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Slingshot: Bdd's breakout split came after a peculiar path

slingshotesports&178 Time:8/13/2017 9:00:00 AM +00:00

Like so many things in professional League of Legends, the story of mid laner Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong begins with Faker.

The debut of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok in April 2013 for SK Telecom T1 #2 was a once in a lifetime experience. His solo kill of CJ Entus Blaze’s Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong remains a legend: The first chapter in a career that is already legendary across all esports.

Faker’s first game cast an impossibly long shadow over innumerable professional League of Legends introductions. He looms in the background of every prodigious solo queue player’s debut, daring them to have a similarly impactful demonstration of skill. His shadow has only lengthened since the minimum age requirement of a professional was raised to 17 years old before the 2014 competitive season. Faker was 16 in his first match. He turned 17 the next month. 

Fans and analysts alike now mark their calendars with the 17th birthdays of solo queue prodigies attached to teams. They track players like fans of Korean pop music follow pre-debut trainees of the Big Three. Solo queue exploits are quickly compiled into highlight reels and distributed to eager masses, who wait with anticipation for the player to make a flashy entrance, like Faker did at Ambition’s expense.

Bdd is a ’99 liner, who turned 17 on March 1, 2016. Before his birthday, he was called the savior of CJ Entus, the player who would restore glory to an aging but legacy organization.

Now, he’s the star mid laner of League Champions Korea regular season champion Longzhu Gaming. It took more than a year to get to this point. From his pre-debut hype, that year felt even longer.

Through the Eyes of the West

Followers of Korean League of Legends knew the name Bdd long before his debut thanks to his Zed and LeBlanc solo queue highlights, along with no small amount of hype from a few Western coaches and analysts who scrimmed the mid laner while bootcamping in Korea when Bdd was still a CJ Entus trainee.

“When I first watched Bdd in scrims versus Origen, I was amazed,” said Naser Al-Naqi, current head analyst for Misfits. At the time, he was a remote analyst for Origen, who became well-acquainted with Bdd’s play.

“To put things in perspective, Bdd was facing the veteran xPeke (Enrique Cedeno) who was at the backend of his prime,” Al-Naqi said. “During the entire boot camp, playing versus teams from various regions, not once did xPeke have a hard time in lane. On top of that, he never got solo killed in scrims. Not until he faced Bdd at least.”

Slowly, talk of Bdd increased in analyst and fan circles in the west, thanks in large part to his performances against Origen, which later became a 2015 world semifinalist.

CJ Entus failed to make the League of Legends World Championship that year. Its stable of veterans ran out of steam in the LCK summer playoffs and regional finals, losing to the KOO Tigers and Jin Air Green Wings, respectively. The beginning of the upcoming 2016 spring split was seen as a race against time, a test of how long CJ — led by support Hong “MadLife” Min-gi — could hold out until Bdd became eligible to play that March.

Since Faker’s debut, not only has the age requirement changed, but the game itself has made it far more difficult to solo carry a team. With each passing year, League of Legends becomes more team-oriented. Even if a player has a standout solo performance, it hardly guarantees that team a victory. Still, the buildup to Bdd’s first match rose to a fever pitch.

Bdd started immediately over Kim “Sky” Ha-neul after his birthday, gifting CJ a four-series win streak over Kongdoo Monster, SBENU Sonicboom, Samsung Galaxy, and Longzhu. He was strong and sometimes flashy, even in game losses. Fans cheered when he brought out his signature solo queue pick of Zed against SBENU, and CJ appeared to have made it after all. There was still a chance at playoffs. Bdd had, indeed, saved the team.

Yet, Bdd’s actual debut was a Game 1 loss on Lulu against Kongdoo Monster, the last place team in the league. He often looked uncoordinated with his teammates, especially jungler Park “Bubbling” Jun-hyeong who, to Bdd’s credit, had no idea where to be on the map and when.

Prior to his arrival, CJ had relied on bringing top laner Park “Untara” Ui-jin to the bottom lane and pouring all of the team’s resources into AD carry Ha “Kramer” Jong-hun. Bdd was a better mid laner than Sky, but he didn’t communicate with the team as well. When CJ began to lose, Sky returned to the starting lineup more often, much to the dismay of Bdd fans domestically and internationally. His first season ended with a whimper and CJ Entus relegated from the league for the first time in the organization’s history.

Longzhu’s Benchwarmer

When Bdd joined the new Longzhu lineup, followers of the mid laner breathed a collective sigh of relief. CJ had proven a terrible organization for Bdd’s development — it also hampered the development of other players such as jungler Kang “Haru” Min-seung — and a new Longzhu lineup anchored by the former ROX Tigers bottom lane of Kim “PraY” Jong-in and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon appeared to be the perfect environment to nurture Bdd’s talent.

Yet, with the 2017 LCK spring split underway, Bdd spent more time tweeting about his mother’s restaurant than loading up in the booth for Longzhu while Western fans clamored for his return to the starting lineup.

Former KT Rolster mid laner Song “Fly” Yong-jun started all 45 of Longzhu’s games in the spring split, drawing most of the community’s criticism against Longzhu as a whole, especially with Bdd on the bench. Jungler Lee “Crash” Dong-woo became more of a liability than an asset, Koo “Expession” Bon-taek was an average top laner that split, and though PraY tried his best to drag the team out of mediocrity, Longzhu finished well out of playoff contention in seventh place.

Beyond the visible coordination problems on the Rift, internal issues were uncovered in the offseason, adding context to Longzhu’s failings. Many of the players had not been paid on time, contracts were delayed, and KeSPA took the helm of the team in June.

LCK Summer Finalists

After the allegations surfaced, Longzhu’s summer trajectory appeared nebulous. Even with a slight roster shakeup, the departure of Fly, and the arrivals of top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha and rookie jungler Moon “Cuzz” Woo-chan, Longzhu was a hard sell because of its inconsistent past, both externally and internally.

As it turned out, Longzhu and Bdd fans had nothing to worry about. The team has rarely dipped below first place in the standings and never fell further than fourth for the entirety of the summer. Longzhu qualified for the summer finals Sunday with a 2-0 sweep of Samsung Galaxy in the final match of the regular season.

Much of Longzhu’s success is owed to Bdd who, in his third split, has had the career season that seemed possible based on his early solo queue escapades and scrims against 2015 Origen. Boasting monstrous statistics including an 11.3 KDA for the split, Bdd is a near immovable presence in the Longzhu mid lane, granting Cuzz a bit more room to make mistakes and move around the jungle with ease. Recent shifts in the support meta allow for both GorillA and PraY to be initiators for the team, while Khan’s laning exploits have earned him his own individual highlight reels.

“Now the community can finally witness why Bdd was so well-touted back in 2015 and early 2016,” Al-Naqi said. Not only is he laning excellently, but he is one of the playmakers on this star-studded roster. I am really pleased to see him fulfill his potential and hope to see him at Worlds so that the international community can notice him.”

Thanks to Al-Naqi and Origen’s scrims, it would appear that many in the international community already had noticed, and were similarly waiting for Bdd to find his spotlight.

Now, and perhaps for the rest of his career, Bdd has finally shed the spectre of Faker that is assigned to every trainee — especially mid laners — prior to their professional debut.

He didn’t have the once in a lifetime moment against Kongdoo Monster in 2016. He was replaced during his first competitive split. He spent his second professional split warming the bench of a different team. Like many successful League of Legends players, all Bdd needed was time and the right environment to help him mature.

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