ggChronicle continues our “Twelve Days of eSports” series with a comprehensive profile of Azubu Frost. Every day between now and the World Finals, we will release one article highlighting each of the teams going to Los Angeles. Don’t forget to check back daily for our new content, and be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
For international fans, Azubu Frost’s story began with Yoon-Sub “Locodoco” Choi, and for Korean fans the story of Frost began with a roster that could have been the dream team. The Azubu Frost flying to LA in less than two weeks differs substantially from the team who made a statement by winning the OnGameNet (OGN) League of Legends Invitational in February. The Frost competing against other top teams around the world is one that carries the unexpected savior Sang-Myeon “Shy” Park, the rising Min-Sung “RapidStar” Jung, the ever-stoic Min-Gi “MadLife” Hong, the hallowed analyst of Korea Hyun-Woo “CloudTemplar” Lee, the stalwart captain Gun-Woong “Woong” Jang, and none other than their hearty coach, Hyun-Jong “OnAir” Kang. Despite the fact that League of Legends (LoL) is not even a year old in South Korea, Frost has written itself into a dramatic tale thus far. Azubu Frost will enter the World Championship Playoffs as a team with much to prove to the rest of the world.
Frost on Record
The team began in 2011 as MiG Frost, a squad of the team Maximum Impact Gaming. Locodoco was then serving as the public face of MiG Frost from the position of AD Carry. With early successes in the victory over Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) Prime at the OGN LoL Invitational, fans saw Frost as the easy favorite when the spring season of Azubu LoL The Champions kicked off. Frost finished the group stage without issues, securing their advancement with a 2-0 record. The rest of the bracket brought some of the strongest opponents in Korea, allowing Frost to display their strength by being victorious over both NaJin e-mFire and Xenics Storm. Locodoco and his crew were unstoppable.
|The 3:00 Dragon by Azubu Frost, then MiG Frost|
In spite of their early success, Frost shocked eSports fans by losing the finals of the spring season of The Champions to brother team MiG Blaze. Blaze dominated the once-triumphant Frost, sweeping them 3-0 in the largest League of Legends tournament to date. As a result, Frost went through significant changes in the following summer; Woong was shifted to the AD Carry role and Shy was inducted as the new Top Lane player. Meanwhile, Azubu signed both teams to sponsorship contracts, replacing the MiG moniker with their own. Frost entered the summer season of The Champions without much time to settle into their new roster, leaving many fans skeptical. Frost amplified these worries when they opened the season with a devastating loss to amateur team RoMG. Woong seemed out of place as an AD Carry while Shy stayed true to his namesake and showed no bold play.
They weren’t ready to give up just yet. The team escaped the group stage by means of some spectacular plays, and breezed past CLG Prime in the quarterfinals as their opponents struggled to find their own identity. By some cruel twist of fate, Frost and Blaze faced each other once again, this time in the semifinals. Tensions were sky high during the best-of-five rematch, which Frost eventually won with blind picks in the fifth game, moving on to face CLG.EU in the finals. Fans eagerly anticipated the match as one of the first symbols of East vs. West in League of Legends. The crowd was disappointed as the team crumbled under the impeccable play from CLG.EU, resulting in a 0-2 deficit in the best-of-five series. As fans of CLG.EU began early celebrations and Frost’s fans started tucking away all hope, Frost miraculously mustered the confidence and determination to strike back. The team capitalized on CLG.EU’s mistakes in game 3, and pushed forth to show the crisp play fans expected throughout the tournament. With absolute domination in the Blind Pick tiebreaker, Frost was crowned the champions of the summer season in Korea. The victory would put the team a mere 100 points above Blaze in the Korean Circuit, guaranteeing Frost a spot at the World Championship Playoffs.
Growing as Brothers
“We promised each other the only time we would lose is when we faced each other.” – RapidStar
A glance at the track record of Frost hints at some turbulent times, but the most important part of the story is the introduction of Azubu Blaze, the twin League of Legends squad under Azubu. Many of the players in the new MiG Blaze held high rankings in the NA Solo Queue ladder before, and had enough merit to move into the world of professional gaming. Unfortunately, being created under the shadow of such a dominant team led the public to believe Blaze was a secondary team and practice squad to Frost. In fact, RapidStar would reveal in an interview during the summer season of The Champions that even Frost looked at Blaze in a similar manner.
