World Elite: The First Dynasty – A comprehensive look at the first great Chinese team

Oddball 2020-09-29 11:54:39
  The mandate is not easy to keep. Do not bring ruin on yourselves. Send forth everywhere the light of your good fame; Consider what Heaven did to the Yin. High Heaven does its business Without sound, without smell. Make King Wên your example, In whom all the peoples put their trust. - Excerpt from the Shijing   Above reads an ancient poem translated to English as “King Wên is on High”. It recounts the passing of old Chinese dynasties and their replacement with new ones, offering wisdom to future rulers. Its subject, King Wên of Zhou, was considered the first epic hero of China, standing as a model ruler for descendants to draw inspiration. Within League of Legends, China has witnessed teams that can also be described as dynasties. Whether it’s Invictus Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix winning Worlds, or Edward Gaming and Oh My God reigning domestically, Chinese League of Legends has seen its own dynastic cycle. No one would argue the region has fielded some of the greatest rosters in history. One team stands as the first dynasty. A team radically different from any other in the world. For so long the most popular team in the country, if not the world. A team possessing some of the most iconic players in the game. Players like WeiXiao, Misaya, and Clearlove. That team is World Elite.  China has continued to dominate as a region, their teams winning premier competitions like the World Championships and Mid Season Invitational. World Elite precedes all others. The first Chinese team to rule domestically. The first Chinese team to be the best in the world. The first Chinese team to be legends. World Elite was the first dynasty, this is why.     Before League of Legends became the behemoth it is, Chinese esports centered around Warcraft III and DotA. Early in 2011, the legendary Chinese Warcraft III organization, World Elite, became one of the first teams to have a presence in the new MOBA. The team’s original line up was Ayaya, Joker, YJTM, if, and finally, Misaya. With the Chinese competitive scene in its infancy, WE dominated domestic competition, their only rivals Catastrophic Cruel Memory (the remnants of which later formed Invictus Gaming).

Pictured on right: World Elite's Warcraft III legend Sky

As the year went on, the team continued making roster changes, slowly inching towards the famous lineup. As 2011 ended the team was CaoMei, YJTM, if, Misaya, and WeiXiao. Interestingly, WeiXiao actually started out as WE’s toplaner, before switching with CaoMei to his much more remembered role as an AD carry.  Up until this point, most offline competitions were composed of western teams. The notion of a team from the east, yet alone a Chinese team, was still quite unheard of. Funnily enough this future powerhouse’s first interaction with international teams was in online NA tournaments, playing versus names like Counter Logic Gaming and Team Curse, but also sadly forgotten teams like “u Mad bro” and “APictureOfAGoose”.  Though they did well domestically and online, WE was still largely invisible to the rest of the world. One tournament they unfortunately lost was the qualifier for that year’s World Cyber Games. With their core pieces in place, WE wanted to make a statement. Their first significant international competition was at IEM Guangzhou, playing against one of the best teams in the world, Counter Logic Gaming. Being an offline competition, naturally spectators expected the more experienced CLG to win. Already showing hints of their distinct playing style, World Elite shocked the world, defeating every team in the tournament. In a world where North American and European teams ruled, World Elite put China on the map. 

World Elite at IEM Guanzhou

After such an impressive victory in Guangzhou, WE had a run of respectable, albeit disappointing placements. Although they continued winning most Chinese events, they weren’t able to replicate the same brilliance in foreign competition. They arguably performed the worst at the OGN LoL Invitational, lost to mediocre teams at an IPL Faceoff, and only made the quarterfinals of OGN Champions Summer 2012. With a string of poor performance against non-Chinese teams, and the Season 2 World Championships quickly on the horizon, WE needed a change. They found it in the addition of Clearlove and FZZF. With that, the missing pieces to the mythical lineup were in place. With CaoMei (Top), Clearlove (Jungler), Misaya (Mid), WeiXiao (AD Carry), and FZZF (Support), World Elite had formed the future of League of Legends. The team was competent and cocky. WeiXiao and Clearlove were so confrontational with one another, their competitive relationship was considered one of the primary catalysts of WE’s success. WeiXiao is quoted saying “I used to think I didn’t have a good temper - but after I met him I found someone with a worse temper than mine. That person was Clearlove.”

