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Arrowed: the transformation of KT Rolster's AD carry

by theScore Staff Feb 2 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games/lolesports / 2015 World Championship / Riot Games

“I know that SKT’s bot lane plays well, but if I don’t miss any minions, I am confident in our win against them.”

It’s rare that a professional player so succinctly touches upon their own weaknesses for a public audience. Usually their default sentences include brushing off any and all compliments with appropriate humility — or acknowledging them with charismatic bravado — with the promise to improve in the near future and a request for continued fan support, regardless of what was said.

This seemingly innocuous quote from KT Rolster's No “Arrow” Donghyeon underlines a key performance issue that the AD carry has struggled with for much of his career, albeit in a humorous way. A large part of being a successful AD carry comes from basic minion control and last-hitting, which is something that Arrow so obviously struggled with in spite of KT Rolster’s relatively successful Summer 2015 and appearance at the 2015 World Championship.

With another offseason in the books, Arrow steadfastly remains KT Rolster's starting AD carry. He currently sits pretty with a 6.7 KDA, good enough for fourth-best of all players in Champions Spring, and second-best to SK Telecom T1’s Bae “Bang” Junsik of all Korean AD carries. No longer a developing player with an obvious weakness, Arrow reportedly spent the brief downtime brushing up on hitting his minions and is on his way to having a career year after strong performances in the first three weeks of Champions Spring 2016.

Stormy Weather

Arrow’s professional debut was with the erstwhile Korean farm team Xenics Storm. Placed in Group A with sister team Xenics Blast, Jin Air Green Wings Falcons, and MVP Ozone, the team was surprisingly able to take a game off of Spring 2013 champion Ozone, but fell to Bok “Reapered” Hangyu’s Falcons. Their only other win that split came against their sister team, Xenics Blast.

Throughout Summer 2013, Arrow was a developing AD carry with a fairly aggressive playstyle and an affinity for Draven. So it should come as no surprise to learn that the The Glorious Executioner was banned against Arrow for all of Storm’s games that summer. Storm were a dangerous team, if not up to the level of map control and coordination that their Group A opponents had, and no one wanted to risk giving Arrow his best champion. Notably, Storm’s two group wins came when Arrow played Kog’Maw – a champion that he would return to later in his career. In those games, he boasted a combined 13.5 KDA and only made use of Icathian Surprise twice.

The Draven bans waned across Storm’s Champions Winter 2013-14 appearances, and Arrow simultaneously continued to grow as a player with Ezreal as his then-champion of choice. Xenics Storm finished first in Group D, following a tiebreaker against CJ Entus Frost, before falling to NaJin White Shield in the quarterfinals.

Xenics' playstyle at the time involved both jungler Baek “Swift” Dahoon and support Lee “Piccaboo” Jongbeom proactively roaming and making plays, particularly in the mid lane with rising star Shin “CoCo” Jinyeong. This meant that Arrow was often left to his own devices while in lane, somewhat accounting for his generally lower creep score average.

The Arrows’ Arrow

When Storm disbanded after Champions Winter 2013-14, Arrow was picked up by KT Rolster for their Arrows team. Going into Champions Spring 2014, KT Rolster had retooled both their Arrows and Bullets rosters. Most notably, the organization moved jungler Lee “KaKAO” Byungkwon from Bullets to Arrows a few days after they signed Arrow as their starting AD carry.

Quickly becoming OnGameNet Champions most loveable coin flip, the KT Rolster Arrows were led by KaKAO who, prior to Champions Spring 2014, said that his goal was to “destroy the SK Telecom organization.” This plan looked to be all but foiled after the Arrows were swept by what was presumably SK Telecom T1’s B team, SK Telecom T1 S, early in the group stages. The Arrows rectified this by sweeping the reigning world champions and Champions Winter 2013-14 winners SK Telecom T1 K in their next match. T1 S’ subsequent and startling loss to Prime Optimus meant a first-place Group A finish for the Arrows. The Arrows lost to CJ Entus Blaze in the Spring 2014 Quarterfinals, but were one of Champions' most promising teams, provided that they didn’t concede to their own recklessness.

Arrow’s first game of Champions Spring 2014 was on his prized Draven. After a 5/1/7 performance against Prime Optimus, the champion was banned from Arrow in nearly all of the games that followed. However, Arrow unfortunately languished behind his AD carry counterparts with one of the worst CS per minute scores of 6.11. His new support Ha “Hachani” Seungchan stuck with Arrow more than Piccaboo in lane, but was also prone to dying needlessly, setting the team behind.

