Tenacity: Part 2 in a review of YellOwStaR's career

Thumbnail image courtesy of EU LCS / EU LCS Screengrab

Even if a professional player never makes waves, he always experiences periods of downturn. Every League of Legends player in the history of competitive play has had moments where he doesn’t play well, where his form deteriorates. In the game’s infancy, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim excelled, he earned accolades, he could be referred to as one of the game's best. As a more sophisticated understanding of League of Legends developed, and more players acquired aspirations of “going pro,” the competition increased. As an AD carry shotcaller, YellOwStaR juggled his own performance against his team’s and found himself lacking — and then he found a way to change that.

“People were not playing as good as they are now,” YellOwStaR said in a 2014 Reflections interview with Duncan “Thorin” Shields. When asked if he thought he could perform as an AD carry again in 2014, as he had in early 2013, YellOwStaR said he didn’t think he could.

The swap and the mediocre support player

2013 EU LCS Spring regular season champion picks

Champion Games Wins WR (%)
Thresh 6 4 66.7
Sona 5 4 80
Draven 3 2 66.7
Leona 2 2 100
Fiddlesticks 2 0 0
Nami 2 1 50
Caitlyn 2 0 0
Varus 2 2 100
Lulu 1 1 100
Tristana 1 0 0
Twitch 1 0 0
Nunu 1 0 0
Shen 1 1 100
Ezreal 1 0 0

Fnatic went into the 2013 European League of Legends Championship Series having just won the first ever LCS split. High spirits followed the team, but steeper competition brewed on the horizon. Beginning as early as the playoffs, chatter of green squads rising and creating struggle for European giants like Gambit Gaming bubbled. Three new teams joined the LCS that summer: Lemondogs (qualified as Sinners Never Sleep), Team ALTERNATE, and Meet Your Makers.

During parts of the LCS that summer, both Lemondogs and Team ALTERNATE looked like the best teams in the league. Team ALTERNATE went undefeated in the five game super week of Week 1, beating staples like Evil Geniuses and SK Gaming. The team played a team fighting-oriented and aggressive style reminiscent of the Chinese league with tinges of inspiration from Oh My God as they drafted picks like jungle Hecarim.

By contrast, Fnatic lost three of their five initial games to Evil Geniuses, Meet Your Makers, and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Fnatic lost to an explosive invade from Team ALTERNATE in Week 2. In Week 3, they were defeated by an equally-struggling Lemondogs when support Bram "wewillfailer" de Winter had an improved roaming game over Fnatic’s Christoph "nRated" Seitz.

While some had previously called YellOwStaR a Top 3 AD carry in Europe, players new to the LCS like Erik “Tabzz” van Helvert, Jakub “Creaton” Grzegorzewski, and beginning in Week 3, Aleš “Freeze” Kněžínek exposed very obvious gaps between YellOwStaR’s mechanics and the new generation. Compiled with nRated’s alleged loss of motivation, Fnatic made the decision to execute what became one of the best role swaps in the history of the game.

Prior to Week 4, after losing six of 10 games in the first three weeks, Fnatic announced that they would add substitute AD carry, Johannes “puszu” Uibos to their starting roster and move YellOwStaR to support. As these changes coincided in timing with some of Counter Logic Gaming’s more egregious role swaps in North America, the initial declaration was met with skepticism.

Fnatic wanted to retain YellOwStaR’s vocal presence and motivation, but he struggled to keep up with other AD carries. LCS caster Martin “Deficio” Lynge, then the support for Ninjas in Pyjamas, recalled while describing Fnatic during the 2015 European LCS Final that when YellOwStaR was an AD carry, he would try to last hit and type cooldowns between CS. As YellOwStaR became more comfortable with the role in 2014, he said of his swap, “It's easier for me to pay attention to what we are doing on the map and shotcall.”

While his play as an AD carry in 2013 made it obvious YellOwStaR couldn’t keep up with flashy prodigies, his debut games as a new support were abysmal. In his first game against Meet Your Makers, YellOwStaR died twice in the first two minutes. His one-dimensional warding habits meant he over-warded, dropping greens in both lane bushes when far enough forward. He and puszu hugged turret and found themselves pushed back by MYM’s duo lane.

puszu, YellOwStaR's first AD carry lane partner

But they won, which was more than could be said for Fnatic’s earlier encounter with MYM that summer. In Week 4, Fnatic secured a 3-0 record over MYM, Lemondogs, and a Team ALTERNATE with Matti “WhiteKnight108” Sormunen subbing in the mid lane.

It’s difficult to say what worked for Fnatic immediately with YellOwStaR entering the support role. Perhaps his ability to focus more on the rest of the map in his new position freed up more of his faculties, and puszu’s hunger to advertise himself on the competitive stage made up for their depressingly lacklustre laning phase. puszu showed the same affinity for Varus as YellOwStaR had, and the two developed a rhythm of poking from afar on Sona and long ranged AD carry picks.

