Along with his North American counterpart Hai “Hai” Lam, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim has long been considered one of the quintessential Western shot callers in League of Legends. He’s engineered playoff run after playoff run during his tenure on Fnatic, whether it be from the top, AD carry, or support roles. He’s never been a mechanical god, but he’s been the rock of the team for ages.
Ever since he went over to North America for a semi-successful split with Team SoloMid, though, YellOwStaR hasn’t been the same player.
Gone is the intellectually aggressive support player who rarely wins lane but makes all the right calls in the mid to late game. In his place? A player that regularly gets caught out, draws his team into unfortunate fights, and seems listless on the Rift.
This is harsh, of course, especially when you consider that Fnatic has had to deal with the loss of the best top/jungle duo in the West in Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin. But when you go from one of the top four teams at the 2015 World Championships to getting knocked out of the first round of the EU LCS playoffs, something is clearly afoot.
This is the first time YellOwStaR has missed an LCS finals. If Fnatic doesn’t manage to make their way through the EU LCS gauntlet, this will be the first time he’ll have missed a World Championship, too. And a lot of it has been on the back of the support’s play.
So does Fnatic have a YellOwStaR problem? Or is he simply not surrounded by the same caliber of talent that he’s used to?
As much as it saddens me to say it, I think it’s the latter. YellOwStaR what he used to be.
Take a look at Fnatic’s quarterfinal series against H2K. In their 0-3 loss, YellOwStaR died 14 times and only managed to obtain 6 assists, dropping him to a 0.4 KDA for the series. Compare that to his 12.1 KDA over the course of the entire playoffs at the same tournament in 2015. It’s not an entirely fair comparison, considering that H2K and newly reinstated AD carry Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou were on a rampage, but it helps to illustrate that YellOwStaR isn’t playing anywhere near his capacity.
To really understand what’s happening with the support, just watch his games. He’s consistently getting caught out in situations that he doesn’t need to be in. In previous iterations of Fnatic, he knew exactly when to go aggressive and when to hold back, but now his calls are sloppy and unnecessarily aggressive.
Look at this fight in Game 2 of the H2K match:
With Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook on the opposing Vladimir pushed all the way to their mid outer turret and no vision on either Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski’s Nidalee or Andrie “Odoamne” Pascu’s Gangplank, YellOwStaR made the call to push up to H2K’s top inner and then run through the jungle to try and steal away the Red Buff.
Unfortunately for them, they got collapsed on and were forced to fight 3v5. It didn’t go well.
Now, whether that was a problem of Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten not being able to push back Ryu or Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek pushing bottom lane with no Teleport available, the call was questionable. And due to his status as the veteran leader of Fnatic, it’s likely that he was the one to make the calls.
This wasn’t an isolated incident. Fnatic was regularly put in positions to fail, often as a result of a lack of vision or greedy map movements, and it caused them to lose the series. If YellOwStaR was the one making those calls (again, he probably was), then he may be losing his play calling touch.
Let’s not forget his time on TSM, either. YellOwStaR’s run on the team may have led to an NA LCS finals, but they struggled for much of the regular season, largely due to Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and YellOwStaR being unable to find cohesion in the bottom lane. This has been a long time coming.
I want to be clear here. I don’t believe that YellOwStaR is the only problem on Fnatic. It could very well be an issue of overall communication with the team or – more likely – issues surrounding coaching, particularly with the departure of longtime coach Luis “Deilor” Sevilla. But as the leader of the team, YellOwStaR should undeniably shoulder much of the blame.
During the offseason, Fnatic is going to have to make an incredibly difficult decision. Do they stick with YellOwStaR in the bottom lane, or do they move on to a new player, allowing the longtime veteran to take a more supportive role on the team? Would he be a better coach than an in-game shotcaller?
Personally, I’d love to see YellOwStaR take one more split on the Rift. If it doesn’t work out, something tells me that he’ll do just fine on Fnatic’s support staff — even as a head coach. Hell, any team would be lucky to have him.
For now, though, it’s all about getting to his sixth Worlds appearance. And he’s got a long road ahead of him.
It would severely bum Taylor Cocke out if YellOwStaR didn’t make his return to glory, as the Fnatic support is one of his favorite players in history. Follow Taylor on Twitter @taylorcocke.