The Arrows refocused before the summer, with KaKAO stating once again that they were aiming for the top. Champions Summer 2014 marked Arrow’s return to Kog’Maw, and the AD carry spent 57 percent of his time in the regular season and playoffs combined on the Mouth of the Abyss. Most importantly, Kog’Maw guaranteed late game damage. This was paramount to KT Rolster’s success, as Arrow had the lowest CS per minute of any AD carry in Champions Summer 2014 with a 6.13, -1.12 lower than the league average of 7.25. In contrast, he had the third-highest KDA of all Korean AD carries that summer, and was an important part of the Arrows’ improbable Summer Finals victory over Samsung Galaxy Blue.

Two Marksmen, One Spot

One of the less talked about facets of legacy KT Rolster Bullets AD carry Go “Score” Dongbin role-swapping into the jungle position is what the team’s choices were not only for the jungle, but at AD carry. When the Arrows and Bullets merged, the Bullets had already struggled with finding a jungler. Fresh off of a season where mid laner Yoo “Ryu” Sangook had tried his hand at the jungle position and performed quite poorly – resulting in the Bullets’ first playoff miss since the team’s inception – KT Rolster was already missing a jungler when the Arrows’ star KaKAO left the team to play in China.

This resulted in an offseason where KT Rolster had two AD carries with wholly divergent playstyles. A KT team with Score in the bot lane looks completely different than a KT team with Arrow. Score had built up a legacy of not dying. A crucial part of the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets’ fast push strategy, Score was known for impeccable teamfight positioning and intelligent map movement. Complaints levied at Score included the popular remark that he was too safe, sacrificing maximum damage output to preserve his KDA; however, there was little doubt that Score was the more reliable option.

Meanwhile Arrow’s aforementioned aggression but lack of micro finesse had a significant downside. If he and his support couldn’t make plays for early kills, Arrow often fell painfully behind without hitting all-important item power spikes essential to KT Rolster’s gameplan. This weakness combined with Score’s early Spring struggles in adapting to the jungle position resulted in a rough Champions Spring 2015 for KT Rolster. Exacerbating their issues was Hachani, whose continued lack of map awareness cost him his life more often than not, granting even more resources to KT’s opponents. Hachani stepped down from the starting position in late February, leaving Jung “Fixer” Jaewoo to pick up the pieces. Fixer’s inclusion accompanied KT Rolster’s end of spring rise, but it was too little too late, as the team had already been eliminated from playoff contention.

KT Rolster Arrow

Reunited with his former Xenics Storm partner Piccaboo in Summer 2015, Arrow’s performances improved but he was once again left to his own devices for much of the laning phase, as Piccaboo was called upon to roam with Score. This resulted in a top-heavy playstyle centered around Kim “Ssumday” Chanho, who proved both efficient and deadly with a lead.

Arrow was primarily placed onto Sivir or Kog’Maw, and concerns arose as to whether he could play other champions at the same level. Even his pocket pick of Draven failed with a zero percent win rate in the two games he dared play him. Sivir’s mobility along with the tremendously popular “Juggermaw” composition both made up for Arrow’s overly-aggressive positioning.

Unfortunately, Arrow continued to lag behind his AD carry opponents in CS with a -0.4 differential at 10 minutes, prompting his somewhat self-deprecating statement prior to KT Rolster’s appearance in the Champions Summer 2015 Final. Sadly for KT Rolster, they were promptly swept by SK Telecom T1 in said Final, and Arrow’s lack of CS hardly mattered in the face of SKT T1’s stifling pressure to keep Piccaboo in lane and Score from affecting KT’s lanes.

At the 2015 League of Legends World Championship, Arrow performed well in spite of his team’s untimely quarterfinals exit to the KOO Tigers. By the end of Worlds he had the fourth-highest KDA of any player – third if you discount Invictus Gaming’s Tang “Time” Jintai, who only played one game – at 8.9. His statics were fairly strong across the board, aside from his -2 CS differential at 10 minutes.

Now in Champions Spring 2016, Arrow has improved both his individual laning as well as his last hitting. While his CS differential at 10 minutes was a -0.4 in Champions Summer 2015 and an aforementioned -2 at Worlds, it currently sits at 9.3 this spring, second-best of all starting players in Korea. His teamfight positioning has significantly improved as well, with strong performances on Lucian and Kalista netting him the fourth-best KDA in Champions Spring 2016.

Arrow’s newfound laning strengths have also worked out well alongside the return of Hachani as KT Rolster’s starting support among rumors of difficulty with support Lee “IgNar” Dongguen. The initial announcement of Hachani’s return may have sent shivers down the spines of the KT Rolster faithful, but his penchant for face-checking brushes has somewhat diminished, and Arrow is able to take far better care of himself in lane. With Arrow showing this much improvement in Spring 2016, KT Rolster looks to be one of Korea’s best teams, provided that Arrow continues to hit his minions.

Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore eSports. Her love for the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.

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