For years, the TCL has been the perennial underdog of the international competitive scene. And in 2018, the story was no different. The region’s best team, SuperMassive Esports, failed to impress as the top-seeded TCL team at both the Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship. However, in 2019, the script could finally flip for the region, as major free agent acquisitions across the board have improved the TCL immensely.
This past offseason, the teams of the TCL made some serious moves, bringing in talent from across the globe in order to strengthen the region as a whole. Specifically, Europe and Korea were focused on when it came to finding new players to bolster the TCL talent pool, and when it came down to the wire, some great pickups were made throughout the entire league. Most notably, former Team Vitality jungler Erberk “Gilius” Demir was signed to Beşiktaş Esports, while Kim “Trick” Gang-yun, formerly of Europe’s G2 Esports and Korea’s bbq Olivers, signed with the on-the-rise Galakticos. Additionally, former KT Rolster star player Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon also joined Beşiktaş.
However, the undisputed biggest signing of the 2018-19 TCL offseason came (and possibly in TCL history) came courtesy of the region’s strongest team, SuperMassive. On November 30, the team signed SK Telecom legend Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan, as one of the greatest Korean support players of all-time joined the ranks of a wildcard region. And although rumors circled Wolf and a possible departure of SKT after a disappointing 2018 season, the consensus expectation was for the former world champion to find a home in the LCK. However, seeing a player of his caliber end up in a developing region was surely a surprise.
And yet, these moves, while certainly shocking, could be major steps in the right direction for a region that has been on the cusp of competing for the better part of the past decade. Starting in 2014, when Dark Passage reached the World Championship, the region has always been on the fence when it came to actually getting the job done, and by starting to add talented import players like Kim “Frozen” Tae-il and Lee “GBM” Chang-seok, the TCL became one of the most feared wildcard regions in the world.
However, that’s all it ever was- a wildcard region. A league that could never rise up into the same ranks as some of the stronger leagues across the world. Major regions would always outclass the TCL at international events, and no matter how good the region’s representatives may have looked on paper (or in regional play for that matter), there was always a bigger, stronger opponent waiting on the horizon.
However, in 2019, that bigger, stronger, opponent could be found in the TCL. With 13 European imports across the board and 7 Korean players in the league, the TCL has become one of the most diverse (and potentially impressive) regions in the world overnight. Of course, the majority of players are still Turkish, as is to be expected, but when you combine the proven stalwart and solid play of TCL natives like Anıl “HolyPhoenix” Işık and Mustafa Kemal “Dumbledoge” Gökseloğlu with the power of the new class of the league’s imports, the ceiling for the league becomes significantly higher than it was in years past.
And now, with the TCL season just nine days away, the region will be fully immersed in competition before we know it. However, this year, the league will surely be more than a rollover when it comes time for MSI and Worlds. No matter who emerges out of the TCL this season, major leagues across the world should tread with care- the once-wildcard king is a wildcard no longer.
Photo Credit: League of Legends, Riot Games, Lolesports