Royal Never Give Up.
League of Legends World Championship appearances, LoL Pro League titles, stars like Song “Rookie” Eui-jin and Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, and in the case of RNG, the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational title. All of these reasons and more have endeared these three Chinese teams to international audiences. When they take the stage at the Dalian Sports Center Stadium in Dalian, China, for the LPL, LoL Champions Korea, and LoL Master Series Rift Rivals tournament, these teams will not only have a home crowd, but fans all around the world rooting for them.
And then, there is China’s fourth 2018 Rift Rivals representative, the “revenge team,” Rogue Warriors.
Outside of China, few international fans know of Rogue Warriors unless they follow the LPL closely. Rogue Warriors lack an internationally-known superstar or a legacy in Chinese League of Legends history like their Rift Rivals counterparts. What Rogue Warriors do have is a domestically popular lineup that includes former EDG top laner Chen “Mouse” Yu-Hao, former SBENU and IMay jungler Sung “Flawless” Yeon-jun, former Qiao Gu mid laner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang, former Oh My God AD carry Han “Smlz” Jin, and former Young Miracles support Liu “Killua” Dan-Yang. They finished third overall in the 2018 LPL Spring split and are currently first in the West Region standings in 2018 LPL Summer with a 5-1 record.
The story of Rogue Warriors as the LPL’s revenge team begins with the eccentric center of the team: Doinb. And the story of Doinb’s eccentricity begins, like many LPL tales, with an introductory chapter as hilarious as it is unbelievable. At the 2015 Demacia Cup Spring, Doinb’s team, Qiao Gu, fell in the semifinals to Invictus Gaming and faced Team WE in the third place match. Viktor was a strong mid lane pick at the time, and when it went unbanned, WE snapped up the champion for Su “Xiye” Han-Wei. When asked by his players what countered Viktor, QG coach Lee “Hiro” Woo-suk told them Maokai. It’s said that he meant this in a general sense — having Maokai on your team, preferably in top lane, would help counter a Viktor. Yet, Doinb and team took this literally. QG picked Maokai first and Lulu last. Doinb took Maokai to the mid lane, and top laner Bao “V” Bo played Lulu top. “Juggertree” was born, a take on the popular Lulu/Kog’Maw “Juggermaw” combination only instead of playing an aggressive Kog’Maw, imagine an unkillable giant tree tearing apart Team WE.
This anecdote underlines what makes Doinb different than many other mid laners. Doinb is a jungler’s mid laner whose quirkiness, off-meta champion pool, and contentious item builds allows him more chances to support his team with an odd champion pick. His supportive champion choices should never be confused with a passive laning style favored by waveclear mages that also fit into support roles. Doinb often fights for every creep, and controls the minion wave with aggressive lane trading regardless of whether he’s on an assassin, mage, or Nautilus.
After a public falling out with then-QG jungler Baek “Swift” Da-hoon that caused an unprecedented LPL semifinals forfeit, Doinb moved to Newbee Young and back to the Qiao Gu Reapers before that QG lineup was picked up by JD Gaming for the 2017 LPL Summer split. Despite JDG’s 6-10 regular season record, Doinb finished third in the MVP standings due to impressive carry performances on more meta picks like Orianna, Corki, and Galio among other champions. In the 2017-18 offseason, Doinb left JDG for LPL franchise newcomer: Rogue Warriors.
Despite a genuinely friendly and gregarious personality, Doinb also plays with a chip on his shoulder. The constant desire to prove himself to doubters and adversaries has never faded, from his first scrappy QG days, through his feud with Swift, and now as the captain of Rogue Warriors: a team of similarly-minded individuals.
Revenge is a bit too strong of a word for the players of Rogue Warriors. They don’t desire vengeance on specific enemies as much as they desperately play for a strong acknowledgement of their talents. All of these players at one point or another — or for the entirety of their career — have been regarded as washed-up, mechanically skilled but brainless, carried by their teammates, or players who failed to live up to their potential. Each player came with a different public perception from their previous team. Mouse was the anchor dragging EDG down. Doinb was a problem child, whose fight with Swift destroyed a successful playoff team. Flawless had mechanical skill but little else. Smlz could only play well if given all of his team’s resources. Even coach Chou “Steak” Lu-Hsi is fighting against doubt, trying to prove himself away from the individual talent of the Flash Wolves, where he had previously spent the entirety of his career as a player and later a coach.
“Even though the Flash Wolves was more about being a family the underlying concept was everyone having the same goals,” Steak said in a recent Riot Games interview. “It’s the same for Rogue Warriors. Everyone has the same goals. We all want good results”
At Rift Rivals, Rogue Warriors’ greatest asset will be the team’s newfound flexibility that they discovered and honed on the 8.11 patch. Previously, Rogue Warriors relied heavily on playing solely around Smlz. However, the recent meta shifts have shown a new Rogue Warriors where Smlz has been a focal point in standard compositions, but has also branched out into Morgana, Karthus, and Heimerdinger while Doinb becomes the focal player. As always, Doinb excels at making his teammates look good with supportive mid lane picks, but has also carried on top lane champions he has taken to the mid lane like Aatrox and Kled.
All of the criticism, social media dust-ups, and failures throughout the years seem to weigh less on the Rogue Warriors’ players shoulders when they play together. They’re an odd LPL found family that has silenced doubters with success. Rift Rivals gives Rogue Warriors a chance to make a name for themselves outside of the LPL, and prove that they can not only beat some of the LPL’s best, but also face off against top teams from South Korea and Taiwan.