When asked about YellOwStaR’s transition, Deficio said, “His change to support was super clunky. It was during the Summer split and he got Puszu as ADC who was also new to the scene so facing them during the Summer Split was super easy. They were a teamfight focused bot lane who almost just ff'd the lane if you got 2v2 against them, but they got solid in lane and then did well outside of lane as a team during playoffs and Worlds.”

In Week 4, Team ALTERNATE gave way to Lemondogs in the running for upstart team of the year. Creaton suffered an injury, and substitute WhiteKnight108 moved to the AD carry position in Week 5. Coincidentally, one of YellOwStaR’s greatest rivals in 2015 entered the LCS the same week in which he transitioned to the support role. Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez replaced wewillfailer on Lemondogs, and over time, many attributed their surge to first place in the regular season to that roster change.

Tabzz and mithy ran an exceedingly aggressive lane (for the time). mithy debuted with Fiddlesticks support, and was able to find key locations to hide in fog of war and spring traps on Fnatic. YellOwStaR finished his first deplorable competitive Thresh game with missed skillshots and 10 deaths, clearly outclassed by Europe’s new support talent.

But, again, Fnatic still won.

Over the course of the 2013 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split, YellOwStaR learned support in front of stream spectators. Some of his initial flaws beyond predictable warding included strict adherence to the 2v2, uncoordinated back timings with puszu that opened opportunities for the player left behind to die 1v2, and playing scared and far back in fights in order to avoid getting caught out and dying so frequently.

xPeke and sOAZ were Fnatic's stars in 2013

It’s ridiculous to consider how little YellOwStaR’s individual performance mattered to Fnatic during the 2013 Summer split and the team’s subsequent World Championship run. Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez were one of the most threatening solo lane packages, and their supremacy was seldom in question.

Perhaps by focusing less on CSing, YellOwStaR was able to aid the development of Fnatic’s team-play. During this time, they became known for several signature strategies in Europe: the “Fnatic death bush” or hiding in the bush on the top right side of the map for comeback ambushes, borrowing mid lane Teleport use to constantly chip at outer turrets and look for picks, and early group pushes, as in the team’s game against Gambit in Week 6.

In Week 7, Fnatic expressed an increased sense of confidence and flexibility as a unit. sOAZ and YellOwStaR swapped positions for one game. YellOwStaR, known to enjoy playing Shen, and sOAZ, a fan of selecting Blitzcrank, lead Fnatic in a heavy roaming game with frequent picks and dives. sOAZ roamed as a support considerably more than YellOwStaR, leading to a faster game. From that point on, the team seemed much more aggressive and comfortable with YellOwStaR and puszu.

In Fnatic’s third game of the split against Lemondogs, they executed an invasion strategy with YellOwStaR playing Thresh. mithy seemed to have a larger abundance of wards, and YellOwStaR ended the loss with eight deaths instead of 10. Lulu turned team fights in mithy’s hands later in the game.

Relative to mithy, YellOwStaR bad begun execute more overzealous engages. When their initial matchup was reversed, and YellOwStaR played Fiddlesticks, he refused to leave his team in grouping phase to find a flank from fog of war, and he could get easily picked off.

mithy tended to use more pink wards than YellOwStaR — though pink warding in general was still undervalued — and he placed them more often in the enemy jungler, while YellOwStaR favored far more defensive warding. mithy’s ability to secure vision in enemy territory allowed his lanes to play further forward.

Throughout the season, YellOwStaR continued to make steady improvements. By the time of the final game against Gambit, YellOwStaR placed fewer wards in lane and tended to allow wards up river to guard the team’s laning phase efficiently. By then, he also seemed to work out proper positioning on Sona in team fights and had game-changing Sona ultimates to seal Fnatic’s spot in second place in the regular season.

mithy entered the LCS the same week YellOwStaR transitioned to support

Fnatic’s 2013 season culminated in a final series encounter with Lemondogs. Both teams had secured a place at the World Championship by defeating their semifinal opponents. As with Gambit the previous split, Fnatic entered the series with a 1-3 record against their fellow finalist, but they reversed the standings by triumphing over Lemondogs. Though mithy still laid deeper vision, aggressive play in Game 2 up the lane allowed Fnatic’s bottom lane to start off the game with a rare double kill. At this point, it became obvious that even with a lead, puszu and YellOwStaR didn’t have the best concept of how to pressure a lane. mithy traded for a double kill of his own.

Despite this, Fnatic was still entirely the sOAZ and xPeke show. Jungler Lauri “Cyanide” Happonen had very high lane presence, making it easy for Fnatic to snowball, and then they simply ran Lemondogs around the map. Fnatic secured the World Championship's first seed and their second consecutive playoff victory.

