The Incredible Miracle of Longzhu
In what has been the most unexpected developments of the League of Legends offseason, Incredible Miracle, recently rebranded as Longzhu, has put together a team that could win League of Legends Champions Korea. Longzhu has established a 10-man roster for the 2016 season, with expected starters Lee “Flame” Ho-jong, Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, Shin “Coco” Jin-yeong, Lee “Fury” Jin-yong, and Kim “Pure” Jin-sun.
On paper, it’s a powerful roster with a triple-carry threat backed by one of the best junglers in Korea — possibly the world — and an above average support. It’s a remarkable step for an organization that has consistently fielded some of the worst teams in Korea.
Additionally, this is a group that has been limited by its former teams, but the players now find themselves with kinsmen cut from the same cloth. This could be the year of miracles.
An Incredible Capacity to Fail
Although Incredible Miracle has done well in Starcraft 2, it’s been one of the worst teams in the LCK since it qualified in Season 2, finishing last in the old Champions circuit format. Last year, in a new format, IM placed just above last place in both splits.
While some great talent used to play for IM, such as Tiger’s Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and Immortal’s Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, they were some of the worst players in Korea while on IM and improved after leaving.
During the past three years, IM never put together a roster that could make it to playoffs. Now, as Longzhu, it has a team that could take the league. Here’s a one-by-one look at the lineup:
Before joining Longzhu, Pure played for the NaJin organization. He started as a substitute for NaJin White Shield back in 2014, and played only three games. After the NaJin rosters merged in 2015 as a result of the disbanding of sister teams, Pure found himself once again as a substitute, as starting support Nu-ri “Cain” Jang was fielded over him.
As the year progressed, however, Pure slowly took over for Cain. In spring, Pure played 13 games, but in summer he played 45 and was fielded exclusively in the summer playoffs and regional finals.
NaJin e-mFire possessed a talented roster but failed to meet any expectations. Now, Pure once again finds himself on a team theoretically capable of winning Champions; it’s a second chance. Pure has gained experience, which will have to carry over as he plays with yet another aggressive AD carry. On NaJin e-mFire, he played with the flashy Oh “Ohq” Gyu-min, a player who has a similar play style and champion pool to that of Pure’s new ADC, Fury.
The expectation is that Pure can play in synchronization with Fury and enable him to serve as a carry should the focus be around him. Pure is by no means the best player on the roster, but his role is one of the most important.
Meet one of the upcoming stars of Korean League of Legends. Although he was on the abysmal Samsung team in 2015, which finished last place in spring and seventh in summer, Fury’s talent burned brightly. A true carry force, Fury was the backbone of that Samsung roster, evidenced by his 75 percent kill participation in the summer — one of the highest among AD carries in Korea — and his 29.5 percent damage share.
Fury has everything one could need in a star AD carry: mechanics, positioning, and a flexible champion pool to give his team more utility, yet still carry. Fury’s old team suffered from inflexibility, though, as the team would often come into a series with one prepared strategy that would later be picked apart.
Simply put, Fury’s old team was undeserving of his talent.
Thus, Fury finds himself in a narrative similar to that of Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou-Napoleon: a mechanical monster whose success has been limited by his former team’s inadequacy who now finds himself on a roster with the potential to succeed.
Although Fury’s raw ability may not equate to FORG1VEN’s, the expectations on Fury’s shoulders are much higher now that he is alongside some of the best players in the world.
With a hard carry mid-laner, a flexible top-laner, a great jungler, and a support with experience playing with a mechanically impressive AD carry, this is Fury’s time to prove he can be one of the best AD carries in the world.
Fans will have to wait until February to see Fury in action, though, as his recent mishap with TDK resulted in a one month ban. In the meantime, Kang “Cpt Jack” Hyung-woo will keep Fury’s seat warm.
Like Pure, Chaser joining Longzhu is the first organization change of his professional career. He played for the Jin Air Greenwings Stealths as a sub in 2014 as “RealFoxy.” Initially, his team failed to escape the group stage, but in summer 2014, the Jin Air Greenwings Stealths were able to make it to the quarterfinals. Once the Jin Air Greenwings teams merged, it was planned for Chaser and fellow jungler Park “Winged” Tae-jin to share the spot, but Chaser played almost every game.
Jin Air’s 2015 was hopeful, but unspectacular, as the team’s passive nature resulted in long, dragged out games that were often decided by single team fights. They were defeated in the quarterfinals in spring and failed to make the playoffs in summer. Jin Air gave one final effort in the Regional Finals when Jin Air made a run from the bottom bracket to the finals, unexpectedly defeating Najin e-mFire and CJ Entus largely on the backs of mid-laner Lee “GBM” Chang-seok and Chaser.
