In part 1 I talked about SK Telecom T1 and NaJin e-mFire, two teams that still looked like the strong potential world beaters you expect to find in the Korean scene. While neither team is as strong as Samsung Blue or White, they've only competed in the OGN pre-season showmatches. Both teams still have a lot of room for growth.Written by gosickboy
At their absolute peak, the Arrows and the Bullets were almost the polar opposites of each other. The Bullets were a smart and efficient team who relied on incredible map movement, vision control, innovative strategies and their signature Baron sneaks in order to win games. KT Arrows, on the other hand, were an aggressive team who relied on pushing their skill to the absolute max and prestigious mechanical outplays in order to win.
The only true consistent factor in both teams was their jungler KaKAO. Consistently a top 2 Korean jungler since his return to the KT Bullets, KaKAO was KT Rolster’s strongest and most beloved player and the only person to rival DanDy's consistently high level of play.
If KT Rolster had managed to hold onto KaKAO they'd be the best team in Korea.
The current KT Rolster lineup isn't lacking in strong players -- they're lacking a true star player who has the potential to go mental and hard carry the game. KT Rolster are also the team to use the most players in the OGN Pre-season.
Score, Prime, Kamja god
One of the youngest players to ever play in OGN, ssumday made his professional debut at 16 years old. Originally showcasing himself as a Renekton-or-feed toplaner for the KT Bullets, ssumday was demoted down to substitute status after his first season for role swapping veteran Insec on the KT Bullets. Taking MakNooN's spot on the KT Arrows, ssumday was an integral part of both their wins and losses.
That's not to say that ssumday is a bad player, far from it. ssumday fell into the same category that Looper, Acorn, Impact and a few others in the utility teleport tank meta that dominated Season 3. Never a true carry like Save and Flame, ssumday stood out with his off meta picks (eg. Riven, Elise, Gragas) and team fighting prowess. A player who's aggression and youth was only matched by his inconsistency, ssumday was almost the embodiment of the KT Arrows.
New year, new season, new Korea and same old ssumday. In 2015, ssumday needs to stick to what he's good at: tanks. His Maokai and Renekton games in OGN Pre-season were excellent, but his Lissandra game showed his old issues.
First appearing on the ill fated “Locodoco era” Quantic Gaming lineup, Prime later reappeared on the KT Rolster Bullets replacing Ryu in the jungle. Primarily a Jarvan player (in that he does nothing on anything else), Prime has not shown himself to fill the role of successor to KaKAO and Insec’s legacy.
Score jungle is interesting, especially considering that he's adopted a playstyle almost opposite of the one he's famed for as an ADC. Using the Watch strategy of; 'Dive in, press buttons furiously and hope something good happens', Score has shown that he's not afraid of making mistakes and over extending. It does say a lot about the coaches’ opinion of Prime that they even considered Score jungle though.
(Emily Rand wrote a great article about Score jungle for Paravine)
While some might say that Nagne has done nothing except narrowly lose a bo5 to Faker, I'd like to point out both the consistency in his individual performances and how bad his teams were in 2014. First off, he found himself on a NaJin Black Sword lineup with egos that could even impress Season 2 CLG. Then, he had to play with Ryu jungle. I rate Nagne on the same level as PawN, main difference being the quality of their team mates.
Nagne originally caught attention for his revolutionary and peerless Gragas play at the Season 4 World Championships. Later evolving into a strong Assassin player, Nagne then showed proficiency on control Mages such as Orianna, Ziggs and Xerath. In the great Korean exodus, I considered Nagne to be a player KT Rolster could look to rebuild around. Strong in lane, Nagne has a knack for making aggressive and surprising plays. This compliments his ability of turning a seemingly hopeless situation into his favour.
Arrow is aggressive as anyone and he compensates for his awful laning with strong teamfighting. Once you understand how Arrow got his start as a Draven main you realise that he's never stopped being a Draven player. His 'go hard or go home' attitude, unrelenting aggression, madness inducing teamfight positioning, and awful laning all stem from his beginnings. What's great about Arrow is that he's so acutely aware of his weaknesses that he's able to turn them into strengths.
For Hachani, the KiWiKiD and Dada777 comparisons are a little harsh but also lined with some truth. To pull a Hachani is to face check a bush of 4 people, die instantly, and lose your team a crucial objective. He does have his upsides, such as occasionally landing a 4-man Pulverise, but ultimately this is a player who’s negatives outweigh the positives. While the title of 'worst player to ever win an OGN' is certainly harsh (hello Homme), he's pretty high on the list. It's worth following whether Fixer, originally known as Ondal on Incredible Miracle #2, takes his starting spot or not.
