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Korean e-Sports Awards 2013 LoL breakdown

A breakdown of the Korean e-Sports Awards 2013 nominees for League of Legends.

ThisIsGame have reported the nominees for the 2013 Korea e-Sports Awards, with the ceremony awarding the winners to be held on February 7th at 20:00 KST (12:00 CET/06:00 EST). In each category for League of Legends there are three names nominated.

As the awards span an entire year of League of Legends play, with numerous changes in form for most names on the list, I've assembled a breakdown of each name on the list and their likelihood of winning said award.

Top MVP Award:

Jung 'Impact' Eon-yeong (SK Telecom T1 K)

Park 'Shy' Sang-myeon (CJ Entus Frost)

Lee 'Flame' Ho-Jong (CJ Entus Blaze)

Jung 'Impact' Eon-yeong (SK Telecom T1 K)

Impact was once upon a time, back in 2012, better known as the Support player of Xenics Storm, seemingly a lifetime ago. When SKT initially rose, reaching the semi-finals of OGN Spring 2013, he was entirely overlooked as fans fixated upon Mid lane star Faker, who has since gone on to establish himself as the world's best player.

In subsequent campaigns, winning OGN Summer, the S3 World Championship and OGN Winter, Impact has emerged as one of the better Top laners in his own right. Skilled at playing 1v2, with his jungler often understandably occupied on the mid lane, Impact has recorded numerous impressive games on the scoreboard. He is a member of the greatest team in LoL history, but in a time when the Top lane landscape has shifted so heavily, seeing the fall of great Korean players of old, Impact has carved out a spot for himself among the best in a country historically famed for its elite tier Top lane talent.

Likelihood of winning: High

Park 'Shy' Sang-myeon (CJ Entus Frost)

At this point in time Shy really can be considered 'old reliable' when it comes to the Top lane. In the early part of the year he was still considered option 1a or 1b in terms of the best Top laners, continuing to propel Frost to top two placings at OGN Winter and the IEM VII World Championship.

MakNooN winning that OGN Winter final, as the central focus of his Sword team, coupled with the gradual decline of Frost, reaching only semi-finals from then on out and finally failing to reach top four in an OGN season this Winter, has seen Shy's spotlight desert him in favour of the other Top lane stars.

Despite such circumstances, Shy remains one of the best Top lane players in the game, able to survive in the tank meta where the generation before him (Reapered and MaKNooN) have long since departed. He may not bulldoze the Top lane 1v1 as he once did, but he stands as one of the few lights remaining in the dismal and cloud-ridden mess that Frost currently is.

Likelihood of winning: Low

Lee 'Flame' Ho-Jong (CJ Entus Blaze)

2013 should have been the year of Flame, as far as the Top lane goes. Every great Top laner in Korea has had their OGN campaign where they won the championship and established themselves as the best. For Reapered it was OGN Spring 2012, for Shy it was OGN Summer 2012, MaKNooN's turn came in OGN Winter and Flame's moment was supposed to be in the OGN Spring 2013 final.

After leading his team on a 13-0 rampage throughout the series, going undefeated in the playoffs and beating sister team Frost not once but twice, in the semi-finals of OGN and in the final of the IEM VII World Championship, the OGN Spring final was considered to be a pushover for Flame and his Blaze gang. Instead, they found themselves shockingly upset and swept 3:0 by upstarts MVP Ozone, Flame himself suffering an uncharacteristic defeat in the Top lane against Homme.

For that first half of the year, Flame had been a man possessed, rightfully cited as the best player in the world. In the second half the year he would see his team struggling to make a series impact in OGN again. In the OGN Summer campaign the team, sticking with the same line-up, ran its course and lost to KT B in the quarter-finals. A change of players and winning the Korean WCG qualifier allowed a revival, as they would win the WCG Grand Finals themselves undefeated, beating out OMG in the final.

In OGN Winter Blaze looked to be on the rise again, but once more fell to KT B, this time in a competitive four game series that well could have gone to five maps. After winning NLB, it does not seem unreasonable to consider Blaze the third or fourth best team in Korea right now. The relevance of this breakdown of his team's form is that Flame stands out as the star of his team game in and game out.

Capable of either carrying the game outright, famously often reaching a 100 CS advantage against seemingly any Top laner he faced, he has also adapted to the tank meta to shape a solid game which sees him seemingly never lose lane, despite sometimes playing AP or Mid lane champions like Nidalee or Riven. Were I the one deciding the winner of this award, I would grant it to Flame without question, as an individual player and under more trying circumstances, I think his year has been very impressive. Instead, I suspect his chances are more equal with Impact's, depending on how voters take team success into account.

