Zenith: Part 2 of 3 in an assessment of NaMei's career

by Kelsey Moser Apr 2 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of LPL / EDG Documentary Screengrab

Continued from Part 1.

2013 LPL Summer Champion Pick Data:

Champion Picks W Win Rate (%) Banned
Twitch 9 6 66.67% 3
Vayne 8 4 50.00% 1
Ezreal 6 2 33.33% 1
Draven 2 2 100.00% 0
Caitlyn 2 1 50.00% 1
Corki 2 1 50.00% 0
Kog'Maw 1 1 100.00% 1

After regular season winners Invictus Gaming lost out 2-0 to the fourth place LPL team, they began to struggle. The inconsistencies of their play style hit hard, and XiaoXiao's form both as a shot-caller and support player began to drop.

Despite that, 2013 LPL Spring was perhaps the most top-heavy split in terms of competition. Though OMG was the clear favorite, losing only four games of 21, the second tier of teams was thick and primed to usurp first. Positive Energy's explosive map pressure with Twitch blew open games. WE dealt with champion pool issues and internal drama, but still remained competitive. Royal Club saw the return of Tabe and slowly ramped up throughout the season.

It was in this climate that NaMei would make himself invaluable. He used the likes of Twitch and Vayne to roam and bolster lanes as jungle competition increased. Few AD carries have been able to claim NaMei's level of impact in the laning phase.

The loss of Jing

With PE and Royal Club leveling up, the regular 2013 summer season ended in a three-way tie for second place at 13-8. As Royal Club had the most wins in head-to-heads with WE and PE, having 3-0’d WE, they were placed in second. PE would follow in third with a 2-1 record to RC and a 1-2 record to WE, then WE in fourth.

China’s second seed was up for grabs at the 2013 World Championship, but PE had to contend with a sudden roster change. Their jungler, Jing, abstained from Regionals and Playoffs at the end of the year after becoming a father. PE faced the Regional qualifier using Ziv as their jungler for the first time since the start of LPL Spring.

PE couldn't sustain the shock of the roster change in such a close race, and dropped out of the Regionals with 0-2 against Royal Club and Invictus Gaming. In all four games, NaMei was able to stall out with late game team fighting, but ultimately Uzi had the upper hand, and iG strangled out the lead.

Some speculated that PE couldn’t cut it without Jing, and that he was the carry all along. OMG and Royal Club went to Worlds, and Positive Energy went home empty-handed.

As the LoL Pro League has a separate Playoffs and Regionals, and time crunch made it impossible to schedule Summer Playoffs prior to Regionals, Playoffs took place after OMG and Royal Club had returned from Worlds. Tabe, Whitezz, and Lucky would immediately retire, leaving Royal Club no choice but to forfeit their spot in the Playoffs. WE was losing momentum as a team and would soon disband. They fell easily to OMG in two games.

In absence of PE's powerful jungler, it should have been a walk for OMG to take their second LPL title.

OMG was the only team that PE never had a clear jungle advantage against in 2013 Summer. OMG moving Lovelin to the jungle role meant that Jing was no longer king. Lovelin outperformed him in almost all of their matchups. When PE beat OMG, they did it in the bottom lane.

In the first three games, NaMei played a mid game based champions like Ezreal and Corki. They lost two of those three games, but in Game 2, NaMei had a large global impact with Trueshot Barrage. Next to jungler Ziv, NaMei had the highest kill participation on PE.

Under pressure was when the games truly came down to NaMei. In the last two games with PE down maps to OMG, he locked in Vayne. With proactive early dives in conjunction with Sicca, NaMei put up one of his most memorable carry performances in Game 4 with a closing score of 12/1/4. Though he didn’t have nearly as hard of a carry performance in Game 5, he would still end the game deathless and take out OMG for the LPL title.

It can be argued that PE would have fallen to Royal Club in the semifinals if they had attended the event, hot from their finals appearance at Worlds. It can be argued that a million different things had to align for PE to 3-2 the best team in the 2013 LPL season. But it couldn’t be argued, at that point, that NaMei had just put up the best domestic performance of any AD carry in China.

The apex

At this point in his career, NaMei would become a pricey asset. 

WE finally fell apart. Jungler and support Clearlove and Fzzf would leave WE with coach Aaron to join Edward Gaming, and they knew right away they wanted NaMei on the roster. EDG paid a handsome buyout fee, and Fzzf has publicly said that they wanted NaMei for his late game carry potential and that his Kog’Maw was “really something special."