The consequence was devastating. It had to be unbearable for Frost to be crushed 3-0 by a team they considered as their very own practice squad. During the ceremony, Frost stood distant with their heads down, while Blaze celebrated in their own world. It was as if they were two completely different teams. Of course Frost was knee-deep in disappointment at themselves, but the scene made people wonder if Frost and Blaze could grow together.
In contrast, the scene was a riot of emotion after Frost’s victory in the finals of The Champions Summer 2012. Members of Blaze joined Frost on stage to congratulate them, to celebrate together, and members of Frost could be seen cheering, crying, hugging, showing all the emotions they hid during the tournament. Indeed the situation was different, as Blaze were not the opponent in the finals, but what Blaze and Frost showed was not simple etiquette. It was the result of brotherhood, a great example of a team being a family at the core. In his speech after the finals, OnAir thanked Blaze for helping Frost prepare fully for the match despite knowing Frost would replace Blaze as the #1 seed in Korea if Frost won the tournament. No doubt the ceremony was bittersweet for Blaze, but it takes more than sportsmanship to congratulate a team, brother team or not, that you helped prepare to take over your free ticket to the World Championship Playoffs.
|“I want to thank Blaze for staying up late helping Frost prepare for the finals, knowing that Frost’s victory would take away their free ticket to the World Championship.” – OnAir|
A few days ago, Blaze was knocked out of the qualifiers in Korea. To make matters worse for Azubu, Frost was the team selected via lottery to be pushed down to the group stage out of the 5 regional winners. It was a rough day for the Azubu teams, but if their growth over the summer is any indication, Frost will be flying to LA with more determination than ever. The World Championship is now beyond individual achievement and personal reputation. Frost is representing Korea, Azubu, and their brothers in Blaze. Other teams have more to fear than just 5 players: it is the potential of passion and determination that comes from a brotherhood that has been through thick and thin that threatens them.
At one point, people assumed that Frost would succeed on the strength of its members rather than on its merit as a team. The team plays were there, but when mentioning Frost, the roster would often be the first topic of discussion. Individual skill allows a team to dominate immediately. If a team’s only foundation is its members’ individual strengths, it leaves itself vulnerable to the slightest changes in team structure.
It’s hard to pinpoint, even in hindsight, the direct cause for Frost’s disappointing show at the finals for LoL The Champions Spring 2012. By all means, credit must be given where it’s due, as Blaze played exceptionally well. It’s still hard to believe that Blaze surpassed Frost’s play to a point where Frost was swept 0-3 without the slightest hint at retaliation. What can be said for certain is that Frost looked significantly shaken up after the roster change. On paper, it seemed a small change as one player left and one player joined. In reality, Frost adjusted the roster much further by switching Woong from the Top Lane to AD Carry after they brought in Shy for the Top Lane.
“With the absence of Locodoco as our foundation, even I had to take part in picks and bans. We ran into some early problems as several people voiced their strategy for the picks and bans.” – RapidStar
In the end, the switch aided Frost in their growth. Locodoco had inevitably held the spotlight due to his experience in LoL, especially in the North American scene as an original member of Team SoloMid. With a ravaged public image, the traditional Frost fans expected to see was lost. Only Frost’s persistence would allow each player to find their place game by game. RapidStar rose as the new superstar of the team as he showed the world that he was one of the most dangerous AP Carry players, punishing his opponents with unstoppable aggression on champions such as Anivia, Diana, and Lux. The team rallied around this aggression, transitioning their mid-game to a play style hinged around teamfights. Frost’s confidence and growth was set in stone when Shy took his chances with a few aggressive yet calculated risks in the final against CLG.EU. Before that match, Shy would be repeating that he was afraid to disappoint. Finally against CLG.EU, Shy took matters into his own hands.
“Honestly, we really like teamfights too. But we have no intention of losing the lane-phase…” – CloudTemplar
This quotation from CloudTemplar should worry the other teams at the World Championship Playoffs. Many of the teams best known for their team fighting capabilities are teams who have reliable communication and complement each other. There’s TSM from NA who have often been credited as having one of the better teamfight potentials in North America (and not surprisingly, they hold one of the most consistent rosters in the region, while living in a gaming house). Though not blessed with these advantages, CLG.EU are constantly encouraging each other through each game and are often mentioned as a team with good synergy. Frost will be bringing the same chemistry to the table, thanks to their intense schedule of practice and camaraderie. By basing their teamfight potential on team synergy rather than solo performance, Frost can still build up to the mid game by picking off key targets.
