Umi is on her feet, eyes fixed on the stage. She is flanked by a small group of supporters who have traveled half the world to be here, in Madrid. Shouting with joy, with a FunPlus Phoenix flag draped across her shoulders, she makes an ideal supporter in the Palacio Vistalegre, a stadium that is more receptive of names such as Ibai, Ocelote, Perkz, or Rekkles.
Separated by the stage, her husband, Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang, has just lain waste to a bleak Fnatic in the quarterfinals of Worlds 2019. The punishment is finally over for the fractured former champions of Europe. Rekkles and Nemesis have been outperformed, dragged around the map, and torn apart by the Korean midlaner. They're far from the first to have underestimated Doinb, who carries the hope of both his country and his region here in Madrid.
Once an extroverted streamer, Doinb lit up the competition in the LPL, a league revered the world over, providing much relief since his debut. The artist stands, arms raised on stage, leaving his agonising failures behind him. This would not have been possible without the teams he constructed in his radical vision. The midlaner played equal part in their rise to the top, and with him, anything is possible in the LPL, without exception. Currently a finalist in Worlds 2019, having vanquished Rookie and TheShy in the semis, Doinb has announced himself as the best player in China.
On his 22nd birthday, last December 30, Doinb proposed to Umi. This event changed his life, four years after he made his debut with the Qiao Gu Reapers at just 18 years of age. It provided a much needed boost before joining FunPlus Phoenix that year. After all, Ambition got married in 2017, the same year he won Worlds with Samsung Galaxy.
In the end, there was still Worlds. Doinb had also promised to take Umi to Paris, as he would be playing there in the final tournament of the season, his dream since joining the Reapers.
And who knows, he may even win it all.
It takes a combination of a strong personality and determination for an eighteen year high-elo Korean steamer to turn down CJ Entus and leave his home country for the Chinese "second division". Not even direct praise from Faker could deter him from this decision, with Doinb preferring to try his luck alongside Swift in LSPL than take a role as a substitute. Swift, Qiao Gu Reapers' new Korean jungler, was a renowned player back home, having already played alongside madlife on CJ Frost.
Doinb made his debut halfway through the Spring Split in March 2015, several months after Samsung White's triumph at Worlds, but only weeks before EDG's pioneering 3-2 victory over Faker's mighty SKT TI. As a region, China was in the ascendancy.
Doinb was victorious on his debut, picking Katarina from out of nowhere. The rookie peaked the league's curiosity with his characteristic style of play. He achieved great things by working closely alongside his jungler and countryman, Swift, forming a complementary duo. The two players were a constant threat on the rift when they teamed up, roaming constantly, all over the map. The Korean led his team to the top of their group in the regular season. At the time, Doinb dazzled on Lulu and Morgana, but remained best known for his Viktor. He allowed Swift to shine, who remained undefeated on Nidalee until the end of Spring.
Doinb also had a tendency to take on unglamorous but key strategic roles for his team, a stance that distinguished him from almost every other midlaner at the time. Demacia Cup 2015 — that year's iteration of the first Chinese tournament series — provided the perfect opportunity to understand Doinb as a player.
Facing off against Team World Elite for 3rd place, the Qiao Gu Reapers made a breakthrough. In game 2, the Reaper's coach, Hiro, asked his midlaner to play Maokai against Viktor. The result was a KDA of 6/2/20. This was no mere gimmick — this was a sign of things to come.
By finishing third in the cup, Reapers not only went further than Spirit's Team World Elite, but other established teams like OhMyGod and Snake Esports. In the aftermath of the event, Doinb and the Reapers would finish champions of LSPL over Vici Gaming's academy team and earn their place in the next LPL split.
The Repears dyed their hair for their first match in the big leagues, with each player sporting a different colour in their debut against LGD Gaming. The final result was a solid 2-0 victory for Qiao Gu, in which a rookie Doinb played two impeccable games on Morgana under the eyes of another debutant: the insightful commentator PapaSmithy.
Doinb's arrival coincided with the Reapers' average gametime decreasing by ten minutes. The team built themselves a reputation for teamfighting, mainly thanks to their midlaner, and accelerating through the midgame. Only Swift was reluctant to partake in the team effort, often driven to prove his own carry status with solo excursions that tended to cost his midlaner.
A Game From Worlds
At the end of 2015, Qiao Gu could view their first season in the top division as a success, after earning a stunning second place in the regular season. Doinb had found the right formula: pick Viktor or Lulu, which he would do 27 times that split. He continued to experiment, leading him to already begin to consider Nautius in certain match-ups.
