The name Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim has become synonymous with leadership and shotcalling. Old teammates like Kim “ReignOver” Yeujin are quick to praise his stolid mental affinity. But very few discussions of YellOwStaR lately examine his playstyle, as if dismissing it entirely and absolving him for his transgressions because of his contributions to leading, shotcalling and analysis for Fnatic. His play itself seems somehow unworthy of mention by comparison.
As YellOwStaR transitions onto Team SoloMid, his migration to Los Angeles marks possibly his largest career decision since he became a support player. For the new fans he’ll gain on Team SoloMid and the old fans who remember his Season 1 games fondly, one of 2015’s most-talked-about Western players begs a review of not just his intangibles, but the evolution of his in-game play over more than five years.
The common narrative is that YellOwStaR’s transition from AD carry to support was one of the best role swaps in League of Legends history, as he went from a mediocre carry into a role that could better utilize his more developed shotcalling skills. It may come as a surprise, then, that YellOwStaR wasn’t always just known for his shotcalling, but was once considered the best AD carry in the world.
against All authority
In September of 2010, YellOwStaR and several other players who competed together in online tournaments and sought ways to attend offline events signed with French organization against All authority. The initial roster for aAa was a nearly all French lineup that went through several iterations in small events until the team participated in one of the earliest premier League of Legends tournaments in March of 2011.
The Intel Extreme Masters Season V League of Legends Invitational in Hanover featured two round robin phases and a single game final in which aAa faced myRevenge for a $5,950 first-place prize. The Hanover aAa roster included Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, now top laner for Origen, Damian “Linak” Lorthios, Jocelyn “Tidus” Pierlot, YellOwStaR, and Jerome “kujaa” Negretti.
During the final game, YellOwStaR exhibited some characteristics of play with which he would struggle for much of his career, including somewhat forward positioning in team fights. YellOwStaR also showed an affinity for farming, though it was difficult to track his creep score before the development of the spectator client. myRevenge won the event, giving aAa one of many second place finishes.
It’s hard for me to completely contextualize YellOwStaR’s 2010 and 2011, as his commitment to professional League of Legends predates my own. Various accounts suggest that YellOwStaR initially motivated sOAZ to play League of Legends competitively and join against All authority. The two of them formed the core of the team throughout 2011 and 2012 with sOAZ’s collapses and dives a major force on the team, propelled forward by jungler Linak, and YellOwStaR’s natural ability to outfarm his opponents.
Of sOAZ and YellOwStaR in Season 1, future teammate Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez said definitively that YellOwStaR was the best AD carry, and sOAZ was, not the best, but one of the best top laners at the time. xPeke played against aAa on myRevenge and later at the Season 1 World Championship as a member of Fnatic.
YellOwStaR's Season 1 World Championship picks
Eight teams attended the first ever World Championship, but many had anticipated that the North American entrants would have the best showing. against All authority entered the tournament with German mid laner, Maik “MoMa” Wallus and won every Group Stage match except their game against North American team Epik Gamer. Fnatic barely inched into the Playoffs as third in the group as Bram "wewillfailer" de Winter took xPeke’s place during the Group Stage.
The first World Championship was a time of fluid positions where European squads edged out an advantage by having a consistent attack damage carry laning with a support around Dragon. North American teams sometimes still defaulted to double bruiser bottom lanes with players like Shan "Chaox" Huang specializing in champions like Irelia. Terms like "solo lane flex Malzahar" weren't foreign.
YellOwStaR's trademark AD carry for most of his career was Corki. Corki corrected some of his over-zealous positioning with burst potential and complemented his style. During the final, Caster David "Phreak" Turley described YellOwStaR as the most mechanically skilled ranged carry at the tournament, pointing to his constant CS leads. In the last game against Fnatic, YellOwStaR accumulated a 40 CS lead against Manuel "LaMiaZeaLoT" Mildenberger, though aAa lost the game.
And of course, by popular demand, the mid-to-bottom lane Ashe Arrow highlight from Game 2:
Finnicky positioning and missed Ashe arrows weren't unusual occurrences among AD carries in Season 1. Often, the flow of minions wasn't completely understood, and duo lanes would face off in the crook of the lane, making it easier for ganks with very few river wards placed. Control of the lane was almost a gamble.
Still aAa showed a more advanced grasp of rotating to empty lanes. Despite its novelty factor, YellOwStaR's lone Sion game against Team SoloMid serves as an example of the advantage in strategy aAa had over TSM. In a specific play, YellOwStaR backed and moved to hold mid, then the team grouped to pressure TSM's inhibitor against their rival's Baron pull.
