Meiko: The rookie in MSI finals

by Kelsey Moser May 18 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Robert Paul / theScore eSports

After Edward Gaming destroyed SK Telecom T1's nexus in the last game of the Mid-Season Invitational finals, Clearlove was pronounced the MVP. It's hard to argue against choosing Clearlove as the tournament MVP, but for the final series alone, I would have given the prestigious award to a different player.

Meiko is by no means the best player on Edward Gaming, nor is he the best support player in China, but he was the most consistent player throughout finals. There's no two ways about it; his ability to both control vision and deny Wolf his comfort picks was instrumental in EDG’s win.

The most shocking thing about Meiko is that he hasn’t been playing League of Legends competitively for very long. Meiko debuted on Team RayUnion in August of 2014 at the start of the National Electronic Sports Tournament qualifiers under the ID “Mad.” Prior to joining RayUnion, Meiko had no experience outside solo queue.

NEST had eight qualifier brackets, each containing a single LPL team. Only three LPL teams lost in their brackets and failed to qualify for NEST proper. Young Glory dropped to Edward Gaming Future, who then lost to Team King, Snake beat out LGD Gaming, and Star Horn Royal Club, Uzi in tow, dropped to RayUnion.

In NEST quarterfinals in December, RayUnion immediately lost two games to King. Then in the 2014 Tencent Games Arena Winter tournament that qualified teams for the LoL Secondary Pro League, RayUnion didn’t advance past group stages.

Mad was RayUnion’s best player. It’s easy to see how a team whose best player is their support could topple the bottom lane-centric Star Horn Royal Club in August NEST qualifiers. His ability to continuously deny ganks and all-ins from Uzi and Zero made getting ahead difficult for SHRC. It’s likely with Regionals on the horizon at the time, SHRC weren’t giving their full attention to NEST. Yet it’s still impressive for a team of no-names carried by a rookie support to take down the eventual World Championship runner up.

His play on RayUnion wasn’t enough for Mad to get noticed by LPL teams. Reportedly, a friend recommended Meiko, having changed his name from Mad, to Edward Gaming’s coach Aaron after encountering him in solo queue. Since Aaron liked him, the team signed Meiko at the tail end of the 2014 Winter transfer season.

It’s important to note that Meiko wasn’t Edward Gaming’s first choice as a replacement for the retired Fzzf. In G League 2014 finals, the team debuted with a roster of Koro1, Clearlove, pawN, Deft, and Mouse. Mouse, once a mid lane main, played with Edward Gaming Future, EDG’s sister team, as the support during the 2014 season. The team destroyed King in a 3-0 blowout.

Edward Gaming triumphant after G League finals

In the LPL regular season, Mouse didn’t quite cut it. In an interview after Week 1, Aaron said that “for now [Mouse] can only fulfill the role of support at the minimum acceptable level.” The less-than-charitable assessment of Mouse’s skills rang true. He functioned one-dimentionally on engage supports, and his Janna play was underwhelming.

Edward Gaming lost to Snake 2-0 in Week 2 of 2015 LPL Spring. In the first game, Snake got a massive lead by focusing Deft, taking advantage of low vision control, and repeatedly ganking his lane. In the LGD series, Edward Gaming adapted their play to involve Clearlove more in bottom lane skirmishes, but vision was still a sore spot.

The team made a gamble in Week 3. Both Mouse and Meiko were rookies, but Meiko had less experience overall than Mouse. By most accounts, Deft and Mouse didn’t synergize well. It was time to let Meiko play.

Meiko might not be the strongest player on Edward Gaming, but they went from probably the best team in LPL to absolutely untouchable between Week 2 and Week 3. With Meiko on the team, EDG never again lost an entire regular season series. This came down to the wards dotting the map. EDG’s vision placement around Deft improved significantly with Meiko’s addition to the team.

Meiko during his first week as EDG's starting support

Edward Gaming’s comms function such that the team all contribute ideas, but they listen to Clearlove, the primary shotcaller, when dissent arises — with one exception; Meiko directs vision placement. By consensus, Meiko is the main vision resource, and with the drastic improvements EDG’s vision control saw after his addition, it’s impossible not to credit him.

Aside from improving EDG’s vision control in a single week, Meiko also showed a great deal of diversity in his playstyle. In his first week of play, Meiko turned heads on Janna and Annie. In Week 4, his fiercesome roaming Leona put down Master3. It wasn’t until Edward Gaming played against OMG that Meiko showed any champion pool limitations.

Against OMG, Meiko constantly missed Event Horizons on Veigar. The team’s loss came in part down to his inability to punish Cool’s Twisted Fate Destiny Gate engagements in the late game.

Motivated by this loss, Meiko likely pushed himself to improve. Against Snake a week later, his Veigar ended with a score line of 0/1/18. The precise Event Horizon and Corki burst combination obliterated Snake so severely they were forced to ban the Veigar in Game 2. Even knowing Veigar nerfs were on the way, Meiko made sure the champion was in his repertoire.

On Edward Gaming’s all-star lineup, as the youngest and least experienced player, Meiko has to work harder to pull his weight. He has said that he wants to prove he belongs on Edward Gaming, and that he can protect Deft.

