Chovy and Tarzan are the stars that have led the fourth seeds for the LCK and LPL to Reykjavik. The last time they stepped onto the Worlds stage at the same time, they were wearing the red Griffin jersey. As they meet again in the beautiful island where icy fields clash with volcanic mountains, HLE’s mid laner and LNG’s jungler look only towards the Group Stage and beyond. We, on the other hand, would like to travel back to 2018 and compare the way in which their divergent paths tell a story of how the two strongest regions in League of Legends history have evolved.Griffin has now become one of the most infamous “what ifs” in professional League of Legends. The impressive team of rookies who took an entire region by storm to only end up imploding in a myriad of internal dramas is now gone, but the three main talents of the roster have become some of the biggest names in the scene. Viper, now playing for EDG, is considered one of the best ADCs in the World, and the aforementioned Chovy and Tarzan have been in the discussion for best in their role since at least 2019. Chovy's curseChovy left Griffin in November 2019 and joined DRX the month after. A lot of questions surrounded the midlane talent. He looked like one of the best players the region had seen, but he had only played with one roster, and every Griffin player (except for Sword) had extremely inflated stats due to the record-breaking regular season records. He needed to prove himself with a new batch of players if he was to truly be accepted as a top tier talent, and he did. Yet, here began Chovy’s apparent curse of being a one man army. DRX didn’t have a bad roster overall. Deft and Keria were a really talented bot lane, a promising mixture of experience and raw talent, but the top side of the map never seemed to work. Doran was serviceable, but Pyosik was wildly inconsistent. The team never clicked and didn’t reach the high expectations created from the names on paper. Despite the disappointing results, the “Church of Chovy” only gained strength. The young player appeared to perform to a ridiculously high level regardless of what was happening around him. Winning matchups that should be sure losses, developing CS leads that don’t make mathematical sense and keeping an unfaltering poise the entire time. Chovy was already a joy to behold.While the maestro tried his luck with Deft, the king of the jungle laid in wait, still stuck in the crumbling ruins of what was once the impressive Griffin castle. Chovy, Lehends and head coach CvMax left and the team was never the same. Tarzan and Viper kept showing promises, but Griffin as an organisation was bound to fail. In May 2020 most players left and the jungler, already hailed as one of the best at his role in the entire world, disappeared from the professional League of Legends landscape. He lied in wait for half a year while Chovy kept trying to make DRX work, unsuccessfully. Going in circlesChovy’s time at DRX came to an end in November 2020, when he and Deft decided to join Hanwha Life. The team had managed to qualify to Worlds 2020 and reach the knockout stage, but the 3-0 sweep versus Damwon just showed that DRX were stuck as the number two team under the best circumstances. The maestro changed teams with ambitions worthy of his talent, but what he’s got so far is slightly worse results. The roster feels like a worse version of DRX in every way. The jungle/top duo have been plagued with constant substitutions between subpar players and the Deft/Vsta bot lane is a direct downgrade when compared to Deft/Keria. Yet it appears that the difficulties around Chovy just serve to highlight his ridiculous talent. In a team with a 7/11 record in the regular split, the mid laner managed to be voted All Pro team 3 and received 900 points in the MVP standings, behind only Nongshim’s Gori (voted player of the split) and Canyon. The impression one gets after seeing a full year of HLE is that the team only wins if Chovy drags them across the finish line. The King conquers a new jungleWhile the transition from DRX to HLE happened for Chovy, Tarzan lurked among the trees evaluating his options. 6 months after leaving Griffin, the Korean jungler joined LNG in December 2020. At this point in time, LNG was a middle/bottom of the table team in the stacked Chinese league, but Tarzan joined with the intent of transforming it into a contender. Spring Split was a slow start — understandably given the fact that the Korean jungler was trying to learn Chinese in order to communicate and was still adapting to the different environment — but during the Summer Split the roster began their rapid ascent. By January 2021, LNG was ready to begin a new road with the addition of icon, Ale, coach Rather and Tarzan. The King of the Jungle was still hyped for his hypnotizing eye-test, but a poor period in Griffin, the hiatus and the language barrier left a lot of questions to be answered. During