A Dynasty of Ice and Fire - Part 1: Origins
The story of Korea's original League of Legends dynasty, their former success and their current struggles
This article was originally published on GameSpot's sister site onGamers.com, which was dedicated to esports coverage.
For the first time in almost three years both CJ Entus Frost and Blaze have failed to make it past the group stage of Korea's The Champions tournament, the most prestigious league in Korea and the best league in the world. The once illustrious dynasty that was synonymous with League of Legends in Korea is battered and bruised. Only Blaze will have a shot at representing Korea at the League of Legends World Championships, which, from the Round of 8 onwards, will take place in their home country.
Frost's and Blaze's contribution to League of Legends in Korea is historic. The organization is home to some of the most recognizable faces in League of Legends. Players such as Flame, Ambition, Madlife, Rapidstar, CloudTemplar and Reapered are often considered superstars in their roles, having accumulated legions of fans and supporters from across the globe. Only the Maknoon led Najin Sword could break the stranglehold of Frost and Blaze at their peak.
Nowadays results are on a slippery slope and despite repeated attempts at overhauls of the two rosters, Blaze and Frost have been consistently overshadowed by SK Telecom T1 K and both the Samsung Galaxy teams. This year will mark the first year that neither team has reached the finals of Korea’s most prestigious tournament
In this multipart chronicle, I'll look at the story of Frost and Blaze. Part One will deal with the initial formation of both teams and the start of MiG.
This story of Frost and Blaze begins at the dawn of Korea's introduction to League of Legends, back to an era when the World Cyber Games was somewhat respected.
The 2011 World Cyber Games was memorable for a number of reasons, most of them related to the train-wreck of the North American qualifiers and the events that succeeded it.
In 2011, Korea’s League of Legends scene was not as advanced as it is now. WCG 2011 was the first major offline tournament in Korea; most of the teams were only formed a couple months prior to contest the qualifications for this tournament. Many pundits in the League of Legends community were anticipating how the Korean's would do in their first offline tournament; some even went as far to call a Korean victory, citing Korea's historic dominance of the Blizzard Entertainment game Starcraft: Brood War.
One of the teams formed for the World Cyber Games was l지존x어둠l (|UltimatexDarkness|), a team consisting of Rapidstar, Woong, Madlife, Ringtroll and Dun1007 who hailed from the Korean community DCInside (think 4chan).
For Rapidstar, League of Legends offered a chance to turn a leaf. Rapidstar was a notorious troll back in the Korean MOBA Avalon Online (the unofficial online version of Dota: Chaos) and was eventually perma-banned from the game. He was stuck in ~1300 elo back then and struggled to climb the soloq ladder until he discovered Anivia. Anivia carried him to 1800 elo (current Diamond 1/Challenger) in a couple of weeks and was his signature champion ever since. Rapidstar was popularly known as the Anivia god in Korea and held it until the European team Counter Logic Gaming Europe landed on the shores of Korea. Rapidstar’s tendencies to ‘troll’ never left him though as he was considered one of the biggest throwers in high elo solo queue during his stay on the North American server.
Honestly I was a giant troll in NA. The person that made me into a troll was "HotshotGG" George Georgallidas. He was considered the best LoL player at that time so when I met him on soloqueue I was tense. However he picked Heimerdinger and trolled the game. He insisted we go double mid and to do Baron at 15 mins. We got around to killing Baron at 15 minutes but lost the game. From that point on everytime I got matched with HSGG I trolled.
After that trolling became a habit. Then I met 'a Lilac.' (Currently LGIM). He was friends with me, he sometimes joked that he will take screenshots of me trolling and send it to Riot. He once even asked Woong for my home address so he can give me a beating. My best trolling record was 67 deaths.
