level, plain and simple. But it’s never that simple. Down two games, Frost slowly climbed their way back. Through a combination of teamwork, determination, and will, they won the third game. Then the fourth. Then the championship. A reverse all-kill. Frost members kissed the Champions cup and began packing their bags for the World Championship in Los Angeles. They had won. 
MadLife’s help in the reverse-sweep was exceptional. All three games are shining examples of his talent. In the first win, his Janna play was excellent. His Tornadoes were constantly on point. His positioning was great. And his use of Monsoon was brilliant, perfectly defending his teammates when needed. During the second win, he’d pull out Blitzcrank. Need I say more? Players were grabbed, players were killed. Frost victory. His performance with Alistar in Game 5 was arguably the most impressive of the night. Not only did he make plays, he completely nullified Froggen. Playing Diana, the mid laner was eager to enter fights and cause havoc. Not on MadLife’s watch. Every time Froggen approached Frost, he was met with an  angry Alistar Headbutting, Exhausting, and Pulverizing him away from the action. CLG.eu’s best player was neutralized by a Support. That’s talent. The winner of two of the country’s premier tournaments, MadLife was a hero in Korea. Now it was time for his legend to grow on the world stage. It was time for the Season 2 World Championship. This would no doubt be a much larger challenge. Former rivals like NaJin Sword and CLG.eu were ready for vengeance. Unfamiliar teams like Moscow 5 and World Elite were just as hungry. It’d be no easy task to lift the Summoner’s Cup. That didn’t stop Frost from trying to make it look that way, though. With each step to the finals, they demolished their adversaries. SK Gaming, Invictus Gaming, and CLG.P (pretty sure they’d given up on beating Frost at this point) went down in the blink of an eye. Controversies aside, their series with Team SoloMid yielded a sound victory. Even after dropping the first game in their rematch against CLG.eu, MadLife’s team came back hitting twice as hard, landing themselves in the finals. As it’s known though, the fun ended there. Frost famously lost to the Taipei Assassins in a shocking upset. Even players from the latter were surprised at the result. MadLife didn’t win the championship, but that didn’t stop his legend from growing. No one could argue MadLife’s place as the world’s greatest Support. His performance at that year’s Worlds was a masterwork. He again showed an enormous presence in games, never shy to get his hands dirty and hunt for blood. He was incredibly versatile, not only playing by far the most champions of anyone, but showing skill both offensively and defensively. And he once again put on a show with his mechanical skill. MadLife may not have left Los Angeles a champion, but he returned to Korea the God of Support. Go to Part 2
If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @OddballCreator. Image credits in respective order: Inven, WCG, Riot Games, OnGameNet, Azubu, SK Gaming.  

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