Low Economy, First Class: Jin Air's TrAce

Thumbnail image courtesy of Twitch / OGN Champions Spring 2013 / OnGameNet


That is the current highest KDA in Korea’s OGN Champions Spring 2016 after two weeks of play. Fresh off of his 15.8 overall KDA performances, the best of all regular starters at the 2015 League of Legends World Championship, SK Telecom T1 AD carry Bae “Bang” Junsik is an obvious candidate, yet he currently sits in second place to Mister 13.5, with an 11.0 showing across six games.

One would further assume a KDA this high is that of an AD carry or mid laner, as they are typically afforded the lion’s share of team gold, yet it belongs to a top laner. With former SK Telecom T1’s Jang “MaRin” Gyeonghwan left Korea, natural guesses fall to KT Rolster’s Kim “Ssumday” Chanho, ROX Tigers’ Song “Smeb” Kyungho, or even MaRin’s replacement, former NaJin e-mFire top Lee “Duke” Hoseong. All of these aforementioned tops had breakout years in 2015, particularly Smeb and Ssumday; however, Mister 13.5 is none of the above.

The owner of the aforementioned statistic, on the precipice of his own breakout year, is none other than the Jin Air Green Wings’ generally apathetic-looking top laner, Yeon “TrAce” Changdong.

Naturally, KDA isn’t everything – in fact, many League statisticians would argue that it means next to nothing beyond a flashy number – and more remarkable are TrAce’s other Spring 2016 statistics. His average creep score differential at 10 minutes is 10.8, third best in Champions Spring to AD carry Bang (14.2) and Longzhu top laner Koo “Expession” Bontaek (15.2). In eight games, he’s only died four times and has an impressive 71.1 percent kill participation, second-best of all top laners outdone only by SBENU Sonicboom’s Lee “SoaR” Gangpyo with 71.4 percent.

What’s more interesting is how TrAce is achieving these numbers, eschewing the monikers of “low economy” and the more derogatory “washed up,” that were ascribed to him throughout the majority of both Champions 2015 seasons.

Last year’s Jin Air Green Wings roster was centered around mid laner Lee “GBM” Changseok. A shoo-in for Korea’s most-improved player had Smeb not existed, GBM showed up to 2015 Champions with a more diversified champion pool than in years past. This was coupled with a newfound ability to not only hold his own in lane, but steadily accrue advantages on his opponents until late where he boasted monstrous performances on the likes of Xerath, Ahri, and Viktor. GBM was complemented by the Green Wings’ bot lanes, where the team swapped between their two AD carries, veteran Kang “Cpt Jack” Hyungwoo and up-and-comer Na “Pilot” Woohyung, and two supports, Lee “Sweet” Eunteak and Choi “Chei” Sunho. The entire team was brought together under the constant guidance of jungler Lee “Chaser” Sanghyun, who controlled the map and orchestrated the Green Wings’ early game. While Chaser, and the entire 2015 Jin Air team, often faltered in the mid game, they showed cool heads under pressure, often winning due to their resiliency come late game.

TrAce was a crucial part of this game plan, but an oft-forgotten component of the Jin Air Green Wings. He rarely stood out, living up to his low economy label by receiving the least amount of relative gold of any starting top laner in the regular season at 20.2 percent. For reference, SK Telecom T1’s MaRin received 23.8 percent – the highest of all Korean top laners in Summer – while KT Rolster’s Ssumday was given 23.4 percent of his team’s gold. Jin Air hardly needed another carry, with GBM in mid, the Pilot or Cpt Jack rotation at AD carry, and Chaser receiving more relative gold than any other jungler in Champions Summer 2015. What they needed was someone who would not be a detriment to the team with a minimal amount of resources. TrAce fit himself into this role perfectly.

Of his 42 games in Champions Summer 2015, TrAce spent 17 of them on Rumble and 13 on Maokai for a combined 71 percent of his games on those two champions. While his top lane compatriots MaRin and Smeb also played these two for the majority of their Summer, their performances were supplemented by a larger quantity of resources – be that the previously-noted gold discrepancy or more jungle attention top – and a few more carry performances on the likes of Fizz, Riven, and Hecarim. TrAce stuck to those champions that Jin Air required him to play and still managed respectable numbers, finishing with a fifth-best KDA of Summer 2015 tops, and a strong 68.5 percent kill participation for his team, fourth-best for Korean top laners in Summer.

