HANOI, Vietnam -- On almost any League of Legends team in the world, Yu "JackeyLove" Wen-Bo would be the crown jewel. He was brought into the Invictus Gaming organization when he was only 15, two years before he could even make his professional debut, the team knowing he would be special. He could one day be as polished as China's most recognizable League of Legends superstar, Royal Never Give Up's AD carry Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao.
Three years after joining Invictus Gaming, he's accomplished something even Uzi couldn't: winning a world championship. The nerves that would betray his team at the wrong times have subsided. In interviews, he's quiet but confident, speaking clearly with little doubt in his answers. He's the type of generational talent teams would offer seven figures to sign.
And yet, Jackeylove is not the crown jewel of Invictus Gaming. To be honest, he's not even the right-hand man to the crown jewel. When people first think of the world champions, they think of their South Korean-turned-Chinese mid laner Song "Rookie" Eui-jin, a league MVP and the face of the team. If it's not Rookie, then everything is about Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok, a fellow teenager who was taken under the wing of a large Chinese organization, Team WE, and has transformed himself into a world-class talent. TheShy, though, is something even more, with his reign of the top lane position becoming the stuff of legend, and his stature becoming myth-like as only a few have been in League of Legends.
There's even a case to be made that the team's lizard-brained jungler Gao "Ning" Zhen-Ning is more talked about among the players, his world final performance earning him MVP honors and all-in style of play becoming renowned worldwide.
It's a team with a superstar at every role, and together, they form a starting lineup like no other in the LPL. And although last year's worlds might have been more centered around his more experienced teammates, this year's Mid-Season Invitational has all been about Jackeylove. While the other teams in the group stage have tried to shut down TheShy and Rookie, it has freed up Jackeylove to play with no regrets, hopping from champion to champion with success regardless of what character his spinning wheel lands on before each game.
"A lot of other teams want to play stable and have a stable play style," Jackeylove said during an interview with ESPN. "But for us, we believe in getting rich or die trying. So when we win a big teamfight, we take a lot off the map, and [so] when we lose, we also look quite bad. That's just our style."
That style has them two wins away from being the first team in MSI history to complete the double round-robin group stage without dropping a single game. That's not to say it hasn't been completely smooth sailing, with the hometown Phong Vu Buffalo almost beating iG in their very first match of the tournament. But in the end, it went the way of the world champions. No matter what mess Invictus finds themselves in, they've always been able to dig themselves out, usually with a bit of flair to add to the suspense.
On a team that is self-admitted fans of buying high-end clothes and shoes, their motto is working to perfection. They're getting quite rich without much of the dying.
"I don't think there really is [another team not at MSI I'd enjoy facing]," Jackeylove said. "I think it's pretty much the same [result] no matter who we face."
So far, it hasn't mattered. In the marquee game of the group stages against SK Telecom T1, Jackeylove picked his signature Draven and piloted it to the game which will be tied to his career until he one day retires. He defeated the three-time world champion SK Telecom T1 in a record-breaking 16 minutes, 1 second.
A few days later, the plucky North American Team Liquid took control of the game away from Invictus Gaming for a couple of minutes until iG won teamfight and turned an game into a one-sided beatdown.
What about G2 Esports, the team at the tournament which looks best equipped to challenge iG from winning another international title? Jackeylove recorded 15 kills in the most recent game against them and added another "W" to his collection.
For years, the Chinese region had been doubted. The players were too bloodthirsty. They were sloppy. They didn't play the "right" way. Now, with a changing of the meta and a spotlight turned on the earlier parts of the game with the introduction of turret plates, the "wrong" way to play League of Legends has become the new playbook. If you try to sleepwalk to 20 minutes, you're not going to make it to 20 minutes.
Don't believe us? Look to SKT and the most recent time they faced Invictus Gaming.
"We've won all of our games quite smoothly so far," Jackeylove said. "Sometimes we make more mistakes, sometimes we make fewer mistakes, so for me, there really isn't a tough opponent right now for us."