The 2016 League of Legends World Championship approaches and Flash Wolves and Ahq will be looking to make the League of Legends Masters Series (LMS) proud, gunning for the bracket stages.
The history of the LMS is a bit of a rollercoaster compared to the other major regions. Taipei Assassins (TPA) swooped in out of nowhere and took the Season 2 World Championship, but future Taiwanese teams failed to replicate the same result. For two years, the Taiwanese teams played in the Garena Premier League (GPL) with Southeast Asian teams - teams that weren't so competitive due to their lack of resources. As a result, their performance took a hit.
However, once Taiwan split from the circuit to form the LMS with Hong Kong and Macau, the level of competition was raised and quality of play improved as a result. Nowadays, Taiwan remains the main benefactor from the split and has shown up much stronger at international events, making the bracket stage of the last two Mid-Season Invitationals and last year's World Championship.
Here's a look at the region's long trek:
Taipei Assassins: 1st
Taiwan received its first opportunity to play at the World Championship in 2012 after only North America, Europe and Southeast Asia participated in Season 1. TPA strolled in as the sole representative for Taiwan, having dominated the Garena Premier League with a 27-1 record. Infrastructure hadn't quite been set up in Taiwan or Southeast Asia, so it was easy pickings for a team with a gaming house, analyst and head coach. The team was also known to scrim on the North American servers, as well as practicing with Chinese and South Korean teams. Taiwan itself was still in a development phase, but it was pretty clear TPA were not to be trifled with.
Coming into the tournament, the solo laners of TPA were focused on, as Wang "Stanley" June-Tsan showed a huge champion pool in the GPL and a tendency to innovate, being one of the first to abuse Hextech Revolver stacking on Vladimir. Kurtis "Toyz" Lau was also well-known for performing well on farm-focused champions like Karthus, Anivia and Orianna, champions that would be key to the mid lane meta.
At Worlds, the team certainly shone true for Taiwan, as it outclassed the likes of South Korea's Najin Sword in quarterfinals and were able to defeat tournament favorite -- Moscow 5 -- with Stanley's splitpush Nidalee in the semifinals. In the finals, some people still weren't sold on TPA being able to take the title off the elite South Korean team, Azubu Frost. But yet again, the team showed up. TPA took the first competitive World Championship title 3-1 and were on the top, showing that Taiwan was not to be reckoned with.
Gamania Bears: 5th-8th
Gamania Bears came in a much different team than Taipei Assassins, as it was rather mediocre in domestic play, but qualified out of a lightning-in-a-bottle phase. At the time, Ahq e-Sports Club and Taipei Snipers (TPS) were certainly better teams, but played below their level and choked in the qualifier.
Gama Bears had some talent and were a quirky bunch, but it was fortunate to defeat such teams. The roster was built entirely out of rookies and seen as a bit of a non-factor. 15-year-old Huang "Maple" Yi-Tang and 22-year-old-Chen "Winds" Peng-Nien led the Gamania Bears in playstyle and if anything was going to happen for the team, it would stem from the duo.
Maple was an extremely aggressive mid laner as he broke onto the scene while Winds was more patient and facilitated pretty much anything that happened in the game. AD carry Hsiung "NL" Wen-An was also a decent carry in his own right, but lacked flexibility. Regardless, the lineup was young and fortunate to be there, especially since Ahq was the better team that failed to qualify from Taiwan.
Unfortunately, the team didn't have the chance to prove its mettle against anyone at the World Championship, as it received a bye into the quarterfinals and drew eventual winners SK Telecom T1 as its opponent. It was a quick two games for Taiwan this year as the boys were sent home packing after facing the South Korean juggernaut.
Ahq e-Sports Club: 9th-11th
Taipei Assassins: 14th-16th
Season 4 was the first time that Taiwan had the opportunity to send two teams to the World Championship. Prior to this, Southeast Asia and Taiwan had their own respective qualifiers. It was no surprise that the representatives for the World Championship would be Ahq e-Sports Club and Taipei Assassins, as both had fought each other for two straight years now. Ahq kept it together and Taipei Assassins rebuilt from its disastrous 2013 season, where the majority of the championship roster left.
This time, they both had a chance to prove their worth and Ahq were even able to perform in front of the local Taiwanese crowd.
Taiwan was still flying under the radar after its mishaps in Season 3 and, to be fair, the depth of the teams was not particularly great. However, there were certainly stars worth talking about coming into the tournament. Ahq's Liu "Westdoor" Shu-Wei and Sa "Greentea" Shang-Ching finally got their chance to shine on the international stage after last year's qualifier breakdown, while Winds was happy to be able to return with TPA, after his short stint with Gamania Bears.
Unfortunately, TPA would fall flat. Despite a certain amount of expectation surrounding the lineup, they were only able to steal a win away from SK Gaming. However, Ahq e-Sports Club certainly showed up to the tournament with an aggressive skirmishing style, with Westdoor and Greentea putting on a show with their mechanical prowess.
In a group with Samsung White and EDward Gaming, Ahq was prepared not to advance, but a few miracle hooks from Greentea onto EDG's Zhu "NaMei" Jia-Wen netted a tie for second in the group. TPA bottomed out, but Ahq showed some fight and a glimmer of hope for Taiwan's future.
Flash Wolves: 5th-8th
Ahq e-Sports Club: 5th-8th
By this time, Taiwan had clearly made some improvements since the establishment of the LMS, but its historically poor performances still left some fans skeptical. Flash Wolves made its first trip to Worlds, but many remembered four out of five players as members of the Gamania Bears. On the other side, Ahq was making its second straight return on the back of a dominating Summer season and had high hopes for going deep in the bracket.
Compared to years before, Taiwanese teams had even more talent to boast with Flash Wolves having world class players in Hung "Karsa" Hau-Hsuan, Maple and Huo "SwordArT" Shuo-Jie. Ahq weren't without its own stars either, with top laner Chen "Ziv" Yi and AD carry Chou "AN" Chun-An. Despite this, the Taiwanese teams were still not expected to make it out of the group stage.
However, the teams showed hope with Flash Wolves defeating South Korean team KOO Tigers in a massive upset and Ahq making a strong comeback against Fnatic. The second week of Worlds was the bounce-back Taiwan needed as Flash Wolves won yet another game against KOO Tigers and eventually secured first seed in the group.
Meanwhile, Ahq narrowly secured second in its group after a tiebreaker with C9. For the first time in World Championship history, not only did a Taiwanese team advance from the group stage to the bracket stage, both teams did. Although Ahq and Flash Wolves fell easily in the quarterfinals, it was a fantastic run. Taiwan came back and showed that its talent and teamplay can't be taken so lightly. There is a fire inside them that can no longer be ignored.