Chaser’s increasing proficiency in the jungle has gathered the attention of analysts and admiration of fans. His pathing is efficient, his vision control respectable, and his ganking deadly. Chaser has shown, if necessary, he can be a carry force on champions like Nidalee, with whom he had a 75 percent win rate last season.
With this Longzhu lineup, Chaser is not only given more gank options, because he will have more proactive teammates than his Jin Air team, but is also given an upgrade at almost every position.
This season might see a more aggressive Chaser storm onto the rift.
Were it not for the existence of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, CoCo would be the best mid-laner in Korea, and perhaps the best in the world. CoCo started his professional career with Xenics in Champions Winter 2013–2014, shortly joined CJ Frost afterwards, and remained with the team through 2015. CJ Entus would do well in 2015, defeating the dominant SK Telecom T1 once in each split, and placed within the top four both seasons.
CJ Entus stumbled at times, however, with losses to Team SoloMid at IEM Katowice, Jin Air in the regional finals, and in the finals of the KeSPA Cup in a clean sweep.
CoCo has been a crucial carry with an ever-expanding champion pool. His Azir is one of the best in the world, and his mechanical ability best shines on champions with complex nuances. His positioning in teamfights based on his own cooldowns is excellent, and his laning can be as aggressive or defensive as necessary. He succeeded despite CJ’s dysfunctionalities last year, with Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong’s lackluster jungling and Seon “Space” Ho-san’s tendencies to be caught out putting CJ into troublesome situations.
CoCo consistently stepped up, dealing 32.5 percent of his team’s damage in summer, the highest of any mid-laner in Korea who played the majority of the games. He also had the highest kill participation of any mid-laner in Korea at 74.8 percent.
He was third place in the Summer League MVP awards, behind Faker and KT Rolster’s Kim “ssumday” Chan-ho, which reflects how vital he was to CJ’s success.
CoCo did his best to solo carry CJ Entus, but it was not enough. Now, CoCo is on a team where he is not the only one who can consistently carry. Should CoCo and Chaser develop synergy, they have the potential to be the strongest Mid-Jungle combo in Korea. Additionally, he and Fury can operate in tandem, splitting the focus of the enemy team between them and picking up the other’s slack.
CoCo has developed this past year, and now that he has a strong team behind him, this is his chance to show the world why it should be in love with the CoCo.
A legendary veteran of the game, Lee “Flame” Ho-jong has competed at a top level since the days of Yoon “MakNooN” Ha-woon and Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu. Scouted in season 2, Flame was picked up by Azubu Blaze, and stayed with Blaze as it passed into the hands of CJ Entus in 2013 and through 2014.
Although some consider CJ Entus Blaze to have been one of the best teams of all time, it was unable to win a season of Champions or attend the League of Legends World Championships.
In 2015, Flame left CJ Entus to play for LGD Gaming in China’s League of Legends Pro League. That spring, Choi “Acorn” Cheon-ju played more than Flame, who was usually let out when LGD wanted to style in a series. Over summer, Flame would see more play, but Acorn was still prioritized as the team proceeded to win the summer playoffs.
But when LGD disastrously collapsed at worlds, Flame was brought in for the squad’s final three games of the tournament and was a factor in its only two wins of the event.
Flame’s endeavor to China resulted in him mostly being a spectator, but his time there was still useful. He expanded his champion pool to include Tank and utility champions, incorporating Gnar, Maokai, and Lulu into his fold.
Yet, he still retains his carry potential, evident with champions like Hecarim. Flame has finally become a diverse top laner capable of various styles, something that has become important for professional teams.
Flame solidifies the Longzhu lineup to be one that has numerous carry threats and flexibility. He’ll be on the frontline, no longer shackled to the bench as he was with LGD. He can play to either carry the team or support it.
Likewise, he is also freed from playing with a sub-par jungler, as TBQ was a glaring weak point for LGD, and it is hard to imagine Chaser being a similar deadweight for Longzhu.
What’s most exciting is that Flame comes to play against some of the best top-laners in the world, such as Smeb, Ssumday, and Duke — matchups that should be epic confrontations.
An organization that has consistently fielded mediocre teams has now assembled a squad where the sky’s the limit. Flame, Chaser, CoCo, Fury are all players who have showed individual promise, despite the failings of their former teams.
Now they come together, each one potentially providing a missing piece. The players embark on this season dreaming of their first LCK title and bid for worlds. Will Longzhu be the catalyst to grant their wish?
(All statistics taken from LCK Summer Regular Season 2015 courtesy of oracleselixir.com)