The evolution of the unstoppable GODV: a conversation with LPL's strongest mid laner

by theScore Staff Jul 30 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of LPL / LPL Screengrab

In the 2013 Tencent Games Arena Grand Prix Winter, both Vici Gaming and LGD Gaming had already qualified for the 2014 LPL Spring Promotion. An $8,204 prize was up for grabs in the finals, which at the time wasn’t an insignificant amount for a team outside of the LPL.

Both Vici and LGD took their seats in soundproof booths for a best-of-three series that lasted all three games. Support player Chen “Pyl” Bo and jungler Zhu “Quan” Yongquan (now TBQ) played for LGD, while mid laner Wei “We1less” Shen (now dubbed GODV) played for Vici Gaming.

The series went the full three games, with GODV and LGD mid laner Chan “3Y” Dick Kay, later known as Rena in the LPL and now LuciferYYY on Dream or Reality, traded Orianna and Syndra between games. Despite surrendering the first game, LGD took over Game 2, and Game 3 dragged on. LuciferYYY managed to stall a base push with impressive Syndra play, and the game culminated in an AD carry duel between Vici Gaming’s Han "Smlz" Jin and LGD’s Qu "Styz" Ziliang.

Despite finishing Game 3 with an 8/5/20 score line on Orianna, GODV didn’t look like the most promising player on either team. There wasn’t necessarily a reason to suspect that his stock would rise rapidly in the following Spring. Reflecting on that time, GODV said he felt LGD was a strong team, and Pyl and TBQ were great players, but nothing else stood out to him in particular.

Vici Gaming at 2013 TGA GP Winter

In 2012, GODV turned 15. He played League of Legends initially as a pastime, but like so many other professionals, he quickly became good at it. He has said that his forray into League of Legends wasn’t because he didn’t have other options, but as he practised more and more his grades in school began to decline. Despite amateur teams not paying the best salaries in 2012, he said, “when Vici Gaming gave me an offer, I accepted it.”

It took Vici Gaming a while to find their competitive footing. They eventually managed to land an invitation to the Tencent Games Arena Grand Prix for the first time in Summer of 2013. In the pre-LoL Secondary Pro League era, teams qualified for the LPL by placing Top 2 in TGA Grand Prix and got invitations to the tournament via a regional qualifier. Vici Gaming snagged the Northwest spot, but lost out to both Invictus Gaming Young (Young Glory) and RisingStars Gaming for fourth place in brackets.

Vici Gaming won another spot in winter of 2013 and this time managed to grab a qualifier spot for Promotion, but were embarrassed by both LGD Gaming and Energy Pacemaker Hong Kong in their bid to make it to the LPL. LGD advanced to the LPL while VG qualified for the new LoL Secondary Pro League.

This first LSPL split featured four rising mid laners that many speculated would have bright futures. Su “Xiye” Hanwei played for first place WE Academy, the team that only lost two games that split, and stood out for his Twisted Fate and Annie play. Stand Point Gaming’s Chen “Cherish” Zhe had a daring flare. Huo “DianGun” Guoyu of Young Glory had made a recent transition from the top lane, but was a fast learner, and the team dedicated a massive amount of resources to his ability to carry.

GODV played a wide variety of champions, but excelled most on Orianna. It seemed that all four players would end up in LPL one way or the other, and that eventually came to pass (though Cherish remains a substitute player for Qiao Gu).

WE Academy and Young Glory both managed to place first and second in LSPL, automatically qualifying for 2014 LPL Summer. Vici Gaming placed third, but as the shining member of the team, We1less had several offers including one from the wealthy Team WE.

During his stint in the LSPL, GODV looked powerful as an individual player, diving towers, accumulating farm, and moving to attempt to solo carry games. At the time when he was receiving offers, Vici Gaming’s manager didn’t mind accepting them. He felt GODV wasn’t a very strong team player. His reputation for making “hero plays” around a more self-centered style could cost his team almost as often as it won them games.

Though LGD’s players in the 2014 LPL Spring split suffered champion pool issues across the board and didn’t stand out as well as some of the giants on other teams, they only narrowly missed a Top 4 playoff invitation. Pyl amassed a reputation as a strong shotcaller and a powerful leader.

GODV remembers that, though he was offered a spot on WE and WE had finished third that Spring, he really wanted to play for LGD instead.

“I thought Pyl was really strong, and I was close to him, so I came to LGD,” he said.

