Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao ended 2014 finishing second place at Worlds with Star Horn Royal Club. He made it much farther than anyone would have predicted going into Summer Split. Royal Club’s success hollowed out in the 2014 Spring Split with a sixth place finish, following their runner-up performance at 2013 Worlds.
With their roster rebuilt and their branding updated, Star Horn Royal qualified for 2014 Worlds, took down Oh My God (OMG) to make it to finals, and lost 3-1 to an all-time great Samsung White team.
LPL Spring 2015
Upon returning to the LPL in 2015, Uzi joined OMG. This was viewed as one of the biggest transfers in LPL history. Royal Club’s signature star moved to one of their rival organizations, after a two-year relationship.
Previously, Uzi played a key role in beating OMG at four different important moments: LPL Regional finals 2013, Worlds quarterfinals 2013, LPL Regional finals 2014, and Worlds semifinals 2014. On the flip-side, OMG had much more domestic success than Royal Club in 2013 and 2014. They finished first and second in 2013 Spring and Summer playoffs, and third and second in 2014 Spring and Summer playoffs. While Royal Club was a back-to-back Worlds finalist, they had only managed to finish fifth, fourth, sixth, and third over those two years.
The LPL also expanded in 2015 from eight teams to twelve, bringing in much more competition. A significant portion of Korean players imported into China, particularly junglers. Uzi, Gogoing, LoveLing, Cool, and Cloud faced a broader, deeper LPL, and hovered towards the top of the pack with EDG and Snake Esports. OMG finished third in the regular season, but got matched with their worst-case opponents for quarterfinals: LGD. Imp and crew had just beat OMG 2-0 in week 11, and they knocked OMG out of playoffs 3-0. They finished fifth-eighth for the split, granting only 50 circuit points.
LPL Summer 2015
This low finish put that much more pressure on Uzi and OMG for Summer Split. Although a major, complex agreement between Vici Gaming, Star Horn Royal, and Gamtee transferred LPL spots and rosters around different organizations, many of the teams and players remained the same. OMG brought in juejue, North, and Amazing for jungle, AD carry, and support. The starting roster changed throughout the split, with every member but san getting at least four games of play. OMG moved from seventh to third, back to seventh, and over the weeks they experienced inner turmoil. Uzi reportedly suffered a hand injury, sitting out six full series of competitions.
By playoff time, OMG settled on starting Gogoing, Loveling, Cool, Uzi, and san. They started in round one versus Masters 3, which meant OMG would need to win six series in a row to win the title. They took down Masters 3 in an easy 3-0, propelling them into a match-up against Vici. OMG’s top-side did not fare as well against DanDy and World6. They lost 1-3, eliminated from playoffs in round two to finish the Summer Split seventh.
With only 60 more circuit points, OMG’s 110 total points over 2015 were not enough to compete in the regional qualifiers. LGD, EDG, and Invictus Gaming went on to represent China at Worlds, while Uzi and OMG stayed home. This was Uzi’s first time missing Worlds. And although it must have stung after being one series away from winning Worlds two years in a row, no one paying attention to OMG’s year would blame Uzi’s talent for their short-comings. He was still a star. OMG just failed to unlock him with the supporting cast.
LPL Spring 2016
Between LPL formatting updates, two promoted LSPL teams, and several big names changing rosters, China’s 2016 league felt revamped. While OMG members Cloud, san, Gogoing, and LoveLing retired from OMG, Uzi switched to a new team–Qaio Gu Reapers. This organization had entered the scene in Summer Split 2015, finishing second in the regular season and narrowly missed winning playoffs in a 2-3 series with LGD. QG also missed Worlds by finishing third in China’s Regional Qualifiers.
Qaio Gu kept V, Swift, Doinb, and Peco (previously TnT) while adding superstar dade from Masters 3 and Mor from LMQ. In order to maintain previous synergies, QG kept their starting line-up plus Mor, while dade and Uzi began on the bench. They tore through Group A against Team WE, Snake, LGD, Energy Pacemaker.All, and Masters 3, finishing their first four weeks 7-0. They only dropped a single game during that period, with Uzi only playing three.
This was one of the most dominant split starts in LPL history. The media could not get enough of Qaio Gu, placing them high in every power ranking. However, Uzi was not really a part of the success. As the split continued, he only started in seventeen of 38 matches. Kelsey Moser said it best at the time: “Uzi is a great AD carry, and he’s demonstrated this in the past, but QG haven’t been able to play a style that emphasizes Uzi’s strengths. Meanwhile, Peco makes or breaks QG’s playstyle. He’s only lost one game with them this spring, and that speaks.”
Qaio Gu ended the regular season 11-5, losing several series in the last few weeks, likely due to internal conflict. They rotated in BoriSal and Mortred in mid lane, since dade left the team and Doinb stepped down. Nonetheless, QG sat atop Group A, granting them a bye directly into semifinals.
In one of the most unfortunate moments in professional League of Legends history, QG forfeited their semifinals match against EDG. Each of their four potential mid laners had a conflict keeping them from competing. QG was subsequently defeated 3-0 by Team WE, and they ended in fourth place. Uzi started as AD carry and Peco moved to mid lane for the series, but it was over. In true roller-coaster fashion, QG went from extremely dominant to depressingly awful within the span of a split. This was a new low point for Uzi’s career.
If you missed part one, you can read it here. Keep your eye out for parts three and four, as they are released in the near future.
Images: LoL Esports Flickr