Four names immediately come to mind when you talk about the best AD Carries in Korea's nearly four year history: Pray and Piglet, the two players who were the stars at the role in 2013, and the Samsung duo of Deft and Imp during their organization's year long reign in 2014. Three of those players have left the Korean scene to play abroad, Piglet with Team Liquid in the NA LCS, and the Samsung pair departed to China with the rest of the Samsung White and Blue squads that conquered Worlds.
With the exit of the two consensus best AD Carries in Korea (and the world) heading off to test their mettle and start their new careers in China, it left a gaping hole in the hierarchy of players at the position in Korea.
Historically one of the weakest positions in producing a wealth of talent in the Korean scene, the next in line were the likes of Arrow, a returning PraY from an almost year-long sabbatical, and Bang, the steady, positional carry from SK Telecom T1. While all strong players in their own right, it was a far cry from Deft and Imp, who were head and shoulders above the rest of the ADC field in Korea by the time they set off to the LPL.
PraY and Bang became the de facto top players at the AD role during the first half of the 2015 season, with the two players helping their team get to the finals. The front-runner for the MVP award during the first few weeks of the season, PraY and his GE Tigers fell off in the second half of the season. Bang, although a key player and the sole carry at times for SKT, was usually his team's secondary threat considering that either Faker's aggressive, playmaking style or Easyhoon's laid back farming style of play would garner the most attention. The only other team outside of the Tigers that were primarily ADC-focused during the Spring season was Samsung, the team that tried to rally around Fury and finished last.
The start of the Summer season brought a shift, as two more teams changed up their styles of play to focus on two young ADCs to be their aces. NaJin e-mFire, who played hot potato with their AD Carry throughout the Spring, switching between Zefa and Ohq for a large part of a forgettable, finished the season in sixth-place. The others are the Jin Air Green Wings, another team that enjoyed trading around their ADCs throughout the regular season, preferring the veteran CptJack on certain champions and playing Pilot on his signature line of long-range, positional carries. Although the two teams have only played two matches this season, the carousel of their bottom lanes seem to have stabilized, with NaJin wanting to build a powerful duo in Ohq and Pure, and Jin Air playing Pilot alongside Sweet.
The parallels between the Samsung ADCs that ran rampant during the 2014 Worlds and the two newly situated starters for NaJin and Jin Air are apparent, but make no mistake — Ohq and Pilot have a long and strenuous road ahead of themselves if they want to find the same success as their predecessors.
Ohq is almost an exact copy of Imp in his early MVP Ozone days, spamming Vayne endlessly and playing with confidence that no one, not even players with years of experience on him, could beat him in a one-on-one duel. It's not only his picks that make him resemble an early 2013 Imp, but also his mannerisms in-game, not afraid to taunt, laugh, and prod his opponent like a professional match watched by thousands of spectators is the same as playing alone in his room during a solo queue game.
As with Imp back in the early days of MVP Ozone before Mata joined the team to turn around his 1v5 nature, Ohq's way of playing can be detrimental to the team. While not the main reason NaJin had a disaster of a Spring season — you can blame the bad roster management and lackluster production from mid for that — his way of playing didn't help things when they could have secured easier, more comfortable victories. His immature, reckless plays didn't kill NaJin in games, but they did lengthen one-sided victories that could have ended five to 10 minutes earlier. When Ohq got a big lead in a game and felt like he was at a point where he couldn't be stopped, he stopped playing around his team, flashing into mobs of champions and trying to be the hero by ending the game with a highlight Pentakill.
Experience and being put into more high-level, tense matches helped Imp mature into the world champion he is today, but his partnership with Mata can be cited as the turning point in his career. Imp learned to control his play, letting his team make the plays for him, and the duo of Imp and Mata went on to be the most successful and heralded bottom lane in Korea and possibly in the history of the game.
