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.

TrAce retires, may return 'in a different role'

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Twitch / LCK Spring 2016 / Riot Games

Yeo "TrAce" Chang-dong has decided to retire from competitive play, but don't break out the sad planes just yet: he isn't planning on leaving League of Legends esports entirely.

The top laner for Jin Air Green Wings made the announcement on Facebook Thursday.

"After having started in the summer of 2013 I have decided to finally end my career. I played every year like it would be my last and now 2016 has already passed," TrAce wrote.

"To be honest, I thought about writing about this and that but a heavy and long article I thought would be boring and I think that I will be able to still see you guys not as a player but in a different role so I'm keeping this light. I want to thank everyone that cheered for and like Jin Air TrAce."

TrAce went on to say that he felt old compared to one of Jin Air's newest trainees, who was born in 1999. TrAce, 27, was born in 1989.

Known for innovative top lane play, TrAce pioneered picks like Morganna and Graves. His Graves, specifically, allowed Jin Air to grab a 2-0 win against SK Telecom T1 at Week One of LCK 2016 Spring. He had a combined 9.0 KDA over both those games and did not die once.

TrAce did not elaborate on what his new role might be, but given his experience and his reputation for innovation, a coaching or analysis role wouldn't be surprising.

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

TrAce joins SSG as coach

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Thumbnail image courtesy of KeSPA / LCK Summer 2016

Samsung Galaxy have signed the former Jin Air Green Wings top laner Yeo "TrAce" Chang-dong as their new coach, the team announced on Facebook Friday.

TrAce comes in as a replacement for coach Kim Jeong-soo, who was dropped on Nov. 30, along with substitute top laner Kwon "Helper" Yeong-jae.

On Dec. 1, SSG re-signed a majority of their current roster, though they're still deciding on Kwon "Wraith" Jimin. This was also same day TrAce announced his departure from Jin Air and his retirement from competitive play.

TrAce was known for popularizing unorthodox picks in the top lane, such as Morgana and Graves, the latter of which was used to take a 2-0 win over SK Telecom T1 in the first week of LCK 2016 Spring.

Here's what SSG's lineup looks like:

  • Lee "CuVee" Sungjin (top)
  • Kang "Ambition" Chanyong (jungle)
  • Lee "Crown" Minho (mid)
  • Park "Ruler" Jaehyuk (ADC)
  • Cho "CoreJJ" Yongin (support)
  • Lee "Stitch" Seungjoo (sub ADC)
  • Yeo "TrAce" Chang-dong (coach)

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 Discipline Priest. You can follow him on Twitter.

Winged leaves Jin Air

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of KeSPA / LCK Summer 2016

The Jin Air Green Wings have announced on their Facebook page that jungler Park "Winged" Tae-jin has left the team.

This leaves only top laner Kim "SoHwan" Jun-yeong, mid laner Lee "Kuzan" Seong-hyeok, and recent support pickup Oh "Raise" Ji-hwan on Jin Air's current League of Legends roster.

Jin Air acquired Winged in December 2014, marking Winged's return to Korea after a stint on Brazil's Keyd Stars that year. Winged only played a few times throughout 2015, but was the team's starting jungler through all of 2016 after Lee "Chaser" Sang-hyun's departure in the 2015-16 offseason.

There is no word on where Winged will go next, or who Jin Air will sign for their jungle position.

Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.

Expession re-signs with Longzhu Gaming

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of KeSPA / LCK Spring 2016

Koo "Expession" Bon-taek has re-signed with Longzhu Gaming for the 2017 season, the organization announced on Twitter Wednesday.

Expession joined Longzhu in June 2015, when the team was known as Incredible Miracle. Before that, he played on both NaJin Black Sword and NaJin White Sword. Longzhu placed eighth in the LCK 2016 Summer Season, down from their seventh-place finish in the spring, and recently placed 3rd-4th at IEM Oakland.

Expession put up a 3.0 KDA during the summer regular season, the sixth highest among top laners in the LCK that split.

Longzhu recently signed Song "Fly" Yong-jun and Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong after dropping six players and two coaches. However, Expession was on the list of released players.

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

Patch 6.24 released; Ranked Reset accompanies it

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan 2d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

Riot has released their latest patch, 6.24, which harbors a whole host of changes as League carries over to the new season. The last patch of Season 6, 6.24 has fairly substantial changes to items, champions, and the map that shift the meta away from what was predominantly picked across 2016.

On champions, over 10 have been altered in some way, including notable buffs onto the following champions:

  • Akali (Passive works on towers)
  • Azir (Soldiers come up more often; enemies get less gold from your passive, and the tower does more damage)
  • Fiddlesticks (W damage increased, E cooldown reduced)
  • Garen (You shred armor as you spin to win with E)
  • Varus (Passive now gives you bonus attack speed on unit kill)
  • Katarina (Dagger passive damage slightly increased)

The notable nerf bat recipients this time around were:

  • Twitch (Venom Cask mana increased, passive now does less true damage per stack)
  • Vayne (Tumble AD Ratio reduced)
  • Ivern (Triggerseed costs more mana, and slows way less at early levels)
  • Rengar (Bonetooth Necklace bonus damage reduced, and a bugfix to change it from total AD to bonus AD)
  • LeBlanc (Waveclear and health regeneration reduced substantially, but given a small q buff to compensate)
  • Kog'Maw (AP ratio and damage on E reduced by a large amount, however a small W damage buff to compensate and shift Kog'Maw towards AD)

Outside of champions, Rylai's has been changed to be less likely to be taken by bursty mages and more likely to be taken by true control mages, with its ability power and health reduced to make it less appealing as a damage and survivability option.

Jungle camps have changed substantially as well. Red and Blue buffs don't provide their on-hit burn/slow and percentage AP respectively, but have slightly increased duration to compensate. Krugs has also lost a major amount of experience on the first clear, making the Red-Krugs-Early gank route much less appealing because junglers are unable to hit level three before three minutes when doing that now. Whereas 6.23 shifted experience from Raptors to Krugs, now the experience lost on Krugs is not moved anywhere, making the jungle have less experience on first clear overall.

As well as all this, Riot has made a fair few changes outside of the game, adding functionality to their client through a better spectator mode, a low-spec mode for struggling computers, and in-client keybinding changes. Finally, as with every season, Riot is doing a soft ranked reset so that we can all climb to Challenger, where we deserve to be.

Click here for the full Patch Notes

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a News Editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

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