Last week, Korean League of Legends lost one of its stalwarts. With their loss to ESC Ever in the 2017 Spring LCK Promotion tournament, CJ Entus has bit the final bullet. The original great Korean squad is gone.
Let’s honor them with a trip down memory lane, to a time where the Koreans had not yet become the dominant region in League of Legends. A time when Europe held the title of the best region in the world. Even North America was a Worlds contender.
Welcome to a whole new League
It was the 2012 World Championships. After lacking representation in the tournament the year before, South Korea was suddenly the talk of the League of Legends town. Barely a year into the launch of LoL in the region, there were rumblings that they had already produced squads capable of competing for League of Legends’ top title.
At the top of that list of teams was Azubu Frost (CJ’s previous sponsor and name), a team full of soon-to-be legends, including Park “Shy” Sang-myeon in the top lane and a young support player named Hong “MadLife” Min-gi. With Korea having dominated the StarCraft scene for so long, everyone was wondering when they’d transition over to the new hotness in esports.
Frost was supposed to be the team that brought Korean dominance overseas. After beating Counter Logic Gaming Europe in the finals of Champions Summer 2012, they looked like they were going to do just that. CLG.EU was one of the best teams in the world at the time and were in their prime, after all.
But no one really expected the Taipei Assassins. Despite their dominance at home, TPA was never really considered a World Championship contender among the likes of Moscow Five, Azubu Frost, and CLG.EU. Even when they made it to the finals against Frost, most considered it a forgone conclusion that Korea would take the Summoner’s Cup home.
It didn’t happen. TPA won the series 3-1, completing their Cinderella run. Frost may not have won, but they showed that a Korean roster could compete. Merely one year later, the region would become the strongest in the world.
Leaving a legacy
Despite being the first team out of Korea to prove that the region could perform on the international stage, they never won another premier tournament. Halfway into 2013, they came under new management, becoming CJ Entus Frost. Eventually, after sister teams were banned in Korea, they became simply CJ Entus. Still, though, they couldn’t find a title.
But their importance can’t be overstated. They ushered in a new style of League of Legends, one focused on lane control and aggressive plays out of the support role. And instrumental to those game-changing strategies were the two stars of the roster: Shy and MadLife.
Up in the top lane, Shy had figured out something that would become vital for every top-tier player in the world: wave control. His ability to masterfully keep waves exactly where he needed them and look for roams around the map were far ahead of just about anyone else at the tournament – and for that matter, the world.
Mind you, this was an era in which top laners rarely took Teleport, making it difficult to get in or out of lane quickly. Roams were risky, and if a top laner didn’t get a kill or an objective out of it, they’d often lose gold to their opponent. This didn’t happen to Shy. He’d get the crest of the minion wave exactly where it needed to be before wandering off to seek kills elsewhere. And with the help of a certain other player on his team, he would almost always find them.
That would be Madlife. Arguably the best player in the world at the time, the original playmaking support. The Blitzcrank master! The player known, simply, as “God.”
Before MadLife, support players were mostly just that: supportive. They played to keep their teammates alive, remaining defensive during most stages of the game. MadLife didn’t care for that. Instead, he looked for plays. He picked Blitzcrank and ran at his opponents, forcing them to reckon with him or die. He wasn’t afraid to tower dive on Alistar, having full faith in his teammates to follow up.
He paved the way for the likes of Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez. Hell, even Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong, who would later supplant him as the greatest support player of all time. No one played like MadLife, and he broke the bottom lane.
The result was an incredibly aggressive team play style during a time when individual outplays were all the rage. CJ Entus, along with TPA and CLG.EU, revolutionized the game of League of Legends. They made sure that no one individual player could beat them, they had to be a team. And for that, they’re one of the most important in League of Legends history.
Thanks, CJ. We’ll miss you.
CJ Entus was Taylor Cocke’s first favorite Korean team. You can follow him on Twitter @taylorcocke.