Can legendary names of the game ever be forgotten? Certainly, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok will maintain a lasting legacy within the League of Legends eSports scene, his astonishing haul of three World Championship titles have cemented him in the games’ hall of fame. But what of the other victors of the coveted Summoner’s Cup, are their achievements slowly meaning less and less as time goes by?
The World Championship title is the most prestigious title a League of Legends professional can achieve within their career. Riot Games’ annual tournament features the best teams from around the world, all competing to be crowned as the best team on the international stage: ‘World Champions’.
To date there have been six World Championships, with the Korean overlords SK Telecom T1 taking home 50% of them, but that isn’t to say that all of SKT’s previous champions aren’t exempt from their titles decaying gravitas.
A prime example of this is Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, currently representing Cloud9 in the NA LCS. He was the top laner for SKT T1 during their destructive Season 3 run through the World Championships, part of a lineup that has been classed as one of the best of all time. Yet even with a Worlds medal, Impact currently sits on a C9 line-up yet to take home a North American title since his transition, despite being classed as the best top laner in the region.
During the same era as Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong’s spell with SKT, the team’s AD Carry at the time was Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin. Piglet was classed as the best ADC in the world during their World Championship run, but he shocked fans around the world when, after being removed from the SKT roster, he joined Team Curse at the end of season 4. Team Curse were somewhat renowned for being forever stuck in 4th place in the North American scene, with the signing of super star Piglet exciting the prospect of the now Team Liquid organisation, breaking the curse of 4th place, and taking the team to new heights.
Although both of these players have enjoyed a wealth of previous successes, neither of them have ever been able to achieve anything in North America. Whilst Impact has been back to the World Championships, he has never achieved anything more than quarter finals. Piglet has never been back to Worlds. The players’ legacies may pale into insignificance after the years of relative obscurity that follow their victory on the greatest League of Legends’ stage.
Some might brand this phenomenon as an SKT curse, but just this year a more recent World Champion joined the NA LCS. Ex-Samsung White’s Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok joined forces with Rick Fox’s as the new Echo Fox Top Lane import. Despite a strong showing in his first week of the LCS, it certainly doesn’t look like Looper is going to be top of the pack this year; Looper is fading into the shadows.
Why are World Champions making the move to America and not performing as they used to? In short, America is the new retirement home for pros looking to cash in whilst their talent remains competitive.
The NA region allows former greats to keep playing the game, but in a region that simply doesn’t have as high standards as Korea or even China. This act alone is what results in the prestige of a World Championship victory decreasing overtime, since players that have won the games grand prize often move overseas to regions where they simply wont be able to repeat the feat; how much is a World Championship really worth?
No matter which season you look at, it has never been just one player carrying an entire team to a World Championship victory. Once players that have been on Worlds winning teams move to other regions, it gives everyone a pre-conception that they will immediately be able to carry and convert their team in to a top-tier outfit. It’s at this point that any pre-existing reputations quickly unravel and the prestige of a World Championship medal decays to nothing.