Rain fell at the Olympic Subsidiary Stadium in Seoul, South Korea. Dark clouds filled the southern sky behind the nearby Seoul Olympic Stadium, but sun reflected off of skyscrapers on the north side of the Han River. Spectators arranged neatly in folding chairs on the Subsidiary’s track field squinted and the rain disappeared into the sun at a distance in their eyes, dissolving into a humid haze. It drummed on their white ponchos and fan-signs-turned-hats, beading and forming rivulets that made their way to the ground.
A crowd of approximately 10,000 was gathered when OnGameNet’s Jeon Yong-jun took the stage in a white single-breasted suit with blue lapels. Raindrops bounced off of his glasses. After opening the event, Caster Jun stepped back and Korean pop group Yellow took the stage in white outfits.
“I’ve taken my dues. Time after time.”
Accompanied by the crackling of raindrops on sound equipment and a slightly botched opening lyric, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” began to blare from the stage. SK Telecom T1 and the KT Rolster Bullets made their way onto the field.
“I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I’ve come through.”
Both teams entered the field to a shower of confetti. They lined up neatly, standing in the rain behind the crowd while Yellow crooned.
“We are the champions. We are the champions. No time for losers ‘cause we are the champions. Of the world.”
Rain and confetti continued to fall, sticking to chairs, umbrellas, and the members of SK Telecom T1 and the KT Rolster Bullets. Even the most outgoing and bubbly players were quiet, looking blankly ahead. As the final notes of “We Are the Champions” faded, fireworks boomed from the mainstage.
Four hours and forty minutes later, SK Telecom T1 destroyed the Bullets’ Nexus in Game 5, their first of many championship titles to come. The series itself matched both the dark clouds over the southern sky and the sun to the north.
One of the most iconic series in League of Legends history, the 2013 OnGameNet Champions Summer Finals are a permanent fixture in the hearts of Korean LoL fans.
Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook’s face filled Inven boards and Reddit threads. After losing a 1v1 duel to SKT’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, the KT Bullets mid laner’s somber expression was immediately affixed in fans’ memories for years to come. When Game 5 was over, he buried his head in his hands.
The sun had long since set over the Seoul Sports Complex. Fans surged towards the stage as members of SKT raised the Champions trophy above their heads. The KT Bullets filed onstage next to them, the runner-up of 2013 OGN Champions Summer. They stared into the crowd where a few remaining KT fans cheered loudly in an attempt to raise their spirits.
At the center of the lineup was Go “Score” Dong-bin. The KT Bullets AD carry had spent 2013 OGN Champions Winter and much of Spring as “The Immortal.” His 9.81 KDA in Champions Winter remains one of the most impressive statistics of that time. This nickname raised questions about his AD carry performances. His teamfight prowess was turned into accusations of being a “KDA player,” caring about statline before team.
In a world with NaJin Black Sword’s Kim “PraY” Jong-in, SK Telecom T1’s Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin, CJ Entus Blaze’s Kang “Cpt Jack” Hyung-woo, and MVP Ozone’s Gu “imp” Seung-bin Score lived in the shadow of his flashy Champions counterparts. At the 2013 OGN Champions Summer Finals, Score struck first with a sublime Game 1 Ezreal performance, but it was Piglet who owned the Rift and later, the championship trophy. Faker’s Zed outplay is the highlight that the community still reveres, but Piglet was the star of the SKT show. Although he was an instrumental part of the Bullets’ Game 1 and Game 2 victories, Score was somewhat cast out of fan’s minds, an above-average AD carry in Korea. Nothing more and nothing less.
Throughout the entire trophy presentation and an interview with his coach Lee Ji-hoon, Score stared blankly into the crowd. His shoulders were slumped, head bowed slightly, with an awestruck look on his face as if he didn’t believe the outcome.
It was okay. He, and KT Rolster, would receive other opportunities.
The Arrows usurped the KT Bullets’ position as the organization’s best team the following spring in 2014 — despite the Bullets’ IEM Katowice victory — and captured both the hearts of Champions fans and the championship trophy that summer. When Score made his next Korean final in the summer of 2015, the entire competitive landscape of Korean League of Legends had shifted.
Gone were the Bullets and Arrows. With sister teams forcibly disbanded, KT Rolster’s players united on one roster. Choi “inSec” In-seok had already left for China’s StarHorn Royal Club in 2014. Ryu was now on Europe’s H2K Gaming. KaKAO, Won “Mafa” Sang-yeon, and Song “RooKie” Eui-jin were on Invictus Gaming. When No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon became KT Rolster’s starting AD carry after the remaining rosters combined, Score swapped to the jungle position.
At first, KT Rolster was a disaster. Score had trouble communicating with his lanes, which were all too often losing to their LoL Champions Korea counterparts. It wasn’t until the meta shifted and support Jung “Fixer” Jae-woo joined the team that Score began to look comfortable in the jungle. With Fixer to aid his early pathing and vision rotations, KT improved. They handed the previously undefeated GE Tigers their first regular season series loss in Week 10 and finished the Spring Split out of playoff contention, but with a 4-1 series record in the final four weeks.
