“Faker has been released, everyone!”
History was being made as Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles said those words back in 2013. I had no idea that was going to be a momentous match, and I bet most fans watching that night were too. It’s a game that you’ll struggle to find in full after OGN shut down last December. It wasn’t a Finals game and it wasn’t a Playoffs game either. Hell, it wasn’t even a group decider. It was just a regular season game between two young teams — MVP Blue and SK Telecom T1 #2 — in week 3 of OGN Champions Spring 2013.
But history is sometimes found in weird places.
The match became one of the most impressive performances in League of Legends history, skyrocketing Faker from a promising rookie to one of the most hyped-up players on the planet. If his Nidalee debut against Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong was what put him on the map, it is the LeBlanc game against MVP Blue that truly unleashed him and encapsulates everything brilliant about him as a player.
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Some people point to Faker’s debut as his breakout performance and there’s a good case for it on the surface. In it, Faker met then the best mid laner in Korea (and arguably the world), CJ Entus Blaze’s Ambition, who on top of everything, was on his signature Kha’Zix, so no one would blame a rookie Faker for a slow start.
By now, everyone knows how that story went. Faker not only kept up with Ambition in lane, but he solo-killed him under tower, picked up three more kills in rapid succession, and converted that into a win for his team.
It was a poetic start, but there are a few problems with it.
Ambition was a monster talent, but he was infamous for his recklessness in lane and tendency to give up early kills, so much that he was nicknamed “First Blood Ambition”. Instead, Ambition was more respected for his ability to always pull ahead in CS and levels in spite of any early deaths and the game against Faker’s Nidalee was no exception: by the end of it Ambition had almost 100 CS up on Faker.
Faker’s true breakout performance came a few weeks later, in his LeBlanc game against MVP Blue. Against a team fielding future superstars like Lee "Easyhoon" Ji-hoon, Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu, and Choi "Acorn" Cheon-ju, Faker played one of the most perfect games of League of Legends. In every way — from his drafting to his laning, to his mechanics — Faker showed a level of skill worthy of the “Unkillable Demon King” nickname he’d soon wear.
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From the start of his career, Faker has loved LeBlanc. In interviews, he’s discussed using LeBlanc for his first placement matches, as well as to climb the ranked ladder in the early stages of him topping solo queue. But up to that point, LeBlanc was a left-field pick. Up until Faker picked it in the MVP Blue game, there were only two other LeBlanc games all 2013 Spring season across the major regions and only one was a win — when Miles "Daydreamin" Hoard used her as a Support. LeBlanc was just as rare in seasons prior, as pros avoided her for her over-reliance on snowballing and lack of late-game scaling.
In terms of the series in question, the pick didn’t only work because it was Faker playing LeBlanc — even on its own, it was a brilliant choice. MVP Blue had a fast 3-1 start to the season, finding a lot of success with a Karthus and Nocturne combo, which were exceptionally strong, comfort picks for Easyhoon and ChuNyang, respectively. Alongside other specialty picks (like Cheonju’s Rumble) and flavor-of-the-month champions, Blue’s drafting was a puzzle several good teams couldn’t solve. No matter what, Blue was gonna have someone on a dangerous comfort pick.
Saying SKT came prepared is putting it lightly. On the day of their games, SKT bans out the meta-strong Twisted Fate, and take away Rumble from Cheonju and Nocturne from ChuNyang. Easyhoon once again goes for his formidable Karthus and SKT counter with Faker’s LeBlanc.
MVP Blue are completely outdrafted. Two of their main picks are banned and also have to worry about LeBlanc’s high burst just erasing Easyhoon. But the threat of Faker was far from contained in just the mid lane.
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When people talk about this game, they refer to it as “the one Faker gets 10 kills in 20 minutes.” That sounds impressive. The reality, though, is even crazier. First of all, it was 11 kills. Second, Faker doesn’t actually get his first kill until 8:11. From there he goes on a DOOM-like rampage, where his last kill is at 19:01. That’s a kill every minute.
We’ll get to the kills later but first, notice Faker’s perfect laning phase. Even without any kills in the first eight minutes, he was flawless. LeBlanc’s slow start was a deterring characteristic that made her an unpopular competitive pick and Blue did everything they could to give Faker that slow start. They lane swapped and made him lane against a hellish Caitlyn-Zyra duo, and although he had to forgo his Blue Buff, Easyhoon’s Karthus was a far better prospect for 1v2 laning. SKT either had to waste time and swap the lanes back, or hope Faker could keep up with Easyhoon.