A quick analysis of Frost’s style of play will tell you all you need to know about building a synergistic team; CloudTemplar loves to roam the jungle with Skarner, MadLife is a terror on Alistar or Blitzcrank, and last but not least RapidStar on Anivia… is Rapidstar… on Anivia. These champions all have skills that allow them to isolate a single enemy, and they remain compatible with all types of teams, even into the lategame. Thanks to their synergy, RapidStar and CloudTemplar often win the middle lane, and naturally affect all other lanes. Once the team gains momentum with earlier skirmishes, they pressure the enemy team with the threat of isolation, while preparing for a full 5 on 5 teamfight via good positioning and communication. To top it off, Frost has made sure they didn’t lose their individual spark while discovering their identity as a team. In fact, they’ve done the opposite, being able to showcase each player’s strengths whenever the chance is given. If Frost has been going through the same high caliber preparation they always have, they will be ready to send sparks flying as they enter the stage in LA in October.
Min-Sung “RapidStar” Jung
Fans who discovered the Korean League of Legends scene recently will consider RapidStar’s Diana or Lux play as his most memorable games, but in Korea, he is praised for his Anivia play. RapidStar himself mentions Morgana and Cassiopeia alongside Anivia as his main champions on his profile for Azubu. If that isn’t convincing enough that RapidStar is not a one trick pony, he was seen practicing Malzahar in a solo queue game, and enjoys playing Hecarim for a change of pace.
Living up to the popularized phrase “RapidStar is Indeed the Best” (shortened to 역빠체 in Korean), RapidStar roams Summoner’s Rift with absolute confidence. This Mid player not only forces his lane opponent to crumble under the pressure, but creates opportunities for his teammates in the side lanes as soon as dominance is established in the Middle Lane. His coach OnAir tells us RapidStar holds a sense of audacity that is hard to find in other players, and this is reflected perfectly in his aggressive play style. With the public rediscovery of Azubu Frost after Locodoco’s departure, RapidStar has taken the spotlight. He is often selected as the most feared player on Frost by their opponents, and has received the MVP title in several matches throughout the Summer Season of LoL The Champions.
Opponents need to watch out for more than just flashy plays from Korea’s favorite Mid-Lane player. RapidStar lives by the motto “Most important is finding your unique color”. In his preparation for the semi-final match against Blaze, RapidStar would constantly discuss which champion fits him best with his coach. The result of this cerebral work is RapidStar’s claim to fame – his Diana play. Even after his showing of Diana and Lux in competitive play, though, RapidStar mentions in interviews that he always keeps his options open. It will be interesting to see RapidStar’s choices in October.
|RapidStar’s Highlight Reel on Diana/Lux|
Hyun-Woo “CloudTemplar” Lee
What stands out most about CloudTemplar is not that he’s the jungler for Azubu Frost, nor is it that he has some twisted fate with baron steals. The greatest characteristic of CloudTemplar is that he is the oldest member of Azubu Frost. In addition to his age, CloudTemplar is also the only player on Azubu who has finished his mandatory military service. If you’re not familiar with the culture, it’s hard to imagine why this is important, but it’s actually crucial in understanding the player and the team. Putting aside any cultural discussion, it’s undeniable that CloudTemplar exemplifies a level of focus and discipline that is not common among other players.
His age and military service aren’t the only factors that built CloudTemplar’s sharp mentality. In his Azubu profile, CloudTemplar claims that he used to play Baduk, commonly known as Go, to a point where he was offered a professional position. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that CloudTemplar is one of the most respected analysts in the Korean LoL scene. Baduk is a game that requires patience, undivided focus, and days, even years of studying to perfect game knowledge and strategy. CloudTemplar was able to see that under the vibrant colors and fun animations of LoL, there was a similar level of theory waiting to be tapped.
CloudTemplar’s discipline can be seen in game as he plays champions that can single-handedly change the outcome of a game. His main champions Skarner, Amumu, and Shen are all heavy initiators capable of setting up advantageous fights in the right hands. As an initiator, CloudTemplar has displayed several amazing plays for his team to help win teamfights. However, his reputation may be even greater outside of the game. The professional player has already made quite a name as an analyst and commentator, guest appearing on LoL The Champions and the Korean TV show for LoL “I am a Carry”. To further showcase his game knowledge, CloudTemplar has added his own commentary to foreign matches to share with Korean fans of the game. As the brains of Azubu Frost, CloudTemplar will play a crucial role in the team’s preparation for the World Championship Playoffs.