Going into the Mid-Season Invitational, in a head-to-head, it was speculated that SK Telecom T1’s Wolf had the edge in the support matchup. His roaming Janna play had been fundamental to SK Telecom T1’s victories in LCK, and his Alistar in group stages was devastating. It seemed almost as if no one wanted to consider the possibility that a rookie could best Wolf, a support who has been playing professionally since 2012.

Meiko proved almost everyone wrong. In the finals of the Mid-Season Invitational, Meiko belted out his best rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Anything You Can Do.” Only Annie didn’t actually need a gun in Game 2 to completely devastate SK Telecom T1. Whatever possessed SK Telecom T1 to try to challenge Edward Gaming’s level one invasion went immediately awry with a flash and stun from Meiko. Despite SKT playing Game 2 better overall, they couldn't overcome EDG’s 3-0 early lead and gave the Chinese team their first victory of the series.

Throughout the set, EDG continued to deny Wolf’s best champion picks. Meiko played Annie again in Games 3 and 4, then grabbed the Alistar early in Game 5's draft. With Wolf out of his comfort zone, EDG found pick after pick using Meiko’s vision control.

Wolf, Meiko's opposite on SK Telecom T1 at MSI

Koro1 and Deft played worse than usual in Game 4, over-extending in a desperate attempt to get an early lead. Clearlove’s Game 2 Gragas left much to be desired. PawN was impotent in all matches except 3 and 5. Meiko put up solid performances every single game.

That doesn’t even speak to his play during the MSI group stages. Kalista has never been a Deft champion, but he and Meiko executed the Kalista-Thresh duo well despite their language barrier. Memorably, Deft and Meiko maneuvered around terrain in a 2v2 to re-engage after Deft got caught by Febiven’s Zed against Fnatic. The results were devastating.

If one discusses a support player on Edward Gaming, one cannot ignore the elephant in the room. Meiko will likely spend most of his career being compared to Fzzf, “the Chinese Madlife,” one of the most celebrated support players in League of Legends history (though certainly he is no Mata or Madlife).

Despite his retirement, many Chinese fans still maintain Fzzf is the best Chinese support. Fzzf’s strength was in his patience. He would get the perfect hook to turn a game on Thresh. He bided his time, refusing to go all-in unless he had his entire team to back him up. As a result, his skillshot accuracy was nearly incomparable in China, earning him his “Chinese Madlife” moniker.

Clearlove, U, NaMei, and Fzzf on EDG's 2014 lineup

Meiko’s fans have begun referring to him as “the new Fzzf,” but Meiko’s upside is higher than his predecessor's. One of my greatest criticisms of the retired support is that his laning phase was often too passive on both WE and Edward Gaming, and he never excelled in a disengage meta. Fzzf can be a characterized by a one-dimensional playstyle despite a massive champion pool.

Even though I attributed the Mejai’s Soulstealer Janna build to Fzzf last year, he always used Monsoon more as a healing tool in the midst of battles or sieges and never got the hang of her disengage. Few could use Tornadoes like Fzzf to get picks, making it still one of his best known champion selections.

At the moment, Meiko’s approach to playing Thresh and other engage supports seems to be to fearlessly throw his hook every time it’s off cooldown. This risky style of play can get him in trouble for eagerly dropping his engage, but Deft always seems to be nearby to guard him with damage and avoid retaliation. Paired with any other AD carry, it’s likely Meiko’s style would be too dangerous.

Fzzf's more careful and accurate play still stands above Meiko. The rookie has room to improve.

Edward Gaming at MSI

Even so, Meiko’s willingness to play more aggressively in a 2v2, his strong vision, and his propensity to roam all make him a top four player in the LPL support role. In my estimation, support was LPL's most stacked role this Spring, and top four is high praise for under a year of professional play when your competition is Pyl and Mata.

The clincher is that Meiko doesn't just know how to engage and roam. He's known best for his Annie and Thresh, but his Janna record is his least tranishe at 12-1 in LPL and Demacia Cup. When Deft went for more fragile picks or wanted to dive more often, Meiko’s Janna disengage bailed him out.

Champion picked in LPL; Demacia Cup; or MSI Wins Losses
Janna 12 1
Annie 18 2
Thresh 16 3
Leona 3 0
Morgana 2 0
Braum 1 0
Nami 3 1
Alistar 2 1
Veigar 1 1
Nautilus 2 2

Coach Aaron, who rarely goes out of his way to praise his players, said it best after Edward Gaming’s Mid-Season Invitational win.

“He’s different from Fzzf. He’s not a support who’s content to be just a support. I think he will at the very least become on par with Mata, similarly strong, with sharp thinking, and is not afraid to speak out. He doesn’t treat himself like a novice, he’s willing to speak up, and willing to take on responsibility, all he’s lacking is some experience.”

It’s rumored that the friend who recommended Meiko to Edward Gaming is Fzzf himself. If that’s the case, perhaps the selection of his successor will be remembered as one of Fzzf’s greatest contributions to EDG.

Meiko's rising. Keep watching his star.

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