Once Brothers: an in-depth look at the rivalry between EDG's Deft and LGD's Imp

by Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger Apr 26 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

One is hot blooded, exuberant in personality, and always ready to fight from the first minute to the last. The other is more calm, with a sheepish, lackadaisical persona, who sometimes sleepwalks through the first half of the game until he turns into a monster in its latter stages. Opposites in personality both outside and inside the game, the two best AD carries in the world started their careers in the same house, MVP, before moving onto Samsung when the organization picked up Imp's MVP White/Ozone and Deft's MVP Blue squads.

Imp's career started on the MVP White team during the Champions Korea Winter 2012-13. Unlike the days to come where the team would be filled with some of the best talent in the world, the inaugural White team was little on all-around talent. Dandy, Imp's long-time teammate and jungler, was the co-star of the first iteration of the team, giving him the most support of any of his teammates. Outside of Dandy, the early days of Imp's campaign as a professional were essentially him 1v5ing people as the solo carry on the team, using his solo queue mechanics to give him the advantage in battle.

White were good, but definitely not great by any stretch of the imagination, and were ousted in the quarter-finals of the tournament in a sweep to the eventual champions NaJin Sword. The team would rebuild in the offseason, bringing in amateur support Mata from the Challenger squad BBT and Dade, the starting mid-laner from the CJ Entus team. These changes would help them reshape their philosophy as a team, moving away from everyone on the team needing to protect Imp at all times and becoming a more all-around, team-oriented team good enough to take out any team in Korea.

While Ozone (White's new main sponsor) became less 'President Imp and four secret service members' and more of a five-man unit, the addition of Dade's pressure and talent in the mid lane let Imp be an even better player. Without all the focus primarily on him from the other team, Imp had more chances to outplay his lane opponent head on, which in turn led him atop the KDA leader boards for all players in the Champions Korea Spring 2013 tournament. Not to be overlooked, the bringing in on Mata also gave Imp a safety net — a type of support that could make up for Imp's sometime ill-fated aggressive plays that could have been turned into deaths with a weaker support partner.

Imp's Ozone would go on a Cinderella-like run through the playoffs, upsetting the title favorites,  KT Bullets, in the quarterfinals, the golden rookies SK Telecom T1 #2 in the semifinals, and then finally sweeping CJ Entus Blaze in the finals. Blaze entered the final with a remarkable 13 game win-streak but were toppled in the finals by a more cohesive Ozone squad, Imp starring in the series over CJ's CptJack and winning his first major title after only two seasons.

The next year-and-a-half would bring various awards and titles Imp's way, most notably the most recent 2014 World Championship victory over StarHorn Royal Club and their star AD Carry Uzi in the finals. Although becoming a smarter and more mature version of himself from his rookie season where he would have to take on the whole world by himself, Imp still carries the chip on his shoulder that has stayed with him from the start of his career. If someone thinks they're better than him or can beat him outright, he'll take up the challenge and be straightforward in his attacks.

Following his championship win in 2014, Imp left the Samsung organization and embarked to China with the rest of his White and Blue brothers. Instead of teaming up with Mata or Dandy, the two players who have been called Imp's protectors since he began his professional career, he sided with LGD-Gaming. Acorn, Samsung Blue's top-laner, also joined the team along with CJ Entus Blaze's Flame. But this was a whole different world for Imp. Even with all of his awards, high kill scores, and a world championship to his name, there were still murmurs of his success only being a result of Mata's world-class support play and Dandy's control of the jungle.

One of the biggest reasons, if not the main reason, why Imp chose LGD, was because of their support PYL. Considered the best Chinese support in the region last year and almost making Worlds in a close third-seed loss to OMG, Imp felt like he and PYL would connect to be one of the most formidable pairs in China. While there have still been big carry performances on champions like Graves, Kalista and Tristana, much of his success has come on Sivir, a champion Imp really isn't known for (albeit holding a good record with her).

