Everyone who has ever tried to become a pro-gamer has dreamed of being a world champion. Standing in front of thousands in an arena, holding up the massive trophy as confetti rains down you. The money, the glory, and the respect are all yours. You've reached the top of your craft, and the tireless work you put into becoming a better player finally resulted in the ultimate reward.
Impact, Team Impulse's starting top laner, has already tasted what it feels to be atop of the mountain. Back in 2013 when he still played in South Korea, Impact was apart of the legendary SK Telecom T1 that took the scene by storm. A team that only came together in the middle of the year, they were led by the prodigy in the mid lane Faker and went on to take a domestic championship before traveling to Los Angeles to raise the Summoner's Cup. It was a team that prided itself on its mechanical ability, a group of players who excelled online and in the amateur scene coming together with the right infrastructure to turn them into champions.
The only outlier on the squad was Impact, the one player who had real pro-gaming experience before the creation of the new SKT T1 squad. He was an unorthodox player, actually role swapping in the early parts of his career, having played support on Xenics Storm before reaffirming his place in the top lane when he joined SKT T1. Due to his teammates having less experience and rowdier in terms of their play styles, Impact slid into the role of the team's older brother. While Faker and Piglet grew into explosive carries that believed they could outplay anyone they faced up against, Impact was the responsible one, playing whatever the team needed to secure their success. Simply put, he sacrificed his own personal needs for the team.
Although SKT T1's world championship run is mostly accredited to Faker's MVP performance in the mid lane, the team wouldn't have run nearly as well without Impact. It didn't matter if the team wanted to use him as a main carry with his split pushing Jax or move him onto a champion that's only purpose was to be a meat shield. Impact did his job to the best of his capabilities, having the same ability to be a monster in lane like his younger teammates but playing a subdued role most of the time to help the team secure victories and get farther.
When Impact won the Summoner's Cup with SK Telecom T1, he did it as the team's Swiss army knife, flexing into a role and adapting to his surroundings on the fly. He didn't have the overwhelming dominance of Faker, or the flashy and stylish aggression of Piglet, but he was the cog in the machine that let the team filled with rookies run smoothly through the rest of the competition. He stood on the stage with his younger brothers with the Summoner's Cup, standing in the background as the least talked about player on a team with golden prospects and outrageous technical prowess.
Fast forwarding two years later, Impact is now in North America on another team that is fueled by the talent of inexperienced players. This time, however, Impact was no longer sitting in the background, helping the team with the grunt work while the rest of the team are the ones getting heralded for their amazing play. Impact now stands as one of the true carries on Team Impulse, teaming up with fellow Korean import Rush, the team's unrelenting jungler, to make the lives of opposing teams a living nightmare.
The qualities that made Impact great on SKT T1 are still prominent on his new team in the NA LCS. While he's taken more of an offensive role with his team, getting to show off his in-lane abilities and get a larger percent of the team's gold, he's still the same player that can play any role the team he asks him to. Instead of constantly picking champions like Jax, Ryze or Yasuo in the top lane against Dignitas in the first round of the NA LCS playoffs, all three of his games were on Shen, with Gate, Rush, Apollo playing as the primary damage dealers.
Some players in the professional scene have an ego, and I don't mean in the way they talk or act outside of the game. There are players that simply won't change how they play, what champions they pick, or vary up their style. If they are a top lane carry, they will play top lane carries and force the play to revolve around them. For others, they can't play carries and prefer a background role, shying away from being the lynchpin of the team and passing the pressure onto someone else. The best thing about Impact is just that — he has no ego or stubborn way of playing the game.
The one accolade that Impact lacks from his impressive list of accomplishments is the title of the world's best top laner. Although definitely in the discussion as the world's best top lane player during his world championship run, he was still overshadowed due to being on a team filled with all-stars. No matter how well he played or adapted with his team, he was still brushed aside next to the Flames and Shys of the world due to being a jack of all trades, but master of none. SK Telecom T1 were world champions and Impact was an essential part of that victory, yet it didn't satisfy his desire to be known as the globe's strongest at his position.
With Impulse, Impact's dream of achieving that title is in reach. Already considered one of, if not the best top laner in North America, Impulse's chances at making Worlds and accomplishing anything if they get there is in his and Rush's hands. Apollo has stepped up as a carry on the team and shown he's not only a Sivirbot, and that will help him in the shark infested waters of the World Championships, but Impulse's success will depend on where their Korean top and jungle duo can continue their early-game success against the scene's best.
On SK Telecom T1, there were two distinct pairs on the team. Piglet and PoohMandu in the bottom lane, the two equally bloodthirsty and attack-minded players combining to create one of the scariest bottom-lane duos that League has ever seen. The other was between Faker and Bengi in the mid and jungler roles, the two players having a history in the amateur scene and playing online together before playing with T1. Bengi worked as Faker's right-hand man, being the eyes and ears for his star mid laner across the map. Whenever Faker was in any trouble or the opposing team tried to jump in on him, Bengi was there to protect his brother in arms, the two of them creating a partnership that couldn't be broken.
Impact was the lone member on the team, not having a partner to link up with. That's all changed with his move to North America, Impact quickly finding himself a part of a pair that he never experienced while playing in Korea. Rush, a rookie solo queue player that actually tried out for SK Telecom T1 during the off-season, quickly became Impact's better half on the Rift in North America. Impact, no stranger to raising younger brothers with immense talent, took Rush under his wing, and the two grew together in a new region on a team filled with different languages and a discombobulated style of playing.
Through all the issues the team have encountered the past year, Impact and Rush's trust in each other has stayed the same. They are the backbone and the muscle of the team, and Impulse's entire infrastructure rests on their shoulders. As Impact has grown as a leader and a true ace on the squad, Rush has also matured as a player, turning from a green and detrimental overzealous player to the West's strongest carry jungler. The two's early-game dives, roaming, and ability to snowball the map has propelled Impulse one match victory away from playing in Madison Square Garden for the NA LCS championship.
Impact's been a part of the celebration after a title. The confetti. The cheers. The feeling of accomplishing the greatest goal you set forth. On Impulse, already with a world championship under his belt and domestic accolades in his trophy case, he wants to feel that elation again — this time as the face of a franchise.
He is no longer in the background as a mere cog in the machine.
Impact wants to take the North American championship and make a clear statement to the rest of the teams heading to Worlds: he's coming for the title of the world's strongest top laner.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for theScore eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions. You can follow him on Twitter.