The eyes of a killer

Enormous credit is due to Misaya as team captain. It’s not just crazy he managed to juggle shotcalling and playing as an elite mid, tasks that very few players could manage. He also stands as an early example of psychological coaching, keeping the egos of WeiXiao, CaoMei, and Clearlove in check. Many teams never make it off the ground due to arrogance. With Misaya, they skyrocketed.
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The team continued to dominate Chinese competition and performed well in online tournaments worldwide. Teams like CLG and Azubu Frost spoke of the Chinese competitors as potential world champions. With strong results in and out of China, reverence from the best teams in the world, and an increasingly cohesive unit, World Elite looked to have everything they needed to represent China well on the highest stage.  Playing their first match in the quarterfinals, WE played a best-of-three against the formidable CLG.EU. A team that previously bested them that summer in Korea, it would undoubtedly be a duel to remember. It turned out it was, but for all the wrong reasons. WE started out strong, taking the first contest and gaining a winning position in the second. It was at that point that the Chinese team’s aspirations came crashing down. Arguably the most infamous example of technical problems in League of Legends, the game continued crashing in the Ro8 series. This led to a preposterous amount of game remakes. In fact, the series was so grating it actually spawned the practice of audience members cheering ward kills, bored with the monotony and humdrum of the endless matchup. The series finished days later. Worn down by the constant remakes, playing against a team famous for their endurance and mental fortitude, the best Chinese team fell to CLG.EU. It’s understandable many WE fans viewed the outcome as a complete and utter sham. WE finally had a finely tuned unit. Strong players at every position and the best AD carry in the world. That fact, paired with whispers that WE was crushing scrimmages against nearly every team in the tournament (besides Taipei Assassins), China had a great chance of winning the cup. Instead, they essentially got a multi-day social experiment, forced to play rematch after rematch, ultimately suffocated by their European rivals. Chinese fans were rightfully pissed.  As they returned home, WE wouldn’t take the loss to heart, easily winning their next tournament. And the next one. And the next one. And the one after that. You see the point I’m making? From the end of October 2012 to March of the next year, WE was never defeated in tournament play, winning 8 events. Over half a year of dominance. During that stretch, they won 74 games, losing 11. At one point they even had a 35 game win streak. For matches, that stretched to 48. What’s even more impressive, most of those losses were to their rivals, Invictus Gaming. Only three other teams took games off of WE during this period. It got to the point that they were literally afraid they were winning too much, concerned about the shock of eventually losing. A dynasty indeed. 

Common sight to see from 2012-2013.

The crown jewel of WE’s royal road was IGN ProLeague 5. What many hail as the best tournament in LoL’s history, the competition was in essence another world championship. Some of the best teams from every region. Many teams looked capable of winning it all. However, it was time for World Elite to live up to their name. They completely dominated. Many teams could stand toe-to-toe with World Elite in the early game, but as soon as matters shifted to team fighting, it was effectively over. WeiXiao proved himself as the best player in the world. Despite being the focus of enemy aggression, his positioning proved to trump all others, picking off the enemy while almost never dying.  Azubu Blaze. Moscow 5. Fnatic. These were among the best teams in the world at the time. All would fall to WE at the event. Even against their European rivals CLG.EU, WE fully redeemed their past failures. In a 70+ minute match remembered as one of the best in history, WE showed they too were masters of endurance. All told they only lost two games to Fnatic throughout the tournament. With their win at IPL 5 it was inarguable - WE was the best team in the world.  All rulers must fall, however. See, WE in their heyday was essentially the Lakers’ peak years with Kobe Bryant. They were so damn dominant that all the other teams around had the sole goal of taking the giants down. Rumors spread that teams actually shared tactics with one another to defeat the superstars. They would try anything. Throwing crap up on the Great Wall, praying that anything would stick. For a time their strategies appeared superfluous, but new kings would have their day. OMG came into its own. Their classic rivals iG continued to improve. Even WeiXiao wasn’t standing above all other competition, Royal Club’s Uzi and Positive Energy’s Devil (more commonly known as Namei) reaching for his crown. By the end of the 2013 LPL Spring season, WE finished fourth. 

New rulers would rise

The team had another great victory at IEM Season VIII Shanghai in the summer of that year, but it would mark the end of the WE team we so fondly remember. While WeiXiao was still a top AD carry, he wasn’t the de facto maestro of the role anymore. Misaya was still a great mid laner, but fell out of the meta, overtaken by Zz1tai and Cool. The rest of WE performed okay, but without the one-two punch of their primary carries, the team lost its magic. WE steadily declined, overtaken by several teams in domestic play, consistently beaten internationally. Although still a solid team, they continually experienced defeat. By the end of Season 3, WE had descended from an unstoppable dynasty to a middle-of-the-road Chinese team. As if rubbing salt in the wound, they barely missed top two at the Season 3 China Regional Finals, losing their opportunity to attend the Season 3 World Championships. With the end of 2013 came the end of WE’s glory days. A series of heart-wrenching announcements started popping up: Misaya‘s retirement, Clearlove and FZZF being taken off the main roster, eventually leaving for greener pastures on EDG. The 2014 performance of WE is something I would prefer not to delve deep into, for fear of upsetting an ulcer. Seemingly installing a revolving door of mediocrity to their gaming house, WE fans witnessed incessant roster changes, none of the additions ever being a memorable player. CaoMei was past his prime. Although WeiXiao still showed brilliance as a marksman, several players in and out of China had overtaken him. 

