It took a miracle for I May to make it to San Francisco. They came back from a seemingly impossible deficit in the fifth game of the Chinese Regional Qualifier finals against Team WE to extend I May's 2016 season. In a group at the World Championships that features defending world champion SK Telecom T1, surging Cloud9, and Taiwanese king Flash Wolves, the Chinese Cinderella has another uphill battle for survival.
'Survive and advance' has become the personality of this I May Team, and its Friday opener against Flash Wolves personified it. The Chinese third-place club came back from a mid-game deficit to take another unthinkable win over a heavy favorite to start its Worlds campaign with a positive record.
ESPN spoke to I May's jungler Fan "Avoidless" Jun Wei following his team's improbable win over Taiwan's top team.
"Going into the match, of course we expected to win," said Avoidless. "But to rate myself, on how I performed, I don't think I did that well, especially in the early game [where] I died a lot. But in the end we won, so that's that."
China boasts possibly the strongest trio of starting junglers entering Worlds. Not only has Avoidless stood out on the scrappy underdog from I May, but Royal Never Give Up's Liu "Mlxg" Shi-Yu and Edward Gaming's Ming "Clearlove" Kai are widely considered two of the best at their position in the world. One of them inspired Avoidless as he made his way up into the professional gaming world.
"One of my idols is definitely EDG's jungler Clearlove," he said. "He's one of the best junglers in China."
On which western junglers he respects or is interested in playing, Avoidless answered: "As for NA or EU junglers I'm looking forward to meet up or play against, this I'll have to answer once we get out of group stage then I'll let you know which jungler I look forward to meet."
RNG is known for its high mechanical ceiling, star-studded roster, and overpowering offensive play, and EDG is known for its complete control and immense strength in the jungle and bottom lane roles. I May, to the western audience at least, is a mystery, making it into the tournament after only participating in China's secondary league one split ago in the spring.
"[I May] is very team-oriented," he said. "Even though a lot of times you might see us at a disadvantage in the early [game] we are able to communicate with each other, and every single game where we are down there is always a chance we can come back and take victory."
In a region generally known for its individual talents and standout stars, I May are the opposite. A mixture of different cultures and player histories, the third-place Chinese team truly deserves its "Never give up" brand.
At the end when asked what he wanted to say to his next two opponents, Cloud9 and SK Telecom T1, Avoidless shyly laughed and said, "I'd like the two teams to know that ... please don't go too harsh on us. This is our first time. Give us a little hope."
Regardless of how it wins, only one thing matters: I May wants to live to see another day, and hope exists within the comeback kings.