But the summer belongs to KT Rolster. After the KT Rolster Bullets narrowly lost to SK Telecom T1 in the 2013 Champions Summer Finals, and the KT Rolster Arrows won the title in 2014 Champions Summer, this became KT Rolster’s mantra.
It was okay if KT failed in spring. There was always summer.
Sure enough, KT Rolster finished second in the 2015 LCK Summer regular season, dropping only three series total. Score had settled into his new position and was slowly becoming one of the region’s best junglers, aided by KT’s latest support pickup: Lee “Piccaboo” Jeong-beom.
Everything that Fixer had done for the team in spring, Piccaboo did better in summer. His vision coverage and roams allowed Score to study the jungle position and learn, rather than fruitlessly trying to save losing lanes. Score’s pathing and decision-making improved exponentially throughout the season. Finally, his veteran experience as a player translated to his jungling.
Before KT faced SKT in the 2015 LCK Summer Finals, OnGameNet assembled a video with players from both teams describing their feelings coming into the finals and doing a bit of trash talking.
Members of KT cited SKT as their nemesis.
“I have always considered them as a mountain to climb over at one point,” Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho said.
Members of SKT cited KT as a small hurdle en route to another championship.
“I feel sorry for KT,” Bae “bengi” Seong-woong said, laughing. “Because we stole a lot from them two years ago.”
After a short highlight of SKT reverse-sweeping KT Bullets in the 2013 Champions Summer Finals, the casters screaming over images of SKT celebrating in the booth, the camera turned to Score.
“It was raining,” he said. “I still shudder when it rains.”
Despite the buildup and history, KT were not favored to win this matchup. They improved and played well throughout the split. Their second-place finish in the regular season was well-earned. But they had struggled against an inconsistent summer Tigers team in their qualifying playoff series, including one eked out victory that ended in dramatic fashion with a Diana backdoor from mid laner Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon.
SKT were on another level, dropping only one series that summer. The jungle meta was in a perfect position for bengi to shine, and the team had shifted to facilitating top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan. Faker took more of a supportive role on waveclear champions like Viktor and Orianna while reclaiming his spot as the team’s starting mid laner, splitting less time with Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon than he had in spring.
It was a quick 3-0 sweep for SKT.
At 34:40, after picking off Tigers jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho, KT Rolster turned onto Baron. Another summer final. Another Game 5. This time, there was no blind pick. No Zed mirror match – and no SK Telecom T1. KT had already taken them out in the previous round of the playoff gauntlet.
Ten seconds later, Score smited the Baron, leaving it with 2 hit points. Those hit points were taken by Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho’s Gangplank ultimate, giving the Tigers the Baron and later, the game. After losing three of the four previous LCK finals, the Tigers finally had their championship.
Like his first summer final, Score stood onstage after the series. This time, he was surrounded by Tigers and SKT members. His arms hung at his sides. His shoulders slouched. His eyes were downcast, staring into the middling of the crowd with the same stricken look he had in 2013. When his name was called, Score reached for his giant prop cheque, ₩2,000,000 for having the highest KDA of any jungler in 2016 LCK Summer. Once nicknamed “The Immortal” as an AD carry, Score had become one of the best junglers in the world.
He clutched the small congratulatory bouquet of yellow sunflowers to the cheque, stepping backwards in an attempt to hide behind it and Smeb, who stood next to him beaming at the crowd. When the Tigers Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng stepped forward, Score took another step back, staying behind both Tigers players.
Throughout the presentation, Score’s expression never changed.
Although they’re primarily for ribbing players, OnGameNet’s features often have a grain of truth at the heart of the joke. In 2014, the then-Samsung Galaxy Blue AD carry Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu, notorious for emotional swings in game when performing poorly, starred in Deft’s Diary. Among other things, the short showed his teammates cheering him up by supporting him in game.
This year’s first short feature mocked SK Telecom T1 coach Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun’s lack of a spouse — something he has publicly and playfully lamented — by having his players film a dating profile.
The second poked fun at Score’s lack of a major title when compared to the illustrious teammates who flocked to KT Rolster to play alongside him.
“I’m a winner at heart,” he said, interrupting the others’ “Winners Summit.”
KT Rolster are now an assembly of superstars. Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan, with his love of face-checking brushes without proper vision or lane coverage had left as had their much-maligned 2016 mid laner Song “Fly” Yong-jun. Gathered in their stead were legendary support Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong and mid laner Heo “PawN” Won-seok along with AD carry Deft. Smeb was now Score’s top laner, not his Baron-stealing adversary.
Following the Winners Summit feature, which aired between Games 2 and 3, the series’ final game was over in 29:30.
It wasn’t close.
This time, Score smiled while accepting a bouquet and the second-place award. PawN and Deft held the cheque, this time for ₩60,000,000. Ribbons of discarded silver confetti formed small piles at their feet. Mata leaned towards Deft and the two shared a small joke.
Score continued to smile.
There’s always summer. Maybe this year will be his summer.
Emily Rand’s love for the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter @leagueofemily