Though aAa lost the close final series to Fnatic, support kujaa vowed the team would stay together.
While most of aAa did stick together, many of them temporarily transferred to Millennium following the Season 1 World Championship. During this short period, YellOwStaR played top lane at Intel Extreme Masters VI: Guangzhou. YellOwStaR showed some of his same characteristics in his new position, obtaining high CS, but sticking to lane. Against both Team WE and Counter Logic Gaming, Millennium lost out when the other team's top laner made a play for an early dragon, and YellOwStaR remained in lane to farm.
against All authority reformed in November of 2011 in time for the Intel Extreme Masters circuit to continue. At IEM Kiev, YellOwStaR was showing improved ability in team fights, using Valkyrie more to engage than to rely on it for escape. His use of cooldowns became more impressive and precise. The game had also begun to revolve more on the high experience obtained from buffs with invades becoming the norm.
aAa didn't escape Group Stage at Kiev, and two roster changes created the roster that would persist until the team disbanded later that year. sOAZ, Linak, MoMa, and YellOwStaR were joined by German support Christoph "nRated" Seitz. nRated's preference for the engage-heavy Leona complemented YellOwStaR's willingness to Valkyrie forward as Corki.
IEM Kiev and the IEM VI World Championship in Hanover marked the emergence of League of Legends' first truly dominant team, Moscow 5. M5 went undefeated through the tournament, showing the devastating power of group buff invasion and higher level team play by putting split pressure in multiple lanes.
Despite not facing M5 at IEM Hanover, aAa were still projected as potentially the second best team in attendance, making their fourth-place finish somewhat of a disappointment. Leigh "Deman" Smith still referred to YellOwStaR and Adrian "CandyPanda" Wübbelmann as the two best AD carries in the tournament during aAa's quarterfinals clash with SK Gaming.
YellOwStaR didn't agree. In his 'Reflections' with Duncan "Thorin" Shields, YellOwStaR referred to his semifinal encounter against Dignitas' AD carry, Michael "Imaqtpie" Santana very specifically. He said that he was completely shutdown in lane by Imaqtpie, that he would lose one side of a matchup, switch champions, and then lose the reverse matchup as well.
Rather than be deterred by Imaqtpie's dominance, however, YellOwStaR found his motivation. "I realized there is always [someone] better than you," YellOwStaR said. "That's why I keep playing. I want to improve."
In the first game, YellOwStaR received an early double kill when Dignitas attempted to invade, but when he failed to back and buy, Imaqtpie managed to find a return double kill over him and nRated. YellOwStaR struggled in the series and fell behind his lane opponent in both lane and team fight effectiveness, as Imaqtpie showed higher proficiency with skillshots.
Following IEM, aAa continued to struggle, particularly in tournaments against North American teams and Moscow 5. NA teams were showing better use of dragon and mid-to-late game map play as well as team fighting. aAa had a strong early game with deep vision to punish invades, but North American teams had better control.
Linak often spent time countering ganks on MoMa as mid lane and jungle synergy moved to the forefront. Counter Logic Gaming in particular had better side lane control with Brandon "StVicious" DiMarco being able to target aAa's stronger players more efficiently. YellOwStaR again struggled in both lane and team fighting against a North American AD carry in Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng.
YellOwStaR tried to adapt with a sturdier Urgot pick. aAa made creative lane swaps to send him mid, resulting in some fast moves and forced flashes. CLG ultimately took control, but it was still fun to watch.
Both sOAZ and YellOwStaR have attributed the decline and eventual breakup of aAa to arguments and a failure to properly communicate at the IGN Pro League 4 in Los Vegas. YellOwStaR claimed the team simply stopped talking in game, making it much more difficult for their team fighting to advance.
Before dissolving completely, aAa made a short-lived roster change. Mid laner MoMa was replaced by Ahmet "amt2k" Oguz before the Corsair Vengeance Cup. Regarding the roster change, YellOwStaR commented on MoMa's lack of availability for practice and aAa's expectations. YellOwStaR's own motivation would become a hallmark of his career.
In the online Corsair Vengeance Cup, aAa had surprising success against the Moscow 5 powerhouse. Their ability to focus on keeping their jungle warded and Linak tracking the movements of jungler Danil "Diamondprox" Reshetnikov allowed aAa to meet M5's aggressiveness.
Unfortunately, aAa lost to both eventual tournament winners Counter Logic Gaming EU and Moscow 5 in the final bracket and disbanded almost immediately after the event.
