The Ballad of Crash and Frozen

1907 Fenerbache is currently in the conversation for the greatest wild card team in League of Legends history.

Climbing atop a pile of dispatched Turkish super teams, Fenerbache qualified for the 2017 League of Legends World Championship after becoming TCL Champions.   It didn’t stop there, living up to the hype assigned to it and upsetting Hong Kong Attitude to take the #1 seed in Group D.

With a best of 5 series with Team oNe eSports from Brazil’s CBLoL on the horizon, 1907 Fenerbache look towards LoL eSports’ biggest stage just one year after the team’s  inception.

However, the journey goes back far longer for star Mid Laner Kim “Frozen” Tae-il and emergency rental Jungler Lee “Crash” Dong-woo.  After forming a fearsome duo on Longzhu Gaming last summer, the old teammates are thrown back together by fate, facing the biggest series of their lives after the most unlikely of journeys.

Burn a Miracle

After spending the entirety of 2015 as the starting Mid Laner for Incredible Miracle, LCK [League of Legends Champions Korea] Season 6 greeted Frozen with a slap in the face.  Incredible Miracle was bought out by Chinese commerce group Suning, and despite putting up solid performances in an environment previously plagued by mediocrity, Frozen was benched in favor of South Korean superstar Shin “Coco” Jin Yeong.  Crash, an electric carry jungler playing for Chinese Challenger team T.Bear Gaming, was slotted in as the substitute behind top Korean Jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun.  Incredible Miracle, now Longzhu Gaming, had a ten player roster packed with talent at every position, and was immediately considered a Worlds contender.

Things…didn’t go as planned.

Longzhu finished 7th in 2016 LCK Spring, and 8th in 2016 LCK Summer.  While many questioned the super team’s ability to gel and reach their full potential, no one predicted the total collapse that Longzhu experienced in 2016.  After a career year in 2015, Chaser struggled mightily, seemingly unable to make magic happen with a star-studded roster just months after working wonders with a far less talented Jin Air Green Wings roster.

Enter Crash.

Crash’s debut in the LCK is without a doubt one of the most exciting debuts in League of Legends history.  He held the #1 spot in Korean solo queue for the better part of 2016, even occasionally managing flame horizons against opposing junglers (!).  While his understanding of the jungle in a competitive setting needed work, his raw talent was undeniable and awe-inspiring.  The “Faker of the jungle” was a ray of hope for the struggling Longzhu, who continued to experiment with multiple roster combinations that all ended up far less than the sum of their parts.

The team eventually found some synergy with Frozen and Crash manning starting roles for an extended period of time, but the late summer surge was too little, too late.

Longzhu cleaned house, cutting the entirety of their starting roster save Crash.  While Crash ended 2016 with a strong rookie year under his belt and a bright future ahead of him, Frozen found himself without a roster spot for the first time in two and a half years.

Frozen’s Domain

[photo courtesy of Riot Games]

A year that started with a slap in the face ended with a gut punch, as Frozen found himself team less following the conclusion of the 2016 season.

Frozen was never a star in South Korea, but his abilities and recent free agency brought with them the expectation that a move to the North American LCS was imminent.  Frozen took a left turn, instead signing with 1907 Fenerbahce, the new League of Legends team under the Turkish sports club Fenerbahce SK.  It was a peculiar move for a player who could have been a top Mid Laner in either LCS, but Fenerbahce was determined to build the next Turkish superteam around Frozen.  Fenerbahce paired their shiny new Mid Laner with Korean Jungler Lee “Reach” Joo-Won, who already had experience playing in Turkey with Team Turquality.  Armed with a powerful Korean 1-2 punch and arguably the strongest Turkish LoL talent in Top Laner Berke “Thaldrin” Demir, 1907 Fenerbahce looked to be a force unparalleled at the wildcard region level.

1907 Fenerbahce wasn’t the only Turkish League of Legends team making big moves, however.  The TCL became an arms race in the 2017 Winter Split, and Fenerbahce struggled to keep up with other Turkish super teams who gelled much quicker.  After finishing 5th place in the 2017 TCL Winter Split, Fenerbahce fell to eventual TCL Winter champions SuperMassive.

Fenerbahce swapped out Reach for former Gravity and Unicorns of Love Jungler Kang “Move” Min-su.  This time, Fenerbahce realized their potential, taking 1st place at 2017 Rift Rivals – Green and winning both the 2017 TCL Summer Split and 2017 TCL Summer Playoffs.  Frozen and Fenerbahce’s investment in one another, and the TCL, while initially a head scratcher, proved to be a stroke of genius.

