Across the globe, monsters roam the professional League of Legends scene. Faker, GodV, Rookie, Imp, and others are carries that define the game with their technical ability. They're renowned superstars who are talked about on a daily basis around the world. As the year starts to come to a close, the attention shifts from the domestic regions to the final showdown where monsters will clash: the World Championships, with the winning team taking home the prized Summoner's Cup.
Choi "Acorn" Cheon-ju is not a monster himself — albeit possessing technical skills that rival the strongest carries in the world — but a tamer of the beasts that charges through enemy lineups. His career started out modestly on the amateur team RoMG, which would eventually evolve into the famous GSG team that caught the eyes of Korean fans with their innovative, stylish play that was able to beat the more established teams in the region.
Back then, Acorn was mostly remembered for his Rumble play, teaming up alongside Heart (a jungler at the time) and Easyhoon — the trio took the newly rebranded team into the winter split of Champions back at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. As fun to watch as they were, the team wasn't able to keep up the infrastructure of the bigger companies in the league and finished last that season. Luckily for the core members of the team like Acorn, their raw talent was enough to get picked up by MVP Blue after the split, as GSG merged with the MVP organization.
MVP Blue, and then Samsung Galaxy Blue, were a team that always had the potential to be great, but were never able to grab successful results in offline events. Their players were heralded for being individually talented, and the Blue squad did well in non-Champions event, yet it never translated to doing well when they were thrown into the groups of Champions. Acorn's first few seasons in Champions were not memorable, as the team's biggest result was a finals in the WCG Korea qualifiers in 2013 where they lost to the newly reconstructed CJ Entus Blaze.
Acorn's emergence from being a relatively unknown player to being considered one of the world's best top lanes came when Blue decided to trade their unpolished rookie Pawn to their sister team, Samsung White. In return, Blue got Dade, the former Champions MVP that won a domestic title the year before on MVP Ozone before falling into a slump at the end of the year due to his champions being nerfed out of his artillery. The change, although looking like a big win for White by trading a faltering veteran for a promising young player, would turn out to be one of the best transactions in the game's history.
For White, they got a player that they could slide into a secondary carry, or even a utility role if needed with Imp and Dandy already in the starting five. On the other side, Blue received what they always needed: a veteran leader who knew how to win and could direct the team with his boisterous shot calling.
With a rejuvenated and disrespected Dade looking for revenge, the new Blue team transformed into a machine-like team fighting squad that couldn't be deterred by anyone in Korea, including Samsung White. Dade was able to turn the online stars into a team that could perform under the bright lights, the biggest turnaround being Deft in the bottom lane. Once a sheepish player that did well in solo queue and couldn't get it done in professional play, Deft became the best team fighting AD Carry in the world alongside Dade's prowess in executing brawls.
Blue's team fighting composition was a thing of beauty. Dade and Deft were their two main carries, the former being the juggernaut that did the damage in the inside while the latter shot out damage from the back lines with bullseye precision. Spirit, the team's jungler, filled the role of the janitor, being the player that usually jumped in at the end of the carnage to pick off the stragglers that Deft and Dade couldn't delete from the map. Heart, who went from being a jungler to a support, would peel, be a primary engage if needed, and helped by shielding or healing the team's carries.
Acorn? He was the player that allowed the two monsters, Dade and Deft, to get into position and breakthrough the enemy team. The top lane meta had changed from 1v1 scenarios with ignite into a scenario where lane-swaps were common, and the top laners brought teleport instead of the offensive summoner spell, using the extra map movement to set up plays around the dragon pit and play a more utility style. This is where Acorn thrived as a player, as he knew the exact moment to use his teleportation to start a team fight, and flanked his opponents to be a meat shield for his teammates.
Although he was efficient when it came to dealing damage — he was recognized as Korea's best Rumble player — his true strength came in being the player that enhanced his squad's carries. He'd zone out the enemy team, peel for Dade and Deft, and stick onto the enemy carries like a magnet until one of his beasts could turn their screen grey. When you look at all the Samsung Blue highlights that have Dade terrorizing teams with Yasuo or Deft picking bodies apart with Kog'maw, take notice of how all those started. It would usually be Acorn teleporting in on a tank or utility champion, setting up the carnage that was about to begin, and opening up the gates for his team to run through.
Following a Champions title, a runners-up in the summer season, and a Top 4 finish at Worlds, Acorn left the Samsung organization along with the rest of the Blue and White starters. He signed with none of his Blue teammates, instead opting to team up with the other frightening carry on Samsung he never played with, Imp. The duo were joined with fellow Korean import Flame from the CJ Entus organization, the three signing on with LGD for the start of the 2015 season.
Flame and Acorn gave LGD a one-two punch in the top lane that could fit into any situation. While Acorn is a player who enhances teams with two main carries, Flame is the exact opposite — he is a player who is one of those monsters that Acorn helps reach their full power. Flame is better when it comes to 1v1 situations and mechanics, and Acorn beats out his teammate if you look at their teleport usage and reliability when it comes to zoning around objectives.
Similar to Blue from 2014, LGD are also a team that have two feared carries in the starting five: the aforementioned Imp in the AD Carry role, and the Chinese player GodV in the mid lane. Flame, better when he is one of the top two members of the squad in terms of receiving gold, has struggled at times this year, finding his footing in a new region and getting thrown a new champion pool to master. In a weird turn of events, for the better part of 2015, it was Acorn who was given the more carry-oriented champions while Flame was forced on champions like Maokai and Rumble that Acorn excelled at when it came to engaging in team fights.
On Saturday night, Acorn will accomplish an amazing feat: going back to Samsung Blue from last year, he will have made it to four straight domestic finals in a row. He won the spring championship of Champions on Blue, lost to the Arrows in the summer finals, and then made the spring split LPL finals last season in a loss to EDG 3-2. Now going up against Qiao Gu for his forth straight grand final, it will be another case where Acorn can show his consistency to the rest of the world.
He isn't an overly flashy player like a Flandre, Ssumday or Flame, and that's why he is sometimes forgotten in the shuffle when people talk about the best top laners in the world. Make no mistake, there is a reason why Acorn has been a part of four straight finals teams. Yes, he's gifted by having the likes of Deft/Dade and Imp/GodV duos on his teams, but we've seen countless times in League that just having superstar carries on a squad won't win you championships. You need a player like Acorn that can amplify the power of those carries by setting up perfect team fights and situations where they can exhibit their incredible mechanical skill to the cheers of the crowd.
When Worlds start in October and you're screaming in excitement at an amazing GodV Quadra Kill or Imp knocking down enemies like bowling pins, don't forget about Acorn zoning out the enemy team, letting his monsters do his bidding behind him.
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.