The match photo of Qiao Gu looks like a billboard advertisement for a new Bravo show about a hair salon — except “Qiao Gu” translates roughly to “reaper.”
Qiao Gu is here to play with perceptions. Western fans are want to compare Qiao Gu’s explosive entry in the LPL where they faced LGD Gaming, Invictus Gaming, and OMG to Cloud9’s rise. Qiao Gu is not Cloud9. Only two of their players haven’t competed in major leagues before, and there’s no way of knowing if they’ll maintain their near-immaculate record. Their jungle-centric carry formula has existed for a while, but team fighting is new, and Qiao Gu are still developing strategic play.
V, Swift, Doinb, TnT, TcT, and coach Hiro don’t have to be Cloud9. They all have rich histories in competitive League of Legends that come to the forefront as Qiao Gu continues to win. For new fans, it's time to get to know the stories behind the fast and stylish new squad in LPL.
V the repeater
2014 LPL Summer brought about a renaissance of Chinese top lane talent. The teams with the best top laners made it through to LPL in the expansion tournament. All the best top laners advanced — except V.
V debuted in LSPL in 2014 Spring for a team called Kx.Happy. After placing fourth in the split, Kx.Happy’s roster was purchased by Energy Pacemaker. While their primary team already had a powerful top laner in AmazingJ, Energy Pacemaker had an additional spot in the league, and they pulled leftover players to form a roster around V in Energy Pacemaker Carries.
Energy Pacemaker Carries placed sixth in LSPL Summer and qualified for the expansion tournament with low expectations. Though they immediately lost to sister team Energy Pacemaker in the first round, Energy Pacemaker Carries dropped ex-LPL team Young Glory from the running in the lower bracket before their elimination at the hands of Vici Gaming.
Flandre, AmazingJ, Skye, and Carry all made it into LPL. 2014 LPL Spring was a renaissance of mid lane talent with We1less, xiye, and DianGun all making it into LPL the next split, while the fourth promising mid, Cherish (coincidentally, the mid lane sub for Qiao Gu), was left behind to drift. It seemed as if V would have the same fate, but that the Stand Point Gaming organization spotted his talent and placed him on their flagship team, Qiao Gu, for 2015 LSPL Spring.
Though carrying came more naturally to V, and he garnered his fair share of Kassadin and Irelia bans, V was often placed on tanks so Swift and TnT could function as primary damage dealers. Gnar was his most played champion in 23 LSPL games. With 7 wins in 8 Gnar games, he amassed a 13.125 KDA on the champion. LPL already has a pantheon of Gnar gods; it’s time to welcome another.
V should have made it into LPL this Spring. Able to hold his own against the other four LSPL top lane carries of 2014 Summer and grab victories for EPC on his back, V is late to the party with a lot of ground to make up. So far, he’s drawn attention to himself against the top lane giants of LGD Gaming, but Flandre, Skye, AmazingJ, and Carry all made their LPL debuts the same split he rightfully should have. With other teams starting top laners like Pokemon and Aluka, V’s talent could have been well used last split.
It was V who didn't need them.
Swift the fallen god
If fans of Korean League of Legends recognize any member of Qiao Gu, it’s Swift. In 2014 Champions, the top two junglers were indisputably DanDy and KaKAO, but after them, Swift’s name repeatedly arose.
Known more for early game jungle pathing than late game team fighting, Swift’s awkward engagement sense was a pain point in LSPL, but his high carry performances defined Qiao Gu. His most played champion, Nidalee, led Qiao Gu to four wins of six games played, but with only a 3.62 KDA. When one thinks Team WE, they think Spirit. When one thinks Qiao Gu, Swift is everything they are and aren't.
So far in LPL, Swift earns a percentage of his team’s gold that rivals Clearlove’s 22% from last spring at 20.1%, more than V gets at 19.97%, and approaching Doinb’s 21.79%. This is a hold over from LSPL when Swift picked up 100 kills the entire split, more than the combined kills from mid laners Doinb and Borisal and 20 more than V’s 80 kills.