Min-Gi “MadLife” Hong
Playing just a highlight reel of MadLife’s may be the best way to introduce him. The man is as great a player as he is silent – some have even wondered if MadLife ever shows signs of emotion. Whenever the camera would show MadLife during a game you could feel the intensity of his focus, quickly bringing Korean fans to give him the name of “God MadLife” (매라신). Though the nickname was given to him during his career as one half of the legendary “Loco-MadLife” Bot-Lane duo, MadLife maintained his reputation during the summer season of LoL The Champions. From the beginning of the summer season, every team feared MadLife’s Alistar, putting the cow on the must-ban list. MadLife came prepared, showcasing new support play styles with champions such as Blitzcrank and even Zyra.
Things were simpler in the spring. Locodoco and MadLife had built up a synergy unrivaled by others in Korea. MadLife had learned how to complement the aggression of Locodoco, and the two were called a dream duo. When Locodoco departed to team Startale, former Top Lane player Woong joined MadLife in the Bottom Lane. Woong brought a very different play style, as he was well known for his consistency in the Top Lane. Unlike many other Top Lane players around the world, Woong was the player Frost relied on to hold the fort. The new duo struggled at first to find their groove, but continued to improve game after game in the summer. By the time Frost stood on stage for the finals of LoL The Champions Summer 2012, there was no doubt that Woong and MadLife had potential to rank as one of the best duo partners in the world. There was still work to be done, but the fact that the two improved their synergy so much during one tournament left the world wondering: what would these two achieve in the future?
|“CLG.EU is going to have nightmares about MadLife’s Alistar”|
While fans liken him to a god, MadLife’s skills in game are not gifts from the heavens. A visit to the Azubu Frost team apartment revealed MadLife’s monitor filled with notes about team composition, team-fighting strategies, and tables of numbers with Blitzcrank’s movement speeds amongst others. The thorough preparation is what allows MadLife to present some of the sharpest plays in LoL. His persistent research is also what allows him to find new champions to support with in order to maximize synergy with AD Carry Woong. He often disparages his level at the game, but opponents will need to look past the humble silence and prepare for some of the best timing and decision making in LoL.
Gun-Woong “Woong” Jang
Woong didn’t stand out in the spotlight as much as his teammates during the summer season of LoL The Champions. With the aforementioned roster switch, Woong was moved to the AD Carry position in June leaving him barely a month to prepare before the group stage of LoL The Champions.
Many professional players enjoy playing other positions in solo queue, but switching roles in a team setting is no easy task. When the role involves the bottom lane duo, the task becomes doubly difficult, as you need to not only learn how you fit with the team in the later half of the game, but also how you synergize with your partner during the lane phase. Woong and MadLife struggled, and a lot of fans of the legendary “Loco-MadLife” duo were disappointed in the new partnership.
Two months later, Woong finally took the spotlight during the finals of LoL The Champions Summer 2012. One of the most memorable moments is the level 1 red buff steal by Woong’s Ezreal in the blind pick tiebreaker game against CLG.EU. Ezreal is Woong’s most comfortable champion, one he used to play even in the Top Lane. After the steal, Woong’s confidence allowed him to dominate the rest of the game alongside his teammates. Many fans credit MadLife for the improvements in Azubu Frost’s Bottom Lane, saying Woong benefits a lot from MadLife’s supporting. Woong isn’t ashamed to admit this.
“They’re not wrong…More so than me finding my own place, I feel the more I improve my skills the better I synergize with MadLife.” – Woong
He may not be the shining star of Frost at the moment, but Woong has been the captain all throughout and a good one at that. He is constantly bringing his teammates to the spotlight, thanking them for their hard work. His ability to encourage the other stars on the team demands respect. It’s easy to feel that you’re left in the shadows when your AP Carry gets a new nickname while all that’s left for you is disappointment and criticism. Woong didn’t let this hinder his practice, working hard to rank among the top AD Carries around the world. Believing in himself, Woong focused on furthering the team as a whole and not fighting for the spotlight personally. The public has given Woong much honor over the summer, but he knows better than anyone else that respect will not win him the Season 2 World Championship title. Fans have continued to be impressed as Woong diligently practiced his AD Carry play after the finals of the Summer Season of LoL The Champions.
