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Benchwarmer to Ace: KT Rolster's Ssumday

by theScore Staff Jun 22 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of KeSPA

Patience.

The first two days of Ssumday's career was just that, waiting his turn in the long line of older, more well-known players in front of him. His professional career began at the start of 2013, getting signed at the young age of 16 to KT Rolster B.

One of the two KT Rolster sister teams, B were preseason favorites going into Ssumday's season as a rookie, playing alongside an all-star line-up of players like inSec in the jungle and Ryu at the mid lane position. Ssumday's inaugural campaign came to an abrupt end in the quarterfinals, getting knocked out by the underdog MVP Ozone squad.

KT, feeling like the B team needed a different edge to their game to become Korean champions, switched up the lineup. Ssumday was moved into a substitute role, former jungler inSec moving to the top lane position, and KT Rolster A star jungler KaKAO making the move over to the stronger Roslter squad.

With a name change to the KT Rolster Bullets, the new KTB team got all the way to the Champions Summer 2013 Grand Finals, barely losing in a classic final to Faker's SKT T1 2-3. Ssumday watched from the bench as his team failed to take down SKT in the Summer season and then the subsequent Korean qualifier for Worlds, losing to Faker again in the final.

The Bullets moved Ssumday in the offseason, switching him from one of the top teams in the world to the other KT team, the dysfunctional Arrows. As the overlooked, less successful sibling, the transition from Ssumday to the Arrows was supposed to begin of a new era. They saw the Bullets as the experienced and established players while the Arrows were their new team with exciting amateur prospects.

The biggest addition to the team outside of Ssumday was Rookie, another adolescent who made his name through performing well consistently on the Challenger ladder in Korea. With all the new pieces in place, the Arrows were primed to run through the qualifiers heading into the 2014 year and join their kin the Bullets in the premiere domestic league.

Yeah, that didn't work out as planned.

The green and juvenile Arrows bombed out of the qualifiers, forcing Ssumday to wait another season to make it back into Champions. After another season of watching from the sidelines, the Arrows finally made it back to the main league following a two season absence.

To bolster the newly-qualified Arrows starting lineup, KT Rolster picked up Arrow, who not only had a matching ID to his new team, but fit the Arrows' dynamic of youthful, wild, and fast-paced. KaKAO was the ultimate piece to the new Arrows puzzle, moving back from the Bullets after not fitting in with the team's trio of Ryu, Score, and Mafa.

Given the chance to finally play under the lights of the OGN studio, Ssumday took his chance and ran with it. The next two seasons with the Arrows brought one of the most exciting teams to ever play League of Legends.

The Arrows weren't the smartest team or a team that could bounce back from deficits, but if you gave them a small lead, it was all over — the Arrows would individually pick you apart. Their devil-may-care ways got them to the Grand Finals of the Summer 2014 finals, this time Ssumday getting to play instead of watching from the sidelines.

In a back and forth series, the quick knockout artists from KT won the grandest prize in Korea, beating Samsung Blue 3-2 to take home a championship.

While KaKAO and Rookie left to China before the 2015 season, Ssumday lives on as the embodiment of the Arrows spirit with the new KT squad. Currently sitting at 700 MVP points, tied for first alongside SKT's Faker, Ssumday's become the ace of the reconstructed KT Rolster unit.

Unlike Faker's meteoric rise from amateur player to the world's best player in a few short months, Ssumday's maturing has been a natural progression. He's sat behind better and more experienced players at the beginning of his career, became a role player and a solid starter during 2014, and has now started to reach his prime in the 2015 season as his team's top lane carry ace.

With the departures of the team's two biggest carries, KT found themselves in an identity crisis during the first half of 2015. Arrow and Hachani, the Arrows bot lane from their 2014 Summer title team, weren't the same without KaKAO's aggressive influence in the early game.

With Arrow's numbers dropping off and becoming less of a threat, KT became a team that could go through the motions and knew how to keep up with teams, but didn't have a single player who took the role as a main carry. This resulted in a long string of losses to begin 2015; KT looked lifeless with their best two players traveling to China.

It wasn't until the addition of Fixer at the support position did the team really start to turn it around. A playmaking support, Fixer brought a spark that was missing from the first half of the 2015 Spring campaign. Ssumday started to gain confidence in the top lane, throwing out a variety of champions from his diverse pool of characters.

The team didn't making the playoffs — their egregious start of the season too difficult to get past — yet it was a sign of things to come for the 2015 season.

To the present day

With the current top lane meta fluctuating and allowing an assorted mix of champions from mages, to bruisers, to bulky tanks, it's allowed Ssumday to slot into the team's central role as an ace. He's played Irelia, Ryze, Riven, and even Yasuo this season in the top lane; the former amateur league standout relies on his laning talents and individual skill to face any top laner in the league.

As with the Arrows of 2014, Ssumday's method to playing as an ace is the same as Rookie's and KaKAO's: give me a small lead and you're dead. Not the best player when he gets behind in lane or gets camped early, if Ssumday can gain a small advantage or even a laning phase, he becomes unstoppable.

Although not as bloodthirsty as their predecessors, the current KT Rolster fits the mold of the old Arrows squad more than the Bullets. If Ssumday dives, his team is ready to pile in with him, grabbing kills, rolling through towers, and in Fixer's case, trying his best to get Ssumday out of harm's way.

With Ssumday's rise to the focal point of the team, Nagne's become a respectable secondary carry, upping his play from his below average play that plagued him for all of 2014 and the first months of 2015. Arrow, the player who might have changed the most in the past year, has become less kill-oriented and is now focusing on utility, assisting the rest of the team, and improving his farming in the laning phase.

Ssumday sits alongside Marin for most kills from the top lane at 70. His assists, 127, puts him second, only behind KOO's Smeb. Perhaps most importantly, Ssumday's been keeping himself off the death sheets, in third place in that category as well. Currently at 5-2 on KT Rolster and starting to come into his own as the main player on the team, Ssumday is learning how to become an ace and lead his team into a deep playoff run.

With his next match being against Marin and the undefeated SK Telecom T1, it'll be a chance to go one-on-one with the top laner who is closest to him in KDA and various other statistical categories. Also, with a tie in MVP points with Faker, it's a chance to put himself in the lead of all players in Champions heading into the end of the first half of the split.

In 2013, Ssumday watched the Summer Grand Finals from the bench.

In 2014, Ssumday played in the Summer Grand Finals as a complimentary member to a KaKAO-led Arrows squad.

In 2015, Ssumday hopes to make the Summer Grand Finals once again — this time as a leader, carry, and the ace of KT Rolster.

Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for The Score eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions.

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