Finding promising rookies in the losing teams of LoL's pro scene

Things can be tough for rookie players—especially if they're also on rookie teams. Every play is scrutinized, every failure a trigger for harsh rebuke by the peanut gallery. They're forced to operate in the shadows, fodder for highlight reels as their more veteran and popular counterparts dismantle them before a public audience.

Some are lucky enough to make it big almost immediately. Team Liquid's Dardoch is already in the running for North America's top jungler, for instance. Unicorns' Rudy is tearing things up across the Atlantic, with a Kindred that makes mockery of experience. And then there are the Faker moments. The once-in-a-lifetime outburst of talent, obvious upon their very debut, that subsequently take the world by storm.

But not everybody can be Faker. And not being Faker doesn't mean being unworthy. The major and well-respected players of tomorrow had to start somewhere, and often they start in the most humble of conditions. Losing teams but stalwart individual performances are the hallmarks of those that can yet be fostered to greatness, and these are some of the players with the potential for more than what they've currently shown.

Splyce Sencux

Sencux

The Splyce roster in general suffers a lot from being basically a team's worth of rookies, but have shown glimmers of improvement as weeks progressed. Chres "Sencux" Laursen, one of the youngest players in the circuit, has shown some particularly interesting stunts.

Obviously, his LeBlanc against the Giants was great. That's not really any credit—anybody can beat the Giants right now. But even as Splyce lost the game against front-runner H2K, Sencux's Ahri was oddly menacing. Brave flanks, deep into the enemy back line, proved themselves well-timed and punishing.

But that does raise a question: is he an assassins-only mid laner, like so many other flash-in-the-pan mids? The champion archetype tends to be the most visually impressive, but also most meta-dependent, of the various mid lane strategic options. Sencux's Lulu was fairly dismal against G2, suggesting he doesn't quite have as solid a grasp on playing a utility-oriented role.

Nuclear

Kim "Nuclear" Seung-hoo does not deserve his team. Or, rather, SBENU Sonicboom does not deserve to have an AD carry of his caliber. Korea's bottom-rankers have an AD carry that routinely out-farms and out-fights his rivals on other teams—but to what result? It's not as if Flawless or SaSin can capitalize off his efforts.

That third game against Em-Fire was tragedy writ large. Nuclear's Lucian was an 11-0-10 beast, fully decked out with six items, boasting a 70 CS lead over Ssol, and a major reason why the game was nearly an entire hour long. Too bad, then, that the rest of his team were so far behind their own counterparts by every conceivable measure. Despite his best efforts, Nuclear is on a team that is completely winless by week four. Somebody give the poor guy a break.

HKE Rokenia

Rokenia

Three different nations can lay claim to Hong Kong Esports' newest mid laner's recent proof of talent. Jeon "Rokenia" Yeong-dae is a South Korean pro player who debuted in Japan's wildcard circuit, only to get scouted and bought by Taiwan's Gash Bears Challenger team before the start of the LoL Master Series' second season. Except that the Gash Bears turned out to be a bit of a wreck—despite its roster of veterans and hired guns, it was dismantled messily by four rookies led by former Logitech Sniper jungler Yo.

Note that the Snipers fell apart quickly, Yo's a no-name compared to the rest of Taiwan's junglers, and they still made Rokenia look like no big deal. Yet somebody at Hong Kong Esports must have thought the guy still had something to prove, and their investment looks like it's paying off.

It's way too much to claim that Rokenia's competitive for the LMS's top ranks. AHQ is "cheating" by having both Chawy and Westdoor, Maple's Zed is going to be even more frightening come Patch 6.3, and Machi's Apex is the next big thing. On the other hand, Rokenia's showing that most important trait among premier region rookies: instead of melting under the pressure, he's improving under the challenge that Taiwan's already high-caliber mid lane game's imposed on him.

The fact that he has HKE jungler DinTer to guide and foster him is almost karmic: DinTer's now easily one of the region's best junglers, but started as a Taipei Assassins player routinely mocked for bad ults, bad mechanics, and bad shotcalling. DinTer, in fact, is proof that even the worst players now can become the real deal in a year or two. So long as they're given a chance to grow and learn, and so long as they have the will and determination to do so despite the jeers and the scorn, it's actually impossible to predict where their ultimate skill ceiling lies.

All you can really do is keep watch, and give them a chance.

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