When CN•HOOK2 fought his way into the Top 5 on the Korean Challenger Ladder, it caused an uproar in the Chinese League of Legends community. But that uproar wasn’t limited to just China. It also sent waves of shock that reverberated through Korea’s League of Legends scene.
The fact that a Chinese player made it all the way to the Top 5 on the Korean server was only mildly newsworthy. And that was only because it had not happened in a very, very long time. But CN•HOOK2 legendary climb through the night had so many things happening that compounded that single accomplishment into something greater. It wasn’t just that a Chinese player made it to the Top 5 on the Korean server, it was that a Chinese player played so many games in the Challenger queue in one night and pulled off multiple multi-game win streaks. And then to top it all off, CN•HOOK2’s final game of the night and climb was against the 3rd best Midlaner in all of Korea, Orion. Then, in that game, CN•HOOK2 had defeated Orion.
All in all, the events of that night forced the League fans in Korea to collectively gasp. It was all they could talk about since it happened. And yet, despite all the discussion, there were still many of them who found all the rumors of what transpired that night difficult to believe. Most of their scepticism revolved around the fact that a nobody from China managed to beat one of the best Midlaners in the OGN. As far as they were concerned, that was impossible. And since that was impossible, there was no way the rest of the rumors could be true.
But all the rumblings from the sceptics were quickly quashed. Recordings and clips of CN•HOOK2’s games found their way to the Korean League forums, completely crushing any theories about the falsehood of the climb. But the most important clip was that of the game-defining 1v1 that happened between CN•HOOK2’s Yasuo and Orion’s Zed at Level 6. That clip managed to render all of the sceptical voices speechless.
That single short clip was watched and rewatched thousands of times. Most people could not get over the epic nature of the duel between Yasuo and Zed. Comments repeatedly spoke of how it looked more like the climax of a martial arts movie than a gameplay clip! The sheer amount of skill displayed by both Midlaners was nothing short of mind-blowing either! For everyone watching the clip, that single duel was just as exciting as an exchange in the OGN Summer Finals.
And at the end of that intense duel, it was CN•HOOK2’s Yasuo who defeated Orion’s Zed. There was no way that anyone in the Korean League sphere could refute that fact, and it shocked them damn near senseless. The idea of a Chinese player, one they’d never even heard of before, defeating Orion in terms of pure skill was one that never even crossed their minds until now. Orion was a King, and no one had heard of CN•HOOK2. And so, there was a single question that echoed through the Korean League Community. That question happened to be the same one that was being asked in China. Who exactly was the mysterious CN•HOOK2, and what was he planning to do next?
And in due course, the news of CN•HOOK2’s climb and spectacular match against Orion made it all the way to the Warriors’ Gaming House in Seoul, Korea. Orion’s teammates read through all the discussion online and watched the clips that were floating around the forums with a little bit more interest than everyone else. One of their own had been involved, and had a first-hand experience playing against the mysterious CN•HOOK2. So they gathered as much information as they could online and talked amongst themselves for a while before finally walking over to Orion’s room to ask him about the game and CN•HOOK2.
The first wave of questions revolved around the game itself and that Orion had lost. Orion’s teammates were concerned that something was going on with one of their star players, or if the defeat caused him to lose confidence in himself. Both outcomes were not good for the team as a whole. But Orion remained calm and steady in the face of those questions, which reassured his teammates. In fact, he was so composed that it was clear that being defeated in CN•HOOK2 had no effect on him at all. And since their concerns about Orion were squared away, the rest of the Warriors team started asking him about CN•HOOK2. That’s when Orion’s breezy nonchalance broke and he turned much more serious.