In Korea, Swift was known for high synergy with his mid laner, Coco. The pair played both for Xenics Storm and CJ Entus Frost. He was often seen diving the mid lane turret on champions like Kha’Zix. More than anyone else on Qiao Gu, people know Swift's reputation for power plays.
With Coco continuing to improve in LCK on his own without Swift, the question becomes whether Swift will continue to grow without Coco. His selfish picks cost Qiao Gu games in LSPL playoffs after the meta started to shift. If anything, his tendency to take early kills could impact late game team fighting when the game eventually transitions away from Cinderhulk.
Qiao Gu is set up like WE, but it doesn’t have to be. Swift can rely much more on his teammates than Spirit can. After taking a gamble on an LSPL team like Qiao Gu when Swift likely had better offers in both Korea and China, Swift has to remind spectators of all the reasons they rated him highly in the first place.
Doinb the rookie
Doinb stands out as the player on Qiao Gu with the least competitive experience, having played only as a streamer in Korea. He joined the roster in Week 5 of 6 in the LSPL Group Stage, replacing BoriSal. One of his first appearances on the team was in the Demacia Cup Round of 16 best-of-five in which Qiao Gu eliminated OMG from the tournament.
Most of Doinb's time on the team has been about finding his role. In 15 LSPL games with Qiao Gu, Doinb played 12 different champions, only playing Ahri, Lulu, and Viktor twice each. Perhaps his strangest pick was Maokai mid against WE in the Demacia Cup third place match. The pick resulted from a misunderstanding and a failure to swap top and mid lane picks. Qiao Gu won the game anyway.
During the offseason, Chinese fans posted screen caps of a conversation that suggested Doinb was looking to leave Qiao Gu. His manager didn’t seem to react, and at the time, the rumor was Qiao Gu was looking into picking up a more experienced mid laner like Coco from Korea. Doinb stayed with the team.
At the moment, Doinb is less a mid laner and more a jungle support, following Swift around the map as he invades and destroys his opposition. Regardless of what he plays, Doinb is still an awkward afterthought.
Whatever Doinb brings to the table, it’s increased the pace of Qiao Gu’s play. For the 9 games Qiao Gu played in LSPL with previous mid laner BoriSal, their average game time was 41 minutes, but with Doinb, they closed on average in 31 minutes.
I’m still not sure what kind of player Doinb is yet, and it stands to reason he doesn't either, but I’m hoping this is the summer we find out.
TnT and TcT are better together
Qiao Gu’s bottom lane contains their most experienced players, so it stands to reason they have the richest history. While Swift is best known by fans of Korean League of Legends, North American LCS fans will gravitate toward Qiao Gu’s support, TcT, also known as Mor.
Mor is not the only player on Qiao Gu from LMQ Tian Ci. Before the sixth place 2013 LPL Summer team made the leap to North America, they had a different starting top laner and a different AD carry. There’s no denying Ackerman was an improvement over Dreams, but by the same token, few spectators familiar with TnT, then called Avenger, saw Vasilii as the better AD carry.
While TnT was never spoken of in the same breath as NaMei, WeiXiao, or Uzi, it’s arguable that TnT was Uzi’s rival more than either NaMei or WeiXiao. Their histories repeatedly saw them pitted beside each other, making comparisons easy.
After LMQ acquired Team Livemore, the bottom lane duo of Avenger and Mor played together for the first time. LMQ would function in LPL as Royal Club Huang Zu’s underperforming sister team, but their AD carry was their shining light. Mor didn’t look strong at the time, but his frequent deaths often allowed Avenger to live longer in team fights and carry LMQ. The team barely survived LPL, and at the time the consensus was that Avenger was the one to thank.
