What fans expect out of Hanwha Life Esports.
Hanwha Life Esports has been a perennial middle of the table team since its introduction into the LCK in 2018. The organisation is seemingly always fighting the battle between locking in the last spot for a playoff berth, or not dropping into relegation.
This season the team has benefited from the mass influx and redistribution of talent in the LCK and managed to pick up two Worlds contenders in Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon and Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu. But despite these acquisitions, most analysts have Hanwha Life stuck in the middle of the table again and the teams 1-1 record from the first week have not poked any holes in that prediction.
Hanwha still has the time to prove the naysayers wrong, but what would the team's path to playoffs look like and how would they go about making the playoffs for the first time in the organisation's history?
Top Lane Island
The top side for this team is currently occupied by two different players. Park "Morgan" Gi-tae was the starter for the team in its debut game, and Lee "DuDu" Dong-ju has been subbed in for two games in the DRX series. Morgan got his start in Oceana before taking his talents to the LPL before being picked up by Hanwha in 2020. DuDu has been with the organisation his entire career, coming up through its academy system.
Since this team is centred around its two carries in the mid and bot lanes, the top side of the map is more often than not put on an island. The team has mainly relegated Morgan to tank duty, putting him on Gnar or Sett, while DuDu has been given more carry opportunities with Camille and Aatrox.
The weak side of the map may not make or break a series, but the introduction of DuDu into the starting lineup in the DRX series definitely changed the strategy that Hanwha wanted to operate under. With DuDu demanding more resources on more aggressive champions, needing more gold and potential jungle attention to be impactful, he draws Hanwha’s jungler away from the team's main stars that may need him.
In the future, expect Hanwha to play Morgan more often than not. Having three winning lanes does make the game much easier, with Chovy and Deft dominating their opposition and DuDu theoretically doing the same, it is much harder to do in practice.
Live and Die With Support Engages
Engage supports are all the rage this season, and Hanwha has taken that to heart. The team’s most tenured player, Oh "Vsta" Hyo-seong has been the team’s main engagement tool across all of their games and has won, and lost, his team fights off of his aggressive engagements.
Vsta, at times, is miles ahead of his team when he starts fights and seemingly wants to scrap at all times. Vsta and Deft have taken many 2v2 fights in the early lane phase, even when the matchup is not in their favour, or they have no backup from their jungler.
But, these problems are very fixable, especially this early in the season. Even across the team’s first two series, you can see the other players of Hanwha adapting to Vsta’s aggression, following him into the engage or setting up a counter engage after the first attempt goes awry.
Hanwha are also setting up the team around Vsta in some compositions, drafting follow up engagement tools in the jungle or mid lane with champions like Pantheon, Galio, or Twisted Fate. Once Vsta and the teams jungler Park "Arthur" Mi-reu build up some synergy, the engage combo could be a headache for opposing teams.
Can The Carries Perform?
The big question for this team is whether its two best players can put up the stats and performances to earn its spot in the top half of the LCK. Both Chovy and Deft looked fine in the KeSPA Cup and have performed well in the first two series. Both players rarely fall behind in lane, Deft keeping up in CS even if Vsta takes a few erroneous skirmishes and Chovy almost always having a lead coming out of the first 10 minutes.
But do they have the skill to compete against the top teams of the LCK like DWG KIA, T1 and Gen.G? In the case of T1 the answer was no. Hanwha dropped its opening series against T1 after Chovy was outplayed by Lee "Clozer" Ju-hyeon in the third game.
But barring that, Chovy has played well, and Deft has yet to underperform.
Hanwha Life Esports have an intriguing lineup of players and already have an established playstyle, albeit with some kinks to work out. As the season progresses, expect the squad to be a thorn in the side of the top teams, taking games or even winning series, but also dropping games to lesser teams because of its aggressive and out of sync engagements.
The team has a lot of space to grow into a contender, but has to become more deft with how it plays out fights and their gameplan.
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