KT Rolster's roster is actually pretty good (which is impressive considering how they've 'lost' 8 players to foreign teams in the exodus), they just lack star power and a good jungler. With a few issues ironed out, I believe this KT Rolster lineup (the only team to take a game off of SK Telecom T1) can return to it's former glory as a Korean power house.
The team formerly known as the HUYA Tigers has had as strong a start to professional LoL in Korea 2.0. Capable players in each role and a basic grasp of strategy and team play showcase just how badly NaJin e-mFire was hurt by the 1 team rule.
It's not all sunflowers, rainbows and lollipops for the GE Tigers, However, I believe there are a few fundamental mismatches on their team. Their skill ceiling, at least with their current lineup, is lower than the majority of their fellow OGN teams.
Most Korean fans might not realise that Smeb has been playing professionally since March 2013. Spending the majority of his professional career on IM#1, Smeb was most often seen as the lumbering tank player that was getting styled on in the highlight video.
That all changed on July 11th 2014 when, in Champions Summer 14, IM#1 split 1 – 1 with SK Telecom T1 K in the group stage. The game was significant because not only did Smeb solo kill Impact in lane in a Riven vs. Renekton matchup (which is typically considered unfavourable for the Riven), but he then proceeded to hard carry the rest of the match in a dominating display of Riven mechanics.
Smeb had a few more solid games in NLB. However, his next breakout performance came in the OGN Spring 15 qualifiers when, as Jayce toplane for HUYA/GE Tigers, he achieved a 2v4 quadra kill vs. the hyped up Xenics Modslook.
While these few break out carry games are strong, it doesn't paint a fair picture. First off, Smeb has not fixed his weaknesses, he's simply padded them with alternative strengths. He’s still lackluster on tanks and doesn't really grasp how to use teleport in a match. I personally don't feel like Korea ever really moved out of the toplane utility teleport tank meta (especially with the two greatest resisters now playing for Chinese teams), and I think Smeb's lack of flexibility and team play will hurt the GE Tigers in the long run.
Moving onto Lee, we see the first issue of the GE Tigers; Lee plays to be the carry as well. Originally getting recognition as 'the premier Korean solo queue jungle talent', Lee was signed by NaJin e-mFire to replace Helios on Black Sword. The player displayed impressive Lee Sin and Evelynn mechanics -- but his decision making, vision control, team play and ability to secure objectives left a lot to be desired. There were multiple games where his aggression and trigger-happy attitude were a serious detriment to NaJin Black Sword.
Look at any carry toplaner and you'll see a selfless team orientated jungler behind him; Helios/Daydream paired with Flame and Watch with MakNooN/Expession/Save come to mind. Now look at any carry jungler and you'll see a utility teleport tank toplaner behind him; DanDy with Looper, Spirit with Acorn, and KaKAO with ssumday for example. The combination of Lee and Smeb is a fundamental issue in playstyles (similar to the H0R0 and Eazyhoon issue that SK Telecom T1 S had) with no easy solution. Players almost never change their own personal playstyle philosophy without a role swap, and I don't see how Lee will become one of the few notable exceptions (given that Smeb's had the same issues for 2 years, so I'm not holding my breath for him).
Despite playing professionally since March 2013, KurO first received significant attention when he signed for NaJin Black Sword to replace Nagne as their starting midlaner. What interested me about this role was how KurO and Ggoong (then the starting midlaner for NaJin White Shield) were basically two sides of the same coin. Take Ggoong, swap out the small pool of assassins for an equally small pool of control mages, make the necessary playstyle adjustments, and you've got KurO. Preferring champions like Orianna, Xerath, Ziggs (RIP), Syndra and even a pocket Lissandra pick (back when Lissandra was only known by the cool kids), KurO swaps out Frozen's raw carry potential for a more consistent level of play.
There’s a part of me who wants KurO to realise his dream, smash every Korean midlaner and then go onto win Worlds, but it just doesn’t seem plausible. Yes, he spent the majority of his pro career languishing on Incredible Miracle #2, but it's not as if he's ever showed himself to be a player who can achieve anything other than being a part of a well oiled machine.
This brings me to the next fundamental issue with the GE Tigers lineup: Pray. There was a time period where Pray was not only one of the best AD Carries in the world but he also received the title 'first truly great Korean ADC'. This is a man who brought back Twitch like it was a mid 90s single gender pop group, the 2013 KR All-star marksman who was called +the most talented ADC in Korea” by Imp.