IEM Shanghai - The Last Hurrah

Over 2014 they only won a single tournament - an IEM competition in Shenzhen, the tournament featuring very few teams and a best of three format. They didn’t even make the playoffs of LPL Summer. In fact, many fans even believed WE Academy, the secondary team, to be the stronger of the two, besting them in competition. Clearlove and FZZF found great success on EDG, which only served to WE and their fans as a cruel reminder of what once was. Even with some of the original players still on the roster, it was disheartening watching the former champions lose.  CaoMei announced his retirement due to personal reasons. WeiXiao followed soon after. Although heartbreaking for fans - the last members of the legendary roster gone, the lack of results spoke for themselves. A titan like WeiXiao would not settle for second-rate placements, and decided to leave with his victories still somewhat fresh in fans’ minds. With that the last vestiges of a truly triumphant era had finally passed.     Aggression. Boldness. Violence. These are the words that come to mind when thinking about Chinese LoL. For most of their history, China has given us some of the most ruthless and belligerent teams the game has seen. What’s interesting is that the first great Chinese team wasn’t this way at all. In fact, their dominance using a relatively reserved style was what spawned the relentless combat we’d see afterwards. Let’s break down why they were so great.  Lovingly known by nicknames like “King”, “First Blood CaoMei”, and “Demon of Backdooring Frenzy”, CaoMei was a very interesting player. Clearly very skilled as evidenced by his former top ranking on the Chinese server, CaoMei spent his career out of the spotlight compared to WeiXiao and Misaya. Not the best early game laner, he was infamous for consistently giving up First Blood. This is not to say CaoMei was a liability by any means. CaoMei fit perfectly into WE’s strategy of extending the laning phase to build up their carries for mid-late game team fights. On the occasions Misaya and WeiXiao were not in top performance, he was a dangerous third option. “Even though I made mistakes,” Misaya said, “and WeiXiao made mistakes, CaoMei made relatively few mistakes. If WeiXiao made a mistake, if I made a mistake, we could help each other. This way, it was like we were unbeatable.” As the game progressed, CaoMei evaporated his opponents’ leads, turning into a force as team fights became an option. By then he was everything a good top laner could be for a marksmen-centered team, perfectly peeling for WeiXiao as the latter attacked the enemy. Before he continued finding success on EDG, Clearlove was many times looked down upon as a jungler. He was viewed as boring and passive, never getting his hands dirty in a lane ganks, instead choosing to farm jungle camps. This was completely by WE’s design. Misaya was arguably the best roaming mid laner in the game, applying pressure to the map in a way no other mids were at the time. For the meta it was much more ideal to shove one’s lane and farm Wraith camps. Not for Misaya. Not for WE. Clearlove didn’t gank because he didn’t need to. Instead he kept efficiently farming, becoming a dangerous weapon by mid game. Take IPL 5 for example (due to the strong competition and available statistics). Among all the junglers in the tournament, they roughly averaged a 115 creep score. Clearlove? 139. With the advantages in levels and gold, he was far better equipped for team fights and objectives compared to other junglers. That was where Clearlove truly shined as a player. His team fighting skill was world class, possessing a strong mind for initiations and working with CaoMei to provide excellent coverage for WeiXiao. His late-game decision making was also fantastic, as evidenced by how long he played without the strongest mechanics, how long he stayed a winner.

Rough illustration of Clearlove's trophy room.

