The very early days of competitive Korean LoL

Revisiting the Korean LoL scene pre OGN Champions Spring 2012.

Foreword

Today in 2017, it is widely accepted that Korea is the most successful region in competitive League of Legends and LCK the league with the highest level of play. The modern LCK emerged from the triannual OGN Champions tournaments. Its first instance, Azubu Champions Spring, started in March 2012, when MiG Blaze swept its sister team MiG Frost 3 : 0.

That series result is common knowledge among fans of the Korean LoL scene. But little has been written about the Korean scene before OGN Champions began. While Korea wasn’t represented at the Season 1 World Championship at DreamHack Summer in 2011, the roots of the Korean competitive scene start as early as 2010, when Koreans were still playing on the NA server. In 2011 the first noteworthy LoL tournaments were played and broadcasted in Korea. Competitions like the WCG 2011 (including qualifiers), Inven Allstar Tournament, and the OGN Invitational were all held before the inaugural OGN Champions event.

This article revisits those lesser known tournaments, with the aim to present the available information in an easily accessible form. All the upcoming details were collected from the limited available VODs, match history databases, forum posts, EsportsWikis (where the author is a long-time contributor), as well as existing articles with a different focus.

Newegg Winter Wanfest

In November 2010 the “Newegg Winter Wanfest”, one of the earliest documented LoL tournaments, took place. This open online tournament was played on the North American server and offered $ 3,500 in prize money for the winner ($ 7,000 total).

In the final, the recently crowned World Cyber Games Champion CLG faced Team OP, a fully Korean roster, that made it that far in the bracket despite playing with high ping from Korea. Since Team OP qualified for the final from the lower bracket after losing to CLG earlier, they had to win two Bo3’s against CLG to win the title. Teams were allowed to field a seven player roster in this tournament with the possibility to switch players between games.

Rosters:

CLG: Reginald, Dan Dinh, bigfatlp, Chauster, HotshotGG, (Kobe, Elementz)
Team OP: Grandjudge,
Nolja, ManyReason, Cornsalad, a Lilac, (Seivo, Scarlet)

Several players from Team OP where in the Top 10 of the ELO rankings on the NA server back then, so their final appearance wasn’t a huge surprise. Nolja and Grandjudge had even played for CLG earlier in 2010 for a short period of time. Cornsalad, Lilac, and Nolja continued playing together as the core of Team OP until Champions Spring 2012, where they finished fourth place. Lilac had the longest career as a player from this roster, playing for Incredible Miracle in different roles (Top, Jungle, Support) until 2015, with only one notable tournament victory (IEM Season 7 in Sao Paulo in 2013).

Reginald playing for CLG looks odd at first glance, but before the TSM franchise was born, he and his brother Dan Dinh played a few weeks with CLG. The roster of the third placed team “Rock Solid” also included some prominent NA players, most notably scarra and Voyboy.

Since the tournament wasn’t streamed, no VODs are available, but Locodoco made several live updates in the official Riot board.[1] Amusingly, even back in 2010, fans criticized the lack of an ingame replay function. More than six years later, the technology finally arrived.

Reminder: Team OP had to win two Bo3s in the final. They won the first Bo3 with a clean 2:0, and CLG reacted by subbing out Kobe for Reginald. The first game of the second Bo3 also went in OP’s favor, so that they were only one game away from securing the title. For the rest of the series, the picks are known, thanks to Locodoco. The modern metagame wasn’t established yet, as bot lane matchups such as Sion/Janna vs. Garen/Taric show. Also, point-and-click based champions like Warwick and Annie and were heavily contested.

Game 2

OP 1 : 1 CLG 
Grandjudge (Pantheon) — Top — (Tristana) Reginald 
Nolja (Rammus) — Jungle — (Warwick) Dan Dinh 
Many Reason (Corki) — Mid — (Anivia) Bigfatjiji 
Cornsalad (Sion) — Bot — (Garen) Chauster 
Lilac (Janna) — Support — (Taric) HotshotGG

According to Locodoco’s forum post, Lilac’s mistakes on Janna did cost OP the game, which led to a deciding game 3.

Game 3

OP 1 : 2 CLG 
Grandjudge (Ashe) — Top — (Annie) Reginald 
Nolja (Shaco) — Jungle — (Warwick) Dan Dinh 
ManyReason (Gragas) — Mid — (Sivir) Bigfatjiji 
Cornsalad (Sion) — Bot — (Garen) Chauster 
Lilac (Sona) — Support — (Taric) HotshotGG

CLG secured the deciding game and won the tournament (no further details are known). Korean dominance wasn’t established yet.