LGD's regular season was more of a test drive than going full boar like EDG. It was a lot more tinkering and playing with the roster, having fun games thrown in with serious ones when they needed the pivotal points to make the playoffs. By the end, they accomplished what they sought out to do: get into the Top 8 and avoid meeting EDward Gaming until the finals.

The playoffs have been more a showcase of Imp's immense power than the leisurely drive that was the regular season. He was pit up against two of China's best AD Carries, OMG's Uzi and Snake's kRYST4L, and had little trouble blowing through both in the quarter and semifinals. His champion pool was a good mix of hyper carries, mid-game burst champions and some utility he could bring with Sivir, proving to anyone who doubted him that he was one of the best players in the world even without his 'protectors' Mata and Dandy.

Imp's marquee game in the semifinals was on Deft's signature champion Jinx, which he used to crush Snake in the second game of their Bo5 with a 11/2/11 stat line. The play from Imp in that game condensed what's great about him — he's fearless. He isn't afraid to take on three people in a base by himself if he is rolling in the late game. It doesn't matter how fed or big the other team's players are, Imp thinks he can beat them. That sometimes can lead to his downfall, but that type of fiery play is what has helped him be one of the most decorated AD Carries in League of Legends history.

Imp's career best champions
Champion W L K D A
Caitlyn 27 16 255 109 315
Twitch 24 7 204 85 251
Vayne 20 8 151 52 171

The best word to describe Deft, in-game and out, would be melancholy. Most of the time in interviews he looks half-asleep, an airy, somewhat bored voice coming through when he speaks. Deft is subdued in the way he acts and for the way he plays the game for the most part.

Well, that's until you get into the middle and late-game of a match, where Deft's demeanor changes from a nonchalant person who seemingly just rolled out of bed into a bloodthirsty creature who ravages through your team with immaculate positioning. A quiet personality for the most part, Deft proves the old adage — the scariest beasts are the ones with the simplest exteriors.

Deft's professional career started parallel to Imp's on MVP, playing for the Blue squad instead of the White. Picked up from solo queue for his influential and crisp play, he was slotted next to fellow rookie Flahm during his first season for Blue in the bottom lane. Their pairing was decent but nowhere near comparable to White/Ozone's Imp and Mata, who were ripping apart opponents and making themselves known as one of the best pairings in Korea.

The first season for Deft ended sub-averagely, Blue winning three of their 10 games and placing last in their group stage. MVP Ozone would go on to win that season in practically miracle fashion against CJ Entus Blaze in the finals. Blue were the sad, rambunctious understudies that couldn't compete with the top team in White. They did decently in offline tournaments and showed promise when the spotlights of a major tournament weren't on them, but they couldn't live up to their highly praised brothers.

Champions Korea Winter 2013-14 is where Deft and Blue started to show their potential. They upset the world champions SK Telecom T1 in the WCG Korea qualifiers, newly acquired mid-laner Pawn coming in and solo killing Faker during those games. Blue would lose to the newly retooled CJ Entus Blaze in the finals, but you could see that it was the start of something.

Deft and Heart, the jungler-turned support, started to build chemistry at the start of 2014. The lethargic AD Carry in the early game would turn it on in the mid-game, moving from his weak lane phase into the more teamwork-oriented play where he thrived. While not the harbinger of death like Imp was by his lonesome, Deft was better when his teammates were around him.

In team fights, there was no one quite like Deft. If there was an opening to be found, he would slide into position and get as much damage as he could in the allotted time given to him. By the end of the fight, he usually recorded more than 40 percent of his team's damage, knowing where to come into the fight to give his team the best chance at winning it. His foresight for battle and understanding of the weaknesses in opposing team's defenses made him a threat that wasn't comparable to anyone else in Korea.

The next year would put those talents at the forefront. Samsung Blue lost in the quarterfinals to SK Telecom T1 K that Winter season, but they shocked everyone by upsetting Imp's Samsung White in the Spring to make it into the finals against NaJin White Shield. Deft took out his friend and rival Imp in the semifinals and didn't stop until he had a Champions Korea trophy of his very own, beating White Shield in the finals with a score of 3-1 and reinforcing himself as the best team-fighting AD Carry in not only Korea but possibly the entire world alongside EDG's Namei.