Currently, Pray is a shadow of his former self. He’s the washed up fighter who just hangs out at the bar and talks about the good old days to anyone who'll listen. Stronger ADCs have made his legacy practically cease to exist; even the best support in Korea can't make him look dominant. If Pray can return to even 70% of his old level then he'll be a strong player, but I don't think anyone's expecting that to happen.
The problem with having a control Mage midlaner is that you really need a strong aggressive ADC in order to run a double threat team effectively. While most teams, especially in this meta, have an easier time with a carry orientated marksman, I think control Mages especially depend on them. Without a true carry, the control Mage often finds himself with no one to support and struggles to make a real game impact.
That's not to say Pray is a supportive utility ADC -- if anything, Pray seems to require the same amount of attention as a carry orientated marksman without the same level of results.
The true carry of this team is the starting support player, GorillA. A top 2 support in Korea for almost the entire of 2014 (only Mata was unquestionably better), Gorilla has a knack for pairing himself with awful ADCs (first Zefa and then Pray). What's interesting about GorillA is that this set of circumstances has also forced him to become the best roaming support in Korea. Whether it was innovating the Janna pick that dominated Worlds, hard carrying games with a Blue Pot Thresh, or landing maximum disruption Nami Tidal Waves, GorillA really did have an impressive World Championships.
Go back and watch any GE Tigers victory and not only will you see just how many plays GorillA makes but also how the number of mid-games he carries for the team with his vision control. GorillA is, right now, having the same level of game impact as golden era Madlife -- except he's doing it in a more competitive era on a fundamentally more flawed lineup.
A part of me thinks that GE Tigers' positive results are more to do with every Korean team (except SK Telecom T1) becoming weaker than their own strength. Either way, unless GE Tigers fix the fundamental issues in their roster and expand their strategical playbook beyond 'hope Gorilla carries' then I expect we'll see them fall down the rankings. GE Tigers might be a bad team but they certainly aren't hopeless, they just need some serious work.
The Holy Samsung Empire of Blue and White was destroyed, and their heroes have found new work as mercenaries behind the wall. There was a time when the sun never set on the Samsung empire, but now, there's only a training facility left. It remains to be seen if Samsung can rebuild their former empire.
Objectively, once you stop comparing the new Samsung lineup to Blue and White, it's actually pretty easy to get excited about the team. Considering how little time the team had spent together and how inexperienced their players were, they looked solid in the OGN Pre-season.
While the new Samsung lineup may have a promising future, the toplaner certainly doesn't. The most exposing match he played was vs. NaJin e-mFire, where Duke won the Kassadin vs. Rumble matchup as both Kassadin and Rumble.
Nicknamed 'Drunk DanDy', Eve has displayed above average mechanics and impressive movement for such an inexperienced jungler. Eve might have a lot to work on but he has strengths and is improving at a steady rate. Now all I need is Eve on Lee Sin vs. Lee on Evelynn in a professional match, then I'll be happy.
Formerly known as Bell Park, I actually wonder why it took so long for BliSS to get picked up by a professional team. Primarily a Fizz player, BliSS has particularly shined on his pocket Morgana pick (achieving several solo kills with the champion). While BliSS's laning is potent, I think he needs to work on transitioning his success into the mid game more efficiently and grab a few carry performances under his belt.
The true strength of this team lies in the botlane. The artist of many names, Wraith/Loray/Casper/Icebear, is the natural team leader and veteran voice for the team. Wraith doesn't shy away from making the play and displays consistently impressive laning. His vision control might not be great, but like anything, I'm not convinced that won't improve with Samsung's coaching staff.
I'm a little surprised that Wraith got picked up due to his involvement in the AHQ Promise match fixing scandal but, I guess if TrAce can survive then so can Wraith (shame about Actscene though).
Fury, formerly known as Zetninjin, is arguably a top 3 Korean AD and someone almost destined for greatness. His breakout game came in their win over NaJin e-mFire, where he decided to 1v8 and put the rest of Samsung on his back (Zefa might as well of been AFK for all his game impact). Alongside CoreJJ and Ohq, Fury was set to usher in a new age of Korean ADCs at the end of Season 4. With CoreJJ emigrating to KiWiKiD's loving arms it seems like the pressure is even more weighted on Fury.
The new Samsung team might be the last chance to ever see another SK Telecom T1 K style rise. A team of almost entirely solo queue talents in a time of repair, confusion and healing? Sounds dangerous. Now if only they could acquire a new top laner.All images courtesy of their respective owners. If you enjoyed this content, consider following the author on Twitter at @gosickboy_.