League of Legends
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Edward Gaming have been a domestic powerhouse in China since their inception in early 2014, yet success at the League of Legends World Championship has eluded them. For years, EDG have entered the marquee tournament of the year as one of the favorites to go far, and each trip has ended the same way — disappointment and occasional embarrassment.
EDG’s teenage jungler, Zhao “Jiejie” Li-Jie, has no personal recollection of his franchise’s previous follies, but he wants to be part of the team that changes the script for the club. So far, so good for the reigning League of Legends Pro League champions, who have gone a perfect 3-0 in the first week of the main event with a statement victory over international rival, T1, from South Korea.
“I’d give myself an eight [out of 10 for how I’ve played so far],” Jiejie said in an interview with Upcomer after closing out Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe to secure their perfect first week of group play. “I think overall we’ve played quite well, but in our last game [versus DFM], we made some mistakes.”
Though Jiejie may have identified mistakes, he has the luxury of learning from one of the game’s all-time greatest junglers, Ming “Clearlove ” Kai. Clearlove was a central point to the first (and only) EDG side to make waves internationally when they overcame the team they just bested in the main event, T1, in the finals of the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational. After coaching EDG in 2020, the seven-year veteran unretired from professional play and returned to the lineup for the club that he had become synonymous with.
Though the legend only played a single game — a 2/5/7 stat line in a loss to Team WE — his experience and advice behind the scenes have been invaluable for Jiejie.
“From when I started on EDG, he’s always given me advice and opinions based on his experience,” he said.
Aside from T1 in their group, Jiejie’s eyes are on the other Chinese and South Korean competitors at the event — but not really any from the West. Through the first half of the group stage, no western squad has amassed a record above .500, and there’s even a chance for the knockout rounds to be an all-Asian affair for the first time in world championship history.
When asked what’s gone wrong for the West at Worlds 2021, Jiejie pointed toward not who made it to Iceland, but who hadn’t.
“Maybe in the past, G2 was a very powerful team, and they had some great records,” he said. “But this year, I think it might not have gone as well as the West had hoped.
In terms of who Jiejie views as rivals as the tournament continues, he highlighted two junglers he has the utmost respect for in reigning Worlds 2020 Finals MVP Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu and LNG talisman Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong.
Regarding Tarzan, he is the player who Jiejie idolized as a prospect from the South Korean jungler’s tenure on Griffin. When asked what type of playstyle he has in the jungle, Jiejie replied “textbook,” and how he is the type of player who wants to read his opponent’s moves before they do them.
This in-game personality was born from watching so many games of Tarzan in his early days as a rookie, where he became renowned around the world for his ability to devour his rivals through knowing their path through the jungle.
“I study him a lot,” he said. “So my playstyle reflects that similarity.”
As for Canyon, Jiejie sees him as a mountain that he and EDG must overcome to become the world’s best. When probed about what would be the dream final for Jiejie, he selected reigning champions DWG KIA and Canyon as those he hoped to face. He said he wants to take them on in a true best-of-five to see if EDG can be the team to stop DWG KIA’s campaign for back-to-back Summoner’s Cups.
“I think Canyon is ingenious,” Jiejie said. “He’s incredibly good. If I were to face him, I’ll just try to showcase my best performance.”
Tyler Erzberger is entering a decade of covering esports. When not traveling around the world telling stories about people shouting over video games, he’s probably arguing with an anime avatar on Twitter about North American esports.