Sang-Myeon “Shy” Park
The new Top Lane player for Frost is still an unknown factor. After all, there’s only one season of Azubu LoL The Champions to assess his gameplay by. The mystery player joined Azubu Frost barely a month before the summer season began for LoL The Champions. As was the case with Woong and MadLife, there was a lot of disappointment in the Top Lane too. Shy didn’t seem to bring anything special to the team, and inevitably was compared to Woong as a Top Lane player. Even as Frost showed improvement as a team throughout the summer season, Shy’s playing remained unreliable.
Nobody can argue that Shy didn’t play a part in Frost’s dramatic victory in the finals of LoL The Champions Summer 2012 regardless of his previous record. After the initial losses of the first two games, Shy played his most comfortable champion Jax. The third game wasn’t Shy’s shining moment, but he was able to hold the line against Wickd of CLG.EU as his team gained an advantage in the other lanes. It was the fourth game when Shy proved he deserved to play for world class team Azubu Frost. In an early 1 vs. 2 situation, Shy danced in and out as Vladimir, miraculously avoiding the enemy’s abilities and even picking up one kill while surviving. He would continue to snowball his lead by taking another double kill with the help of CloudTemplar.
It was clear that Shy had the skills to be a formidable Top Lane player. His performance at the finals led many fans to believe that all Shy needed was time. The Summer Season of LoL The Champions was his first appearance as a professional player, causing anxiety to stymie his performance. Shy admitted that he always felt a lot of pressure, as he was filling in Woong’s shoes as Top Lane player, and was afraid he would never live up to the expectations of fans. When asked about the loss against RoMG, he responded that he couldn’t even remember how the game went.
“I was under so much shock. RoMG was supposed to be an easy win.” – Shy
With each win, Shy began to show more confidence. There’s no denying that everyone on Frost is worthy of being a top player in the world. Each of them has had their time in the spotlight through the summer season in Korea. Two to three months is still too short of a time to assess a player, but Shy has adapted very quickly to the professional scene. The whole team will need to be in their best form for the World Championship Playoffs, as they’ll be in a completely different environment, facing the best of the best, on foreign soil. As a new player to the pro scene, Shy is the wild card of Azubu Frost. Fans will have to hope that he shows up in top form, both physically and mentally.
Hyun-Jong “OnAir” Kang
Any mention of Frost can never be complete without talking about OnAir. OnAir is more than just the coach of the Azubu teams: this man is the soul and the father of Azubu Frost and Azubu Blaze. Once an aspiring commentator, OnAir decided to make a team with some of the top players in Korea, and his hard work and passion have definitely paid off. The two teams grew as brothers, picking each other up when the other was down. Members of Frost often thank Han-Gyu “Reapered” Bok for raising their spirits after the spring season, but no one fails to mention and give credit to their coach for the improvement that both teams have seen. Living in the team apartment with Frost, while all members of Blaze live only one story below, OnAir will spend his time ensuring the best environment for his players. During Blaze’s visit to New York City for the Major League Gaming LoL Summer Arena, OnAir could be seen taking care of his players, making sure they were in a stress-free comfort zone.
It’s hard to say which is more impressive: OnAir’s dedication as a father figure or his brilliant performance as a team coach. He can always be seen at every Azubu match, and he checks in with the players after each game. The purpose of his visits to the player booth doesn’t stop at ensuring that every player is feeling comfortable, though. If there are tips or encouragements OnAir finds necessary for the team to come out victorious in the next game, he’ll share his thoughts and findings. Even outside of matches, OnAir spends time with all his players, helping their analysis and theorizing. OnAir’s presence is perhaps the biggest advantage Frost has over many of the other teams. A price tag can’t be put on having an extra person to support you to the very end, both physically and emotionally.
The End of a Chapter
MiG Frost was a wake-up call to the Western LoL scene, but Azubu Frost is a whole different beast. More than a group of 5 amazing players, this team is formed from battle hardened souls. They will not set foot in Los Angeles as professional gamers, but as brothers. Members of Frost are well aware of the room to improve despite their rise back to the top over the summer season in Korea. It’s hard to predict how much stronger this team will have gotten in one month, when they accomplished so much in three months with a roster switch. Fans can expect the same level of fervor from Frost and opponents need to watch for the sharp team play. Less than two weeks are left before the world finds out what Frost has in store, but one thing is for certain: Azubu Frost will be fighting for much more than the one million dollar prize at the Season 2 World Championship. The team will be fighting to defend the honor of the Azubu brotherhood and South Korean eSports.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: all translations done by the author, William “Chobra” Cho.