Royal Club and the Leona

2013 World Championship champion picks

Champion Games Wins WR (%)
Leona 7 4 57.1
Zyra 6 4 66.7
Sona 1 0 0
Shen 1 1 100

YellOwStaR made a much larger dent in the bracket in his third World Championship appearance than he did in his second.

First seed into the World Championship for Europe amounted to very little in 2013 as, having placed last at All Stars, Europe lost their first seed quarterfinals bye, and every team had to play in the group stage. Fnatic evaded the group stage heavyweights of Group A in SK Telecom T1 and Chinese team Oh My God by placing in Group B with third place European team Gambit Gaming, Korean team Samsung Ozone, North American Team Vulcun, and Philippines hopefuls, Mineski.

Vulcun started the group with an aggressive invade on Fnatic. Level 1s had gotten Vulcun two of the three prized wins against North American favorites, Cloud9, that summer and a Level 1 invade gave Vulcun a spiral to win over Fnatic. Lyubomir "BloodWater" Spasov demonstrated warding technique that would become standard at Worlds with invading to set out three wards and buying an early Oracle’s Elixir.

Fnatic rebounded against the wildcard team, Mineski, and catapulted into Samsung Ozone. The “dade award” for underperformance at a World Championship originated from Bae “dade” Eojin’s play at the 2013 World Championship. His champion pool had been stunted by a patch change, and he and most of the rest of Ozone showed abysmal form due to having failed to properly prepare. Gambit Gaming gave Ozone their first loss of the group, and Fnatic gave them their second.

During the World Championship, the support triumvirate of Zyra, Thresh, and Sona reigned, but YellOwStaR had different ideas. He has become known for his Leona play, though perhaps in a somewhat comical fashion. Leona wasn't heavily favored at the World Championships because of her lack of range, and the fact that she couldn’t help take down turrets in lane swaps or harassing. Fnatic and other teams (especially the Chinese squads) compensated by executing very early turret dives with Leona’s engagement instead.

More aggressive play allowed YellOwStaR to gather a 1/0/3 scoreline in the first 10 minutes of their rematch against Vulcun. Fnatic obtained the first seed from Group B into quarterfinals and drew North America’s first seed, Cloud9.

Despite YellOwStaR’s increased aggressive play in the group stage as Leona, he still warded primarily defensively within Fnatic’s own jungle when Tier 1 turrets fell. Against supports Daerek “LemonNation” Hart of Cloud9 and especially Pan Kan “Tabe” Wong of Royal Club Huang Zu, who tended to place more invasive words, this contrast caused Fnatic to make more misplays.

Fnatic’s series against Cloud9 was a close one. A game went into each team’s favor before Cloud9’s duo lane was caught out, resulting in a very large snowball for Fnatic that won them the best-of-three. After Royal Club Huang Zu defeated their fellow Chinese team, Oh My God, YellOwStaR would once again drop out of the World Championship as a result of “Chinese aggression.”

Though Leona didn’t conform to the World Championship meta, Tabe brought forth an even more outlandish pick that demanded bans: Annie. Tabe and Jian “Uzi” Zihao found success bringing the duo lane mid with Annie’s stun threats as capable backup while their jungler invaded. If a team tried to counter this aggressive style, Tabe would collapse with an Annie stun.

Supports performed much more actions in the first 10 minutes in this series than YellOwStaR had in his games in the European LCS. By toning down some of their over-active play, Fnatic could actually use YellOwStaR’s defensive wards to punish Royal’s over-extensions. The one game Fnatic won, puszu fell back on Varus, and Fnatic relied on the utility of counter-engage of their bottom lane with Leona and Varus to actually turn fights.

In an explosive Game 4, Fnatic let Annie through, opening Royal’s preferred style of play. This was the most back-and-forth game of the series, but Royal managed to find objectives after they won teamfights and ultimately advanced to the final over Fnatic.

Outside just the bottom lane matchup, Royal’s mid laner Pun Wai "Wh1t3zZ" Lo expressed a wider champion pool and decimated xPeke in farm totals by counter-picking him. This series loss gave Fnatic a lot to mull over, and a very different team would appear in the 2014 European League of Legends Championship Series the following year.

2014 and the time Fnatic lost the LCS

Fnatic had advanced little as a team in order to participate in one of the least satisfying interim international events following the World Championship, the Battle of the Atlantic. Cloud9 got their revenge, and Fnatic underwent changes before the new season began.

2014 EU LCS Spring champion picks

Champion Picks Wins WR (%)
Leona 6 2 33.3
Morgana 6 5 83.3
Karma 4 4 100
Thresh 4 1 25
Annie 4 3 75
Lulu 2 1 50
Alistar 1 0 0
Nunu 1 1 100

2014 was not a particularly good year for European League of Legends teams or Fnatic, as they lost their only split in three years, but it was a very important year for YellOwStaR. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson had turned 17 and could start for Fnatic in the first week of the Spring LCS. Immediately, commentators noted the drastic upgrade to Fnatic’s bottom lane, but Rekkles wasn’t the only one dropping jaws.