That decision would ultimately yield results. Though WE, OMG, and Edward Gaming all spent the 2014 Summer regular season warring over first place with LGD patiently hovering around fifth, WE’s eventual hiccups would allow LGD Gaming to pull through to the playoffs. During the regular season, LGD managed to go even with both Star Horn Royal Club and Team WE and take a game off Edward Gaming.

GODV tussled well with other strong LPL mids like corn, DianGun, and U. He only seemed completely outclassed by OMG’s Cool, but even that line blurred toward the end of the season. Despite a few LGD fans who speculated that the team would tank without star AD Carry Styz, GODV’s carry style and the team’s overall creativity allowed them to install themselves in fourth place.

In LGD’s debut against Star Horn Royal Club, a smart dive composition saw Riven, Lee Sin, Diana, Twitch, and Thresh overwhelm and surprise SHRC. You had to have confidence to make an LPL debut on an out-of-meta champion like Diana. GODV seemed to have no shortage of daring.

As LGD have gained more recognition this year, highlights from GODV’s play frequently make Riot Games’ “The Penta.” GODV seems to have not only the concept for the play, but the skill of execution.

"[Sometimes] I had nowhere [else] to go,” GODV said of his playmaking style, “I acted on instinct.”

GODV’s Orianna has garnered him the most attention. In the 2014 Summer season, he played a heavy farming Orianna, picking up Spirit of the Spectral Wraith to farm the jungle as he drifted between lanes to gank. He seemed to both completely crush his opposition in farm and have a larger game impact in the roaming meta.

Outside of Orianna, GODV’s calling card has been his assassin play. He was the first to debut Ahri last Summer and defaulted to Zed when he needed to carry. GODV, like all of LGD, had propensity toward experimentation to find a way for their team to work. GODV, XQ, and Pyl stood out as the strongest players with both top laners Star and 17 — a previous mid laner himself — and Quan struggling with skill caps and champion pools.

GODV picked up AP Kog’Maw without success before it fell into the hands of CJ Entus and Faker later that split outside Ahri and Diana. GODV says he spends a lot of time testing new champions in solo queue to decide if he should play them. In China, “scrim results are unreliable. You have to test unorthodox picks in actual matches to know if they are strong,” he said.

Despite a strong season and an even record against WE and SHRC, LGD Gaming didn’t win a single playoff game. However, they were still invited to the Regional Qualifier at the World Championship. They beat out Invictus Gaming, but lost again to Star Horn before facing OMG in the lower bracket.

GODV during 2014 LPL Summer

The best-of-three series went to three drawn out games that only ended with decisive Ahri play from Cool. LGD Gaming with GODV, despite their flaws, only narrowly missed a World Championship berth. The world almost saw GODV after only one split in LPL.

Between 2014 and 2015, GODV wasn’t the LPL's best mid laner. If he wanted to dominate his competition, he had to contend with a lot of difficulty and modify his style drastically. LGD Gaming ex-coach BSYY once said his tendency to tilt and tunnel vision might keep him from standing above other mids in LPL.

As jungle respawn timers changed, farming the jungle meant setting your own jungler further behind. TBQ’s struggles made the team ultimately decide to keep GODV out of the camps. For a period of time, he couldn't impact the game as well as he had the previous summer, and critics suggested he take a step back to help either Lee "Flame" Hojong, Choi "Acorn" Cheonju, or Gu "imp" Seungbin step up as the primary carry.

Eventually, GODV found a way to both compensate for TBQ’s difficulties and make himself shine. Even as some of the LPL's heavy roam style declined and more mid laners like Rookie and cool stuck to their lanes, GODV became much more focused on roaming. On high mobility picks like Ahri, any lane advantage GODV gained transitioned into vision wards. He took it upon himself to initiate fights and protect the jungle while TBQ was susceptible in the early game.

As time has progressed, GODV has shown a wide variety of champion picks but went time and time again to the Orianna. He took the lead from his teammates and allowed them to dictate their style. Despite criticisms from Vici Gaming’s manager last year, GODV evolved into a powerful team player.

“[My playstyle] certainly has been more team oriented since then," he said. "At the time, my team [Vici] was not strong, so someone had to step up and carry. Nowadays, I pick according to the team comp.”

GODV agitated after his death in lane to Snake mid laner, U

GODV’s attitude has also improved. Though Ceng “U” Long’s Leblanc took advantage of GODV’s Orianna when his ball drifted away from him in lane for a solo kill, and the game paused shortly after with GODV appearing distraught, he regrouped quickly. Though LGD ultimately lost the game, he and imp played extremely well from behind.

