Monday Morning Mid laner: Royal Club’s Tabe
Coming into the Season 3 World Championships, a lot of uncertainly swirled around the strength of various regions. Since the inception of the League Championship Series in North America and Europe and the prevalence of the Champions tournaments on OGN in Korea, the LoL Pro League in China, and the Garena Pro League in Taiwan, professional LoL play has become a largely compartmentalized affair. The last time full teams truly squared off on a wholly international battleground was IPL 5 in 2012, and at the time, the Chinese were a dominant force, with Team World Elite dominating the tournament.
After that, things went quiet on the international front. NA, EU, Korea, China, and SEA all retreated into their own tournaments, leading to the burning question: which region will come out and reveal that they’ve ascended past the rest?
THE HUMBLE GOD
For Royal Club’s Support player Pak Kan “Tabe” Wong, there is no other answer but China. Royal Club’s strategy is forged in the blazing hot crucible of the Chinese meta, a place where junglers seemingly lose the ability to see towers once they hit level 3, and unmatched early aggression and playmaking determines who comes out on top.
To that end, Tabe has become known for a variety of interesting tactics and hallmark playstyles. In a meta where no carry is safe from a rampaging jungler, Tabe and his sensational AD Carry Uzi can often be found doing an unconventional rotation to the mid lane, where a greater amount of lane safety can be acquired.
And it’s in mid lane where Tabe’s signature pick is really allowed to shine: Annie. Annie isn’t something we see conventionally in the West in terms of support picks; she brings a ton of early game output and great, reliable crowd control, but she’s easy to kill and won’t scale well in the itemless and moneyless support role. Western players (and Koreans) tend toward more conventional supports such as Sona or Thresh, who provide sustain, engage potential and escapes and don’t need money to scale in those capacities.
Tabe, however, doesn’t need to worry about any of that. By rotating mid lane and engaging in a 2v1, Annie’s insane early game pressure is enough to shut out all but the most safe and competent mid laners. The scaling problem isn’t so much of a problem if Tabe can get his hands on some early assists (or kills) and get himself some items that way. As the old adage goes: why farm creeps when you can farm heroes? Even if he falls behind, the unmatched initiate potential of the Tibbers stun is an asset deep into the late game, and Tabe can bring extra damage to the table on Annie in a way that few support players can match. Uzi gets a lot of the credit for Royal Club’s success, often referred to as the Faker of ADC, but it’s important to note that behind every great ADC is a great support, and Tabe’s unique champion pool and playstyle are what get Uzi to the point where he can win games on his unmatched positioning and kiting ability.
But you’d never get that sense of firey power from his personality. Tabe is often highly critical of his own lane play in postgame interviews, and has a penchant for throwing himself on the proverbial grenade to save his teammates in ganks. Upon defeating OMG, their only Chinese competitor in the World tournament, he expressed (in fluent English, I might add) that his feelings were highly mixed, as he felt his play wasn’t up to par and that he was unhappy he had to eliminate his countrymen from the tournament. It’s a level of true humility that’s rare among professional players, and it’s won the hearts of a large portion of the LoL community to see it.
Despite the recent spike of attention he’s received, Tabe isn’t a stranger to the pressure of high level LoL play. As one of the game’s beta testers, he became acquainted with many of the famous names in North America’s LCS such as Dyrus and Saintvicious, and met many of them in America during the international WCG 2011 tournament, where he played for Invictus Gaming as their AD Carry.
In many ways, then, the World Finals are poised to be a clash of veteran players such as Tabe and Whitez with newer up and coming stars like Faker and PoohManDu. All of the “teamkilling” is done; SKT T1 eliminated their Korean compatriots NaJin Black Sword, Royal Club eliminated OMG, and now it’s time to see once and for all if the Korean meta and infrastructure can stand against the unbelievable early game diving aggression of the Chinese champions. Whatever the case, Tabe will be there, hoping to squeak Annie and her bear Tibbers through the ban stage and show the world stage how a support can carry.