When it was announced this past offseason that teammates Cpt Jack and Chaser along with TrAce were simultaneously leaving the Jin Air Green Wings, most Jin Air fans mourned the loss of Chaser – one of the best junglers in the region alongside SK Telecom T1’s Bae “bengi” Seongwoong. There was also additional melancholy at Cpt Jack’s departure. Having built a longstanding fanbase since his Maximum Impact Gaming days, it was thought that he would likely retire from competitive gaming and attend university.

TrAce was all but forgotten, and attention quickly turned to the new Jin Air top, Kim “SoHwan” Junyeong. Formerly of Korean Challenger team Pathos, SoHwan was known as an aggressive Riven main, the perceived opposite of the low-economy and boring TrAce. Unfortunately, SoHwan’s recklessness and champion pool issues became immediately apparent during his appearances in both the KeSPA Cup and IEM San Jose. Much of his struggle was attributed to the lack of jungle presence, as Chaser’s prior substitute and now starter, Park “Winged” Taejin, also failed to make much of an impact on the map for SoHwan or the Green Wings.

About two-and-a-half weeks after his departure, TrAce re-signed with the Green Wings on Dec. 18, 2015, and it was thought that he would split top lane duties with SoHwan, presumably mentoring the rookie. In their first series of Champions Spring 2016, Jin Air still appeared undecided as to who they wanted to start top, swapping from SoHwan in Game 1 to TrAce in Game 2, both resulting in losses to Longzhu. However, against SK Telecom T1, the Jin Air Green Wings pulled out a two compositions that revolved around TrAce’s top lane Graves, a pocket pick for the versatile top. In a surprising 2-0 sweep of the reigning world champions

While many may point to the fact that Game 1 saw SK Telecom T1 start mid lane substitute Lee “Scout” Yechan and jungle substitute Kang “Blank” Sungu, this hardly takes away from TrAce’s monstrous 18 KDA across the two games, along with a 69.2 percent kill participation. Teams have subsequently banned or picked Graves away from TrAce in all but one of their following matches. These Graves performances were only the beginning of TrAce’s renaissance as a carry top, as he more recently boasted a 3/0/3 Quinn demolishing of e-mFire top laner Suk “Hipo” Hyunjun. TrAce also returned to top lane Morgana – another pocket pick – for a 1/1/13 showing against the Afreeca Freecs, in which his all-important Dark Bindings precipitated Jin Air teamfight wins and successful turret sieges.

TrAce’s recent carry performances mark a bit of a return to form for TrAce, whose initial 2013 Champions debut was accompanied by a reputation for odd, somewhat off-meta picks on which he could carry his team like Cho’gath or Rengar. On his first Champions team, AHQ Korea, in 2013 Spring, TrAce drew consistent top lane Rengar bans that carried over into Champions Summer 2013 and his ensuing time on the Jin Air Green Wings Stealths.

The 2014 Stealths are where TrAce first began to mold into a more utility top for his team, particularly when the resource-hungry Cpt Jack joined in late Jan. 2014, and Chaser was swapped over from the Falcons that May. In a somewhat shocking turn of events, the Stealths eked into the Champions Summer 2014 playoffs where they were promptly dispatched by Samsung Galaxy Blue in three games.

Even in the waning moments of the Summer 2014 group stages, the more talked-about Jin Air top was the talented Falcons’ Kim “Rock” Huichan, who retired shortly after the season to the disappointment of many. TrAce stuck with Jin Air when the Stealths and Falcons merged, fading into the aforementioned background with the rise of GBM and Chaser.

Now, in 2016, TrAce looks to reinvent his career once more, bursting back onto the scene as the quirky top he was previously for ahq Korea in 2013, before adapting to what his successive Jin Air squads required of him. Now, Jin Air has room for a more of a hard carry top laner, and while most looked him over for the Riven-main in SoHwan, TrAce has thus far proved that he can carry with the best in his region. TrAce may have been low economy for the past few seasons, but he’s always been world class.

Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. Her love for the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her 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.

Pray on facing SKT: 'We are going to try really, really hard to get payback this time'

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of 2016 World Championship / Riot Games

The first semifinal match of the League of Legends 2016 World Championship will feature a rematch of the 2015 World Championship Grand Final as ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1 are set to take the rift Friday.

Red Bull eSports' Xander Torres spoke to ROX Tigers AD carry Kim "PraY" Jong-In ahead of the match and discussed the rise of Caitlyn, his mindset going into the semifinals and what it's going to be like facing SKT in a best-of-five match.

Caitlyn has quickly risen in popularity over the past few weeks, as the The Sheriff of Piltover has gone from being picked 12.5 percent of the time during the summer split and regional qualifiers in the NA/EU LCS, LCK, LPL and LMS, to a 46.9 percent pick rate at Worlds so far. In ROX's four-game quarterfinal series against China's EDward Gaming, PraY played Caitlyn twice, putting up a 5/1/8 scoreline in Game 1 and a 5/1/6 scoreline in Game 2.