I remember this one time, I met this Korean guy on the enemy team in solo queue. He was trolling just like me, and we tried super hard to make our team lose. We ended up dying like 30 times each, and after the game ended he told me "GG Nice duel"
However the most interesting incident I had on NA was when I met Lilballz (Ex-TPA). Even before the game started he started to say "I am trash, I don't belong in this elo and I must lose" on allchat and started feeding me with Teemo. After I met Lilballz I stopped trolling. Funny though, I met him at season 2 world championships. He gave me 20 ELO and took the Season 2 World Championships prize money haha.Rapidstar on North American Solo queue (Inven, 2014)
Before League of Legends, Woong was known to be an incredibly aggressive player known for the strategy of Axe Diplomacy (the process of going to war with everyone) in the popular webgame Tribal Wars. During the initial stages of his League of Legends experience Woong was a bit of a toplane prodigy and widely renowned for his Jarvan play. His original name on the North American servers was rjsdndgod and he once occupied four spots on the top twenty five of the North American ladder. Godrjsdnd, GodrjsdndGod, rjsdndgod, Godrjsdnd IV. For a Korean playing with approximately 200 ping, this was impressive.
Back then, Madlife didn't play a single ranked game until his 3000th win. He was one of the best AD carries at the time in Korea and was widely known for his Corki play in high elo soloq. He, however, never received the public recognition that Maknoon and Lilac had at that time due to a lack of community interaction. Madlife avoided playing ranked due to the excessive bad manners in ranked ladder, which of course makes the following story quite interesting. Rapidstar, being the troll that he was at that time, consistently attempted to snipe Madlife and troll his games. At one point it spewed into a public feud on DCInside. They eventually made up and joined |UltimatexDarkness| but |UltimatexDarkness| could have been a very different team if the incident sparked a major row between them. A minor clip of Madlife on Corki can be seen below:
Their original jungler, Dun1007, was a prominent Xin Zhao player in the North American servers. Peaking at 2387 elo and possessing a 70% win rate on Xin Zhao, he was invited to join |UltimatexDarkness| soon after.
Ringtroll, also named BadatStarcraft was originally one of the more renowned Blitzcrank and Swain Players in Korea. Nowadays known for his champion guides and comedic broadcasting, Ringtroll was one of MiG's original members and was considered one of the more prominent all rounders in League of Legends. Ringtroll's original name was IHateKorean, but a Rioter changed it to BadatStarcraft.
Although initially formed as group of friends, things changed quickly after the Round of 4.Ringtroll was removed from |UltimatexDarkness| for supposedly helping out |UltimatexDarkness|'s main competition: Extreme Dive Gaming (EDG). No proof was shown so the benching stirred up the Korean community. The team's captain Woong received substantial criticism from the Korean community due private chats leaked by an insider, which stated that he intended to bench Ringtroll and bring in Locodoco. Fires were further incited due to Woong's refusal to communicate with Ringtroll.
Locodoco was added to the main roster during the three month break between the Round of 4 and the finals. Madlife moved from AD to his iconic support position and they also recruited Kang, a former shout-caster of the Blizzard Entertainment games Starcraft: Brood War and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne for the now-defunct MBC games, to help the team manage scheduling. Kang would eventually be promoted to Coach soon after.
Loco at that time was the top tier ADC. He is kind of like Wildturtle presently and he had a lot of knowledge and experience scrimming so he allowed us to scrim with a lot of other strong teams at that time and greatly helped with the growth of MIGWoong, speaking with me about MiG's formation
WCG requested that |UltimatexDarkness| to change their name and thus Maximum Impact Gaming (MiG) was born. The creation of MiG is a rather interesting tale. The story goes that |UltimatexDarkness| wanted something that had potential to go big, names such as Gatorade or Ion were suggested due to the team liking sports drinks. Woong’s suggestion of the team needing to make impactful players led Locodoco to select the word impactful. The acronym MiG also had a impactful connotation in Korea as it was the abbreviation of the flagship MiG class of planes created by the Russian company Mikoyan. A fair number of Koreans pronounced it as “meeg” instead of “em eye gee”.
My team liked sport drinks so we thought of names "Pocari' or "Gatorade" or "Ion". We even thought if we go big we could get sponsorship from these companies. But then we chose 'MIG' in the end. It leaves a big 'impact' to the fans and it has a good meaning.