Likelihood of winning: High

Jungle MVP Award:

Bae 'bengi' Seong-ung (SK Telecom T1 K)

Cho 'watch' Jae-geol (Najin Black Sword)

Choi 'DanDy' In-kyu (Samsung Galaxy Ozone)

Bae 'bengi' Seong-ung (SK Telecom T1 K)

Appropriately nicknamed "The perfect one" by Millenium Jungler Araneae, bengi displays that uncanny intuitive sense for where and when to be at the right time, resulting in seemingly flawless Jungle play. A player like DanDy can boast greater mechanics, a Diamondprox might have a bigger individual impact on the game and LoveLin can wow a crowd with his hyper-aggression, but bengi is the player all Junglers around the world look to right now.

Tasked with ensuring Faker, the best player in the world, gets going and stays ahead, bengi goes into every game knowing the opposing team will target and tunnel in on his Mid laner player, and knowing he must each time bring the appropriate response and be in position to prevent the Mid lane from collapsing on his team. His excellent play and his team's incredible record make him a shoe-in to take this award.

Likelihood of winning: High

Cho 'watch' Jae-geol (Najin Black Sword)

watch's inclusion is one of the more surprising inclusions on this list of nominees, at least at first glance. Asked for the top Junglers in Korea over the last season a name like KaKAO would leap out ahead of watch, whose Sword team have struggled in all campaigns following their OGN Winter victory early in the year. That's the key factor here though: the timing of when players had their peaks.

watch's peak was early on and resulted in an OGN title. KaKAO did not see prominence as a top Jungle talent in OGN until inSec moved to the Top lane and they reached the OGN Summer final. Reaching the OGN semi-final in the Winter season, one could make the case for KaKAO being the better jungler than watch, but trophies will always skew perceptions in awards ceremonies. In light of the lackluster year Sword have had since their title, a semi-final run at the S3 World Championship aside, I think it's impossible that watch will leapfrog the two other names here to win.

Likelihood of winning: Low

Choi 'DanDy' In-kyu (Samsung Galaxy Ozone)

In terms of raw mechanical and individual skill, DanDy is the man in South Korean jungling right now. Known for his counter-ganking style, looking for opportunities to create advantage for his team and himself against the enemies approach, DanDy was a big part of pushing his team to the OGN Spring title. Then Blaze jungler Helios must wake up in a cold sweat thinking of what he endured in that final, desperately and unsuccessfully trying to stop his Flame, his team's star, from playing 1v2 against DanDy and Homme.

The S3 World Championship disaster of not progressing from the group stage may have soured some on DanDy and Ozone, as that was the biggest stage for them at the time, but DanDy should carry less of the blame than some of the other members of his team or organisation. With Ozone back in form, he helped to another finals finish this year, albeit against a surprisingly weak side of the bracket, and has three OGN semi-finals or better finishes for the year.

All in all, without a doubt one of the elite Korean junglers, and whether he wins the award comes down to how a voter separates team success, strength of one's team-mates and individual play. I certainly don't see it as a problem if he wins jungler of the year, considering what he has done over the entire year, and I think I'm pretty split on giving it to bengi or him, though I'd probably lean to the former, if pressed.

Likelihood of winning: Medium

Mid MVP Award:

Ryu 'Ryu' Sang-ook (KT Rolster Bullets)

Bae 'dade' Eo-jin (Samsung Galaxy Ozone)

Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok (SK Telecom T1 K)

Ryu 'Ryu' Sang-ook (KT Rolster Bullets)

This category will be the biggest whitewash of the awards, though not through any fault of the other players included. Ryu can well stake a claim to being the second best Mid laner and perhaps the second best Mid laner in the entire world, such has been the level of his play across the year. His problem is that three straight times he has been stopped by Faker, in the OGN Summer final, the S3 Korean Regional final and the OGN Winter semi-final. It's not enough to be very good and be established firmly as the second best, if the guy who is the best is still far enough ahead of you to clearly have a lead.

For the man who once switched from Mid to Jungle, for StarTale, a return to the Mid lane has been the right move all around, and Ryu has compiled an impressive 2013, even if it has been one without any trophies of significance. This was not the right year to be the second best mid laner in Korea.

Likelihood of winning: Very low

Bae 'dade' Eo-jin (Samsung Galaxy Ozone)

When MVP Ozone came out of the shadows to win the OGN Spring final, it was not the expected star at AD Carry, imp, who carried the games. Instead, Mid laner dade showed himself to be the MVP candidate, playing Zed to a high level and outclassing then best Korean Mid laner and veteran Ambition in his lane. At the time some experts even commented that dade had been CJ Entus' mistake, letting the Mid laner go when they disbanded their previous team and bought the two ex-AZUBU sides (Frost and Blaze).

