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The Invasion of Ionia - Part 5

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Inside his college dorm room in Seoul, Korea, Coff had gone beyond mad. He’d transcended raging. Right now, he was pure unadulterated fury at the world. Bang! There were no words to express or vent this fury that he was feeling, so he resorted to smashing his mouse down on his desk. But it wasn’t enough. He let go of the mouse and balled his fists. BANG! BANG! BANG! Coff started pounding on his keyboard with both fists. The irony of the situation that was completely lost on Coff was that the action was similar to Alistar’s Pulverize. But he didn’t notice, and continued to smash down on his keyboard. Sadly, it was not enough to vent the fury that coursed through both his mind and body. 

“FUCK!” Coff screamed out loud. That… I never expected anything like that! This was the most infuriating game I’ve played in a long time. I literally cannot remember another one that made me rage this hard. How did an Alistar stomp all over my Yasuo?!

Coff took a beat to focus, and replayed the entire game in his head. All of the blood that rushed to his head and face drained, and his face turned pale as he understood. Coff clenched his jaw as the truth dawned on him. There’s no way around this. I hate to admit it… but that Alistar was really good. Way better than me…

“Dammit! I thought the Chinese server was supposed to be full of scrubs!” Coff screamed, cursing the universe and his own misfortune.

From a zoomed in perspective, it was easy to think that Coff had truly terrible luck and managed to run into Lin Feng on his first game. But that was far from what was happening in reality. If one zoomed out and looked at all the Korean players who had attempted to invade the Ionia Server to avenge their honor, Coff was not the only player who was experiencing fury and failure. It was truly unfortunate that none of the invaders were aware of a common saying in the Chinese League community. “On the Ionia Server, high Platinum and low Diamond are much more frightening than Master and Challenger.” 

It was an intrinsic truth of the ELO system on Ionia Server that all Chinese players had come to understand after playing for many years. A curious quirk of the region that was created by a combination of circumstances, and only known to the players of China. That truth was that on the Ionia Server, the waters of high Platinum and low Diamond ran much deeper than Master and Challenger. This situation was created by the fact that this particular rank division was simply too chaotic to accurately state the abilities of the players within it. 

High Platinum and low Diamond was full of both seasoned players, top professional players, and absolute noobs. When one walked into the solo queue on the Ionia Server and started a game created by the match-making system, there was no way to tell how the game would go if you were in this rank division. One could end up on a team with professional players who were smurfing a second account, or with a seasoned player who was attempting to raise an alternate account to Challenger, or with a complete novice who had paid to have their account boosted to Platinum or low Diamond to brag to their friends. Or a true noob to League of Legends who had paid to purchase an account in Platinum/low Diamond because they had no understanding of the game and their own abilities.

For the Chinese players who played at the Platinum/low Diamond division, it all came down to luck of the draw. If they managed to high roll, they got a smurf or two on their team and that was something worth celebrating. If they low rolled and ended up with a few boosted players who could not compete at that level of play, it meant helplessly accepting a loss at 15 minutes. They had long since become accustomed to the state of things, and it no longer affected their mental state. The rough approximation that most players understood was that about a third of the players in the high Platinum and low Diamond ELO didn’t actually belong there. They could be from a higher rank or from a lower rank, but one never knew what their teammates would be like. 

But this was something that the Korean players attempting to invade the Ionia server had no idea about. And the reality of the situation hit them like a sack of bricks and brought them untold misery. Their experiences during this doomed invasion gathered together made a tale of tragedy.

One of the most tragic tales involved a Diamond 4 Korean player. He was a Jungler, and he’d just gotten into a game where he managed to lock in on his main champion. Lee Sin. He was planning on roaring out of the gate strong and solo carrying the entire game. In his mind, he was salivating at the thought of stomping on all 5 of the Chinese players on the opposing team and giving them a taste of the true strength of the Korean server. He genuinely had no doubt in his mind that everything would go in his favor, and it did not matter how strong the opposing team was at all. He knew, for sure, that as long as he was playing Lee Sin, he could carry the game for his team!

The first 3 minutes of the game went fantastically for this Korean Lee Sin. Then things turned horribly wrong. Before Lee Sin even had a chance to clear his Red and Blue Buff camps, the announcer’s voice rang out. 

First Blood!

Lee Sin started to frantically scroll across the map to see what happened. That’s when he saw that in the Bot Lane, his team’s Ad-Carry had given away first blood. Then the announcer’s voice rang out again. 

An ally has been slain!

Lee Sin did not need to search for what happened this time. He’d watched it happen. The Support player on his team had also died. Both players on his team’s Bot Lane had been killed three minutes after the game started. 