Orion stood up and addressed his teammates, “Alright. Here’s my read on CN•HOOK2 from playing him. He’s really good, that much should already be obvious to you guys. As far as I can tell, he’s unquestionably a top level player in terms of both pure skill and mechanics. As far as his play style goes… he’s aggressive. Super aggressive, to the point where it’s oppressive. I found myself being pushed down by the amount of pressure from him. But…” Orion paused to gather his thoughts. What he wanted to say next wasn’t based on anything concrete he’d analysed or could state based on evidence. It was a feeling, something pure and simple in his bones. He looked his teammates in the eyes and continued, “Don’t ask me how or why, but… I don’t think he’s one of the Midlaners we know of in the LPL. I don’t think he’s even in the LPL!”
Over in the Fate Gaming House, Moon had gone through all the clips posted online and independently arrived at the same conclusion as Orion. Now, Moon was an Emperor. It was not an exaggeration to state that his perception and insight into the game, as well as his ability to read other players, was at the highest degree possible in Korea. And it was this insight that Moon used to analyse CN•HOOK2, despite not playing against him in a game during the climb. Moon had managed to pick up quite a few clues about CN•HOOK2 between the steam of the final game and the clips floating around online. And now, he was turning those insights over in his mind to see if he could figure out the bigger picture.
Let’s think about this… CN•HOOK2. I watched how he played against Orion, and his game was unique. First thing to note is that he’s from China, which means LPL. Except…the play style isn’t one that’s used by any of the current LPL Midlaners. Or any of the former ones that I’ve played against or seen footage from before. That means the only conclusion here is that CN•HOOK2 isn’t a professional player. He’s not in the LPL. If I’m not wrong about Orion, he’s figured that much out too.
CN•HOOK2 isn’t in the LPL and he’s currently not a professional player. That… that’s a problem.
The second Moon pierced through some of the mystery surround CN•HOOK2, seeds of caution bloomed in his heart and his thoughts zoomed towards the big picture and the World stage.
CN•HOOK2’s play style is something we haven’t seen before, and it’s one that poses a real threat to the current meta in the professional scene in a global sense. It’s got the potential to really shake things up… maybe even completely end Korean dominance. That is a problem!
These days, the entire professional esports industry around League of Legends had embraced a sort of global meta. The various regions all practised a particular style of game play, and the World stage was built around countering the region-specific play style. The Koreans embraced a style that was best described as controlled aggression. North America and Europe leaned into a much more conservative game that was heavily dependent on scaling and reaching end-game builds. China had originally started out with an aggressive style of play. But over the last few years, they’d pivoted to a more conservative and defensive style of play. One that dulled the original aggression considerably, and imitated the NA and EU flow.
This shift towards conservative, low risk gameplay was what led to the current dominance of the Korean region in League of Legends. It was absurdly easy for the Korean teams to deal with that overarching strategy, and they’d perfected the counter-plays during the previous seasons. It was this global meta that CN•HOOK2 had the potential to disrupt, as far as Moon saw things. And that was what dominated his thoughts.
This all comes down to China. The current set of teams at the top of the LPL all abandoned an aggressive play style that could topple any of the Korean teams for whatever reason. If I had to guess, it’s because they gave up hope that someone could beat Rake and decided to focus more on profits for now. Not the most far-sighted plan, but one that’s been working towards Korea’s benefit.
But if more players like CN•HOOK2 start popping up… that’s going to be a problem. The LPL is going to become significantly more difficult to deal with. No. That’s wrong. They’re going to become exponentially more difficult to beat…
Right now, I haven’t even played against CN•HOOK2 in a game, but I already know that I don’t want to go up against him. Or another player like him. The silver lining here is where all of this started. At least CN•HOOK2 isn’t a professional player, which means there’s currently no chance of running into him in a game that matters. Nor is there any chance of his play style changing the current meta. But it is something that I need to keep an eye on.
And there’s still one more question that needs to be figured out in all of this. How it is even possible for someone like CN•HOOK2 to exist in this era of esports? Someone that good, yet completely unknown? This wasn’t a slowly gathering storm. There were no warning signs on the horizon. There was no CN•HOOK2… until he suddenly showed up. Who exactly is CN•HOOK2 and where did he come from?
