For many teams -- traditional or in esports -- making a statement can take time. Weeks of grinding out victories against teams, maybe upsetting the defending champs in stunning fashion. There are still teams out there today trying to find their identities, striving to capture the moment that puts them in the spotlight.
For Immortals, the newest organization in the North American League Championship Series (NA LCS), it only took it 18 minutes and 16 seconds to send its statement to the world. After a debut that saw the men clad in black and green rout former league champions Cloud9, the Immortals made history in only its second game in North America's premier League competition.
In what can only be described as a flawless game, Immortals whitewashed Team Impulse, beating it in 18 minutes without giving up a kill, tower or Dragon. Not only was it the first perfect game of the year in the LCS, but it also went down as the fastest victory in the now three-plus year history of the competition in North America and Europe.
Noah Whinston, owner of Immortals, reflected on how he chose the individuals for his team: "When building the roster, I leaned on our coaching staff and really prioritized players with flexible styles and personalities. A great player that can't adapt to patch changes or lifestyle changes is a risky pickup."
While the roster is diverse in terms of experience and nationalities, the best way to sum up the currently undefeated NA LCS leaders would be: Five guys, all around the same age, who personally get along well and show no hesitation on Summoner's Rift.
At one time or another, every player on Immortals has either been cast aside or overlooked by former teams. Now, in a franchise with like-minded personalities and a fresh brand behind it, the team is hoping to be the best chance North America has on the world stage in 2016.
Immortals' backbone comes in the form of its South Korean import duo, Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon and Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin, who went to the Worlds semifinals with Fnatic from Europe last season. The offensive-fueled duo showcased their talents in the Western scene for the first time last year. Now they've come to North America to go one step further. Counting back from the spring of 2015, the two have amassed a 24-game winning streak in the regular season of the LCS, acquiring two European titles.
The team's mid laner, Eugene "Pobelter" Park, is also no stranger to domestic champions; he won the NA LCS championship with Counter Logic Gaming last season. On a team that played around its top and bottom lanes, Pobelter was slotted into a defensive position on CLG, generally picking control mages to help with his team's style of methodical tower pushing and map control. He left CLG after the 2015 World Championships when it was rumored that the team wanted to use Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun, the team's substitute, more frequently in the mid lane.
In the bottom lane, Immortals' pairing is both players that were doubted as starters by its former organizations last year. Jason "WildTurtle" Tran, the team's AD carry, was at one time seen as the region's strongest sharpshooter. He started his LCS career with a Pentakill in his first game with Team SoloMid, and he enjoyed success for a majority of his tenure on the team, winning three NA LCS championships. Things started to go downhill at the end, however, as his reckless, aggressive style stopped picking up kills for TSM and instead resulted in kills for the opposition.
His support, Adrian "Adrian" Ma, is familiar with the word reckless having played on the offense-always, defense-never Team Impulse in 2015. On a team that had a mixture of English, Korean and Chinese, Adrian tried to do his best to facilitate and keep the composure of the differing elements surrounding him. So far, so good for the man who was given the nickname "The Immortal of Immortals" for his lengthy deathless streak during the first two weeks of the season. His immortality was finally disproved during its win against NRG this past Sunday, putting his 2016 scoreline at 1/1/50 with a KDA of 51.
Together, these five from different walks of life have come together to create one of the greatest debuts since the LCS was born.
"We're all [around] the same age," said Reignover to ESPN about why this newly formed together has synergized so well in such a short amount of time. "All five of us aren't super serious, and we like to have fun. We [understand] each other and are all pretty close [already]. [Everyone] on the team trusts each other."
Huni echoed his jungler's thoughts, explaining that everyone in the house is 'trolly' and like to keep the atmosphere loose. Both players remarked that the North American fans had warmly welcomed them to their new home, and that the bright, warm Los Angeles weather was a nice treat following a year living in the colder temperatures of Germany.
Whinston, in telling us why he signed the Korean duo, remarked on how the two players balance each other out -- the yin and yang of the NA LCS. Huni is a wild and boisterous player, unwavering in his belief that he can beat anyone in the world. He knows how to keep the team smiling and laughing with his jokester attitude even when things aren't at their best. And with Reignover, he is the calm, even-keeled member of the pairing, who can keep things in check and make sure that Huni doesn't get too excited with his aggressive play.
Before joining forces in Fnatic last year, Reignover was known as "Gameover" in Korea for his ability to choke late in games and Huni wasn't even a professional player, diligently awaiting his shot as a practice partner for Samsung Galaxy. Fast forward a year, and the brash top laner and the brainy jungler have transformed their careers as one of the best one-two duos in League of Legends today.
"This season, games seem to reward aggression more, so I'm able to play champions like Zed, Twisted Fate, and Lissandra, which are stronger in early and mid-game," Pobelter told ESPN when asked how he's slowly been transitioning from his defensive style of play on CLG. "I'm also able to call plays during the game, such as when to rotate or what objective to aim for next. Whereas on CLG, Aphromoo called all the shots. Overall, I think I'm able to show my individual strengths a bit better on Immortals."
While the ideologies of CLG and Immortals might differ, Pobelter should feel comfortable in the center of the action for his new team. Last season, he was in the middle of Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya and Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, two of the best players at their respective position in the competition. This campaign it's no different, getting to play as the pillar between the in-your-face duo of Huni and WildTurtle.
"Going [from] TSM to Immortals is a fresh start for me," WildTurtle said about his transfer from his former home. "The environment on TSM for me at the time was pretty stressful, with a lot going on with the coaching staff. It was just a lot of stress put [on my shoulders]."
After a 2015 campaign when he entered a long slump that had him benched for current Echo Fox AD carry Yuri "KEITH" Jew, the 2016 season couldn't have started better for the gunslinger. He has fit in perfectly with his fresh comrades, racking up multi-kills on various teams already this split. The same aggressive WildTurtle is there, but he's playing smarter around a team that is following him confidently into battle. Through the first four games of the season, WildTurtle has become something he never truly was on TSM behind two-time league MVP Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg: a true ace.
"TSM gave us a run for our money," WildTurtle admitted about his first clash with his old team. "I'm mostly going to be looking out for TSM, and I honestly think that CLG is a strong team still. They are literally the same CLG from last season, and I think they're a strong [opponent]."
WildTurtle's partner in crime, Adrian at the support role, might be the most talked about player in the early days of this LCS split. The support that was benched last year on Team Impulse has come alive in a better situation on Immortals, teaming up with WildTurtle to create a bottom lane tandem that hasn't been cracked so far in the first two weeks.
"Playing on Team Impulse was very chaotic, it was very unorganized and we heavily relied on individually outplaying the opponents," Adrian said to ESPN about his former squad. "On Immortals, we play a very clean and controlled game, understanding our strengths and weakness while playing to our win conditions."
Although only four games and a small sample size into the season, Immortals have already made its impact on the scene. Regardless of who you talk to in terms of scrims and what teams it thinks will challenge for the NA championship, Immortals is always at the top of everyone's list. It has dominated the stats in its first four games, averaging both the shortest time of any team in the league while also amassing the most kills per minute.
Immortals play a clean and controlled game like Adrian mentioned, yet it isn't a slog to watch. The team plays with a small air of arrogance that allows it to have fun in game and know when to push down on the gas to end the match. Its team fighting is at the level of a team with months more practice under its belts.
Fun. Fast-paced. Furiously always on the offensive. Grab your tickets now, the Immortals are quickly becoming the Greatest Show on the Rift in North America.