YellOwStaR adopted the Annie pick that had bested Fnatic at the World Championship. Changes to the support role in the preseason made Annie even more viable, and she worked her way into the champion pools of supports internationally. YellOwStaR and Rekkles began playing further up in lane than puszu and YellOwStaR ever had. Fnatic went on a seven game win streak, and their bottom lane lead the KDA ratings.

YellOwStaR finally understood the power of a support’s threat zone and dictated the pace of the lane the way he never had in 2013. Fnatic suddenly didn’t have to find creative ways to maneuver around the map; they could perform much better in team fights with an AD carry who could position well enough to secure kills and add onto the damage provided by sOAZ and xPeke. This slowed some of their strategic advancement, but made them more threatening in a skirmishes and team fights.

Then things went very, very wrong.

Fnatic's win streak came to an abrupt end against Gambit Gaming. Vision changes meant a general reduction in vision placement by European teams, and Gambit quickly learned to abuse the meta growing pains with an Evelynn rework. Gambit themselves began maximizing their pink ward placement, but Fnatic's map was very dark by contrast.

As a result of stagnation, Fnatic then went about losing to every single team in the LCS after having already beaten them. They topped their seven game win streak by going on an eight game losing streak. High Fnatic KDAs shattered, and they began to grasp for strategies that would work. The public mocked sOAZ's Lulu top fixation, but no single player seemed at fault for the collapse.

Even with a slacking form, Fnatic managed to make the finals of the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship. They bested Millenium, Cloud9, and an Invictus Gaming barely treading water before being utterly humiliated by a lagging KT Bullets in the final.

Eventually, Fnatic found an answer.

Fnatic changed their luck in Week 7 against Gambit Gaming, the team that started them on their losing streak. Fnatic built a poke and disengage composition that allowed them to move around the map quickly with Sivir. They applied the disengage power of a new support popularized by rising Polish squad, Team ROCCAT: Morgana. Gambit could't keep up with the speed of Fnatic's composition and promptly lost.

Despite struggles with Fnatic and Team ROCCAT's initial rise, Fnatic's main 2014 Spring rivals were SK Gaming. SK developed an intelligent approach to the game that focused on setting up fights around dragon by herding teams into the pit and creating space for AD carry Adrian "CandyPanda" Wübbelmann to take advantage. Though CandyPanda didn't stand out, his team had means of impaling the opposition on his Vayne, and they developed a flavor for split-pushing.

Having rewatched games closely, I believe the 4v0 meta of 2014 Spring had a huge impact on YellOwStaR's playstyle. YellOwStaR seemed to lose some confidence around Week 9, as he and Rekkles reverted to more passive laning, but the evolution of the jungle-duo lane-top laner push meta opened up the map much more. In order to lane after taking down outer turrets, more jungle vision was required, which kept YellOwStaR roaming frequently. He picked up support Karma to move more fluidly around the map and started to fall into place as the roaming and vision-oriented support we’ve come to know him as.

After overcoming their hump, it seemed Fnatic engaged with the game much more creatively. During semifinals, Fnatic ran a series of entertaining compositions, including the Soraka/Kayle/Janna composition that served as a maddening counter to Alliance’s catch and Karthus composition.

Despite these advancements, Fnatic were wholly unprepared for the blunt objects that knocked in their teeth at All Stars in Paris that year. By once again winning the LCS in 2014 Spring, Fnatic were invited to the All Stars tournament to compete with the top teams in the five major regions.

Fnatic lost to every single team except the GPL’s Taipei Assassins. It became clear that the Chinese and Korean teams had developed a counter to the 4v0 meta that allowed them to freeze the minion wave top to get an advantage on the AD carry. Completely lacking an advanced concept of wave control, Fnatic fell hard against SK Telecom T1 and got run over by the team fighting prowess of Oh My God.

Perhaps in one of the most memorable humiliations in League of Legends eSports history, SK Telecom T1 fielded a roster of their World Championship skins, despite those champions not synergizing particularly well nor being in meta.

Like KT Bullets, SK Telecom T1 hadn't been performing well in Korea, but they demolished every opposing team at All Stars, demonstrating the full extent of Korean dominance. Sure, the game wasn't a stomp, but given how poorly those champions fit in the meta at the time, Fnatic should have won.

2014 EU LCS Summer champion picks

Champion Picks Wins WR (%)
Morgana 11 8 72.7
Thresh 11 8 72.7
Nami 3 2 66.7
Braum 1 0 0
Zyra 1 1 100
Alistar 1 0 0

Following All Stars, Fnatic returned to the European League of Legends Championship Series and picked up their first analyst in Alvar "Araneae" Martin Aleñar to contend with having fallen behind strategically. Yet Fnatic had even bigger problems in Europe.