WCG 2011 Qualifier

The World Cyber Games was a very prestigious annual event held at the end of the year. In 2011 it featured a large international LoL tournament for the first time, and the Korean national qualifier was the first time a LoL tournament was broadcasted by OGN.[2] The games probably took place around September/October 2011.[3]

In the final, Extreme Dive Gaming (EDG, not to be confused with the Chinese team) met Maximum Impact Gaming (MiG) in front of a huge crowd. EDG secured their place by beating the aforementioned Team OP (2:0), while MiG managed to beat a team called Milky Way (also 2:0).

This was before MiG split into MiG Frost and Blaze, but the roster already featured the core of the team, that later became Frost. However, they had to make roster swap on short notice after their previous jungler Dun1007 left.[4] Cornsalad was brought as a replacement and Woong switched from sololane into the jungle position.

Rosters:

EDG: MakNooN, Mokuza, Sxspp (aka HooN), |Rush| (aka Hiro), May
MiG: RapidStar, Woong, Cornsalad, Locodoco, MadLife

source: screencap from WCG broadcast, uploaded at OGN youtube channel
source: screencap from WCG broadcast, uploaded at OGN youtube channel

Results:

Game 1

www.youtube.com/embed/A2soSCwize0 
(Part 1 / 4)

Despite the roster change, MiG started the series well, with Cornsalad securing First Blood and snowballing his early lead into an impressive 15 kill performance on Kassadin.

EDG 0 : 1 MiG 
MaKNooN (Irelia) — Top — (Galio) RapidStar
Mokuza (Rammus)— Jungle — (Trundle) Woong 
Sxspp (Brand) — Mid —(Kassadin) Cornsalad
|Rush| (Caitlyn) — Bot — (Kog’Maw) Locodoco
May (Sona) — Support — (Soraka) MadLife

Game 2

www.youtube.com/embed/5gWg5iJHgf8
(Part 1 / 3)

EDG reacted by putting MaKNooN into the midlane on Anivia, while MiG also switched their top and mid lane players. While this game looked closer than the first, a couple of teamfight wins by EDG in the midgame led to a decisive win. MaKNooN showed a flawless performance (10/0/10), so that a third and deciding game was needed.

EDG 1 : 1 MiG 
Sxspp (Rumble) — Top — (Singed) Cornsalad
Mokuza (Lee Sin) — Jungle —(Trundle) Woong
MaKNooN (Anivia) — Mid — (Xerath) RapidStar
|Rush| (Graves) — Bot — (Tristana) Locodoco
May (Sona)—Support —(Alistar) MadLife

Game 3

www.youtube.com/embed/b6OYjWrd-lM

Mokuza managed to get the first two kills early on, but MiG equalized their early disadvantage. At 26 minutes EDG caught Cornsalad’s Singed out of position in the Baron area, while MaKNooN’s Jax splitpushed on the other side of the map. EDG secured Baron and broke into MiG’s base soon after.

EDG 2 : 1 MiG 
MaKNooN (Jax)— Top — (Singed) Cornsalad 
Mokuza (Lee Sin)— Jungle — (Nocturne) Woong 
Sxspp (Zilean) — Mid — (Morgana) RapidStar 
|Rush| (Caitlyn) — Bot — (Graves) Locodoco 
May (Sona) — Support — (Alistar) MadLife

Inven Allstar-Tournament 2011

Inven hosted a tournament for the young local scene in late November/early December 2011. The total prize pool was 2,000,000 Won (slightly below 2,000 USD), with eight teams competing in a single elimination bracket.[5] VODs of decent quality are available on youtube for this tournament as linked below!

MiG fixed their hole at the jungle position by picking up CloudTemplar, allowing Woong to return to the top lane. It is unclear why RapidStar was absent from MiG for this tournament, but a player with the ID “Mask” replaced him at the event. This tournament marks the debuts of StarTale and ACE, two teams with prominent lineups from today’s perspective.

Five years later, a few of the players from this tournament are still active, such as Ryu, Score, and MadLife, but many transitioned into coaching roles, such as kkOma and RapidStar (both SKT T1), viNylCat and Mokuza (both CJ Entus), MaFa (Invictus Gaming), and Vitamin (GameTalents). 
CloudTemplar also found a follow-up career and joined OGN as caster in 2013. Cpt Jack followed in his footsteps in 2016 (for SPOTV).