“By now, I think teams have figured out that Caitlyn is probably the strongest champion in the bottom lane,” said PraY.

When it comes to facing a titan like SKT, PraY feels that his in-game mindset helps him keep a level head.

"I just have a mindset that I will not lose to any other ADC so I don’t do anything different, I just play my own game," he said.

Even so, the Tigers have lost every best-of-five match they've played against SKT, including the 2015 League of Legends World Championship Grand Finals.

"Whenever we played against them, we had this mindset that ‘this time it will be different,’ but we lost anyway," he said.

That kind of record can mentally affect a team, but PraY says it motivates ROX to push even harder.

"This time, there will be a difference and we just really want to give them back the despair we felt whenever we lost to them," he said. "We are going to try really, really hard to get payback this time."

Annabelle "Abelle" Fischer is a writer for theScore esports with a love for Dota 2, birds and cheese. You can follow her on Twitter.

YellOwStaR to manage Paris Saint-Germain esports

by 1d 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.

ROX Tigers say they plan to keep the team together after Worlds

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

ROX Tigers have posted a statement on TwitLonger denying reports that their roster plans to disband after the 2016 World Championship.

"We fully intend to keep this team together. Rumors are just rumors," the statement reads.

ESPN's Jacob Wolf reported Oct. 16 that, according to unnamed sources close to the team, ROX's players have agreed to go their separate ways after the conclusion of Worlds. ROX's statement claims that ESPN's report is "absolutely false."

"We explained to ESPN that contracts are up in November for all Korean teams, meaning that players have the option to leave the team and we cannot make a statement on every player’s future decision," the statement says. "This is true for almost every team."

The Tigers have not had a title sponsor since KooTV shut its doors last year. Despite their successes this year — placing second in the LCK 2016 Spring Playoffs, winning the Summer Playoffs and making it to the Top 4 of Worlds —the team have not brought on a replacement title sponsor, in part because of the limited pool of major sponsors investing in esports in South Korea. ESPN's report claims the team intended to disband in 2015 due to financial difficulties, but chose to remain on for one more season.

According to ROX's statement, they currently have sponsorship support from Chinese streaming company HUYA and YY.com, and are currently in talks with new sponsors to support their effort in 2017. "We are by no means a large or established organization, but we are actively working for the future of this team and hope this 'news' will not derail our efforts," the statement says.

Based on their performance this year, ROX players like Yun "Peanut" Wang-ho and Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho are in high demand internationally, and are likely to receive lucrative offers from North American and Chinese teams with heavy investment backing when their contracts expire on Nov. 30. Without additional sponsorship, ROX may struggle to retain its full roster after Worlds.

However, the organization says that it fully intends to try. "We have complete faith in our players. We believe in what this team has built and accomplished over the past two years, it’s really something special," the statement says.

ROX's players have already received multiple offers, but the team has not replied to any, the statement says. The transfer window for the 2017 season is currently closed, and teams will not be able to enter into Riot-sanctioned negotiations until after Worlds.

"Let's be clear: there are no active/ongoing player negotiations," the statement says. "We are disappointed that ESPN chose to go ahead and publish the piece when it establishes nothing newsworthy and is purely speculative, especially given the timing and the ignorance of our team by the reporter. We question who the 'sources close to its players and the organization' might be since our representatives, manager, and players are all surprised to hear of this supposed agreement to disband following Worlds."

The report from ESPN closely followed the ROX Tigers' 3-1 victory over EDward Gaming in the Worlds 2016 quarterfinals on Saturday. ROX are set to face SK Telecom T1 in the semifinals on Oct. 21, and though they have yet to defeat their Korean rivals in series, it's expected to be a very close match.

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.

Jeff Fraser is a supervising editor for theScore esports.

Smeb: ‘For us to become the best team in the world…[SKT] are an obstacle that we must overcome’

by 5d ago

The ROX Tigers everyone was expecting finally showed up in Saturday's quarterfinal match against EDward Gaming, with only one minor hiccup spoiling their otherwise dominant 3-1 win. Next up: an all-Korean semifinal against rival SK Telecom T1.

Following the series victory over EDG, William "scarra" Li spoke with Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho about improving on their group stage performance, how having fun and singing are a key part of ROX's victories and staring down SKT for a spot in the finals.

For more video interviews and highlights, be sure to subscribe to theScore esports on YouTube.

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