Alliance, the super team that only managed to acquire two-fifths of the initially proposed roster, had finally begun to look like a dominant force. Fnatic lost to Alliance and SK Gaming in the first week of the summer split, foreshadowing events to come.

Of Fnatic, Henrik "Froggen" Hansen, the central figure of Alliance, said "Fnatic would rather go between lanes and get kills than focus objectives." This proved to be a very apt description of how games between Fnatic and Alliance would play out.

In response to YellOwStaR roaming more often, Rekkles began to follow. YellOwStaR got picks on champions like Morgana or Thresh, and Rekkles eliminated them with Lucian or Twitch. Alliance held lanes, pushed out, and use hyper scaling champions to chip at turrets and avoid direct confrontation until late game. Kog'Maw was favored by Alliance AD carry Tabzz and seemed to appear in every match against Fnatic to punish their lack of objective focus.

All summer, Alliance relied on other teams making mistakes. Very few squads took it upon themselves to force anything from Alliance, so they simply waited for openings. YellOwStaR himself said that he believed Alliance really capitalized on Fnatic’s mistakes (see video above). Alliance shut down Fnatic 3-1 in the LCS final that summer, handing Fnatic their only LCS loss in six splits to date.

More troubling than Fnatic’s lost summer split was the fact that they didn’t even look like the second best team in Europe. Fnatic barely bested Team ROCCAT in a five game series, and SK Gaming’s close games that met Alliance in objective prioritization made them look better than Fnatic. They secured the second seed into the World Championship, but Fnatic looked like only the third best team in Europe.

2014 World Championship champion picks

Champion Picks Wins WR (%)
Janna 2 1 50
Thresh 2 1 50
Nami 2 0 0

Following the 2015 European League of Legends Championship Summer final, sOAZ told theScore eSports in reference to 2014, "I've said it many times before, but the atmosphere on the team was really bad for the month leading up to Worlds. I was a bit down, but I still tried to focus on what I could." It certainly showed.

It's remotely possible YellOwStaR has an even year World Championship curse because, just as he did in 2012 with SK Gaming, YellOwStaR fell from the tournament in the group stage. During the World Championship, Fnatic displayed both a high ceiling and a disastrous low. Fnatic's highlight moment was their definitive dismantling of Samsung Blue, likely the strongest team in the world for most of the year in 2014. They simply hit the go button from spawn time, Rekkles ended with an impressive Lucian KDA of 8/1/5, and YellOwStaR a score of 0/1/9 on Thresh.

On the low end of the spectrum, Fnatic participated in one of the most strategically void games played at a World Championship against OMG. I haven't actually counted the number of bad trades of an inhibitor for Baron, illogical backs, or canceled auto attacks, but it's actually just bad, and in the end, Fnatic lost.

Naturally, lolesports awarded that game "Game of the Year" in 2014. It's fun to watch if you suspend critical thinking.

Despite the disaster of Fnatic's 2014 World Championship, I think of it as a unique time in YellOwStaR's career up to that point in which he was the single best performing player on his team. Even in the series against OMG where his teammates made terrible misplays every which way, YellOwStaR could make a highlight reel of Nami disengages.

Some would reflect and call Rekkles the best performing member of Fnatic at 2014 Worlds, but he really only excelled on Lucian. Even in losses, YellOwStaR landed the right Thresh hooks and used the right skillshots on Janna and Nami. While xPeke, Cyanide, and sOAZ struggled depending on the game, YellOwStaR maintained a powerful form and ended the tournament having out-warded every support he faced in the group, including Samsung Blue support, Lee "Heart" Gwanhyung.

By the end of 2014, YellOwStaR, a player who had never been a truly elite AD carry, despite the accolades he received, had become an elite European support. Yet Fnatic was in shambles. YellOwStaR had overcome his own battle for relevance after finding himself unable to compete as a shotcalling AD carry. Unfortunately, despite the high level of skill on the Fnatic roster, the team of sOAZ, Cyanide, xPeke, Rekkles, and YellOwStaR had reached a point where it had begun to tear at itself.

Many in the public sphere knew of the discontent within the Fnatic roster. Changes were coming. In the coming months, YellOwStaR would have to make a decision.

Kelsey Moser is staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.

YellOwStaR's final year

by 3d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

The face cams drifted between Fabien "Febiven" Diepstraten and Lee "Spirit" Dayoon as the Unicorns of Love dismantled Fnatic's final Nexus in Game 3 of the 2016 Regional World Championship qualifier. Febiven’s anger was palpable. Spirit, after his final death, covered his face before sinking into his seat and hanging his arm across his stomach, uncoiling all of the tension he’d kept locked down tight through his year in the EU LCS.

In the EU LCS studio, Zdravets "Hylissang" Galabov teased his bangs before he stood from his chair. Unicorns, stunned by their victory, huddled together in quiet celebration, while excited fans in pink jerseys punched the air and cheered.