Rosters:

-MiG: Woong, CloudTemplar, Mask, Locodoco, MadLife
-
EDG: MakNooN, Mokuza, HooN, Hiro, May
-
ACE: Reapered, Ambition, RapidStar, Speedcore (aka Pecko), MighTiLy
-StarTale:
Vitamin, kkOma, Ryu, Joker (aka Score), MaFa

-카페팀 (Cafe-Team): shakechicken, monsterball, KorParan, Jack Sparrowoo 
 (aka
Cpt Jack), viNylCat, MongSwel, Cannot
-
로드 (Load): LinSakary, Demonist, Squalenn, CSY1992, Earthholic
-
샤멘팀 (Syamen-Team) (??): Bubbo, Bad at StarCraft (aka RingTroll), Loaching, Hipi, Fascinate
-
Tekken-Team: Bongza, Suney (aka SunChip), ddoobi, TekkenRaIN, Chooni

Results:

Quarterfinals
MiG
2 : 0 Tekken-Team (VODs: Game 1, Game 2)
EDG 2 : 0 StarTale (VODs: Game 1 Game 2)
ACE 2 : 0 Load (VODs: Game 1, Game 2)
Cafe-Team 2 : 1 Syamen-Team (VODs: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3)

Semifinals
MiG and EDG had already met in the semifinals, for a rematch of the WCG qualifier final. MiG got their revenge, while in the other match, Cafe-Team managed to beat ACE with a clean 2 : 0 and earned the right to challenge MiG in the final.

MiG 2 : 0 EDG (VODs: Game 1, Game 2)
Cafe-Team 2 : 0 ACE (VODs: Game 1, Game 2)

Finals
Cafe-Team managed to upset the favorites MiG, despite being 0:2 down after the first two games. The fourth game was especially close with 57 minutes game time and Cpt Jack getting 12 kills on Ashe. His affinity for the summoner spell Cleanse was already developed back then, as he used it in almost every game, and even refused to take the omnipresent Flash in some instances.

Cafe-Team 3 : 2 MiG (VODs: Game 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

WCG 2011

The annual World Cyber Games were scheduled for December 2011 in Busan, Korea. It was the second time WCG featured LoL, but in 2010 it was only a small Invitational with four teams competing. This time 18 teams from 17 nations were battling for a prize pool of $ 34,000. Extreme Dive Gaming qualified to represent Korea as described above.

Group stage

In the group stage EDG lived up to the high expectations of the Korean fans and was able to beat all four opposing teams:

-France (Millenium, consisting of sOAZ, YellowStaR, Linak, Kujaa and Tidus)
-Taiwan (FTW, including Season 2 World champions Stanley and Lillballz)
-Malaysia (Orange eSports)
-Sweden (mix team, without any prominent players)

Their game against Orange eSports from Malaysia is the only one that can be watched on youtube (even in pretty good quality):

www.youtube.com/embed/8oKYdTpRkrM

Unsurprisingly, the early game looks very sloppy from today’s perspective with lots of overextending and skirmishes. Malaysia managed to keep the game relatively close at first, but in the end |Rush| (aka Hiro, not to be confused with the C9 player) secured the game with a triplekill/ace on Vayne after a successful baron attempt at 26 minutes. From there EDG was able to close out the game fairly quickly. MakNooN was on his signature Midlane-Anivia this game.

Quarter final

In the quarterfinals, the Polish representative Ex-Gameburg Team ended EDG’s run with a 2:1 victory. Unfortunately, no VODs or further details of this series are available, as the game was played off-stage. The Polish team, who finished the tournament as silver medalists, consisted of Mokatte, Czaru, Kikis, Makler and cinku.

Duncan “Thorin” Shields took an in-depth look on this tournament in his article “WCG 2011 — The birth place of true international League of Legends competition”, published at OnGamers (now gamesspot.com).

OGN LoL Invitational

In late 2011, OGN announced its plans to start OGN Champions. However before the first edition started in March 2012, a six team mini-tournament called OGN LoL Invitational was set up, which was intended to serve as an appetizer for the upcoming Azubu Champions Spring. The tournament was a huge success for OGN with about 1500 people queing up to spectate the games.[6]

Four Korean teams played for the right to challenge CLG and Team WE from China. The winner of the tournament received 5,000,000 Won (about $ 4,300). Unfortunately, no VODs of this tournament are available. The Scoreboards for all games with picks, bans, summoner spells, KDA, and game time was released alongside this article over at EsportsWikis.

Some pictures and translated post-game-interviews can be found at liquidlegends.net.

www.youtube.com/embed/bk2EyrPvMd4

(OGN Hype trailer)

Rosters:

Team OP: Lilac, Nolja, Cornsalad, Saruan, ashart
MiG Frost: Woong, CloudTemplar, RapidStar, Locodoco, MadLife
EDG: MaKNooN, Mokuza, sxspp (aka HooN), Soul (aka Hiro), viNylCat
StarTale: Vitamin, kkOma, Ryu, Joker (aka Score), MaFa
CLG: HotshotGG, Saintvicious, bigfatlp, Doublelift, Chauster
Team WE: WeiXiao, YJTM, Misaya, CaoMei, if

Interestingly, WeiXiao was still playing Toplane in this tournament. He later switched roles with CaoMei to become one of the greatest AD Carry players of all time.

