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A Returning Opponent - CoreJJ And His Enemies

Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

28th Jul 2021 11:28

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Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in is one of the best and most pivotal imports the North American scene has gotten to witness. Two straight League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) titles, two LCS MVPs, and a Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) runner up, he’s done it all. That’s not even counting his success over in his home region of Korea. Adding both of these up means he’s gotten to face a number of opponents.

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CoreJJ hasn’t always had accolades tied to his name, like many League of Legends pros, he first had to will his way to the top. As an AD Carry in Korea, CoreJJ played in three different teams spanning just two years. He first got his start on team Beggars - a short four-month stay - from there he joined Bigfile Miracle. At Bigfile Miracle, CoreJJ, or as he was previously known, Core, got to compete in the HOT6IX Champions Summer 2014 tournament. At this tournament, the team underperformed colossally, losing all six of their games and placing in last in their group. 

This tournament had several of the big Korean names that are still known to this day. CJ Entus Frost had their own powerhouse of players, namely the support pioneer himself, Hong “MadLife” Min-gi and top laner Park “Shy” Sang-myeon. He also had to face the sister team of SKT Telecom T1 K, SKT Telecom T1 S, which in itself was a formidable team. This team housed players like top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-Hwan, the duo of Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan and one of the best back-up players the game has ever seen, mid-laner Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon. 

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Those teams were just a preface though, as Core and the rest of his crew were also tasked with facing soon-to-be World Champions, Samsung White. And not just World Champions, perhaps one of the most dominant World Champions the game has ever seen. This team was made up of star players in every role: Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok in the top lane, Choi “DanDy” In-kyu in the jungle, Heo “PawN” Won-seok in the mid lane and the bottom lane duo of AD Carry Gu “imp” Seung-bin, and Support Cho “Mata” Se-hyoung. This tournament was just the start for CoreJJ when it pertains to what opponents he’s faced. 

After the poor performance at the HOT6IX Champions Summer 2014 tournament, the roster was released in September of that year and later joined Quvic E-Sports. Not much came of Quvic E-Sports for CoreJJ, which led him to join North America’s Dignitas for the 2015 season - his first sting in the region. 

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CoreJJ wasn’t the only Korean who joined Dignitas as top laner Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-jin also tagged along. At the time, both CoreJJ and Gamsu’s addition to the North American scene was in some ways a herald of what was to come: North America was to bring more Koreans - and other imports from other regions - into the LCS.

Here, CoreJJ got his first taste of North American players. Well-known players from the original Cloud9 roster which housed top laner An “Balls” Van Le, jungler William “Meteos” Hartman, mid-laner Hai “Hai” Du Lam, and the bottom lane duo of Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, and Daerek “LemonNation” Hart come to mind. There were also Counter Logic Gaming legends like Jake “Xmithie” Puchero and the Rush Hour bottom lane of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black. All to be topped off by, what at the time was one of the strongest Team SoloMid rosters yet. Marcus “Dyrus” Hill in the top lane, mid-laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, and AD Carry Jason “WildTurtle” Tran all were a part of it. Players from all of these three teams and many others players in the region all got to witness CoreJJ before he became the player he is today.

CoreJJ playing for Dignitas
CoreJJ playing for Dignitas

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Post-Dignitas, CoreJJ decides to return to Korea, where he joins A Samsung Galaxy that was still reeling after the infamous “Mass Korean exodus” of late 2014 and early 2015. Once a titan of an organisation that held two dominant teams in the form of Samsung White and Samsung Blue, now lay in ruins. 

During the 2016 League of Legends Championship Korea (LCK) Spring Season, Samsung Galaxy finished 10-8, at the time, CoreJJ was splitting time with Lee “Stitch” Seung-ju for the starting AD Carry position. The team was as close as one could be from clinching the final playoff spot for the Spring Playoffs but were thwarted by the Afreeca Freecs who beat them by game score tiebreaker. Once in the Summer Split, it all changed. In order to make room for the new, up-and-coming AD Carry, Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk, CoreJJ swaps to the other end of the bottom lane duo, Support. 

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Brandishing his newly acquired role, CoreJJ and the rest of Samsung Galaxy went on a tear in the Summer. They first managed to take fourth place which gave them a spot in the playoffs. In the playoffs, they hastily dispatched the Afreeca Freecs in a first-round rematch only to get swept by KT Rolster in the second round. Even with the sweep, they had accumulated enough points to qualify them for the 2016 Season Korea Regional Finals. Once again, they got to rematch the Afree Freecs, but this time around, CoreJJ didn’t get to help finish them off. Samsung lost the first game of the series which prompted a support swap; CoreJJ was out, Kwon “Wraith” Ji-min was in.

This swap helped secure a 3-1 victory over the Freecs. This win moved them up into the finals, yet another rematch with KT Rolster, here the outcome wouldn’t be the same. With CoreJJ back in action, Samsung upset the heavy favourites 3-2, breaking a 19 game losing streak against them and giving them the third and final seed to that year’s Worlds.

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At the 2016 World Championship CoreJJ would add even more legendary players to his list. Placed in Group D, CoreJJ and his team had to face China’s Royal Never Give Up, North America’s Team SoloMid and Europe’s Splyce. 

Unlike the Team SoloMid he had faced previously when he was on Dignitas, this was a newly refurbished Team SoloMid. From that original roster, only Bjergsen remained. He got to add top-laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, and support Vincent “Biofrost.” He also got to face off against North America’s best talent ever produced, Doublelift, once again as he had joined from rivals Counter Logic Gaming. When facing Splyce, he’d face players that were in many ways raw but were on their way to becoming some of Europe’s best in the future. Top-laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen and Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle all come to mind. 

