The running joke was that Bdd was their savior. Though the team was still miraculously in the hunt for the playoffs at the end of the first round robin, having won four of their five series in LoL Champions Korea Spring 2016, CJ Entus fans (and likely coaches) counted down the days until their reserve mid laner Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong turned 17 years-old, so he could transform them into a top-tier team.
Yet even with Bdd on their starting lineup for the five series they've played since the start of the second round robin, CJ Entus still sit in fourth place, desperately clinging to the top half of the LCK Spring 2016 standings in spite of an overall .500 record and only an 8-6 series record. SK Telecom T1 is immediately behind them, always threatening CJ’s position with a better match winrate. Even seventh-place Longzhu Gaming has a better winrate than CJ at 16-15, in spite of a worse series record of 6-7. Ultimately, the series are what matter, and CJ often manages to eek out a win, despite frequently dropping games to their opponents.
Bdd hasn’t been CJ Entus’ savior, but he has had a notable positive impact on the team since his arrival. CJ still might not be the best team, but they’re certainly a better one. Their cohesion has improved by the game, even if their overall playstyle hasn’t changed since the first round robin and mid laner Kim “Sky” Ha-neul’s time in the mid lane.
The immediate difference between Sky and Bdd is how often they’re permitted to participate in team activities. When Sky was starting, the mid lane turned into more of an island than top lane, with top laner Park “Untara” Ui-jin joining the team when called on to Teleport. Sky’s kill participation from his first round robin performances is the third worst of all starting mids at 69.8 percent, with only the ROX Tigers’ Lee “KurO” Seo-haeng and Afreeca’s Son “Mickey” Young-min behind him. Bdd, by contrast, currently has the highest kill participation of any starting player in Korea at 85 percent.
A weak kill participation rate isn’t necessarily awful. After all, KurO is the mid laner for the best team in the world. The ROX Tigers focus on smaller skirmishes and quick rotations for objectives with two or three members, meaning that their entire team has low kill participation numbers relative to others in their positions (jungler Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho being the lone exception).
CJ Entus are not the ROX Tigers. They far prefer 5v5 teamfights in the late game, and low kill participation for a player on this team indicates that they want to involve him as little as possible. In the case of Sky, this is most likely due to his poor individual performance – his statistics are low across the board, including a 2.8 KDA and the second highest death rate for his team of any mid in Korea at 23 percent. Of the top five starting players with the highest kill participation in LCK Spring 2016, three are on CJ Entus: Bdd in first, support Hong “MadLife” Min-gi in second, and AD carry Ha “Kramer” Jong-hun in fifth. Untara has the second-highest kill participation of any Korean top at 70.9 percent, second only to Jin Air Green Wings’ Yeo “TrAce” Chang-dong.
Sky is not the only CJ player conspicuously absent from this list. Jungler Park “Bubbling” Jun-hyeong, once a notable up-and-coming solo queue superstar, has performed quite poorly at the highest level. In the first round robin, CJ excluded him the same way they did Sky. Bubbling’s kill participation has improved incrementally over the second round robin, but he's still fourth from last of all Korean junglers with 68.5 percent. Surprisingly, CJ has stuck with Bubbling over their latest jungle acquisition, Kang “DayDream” Kyung-min, and Bubbling has repaid them with significant improvement. He's done especially well on Kindred, achieving a 71.4 percent winrate with the champion.
He likely would not have seen such improvement without a mid laner who can actually hold his own against his opponents. Bdd has proven capable of ensuring the center control point of the map doesn't collapse back on CJ, giving Bubbling the opportunity to apply pressure. The two positions are intrinsically tied together — a jungler with a solid mid laner is safer on invades and early roams, while a mid laner with a jungler that exerts pressure is free to push their opponent.
Looking at the numbers, Bdd is stronger than Sky in almost every way. He has a positive 2.4 CS differential at 10 minutes while Sky had an average of -2.8. Bdd has an average of 16 gold ahead of his opponents at 10 minutes where Sky was routinely down -96. On top of that, Bdd takes up less of his team's overall resources, with only 22.1 percent of his team’s gold — the second-lowest for any mid laner in the region — compared to Sky’s 23.7 percent.
Bdd’s champion pool is also relevant to the team's gameplan. He's spent the majority of his time on the Rift on Azir, and was the first mid to bring the Emperor of the Sands back to Korea with any regularity. Azir’s zone control and waveclear give CJ Entus nearly all of the teamfight tools they need for Kramer to go off on the likes of Lucian, Ezreal and Kalista. While Bdd was known for his assassin play in solo queue — and is the star of multiple Zed highlight reels — he’s only played Zed once for CJ Entus, with a fairly mediocre outcome in spite of an eventual victory over SBENU Sonicboom. On waveclear and zoning champions, Bdd controls the center of the map for Bubbling, applies pressure to his opponents, and offers crucial crowd control and zoning for CJ Entus’s large-scale fights.
Ultimately, not much has changed in CJ Entus’ overall strategy since Bdd’s arrival. The team still funnels almost all of their resources into Kramer and plays for late-game 5v5 teamfights. They've recently overtaken Jin Air Green Wings for the longest average game-time of any team in Korea at 41.2 minutes. Of all players in Korea, Kramer receives the highest percentage of his team’s gold at 27.5 percent. He also does the largest percentage of his team’s total damage of any player in Korea at 34.5 percent, and deals the second-highest damage per minute at 662, behind only SK Telecom T1’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. Every lane assignment, every Untara Teleport, and every move that CJ Entus makes is all in service of their late-game hard carry.
Bdd is another cog in the Kramer machine, but in adjusting and molding into what CJ Entus needs him to do, he's already gone a long way towards proving he can make it on the professional stage.
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.