How!? This quickly!? The Korean player was in disbelief, but he quickly composed himself. It’s fine. Bot is easy enough to gank. I’ll just go over and help them get the advantage back.

The Lee Sin player resigned himself to the fact that he’d have to try a little bit harder, and focused. He cleared out both of his buff camps a minute later, and was charting a path to the Bot Lane for his first gank. Right as he was about to ping his teammates to let them know he was on his way, and what his entry point was going to be, the announcer’s voice rang out again. 

An ally has been slain!

Lee Sin had to scroll again to see what happened. He was sure it wasn’t the Bot Lane, because he was watching what was happening there. This time, it was his team’s Toplaner who had been killed. The Lee Sin player clenched his teeth and decided he was going to first help Bot Lane, and then go up Top to set things right. With the plan set, he started to walk towards Bot Lane when the announcer’s voice rang out yet again. 

An ally has been slain!

This time, it was the Midlaner who had been routed. As it currently stood, only four minutes had elapsed since the start of the game and the only player on his team who had not been killed was the Lee Sin player. He understood, then, that there was no hope. In a matter of mere minutes, all three of the lanes on his team had completely collapsed. There was no way for Lee Sin to prop them all up at the same time.

The Diamond 4 Korean player was about to lose his mind. How am I supposed to play like this!? Why did all three lanes lose so badly? Why is there such an insane skill difference between the teams?

Unfortunately, Lee Sin couldn’t see what the opponent was typing in their team chat. 

Looks like top lane got boosted to Diamond.
Mid too.
Damn, really!? Bot too! Both the Ad-Carry and Support are trash!
Hahaha! Lucky! It’s a freelo game!

While the tragic tale of the Korean Lee Sin was terrible to the player who experienced the whole thing, it was more comical to those who heard about it. There were other Korean players who ended up in situations that could only be described as heart-rending. And genuinely unlucky. An example of this was what occurred to a Diamond 2 Korean player who had joined in on the invasion of the Ionia Server. 

This particular Korean player was a little bit more clever than the average bear. He’d heard what happened to other Koreans, and quickly understood that there were quite a few players in Platinum/low Diamond who were boosted. So he started checking to make sure that none of his teammates fell into the boosted category before starting the game. If he discovered any players who were boosted or that he had doubts about, he would immediately dodge out of the game. Then, finally, he found a game where he had determined that none of the players on his team were boosted. Relief washed over his heart, and he steadied himself to stomp all over the Chinese players. 

This particular Korean player was a Toplaner, and his main champion was Fiora. He’d played hundreds of games with Fiora, and knew her as intimately as one could know a MOBA champion. There were nights where this player had dreams in which he’d gotten to know Fiora far more intimately than that, but that isn’t relevant to this story. This particular Diamond 2 Korean player knew that as long as his teammates didn’t feed, he could crush his lane opponent with Fiora and carry his team to victory! 

Unfortunately for him, that was not how the game went at all. In the first 10 minutes of the game, the Korean Fiora had already died to the opposing Toplaner, a Riven, three times. After watching his screen turn black and white again, the Korean player rubbed his eyes in utter disbelief. I-I died again!? I’m a Diamond 2 player on the Korean server! What is even happening? How am I getting crushed this badly in Ionia?! And I’m getting stomped by someone who is only Platinum 1! How is this even possible? How is this Riven only ranked Platinum 1? What? Why? How? Why? Why? Why? Why? THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE! 

In the gaming house of a certain LPL team, a young man leaned back in seat with a toothpick in his mouth. He rolled his eyes and said, “This Fiora. What. An. Idiot. He’s still trying to fight me when he’s behind. Doesn’t this guy know how scary a fed Riven is?” 

On another nearby computer, a teammate turned to look at the young man and smiled. “Ah! You winning, son?”

The youth looked up at his teammate. “Of course! You think I’d lose in a game like this?”

The teammate smirked, “Yeah yeah. Hows about you say stuff like that when you can actually get to Diamond, yeah?”

The young man grimaced, as if he’d had cold water dumped on his head. “God dammit! Why you always gotta hit me where it hurts!?”

In the Chinese competitive scene, there were top LSPL or even LPL players who were brilliant on the competitive stage. But for some reason or another, they would have the worst luck in solo queue and could never climb higher than high Platinum and low Diamond.

This young man was a prime example of that. In fact, he’d had such a hard time getting out of Platinum that he’d earned himself the nickname of China’s #1 Platinum Gatekeeper.