That sentiment has since disappeared somewhat, thanks to dade's utterly horrific performance at the S3 World Championship, largely targeted for most of the criticism. The shift in the meta around the Summer had dade struggling to find champions he could reach a level of comfort on at the biggest tournament of the year. Back in Korea, though, dade has continued to be a consistent performer, helping Ozone reach the semi-finals of OGN Summer and most recently the final of OGN Winter.

Despite such an excellent record of OGN wins, including a title victory outright, dade has absolutely no chance of winning this award. Faker may be the best player in LoL history, has taken two OGN titles and the World Championship. On no level can dade be compared favourably against the monster of mid lane.

Likelihood of winning: Very low

Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok (SK Telecom T1 K)

This one is the most open and shut category on the list, out of the individual categories, and the consensus can easily be reached that Faker was the best Korean mid laner of 2013. Some may even go further and crown him the best player in LoL history, such has been his impact and the overwhelming level of success his teams have accomplished. His team were not only the first to win an undefeated OGN season, the first to win back-to-back OGN seasons and the champions of the S3 World Championship, they did it all with their mid lane star in stunning form.

Playing a team literally built around his talents, Faker does not shy away from or buckle under the pressure. Seemingly impervious to changes in the meta, Faker's champion pool and record on a wide variety of champions is utterly staggering to comprehend. There is no player at any position who plays as many champions to a high degree as Faker. Where a player famed for a wide champion pool like fnatic Top laner sOAZ uses those fringe champions sparingly, often utilising the element of surprise of unfamiliarity in match-up for the opponent, Faker can seemingly pick a new champion and have them become a new main within a week or two.

Likelihood of winning: Guaranteed

AD MVP Award:

Gu 'imp' Seung-bin (Samsung Galaxy Ozone)

Kim 'PraY' Jong-in (Najin Black Sword)

Chae 'Piglet' Gwang-jin (SK Telecom T1 K)

Gu 'imp' Seung-bin (Samsung Galaxy Ozone)

imp, much like DanDy in the Jungler category, is in position to make this category a challenge, with the same criteria going for and against him as his team-mate. Also facing an SKT player, and thus suffering in terms of a trophy comparison, imp's upside comes from considering solely his individual play. Over the span of the year I could well see a case made for him being the best Korean AD Carry, as he has certainly been top two at the position for seemingly the entire of 2013.

Even in games where Ozone have struggled, it seems rare for imp to be entirely overwhelmed, he seems more troubled by the reduced impact of the AD Carry role, with his team no longer able to survive until 40 minutes for him to carry the game or bring them back. Instead he suffers from not having a team on the level of an SKT or KT B, and thus having much more required of him than his SKT counterpart.

Likelihood of winning: Medium

Kim 'PraY' Jong-in (Najin Black Sword)

PraY is the AD Carry's AD Carry, a player who has long since dropped off the radar for many casual fans since Sword's OGN victory, but who is still name-checked frequently by those pros and experts who closely follow Korean LoL. He doesn't have the monumental force of an SKT behind him, to enhance his performances like a Piglet. He doesn't have the elite tier lane parter imp has in Mata.

What PraY has is his veteran knowledge and consistently good skills, which allow him to continue to keep his name up there as an elite AD Carry, even if results mean he is far from being considered the best at the role.

Likelihood of winning: Low

Chae 'Piglet' Gwang-jin (SK Telecom T1 K)

I suspect Piglet will win this award based on both his team's success, as outlined previously for other categories, and also thanks to having his best series in the final of the S3 World Championship, the most watched moment of the year, against the man considered the best at his position at the time: Royal Club's uzi. Piglet's progression and performance have certainly been exceptional, his development as a player seemingly being one of the biggest keys to SKT transforming from Faker and the Fakerettes into LoL's most dominant team ever.

Whether one gives the award to Piglet or imp depend on how much longevity factors in highly, how individual play outside of team synergy is important to a voter and other such more difficult to pin down perspectives. Despite imp having Mata, a great Support, I would even make the case, as I will later, that Piglet has an even greater boon to his cause in getting to lane with PoohManDu. I have no problem with Piglet taking home this award, he was the most effective AD Carry of 2013, that much we can all agree upon.

Likelihood of winning: High

Support MVP Award:

Won 'MaFa' Sang-yeon (KT Rolster Bullets)

Lee 'PoohManDu' Jeong-hyeon (SK Telecom T1 K)

Cho 'Mata' Se-hyeong (Samsung Galaxy Ozone)

Won 'MaFa' Sang-yeon (KT Rolster Bullets)

This was the year in which MaFa could step into the light as a true Support star. In the earlier part of the year, despite his team looking ferocious up until the playoffs, he could be overlooked to the extent many might have thought someone had typo'd "Mata", the Support player of OGN Spring champions Ozone. From OGN Summer onward MaFa has shown us his own versatility and ability to play-make, putting him right up there with his almost-namesake. With the S4 changes, one could even have named MaFa the MVP of KT B's tricky quarter-final series against CJ Blaze, such was his impact on the games.

