There was a lot of hype around Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao getting picked up by Bilibili Gaming in the mess that was the 2022 pre-season. His retirement was sudden; it felt like Uzi’s story was just getting started. But we hadn’t seen him since he got picked up. It’s tradition for Uzi not to play until the Lunar New Year comes and goes, but it was hard to hold onto hope we’d see him considering how well Chiu “Doggo” Tzu-Chuan was doing.
The day has come, and Uzi has finally returned. But how did he do?
A return to form
Uzi was the ADC for RNG for years and despite RNG’s lack of international success, his aggressive, hard carry playstyle put him on the map as an international superstar. Fans all around the world loved watching him play champions like Vayne and Jinx that get a lot of value out of kiting with a ton of scaling into the late game. Seeing him play so aggressively with champions that can easily be one-shot is such a thrilling experience, and he’s the sort of player that leaves viewers on the edge of their seats.
It’ll take a while for Uzi to reach his 2019 heights, but his first set back to the LPL looked like a good start.
It’s reassuring to see that Uzi’s kept his playstyle through retirement. He’s never afraid to take a fight, and always seems to find an opening whether his team is 10K gold ahead or behind. With the sort of late game scalers Uzi likes to play, it only takes a few items to open up a game and win a 5v5.
However, Uzi isn’t infallible. It’s clear that he’s shaking the rust off, and he’s not immune to dropping the ball here and there. At the end of the day, Uzi is still human.
Uzi tried to set himself up for a 1v5 scenario and almost managed to take out the entirety of IG. With a double kill to his name and two sub-300 health carries that limped away, it’d be hard to say that Uzi played this poorly. But he could have played it better, too. Chen “Breathe” Chen getting solo-killed certainly didn’t help BLG’s teamfight, but Uzi didn’t need to commit to 1v5'ing either. For someone who plays on the edge of death like Uzi, one small misstep or bad decision can result in disaster.
Uzi’s return to the LPL was bittersweet. Despite Uzi’s best efforts, BLG lost the set.
In this last teamfight to try and keep the game alive, Uzi overstepped and took a Thresh lantern right into a CC chain. He was dead either way here, and IG drafted a dive comp knowing that they’d need access to Uzi if they wanted to win.
Despite playing well for most of the game, Uzi was unable to keep himself alive and pull out the win in game 3. He did look like a strong bot laner but he wasn’t good enough to carry his first game back. And that says a lot about how far the LPL has come.
This isn't Uzi's LPL anymore
In comparison to Uzi’s heyday, the LPL of today is a much better league. Mid-tier teams regularly take wins from the best. EDG, the reigning world champions, just dropped their first set of the season 0-2 to Weibo Gaming. This isn’t the same LPL that Uzi played in What’s more, there’s competition for Uzi’s spot within BLG itself.
Doggo made a name for himself internationally through both MSI 2021 and Worlds 2021, and he’s maintained that high pedigree through his opening sets in the LPL. With an average CS per minute of 9.69 (2nd place in the LPL), Doggo’s been a boon for BLG. Even in the games where Doggo gets focused into oblivion, he tends to be able to pull things back and be a powerful damage dealer for BLG.
Before Doggo got swapped out for Uzi in game 2, he managed to mount a substantial comeback in game 1. Although IG farmed Doggo and killed him four times in rapid succession, he did get himself back into the game and traded with an enemy ADC that was extremely ahead.
This isn’t a question of whether or not Uzi is the best ADC in the LPL anymore. This is a question of whether or not he’s the best ADC on his own team. It’s good to see Uzi back, but he has a lot of work to do if he wants to return to his former glory.
Carver is an esports journalist and analyst who specializes in Eastern League of Legends.