During his prime Misaya was consistently one of the best mids in the world. As mentioned before, his ability to pop up across the map and create chaos redefined what a mid lane player could do. Roaming on Champions like Sion and Diana, enemy teams could never feel safe. This isn’t to say he was one-dimensional either. Unlike many players of Season 2, Misaya was anything but a one-trick pony. Even if you banned out his roaming teamfight-oriented champions, he still was exceptional on Ryze and Karthus, and had a downright vicious Vladimir.  There’s obviously another champion we need to mention. Misaya and Twisted Fate are nearly synonymous with each other. During their winning streak he never lost a single game with the champion, and it was one consistently banned against him for a large portion of his career. His most iconic Twisted Fate play is this one.  Let’s ignore for a moment the awesome bait that still looks genius eight years later. See how Misaya immediately pulled another gold card after his Zhonya’s Hourglass wore off? This wasn’t left to chance.  Notice how the card continues beating after it’s selected. With each pulse, its  cycling through a pattern of each card choice, that one being the first available the next time Pick A Card was casted. Upon discovering this, Misaya kept an internal clock ticking in his head to always have an instant gold card ready for ganks and initiations. It was completely unheard of at the time. The fact he was able to pull this off during major games in high pressure moments is simply incredible. Very fitting that his favorite character was Twisted Fate. The man was a magician. FZZF has always had a relatively invisible presence, but I’d say that’s due to the overwhelming star power of his teammates. Known for exotic support picks, FZZF was always one of the better Support players in the world. Not quite on the level of someone like MadLife, but definitely a smart and respectable player. His synergy and laning with WeiXiao was some of the best in history. He had a deep champion pool, and his playmaking ability was some of the best in the world. Like Clearlove, his sheer length of success is a testament to his skill and consistency as a player. Finally there’s WeiXiao. What hasn’t been said about one of the greatest players of all time? He was everything you could want in an AD carry. His laning and mechanics were great. His synergy with FZZF at times seemed clairvoyant. His champion pool was vast - one of the best on hyper-scaling carries and mid game carries.  Then there was his team fighting. WeiXiao truly redefined what was possible in the heat of battle. The only one even comparable was Moscow 5’s Genja, a player teams focused far less on in fights than WeiXiao. His kiting, positioning, and decision-making at the time were better than any seen at the time. With those skills, he would dance around fights like he was playing against bots - his health bar virtually locked in place as enemies never got the chance to attack him. Players like Uzi and Deft have since surpassed the first god of AD carry. I would argue what they’ve done wouldn’t be possible without standing on WeiXiao’s shoulders.  Let’s now discuss how WE functioned as a unit. As mentioned before, their overall playstyle was quite defensive. In addition to their mechanical skill in WeiXiao, WE had one of the most innovative macro games in the world. The slow push. With an unparalleled understanding of minion control, WE extended the laning phase, to the point of intentionally ignoring tower pushing. (It's worth noting that WeiXiao personally contributed to this immensely, being one of the first Ezreal players to utilize Trueshot Barrage for managing waves in other lanes.) With this strategy, their players had plenty of opportunity to farm up for the late game, Clearlove included. With each minute notched on the clock, they became ever more dangerous. With their team fighting ability, it should come as no surprise that they rarely lost games.  WE’s teamfighting was beautiful. It rarely looked messy, always appearing like the textbook example of proper AD carry usage. Let’s look at their last teamfight before winning IPL 5. Not only do I view it as poetic, but I think it perfectly illustrates what WE did well.  Gorgeous, isn’t it? Immediately we see at 0:47 how WeiXiao iconically uses Arcane Shift away from the action, viewing it as more valuable to deal damage over the long run than immediately aggressing and risking death. Afterward Misaya initiates, trying to eliminate Ahri, the biggest threat to WeiXiao. He immediately uses Zhonya’s Hourglass, gathering the enemy team together. CaoMei and Clearlove follow after, acting as a great shield for WeiXiao and Misaya. The former starts the fight literally hiding behind a wall, slowly chasing the enemy while staying behind his team. Despite dishing a crazy amount of damage, WeiXiao hardly loses any health in the fight. Check any game from WE’s win streak. This was business as usual. Even if they started off losing early, they possessed that aura that they were never really behind, that victory was inevitable. All of that together is something few teams can match.      WE is one of the most important teams in history. Their playstyle was something that arguably still holds residual effects on the Chinese scene. As I mentioned before, WE didn’t start the idea of Chinese aggression, they caused it. With their macro-heavy, late game style, rival teams domestically knew they couldn’t compete on WE’s terms. The answer? Completely change the playbook. The Chinese metagame soon revolved around initiating early engagements, often evolving into full on team fights. By initiating as fast and as hard as possible, opposing teams wouldn’t let WE have a chance to make up for the late game. The next kings of China, OMG, were the ones leading this revolution, creating a lethal composition known as the “Freight Train”. A team based around Hecarim, Thresh, and Graves, the formation was very adept at creating picks and engaging the enemy. By mid game, it was too late to fight them.  WE also showed just how popular and revered an esports team could be. Being the first Chinese team to be the best in the world, their popularity is jaw dropping. Even past their prime, all members of the team were considered legends in China. For example, CaoMei actually had to ask fans not to vote for him as an All Star in 2013, wanting China to field the best roster possible. When he was voted in the following year, he had more votes than every other player combined. The team appeared on talk shows, received incredibly lucrative endorsement contracts, and hosted streams that sometimes would pass 1,000,000. They demonstrated that even with how short a career competing may be, unbelievable opportunities can remain. No doubt this was wholly inspiring for the future Chinese region, now the best in the world. World Elite was one of the greatest teams of all time. How they affected the game literally, culturally, and historically is something all teams should strive for. Just like the future rulers of China looked to King Wên for insight, players of the LPL may benefit from a similar token:    Make World Elite your example, In whom all the peoples put their trust.
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