Initially YellOwStaR and support nRated remained together and joined Millennium, but after only a month trial, YellOwStaR left Millennium and joined SK Gaming as their AD carry instead. While CLG EU and Moscow 5 kept stable rosters, SK had rifled through players before landing on one of its most memorable lineups of Kevin "Kev1n" Rubiszewski, Alvar "Araneae" Martin Aleñar, Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago, YellOwStaR, and Patrick "Nyph" Funke.
During this time, YellOwStaR began to gain more public recognition for his shotcalling abilities from ocelote. sOAZ later commented that YellOwStaR also handled most of the calls on aAa. In his individual play, YellOwStaR began playing more hyper carries, especially Kog'Maw, which improved his ability to kite in team fights. He began to orb walk through team fights instead of relying on high burst from one position.
In his first tournament with SK Gaming, European Challenger Circuit: Poland, YellOwStaR collided again with CLG EU and the rising menace that is now colloquially referred to as Henrik "Froggen" Hansen and his Anivia. Going into the series, CLG EU top laner Mike "Wickd" Petersen said, "I feel very confident coming into this game because Froggen is going to carry us all."
That's a pretty accurate description. The second match put the full force of Froggen's Anivia on display, though YellOwStaR performed well with respect to Peter "YellowPete" Wüppen's Kog'Maw. YellOwStaR used Flash smartly, and he played better than he did in Game 1 with a Kog'Maw that didn't properly check his flanks before sieging. Eventually, though CLG EU took the series 2-1.
SK Gaming placed third overall at European Challenger Circuit: Poland, beating Curse Gaming EU after a hilarious triple Doran's Blade and Wriggle's Lantern Vayne game from their opposition.
SK Gaming would soon get another chance to redeem themselves against CLG EU. In order to prepare for the Season 2 World Championship Regional Qualifier, SK Gaming bootcamped with Moscow 5. The team developed a lane swap-based strategy that relied on sending YellOwStaR and Nyph to the top lane, pushing out the wave, and then rotating the entire team to the mid lane. Much of the farm allocation went to Kev1n following laning phase while the duo lane would continue to hold the center of the map and go for dragons. Kev1n even occasionally started the laning phase with the team's blue buff.
Though SK Gaming had poor dragon control against CLG EU, Kev1n caught waves, allowing them to prep well for Baron turns with the Area of Effect power of ocelot. Deman remarked "YellOwStaR has rejuvenated SK Gaming," and though he didn't exactly carry against CLG EU, his method of priming mid lane plays early set up the team to surprise CLG EU and take the second seed going into the World Championship. Moscow 5 defeated SK Gaming easily in the final, but they were one of the anticipated winners of the Season 2 World Championship. SK were riding high.
Unfortunately for ocelote's team, they didn't win a single game in Los Angeles to close the season.
YellOwStaR's Season 2 World Championship picks
Though YellOwStaR has attended every World Championship to date, he probably regrets going to Los Angeles in Season 2. Against Azubu Frost, YellOwStaR's tendency to outfarm and fixate on just laning shone through again, and he failed to convert any personal lead to success. YellOwStaR got caught positioning too far forward and chasing in fights, and Kev1n wasn't able to get the lead against Park "Shy" Sang-myeon with both junglers poised toward the top lane. Frost's superior river vision made Shy's work easy, and they showed perhaps the best ability to pressure multiple lanes at once of any teams YellOwStaR had played against up to that point.
The game against Counter Logic Gaming is actually one of my single favorite individual performances by YellOwStaR as an AD carry. Though Doublelift secured an early red buff, YellOwStaR turned the bottom lane with a 2 for 1 double kill, and though he lost in CS to Doublelift, his team fighting from behind was precise, allowing SK Gaming to push up mid for what should have been a win...
If not for the Doublelift backdoor that has become iconic with time.
To complete their humiliation, Invictus Gaming's bottom lane camp sent Ge "Kid" Yan into fits of Ezreal frenzy, slamming a door on a dejected SK Gaming's Group Stage.
Following the Season 2 World Championship, YellOwStaR chose to take a break, but while he rested his gaming muscles, Fnatic had begun to rebuild. Unlike YellOwStaR and against All authority, Fnatic didn't spend much of Season 2 even placing in top four at tournaments and had become all but a hiccup in the memory of the game.
The additions of nRated and AD carry Martin "Rekkles" Larsson gave the same spark that Deman had suggested YellOwStaR lent to SK Gaming. The team ran through Dreamhack and were the only team that managed to take games from the nearly invincible Team WE at IPL 5.
