Entertain Us: CJ Entus' unlikely Spring

by theScore Staff Feb 26 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Twitch / LCK Spring 2016 / Riot Games

Prior to the 2015 World Championship, foreign League of Legends teams descended upon the eSports mecca of Korea in hopes that the solo queue and potential scrims against Korea’s top teams would prepare them for the upcoming tournament. Among whispers of scrim results and building anticipation for the World Championship, rumors of a new, extremely talented mid laner arose. These rumors were of CJ Entus' Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong, an exceptionally gifted Zed player who was reportedly massacring scrim partners while practicing with CJ Entus.

Unfortunately for the organization and the CJ Entus faithful, Bdd’s 17th birthday falls on Mar. 1, 2016, making him ineligible for competitive play January through February. Many things had changed since “GoJeonPa” dropped out of high school and debuted as “Faker” for SK Telecom T1 2 in Champions Spring 2013 at the age of 16. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok would have had to wait another year by today’s competitive rules, with which young upstarts like Bdd must comply.

CJ Entus had a tricky choice to make. They either had to tough it out for the first two months of the season — which meant the entire first round of Champions Spring 2016 — or try their best to entice current mid laner Shin “CoCo” Jin-yeong into remaining with the organization.

Throughout the 2015 season, CoCo had been CJ’s brightest star, making a case for himself as one of the world’s best mid laners. When the rest of the team — a group of grizzled veterans — faltered, CoCo all-too-often managed to carry CJ Entus to a victory. This was quite possibly to the team’s detriment, as they insisted upon clinging to certain legacy players whose inconsistency cost the team games.

Most notably, in Summer 2015, Korean teams that had been gutted by the mass exodus of players — or had struggled on which player to start from their over-abundance of talent thanks to the dissolution of sister teams — showed newfound coordination, making CJ appear worse by comparison. Star support, Hong “MadLife” Min-gi looked uninspired for most of the season, Park “Shy” Sang-myeon lagged behind the majority of Korean top lane talent and opponents figured out mid-laner-turned-jungler Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong. In spite of these factors, CJ Entus finished third in Champions Summer 2015 and additionally were the only team to take a series from SK Telecom T1 that entire split. Quickly dispatched by the KOO Tigers in the Summer playoffs, CJ also failed to qualify for the 2015 World Championship losing 2-3 to the Jin Air Green Wings. CJ Entus’ last stand with this roster came in the 2015 KeSPA Cup.

“I really tried hard because of the thought that it may be our last time playing together with the current 5-man entry roster, and I’m very happy that the fruit of our efforts showed,” Shy said following their entry into the KeSPA Cup semifinals.

If Shy’s words are any indicator, the roster was more than well aware of their impending demise. However, with a group of four players presumed past their prime and CoCo, CJ showed more coordination in the KeSPA Cup than younger teams with arguably greater talent. With their combined in-game experience, the team made it all the way to the KeSPA Cup Finals, where they lost to Ever, a team from Challengers Korea that would go on to win IEM Cologne. CoCo remained CJ’s brightest star throughout, as rumors intensified as to where he would end up following what was presumed to be another tumultuous offseason. CoCo landed on Longzhu Gaming, and CJ was now faced with finding an adequate substitute for their best player of the past year, all while having Bdd on the bench until Mar. 1.

Mid laner Kim “Sky” Ha-neul is not an adequate substitute, and his performances have turned the CJ Entus mid lane from one of their brightest spots to their greatest individual weakness. Of all Korean mids in Spring 2016, Sky has the second-lowest KDA (2.4) and has the largest percentage of his team’s total deaths at 24.5 percent while receiving the second-largest portion of CJ’s gold (24 percent). CJ Entus has the third highest amount of deaths of any team in Korea, so this is a significant hole in the center of CJ’s map. As early as CJ Entus’ Week 1 opening loss against SK Telecom T1, the countdown until Bdd and AD carry Jang “Ghost” Yong-jun — rumored to be another strong, young talent on the CJ bench — began.