-Locodoco about MiG (DailyEsports, 2011)
Heading into the finals against EDG, MiG were forced to used a substitute in the best of three due to jungler Dun1007’s unwillingness to commit to the team. This was a particular blow to MiG and especially Rapidstar who had forfeited his national college entrance exam to participate in the WCG Finals.
I had objections from my family but that wasn't the main reason. I actually had a lot of thoughts about playing professionally and at WCG preliminaries I met a few people and joined a team (|UltimatexDarkness|). But when I joined the team and practised there I realised that I didn't want to be practising every day and treating it as a job. So in September, I left the team to go studyDun1007 about leaving |UltimatexDarkness| (ThisisGame, 2012)
Lacking a jungler, MiG recruited Cornsalad, a prominent mid laner known for his Kassadin play, reshuffled parts of their roster to accommodate him (Rapidstar moved to top, Woong to jungle), and headed to G Star 2011 to face EDG.
The birth of a rivalry
The Finals of the 2011 World Cyber Games Korea qualifers were held in Busan at the G Star computer and video games trade show. MiG were facing the favourites to win the competition: EDG and their superstar Maknoon.
Maknoon was the most popular player in Korea at the time, and his team was more preferred by the Korean League of Legends community as they were still angry at MiG for booting Ringtroll. (Ringtroll and Maknoon were at that time, the two most popular streamers).
With an unfavourable crowd, a switch in positions, and a substitute player, things weren't looking so good for Maximum Impact Gaming as EDG looked to breeze through the finals and represent Korea at the World Cyber Games.
Game 1 of the finals went lopsidedly in MiG's favour - EDG madke the crucial error of not banning Cornsalad's famous Kassadin, and the Mejai’s Soulstealer infused Rift Walker wreaked havoc on the the EDG lineup and participated in 89% of MiG's kills, eventually ending with a score of 15/2/10
EDG didn't make the same mistake twice; they immediately banned Kassadin in the second round and sent Maknoon mid to face Cornsalad instead of Hoon. Maknoon's Anivia returned the favour to MiG as EDG managed to convincingly force a third game. Maknoon went 10/0/10 as Anivia and contributed to 83% of his team's kills.
The third game was more even. Despite Maknoon's Jax consistently applying pressure across the map, MiG were still winning most of the fights. Things changed when a major error by Cornsalad caused him to get caught near baron pit and allowed EDG to take a free baron. The power of Baron buff and Maknoon's Jax was eventually too much for MiG to handle, and EDG clenched victory, securing their spot in the World Cyber Games as representatives of Korea.
Lots of disappointing things and a lot of problems looking back. Even our players said we have improved a lot by playing today so I am happy and I feel thankful to the players.
Players usually play in a capsule area with the soundproof booth but today we didn't have earphones the crowd noise going into the headset made team communication impossible and also it’s the first time our players played in a live broadcast and even if I told them you need to speak loud in live games they spoke quietly so we failed massively in the communication
I think this was the biggest reason. And because of this Loco could not call shots.Coach Kang about the finals (Inven, 2011)
Not being able to communicate just screwed us up. We couldn't talk over our pick ban phase or call shots because of it. 1st game wasn't that bad but 2/3 we pretty much lost because of miscommunication
We actually told Cornsalad to pick Brand but he messed up and picked Singed and I think we would've won if we got Brand.Locodoco about the finals (Inven, 2011)
They might not have known it yet, but the events that occurred at G Star would go on to form a rivalry. A rivalry that is informally known as the El Classico of Korean League of Legends esports.
A heartbroken Rapidstar left the team soon after and formed a team called ACE with a player called Fantasystar (now known as Reapered). ACE consisted of Reapered, Ambition, Rapidstar, Pecko and Mightily.
Meanwhile MiG's loss of Rapidstar and the subsequent removal of Cornsalad meant that they had to pick up two new players. The first player, Mask was a midlaner. The second was CloudTemplar. Cloudtemplar was a member of the Woong's MiG Cafe and was ranked 1800 elo on the North American Ladder, which, although good, wasn't at a fully professional level. Nevertheless, Woong saw potential in him and tried him out as a recruit.
