The most popular League Champions Korea in 2016 — if you don’t count eventual world champion SK Telecom T1 — was undeniably the ROX Tigers. Apart from their incredible game play that kept them in the running for championships across multiple seasons in the LCK, as well as back-to-back world semifinal appearances, they were a team that was simply fun to watch.
Their singing before matches and childish antics caught on camera or during streams became inseparable when discussing the team itself. Part of the reason why they commanded such a strong fan base in spite of various hiccups with sponsors and difficulties was purely based on how likeable they were. When the team disbanded in the offseason, fans refused to believe their beloved Tigers separated. Fear no more, though, because a new team has emerged to satiate the desire for another fun-loving bunch.
MVP has started to gain some traction locally in Korea, with wacky team photos and colorful personalities that captured by OGN’s “Off the Record” recordings. Although MVP is a fairly new that joined the LCK last summer, MVP has found its place in the LCK.
Even during its first split of the LCK, MVP had charisma. During a visit to the team house last June, top laner Kang “ADD” Gun-Mo said the biggest challenge wasn’t the practice, but “finding the right socks and clothes.”
Oh “Maha” Hyun-Sik jokingly later said his goal was to move to support someday, which prompted An “Ian” Jun-hyeong to tell starting support Jeong “Max” Jong-bin “it was nice knowing you,” with the entire team bursting into laughter.
Stories of their personalities have also been spread through fan forums such as Inven, as people have left a number of positive experiences with the team during post-match fan meetups. The most recent review described the players memorizing individual fans by face, as well as Maha jokingly asking why they “bothered to come watch” at such a late time.
MVP’s success this spring — the team finished in fifth place and earned two wins against KT Rolster — surprised to many, as much of the focus (again, aside from SKT) entering the season was on KT’s “super team” and the rebuilding Afreeca Freecs and Longzhu rosters. But MVP improved upon its sixth place finish last summer to reach the playoffs for the first time and did so with some head-turning moments along the way.
Max and ADD first gained notice for champion selection. ADD once had success with an unconventional Sion pick, and Max played 15 unique champions in the bottom lane. MVP’s jungler Kim “Beyond” Kyu-seok was also acknowledged as one of the rising stars in the scene. The most recent support-Sion qudra-kill enticed fans worldwide, and MVP made a name for itself on a global scale.
MVP’s scrappy, team-fight oriented play style is fitting for its status as an underdog without much experience. Looking at the lineup for the LCK playoffs, first place is a three time world champion, second place is the runner up of last year’s worlds, and third place has three world champions.
Then there’s MVP, the team made of five players with one split worth of professional experience, fighting against the odds.
Despite not being as individually talented as the ex-ROX Tigers, MVP nonetheless has potential to reach that level of popularity. Parallels exist between MVP and the early ROX Tigers, whether it’s the slow-build to success or a cast of young, funny and likable characters. Time will tell if MVP ever reaches the world class level of the ROX Tigers, but if nothing else, it will be fun to watch them try.