Among the most-mentioned individuals on the “all-time best League of Legends players” list, Uzi has had a glaring issue. He has not really won anything since 2013. That year with Royal Club, Uzi won China’s Regional Finals to qualify for Worlds, where the team finished in second place. From then to now, Uzi has been involved in a five-year string of second place or lower finishes.
LPL Spring and Summer 2014
Going into the 2014 LPL Spring Split, Royal Club had a tumultuous roster. Uzi was the only remaining member of the second-in-the-world group from 2013. GodLike, Lucky, Wh1t3zZ, and Tabe left, while Nct, Kmi, Ley and Rui joined. Uzi role-swapped to mid, as well. This amalgamation only lasted one game, with XJJ subbing in for Rui for weeks two through five.
Starting in week five, Royal Club switched the entire roster again. Uzi moved back to ADC, Nct moved to mid, and Bao and Yao joined as support and top. This updated roster was not able to gain more wins, though. Royal Club ended the regular season in sixth out of eight with a 3-3-8 record (32 percent game win rate).
Moving into summer, Royal Club revitalized. They re-branded to Star Horn Royal Club, bringing in a new suite of players around Uzi: Cola, inSec, corn and Zero. This roster finished the regular season third out of eight in a high-parity league, then went on to place third in playoffs. Star Horn Royal Club was a favorite to represent China at Worlds alongside Oh My God, the squad that beat SHRC in the summer semifinals.
Since Edward Gaming won the Spring and Summer Split playoffs, they automatically qualified for Worlds, while SHRC needed to defeat OMG, Invictus Gaming, and LGD in the Regional Qualifiers. And they did just that. Royal Club beat LGD once and OMG twice to reach EDG for a fight for the first seed. EDG took them down 2-1, but Uzi put on impressive performances to qualify to Worlds as the second seed from China.
SHRC entered the 2014 World Championship rated as a top 10 team, with Uzi ranking fifth on Riot’s pre-Worlds top 20 players list. Crucially placed in Group B, alongside Team SoloMid, SK Gaming, and Taipei Assassins, Star Horn Royal Club breezed through the competition. While Korean teams topped groups A, C and D, Star Horn Royal finished the group stage with a 5-1 record. Uzi put on several carry performances using Tristana, Caitlyn, and his signature Lucian.
Moving into the bracket stage, SHRC was paired with Chinese rivals Edward Gaming for quarterfinals. Two of the most touted AD carries faced off in a five-game series, with Star Horn Royal coming out on top. Uzi and crew moved into semifinals to match up with the other remaining LPL team, OMG, where another legendary series ensued. Royal Club’s late-game fighting held out over OMG’s early game dominance, as they won in a back-and-forth 3-2. Uzi would move into his second Worlds finals in two years.
Royal Club went on to face a stalwart Samsung White. The number two seed from the LCK topped Group C over OMG, then took down TSM and Samsung Blue to reach the finals. Their series with SHRC ended in a dominant 3-1 victory, with the LPL team looking completely outclassed. Imp’s touted Twitch over-shadowed Uzi’s Tristana throughout the series.
2014 would go down as a solid year for Uzi and Royal Club. The organization grew from their rebuilding phase into Worlds finalists in the span of one year. Uzi was truly able to shine as the year went on, but Korean powerhouse teams, such as Samsung White and Blue, were still on another level. Little did Uzi know, this World Championship would be his second of many crushing second-place finishes throughout his career.
Keep your eye out for parts two, three and four, as they are released in the near future.
Images: LoL Esports Flickr