Results:

Korean Play-in

Extreme Dive Gaming 2 : 1 Team OP
MiG Frost 2 : 0 StarTale

Group stage

One of the highlights of the group stage games in week 1 was the matchup between MiG Frost and Team WE. In a 62 minute slugfest, both teams scored over 30 kills, but in the end it was WE who secured the victory. The game also featured some rarely seen picks, with WeiXiao on Gangplank in the top lane and Misaya on pre-rework AP Sion in the mid lane.

However, this win was in vain, as WE lost both other matchups. CLG was able to win their first two matches and secured the place in the final early. In their final group stage match against MiG Frost, who needed a win to advance, CLG drafted a cheesy Blitzcrank/Alistar botlane, which was not able to snowball the game in their favor.

With two wins each, MiG Frost and CLG went to the final.

MiG Frost > Extreme Dive Gaming
Team WE < CLG
MiG Frost < Team WE
Extreme Dive Gaming < CLG
Team WE < Extreme Dive Gaming
MiG Frost > CLG

Final

source: thisisgame.com, captured from LiquidLegends presents: 롤 클라시코 by: thejuju

MiG Frost won both games in below 40 minutes. An in-depth description of the final was released in dooraven’s article “A Dynasty of Ice and Fire — Part 2”.

This marks the first tournament win by a Korean team with elite international opponents and also the first trophy for MiG after disappointing defeats in the finals of the WCG qualifier and Inven Allstar-Tournament.

MiG Frost 2 : 0 CLG

Inven sponsored Tournament 2012

Inven held another tournament in February 2012, which featured a group stage followed by a bracket stage starting at semifinals. During the tournament, EDG was picked up by NaJin e-mFire. Inven uploaded the VODs for the final series to youtube as well, so that these games can be rewatched easily (Links below).

At least 12 teams played in the group stage, most of them featuring players that faded into obscurity very quickly. However this is also the first recorded tournament for MiG Blaze, who already played with their signature roster (Reapered, Helios, Ambition, Cpt Jack, Lustboy), but lost in the group stage against EDG and StarTale, so that they missed the bracket stage.

Rosters:

MiG: Woong, CloudTemplar, RapidStar, Locodoco, MadLife
EDG/NaJin: MakNooN, Mokuza, HooN, Hiro, viNylCat
Team OP: The Everlasting, eurof, Cornsalad, Xerofire, ManyReason 
StarTale: Vitamin, kkOma, Ryu, Joker (aka Score), MaFa

Besides those four teams and MiG Blaze, world class jungler inSec started his career here (playing mostly AP Carry) on a new iteration of “까페 [Cafe]” alongside SmallBrain and Cannot. Promise, who became well-known after his attempted suicide, played for a team called LDG and other players you might remember from OGN Champions like Longpanda and kkinsh (both on “독도 [Dogdo]”) also started their careers during this time.

Results:

Semifinals

MiG Frost 2 : 0 StarTale 
NaJin 2 : 0 Team OP

MiG Frost bodied StarTale, giving up a total of two deaths, compared to 37 kills over two games. StarTale’s Vitamin had a disastrous day, finishing 0/5/0 on Irelia and 0/7/0 on Rumble. Team OP were at least able to show a close fight, with game 2 being a 41 minutes long back-and-forth, but in the end NaJin reached the final.
 
Final

In Game 1 NaJin was able to secure first blood in the toplane after a slow start to the game. At 24 minutes, NaJin almost scored an ace after a fight emerged around dragon. From there they never lost control and took the 
1 : 0 lead.

Frost bounced back in game 2, with RapidStar showing a good performance on Cassiopeia, getting first blood, securing two more kills around minute 11 and finishing the game with 9 kills, while NaJin’s key player MaKNooN couldn’t get his Udyr rolling.

In game 3 NaJin drafted a double AP comp (MaKNooN on Kassadin, HooN on Ryze), that got a huge lead between minutes 10 and 20. From there they managed to close out the game in 34 minutes to win the tournament.

NaJin 2 : 1 MiG Frost (VODs: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3)

The matchup of EDG/NaJin vs. MiG developed into a grudge match, long before the Telecom Wars started in LoL. In Champions Spring, both teams met again in the semifinals, and this time Frost had the upper hand. The ongoing rivalry was covered in-depth in this article over at liquidlegends.net by “thejuju”.

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Follow the author on twitter: @tmv23

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[1] http://forums.na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=372785&page=5
[2] LiquidLegends presents: 롤 클라시코 (Article: thejuju)
[3] the exact date is unclear, but the Korean SC2 WCG qualifier was around this time, and it seems plausible, that the LoL tournament was around the same time.
[4] A Dynasty of Ice and Fire — Part 1: Origins (Article: dooraven)
[5] http://www.inven.co.kr/webzine/news/?site=lol&news=79109
[6] A Dynasty of Ice and Fire — Part 2: Ignition (Article: dooraven)