The identity of CN•HOOK2 was the question at the heart of it all. For all his thoughts, Moon ended up joining the scores of people in the League of Legends community across Korea in China as he pondered the answer to that question. Unlike China, where a few knew the identity of CN•HOOK2, there was no one in Korea who could penetrate that mystery. With one notable exception.
And that single notable exception was currently sitting in the training room at the SSK Gaming House. It was late into the night, but there was still one man seated in front of a computer, alone in that training room. There was no tension in his shoulders or anxiety in his eyes. He wasn’t in the training room late at night because he needed to be there. He was there because he wanted to be there, and he radiated a calm confidence. Every cell and pore in his body oozed the supreme surety that came with being at the very peak.
His demeanour was the natural state of the strong, the aura that came with being an apex predator. He needed no acknowledgment from anyone else to tell him that he was at the very peak, nor did he need to bleat his achievements out in order to be recognized. The relaxed arrogance that permeated every fiber of his being was one that was both earned and universally acknowledged as correct.
This man, who sat alone in that training room, wore a metaphorically grand cape woven with awards, accolades, and accomplishments. He was hailed as the unquestionably best Midlaner in the entire world, known far and wide as the team captain of SSK, and revered as the God Emperor of the Four Emperors.
He stood at the very apex of global esports as the conqueror who carved the bloody path to the current era of Korean dominance in Esports. And his name was Han ‘Rake’ Seho.
Right now, Rake was at a computer in the training room. His face was completely expressionless, an impenetrable fortress that betrayed none of his thoughts. The only thing that offered some clue as to what was going on in his mind was the video playing on the screen in front of him. A replay of a game from the Korean Challenger queue. More specifically, a replay of the game between CN•HOOK2 and Orion.
This was not a game that held any real significance. It wasn’t a match between two professional teams at the top of any league, it had no bearing on the World Championships, and ultimately affected nothing beyond some silly regional rivalry. There was nothing in this game that should have been of value or interest to Han ‘Rake’ Seho. Doing something like this was a complete waste of time for him, especially considering the level he’d reached in League of Legends. On any other day, Rake would have played a ranked game of his own or gone to bed early instead of watching such a trivial game. And yet, Han Seho watched the game between CN•HOOK2 and Orion from start to finish.
This game stood out to Rake’s eyes for a simple reason. CN•HOOK2. It was a name rang with familiarity, and dredged up a memory from deep inside Rake’s mind. CN•HOOK2 was a handle that his mentor, and the first player who wore the mantle of Rake, Lee Dojae had spoken to him about.
And now, because of that conversation, Rake knew who was playing behind CN•HOOK2. Another legend from the same era as Lee Dojae. Rake was curious about this player from a time before him, simply because this rival of his mentor had managed to attain even greater status and acclaim in global esports than he currently had.
But Rake wasn’t interested in what the legend behind CN•HOOK2 achieved in the previous era of esports. His interest was in seeing how a titan of that era played today. More than that, Rake wanted to measure himself against the top of the previous generation. So he clicked on the replay and watched with razor sharp eyes, taking in everything about the player behind CN•HOOK2.
And as he watched, his reason for watching changed. Something about the way that CN•HOOK2 played felt familiar to Rake. In his mind, he could see himself remembering counter-moves to CN•HOOK2’s Yasuo, like he’d played against CN•HOOK2 before. Somewhere deep in his mind, Rake knew that he’d seen this player before and that he’d played against him.
By the time the game ended, Rake knew that the identity of CN•HOOK2 was not his mentor’s rival from a previous age. But his soul continued to scream out that he knew CN•HOOK2. Rake dug deep into his memories, through years and thousands of games, trying to find the answer that his heart told him was there.
Then, all of a sudden and with no warning at all, Rake’s eyes widened! The normally tranquil waters of his emotions rippled with surprise. It’s him… ?