Unlike Bdd, who will presumably play as soon as possible given Sky’s poor performance, Ghost may have to wait a bit longer for his professional debut because his stand-in, AD carry Ha “Kramer” Jong-hun, exceeded initial expectations in the first round robin. Kramer was previously plucked from Korean soloqueue to play for the Taiwanese Flash Wolves by support Hu “SwordArt” Shuojie as an alternative to SwordArt’s regular laning partner, Hsiung “NL” Wenan. Unfortunately, as is common with all hybrid rosters, the team had trouble communicating with Kramer, which led to NL returning to the starting AD carry position at the 2015 World Championship. Upon signing with CJ Entus, it was presumed that, like Sky, Kramer was simply a placeholder until the player that the team really wanted turned of age.

Currently, Kramer has the fifth-best KDA of all Korean AD carries at 4.9, just behind KT Rolster’s No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon. He additionally has the highest kill participation (76.8 percent), deals the most damage to champions per minute (629) of any AD carry, and does a whopping 33.3 percent of his team’s total damage. This is aided by the fact that he receives the vast majority of CJ Entus’ resources with a 27.8 percent gold share. Kramer has individually improved since his days on the Flash Wolves; however, the real reason behind his success is the other member of CJ Entus’ bot lane pair, MadLife.

MadLife has a long, storied history in League of Legends that accompanies the growth of the game as an eSport in Korea. In a world where a support player would often only have boots, wards and maybe a passive gold item like Heart of Gold or Philosopher’s Stone, MadLife not only managed to keep the map as bright as possible but made flashy plays. His Blitzcrank grabs became legendary, and when Thresh arrived on the scene, it was a champion made for MadLife to accumulate more highlight reels. Many have lamented that MadLife has never truly had a laning partner that came close to his caliber as the MiG/Azubu/CJ Entus Frost AD carry position has been a bit of a revolving door without one truly peerless ADC to pair with the incomparable MadLife.

Interestingly enough, MadLife has always preferred to take a backseat to his laning partner starting with his first ADC, the outgoing Choi “Locodoco” Woon-sub. Locodoco is famously outspoken in saying that he taught MadLife everything the support knows. Even later in his career, when partnered with the quiet and bashful Seon “Space” Ho-san, MadLife said repeatedly in postgame interviews that the more aggressive laning decisions were made by Space, and gave him credit for calling the lane.

“This season, everyone is an amateur. I see a lot of passion. They’re all fired up. At the end of last year, the flame was going out, but I have that passion now,” MadLife said, following CJ’s last game of the first round robin against Kongdoo Monster.

With veteran top laner Shy yet to be seen this spring, MadLife has taken charge this year as the only remaining veteran. While Kramer has the highest kill participation of any Korean AD carry, MadLife has the highest of any support at 78.8 percent. Everything on the team goes through MadLife, evidenced by top laner Park “Untara” Ui-jin’s teleport usage, which was often to aid the bottom lane. Untara was initially restricted to tanks like Maokai, Tahm Kench, and Nautilus, but as the team has slowly improved and gelled somewhat, Untara has branched out with Poppy or a splitpushing Fiora.

MadLife calls for Untara’s Teleports when needed and controls teamfights with the likes of Alistar, Braum, Thresh and Bard — often single-handedly keeping the team in games with his teamfight prowess. On a team with the third-most deaths in the region, MadLife has contributed the least to his team’s deaths of any support in Korea. MadLife also does the most percentage of team damage (7 percent) and receives the third-least amount of gold of any starting support in the region. He is additionally tied with the ROX Tigers’ Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon for the highest First Blood participation at 43 percent. This is particularly impressive considering that the ROX Tigers are first place in Champions Korea, and are typically ahead of their opponents by 1,872 gold at 15 minutes. Meanwhile, MadLife’s CJ Entus is dead last for gold at 15 minutes with -1,052.

It hasn’t been easy for either MadLife or CJ Entus. The aforementioned Sky is a veritable black hole of resources at times, and jungler Park “Bubbling” Jun-hyeong is statistically one of the worst junglers in Korea, additionally failing to provide any sort of early presence. CJ Entus recently signed jungler Kang “DayDream” Kyung-min who, along with Bdd and possibly Ghost, will likely start in CJ’s games next week, kicking off the team’s fresh start.

In Spring 2016, MadLife is having a career renaissance. For once, he is dictating the pace of not only his laning partner, Kramer, but the entirety of CJ Entus. MadLife is the reason that the team sits 4-5, just under SK Telecom T1 — a perfect position to make a push for the playoffs in the second round robin, presumably with Bdd.

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.