2014 LPL Spring Champion Pick Data:

Champion Picks W Win Rate (%) Banned
Lucian 17 14 82.35% 1
Caitlyn 8 6 75.00% 0
Twitch 5 4 80.00% 1
Draven 2 1 50.00% 0
Vayne 1 1 100.00% 0
Jayce 1 0 0.00% 0

Edward Gaming’s track record is better known in the Western community than Positive Energy’s, but it’s hard to emphasize just how consistent NaMei’s play was during this time. The Spring season was the era where everyone played Lucian, and NaMei had more lane bully picks in his repertoire than at any other point in his career.

Even so, Edward Gaming wasn't the team to win early. Fzzf plays a much more passive style than he’s often credited with, and he has stated on multiple occasions that he and NaMei struggled to find synergy. Though they were easily the best bottom lane in 2014 LPL Spring, there were obvious stylistic clashes, and NaMei gave up more lane kills early on than he has in any other part of his career until this point.

Edward Gaming played with massive deficits as a result of low jungle pressure and a weak top lane. The difference between Edward Gaming in 2014 and Edward Gaming now is that in 2014, EDG’s carries adapted to their top lane, jungler, and support. In 2015, Koro1, Clearlove, and Meiko play around Deft and PawN.

After several weeks, NaMei and Fzzf fell in. With patient shot-calling, EDG minimized losses until the laners could carry them in team fights. EDG had the best team fighting in China, and likely better team fighting than any team besides Korea’s Samsung Blue.

Despite gaining ground, Edward Gaming wouldn’t take a game off OMG in the regular season. Outside their four losses to OMG, they would drop three games in total. Positive Energy, NaMei's old team, devoid of their star jungler and bottom lane, would tank with JoJo and Aluka at the helm, winning only six games in 28.

The biggest turning point for Edward Gaming that established them as the most dominant team in China came at the International eSports Tournament. Two things went into EDG’s favor at this event; and they were the first team to expose OMG Xiyang’s weak champion pool in picks and bans. NaMei picked up the last of his three most powerful champion picks, Jinx.

EDG swept IET in some of the most memorable Chinese matches of the season. Clearlove camped the mid lane, and NaMei’s Super Mega Death Rockets initiated fights. They always hit multiple targets from down the lane and allowed U to chain his area of effect damage. NaMei would end both games with 100% kill participation.

After IET, OMG went to AllStars with their wounds bleeding, and limped away when SKT took advantage of them. But EDG stood out as the first team to expose them.

NaMei then met both WE and Invictus Gaming, the teams that were at their heights when he entered competitive play, in the 2014 LPL Spring Playoffs. EDG only dropped a single game to WE, and their 3-0 closeout of Invictus Gaming, forcing surrenders, would finally grant NaMei recognition in the West. China once again had a powerful team fighting squad with a monster of an AD carry, and his name wasn't WeiXiao.

2014 LPL Summer Champion Pick Data:

Champion Picks W Win Rate (%) Banned
Lucian 12 8 66.67% 0
Kog'Maw 9 7 77.78% 0
Twitch 8 4 50.00% 0
Corki 6 5 83.33% 0
Jinx 3 3 100.00% 0
Tristana 1 1 100.00% 0
Ezreal 1 0 00.00% 0

The rest of the story tells itself. EDG continued to dominate in China with NaMei standing as a rock in the wake of Clearlove’s inconsistent jungle pressure. When Playoffs occurred, Clearlove came out of the woodwork, and EDG could demolish even their toughest rivals in under thirty minutes.

EDG landed themselves the first seed as China’s representative for the 2014 World Championship where the fact that they crashed, barely escaping groups and losing 2-3 to Star Horn Royal Club, spoke volumes about how essential NaMei’s performance was to the team. NaMei had the worst event of his career until that point, and his team played scattered without him.

The Edward Gaming documentary covered NaMei's illness at the event, revealing that EDG was prepared to use a substitute player in the worst case scenario. Following their poor showing in the Group Stage, EDG continued to have conflicts, performed poorly in scrims and went into their Quarterfinals too cocky.

So the question becomes, with NaMei performing poorly on the international stage, how can one call him the best AD carry in the world for 2014? It comes down to the quality of his domestic competition. China has bred names like WeiXiao and Uzi who have proven themselves on the international stage, but domestically, NaMei has ruled the roost, and that's where we weigh him next.

Continued in Part 3.

Kelsey Moser is staff writer for the Score Esports and an avid excavator of Chinese League of Legends history. You can follow her on Twitter.