Anyone around the Korean scene long enough knows about the sudden rise of Longzhu Gaming. Their entrance into the LCK was probably one of the most dramatic yet entertaining ways in which a team has introduced themselves.
At their best, they were composed of several world-class superstars. Their team had players who were considered to be top three in each of their roles and they were unstoppable in the LCK. They dominated every aspect of their region and then went on to do the same at the World Championship.
But, suddenly, without a trace, the team fell off. No longer were they putting out the double digit KDAs or the insane highlights. They were now a mediocre team who missed out on making the World Championship this year. This team fell as quick as it rose and because of this, Kingzone Dragonx has brought to the table one of the most entertaining stories of all time. Here is the rise and fall of Korea’s most notorious team, Kingzone Dragonx.
The team was created in 2016 after the team Incredible Miracle was rebranded. They were introduced as a small-scale team that didn’t pose much of a threat in the beginning. Using their funds, the team acquired large players at the time such as LGD Gaming’s Flame, Jin Air Green Wing’s Chaser, and Samsung Galaxy’s CoCo.
However, despite the strong players, they weren’t able to perform as well as the stats recommended. In fact, they were in some sense horrid. They didn’t meet any expectations and finished at a measly 8-10. This allowed them to barely miss relegations but in turn, they missed the Spring Split playoffs. They disappointed audiences everywhere.
In the summer season, Longzhu Gaming tried to switch things up by bringing in G2 Esports’ Emperor who had the best season of his career with G2 Esports. However, things were not the same with his new team. The team performed horrendously again and at the pace they were going at, they were headed for relegations if they didn’t do something quick. Luckily, the team quickly switched Fury back onto the scene and they pulled out a 7-11 record, barely missing relegations yet again but missing out on the playoffs for the second time.
Longzhu Gaming started off with a rough 2016 season. They played terrible League of Legends and were nearly relegated twice. If they didn’t want a repeat of this year, they were going to have to do something quick.
2017 looked like a promising year for the Korean roster. They acquired new prospects such as the top laner, Expression, and former mid laner, Fly. However, their most impressive purchase was the duo from ROX Tigers of PraY and GorillA.
The bot lane duo was considered to be the best in Korea at the time. This bot lane duo made ROX Tigers the only Korean team that could effectively play against South Korea Telecom and win! Keep in mind, this was when SKT was at their peak. With this bot lane duo, it seemed almost impossible for Longzhu Gaming to disappoint. They had to at least make playoffs this year, right? Wrong. They played the same mediocre League of Legends and found themselves missing out on playoffs yet again for the third time.
They ended the season with the same record of 8-10 from last Spring Split and barely missed relegations again. Because of the horrid results from last season, Longzhu Gaming completely revamped their roster, keeping only GorillA and PraY as the original players. That being said, they had three spots to fill and they were going to have to choose strong picks because their fans were expecting a strong season for the Summer Split. If they failed to do so, then the entire brand could fall into the ground.
For the mid lane, they brought in Bdd, a former CJ Entus mid laner. Jungle went over to Cuzz, a rising jungler on the Korean solo queue ladder. As for top lane, they had very little to work with and picked up a small-time top laner named Khan.
The only recognizable name out of the new players was Bdd and this was because of his time back on CJ Entus. However, with some irony, Longzhu Gaming found themselves playing better with a team full of no-names rather than with a team that had notorious reputations backing them. They finished with a 14-4 record, substantially better than any of their past three splits. This strong finish gave them the first place seed and for once, they had a chance at making it out of the Korean region.
The reason being behind their dramatic strong regular season finish was due to the fact that not only did PraY and GorillA have a field day in the bot lane, their top laner Khan was playing extraordinarily well. No one could match him and he could dictate what happened from his side any way he wanted.Because they were given the one seed, they were only required to play one match to win the entire Split and make it to the World Championship. Unfortunately, they were going to have to play South Korea Telecom, a team still considered to be the best in the world despite having a shaky season that year.
Longzhu Gaming was going to have to give their best performance yet if they wanted to take down SKT and they did, especially on Khan’s side. Khan outperformed each of his teammates, going past the necessities and making sure he put in extra effort to win.
There were times he took on two or three of SKT’s members on signature champions like his Fiora or Camille and still won. His ability to carry throughout the early to mid game proved to be more than helpful. It proved to be necessary. Because of Khan’s strength and an outstanding performance from both Longzhu Gaming’s bot lane and mid lane, South Korea Telecom were defeated in a shocking fashion by Longzhu Gaming as they took them out 3-1. This gave them their first ever ticket to the World Championship.
After taking down last year’s World Champions in the LCK finals, Longzhu Gaming were going into the tournament more confident than ever. They were placed in a group with Fnatic, Immortals, and GIGABYTE Marines.
Fnatic was the superstar from the EU LCS region and Immortals was the rogue team that managed to make it out of North America. As for GIGABYTE Marines, their jungler, Levi, had all the eyes on him whenever he played his pocket pick, Lee Sin.
Even though they were placed in a tough bracket, they still played extremely well. The team went 6-0 throughout the Groups Stage and secured themselves a spot in the quarterfinals. They practically seemed unstoppable and a chance of winning a World Championship for the first time seemed possible.
However, their ignorance led them to dismiss the fact that they were playing Samsung Galaxy, last year’s World Championship finalists. Because they underestimated them, they were quickly dismantled by the team, losing 3-0 and dismissed from the quarterfinals in shocking fashion.