Even with all that adversity, Faker’s CS numbers ticked up. Constant Deadly Spines and Piltover Peacemakers? Not a problem. Forever forced to last hit under turret? No sweat. A powerless and squishy early-game LeBlanc? Not in Faker’s hands. After eight minutes — even with Easyhoon getting an easy kill and extra breathing room in lane — Faker had the higher CS score and even harassed Deft and FLahm along the way.
Another point of brilliance is how Faker reacts to losing his outer turret. Most mid laners would start roaming down to finally battle Karthus. Instead, Faker accurately predicts they’d send Karthus mid instead, and waits for Easyhoon to come to him.
That’s when the fireworks start.
8:11: Faker gets his first kill, calculated to the last hp. Faker jumps on Karthus, applies his combo, and runs away, with a perfect escape route planned. He doesn’t stay to deal extra damage, he’s confident Ignite will tick down Karthus. Easyhoon and ChuNyang have no time to respond, as Faker Flashes to safety, his first kill in hand.
8:58: Faker picks up another quick kill, this time on ChuNyang, who can’t understand what’s going on. After a quiet few minutes, Faker heads to the top lane. He shows excellent coordination with Impact and lets him soak all turret as he kills Cheonju at 12:35.
12:50. Three other Blue members come to the top lane in response with ChuNyang leading the charge. Impact’s death looks inevitable, but Faker not only saves his teammate, he also gets a full LeBlanc combo, Ignite, and Flash all in the span of a second.
By this point, he’s a juggernaut. Between 14:40 and 14:55, he gets two more kills. SKT start pushing top and once again, Faker shows perfect calculation. As Jayce and Zyra come to defend their turret, Faker dives the top laner, only this time, he doesn’t unload a full combo. He intentionally skips E, because he’s confident the rest will be enough to kill Jayce. He immediately uses the saved E on Zyra and takes that kill too. It’s 15:30 and Faker is 8/0/0.
SKT regroup and force a fight at mid tier 1 at 17:20 and it’s all Faker. Zyra missteps by a pixel and he deletes her. As ChuNyang comes to defend the push on tier 2, he tries to cocoon where LeBlanc Distorted to try and trap him. On most players, it would’ve worked. Faker, though, has already finished his combo and has backed away a safe distance by the time the cocoon would’ve hit.
MVP Blue surrender at 20.
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Every time someone was a pixel out of position, the future World Champion preyed on it. He hid into his team perfectly and always came up from behind them, ready to murder. But it’s important not only to recognize Faker’s brilliant decision-making Faker but also his mechanical skill. He makes Ethereal Chains look like a Target ability. DM me on Twitter proof of him missing more than one E, and I’ll send you a $5 gift card. It’s because it doesn’t happen.
Even the straightforward combo Faker executes is mastery in action, a perfect balance of speed and precision. Hypertapping your keyboard and going all-out on combo speed doesn’t work: back then, League of Legends only allowed two abilities to be queued at a time. Spamming abilities led to a botched escape and a dead LeBlanc. With tremendous speed, Faker input his abilities as precisely as possible, often with Flash, Ignite, and Deathfire Grasp too, for good measure.
“MVP Blue really did everything they could to mitigate Faker's LeBlanc pick, but once he got a couple kills it was all over,” former OGN caster Erik “DoA” Lonnquist told Inven Global. “What struck me was just how well the entire SKT team put Faker up for success. Punishing Easyhoon early to make a hard lane matchup even harder, putting extra pressure on the top and bottom lanes before Karthus could help at level 6. All of that led to Faker being able to just roam and use his insane mechanics to kill at will.
“The game already felt over at 10 minutes. It was easily one of the best LeBlanc performances ever on a mechanical level, but it's also a glimpse of the brilliance that fans would get to see on full display later that year as SKT stormed through Worlds.”
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While I agree with DoA, I think it’s more than one of the best LeBlanc games ever. I think it’s more than the best LeBlanc game ever. It’s simply one of the best League of Legends performances in history. The performance means so much to League of Legends. It was Faker’s first game on his most iconic pick, a game that arguably brought interest back into a novelty champion.
More than anything though, it showed us that Faker was special: more than a solo queue rookie and more than “just” a great player. A magician spawned in Korea that year and that game was his first true grand performance.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.