The story might have been even sweeter had the Qiao Gu Reapers won the LPL Summer Split, as unlike in Spring, the winner directly qualified for worlds. The team that could not be stopped was denied the LPL Championship by a single game, against LGD Gaming in the Final, the very team they had so soundly beaten on their LPL debut. A single game away from Worlds 2015, and with Doinb still searching for his first trip to the competition, it would have to be the Regional Finals or nothing.
The infamous patch 5.16, AKA "The Juggernauts Patch" would also make its appearance around this time. A single patch rendered the Reapers' entire strategy nonviable, thanks in part to a Viktor rework. This proved to be a real catastrophe for the Reapers, leading to them being strong-armed out of qualification by Invictus Gaming, who beat them 5-0 across two meetings. On that day, Doinb would see his Nautilus stifled by Rookie.
In the finals of Worlds 2015, a brave Faker would play Lulu twice against KOO Tigers on his way to becoming a two-time World Champion. Whether they work to your favour or not, patches are a part of the game. Faker would have to wait until Season 8 before one would keep him at home. Regardless of present glory, failure is only ever a moment away.
Swift was furious in the aftermath. Doinb would take on a near total control over the team's shotcalling. The 2016 Reapers went undefeated until a week 4 loss against Mata's RNG in week 4. In March 2016, at IEM Katowice, Qiao Gu were mere shadows of themselves against Fnatic and the World Champions, SKT T1, despite showcasing a different picking strategy. With this loss, both Doinb and Uzi, who had joined the team in the offseason, continued to fall short in international competition.
The Reapers, who had once built their identity through perfect communication and a singular gameplan, began to increasingly fight amongst themselves with every day that passed. A serious argument between Swift and Doinb proved too much for the team, and with their shotcaller struggling with the meta, Doinb was the ideal Scapegoat for the Reapers' coaches. Qiao Gu quickly rallied around their veteran jungler and demoted their young midlaner to the academy team for the rest of the year. This remains a shocking decision in high-level Chinese League of Legends.
Doinb's dreams of making Worlds had been extinguished before they had even begun. A victim of injustice, everything lost its lustre for the young midlaner. His sacrifice and demotion to the academy to meant little in the end, with the Reapers finishing a disappointing fourth place in the LPL.
Doinb's rise afforded him no luxuries. Qiao Gu Reapers were bought by Newbee at the start of the summer split, yet midlane was reserved for the former icon of Samsung Blue, the Korean player Dade. Doinb was left to lurk in the shadows while Swift became the last remaining player of that historic Reapers lineup, the final remnant of the five sprinters who came up just short in the craziest race of their lives. We would have to wait til 2019 and DAMWON Gaming, in Korea, to see a team win promotion and qualify for Worlds in the same year.
When Ryze Calls
Back at square one, Doinb watched Faker become a three time World Champion whilst he was stuck playing for Newbee Young, in the second tier. At the end of 2016, the benched midlaner contemplated his place in a league beneath his talents. He went on to reinvent himself with aggressive picks such as LeBlanc, Corki, and Kassadin. Doinb combined a super-carry role with uncontested shotcalling to claim top spot in the LSPL. He was aided in this task by another Korean jungler, this time a 16 year old rookie, Clid.
Newbee sailed into 2017 with its roster and its star jungler, Swift. The organisation wanted to concentrate on its LPL team, leading to a shakeup — which was in reality just a straight up merger with its partner Qiao Gu. Doinb's team entered the LPL under a new identity: the QG Reapers. Doinb's Reapers, to simplify things, finished the spring split just in front of Newbee and qualified for playoffs, with the midlaner taking MVP honours during the regular season.
The Spring Split 2017 playoffs provided the first real major blow for Doinb as a competitor. It marked the first time he had fallen so far from his goal, falling at the first hurdle and being eliminated by I May, a mid-table team, and Team Word Elite, who glided through the league until MSI. This new-look version of the Reapers might possibly be the most fragile team Doinb ever played with. From his midlane, the Korean had a personal challenge to face, another chance to take his team to the top.
JD Gaming's midseason purchase of the Reapers' roster did little to change the their results. In the Summer Split, Doinb's Reapers were outmaneuvered and missed the playoffs. The Korean midlaner was eliminated from the race for Worlds 2017 before it had even started. He was particularly exceptional during the split: first in the league in CS/minute, Gold/minute, and second in Kills/Assists. He accredited this achievement to his Lucian, and even came up with a mid Kled.
Yet China still held on to an image of an inconsolable Doinb breaking down on stage, with tears in his eyes. When the great midlaner finally claimed his first win in the Summer Split at the 7th time of asking, he knew the chance to qualify was already gone. It was at this moment, in the space of an instant, that he realised the true weight of his responsibilities.