The other names here dwarf him in terms of pure consistency of big plays and success, so this is not the year for MaFa, but even making such a list, with Support god MadLife essentially bumped for him, should be considered a career highlight for MaFa.

Likelihood of winning: Very low

Lee 'PoohManDu' Jeong-hyeon (SK Telecom T1 K)

With Mata's rise meeting MadLife's gradual, though often vastly overexaggerated, decline as the best Korean Support, it seemed unlikely after OGN Spring that a third name could leapfrog both into the top spot. PoohManDu has quietly built himself a reputation as the world's best Support player, despite most of that recognition not coming his way until the S3 World Championship run, where he still saw a lot of the credit for his lane going over to Piglet.

PoohManDu is a monster, able to control the lane and the game from the Support position, even before the S4 changes. The man who has made Nami look OP, even when she fell out of the typical Support meta, has a seemingly flawless control of his champion's abilities, apparently a result of an obsessive practice schedule. His champion pool is wide enough that he seemingly does not suffer from bans, still finding a way to perform at the highest level.

Even beyond his ability to make Piglet look like the best AD in the world, PoohManDu has shone as the leading figure in SKT, setting the standard and encouraging his troops to follow him towards championship gold. The latter cannot be overlooked as mere lyrical whimsy, in a team where the outright star is still young, it can't be taken for granted that another needs to step up and take the role of emotional leader of the team.

Likelihood of winning: High

Cho 'Mata' Se-hyeong (Samsung Galaxy Ozone)

Mata can seriously make a claim to this title for 2013, but the circumstances of when he was good mean he likely will not win it. In the first part of the year Mata was the first to step forwards and provide some help to imp, establishing Ozone (previously White) as more than just 'protect the imp'. His play-making and vision control drew the praise of many a pro and expert in Ozone's OGN Spring winning campaign.

The S3 World Championship was a disaster for Mata as much as for dade, to the extent it's hard to decide whose crimes were more egregious. While dade may have made bizarre picks and failed spectacularly in lane, Mata seemingly forget how and when to buy and place wards, making it near impossible for his team to put together a solid run in California. Aside from that one tournament, Mata has been the Mata we all expect. Consistently high level, still a force in his lane and a potential heir to the throne of MadLife.

The problem for Mata is that his team's last two OGN runs have been fairly easy, in terms of the opponents they've beaten, and PoohManDu has been so spectacular for the last half a year.

Likelihood of winning: Medium

MVP Team

SK Telecom T1 K

Najin Black Sword

Samsung Galaxy Ozone

SK Telecom T1 K

Impact (Top)

bengi (Jungler)

Faker (Mid)

Piglet (AD Carry)

PoohManDu (Support)

This is absolutely no doubt that SKT will win this category. Winning two OGN titles, the S3 World Championship and the S3 Korean regional is above and beyond anything any other team did not only in 2013, but has ever been accomplished in Korean LoL. Even the OGN season they didn't win, they still made it to the semi-final and took the eventual champions to four games. This is a very special team and one that will never be forgetten in esports history. Even if their reign ends now, with PoohManDu's inactivity due to illness, they have still done more than enough to stake a claim to being LoL's greatest ever line-up.

Likelihood of winning: Guaranteed

Najin Black Sword

Expession (Top)

watch (Jungler)

Nagne (Mid)

PraY (AD Carry)

Cain (Support)

I have listed the current line-up of Sword as it serves to elucidate the problem with them even being considered in this category. The line-up which won OGN Winter was certainly an elite team, and that accomplishment bears contemplation, but since then they have tried a number of roster moves and their results have been poor in OGN and overall simply not impressive, outside of NLB runs and losing in the semi-final of the S3 World Championship. I would have them a distant third to Ozone in this category.

Likelihood of winning: Very low

Samsung Galaxy Ozone

Looper (Top)

DanDy (Jungler)

dade (Mid)

imp (AD Carry)

Mata (Support)

Their overall OGN form, winning OGN Spring, reaching the semi-finals of OGN Summer and reaching the final of OGN Winter, may well have been enough to win them such an award on another year, but this was the year of SKT. As good as Ozone have been at times, at their peak particularly, they are still far from being the kind of team SKT managed to be for the majority of this year.

Likelihood of winning: Very low

Photo credit: inven, Daily e-Sports, Riot, eslphotos, kimbilly