The Korean Dissolution – Offseason Moves in the LCK Part 1
Every Offseason typically comes and goes in a similar fashion: moves are made, the community either gawks with amazement, gasps in shock, plaintively moans in sadness or grunts in confusion. However, this offseason, the vocal cacophony of the League of Legends community have been louder than before. Changes have been rife in each region with notable names leaving teams we thought they would never leave, rumours flying like ladies underwear at a Tom Jones concert and the Reddit detectives out in force to solve the current great mysteries of the Offseason. While EU and NA have had their fair share of changes, rumours and departures, in the last few days, news about the Korean offseason has made its way westwards and, boy, is it fascinating.
Najin e-mfire - Up in Flames
Photo Credit: OnGameNet
Najin e-mfire, one of the iconic Korean League of Legends organisations, has effectively disbanded. While there were rumours that were never confirmed of Lee “Zefa” Jae-min leaving the organisation earlier in November, the more pressing news was revealed these last few days. The Najin e-mfire organisation, as we know it, is no more: Park “Tank” Dan-won, Jang “Cain” Nu-ri, Cho “watch” Jae-geol, Yu “Ggoong” Byeong-jun, Kim “Pure” Jin-sun, Lee “Duke” Ho-Seong, Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho and Oh “Ohq” Gyu-min. Furthermore, their Head Coach, Park “Reach” Jung-suk has also left to go to coach at CJ Entus, along with Cain. Coaches Chae “ViNylCat” Woo Cheul and Kin “MOKUZA” Dae-woong have also been confirmed to have terminated their contracts. There are currently no rumours as to where the next destination is for the players, though it shouldn’t be hard for some or even all of them to find starting positions, domestically or abroad. Ohq is a very gifted mechanical player and, along with top laner Duke, was a shining light on a Najin team that has struggles in the LCK, finishing in 5th in the Summer Split and the Playoffs, coupled a poor performance in the Kespa Cup, dropping out of the tournament in their first Bo3 against Anarchy. They have been a team with great individual mechanical prowess, but lacking in the excellent strategical knowledge to consistently pull out wins. When they did, it was typically rather impressive. This is, at the time of writing, the largest disband of the offseason and, it being Najin, it’s quite a sad thing to see. I’ve been a fan since the days of Black Sword and I admired the talent they had in the most recent iteration. Though I’m sure we will see some of these players again but, for now, Najin e-mfire is no more.
KT Rolster – Looking Pretty Fly
Photo Credit: OnGameNet
In comparison to Najin, KT Rolster’s roster changes look utterly petite in comparison. Both mid laner Kim "Nagne" Sang-moon and support Lee "Piccaboo" Jong-beom have departed the team; Nagne’s destination is yet unknown but it is said that he will be taking some time off from competitive LoL, while Piccaboo is slated to be playing “for a foreign team”, igniting the rumour that he will be headed for the massive NA eSports franchise known as TSM. While this rumour is still yet to be official confirmed, a matter complicated by Bora “Yellowstar” Kim’s departure from Fnatic, I’m intrigued to see where he will end up: Since his acquisition by KT, he has been an integral part of their most recent success in the Summer Split of LCK and in the Playoffs: In Summer, Piccaboo was 4th in his position for KDA (4.4), 2nd in Wards per Minute (1.45) and had 72.1% Kill Participation. In Playoffs, He was first for WPM (1.64) and 3rd for KP (65.8%). Any team that picks him up will have their ranks bolster by his effective vision control and his teamfight ability. However, he has been known to die on solo warding/roam mission, as his share of his team’s death stat shows (1st for Regular Season at 28.7%, 2nd in Playoffs at 25.4%). In the place of Nagne and Piccaboo, come a seasoned veteran and an interesting rookie. Song "Fly" Yong-jun, the old Jin Air Stealths and LSPL’s Young Glory middle laner will be filling for Nagne and Lee "IgNar" Dong-geun, one of the few LZ-IM’s bright spots is replacing Piccaboo. I would say the IgNar is one of the best prospective support talents in Korea right now and is an excellent replacement for Piccaboo in terms of his playstyle: Both Piccaboo and IgNar have quite aggressive, playmaking styles so it should make the transition to difficult. Fly is a harder question to answer. Overall, Young Glory was not the most successful LSPL team during Fly’s stint as their mid, but that doesn’t necessarily point to him as an issue. I will reserve judgment on Fly until I see him play in the 2016 Season. On the flip side, KT has done well by retaining Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, their top laner and arguably one of the best in the world at his position. He was the MVP in the Summer Season with 1400 MVP points, beating out Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and was second for KDA in his position (4.7). Both Go “Score” Dong-bin and No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon have also been retained by KT, a move that I also considered to be pretty good. Both are solid players, with Arrow showing moments of excellence throughout the both the Regular Season and the Playoffs. Overall, KT have come out of the Offseason relatively unscathed and I am waiting to see what they will be capable of in the Spring Season.
SK Telecom – And then there were 4
Photo Credit: TheScoreEsports
SKT, as is to probably be expected of the team that won Worlds, has retained the majority of its starting roster. The majority. Unexpectedly, captain, Worlds MVP and famed top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-Hwan has departed from the roster with his next destination unclear. It’s definitely a shock, but it has happened before with their previous top laner, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, who headed the grassy knolls of North America only a year after winning Season 3 Worlds. Since being brought onto the main SKT roster, MaRin has been an unstoppable force: At Worlds, he was one of the top, if not the top, players in his position in every important statistic, earning himself the MVP award for the entire tournament. It helps that the meta at the time was heavy skewed towards the top lane but, regardless, he has been outstanding player for SKT. Replacing him opens up an interesting dilemma for SKT. Yes, there is plenty of top lane talent in Korea so do they choose and pick up an established talent or do they do the thing that SKT is famous for a take a rookie and craft him into a dominant player? In other news, SKT also lost 2 of their sub players: jungler Im “Tom” Jae-hyeon and, more importantly, Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon, who has departed for Vici Gaming for, apparently, a rather hefty sum. I can understand Tom’s wanting to leave. He only played 6 games in the Summer Season and no games whatsoever in the playoffs, so I can understand if he wished to leave in order to join a team where he could be a starter. The same with Easyhoon. An excellent player within his own right and, while he has had more games than Tom to showcase this and has played on the international stage, I also understand the desire to be more than just a sub for Faker. He wants to establish himself as a truly premier mid laner. I think he already has some tremendous talent, but he wants to do so across and entire season of competitive League of Legends and if China is the place to do that, best of luck to him.