Rogue Warriors welcomed one of the best midlaners in the world, yet we would have to wait to discover true his greatness. In 2018, the LPL proved itself to be the best league in the world, as during the midseason, Royal Never GIve Up stamped its authority at MSI.
During this Chinese takeover, Doinb surrounded himself with a team of underdogs who followed his vision for the game. Flawless had needed a shotcaller since his clandestine departure from I May. In the botlane, Klillua, a rookie, played alongside SmIz, described as one of the best AD carrys in China, whose path to the team was almost as winding as his midlaner's. Doinb would transform the players from four mercenaries into four Reapers.
Fly, Pheonix, Fly
The start of the year was particularly rewarding for AD carries, with games often being decided shortly after 30 minutes. SmIz proved his reliability during the remnants of the Ardent Censer meta that had dominated Worlds 2017. In midlane, Doinb played a lot of Ryze, preferring him to Azir, who didn't suit his playstyle. Due to the meta, he began to play for his teammates again, choosing champions such as Karma, Galio, and opting for mid Sion. By his side, he found an hyper aggressive jungler in Flawless and formed another truly devastating duo, similar to the destructive partnership he shared with Swift during his debut. With the Warriors, Doinb was free to express himself.
Fans will remember Rogue Warriors claimed their first split with 13 wins, finishing second in their conference behind an Invictus Gaming side who ruled over the first part of the season. On the stage, a rejuvenated Doinb burst into dance and celebrated his victory, on the brink of a new sprint — this time to Worlds.
Midseason would change the landscape of planet LoL, and the world over, legends of the game were forced to change with the times or face extinction. Patch 8.11 brought in a new vision of the game that could not be further from the late-game meta that dominated the Summer split. Faker, Uzi, and Rekkles in Europe dealt with the fallout from the patch with mitigating levels of success. Patches are a part of the game, after all.
The Rogue Warriors navigated through the meta unscathed, thanks in part to Doinb learning his lessons from previous patches. As soon as the patch hit, Doinb perfectly adapted to a radical shift in the game, finally finding a use for his midlane Kled. The same could be said for Renekton and Aartrox, which Doinb picked up after his rework. Doinb exuded so much confidence that he was afforded the right to play Talon, Poppy, and Kled at Rift Rivals 2018. After claiming victory for China, the midlaner was able to celebrate his first regional competition in his own unique way.
Yet Invictus Gaming continued to destroy the competition in 2018, winning 18 times to just one loss in the Summer Split. Rookie, The Shy, Ning, JackeyLove, and Baolon were untouchable, with IG offering a brilliant reminder of the essence of Chinese League of Legends: a risktaking, teamfight-based team. The Warriors themselves finished the season poorly. Lacking two of their starters, one of which was Flawless, the team fell to JD Gaming, then was knocked out of Worlds contention by EDward Gaming
The IG team that immortalised themselves as World Champions in Korea not only became a inspiration for Doinb, but also a standard to aspire to. The 2018 World Champions were mechanical beasts in their own rights, but unlike them, the Warriors lacked something: a singular gameplan carried out in perfect synchronisation.
Doinb's decision to join FunPlus Phoenix at the start of the year was fuelled by ambition, yet it proved to be a return to form for the midlaner. Just like for the Reapers, he was once again the centrepiece and strategic figurehead of a well-built side. In his quest for greatness, he persisted with inventing his own picks: Malphite, Skarner, RIven, and even Predator Rumble. His imagination was truly limitless. As a captain, he set about improving himself, establishing a near symbiotic relationship with his jungler, Tian. He would mould him into his image, making the young genius into the best jungler he'd ever had. Doinb practised tirelessly, to the point that he forgot who he was outside of the game.
Four years after his debut, Doinb was crowned champion of the LPL in Summer 2019, suffering only a single defeat that split. FunPlus Phoenix were unplayable. They saw off a devastated Invictus Gaming in the semi-finals, ovewhelming Uzi in the process.
In the finals of Worlds 2019, Doinb is finally living his dream.
The Story of Doinb by LuckyNeck - Part 1 : A Rookie Reaper Rises & Part 2 : The Reaper Reborn
Score.gg - Doinb "Ambition got married in 2017, and got into Worlds that year. That's a buff I need"
LPL English - Player Profile 01: Get to Know Doinb
Credit : Riot Games, ESL
Translated from French by James Whitmore
FunPlus Phoenix and G2 Esports, the two top teams of the 2019 summer split and of the tournament, faced off for a chance at lifting the World Championship trophy. It was a one-sided affair: FunPlus Phoenix rose victorious 3-0 and lifted the Summoners’ Cup for 2019.