It seems my favorite League of Legends professional players just can’t stop breaking my heart these days; I JUST said goodbye to TSM’s TheOddOne yesterday. But you know what they say: when it rains, it pours. And when one pro player mixes up the LCS scene, they all start shaking up long standing rosters. Alex Ich, long time Mid laner for Gambit Gaming, has continued the chain of change by announcing his departure from the team.
The news ripped apart my dreams for Gambit winning the cup at the 2014 Championships, like Alex’s Kha’Zix shredding through isolated enemies. The team was a world class League of Legends force, back when these Russian powerhouses dominated Europe as the Moscow 5. They even fought through a close group stage in the Season 3 World Championships to make it to quarterfinals. Unfortunately, they faced off against NaJin Black Sword, feared dark horse of the series. NaJin meticulously guarded their team’s secrets, scrimmaging with virtually only their sister team and keeping future opponents uninformed. There was so little information on NaJin’s style, champion pool, or team play available to Gambit, and they disappointingly lost their chance at the cup after entering the matchup nearly blind. Considering Gambit’s strong play in past seasons and misfortune facing such a mysterious opponent, most fans believed they had the potential to take Worlds the following year.
Well, the following year came, and Gambit found themselves stumbling, not sailing, through the Spring Split. We didn’t see a dominating Gambit, as we had expected, but rather a team struggling just to avoid relegations. At first I was confused as to why Gambit couldn’t find solid footing.
Alex Ich forwent his signature assassin play style this season to pick up Lulu, a stable choice that supported his team. This meant a large threat was removed from the classic Gambit meta. With Alex playing more passively, it was up to top or bot to pick up their game and claim profitable kills and subsequent objectives. More often than not, though, individual performance waned and team synergy looked to be dissolving, giving other teams opportunity to gain advantages through better strategic plays and victorious laning. Darien’s performance top swings violently from domination to questionable failure, while Edward and Genja down bot were often losing to the duos of enemy teams. Diamond has jungled with decent success, but a jungler’s efficacy is somewhat lost when team strategy is lagging, as was the case unfortunately.
Gambit’s faltering can be partly attributed to the improved competition in the EU LCS, but the team itself has showed a poor performance that left them in 5th place at the end of the split. Many agree that Alex Ich saved Gambit from losing their spot in the LCS, pulling 2 close wins against Copenhagen Wolves and dodging the dreaded relegations by just a hair.
Alex himself had a few words to say about his team’s lackluster games and his decision to leave:
“…We lost our zeal. The exact same youthful zeal that accompanied M5’s victories. Crazy dives, risky moves. We started playing like veterans, carefully and tediously. If only it yielded good results… But no, everything was getting even worse. Due to our lack of discipline and the lack of common opinion in our team, we stopped trusting each other in making moves and preferred to avoid taking risks.”
Alex isn’t the only one with sad words for his former team. Former Gambit Support, Darker, shared some of his Gambit experiences following Alex’s decision:
“Our trainings werent really effective and we basically practiced for shitloads of hours for very little progress (or not progressing at all atleast from my point of view). This obviously was pretty frustrating experience for me and some other members of team… We were losing many games because of lack of strategy and preparation aspect and for some reason people didn’t really want to do it (wont point out names).”
Suddenly, there’s a lot of sentiment going around involving Gambit’s increasingly negative team atmosphere. Not many were aware of the turmoil that was weakening Gambit from the inside. Drained team morale, limited practice time, and unproductive training seem to be holding back a roster of stars from their true potential. It will be incredibly difficult for Gambit to overcome the issues that drove Darker and Alex Ich away. A turnaround on that level would require a positive change in mindset, a readjusted dedication, mutual respect, and renewed fervor for success from each individual player and the team as a whole.
Darker believes the team will find immense difficulty reclaiming their seat at the top, detailing some of Gambit’s shortcomings this season:
“I personally feel like Alex was playing quite well during the split, maybe not shining and straight up winning his match ups but doing okay, dont really remember how Diamond did but i think junglers like Amazing were outperforming him quite often. Top is a Darien who’s either feeding or having a really good game, well, you never know. And bot lane was looking really bad for Gambit, especially closer to end of the split Genja + Edward often were destroyed by Forgiven + Unlimited CW’s bot or Rekkles + Yellow Fnatic’s bot. Summing it up you have very little consistency and some players really underperforming. Not a sign of a solid team i must say.”
Gambit Gaming will likely look to replace Alex with a promising Mid laner (who will have MASSIVE shoes to fill), but will it be enough to bring them back to their Moscow 5 glory? Teams like ROCCAT and Alliance have been consistently raising their level of play, while adapting to the rapidly improving competition. Meanwhile, Gambit lost the momentum that Edward’s return provided, along with the old consistency and synergy from which they once carved their thrones. Maybe a fresh Mid will boost morale and spur a level of commitment that Alex and Darker claim has faltered.
I wish the best for both Alex Ich and Gambit Gaming. Personal struggles and team conflicts aside, each of the players involved has great talent, and has contributed immensely to the League of Legends pro scene.