While LMQ struggled to tread water, Royal Club Huang Zu found themselves China’s first seed for the 2013 World Championship. Uzi made a solid case for other powerful Chinese Vaynes, like Avenger, on the world stage, but when the tournament ended, all four of Uzi’s teammates chose to leave Royal Club.
GoDlike changed his name to Ackerman and moved with LMQ to North America, but Avenger was tapped to join the flagship team. At the time, the Royal Club organization felt the best decision available was to make Avenger Royal Club’s AD carry and move Uzi to the mid lane.
Avenger was the main reason Uzi role swapped in the first place, but that roster didn’t make it to LPL. Avenger only played a couple offseason tournaments with a mid lane Uzi before leaving the team. For most of 2014 LPL Spring, Uzi played mid lane, and LeY, now Royal Never Give Up’s support, played AD carry.
LeY’s a much better support player than he ever was an AD carry.
Avenger changed his name a few more times and spent the 2014 offseason in LSPL, first on Vici Gaming, then in and out of Vici Gaming Stars after SPG temporarily merged with VG. Then called Sins, TnT spent more time on the bench under a worse player, Bobo, than he did starting. SPG withdrew from the merger at the end of 2014, and TnT left Vici to join Qiao Gu.
During this time, TcT played in North America for LMQ iBuyPower. He continued to carry a reputation for a high amount of deaths, earning the most deaths for the 2014 LCS Summer split. Despite this, he achieved what TnT didn’t manage: a World Championship berth. After LMQ failed to escape Group Stage, however, TcT received an offer and returned to China.
Immediately, TnT and TcT found their synergy again. In Demacia Cup, TnT and TcT effectively trampled two iterations of OMG bottom lanes: Uzi and Cloud and Uzi and Luo. They didn’t have as much success in LPL, but with TnT earning a massive score on Vayne in Game 2 against OMG, a semblance of the Uzi rivalry lives on.
TnT continues to play a variety of champions in situations where he shouldn't be able to (like Vayne) in addition to putting up impressive Sivir games. His 11.38 Sivir KDA in LSPL makes him formidable with Sivir serving as such a high priority pick lately.
TcT still dies a lot, earning 74 deaths in 23 games, but not as much as Swift did in LSPL at 76 deaths. Instead, his high kill participation is his calling card as he continues to make plays across the map on a variety of champions. TcT averaged 13.25 assists per game in LSPL, just below Heart’s impressive 13.9.
The scariest thing about Qiao Gu’s bottom lane this time around is that it isn’t just TnT earning praise anymore. TnT has struggled in all parts of his career without TcT. TcT has never been known as a beast of a support, but there’s no denying he brings out the best in one of China’s favorite veteran AD carries. TnT and TcT are better together, and they're together again in the LPL on Qiao Gu.
The case of Hiro vs China’s heroes
Aside from dying his hair pink for the LSPL playoffs, Qiao Gu’s coach, Hiro, is notorious in China for something more significant. For the last split of LPL that Team WE played with WeiXiao, Hiro served as the coach.
During the first half of the split, things were good for WE. They tied for first continuously with OMG and Edward Gaming, and they excelled in lane swaps where WeiXiao could amass gold in a 1v0 and command team fights.
When the meta changed in favor of 2v2s around dragon, WE stagnated. The team’s lack of communication became apparent. They continuously lost games. It seemed almost as if they had no guidance.
After failing to make Playoffs, both CaoMei and WeiXiao retired from WE. Hiro parted ways with the organization, and rumors circulated that Hiro checked out halfway through the season.
CaoMei revealed later that he became a father in 2014, but lingering “what if”s still followed WeiXiao. Hiro’s departure left a bad taste.
Upon returning to Korea, Hiro joined forces with Swift to look for a team. Qiao Gu is Hiro’s chance at redemption. Coaching Qiao Gu into high standings this split won’t fix the problems plaguing WE since WeiXiao’s departure, but it will vindicate Hiro and shut out the blame.
Right coach, wrong team. Let's hope Qiao Gu is the right team.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.