When Unicorns crossed the divider for the handshake, the cameras hovered on Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek as he met his former teammates. He managed to nod and hug both Tamás "Vizicsacsi" Kiss and Hylissang before the Unicorns moved to the front of the stage to tag the crowd. UoL manager Romain "Khagneur" Bigeard crossed Fnatic’s name off his bare chest in black marker. Febiven lagged behind his team, clearing his peripherals one more time before he slogged backstage.

Not once — from his final death to the followup analysis on the desk — did the production team focus in on Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim, team captain and fixture of Fnatic since the start of the LCS era. The loss to UoL meant YellOwStaR wouldn’t attend a sixth consecutive World Championship. His streak had at last come to an end. Yet there's no footage of YellOwStaR’s reaction to the last professional game he played in the 2016 season — the last, it turns out, that he would ever play.

Fans have an idealized narrative that sports heroes are supposed to follow. The seasoned veteran works excruciatingly long hours to achieve an end, he climbs the ranks and makes a name for himself. When he’s reached his peak, when he’s won it all, he retires gracefully because he can rest well on his laurels.

That ending can also be that of a coward who is afraid to want to achieve more. YellOwStaR was no coward. He didn't quit at his peak; he kept doing what he loved until he became weary of the game. His final year in the LCS was a disappointment, likely not just for his fans but for the widely celebrated support player himself. But no pro should know his limit until he reaches it and the drive to push it vanishes. That sort of heroism is what kept us searching for YellOwStaR's face when the camera panned away from the Nexus to show us the emotions of the players and the crowd.

A year prior to his retirement announcement, at the height of YellOwStaR’s career, he attended the 2015 World Championship with Febiven, Martin "Rekkles" Larsson, Heo "Huni" Seunghoon and Kim "Reignover" Yeujin, a squad rebuilt around him. They advanced to a World Championship quarterfinal against EDward Gaming, and though EDG didn’t have the tight form expected of them going into the tournament, Fnatic played clean games their way and closed a 3-0. It was the first best-of-five win by a European team over a Chinese team in the history of League of Legends.

Fnatic had made their definitive mark on the international community. They were the strongest Western team to attend a World Championship since the start of the LCS era. Yet their triumph was punctuated by a 3-0 defeat at the hands of KOO Tigers in the semifinal. Rekkles, commenting on KOO’s unexpected performance and the fact that he personally felt he pushed himself too hard, acknowledged the Tigers were a better team. It left fans with a sense the roster could have achieved more.

By the very nature of competition, those who don’t limit themselves often succeed. That doesn’t mean an individual should set unrealistic goals, nor does it mean he should skip steps along the way and try at something he isn’t ready for. But if he sees something he wants to achieve, he should at least work toward it, insofar as he has the energy to do so.

In his retirement statement, YellOwStaR reflected on the moment he last considered leaving the game: after a disappointing World Championship showing where he failed to escape Group Stage. "Back in 2014 when I was having second thoughts," he said, "I turned to my loved ones for advices and they told me to pursue my dreams as long as I was genuinely happy doing it." Because he chose to continue playing then, YellOwStaR gave LoL fans one of the greatest storylines of 2015, with an 18-0 run in the EU LCS summer regular season and an exciting appearance at the World Championship. I imagine he still felt genuinely happy playing the game then, and he strove to push himself even further.

Following Fnatic’s semifinal appearance at Worlds 2015, it would be ridiculous to think YellOwStaR was satisfied, that his goals had been met and that he didn’t want to achieve something else before he hung up his mouse. Of course he didn’t want to retire before 2016. He wanted a serious run at Worlds with teammates boasting pedigrees of experience that matched his own.

His determination led him to Los Angeles, where he played for League of Legends’ most iconic squad, Team SoloMid, alongside North America’s most renowned AD carry, Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng. He failed spectacularly. It would be dishonest to YellOwStaR’s reputation to call his time on TSM anything other than disaster, even though the team managed to place second in the spring playoffs. Doublelift would later refer to him as "one of the worst supports [he’d] ever played with," going on to criticize both his mechanics and his decision-making.

When YellOwStaR did return to the EU LCS for Fnatic, the expectation was he would replicate Rekkles' triumphant return the previous year. Fnatic’s famed bottom lane, though hardly ever regarded as lane-dominant outside early spring 2014, had a long familiarity that made them reliable and safe, that allowed them to prep the rest of the team and control vision.

Somehow, YellOwStaR managed an even worse performance returning to his old organization. He and Rekkles looked for a way to exert early pressure with the jungler and mid lane farming more passively, but they often misplayed trades and simply fell further behind. Fnatic were aided by the lane swap meta when the team could dictate the pace of the game after turret trades, but the 2v2 emphasis in summer playoffs and regionals proved debilitating.