The semifinals would be Deft's exit for the next two tournaments: Champions Korea Summer and the 2014 World Championships. The Summer tournament was much like his run to the title the previous season, beating Imp and the favorite older brothers White in the semifinals and meeting with a new challenger, KT Arrows, in the finals. This time around, Blue wasn't able to close the door and become back-to-back champions, losing to KaKAO's Arrows in a thrilling 3-2 series.

The world championship loss was the hardest of Deft's career. Against Imp in a Bo5 for the third straight tournament, this was the match where Imp took back his pride. After two straight 3-1 victories in Champions, Imp rallied back with a 3-0 slaughter in the semifinals at Worlds, Blue getting run off the stage by the pinpoint focused Samsung White. Deft was left crying after the demoralizing loss, but was picked up by his friend Imp, the two best Korean AD carries on the planet sharing a long-lasting hug.

With the rest of Samsung moving to China, Deft followed suit and partnered up with former teammate Pawn on China's reigning emperors EDward Gaming. Primed to be favorites in the domestic leagues, Deft hasn't slowed down since moving to China. His melancholy attitude paired with his commanding play has made him one of the most popular players in China.

Paired with rookie support Mouse to start the season and now forming a tandem with Meiko, Deft has kept his place as the world's best AD Carry throughout the first half of 2015. Deft's hyper carry staples are still there, his Jinx undefeated in professional play, but he also has a good record with mid-game focused Corki.

Deft's greatest strength is his positioning. He isn't the best player at the start of the game and can get behind early through misplays or haphazard play, yet that doesn't phase him. He knows what to do to get back into a game and knows that if he can get into the mid-game with his teammates, he can be the best player in the game.

Imp's fearless and isn't afraid of no man alone. Deft, on the other hand, is at his peak when his friends are around him to fight with. When a team fight breaks out and his teammates lives are on the line, there is no one better than Deft.

Deft's career best champions
Champion W L K D A
Jinx 10 0 59 15 72
Kog'maw 18 5 142 71 188
Corki 20 4 145 46 176

Imp and Deft's career record against each other is 13-7 in the EDG carry's favor, but Imp still holds the most important victory between the two — the 2014 World Championship semifinal where he embarrassed Deft in a 3-0 slaughtering. The lingering image of the rivalry between these two great players — no, brothers, will be Deft crying into his hands after Samsung White picked him apart at Worlds and Imp coming over to embrace him.

Outside of that 3-0 stomp, Deft had actually controlled the series between the two. He's eliminated Imp from the WCG Korea qualifiers and then the two semi-finals of Champions Korea. The story has been continued in China, EDG beating LGD all four times they played in the regular season, Deft putting himself above Imp.

But still, the main image of this rivalry is Deft in defeat, hunched over as Imp helped his brother up from the worst loss of his career. When everything was on the line and the world title was in front of them, it was Imp and Samsung White who prevailed over the domestically better Samsung Blue. Now, meeting in a finals for the first time instead of the semis, the Chinese championship stares both of them in the face.

A win for Deft would start to tear away the image of him in defeat from last year, and a victory for Imp would make him the first player in history to have won the domestic major title in China, Korea, and be a world champion. It would also be an upset of the EDG giants who LGD feared to face before the finals of the playoffs. 

Once teammates on Samsung, the parallels between Imp and Deft will never end. Different in play-styles and their personalities, both are aiming to end their careers as the best AD Carry to ever play the game. With the LPL Grand Finals tonight, will it be the fiery, fearless disposition of Imp or the calm, team-fighting genius of Deft to prevail and add another trophy to this ongoing battle of rivals, friends, and most importantly — family.

Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports. He thinks Imp and Deft have the best, and cutest, rivalry in League of Legends history.