“After playing so many competitive games, I don’t tilt during hard games,” GODV said.

Under Pyl’s guidance, GODV has had to continuously reassess his playstyle and evolve. It’s made him a better and less selfish player.

At the start of the year, GODV would accumulate leads but not necessarily convert them. He would fixate on bad plays from behind. Now, GODV looks crisp, and though he makes some of the same “hero plays,” it’s more calculated. LGD has made him their main carry and conscientiously endeavored to devote more resources to him. His ability to naturally visualize plays has given his team the confidence he’ll convert his leads.

Outside competitive games, GODV practices a lot. Those within the house have said all GODV does is play, and his manager has told him he needs to work out more to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Though he mostly plays champions he wants to debut in competitive, GODV doesn’t think his practice is efficient enough, and he can still improve.

“I think an efficient practice means to play your role with one hundred percent effort," he said. "Sometimes I just fool around. I would give myself a 5 [out of 10]. It seems like no one wants to be on my team in ranked.”

So much time practicing has caused him wrist pains, and that’s affected his ability to dedicate time to the game.

After he was told to take a break, GODV said, “I didn’t practice a single game for three days, and the two weeks after I reduced my practice sessions." He hopes he'll be able to ramp up his practice schedule again soon and return to form.

Like many great players at their positions, GODV is confident, but hesitant to declare himself the best in his league. While he doesn’t think any mid laner in LPL is definitively better than him, but he will only go so far as to rate himself a top three player.

Since GODV’s first set against Snake in particular this summer, GODV garnered a lot of respect for U, a player also known for his heavy practice schedule, and the two have developed a competitive friendship. When LGD finally beat Snake with a commanding performance from GODV’s Diana two weeks ago, GODV was grinning from ear to ear.

Though GODV has the opportunity to face Heo "pawN" Wonseok regularly, he remains one of the Top 3 mid laners he hopes to face should LGD make the World Championship, including Lee "Faker" Sanghyeok and Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg. His respect for his Korean opponent is obvious.

Some of GODV’s greatest strengths lie in his flexibility. His changes over the years in developing different playstyles reflect an approach to the game that not many players have shared. He’s been able to find advantages in visualizing a play and making it and timing his roams with the flow of creeps.

Though GODV’s career at the top level of play is relatively short, as he’s only played in three LPL splits, the transition he’s made from a decent Orianna player in TGA Winter to a map control powerhouse has been dramatic. If he keeps this quality, the 18 year old has a very long career ahead of him.

Though he might have time, GODV's goal is still to reach the top this season. He belives there’s a 70% chance LGD Gaming will qualify for the World Championship.

“I’m not confident in winning Worlds, but I want to win,” he said.

For GODV, it seems desire alone has sometimes motivated him to reach his heights. Despite the constant practice he puts in, GODV has a straightforward view of the events of his career so far.

He wanted to play League of Legends, and he played League of Legends. He got an offer from Vici, so he accepted it. He wanted to join LGD and play with Pyl, so he did. GODV had to learn to adapt to make LGD more successful, so he figure it out. Along the way, he conveniently managed to stand above all the other mid laners in LPL and garner a fanbase.

When we told him he had a fair amount of fans who like to post his LPL plays to Reddit, he was surprised. “Oh really xD?” he said and wanted to thank them for their support.

If you ask him what gives him his confidence, GODV will likely mention his ability to play a wide variety of champions. It’s common in China for players to practice on multiple accounts to confuse scouting. There was once a rumor that the infamous Gao "WeiXiao" Xuecheng maintained 50 different solo queue accounts to prevent the opposition from tracking him and guessing what he might play next.

GODV doesn’t bother to hide what he wants to play in LPL. At times, when GODV’s about to break out a new champion, scouting is simple. When he debuted Ahri in LPL Summer, he had played 17 straight Ahri games, and more recently he spends most of his time practicing Varus, Ezreal, Diana, Orianna, and Yasuo.

When asked whether he worries about scouting, GODV said, “Of course I worry about it. But it’s okay, give them five bans, and they still can’t stop me.”

With two weeks in LPL, the Playoffs, and Regionals still to come, there’s ample time to try.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. She would like to thank Orrin Xu, Chia Yu, and LGD Gaming for facilitating the interview and GODV himself for taking the time to answer questions.