Much of the blame fell on YellOwStaR. He doesn’t deserve of all of it, not by a large margin; Johan "Klaj" Olsson, Fnatic’s spring support, wouldn’t have been a noticeable improvement, and Fnatic had problems with unity and early pressure in more than just bottom lane. But YellOwStaR didn’t feel as stable on Fnatic anymore.

In their heartfelt farewells, commentators and former teammates of YellOwStaR have often ignored the disappointments of his final year, as if they have been minor black marks on an otherwise steady and stable part of his career. I’ve personally gone into detail to track him from 2011 through 2014, an as-yet incomplete account which leaves off just before his peak in 2015. But I don't want to ignore 2016, his most disappointing year — not now, as I watch one of League of Legends’ most iconic players transition to a new role in 2017. It isn’t a part of his story to be ashamed of.

If YellOwStaR had retired at the end of 2015, I would always wonder what he could have achieved in 2016. Romantic notions are one thing, but the reality of watching him confront difficulty this year, of accepting that he had struggled and failed to replicate results, was almost more fulfilling. I will always remember that in his final year of professional play, YellOwStaR wanted to keep playing and challenged himself until he came to a realization he felt too exhausted to continue.

Bringing up YellOwStaR’s failures in his final year isn’t a disservice to what he achieved. It would also be unfair to say he held his teammates back, based on the struggles Fnatic had and the way TSM bounced back in the spring playoffs and then again in the summer split with a new support.

YellOwStaR simply dared to dream. It would do us well to remember that, sometimes, to fail is also heroic.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.

Werlyb leaves Fnatic

Thumbnail image courtesy of Fnatic /theScore esports

Jorge "Werlyb" Casanovas has left Fnatic, and will be joining ThunderX3 Baskonias in the Spanish LVP, the player announced on Facebook Friday.

Werlyb joined Fnatic in April as a member of Fnatic academy, and acted a sub on the LCS team since May. He played one best-of-two match in the 2016 EU LCS Summer Split, a 2-0 loss to Team ROCCAT.

"Losing against Roccat made me lose all the confidence I had and in case that wasn't enough, the very next day I got informed 1 hour before G2 match that I was going to play the first match because an error happened," Werlyb wrote on Facebook. "That was another defeat (this one was not that bad because g2 was x50 times better team). After that game, playoffs were coming so they decided to play fulltime with Kikis, decision that I understand and there is no one else to blame than me for not performing at stage when I needed to."

Before playing for Fnatic, the top laner played for Huma and Giants Gaming, finishing first in the 2016 EUCS Spring Playoffs with Huma and 5th-6th in the 2015 EU LCS Summer Playoffs.

Werlyb wrote that he is looking for a new team to join for the 2017 season, but in the meantime he will play for ThunderX3 Baskonias, a team in the the LVP, the Spanish regional LoL league that feeds into the EU Challenger Series Qualifiers.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

YellOwStaR to manage Paris Saint-Germain esports

by 3d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Twitch.tv

Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim will head up Paris Saint-Germain's new esports division following his retirement from professional League of Legends earlier this week.

PSG announced their esports team in a live stream on Thursday with the acquisition of Team Huma's spot in the 2017 European Challenger Series Spring Split. Huma disbanded in August amidst allegations that team owner Behdad Jaafarian was unable to pay players and team staff on time. Jaafarian then put the team's EU CS spot up for sale.

RELATED: YellOwStaR retires from professional League of Legends

In his role as the head of the esports division, YellOwStaR will be in charge of scouting new players for PSG's League of Legends roster, and will be living with them in their gaming house in Berlin. He will not be the team's coach or an active player.

YellOwStaR will have a clean slate to work with in building the new team, since Huma did not have any players signed when their spot was purchased. YellOwStaR said in the press conference that having the team house in Berlin will help the fledging Challenger squad by letting them scrim with EU LCS teams.

"The main objective of 2017 will be go to the LCS, the first League of Legends division," he said.

YellOwStaR is considered one of the best European League of Legends players of all time, as well as one of the most accomplished Western LoL players in the game's history. YellOwStaR has participated in five World Championships with three different teams, and has qualified for seven LCS finals across two regions — winning five of them — in his six-year career.

Paris Saint-Germain is a French soccer club that fields a roster in Ligue 1, the highest tier of French professional soccer. The organization was founded in 1970 and holds a total of 31 titles, including six domestic Ligue 1 titles as well as two European titles, the 1995-1996 UEFA Cup Winner's Cup and the 2001 UEFA Intertoto Cup.

During the press conference, PSG also announced they were signing two-time FIFA world champion August "Agge" Rosenmeier and former Epsilon FIFA player Lucas "Daxe" Cuillerier.

"It's a huge difference because I really feel that I get recognized," Agge said at the conference. "I'm very proud and honored to be a part of PSG. It's a huge huge relief for me, and I'm very happy. I will do my best, of course."

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

YellOwStaR retires from professional League of Legends

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of EU LCS / lolesports flickr

Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim has retired from professional League of Legends and is leaving Fnatic, the organization announced Wednesday.

