After finishing fourth in their first season in the EU LCS, Spring Split playoff semi-finalists Misfits have removed jungler Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon from the team roster. In a surprising move, it is understood that Misfits will terminate the Koreans contract immediately, offering the player a severance package as compensation. ESPN eSports are reporting that the team are in the process of acquiring Team ROCCAT’s Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian as a replacement jungler.
Misfit’s decision to remove KaKAO from the roster is certainly a curious one. The jungler impressed during the opening weeks of the EU LCS Spring Split, though his performance admittedly declined as Misfits concluded their regular split campaign and headed into playoffs. KaKAO’s disappointing performance against Fnatic in the 3rd/4th place playoff has proved to be his last in a Misfits jersey.
Misfits, who are now partially owned by the Miami Heat, acquired KaKAO as their headline signing ahead of the Spring Split. KaKAO first established his reputation with Korea’s KT Rolster in 2012, playing with the organisation until 2014. After demonstrating his jungle prowess throughout Season 4, the 20-year-old was one of many Korean players to leave for China during the fabled Korean Exodus, joining Invictus Gaming.
Though he was paid healthily for his services in China, KaKAO never rediscovered his LCK form with Invictus Gaming, finishing in third place in both the spring and summer LPL playoffs. KaKAO left Invictus Gaming after Worlds, going 2-4 and getting knocked out in the group stage. After languishing in the Korean challenger scene, the move to Europe was supposed to provide KaKAO with an opportunity to re-ignite his professional career.
The decision to offer KaKAO a severance package to push the Korean out the door will require some explaining from the Misfits organisation. Typically, even if an organisation is looking to upgrade within a certain role, they will first attempt to sell their current talent to any interested parties. KaKAO is without doubt still good enough to attract the interest of Misfits’ rivals, though whether Maxlore is a significant upgrade over the Korean is doubtful.
If the rumours are to be believed, Misfits are clearly very keen to lock down Maxlore as part of their plans for the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split. After a poor start to the season, ROCCAT recovered to narrowly miss out on playoffs, beating champions G2 eSports in the process. Maxlore proved his value towards the end of the Spring Split, earning the praise of analysts and fellow professionals alike as Team ROCCAT avoided relegations once again.
Where KaKAO finds himself playing next season is open to speculation, though many voices within the community are predicting the jungler may opt for a move to North America. As one of the poster-boys of the Misfits League of Legends roster, the organisation are facing an identity crisis heading in to the summer.
As one of the most iconic figures from an era of Korean jungling prowess, KaKAO was showcased as the headline name of the MSF team. As a new name to the EU LCS, KaKAO’s previous heroics served to quickly establish a cult following for the Misfits brand. Having forcibly removed their jungler, Misfits may also have lost a significant portion of their inherited fanbase.