Longzhu Gaming: The wrath of Khan

Alex Manisier Columnist

By , Alex Manisier is a Roar Expert

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    Who will find the wins they need to reach the League of Legends Worlds stage? (Photo: Twitter)

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    Longzhu are the new LCK champions, and it’s thanks to their newly crowned king in the North.

    I’m not much of a Star Trek fan. I grew up too late for it to have a big influence on my life – Dragon Ball Z was to me what I assume Star Trek was to geeky kids growing up in the 80s. But The Wrath of Khan was one piece of Star Trek media that made an impression on me.

    The acting was kind of campy and the special effects weren’t on the level of its sci-fi competitors, but Khan was an incredibly compelling villain (and not just because [William Shatner’s yelling “KHAAAAN!” was one of the early Internet memes that I can recall).

    And so it was with a touch of amusement that I welcomed Longzhu Gaming’s new top laner Dong-ha ‘Khan’ Kim into the LCK. I’m a complete sucker for players with badass IDs, and as far as badass IDs go, you can’t do much better than Khan.

    There is a bit of background behind this guy if you’re enough of a hipster back in 2016, and real OGs will remember him as PRIME Optimus’ Hanlabong, who took out SKTelecom T1 S (the Easyhoon freak show) with his Jax.

    Apart from that, no one could blame you for not knowing who Khan was when he debuted in Longzhu’s 2-0 sweep over KT Rolster in his first LCK match. But now, as Longzhu claim their title as the kings of Korea, you’d have to be hiding a very comfortable rock to not know his name.

    This kid has been downright special all split long, and while I think it’s too early to be calling him the best top laner in the world, his trajectory is eerily similar to Smeb’s: a relative nobody who made a sudden and sharp comeback on an upstart Korean team.

    In some sense, this championship almost feels like it came too early for him, as if we didn’t get enough time to appreciate his greatness before seeing it validated. It’d be like if LeBron somehow won that series against the Spurs in 2007.

    Of course, the rest of Longzhu are no pushovers. PraY and Gorilla could easily claim to be the best bottom lane in the world (and they certainly are the best at absorbing pressure), and Bdd has improved markedly since his CJ Entus days. But it’s been a while since we’ve seen an elite Korean team (Longzhu are elite now, in case you missed the memo) so willingly hand a rookie the keys to the kingdom.

    While there was a stretch of the season where it was difficult to win without running a carry top laner, as playoffs approached, teams were getting away with playing more Maokai and Gnar. That’s what makes it so stunning that Longzhu powered ahead with Khan at the helm – no one would have blamed them for playing it safe under the biggest spotlight of their career and leaving it up to the veteran leadership of their bot duo.

    But power ahead they did. Khan got Jax in Game 1, and while Untara didn’t play terribly, as anyone who’s ever had to play against Jax in solo queue knows, if you don’t outright win the lane, you lose the lane. SKT farmed for the mid game with a macro-friendly Shen/Tahm Kench comp, but Longzhu’s unbridled aggression caught them off guard as Khan continued to snowball like he has all season.

    SKT looked great in Game 3, shutting down Khan’s Camille and nearly playing a perfect game, but Games 2 and 4 were textbook Longzhu: give Khan Jayce, don’t let the other team farm, and snowball to a win. Their dominance over the world’s greatest League of Legends franchise raises a few questions: how will teams deal with Longzhu at Worlds? Is Khan here to stay, or is he just a product of the metagame? Aren’t SKT just going to roll up and destroy everyone again?

    Well, there’s nothing we can do but sit back and watch. This is Khan’s world – we’re all just living in it.