The 2014 LSPL rivalry that never was

by theScore Staff Nov 8 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of LPL / CGA.CN

If there's a storyline I've forced harder than it has any business being forced, it's the 2014 LSPL storyline of King and Snake. By placing first and second in the 2014 LSPL summer season, King and Snake automatically qualified for the 2015 LPL spring season. In the LSPL, King looked the strongest, but, as the LSPL had no playoffs at that time, the only encounter between the two front-runners split even.

During the 2014 offseason, both King and Snake had drastically different exhibitions. King rampaged, only getting trapped under the concrete of EDward Gaming's then-cemented regime, and placing Top 2 or 3 in most tournaments. Snake whimpered, barely making it out of the group stages and often losing to more established LPL teams.

Dismantling more established LPL brethren in the offseason made King stand taller in my LPL projections while Snake had the appeal of the Li "Flandre" Xuanjun show. He played Yasuo, Fizz—pre-rework—or Trinity Force Leblanc top in an effort to one-man splitpush to success.

Into the LPL, King and Snake made season-altering changes by welcoming the Korean element. King dropped their established infrastructure in favor of a Korean coaching staff, and Snake, an organization rumored to possess limitless coffers and the sponsorship of China Rare Earth, acquired Kim "Beast" Joohyun and Kwak "Ella" Nahoon: a Korean jungle and support duo so obscure that not even Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles recognized them initially.

Snake's reputation smouldered in the first week of the LPL with convincing victories before erupting into a conflagration when they defeated EDward Gaming in Week 2. Snake remained competitive with top teams, placing second overall in the regular season. King squandered match after match and narrowly clung to the Top 8 of twelve.

Their styles underwent radical revision. King, who had spent the offseason diving and dashing through games, slowly gave up objectives inexplicably and allowed teams to claw over them like landfill. Snake formed around Yang "kRYST4L" Fan in peel compositions. Though one-dimensional, they understood their limitations and topped King.

Throughout the year, Snake continued to develop, signing Ceng "U" Long to spread their mid lane champion versatility and experimenting with aggressive jungler Liu "Zzr" Yuan. Their dimensions multiplied. King merged with Gamtee after 2015 Spring and exchanged rosters with Royal Club as Royal Never Give Up. They couldn't cling to Top 8 in Summer and slogged through Promotion to retain their spot in the LPL.

Snake and ex-King were never good at the same time. When King reigned, Snake molted. As Snake strangled competitors, King—well, at least they never gave up. It wasn't much of a rivalry.

Or at least it shouldn't have been.

Instead of crushing them completely in every LPL encounter, Snake finished the LPL year with a 7-6 record against King and RNG: nowhere near as strong as it should be. In a post-game interview with Snake's Flandre in Week 1 of LPL summer, he said he felt the team's biggest rivals were EDward Gaming and King because "King is a team that always beats us." While that didn't completely come to fruition, it's clear Snake has a difficult time against the ex-King team.

Even in the LPL Summer, Royal snagged a game and made Snake bare their knuckles to close the second encounter cleanly.

Miraculously, Royal Never Give Up and Snake have now scampered through the National Electronic Sports Open undefeated on opposite sides of the bracket and into the finals tomorrow. The circumstances that lead to this encounter are laughable with the top LPL teams in the tournament dropping in group stages or quarterfinals as if for the sake of World Championship mimicry memes.

Most of the powerful opponents ran with crippled rosters and scattered communication to give rise to yet another opportunity for Snake and ex-King to roll over each other on the rift. In NESO, Snake sported a lineup with three of their five players from LSPL, matching Royal Never Give Up's three of five original King players.

Snake and ex-King have been through veritable makeovers, but as long as captains Flandre and Mlxg remain, they'll still have similar flavor. Both like to dive into tussles and control the momentum of the game with sometimes comical over-commits. I could very well revive the 2014 LSPL Summer rivalry storyline that never was. With fluctuating rosters, this could be the perfect time for the field between Snake and ex-King to actually even out.

I'm not going to. King won the National Electronic Sports Tournament and LSPL Summer last year, but outside the Tencent Games Arena tournament that qualifiSnake has never won a LAN. With all of Snake's real rivals from LPL Summer this year unsettled, it's time for them to change that.

The National Electronic Sports Open finals between Snake and Royal Never Give Up take place Nov. 8 at 4 a.m. EST after the third place match between Newbee and Energy Pacemaker All at midnight.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.