The Mid Season Invitational (MSI) is Riot's second largest international tournament in the professional circuit, just behind Worlds. It's an exciting tournament, cutting up the awkward off season time between Spring and Summer with some of the best League of Legends every region has to offer. With Play-Ins behind us, we enter the main event, and some of the most exciting player storylines we've ever seen at an MSI. For our second player profile we look at the Tyrant in the Top Lane, the Korea King of Trash Talk, Kim "Khan" Dong-ha.
Khan is one of those players who does not so much pull out pocket picks to cheese an opponent, but does so because he can play whatever he wants in any meta. During the height of the tank meta, leading up to Worlds last year, Khan still drew bans towards his Jayce. Why? Because he could pick it and he could destroy your top laner, your jungler, whoever he decided was in his way to victory. He was merciless on that champion, in a time where top lane was dominated by slower, beefier, scaling champions.
Korean players have always been known to be some of the most modest and polite players, even while being the best in the world. It is a feature of such strong players like Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok that he can remain so humble after such a blisteringly hot career. Khan doesn’t seem to hold this same tune, being the master of trash talking for the region and having a fiery personality. “All top laners of the world, come bow down in front of me and kneel!” declared Khan after winning the LCK Finals. Khan doesn’t look down on enemy top laners, he crushes them and reminds them of their place.
This all means that Khan personally has a lot to prove. The thing about trash talking is that if you fall flat on your face after it, you look twice the fool. Kingzone DragonX’s time as Longzhu at Worlds may ring in the ears of the haughty top laner, who finds himself at an international event again with a chip on his shoulder. Facing off against the best of the world at MSI is a time for Kingzone to remind the world that they are still a team to fear, and they are not just their implosion at Worlds. For Khan, it's about salvaging that result and backing up his own confidence.
Many LCK fans were excited as the Spring Split began. The storylines floating about in the LCK were like some we have never seen: A downwards spiraling SKT, a triumphant Samsung (now KSV,) an embarrassed Longzhu (now Kingzone DrgaonX,) KT Rolster's hope to redeem themselves for their fans, and a middle of the pack that were hungry to prove themselves as relevant. The once Longzhu squad returned with a new sponsor, Kingzone DragonX (yes, that is their actual name...) and a new jungler, hyper aggressive and fan favorite Han "Peanut" Wang-ho and a whole wealth of expectations for the team. The fit seemed a match made in heaven, as Peanut slotted quite naturally into one of the most aggressive teams in the LCK's history.
Khan and his team returned in blistering fashion, destroying the competition in the LCK and holding an insane 83% game winrate (only dropping 2 series' over the entire split.) This put their raw stats well above those of their closest competitors, Afreeca Freecs and KT Rolster. Khan won an award for his KDA, and while not garnering as many MVPs as teamates Gwak "Bdd" Bo-seong and Peanut, his performance was nothing to snuff at. Pick any statistic you want, be it KDA, Dmg%, [email protected], whatever, and Khan was either first for the season or close behind at second. His performance in the top lane was phenomenal and on a team with as many talented players at Kingzone, that's all the more impressive.
A relatively easy finals for the Kingzone squad, the first time SKT has not been in the finals since Summer 2016, against the surprisingly strong Afreeca Freecs. Many were not surprised given Kingzone's form throughout the split, but one could not help but think of the time we all said that at Worlds last year. Kingzone couldn't be said to have a curse given one problematic showing, but it was still good for the team to silence any concerns: they were back to form and ready to carry their tyranny to the international stage again, stronger and better than ever.
It’s no secret that Kingzone, who competed at last Worlds under the banner Longzhu, have some redemption in their sights. At last Worlds the team was slatted to be the tournament favorites, with many pundits (and Pick Ems) putting them to win it all. Or, in the very least, getting to the finals. The roster went unsurprisingly undefeated in their group and quickly booked their spots into the playoff run. Then, it all came crashing down, as Samsung (now Gen.G) shocked the world by taking down the dragons 3-0. Samsung would then go onto win the whole thing later, but Longzhu and their fans were crushed. The team all but imploded when it mattered most.
With that bitter time behind them, Kingzone, and Khan in particular, will be looking to prove themselves again to the World. They accomplished this domestically by topping off a tyrannical spring split with an LCK trophy, but MSI is the true test for the roster. Against the worlds best, this is a real litmus test on whether the roster that is objectively and on paper the strongest in Korea can overcome whatever ghost spooked them at Worlds. Against familiar faces like RNG and Fnatic, Kingzone will have a chip on their shoulder and a case to prove.
Khan in particular has a lot to show. Touted as one of the best top laners to grace the game and his trash talking mouth to back up the swagger, Khan needs to prove with his team that his words are more than just mere boasting. MSI isn't Worlds, it doesn't necessarily carry the same prestige, but it's still a very important piece of hardware for any team. Kingzone can join the small ranks of Korean teams to take an international trophy home here, and be the second Korean team to do so at MSI. That's something Khan can carry in his bag of trash talking tools.
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