With the last spot to Worlds on the line in tonight's Korean Regional Finals, the Jin Air Green Wings are on the verge of rewriting their dark history. To be perfectly blunt, they are one of the worst organizations in League of Legends history. Since coming into the professional scene with two teams made up from the remnants of Repeared's SKT T1 #1 squad and ahq Korea, Jin Air's story has been a dark comedy: with themselves serving as the punchline.
To put things into perspective, no team in Jin Air's history has ever gotten past the quarterfinals of any Champions season. The Stealths and Falcons both made their way to the Top 8 on the rare occasion, but they were knocked out of the tournament by stronger competition — usually in an embarrassing blowout fashion. 2015 was the year where the Jin Air Green Wings were supposed to evolve from cannon fodder to a main character, but it turned out to be more of the same for the Stealth and Faclons' combined rosters.
Jin Air looked good for the first few weeks of the season before they showed their true colors of being a weak team with lack of strategic depth. During the Spring Split, the Green Wings appeared to be one of the league's Top 3 teams, but they met the same fate in the first round of the playoffs as CJ Entus, a team that also showed glaring faults in their consistency, beat up on them.
This Summer, the season where you'd like to believe the Jin Air plane would fly as high as the sun, was even worse. Frankly, it was the same formula: Jin Air's defensive, kiting style that they're renowned for pushed them to the top of the standings in the first half of the season, and the second part of the season was their aircraft getting too close to the season before it took a nosedive down the ladder.
In the most embarrassing match of their franchise's history, Jin Air went into the final few weeks of the season with a strong chance to make the playoffs. All they had to do was beat the SBENU Sonicboom to keep up in the race for the final two postseason spots. SBENU were a rookie team made up of amateurs that were green, inexperienced, and were still learning their ways. Oh yeah, they also failed to secure a single series win throughout the course of the split. Meanwhile, The Green Wings were a team full of veterans that had gone through strife, battled through long seasons, and even battled closely with the best teams in the league at one point.
Jin Air lost to SBENU. Their playoff hopes were doused. They were, once again for the umpteenth time, a joke. The Green Wings missed the playoffs after ending the first half of the season in the Top 2 spots, and they were thrown down to the bottom of the Korean Regional Gauntlet. Heading into The Gauntlet following SKT's win over KT Rolster in the league's finals, Jin Air were a complete afterthought. No matter how much they tried to play a smart, calculated style, it would always end with them somehow becoming the fools.
Enter The Gauntlet: the forgotten Green Wings are placed in the opening round against NaJin e-mFire, the team that routinely made miracles happen. If Jin Air were the team that always failed at the last possible second, then NaJin were the complete opposite. NaJin always made Worlds, either through garnering enough circuit points or rolling through the gauntlet in upset fashion.
The Green Wings were the choke artists that disappointed at every turn.
NaJin were the team that would always find a way to pull through and make the World Championships.
The Green Wings not only won against Korea's three-time Worlds participant, but it only marked the second time in the franchise's history that they had ever made a semifinals. The only other time? Back in the summer of 2014 in the NLB, Champions' minor league, where the Jin Air Stealths beat the Jin Air Falcons to make the Top 4. After that huge victory, the Stealths were eliminated by SK Telecom T1 K in the Round of 4, and NaJin White Shield beat the Stealths in the third-place match.
So, in Jin Air's entire two year history, their best all-time finish was fourth place in Champions' minor league. Even Incredible Miracle, the other team that has constantly lost in Korea over the years, has won a tournament before: that being the IEM event held in Sao Paulo back in 2013. Counter Logic Gaming, Incredible Miracle, and all of the teams you'd compare to Jin Air have at least made a finals somewhere in their organization's history.
After beating CJ Entus in a close 3-2 series in which they almost lost when up 2-0 at the start, marked the first time that Jin Air has ever been in a final of an event. They are three game victories against KT Rolster away from not only going to their first premiere international event, but the biggest one imaginable.
The team's mid laner, GBM, personifies everything that Jin Air is and what it could become with a victory tonight. When he came into the league, he was passed over as a mere joke. He had bright bleached hair, always wore bow ties to represent his love of the British show Dr. Who, and was merely seen as an Orianna player that couldn't do anything on any other champion. To make things even worse, he was on CJ Entus Frost, the most famous and popular team in South Korea, which put a spotlight on all of his failures.
The funniest thing about GBM's growth these past few months is that he wasn't even supposed to be Jin Air's starting mid lane this year. Fly, the Stealths' mid at the end of 2014, was a prospect on the rise and looked to be the player that possibly could turn the franchise's fortunes around. In true Jin Air fashion, Fly left the team before the 2015 season, jetting off to join Invictus Gaming in China, and leaving the Green Wings with GBM as their starter. The player that almost no one wanted or thought could amount to anything has led the rejuvenated Jin Air from the brink of complete despair to give them one shot — something that might never come again for the repeat losers — to make the World Championships.
Above all else, GBM wants to make an international tournament. When I interviewed him six months ago, he note that he wanted to play against the best teams from every country. Jin Air, a team that's never even made a final of a tournament before tonight, has never given him the chance to go abroad to see the rest of the world and meet the other great players across the globe. Following his emotional win against CJ Entus last night to put the Green Wings one match away from Worlds, the emotion was clear on his face: one more win.
One more victory to take flight and see the world that has been locked away in chains his, and Jin Air's, entire pro-gaming career.
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger is a staff writer for theScore eSports who covers the North American LCS and Korea's Champions.