CoreJJ and Samsung Galaxy at the 2016 World Finals
CoreJJ and Samsung Galaxy at the 2016 World Finals

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That’s just two teams out of the group’s four, the third team he had to face was what is now perhaps the most infamous Chinese organisation of all time, one that contained one of the region’s most prolific AD Carries to ever play the game. He once again faced off against top-laner Looper and support Mata but had the pleasure to take on new challengers: jungler Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu, mid-laner Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao and AD Carry Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao. An AD Carry that in CoreJJ’s mind is his favourite player he has faced in his career thus thus far. 

“I think it’s always Uzi, playing against Uzi— whoever supports with him. It’s always fun to face a good player and he’s been always doing really well. I’d say it’s Uzi,” Corejj said. 

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This year’s Worlds was CoreJJ’s best placing yet, finishing as the runner up to the titan that is SK Telecom T1, he and the rest of Samsung Galaxy had even more challenges to face in the playoffs. First in the Quarterfinals was a team that CoreJJ wasn’t unfamiliar with, Cloud9. Like Team SoloMid in his group, this was somewhat of a refurbished roster as it only contained Meteos and Sneaky from the original team he had faced. He got to re-visit a matchup versus Jeong “Impact” Eon-young— a matchup he’s had in the past in his home region— as well as add a new one in the form of mid-laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. Samsung quickly took care of Cloud9 with a 3-0. Once in the Semifinals, the same result would repeat instead versus Europe’s H2K, another 3-0. This team also had their fair share of native legends: jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, and AD Carry Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou were a part of it. But he also faced someone he’s familiar with in his home region, mid-laner Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook. 

Once in the finals, he’d face players that he has played against many times before. The team that took the finals over Samsung Galaxy contained top-laner Lee “Duke” Ho-seong, legendary jungler Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong, the Great of All Time, mid-laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and the duo of Bang and Wolf. 

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Fast-forward to a year later, CoreJJ and Samsung Galaxy are once again at Worlds. The way that they made Worlds was almost a carbon copy of 2016 as well. A defeat over the Afreeca Freecs, although a closer bout this time around, and sweep over KT Rolster lands them as the third Korean seed. 

At this event, CoreJJ and company get placed with Royal Never Give Up, it was the same roster as before, with minor alterations to the top lane and support. Here, he got his first-ever matchup with support, Shi “Ming” Sen-Ming. To go alongside Royal Never Give Up, G2 Esports also had their hand in the Group C cookie jar. Although not quite yet the powerhouse they would later become, this team still had the likes of mid-laner Luka “Perkz” Perkovic, someone who many consider as the best ever Western player, as well as the bottom lane duo of AD Carry Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, and support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez. This group was topped off by a 1907 Fenerbahce from Turkey.

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Unlike the year prior, CoreJJ and his team didn’t quite dominate the group but still easily took second place. This pit them against the number two seed from Korea, Longzhu Gaming. At this Quarterfinals CoreJJ got to matchup against players he had faced previously in Korea. Top-laners Kim “Khan” Dong-ha and Kim “Rascal” Kwang-hee, mid-alaner Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong and the bottom lane duo of Kim “PraY” Jong-in and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyun all got to be swept by CoreJJ and his team. 

CoreJJ and Samsung Galaxy after their 2017 Worlds finals win
CoreJJ and Samsung Galaxy after their 2017 Worlds finals win

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In the semifinals, CoreJJ got to face a new Chinese team, Team WE. Although not as big named as Royal Never Give Up, the team still had their own: mid-laner Su “xiye” Han-Wei comes to mind. This semifinal ended in a decisive 3-1, putting CoreJJ and the rest of his team against SK Telecom T1— a rematch. Like many times in CoreJJ’s career when it comes to rematches, he once again faced a refurbished team. This SK Telecom T1 still contained the core of Faker as well as the duo of Bang and Wolf but had new players in the mix. Jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho joined the mix as well as top-laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon joined over from North America. This refurbished roster failed to recreate what they did in the previous year’s Worlds which was a win over CoreJJ and his team in the finals. Instead, CoreJJ and Samsung Galaxy swept the infamous Korean team in perhaps the most shocking finals to date. 

Past this, CoreJJ remained on the same roster for two more years, although it did receive several name changes. After the 2016 and 2017 success, CoreJJ and the rest of his roster couldn’t recreate it, thus leading him to a change of pace - a return to North America.

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CoreJJ wasn’t the same player or the same person once he returned to the region that gave him a name. Now a support, and soon to be somewhat of a leader for the collective North America pro-player base, CoreJJ was determined to rectify his past performances. He once again got to visit old matchups he had when playing on Dignitas while also adding new players to the mix. 

With his change over to North America, he’s managed to accrue himself two LCS titles, two MVPs and a MSI finals visit. Although all of his Worlds appearances with Team Liquid didn’t come close to his success on Samsung Galaxy, he still got to add even more players to his list. 

This is just a glimpse of CoreJJ’s career and the calibre of players he’s had to face, now a seasoned veteran within not just the League of Legends pro-scene but the North American scene, the sky is still the limit for him as one of the more illustrious imports the LCS has ever seen. 

Images via Riot Games

 

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2021 LCS Teams That Missed Worlds

Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

23rd Sep 2021 19:19

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