Crash Landing

[photo courtesy of Vici Gaming]

Back in Korea, Crash was enjoying having a super team assembled around him to begin 2017.  Longzhu’s big splash signing of former ROX Tigers ADC Kim “PraY” Jong-In and Support Kang “GorillA” Boom-hyeon gave them the firepower they were looking for with previous roster iterations, but this time with built-in synergy.  Re-signing workhorse Gu “Expession” Bon-taek in the top lane and utility maven Song “Fly” Young-jun in the mid lane seemed like the perfect moves to counterbalance the star studded Bot Lane and the hard carry style of Crash in the jungle.

Despite forming a far superior roster in terms of compositional dynamics this time around, Longzhu again fell short.  PraY and GorillA retained their form as a top tier bot duo, but the rest of the team left a lot to be desired.  Expession and Fly struggled to fulfill their roles in Longzhu’s game plan.   Crash regressed, still possessing the raw talent of a star carry Jungler but failing to convert his skill to consistent competitive performances.  After missing the 2017 LCK Spring Playoffs, Longzhu took their roster back to the lab.  When the dust settled, Crash found himself back in China, starting for the recently relegated Vici Gaming in China’s secondary professional league, the  LSPL.

Crash performed well in the 2017 LSPL Summer Split, leading Vici Gaming to a 1st place finish in the 2017 LSPL Summer Split.  Vici then went on to win the 2017 LSPL Summer Playoffs, but for someone   once called the Faker of the jungle, a LSPL title isn’t exactly the type of hardware you’d expect on the shelf.  Crash, while victorious, was forgotten, vanishing from the public eye of the LoL eSports scene as quickly as he arrived.

An Unlikely Reunion

[photo courtesy of Riot Games]

1907 Fenerbahce was riding high.  Not only did it qualify for the World Championship, but it managed to avoid China’s Team WE, North America’s Cloud 9, and Europe’s Fnatic in the Play-In Group Stage Draw, seeding into Group D with Rampage and Hong Kong Attitude.  Japan’s Rampage was perceived as inferior due to the gap in regional strength between Japan and Turkey.  HKA qualified as the #3 Seed from Taiwan’s LMS [League of Legends Master Series], but it required a miracle regional gauntlet run from the lowest rung on the ladder that would have made Cloud 9 fans sweat.

This was the best case scenario for Fenerbahce.  If able to avoid any issues before hitting the rift, Fenerbahce looked poised to escape Group D, potentially as the first seed if it was able to upset HKA.

Disaster struck the day before Fenerbahce’s Worlds debut.

Move was deemed ineligible to compete in the 2017 League of Legends World Championship due to visa issues.  The news rang like a death knell – before signing Move, Fenerbahce was a mid-tier team in Turkey.  Move’s wealth of experience and innovative, cerebral approach to jungling is integral to Fenerbahce’s success.  The outlook was bleak for the TCL champs.

Crash filling in for Move was the perfect storm.   Fenerbahce experienced a last minute roster malfunction in a country halfway around the world with absolutely zero time to prepare.   But here was Crash, fresh off of an LSPL championship, local to the area, and armed with pre-developed synergy with Frozen from their days on Longzhu.

It wasn’t Move, but it was a pretty good plan B.

Plan B ended up being enough.  Crash fit immediately into the Fenerbahce game plan with only two days of practice, showing strong play on the team’s comfort junglers Gragas [29 games in TCL Summer] and Nidalee [11 games in TCL summer].  Crash masterfully catalyzed Fenerbache’s “trickle down” style of play – after capitalizing on individual advantages gained by the consistent and excellent Thaldrin, both Top Laner and Jungler would rain down on mid lane to unlock Frozen’s high octane playmaking.

After gaining advantages on the top side of the map,  Crash and co would unleash a torrential downpour on the bottom lane.   Support Bahadır “Japone” Çolak  would set them up for tower dives and teamfights with his affinity for playmaking, working with his teammates to open windows for Ege “padden” Acar to unleash DPS on hyper carry picks like Tristana and Kog’maw.

Of course, when that didn’t work, Crash had a backup plan.

Fenerbahce finished tied for 1st in Group D, having split with Hong Kong Attitude before upsetting them again in a tiebreaker and claiming a #1 seed for the Play-In Knockout Stage.

Who knew Crash had a Move cosplay he was saving for a rainy day?

 

1907 Fenerbahce is favored to defeat Team oNe eSports in the Knockout Stage.  If it is successful, Crash and Frozen will take their first steps onto the Worlds main stage – not for Korea, but for Turkey.

Two former teammates, thrown together once again by the most unlikely of circumstances, will face their biggest challenge yet.