"Legends aren’t born, they are created by hard work and dedication. One of Fnatic’s biggest legacies is Bora “Yellowstar” Kim, a player who’s helped shape not only Fnatic, but Western League of Legends eSports over the past six years," Fnatic stated in a press release.

"His in-game leadership has been praised by his teammates and is honored by numerous achievements and MVP awards. Even outside Summoner’s Rift, Yellowstar found ways to inspire players and fans alike.

"It’s hard to imagine an LCS Split without Yellowstar but today we are sad to announce Bora’s retirement from competitive League of Legends after 6 incredible seasons and 3.5 years with Fnatic."

Following Fnatic's announcement, YellOwStaR posted a statement to Facebook in which he addressed the LoL community and esports as a whole, telling his fans after almost four years of professional LoL and his time before that playing WarCraft III, he's "exhausted."

"I'm now 24, and to be completely honest with you, I am feeling more and more exhausted after hours of playing," YellOwStaR wrote. "Everything has become more difficult to do for the last few months even though my inner motivation is still as strong as on the first day — that I can promise you.

"Back in 2014 when I was having second thoughts, I turned to my loved ones for advices and they told me to pursue my dreams as long as I was genuinely happy doing it."

YellOwStaR is considered one of the best European League of Legends players of all time, as well as one of the most accomplished Western LoL players in the game's history. He has participated in five World Championships with three different teams, and has qualified for seven LCS finals across two regions — winning five of them — in his six-year career.

"I have been praised, I have been criticized. I have had a lot of success, but a lot of failures too," YellOwStaR stated on Facebook. "Looking back today, accepting the criticisms that have been thrown my way and learning from them, I wouldn’t change a thing. I cannot be more thankful for all the memories we forged together throughout the years."

YellOwStaR started his career on against All authority as an AD Carry (though he is more known today for his support play), with whom he placed second at the first LoL World Championship. He then briefly played for Millenium before re-joining aAa for IEM Season VI, left for Millennium again, then joined SK Gaming and qualified for Season 2 Worlds, though the team was unable to make it out of the group stage.

In January 2013, YellOwStaR joined Fnatic and helped them qualify for the first EU LCS split. He would stick with Fnatic for two years, leading the team to victory in five splits and qualifying for two more World Championships — notably finishing in the Top 4 at Worlds in 2015 — before leaving for North America.

YellOwStaR joined Team SoloMid's all-star lineup in December 2015, but the supposed super team was having problems. A rocky 9-9 record in the 2015 NA LCS Spring Split made many write TSM off going into the playoffs, but they managed to pull out a second place finish, defeating Cloud9 3-1 and Immortals 3-0, only losing to Counter Logic Gaming in a close, 3-2 Grand Finals series.

YellOwStaR then returned to Europe and Fnatic for the remainder of the 2016 season, but found the team struggling. Fnatic placed 5th-6th in the playoffs, taking an 0-3 loss to H2k-Gaming in the quarterfinals. The team went on to place third in the European Regional Finals after yet another 3-0 loss, this time to the Unicorns of Love. The loss meant that the sixth World Championship would be the first that YellOwStaR would not attend as a player.

Fnatic has not yet announced exactly how it plans to fill YellOwStaR's shoes for the 2017 Spring Split, but Johan "Klaj" Olsson is still signed to the team as support sub. Klaj started as support for the team for much of the spring split, while YellOwStaR was playing for Team SoloMid.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Sandbox mode on the horizon: Riot Games begins work on "single-player training mode"

Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games

Riot Games have begun work on the much requested in-game practice tools, or sandbox mode, for League of Legends, starting with a "single-player training mode," according to a joint blog post from Andrew “Riot Aeon” Brownell and Rowan “L4T3NCY” Parker posted on Friday.

Riot's proposed practice tool will allow players to have infinite gold, reset their cooldowns, lock their level and freeze minion spawns. A full feature list is still in the works, but they have stated that they're "currently not looking to develop a multiplayer training tool for organized team drills or pro-play specifically.

"Once we get the first version out, we’ll pay close attention to see if we missed anything in terms of how to become better by yourself," Aeon and L4T3NCY said in their blog post.

The news comes a year after Riot's blog post where they stated, "we never want to see a day when a player wants to improve at League and their first obligation is to hop into a Sandbox." In Riot's recent blog post, they admit that their initial thoughts were not in line with the rest of the community.

"A year ago, we shot ourselves in the foot with our first attempt at Riot Pls," Riot Aeon and L4T3NCY said in their blog post. "Back then we said that a practice tool — an environment where you could train solo, without restraints — wasn’t something we wanted to do. You disagreed, and we heard you."

No timeline is stated for the release of Riot's Practice Tool, but further updates are promised throughout the 2017 pre-season.

Here are some initial community reactions:

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev. You can follow him on Twitter.

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