Smoothing It Out
With Team Dragon Knight’s victory in the 2015 Summer Promotion tournament, the community was poised for the return of veterans Shin “Seraph” Wu-Yeong and Kevin “Kez” Jeon. This Top-Jungle duo, whose synergy and coordination, along with the last minute inclusion of legendary mid-laner Alexey “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin, propelled TDK into the LCS. In this team of veterans and all-stars, little attention was paid to rookie support Andy “Smoothie” Ta.
TDK’s LCS journey started poorly to say the least, with visa issues forcing Mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo and AD Carry Kim “Emperor” Jin-hyun to miss the first 4 weeks of the summer spilt. As a part of TDK’s emergency roster reshuffle Smoothie also missed the first 3 games of the split. These roster inconsistencies rippled into the team’s in game performances, with the team going 0–9 to start the split. Even after finally locking their roster into place TDK’s season never fully recovered. The team finished in last place and was auto-relegated back into Challenger Series.
In his rookie split Smoothie showed glimpses of excellence particularly with his aggressive Alistair engages and clean Thresh hooks. However, with TDK’s lacklustre performances Smoothie never really separated himself from the pack and appeared to be another case of unrealised potential. For a brief period it seemed that Smoothie would return the Challenger Series and out of the community’s mind.
After another year of letting an opportunity to attend Worlds slip through their fingers, Team Liquid released a video officially announcing the replacement of journeyman Support Alex “Xpecial” Chu with none other than Smoothie. In following statements it appeared that TL saw the lack of synchronisation between Xpecial and high profile AD Carry Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin as hurdle to the team’s growth and success. Finally on a team with a stable support structure and history of achievement, Smoothie was given all the tools he needed to mature into a world-class support. TL fans were excited by this news, as by bringing in Smoothie TL could mould him into the perfect support to compliment the demanding and uber aggressive style that Piglet is known for. However it was not meant to be, because after just a single game Smoothie was subbed out of the main roster and sent back to the Challenger Series to Team Liquid Academy. Once again in the Challenger Series, his team failed to meet expectations and Smoothie failed to distinguish himself. A familiar scene the 18 year old’s young career.
What came next appeared to be another repetition of the cycle of Smoothie’s career. Perennial powerhouse Cloud9, like Team Liquid a split earlier, released a video announcing the addition of Smoothie to their roster to share the starting Support role with Michael “Bunny FuFuu” Kurylo. This came as surprise too many as Cloud9 had spent the entire previous split keeping Support Bunnyfufuu on the bench to learn shotcalling under to tutelage of legendary mastermind behind the organisation’s monumental rise, Hai “Hai” Lam. The Summer 2016 split was supposed to be the unveiling of the new and improved Bunnyfufuu to take the reins of the bucking bronco that was Cloud9 in the absence of Hai.
In the beginning of the split the acquisition of Smoothie was perceived by many fans a waste of time. Bunnyfufuu was making highlight plays and winning multiple player of the game awards, and most importantly the team was winning games. Smoothie’s performances paled in comparison, with his passive style of play and proclivity for utility based champions. After the first two weeks of competition Cloud9’s record with Bunnyfufuu was 5–1 and with Smoothie only 3–3. The fans took this as clear evidence that the rotating support strategy was not working and that Bunnyfufuu was the clear choice for the starting spot. Coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu persevered with his rotating roster and in the followings weeks it would become clearer as to why.
Over the course of the split Smoothie’s style began to mesh with the rest of the team, whilst Bunnyfufuu’s high risk gambles were starting to hinder the team’s momentum. From Cloud9’s Genesis series Smoothie’s role within the team became much more apparent, as even though his play was passive his communication and shot calls were the boisterous kick starts that Cloud9 needed to break out of the cycle of indecisiveness they so often fell into. Smoothie began to solidify a strong Bottom lane synergy with AD Carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. Together they were able to fortify average laning phase they had become known for, whilst the duo of Sneaky and Bunnyfufuu continued flounder. The staunch differences in play style began to show in Sneaky’s CS differential at 10 minutes. When paired with Smoothie, the AD Carry had differential +11.8 at 10 minutes as opposed to +1.9 when paired with Bunnyfufuu.
Then the day came, Cloud9 had finally chosen their sole Support, with Bunnyfufuu stepping down Smoothie had finally cemented his spot. From that point forward Cloud9 and Smoothie have been on a steady rise. Smoothie’s clutch Tahm Kench saves and coordinated cross map plays swayed many a team fight in Cloud9’s favour on their way to booking their ticket to the 2016 World Championships.
There is no other role more stacked with talent at this year’s world championships than Support. With world champions Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan, along with international superstars Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez, Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie, Tian “Meiko” Ye and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon competing, the cream is sure to rise to the top. With Cloud9 still riding the momentum of winning the North American Regional Qualifier and Smoothie in career best form, it appears the stage is set to see if Smoothie can prove himself to be worthy of named amongst the world’s best Supports.
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