After their historic run, Longzhu Gaming was acquired by a new company Kingzone, rebranding the entire Longzhu Gaming team into Kingzone Dragonx. However, they kept the entire roster largely due their success in the 2017 season. Kingzone Dragonx started off a little shaky. They lost to KSV eSports in the opening match of the Spring Split but this was largely due to the fact that their star player, Khan, had been suspended for derogatory terms said outside of the Rift.
After Khan came back, they went on a seven game winning streak before losing to BBQ Olivers. Those were the only two losses the team would experience. In the end, the entire roster would go 16-2 and an acquisition of SKT’s former jungler, Peanut, only made the entire roster even stronger. Because of their first place finish, Kingzone Dragonx was given the first seed in the tournament. Their victory over Afreeca Freecs in the finals secured their ticket to the Mid-Season Invitational, becoming the first Korean team aside from SKT to make it.
Despite being the fan favorite to win it all this year, they gave an extremely disappointing performance. The team lost to Flash Wolves and Fnatic at least once in the Groups Stage but due to a 6-4 record overall, they barely inched past. In the semifinals, they faced off against Flash Wolves and were able to exact revenge for their defeat against them in the Groups Stage by taking them out 3-1. This set off a finals matchup of Royal Never Give Up versus Kingzone Dragonx, a matchup millions of fans around the world wanted to see.
This was the iconic China versus Korea matchup. No matchup had been as anticipated since 2014 when China’s Star Horn Royal Club faced off against Korea’s Samsung White. While Korea won the last major matchup with Samsung White taking the cake, RNG managed to dispose of Kingzone Dragonx quite easily. RNG took down Kingzone 3-1 in the finals and won the second Chinese MSI title since 2015. However, Kingzone Dragonx still gave a very strong run and proved to audiences everywhere they were still a viable team.
After a successful spring run, KZ found their results falling out of the gutter. They didn’t perform as well in the Summer Split and failed to make any impact in the 2018 Summer Split. Khan was no longer carrying as he once did and PraY’s support, GorillA, failed to use his utility playstyle to its maximum power.
Therefore, Kingzone began to fall. They didn’t place first like the past two splits, instead grabbing a third place spot. Kingzone Dragonx faced off against Afreeca Freecs in the quarterfinals and were eliminated after Afreeca Freecs played a game plan that KZ failed to keep up with.
The team soon went into the Regional Tournament but were eliminated in there as well, ending their summer season with a disappointing finish. Since the beginning of the summer split, KZ’s performance slowly worsened to the point where they were not a viable team anymore. Now, with a close to the 2018 season, Kingzone is going to have to look to become the team that once took the world by storm.
Longzhu Gaming—or Kingzone Dragonx as they are now called—didn’t become a big deal because they suddenly sprang up to the top and had two extremely strong runs in the 2017 and 2018 season. There have been countless teams to do that.
G2 Esports did it in Europe and Team Liquid has done it on more than one occasion. Both of these teams were underdogs that somehow managed to win the entire tournament. The reason Longzhu Gaming will forever remain in the history books is because they marked the downfall of South Korea Telecom’s legacy. Beforehand, South Korea Telecom was a team that, no matter how bad they did in the regular season, they always managed to jump back in the playoffs to make the World Championship. Longzhu Gaming made sure that didn’t happen.
In their 2017 run, Longzhu Gaming not only placed first in the regular season, they also placed first in the playoffs and the same went for their 2018 spring split run. They went from being a team no one knew or cared about to taking down SKT, a team that had won three World Championships prior.
No team has ever, in the history of their career, gone from being near-relegation three times in a row to replacing the best team in the world. Longzhu Gaming was the first and they set the standard high. They’ve made history by doing so and there can be more to come in the future.
While their team tells a great story, I would tread carefully to bet on this team for the 2019 split. They definitely had one of the strongest seasons in the past two years but their downfall could be coming very soon.
Each team that has had a tremendous season always goes through one or two setback years and in my opinion, 2019 and 2020 will be Kingzone Dragonx’s setback years. They’ve lost several key players, one of them being Khan, and they’ve already found themselves struggling to meet the standards of their previous seasons.
Furthermore, if they’re not in their standard zone, Kingzone Dragonx tends to fall apart quite fast. Just because they played extremely well for the last half of 2017 and the first half of 2018 doesn’t mean they aren’t going to do well the next few years.
Keep in mind they did have three terrible seasons starting out with the 2016 spring and summer split and then the 2017 spring split. There is definitely possibility for them to repeat this again and I think it will happen in the next two years so if you decide to bet on them, tread cautiously. They can be unpredictable in both good and bad ways.
There’s also the notorious Cinderella Run that Cloud9 managed to pull off during the 2015 NA LCS Summer Split. There are many to choose from but no story will be as unique as Longzhu Gaming’s. They came in and struggled but eventually found themselves on the brink of greatness.
They crafted a kingdom for themselves but just like any great tragedy, that kingdom fell apart in the 2018 Summer Split after having arguably one of the most disappointing splits ever. Now, they’ve fallen apart and the question surfaces: can Kingzone Dragonx come back?
Can they make the comeback? They certainly can. While they may not be the best betting option for bettors all around the world, they can still craft a story for themselves. The team has already made a lasting legacy and they do have the choice to add to it.