In other words, the unfortunate Diamond 2 Fiora main from Korea had collided with a steel wall!

The most common misfortune that the Korean invaders on the Ionia Server experienced was running into Chinese players who were all significantly better than their rank and profile history implied. All of them were unanimously at the level of Master or Challenger. And they all shared a unique quirk. Their Summoner Tags always had the same two Chinese characters followed by a series of random numbers. None of the Koreans knew what the names of these players meant, but they all started to understand that running into them as opponents meant that they were in for a truly terrible time. All sorts of theories ran through the Korean forums about these players. The prevailing one was that this was a guild of Chinese players who had come to defend the Ionia server from the Korean invasion.

This theory was, interestingly enough, not completely wrong. The Chinese players whose names started with two characters and then a series of random numbers did belong to a guild of sorts. But they were not there to defend the Ionia server. Nor did they particularly care about the Koreans attempting to invade. Their presence and names was something every Chinese player knew about and did not find even a little strange. The two Chinese characters that their names started with was the word for “Booster”, and the string of numbers that followed was the booster’s QQ number. They were advertising their services to any player who might be interested!

On the Ionia server, the boosters were unquestionably the most frightening players to come against. They were ungodly skilled and absolutely ruthless. Not because they wanted to ruin the fun of any other player, but because they were working to fulfill the demands of their clients, and that was paramount. Those unfortunate enough to run into a booster on the enemy team knew that they would be in for a terrible time. Their presence on the Ionia server was begrudgingly accepted, because everyone had to earn their bread somehow. And for a great many players, the boosters had become something of an aspirational job. They all secretly dreamed of the day they’d become good enough at League to become a booster, and earn money by playing the game they loved. 

For Lin Feng, the presence of the boosters was something he didn’t particularly mind. He enjoyed the challenge of having to play against someone with that much skill and experience. Besides, he understood that he was also somewhat of a booster himself for Su Xue. Every game he won boosted her rank. And he took some joy in joining up with the rest of the professional boosters to make life a nightmare for the Koreans who had shown up on the Ionia server. As a booster, Lin Feng had done a pretty good job. Since he started streaming in the morning and playing on Su Xue’s account, he’d won every game he played. By the afternoon, he’d boosted Su Xue’s account from Diamond 5 all the way to Diamond 3! 

After ending the stream for the time being, Lin Feng turned to Su Xue in the bed and yelled, “Su Xue, I’m hungry!” 

Su Xue got up from the bed and rubbed her eyes, nodding sleepily. ‘Oh, alright. I’ll start making food.”

Half an hour later, the table was lined up with steaming hot dishes. Lin Feng started digging in right away. Su Xue, on the other hand, was not eating. She picked at her food, but brought none of it to her mouth. She just continued to stare at Lin Feng in a daze. Not because she was sleepy. Not at all. Su Xue was fully awake. She was lost in her own mind because she started thinking about Lin Feng’s identity and past once again. Even after she’d thought about it for an entire sleepless night, she really did not know what to think about Lin Feng or how to face him at all. So much had changed since she figured out that he was not lying about everything he’d told her, and she could not get a handle on the emotions swirling through her heart. 

After a while, Su Xue opened her mouth and asked, “Lin Feng?”

“Yeah?” 

“So, you’re really that Maple? The one that was China’s number one Midlaner back in Season 1?”

“Yeup!” Lin Feng said, scarfing another heap of rice into his mouth.

Although Su Xue had already confirmed it yesterday, after hearing it again, the truth still sent shockwaves through her heart. She took a deep breath, calming herself down, then asked the next question. “So, does that mean you… well, did you actually go toe-to-toe with Rake? And you were just as good as he was back then?”

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Tian Tian!

Dev Thought: I got something super cool to share with you guys today! You know how we got an artist and commissioned character portraits? So far, he’s drawn Lin Feng, Tang Tang, Su Xue, and Tian Tian (Fatty) for us. We’re working with him to get the rest of the characters drawn too. But the one he did for Fatty is one that I particularly like and I think its the best drawing he’s done for us so far. So I decided to share it with you guys early.

Fatty/Tian Tian is a hard character to get right and picture. Ya know, outside of the whole ‘he’s fat’ thing. Because there’s a lot of contradiction within the character. On the one hand, he’s constantly anxious and a bit of a cry-baby. But on the other hand, he’s one of the best Toplaners in China and someone that’s managed to fight all the way to Worlds multiple times. And when it comes down to it, Tian Tian’s got an intense force of will and determination. I didn’t think it was going to be possible to capture all of that in a single drawing, but our artist managed it somehow. Here’s the drawing:

 

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