Low Economy, First Class: Jin Air's TrAce

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

13.5.

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.

DoA and MonteCristo discuss why they decided to stop casting LCK and their transition to Overwatch

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Flickr

Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles and Erik "DoA" Lonnquist discussed why they decided to stop casting League Champions Korea after 10 seasons and why they're excited to cast Overwatch in a video posted on DoA's YouTube channel.

On Jan. 10, both MonteCristo and DoA confirmed a report from FOMOS' Kim "Kenzi" Yong-Woo that they would not be casting LCK's upcoming season, promising to release a detailed statement later. In the video, DoA said that the decision to stop casting LCK was not made lightly, as the two had discussed switching to Overwatch for some time.

"This is something that's not sudden," DoA said. "It's something that we've been talking about for a long time. I think when Overwatch was announced, right from the beginning with the intro video and all that, we knew or at least felt in a way that it would be a big esport and it's something that we've wanted to cast. We've been kind of talking about this for a few years now actually."

The duo have previously casted the first season of OGN's Overwatch APEX Series and appeared at BlizzCon to cast the Overwatch World Cup. Based on their experience so far, MonteCristo said that Blizzard has made a "much more concerted effort" to keep them up to date and in the know as opposed to Riot."

"Over the years, it has been difficult for us to predict or have a lot of trust in regards to what Riot is going to do, especially in regards to us as non-Riot casters," MonteCristo said. "There has been very little stability for freelancers in the scene. Blizzard has been making, for us at least, a much more concerted effort to include us in a lot of the conversations that are going on. And the treatment of us has been, I feel, more honest and better."

Despite their experience with Riot, both DoA and MonteCristo stressed that they loved working with Riot's production team, and wished them the best going forward.

"One thing we want to stress too is that we are not talking about the Riot production team, the other casters and all that," DoA said. "We've absolutely loved working with the production people at Riot, the entire staff over there and all of the other casters that we've done, you know, IEMs with, MSI, Worlds and all that. That's a sad part for us, not working with those guys for a while."

Though DoA and MonteCristo are excited to focus on casting Overwatch, DoA said that he will miss casting LCK for the upcoming season for one reason.

"I do regret not being able to cast a team named BBQ Olivers," DoA confessed.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports whose journalism idol is Dino Ghiranze. You can follow him on Twitter.

DoA and MonteCristo decide to stop casting LCK

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Flickr

After 10 seasons, Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles and Erik "DoA" Lonnquist will not return to the desk to cast League Champions Korea.

The news broke initially in a report from FOMOS' Kim "Kenzi" Yong-Woo which MonteCristo and DoA both later confirmed in a quote tweet, noting they would release more on their decision shortly.

In a follow-up tweet, Monte confirmed that the two casters will continue to cast Overwatch events for OnGameNet. The duo have been casting OGN's Overwatch APEX series and appeared at BlizzCon to cast the Overwatch World Cup, where Team South Korea defeated all challengers in the playoff bracket without dropping a map.

RELATED: DoA says he's not done with LoL just yet, but 'it really does feel like it's time for something new'

With both of them refocusing around Overwatch, the news that they would not cast LCK is perhaps not unexpected, but it still marks an end to a 10-season-long tenure that saw both Monte and DoA become the voices of English-language LCK broadcasts.

The LCK broadcasts for the spring split will be split between OGN and SpoTV. Caster Chris "PapaSmithy" Smith confirmed on Twitter that, for the OGN days, the broadcasts will be commentated by himself, Seth "Achilios" King and an as-yet unnamed new hire.

RELATED: Monte on OW’s philosophy compared to LoL: '3 years ago Faker was able just to go crazy in League of Legends in a way that just isn’t possible now'

The APEX series is an Overwatch tournament that sees some of the strongest Western teams travel to Korea, where they compete in a months-long group stage and playoff bracket. The inaugural season saw Team EnVyUs redeem themselves by taking first place, defeating both European and Korean challengers in the playoff bracket.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.

Riot to hold international tournament in July

by 12h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games

Riot Games will host an international League of Legends tournament in July, separate from the Mid-Season Invitational and Worlds, according to sections of a Chinese press conference translated by Yahoo Esports' Kelsey Moster.

According to the translation, Riot employee Ye Qiang said that instead of shortening the spring split in order to allow for more international competition, Riot will be hosting an international event in July, which would put it in the middle of the summer split.

“We are still considering what kind of event would be the most interesting for everyone," Qiang said. "For example, can we do a World Cup-type tournament? We hope LoL events can be more diversified, can satisfy our audience, and can give everyone a better player experience, so this is what we will target for the event this year in July. Wait and see.”

The exact format of this tournament is unknown, as is the specific location, date and even how participants will be selected. While the conference was held in China, there is no clear indication that the tournament will be held in Asia.

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

Riot Games and Big Ten Network partner for new conference LoL championship

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games

Riot Games and the Big Ten Network are set to announce a partnership for a new season-long collegiate League of Legends championship, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.

The championship will feature 12 of the 14 conference schools competing in the championship, the exceptions being Nebraska and Penn State, and is set to begin on Jan. 30. Divided into two divisions named BTN East and West, teams will play in a best-of-three round robin against division opponents, with the top four moving on to a single elimination playoff bracket. The finals will take place on March 27 and will be televised by the BTN.

The winner of the BTN league will subsequently go on to compete in the LoL Collegiate Championship. For BTN, this league will hopefully allow them to reach an audience who they have not connected with before.

"As a content provider, we have obviously seen the popularity in esports grow," Erin Harvego, BTN's vice president of marketing, told ESPN. "Given the demographic that watches, perhaps this could reach a younger viewer who we haven't reached before."

This is not the first time that Riot and BTN have partnered for an event. Last April, BTN and Riot worked together to create the BTN Invitational, a best-of-five series between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports whose journalism idol is Dino Ghiranze. You can follow him on Twitter.

Deft on his return to the LCK

by 3d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of 刘一村 / LPL / 刘一村's album

After a two year hiatus from the LCK, KT Rolster AD carry Hyukgyu "Deft" Kim sat down with InvenGlobal's Minyoung "Irro" Jang to discuss how it felt to return to the LCK from the Chinese LPL.

"It feels good to be back in the LCK with my new teammates after leaving for two years," said Deft.

Deft moved to China to play for EDward Gaming in 2014. EDG was the only Chinese team to make it out of groups at the 2015 World Championship, and finished 5th-8th in both the 2015 and 2016 World Championship.

In an interview with FOMOS last November, Deft expressed his wish to return to Korea in order to have a chance at a Worlds title and returned to the LCK this season after signing on with KT Rolster.

"My playstyle has changed dramatically after returning to the LCK. I often felt confident enough to start a skirmish even when we were outnumbered in the LPL," Deft told InvenGlobal. "After returning to the LCK, I try not to open up a teamfight when we are outnumbered."

Deft elaborated on the importance of teamfights, stating his observations about the current power level of AD carries.

"AD Carries can thrive when a game goes into the teamfight phase," he said. "However, it's often not the case in the Solo Queue as AD Carries are often not strong enough to have an influence in the early game. I think it’s because the current meta is all about powerful junglers, teleporting toplaners and roaming midlaners."

Deft also attributed his team's 2-0 victory over ROX Tigers to KT's teamwork and personal mechanics.

"I wanted to play perfectly, but I've made too many mistakes for my liking," Deft stated. "Most of [the team's] preparations were focused on teamfights, but I think I still did pretty well on the personal level as well."

Kristine "Vaalia" Hutter is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find her on Twitter.

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