Over the last four years, competitive League of Legends has gotten farther and farther from the game you and I play in solo queue. While that may mean that the games have gotten more interesting, it also means that breaking into the competitive scene is harder than ever. And that’s just in North America. In Korea, the world’s most competitive region and where the last five World Champions have come from, that process is even more difficult. At least it should be. But that hasn’t exactly been the case for Griffin.
Griffin is a new esports organization that joined the LCK for the first time this split. Before the summer of 2018, the team was at best a peripheral team in the Korean League of Legends scene. They competed in the 2017 Kespa Cup and managed to make it to the quarterfinals and even in promotion tournament, just a few months ago, they didn’t seem particularly dominant. So, how did Griffin go from what should have been a middle of the road team to an undefeated 6-0 record in LCK and a sweep of KING-ZONE? Well, all it took as a new mid laner.
Mid laner Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon technically joined Griffin back in March, but the 17-year-old didn’t have the chance to play for the team for real until the start of the LCK’s Summer Split. After joining the starting roster, however, it quickly became clear that Jeong was a special talent. So far, in his 10 games in the LCK, Jeong has won all but one and put up an almost unbelievable 14.1 KDA, averaging almost five kills a game. For context, that’s almost two full kills more than any other player in the league, and his KDA is five higher than the next closest player, Jeong’s own ADC, Shin “Viper” Hyeong-seop.
When you start looking at his performance on individual champions. Jeong’s stats become so ridiculous that it’s hard to even tell what they might mean. In his five games on Zoe, Jeong has died once, and has a KDA of 45. Just last night, in Griffin’s first game against KING-ZONE DRAGONX, Jeong absolutely dominated the game on Irelia finishing with a 10/0/5 scoreline leading Griffin to their first of two straight wins against the defending LCK champions.
With a 17-year-old wunderkind taking games over in the mid lane, it would be easy to overlook the incredible play of those around him, but one of Griffin’s greatest strengths so far this split is simply that it has no weaknesses. The team has shown itself more than ready to compete in this unbelievably strange meta, playing funnel comps with Master Yi jungle and Taric mid, safe compositions built around protecting Shin’s Lucian in the mid game and even last night’s Irelia carry game where Shin played Morgana ADC for the spell shield and lockdown. In fact, the only real question remaining for the team is whether or not Shin can play traditional, crit-based, marksmen because he’s really never had to.
As the meta starts to shift back toward something we recognize and the veteran teams begin to settle down, there’s no question that teams will start to challenge Griffin more than they have so far. But there hasn’t been a rookie team that looked this good since the GE Tigers took Korea by storm back in 2015 when they won the regular season and took home second place in both the LCK playoffs and the 2015 World Championship. Now, that team’s former members make up some of the most impressive veteran members of the LCK. With so much natural talent on the team, an impressive ability to adapt to the meta and a superstar mid laner who’s still only 17, Griffin is far and away the most impressive rookie team to enter the competitive scene in years and may be in the perfect place to help push the entire Korean region to new heights.