They were the rejects, the forgotten ones, when Koreans moved to China for a better life and only the strongest managed to keep spots in all the big teams this group of failures had nothing, some were past their prime and some had never really accomplished anything major but they didn’t give up. One last shot, they thought, maybe this time something will click. They tried their hardest and it worked, the team of nobodies skyrocketed to the top. The dream was there! Defeating opponent after opponent, showing the world they were not done yet, they could still bring up a fight and best the top competition. The end was coming and the group was in heaven, everything going right but then it didn’t. A shameful loss to a lesser opponent and coming back to reality a big fall ending in a disastrous loss to the hero’s biggest rival. Everyone gave up on them again, but once more the heroes persevered and kept fighting coming back inch by inch until almost tasting victory again but falling short by a bit one more time. On the latest adventure the KOO Tigers fought the hardest test of them all, beating all the opponents in their way found themselves with just 1 team standing between them and glory, old rivals they could never defeat but this is their chance, one last time this team will have to prove they are not the old group of rejects that were ignored before they deserved the glory and only one team stood in their way.
This could be the premise for an anime tale, but its real life and this is the KOO Tigers for you. Five players that lost spots in all big Korean organizations after sister teams were prohibited. Most expected them to disappear into retirement but they were not done, pulling a team no one thought much about Smeb, Hojin (previously Lee), Kuro, PraY and Gorilla formed the HUYA Tigers and attempted to qualify for the champions league, which they did with ease but still the crowd was skeptical, many thought Pray was way past his prime and Smeb, hojin and Kur0 were nothing more than a bunch of mediocre losers who never made it past a quarterfinals in the old OGN format. Gorilla was the only player with some pedigree attending one OGN Final and the 2014 World Championships.
But still this team came out swinging in the Spring of 2015 winning 7 BO3’s in a row, dominating everyone including the dominant, SK Telecom. But what did this team do so right to turn all those losers into the so called at the time “Best team in the world”? Three thing pop up immediately: Revitalized players like Pray and the rise of star Top Laner Smeb.
Innovation to the meta, most notably the Juggermaw a composition that revolutionized protect the AD Carry into a whole new level, early Pray positioning on Kogmaw was nothing but aggressive and sublime, the use of Lulu to bait teams into engaging to the poor little void creature was almost comical to see teams disintegrate like a moth in a fire.
The biggest factor comes into play, Friendship. In times where Korea was recovering for losing most of the top tier players, new teams meant new synergy, developing team cohesion is one of the biggest challenges of a professional team it takes time to happen naturally; however, the KOO Tigers were quick onto it. This group of five are not only friends but they are an actual team, caring about their teammates, and help each other out. It’s really amazing getting to listen to some of their communications, Kuro will cheer for the Bot Lane when they go for a 2v2 all in, the team will be laughing and having genuine fun even in heartbreaking defeats bringing a much more upbeat light atmosphere with low pressure which has helped create the tightest mid/late game shot calling in the world, overcoming deficits, immaculate rotations and team fighting. The Union between the players makes it very easy to shotcall and makes them have a special cohesion that is rarely seen. Another good example of this is Cloud 9, when Hai is the one shot-calling, all the players will carry on the orders they were given having no second thoughts, just trusting their shot-caller.
There is no team without a flaw, and these flaws could be the demise of the heroes against the tournament favorites SKT. Hojin the Jungler is definitely a big weak point, sometimes his jungle pathing is not the best and is prone to fall really behind in cs if his ganks do not work. This was showcased in the Semi-Finals against Fnatic while playing Zac. He was constantly behind of Reignover on cs and not doing really much in the map either. He did compensate with some very good late game team fighting; however, Bengi will not forget about these mistakes and could tip the balance for the former world champions. Another weak point is the early game, usually the KOO Tigers will fight from a gold deficit because of their lackadaisical laning phases and Hojin’s weakness in early pathing. This is their biggest issue going into the World Finals because SK Telecoms strengths lies in early moves from Bengi and accelerating the pace of the game with brilliant Solo Laners such as Marin and Faker. Taking turrets fast and accumulating gold to just blow out the opposition by skirmishing and fighting with just more resources, Smeb and friends will need to weather the storm and try to stall until they can outshine in the late game; however, this is no easy task!
It will be undoubtedly an uphill battle for the KOO Tigers. This team is hungry for to win the World Championships, they want to prove there is still juice in them, that they will not be forgotten. The KOO Tigers are not the rejects anymore.
Written by Wannabe
Edited by Williaf