The biggest change between Ohq last season and now, outside of the stability of not switching out for Zefa every other game, is his new partner, Pure. Ohq started his run on NaJin by playing with Cain, the veteran support with a Champions title on his résumé during Sword's run at the start of the 2013 year. Cain was considered Ohq's trainer of sorts, keeping him leashed for most of the game and trying to help him transition from an explosive but careless solo queue player into being a superstar professional player. A strong pairing during Ohq's days on NaJin Black Sword, the two lost steam during the Spring season when NaJin would flip around Ohq, Zefa, Pure, and Cain every other game to try and find a solution to their woes.
Pure, a sub for GorillA during NaJin White's Shield peak, and then an understudy once again for Cain when NaJin Sword and Shield merged, has started to find himself as a player in the first week of the season. His Alistar play is one of the key reasons why NaJin were able to knock off the KOO Tigers and his former teammate Gorilla in their second match of the season, teaming up with Ohq to create a partnership that was able to beat the tag-team of PraY and Gorilla. Still rough around the edges, Pure is also maturing as a player alongside his mechanically proficient but wild comrade, the two learning each other's tendencies and emerging as the key focus of NaJin's team as Imp and Mata did during the spring of Champions in 2013.
There are a lot of words you can use to describe Ohq — foolhardy, rash, crazy, impulsive, and sometimes bone-headed — but there is only one word to describe his talent: prodigal. When Ohq is on his game and stays away from those mistakes that have plagued the start of his career, he won't only emulate the career path of Imp, but he'll be likely facing him at the World Championships in October.
Pilot's career, unlike Ohq's, has always been under the radar. Ohq, loud, brash, and a star even when he flashes into a group of five and dies instantly, is a player that has been destined for greatness since his early days on Xenics. He was exciting, showed a lot of promise, and if you looked past his transgressions, was a player that was always next in line to follow the footsteps of Imp, Deft, and Piglet.
Pilot was saddled with bad team after bad team, playing on the despondent Jin Air Falcons to start his career before moving to the Jin Air Stealths where he split time heavily with CptJack. He kept his KDA and stats up despite constantly losing, perfecting his positioning and trying to get the most damage as his entire team died around him. Jin Air's new starting ADC's greatest strength is his mobility and mastery of long-range poke champions, his two most played champions being Corki and Ezreal.
Following the end of the Spring season that saw Jin Air continuously lose for weeks on end, the organization decided to shift their focus from the middle lane to the ADC role. GBM fell off a cliff in the second half of the season after being one of the best players, not putting up the same results as the meta shifted and his smallish champion pool was put to the test. Putting Pilot along with Sweet (formerly XD), Jin Air have given more freedom to their bottom lane duo to carry the game through the first few games of the season against Longzhu IM and Anarchy.
The same as Deft when he started with MVP (then Samsung) Blue, Pilot is an accomplished solo queue player who can put up stats and do well on losing teams, but has finally started to find success in the win column after countless seasons of tough losses. Through four games, Pilot has the best KDA in the league (30/1/32 in four winning efforts) balancing the safe play that made him successful before but grabbing more and assists instead of merely trying to survive. The team has reacted to Pilot and Sweet's performances during their first two matches, rectifying the problems that stopped them in their tracks during the playoffs and getting them off to four straight wins to start the Summer campaign.
Pilot still needs to outright win his job, CptJack still a factor on the bench with his own slew of champions, but he couldn't have made a better opening statement to prove to Jin Air that he can be the team's ace. His team fighting has been masterful against Longzhu and Anarchy, following up combinations with his teammates, and also showing he can play new champions like Vayne and Urgot to great effect if given the opportunity to widen his champion pool.
Ohq might die a thousand more times and never mature into a superstar, and there is a chance Pilot never becomes nothing more than a safe option on a middle-of-the-road team, but these are the two AD carries in Korea with the best chance of turning into aces on a championship team.
The comparisons to Imp and Deft are there with the play styles and resemblance to their respective career paths, but there is no guarantee either Ohq or Pilot will ever live up to half the legacies the Samsung tandem have built in Korea. The talent is there and the teams around them are good enough to be capable of winning Champions Korea Summer and qualify for Worlds.
Now, it's up to the two hopeful marksmen to write their personal stories into the history of Champions and create their own path to greatness.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions. You can follow him on Twitter.