With the conclusion of the 2018 Mid Season Invitational, we have a new international powerhouse in the form of the newly crowned champions, Royal Never Give Up. After an impressive tournament from the Chinese roster, the long term Korean international dynasty has been left shaken. For the first time since the 2015 MSI tournament, a non-Korean team has emerged champions, derailing the Korean hype train. Whereas in 2015 it was Edward Gaming, which came to the tournament sporting a Korean and Chinese hybrid roster following the Korean exodus in season four, this time around it is Royal Never Give Up, spearheaded by their superstar AD carry Uzi.
For Uzi and the Royal organisation, this international win has been a long time coming. Ironically, under a different iteration of the roster in season three, it was Uzi who fell victim to the beginning of Korean dominance. He and his team were decimated by the future long term premier eSports team, SK Telecom T1. In this series, the world of eSports was introduced to Faker, the player who would be the uncontested best player in the game for years to come. Swept aside easily by SKT, Uzi waited, and honed his skills. One year later, in the season four World Championship finals, Uzi again was defeated, this time by the monster that was Samsung White with the infamous roster of Looper, DanDy, PawN, imp, and Mata.
Up until Royal’s recent domestic championship in which they defeated Invictus Gaming, Uzi, despite his massive talent and longevity at the top of the world in terms of his individual skill, has never been a champion. Despite many deep tournament runs, he has always fallen at the final hurdle, often on the biggest stages, such as the season three and four world championship finals. In hindsight, this integrity and determination to be a champion is nothing short of staggering. Despite testing years in seasons five and six in which Uzi did not attend the World Championship, a return to his former club, Royal, now under the name of Never Give Up, showed promising results. Mentoring a rookie to the LPL, Ming, the two had instant chemistry in the bottom lane, and immediately sent a message to a league filled with incredibly talented AD Carry’s such as JackeyLove, iBoy among others. Royal’s performance in the domestic league of Season seven earned them a coveted spot at the World Championship, in which they would have an impressive run before being stopped by Uzi’s former nemesis, SK Telecom. A closely contested series wouldf ultimately conclude with the Korean team advancing. Once again, Uzi felt the sting of international failure.
Coming into the tournament, the winners seemed to have been all but decided. Once again, the Korean representative, Kingzone Dragon X were the odds on favourites, with many analysts predicting they could be the first team to sweep the tournament without dropping a single game, after their dominance in the LCK. After biding his time for several seasons, Uzi and Royal struck at a time when it was least expected. Finishing first in the group, and then advancing past Fnatic with a clean but difficult 3-0 sweep, they once again faced off with the Koreans. However, this time something was different. The Korean hype train was wobbling after looking uncomfortable during the group stage. The Chinese team sensed their weakness, dismantling them in a mainly dominant series, giving Uzi his first international victory.
Uzi’s story as a professional League of Legends player is one of extreme dedication, determination, and patience. His internal motivation is best summed up by his teams slogan – Never Give Up.
By Tom Dowson