Unfortunately, 2013 posed a problem for Fnatic. The League of Legends Championship Series was about to begin, and Rekkles' young age prevented him from participating. AD carry CandyPanda tried out as a stand-in, but when YellOwStaR left SK Gaming, CandyPanda saw an opportunity and suggested he return to SK, while YellOwStaR joined Fnatic to play with his old teammates, nRated and sOAZ.
YellOwStaR's Spring 2013 Champion picks
The clash of Gambit Gaming, rebranded from Moscow 5, and Fnatic that season is one of the most exciting rivalries in the history of the LCS, and it began almost immediately. Gambit commanded the record between the two teams in the regular season 3-1, but almost every game was close.
Diamondprox was able to use champions like Volibear that could isolate YellOwStaR, often forcing him out. This exacerbated some of his tendencies to position away from his team and made him easier to isolate for Alex "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin.
With few exceptions, Europe wasn't a fruitful breeding ground for internationally elite AD carries through 2013. The likes of Imaqtpie and Doublelift could ruffle YellOwStaR, and Chinese and Korean AD carries would soon rise to a yet higher level. Part of this likely stemmed from the fact that few teams played around their AD carries. Mid lane ruled the roost, and Fnatic was no different.
Though CandyPanda would describe YellOwStaR as a top three European AD carry as late as April of 2013, and teammate xPeke remarked on YellOwStaR's improvements making a strong case for Rekkles not returning to the starting roster when he turned 17, YellOwStaR would continue to fade ever so slightly into the background. As Fnatic began to develop double assassin compositions around the highly skilled sOAZ and xPeke, YellOwStaR became more of a tool for pushing out waves as the team relied on Teleports to catch minions and attempt to lead the more teamfight-oriented Gambit in circles.
Despite this, two champions entered the meta that allowed YellOwStaR to look more and more like the world's first best AD carry. The highly abusable Varus worked well when the team needed to catch out a target to assassinate and allowed YellOwStaR to clear waves and keep a long distance. Fnatic's only victory over Gambit in the regular season had a lot to do with YellOwStaR's 10/1/9 Varus.
YellOwStaR also used Twitch in a smart way that let him open fights with forward positioning and then use Ambush to lose targetability. Even on a team with two of the most impressive solo laners in League of Legends, YellOwStaR found small ways to change the game, but it was happening less.
The 2013 Spring LCS final between Gambit Gaming and Fnatic is probably still my favorite experience watching an LCS final. Both Gambit and Fnatic brought out nearly every strategy with which they'd had success in the regular season from Volibear to Nasus to double assassins to the formidable Alex Ich Kha'Zix — with a Thresh and Leona ban every game, of course.
YellOwStaR individually had an exciting series. He won a game each on Varus, Kog'Maw and Twitch. When YellOwStaR secured a double kill at 17 and a half minutes in Game 4, totaling the kill count at 21, he forced a "Flippin' 'Ell, Deman!" from caster Trevor "Quickshot" Henry.
YellOwStaR's Kog'Maw game wasn't his finest moment. His tendency to get caught prolonged the game. But his series-ending Twitch game features a flanking Spray'n'Pray (now referred to as a Rat-Ta-Tat-Tat) and escape that still gives me chills.
I like to pretend the Game 5 that cemented Fnatic as the kings of the League of Legends Championship Series and the Game 5 where YellOwStaR finally succeeded in winning a major LAN was the last moment of his career as an AD carry. So I don't count the first three weeks of EU LCS Summer.
Not that YellOwStaR played particularly poorly at the start of LCS Summer. YellOwStaR was never really a bad AD carry, but he was never really an elite AD carry either. Even when he was considered the best AD carry in the world, YellOwStaR could rarely carry a game on his own. YellOwStaR seldom had difficulty amassing a lead, but he did struggle at times to convert leads in team fights where his distracted positioning could occasionally be punishing.
It still doesn't do him justice to call him mediocre or to ignore the nuances of his play in favor of his shotcalling and strategic contributions. Echoes of YellOwStaR's AD carry play have also made him a great support. His forward positioning and experience with Ashe and Varus have become his allies on engage supports, his ability to maintain high CS numbers while watching the map has allowed him to micromanage.
It's a good thing YellOwStaR transitioned to support because he certainly wouldn't register as a top three European AD carry today — but that doesn't mean we should forget that he was.
Part 2 coming soon.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports and a BIG FAN of Season 2 League of Legends. You can follow her on Twitter.