He was in a clan I was running at the time. He was famous in NA as a Rammus master and I saw the potential so I decided to recruit himWoong, on the recruitment of CloudTemplar
MiG obtained a gaming house and continued to compete in smaller tournaments that revolved around PC Bangs and online tournaments whilst they waited for the the next major tournament: The OnGameNet League of Legends Invitational in January, 2012.
One of the online tournaments they participated in was a tournament arranged by the popular League of Legends fan-site Inven. This particular competition is noteworthy for a numerous firsts. It was the first time that CloudTemplar played in a tournament with MiG, it was the first time Captain Jack's impressive AD carry skills were showcased in a tournament and it was one of the first times the blind pick mode was used as a decider for a professional League of Legends tournament. Captain Jack's team (henceforth known as Cafe Team) and Maximum Impact Gaming met in the finals of the Inven All Stars tournament.
For the first two games, MiG were dominant, despite a strong performance by Captain Jack in the second game, Cloudtemplar created havoc with his exceptional Skarner play. CloudTemplar and Locodoco obliterated Cafe Team, and it seemed like that the tournament would end in a quick 3-0 to the WCG Korean Regionals finalists.
From game three onwards however, Cafe team stepped it up and pulled off a reverse sweep, taking the tournament 3-2. Captain Jack maybe known worldwide for his Graves and Sivir play, but in this series it was his Ashe that carried Cafe Team to victory against MiG.
In preparation for the invitational, Coach Kang contacted thought about forming a second team to become training partners at the time - something that was unusual of in League of Legends at the time. Captain Jack impressed coach Kang so much that he decided to recruit him as the first member of the secondary team.
When I first had the idea for creating Blaze, the first player on the list was Cpt Jack - not Reapered. While the Inven tournament was going on, I'd already set my sights on Jack as my first choice. His try-out was pretty much over by the time the ro4 came around. Since his try-out was over in the ro4, his acceptance was already guaranteed regardless of the finals' result.Coach Kang (ThisisGame, 2012)
After adding Captain Jack, Kang wanted to trial Reapered but he found that Reapered was already in ACE. Kang offered to take Reapered into MiG. Reapered accepted and ACE was disbanded. This move was not without controversy, however, as members who were not selected now had no possibility of mustering up or joining a team that could compete in the invitational The move was compared to Woong's dismissal of Ringtroll and the Korean community was generally unhappy with the move. Rapidstar returned to the main MiG team shortly after the dissolution of ACE.
After recruiting Cpt Jack, I set my sights on Reapered and tried to get him to try out, but I found that he'd already formed a team called ACE.
At the time, having formed team ACE, Reapered was prepared to commit his own personal savings to running the team. But he fell victim to a scam and lost all the money he'd saved from his previous jobs. He no longer had the necessary funds to run a team.
Since we were regularly in contact at the time, Reapered recommended Ambition and RapidStar to me because they showed exceptional drive to become progamers.
As I witnessed his misfortune, I thought that even just for the sake of the game's competitive development, Reapered must stay in League of Legends. So I invited a now homeless Reapered to our team house, gave him my spot, and began to commute. Originally, the plan had been to find Reapered another team to join, but that didn't work out. After deliberating on what to do, I decided to take Cpt Jack, Reapered, and additionally, Ambition, and create a second team. Then, with the addition of two more members, Blaze was created.Coach Kang (ThisisGame, 2012)
Slightly before the invitational, Maximum Impact Gaming announced the formation of a secondary League of Legends team consisting of Reapered, Ambition, Helios, Lustboy and Captain Jack. Helios was a friend of Captain Jack, who had competed against Captain Jack in a previous amateur tournament and performed well. Lustboy was a substitute of the Starcraft II team Prime and had met Captain Jack and Helios through League of Legends.
The secondary team would be named MiG Fire and the original team would be re-branded to MiG Ice. The names were changed fairly quickly after the names Frost and Blaze were suggested to the team. MiG were now prepared to face two of the titans of League of Legends: Couter Logic Gaming and World Elite at the OnGameNet League of Legends Invitational.
Thanks for reading. Click here for Part two.
Photo Credits: OnGameNet and the World Cyber Games.
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