Spring Split some promise was shown and the team had indeed improved compared to its previous iteration, but middle of the table wasn’t the placement Tarzan was aiming for. The more you saw LNG the better they got. Tarzan’s grasp of basic Mandarin was improving, and the results in game were mirroring this development. The team was more confident, more aggressive and had better results. The jungler was returning to previous heights and players like Icon and Ale were unravelling their potential. A 10-6 record during Summer 2021 left them in 8th place, but when the BO5s came, LNG showed what they were capable of, while the LPL proved how tough of a league it is. Two mountains to climb, one summit to reachAs Tarzan rose through the ranks with LNG, Chovy kept trying to climb a less steep mountain but with little help from his teammates. An 8th place finish prevented them from even making it to playoffs, but due to championship points they narrowly qualified for the Regional Finals. They had to beat Sandbox and Nongshim, two teams that placed above them during the regular season, in order to qualify. With a few godlike performances from Chovy and a much better showing from the roster overall (now with Morgan and Willer as the full time top/jungle duo), the team managed to get two clutch wins back to back and qualified for play-ins despite losing to T1. The series against T1 was extremely close, but ending the regional qualifiers in a loss still feels disappointing when compared with the ridiculous LNG run. Chovy confirmed HLE’s qualification after sweeping Nongshim due to the Championship Points accrued during Spring, but Tarzan’s mountain was a much steeper climb. LNG had 0 Championship points from the previous Split, so they had to reach at least 4th place in playoffs to even join the Regional Qualifiers. In order to do so, Tarzan and co had to go through most of the teams in their side of the bracket, which included Suning (2020 Worlds Finalists), Top Esports (one of the favourites to win Worlds 2020) and RNG, the reigning MSI Champions. LNG dropped a total of 4 games during these 3 series, and were only taken down by FPX, who won the regular split with a 13-3 record, and EDG who won the Summer Playoffs. The top four finish gave them a chance to get to Iceland through the Regional Qualifiers and, despite the incredibly tiresome schedule during this last month of Chinese competition, LNG swept RA and beat WE 3-1. To put that in comparison, LNG had to finish Regular Season higher in a League with more teams, had to go through a much longer Playoff format in which they had to beat much tougher teams and needed to win both Regional Qualifier games to reach Worlds. Meanwhile, Chovy’s HLE arrives in Iceland after ending their season in a loss after not even making the play-offs. Yes, championship points being transferred from Spring influenced this situation, but even if HLE had to make a similar run to what LNG did due to having 0 CHampionship Points, the road would’ve been much easier until reaching the immovable wall that is Damwon. This discrepancy in roads leading to Worlds is mirrored in the expectations of experts regarding the two strongest Play-In teams. LNG are by far the favourite, and most of the thoughts around HLE involve an excitement at the possibility of watching Chovy 1v9 versus much weaker mid laners, and a dread at the thought of the team throwing so hard that they don’t even make it to Groups. The play-ins results so far reflect these expectations. LNG convincingly beat HLE in the first game of the tournament and absolutely dismantled both PEACE and RED Canids. HLE have only dropped a game to LNG so far, but their showing against Infinity Esports especially was quite worrisome. Which road to follow?These two teams might still surprise in the Groups Stage, especially LNG, but the trajectories that brought them here leave us wondering: if you are a player like Chovy, why shouldn’t you go the Tarzan route? The top LCK teams have their mid lane role in a complete lock with BDD, Faker and Showmaker. The rest of the rosters have talent, but they are not Chovy caliber. Tarzan joined a middle of the table LPL team and has surpassed HLE’s achievements despite not speaking the language well while playing the role which requires the most communication. South Korea is still the birthplace for the best talent in League of Legends— and will probably remain so after China’s new online gaming regulations— but it is hard to argue in favour of staying in LCK instead of LPL when you have proven that you are an amazing player. We hope Chovy proves us wrong with HLE’s showing throughout this Worlds, but for now Tarzan’s LNG is the most impressive team to watch during Play-ins.If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @Kaaaosh.
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Images courtesy of Riot Games.
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