New year, new team for the Korean once-midlaner Lee "GBM" Chang-suk. A lot has changed since he first chose to compete in the LCS, but if anyone told me a year ago that he would end up playing as a sub jungler for Vitality I would've probably laughed to death at such a heretic prediction. Unfortunately, this is all real, and with some luck, this move can probably save his career from spiraling into oblivion.
Once upon a time... In a faraway land
GBM's hype coming into NA LCS was well deserved despite what anyone who started following the competitive scene in 2016 might think. Out of all the imports that went to North America, he was different. There was this aura gravitating around him telling that he was there to win rather than cashing in NA's big checks. He was regarded as one of the best midlaners in the LCK at that time. But all of his self-improvement that brought him to earn that status had yet to net him any important wins.
It was clear to everyone that he had still a lot of room to grow. So the only reason that I could think of as to why such a player would want to leave Korea is that he desired legitimately of finally winning a regional title and make a run at Worlds.
NRG seemed the perfect fit for him. There was season 3's Worlds winner Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong up top, a thirsty for victory Galen "Moon" Holgate in the jungle, and an untested botlane rocking Johnny "Altec" Ru and Kevin "KonKwon" Koo Hyuk Kwon. Three of the members spoke Korean, and given the fact that the team's ownership had ties with NBA's Sacramento Kings one could imagine that the environment was going to be nothing short than extremely thriving.
GBM had an ok performance in the first week of spring split 2016. But the star play potential that was expected of him was seen very rarely throughout the remainder of spring. He closed the regular season with a 3.98 KDA ratio anyway, and along with Impact's fluctuating performances NRG managed to get 5th place only to suffer a painful 3-0 against Team Liquid in the playoffs.
Summer split started after about two months, and GBM was the only returning member of NRG. No one was fooled by the tale that the organization created the new team around the midlaner. And soon enough, even the most optimistic fan realized that reaching the playoffs was definitely off the table. I could spend a couple of words to at least mention the lineup, but its epilogue was so sad that I'd rather not. It was clear that there was no communication during the games, and the 9th place finish felt, truthfully speaking, very fitting.
But it wasn't the end, yet. In fact, NRG had one last obligation for the 2016 season. It was the Promotion Tournament to await the players. A cutthroat competition between the best Challenger teams versus the last placed ones in the LCS which culminated with the showdown between NRG and the only team that managed to place behind them, Echo Fox. Needless to say that they failed to deliver once more. Therefore, the organization lost the spot in the LCS and closed down its LoL division shortly after.
A chance to start over
Fast forward to 2017 and there we have it. GBM has switched positions and after an offseason full of speculations he found himself as the substitute jungler for Team Vitality. Charly "Djoko" Guillard is the other player with whom he'll have to compete for the starting position, but as of now, nothing suggests that there's going to be a rotation between the two.
I'm not worried about seeing him warm the bench for an entire split. It won't happen. EU LCS, for one, seems to be the only league where most of the teams value meritocracy way above branding.
Focusing on his play will only make him closer to seeing the stage with consistency. And perhaps, as his seemingly lost strengths flourish again, we'll be able to gaze upon the transformation of a great midlaner into an even better jungler. After all, do I need to remind that switching the very same positions gave Samsung Galaxy's Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong his first trip to Worlds after almost six years of competitive play?