Taiwan was once at the top of the League of Legends world, having denied South Korea’s first title in 2012, when Taipei Assassins defeated Azubu Frost 3-1 in the World Championship finals. TPA were the lovable underdogs and Kurtis “Toyz” Lau became a star, as Taiwan briefly held the international spotlight. Now, the LMS has practically reverted to minor region status with its recent international performances, as Flash Wolves and ahq failed to make the region proud yet again. Despite that, the region proved that it still had talent among its ranks at the newly revamped All-Star 2017. The LMS talents were largely the same names we have witnessed on the international stage, but among them was a new name, Chu “FoFo” Chun-Lan.
FoFo has played at a handful of international events, IEM Gyeonggi and Rift Rivals, but the most recent All-Star was his first real exposure to the mass Western audience of League of Legends. After strong performances during the duration of the tournament, one would say he is a rising star, but really, he is on his way to becoming a supernova.
FoFo debuted at a ripe seventeen years old, taking over TPA’s mid lane position after Singaporean star, Wong “Chawy” Xing-Lei, had a monster year with the organization. Despite the individual success of their previous mid laner, TPA produced poor results and missed playoffs for the first time in the history of the organization. FoFo’s debut signaled the beginning of a new TPA, as it looked to move past its 2015 failures.
FoFo was a lane-focused player, often playing forward in just about any matchup he could, emulating the playstyle of the illustrious Lee “Faker” Sang-Hyeok. It didn’t take long for him to make it clear that he was a cut above the standard LMS mid lane talent, as he transitioned to becoming a full-time pro player. It was the first time since Toyz’ retirement that an LMS mid laner proved they could stand up to even Flash Wolves’ Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang in the laning phase. FoFo shined as an individual talent from the start, but soon it became clear that he still had much to learn to succeed in a team game.
FoFo entered TPA in an awkward transitional period, as the team continued to hold onto its veteran core of Chen “Morning” Kuan-Ting, Chang “BeBe” Bo-Wei, and Li “Jay” Chieh. FoFo did not have to concern himself with leading the team in anyway, but sometimes his decisions stuck out like a sore thumb. His hangups at the beginning were centered around two things, teleports and teamfights. In a meta where mid laners were expected to take teleport each game, this issue was especially magnified. It was not unusual to see FoFo teleport to his death or fail to follow up properly in a teamfight. As talented as he was, he still had a ways to go before fitting into the Taipei Assassins.
FoFo’s Rise and Fall
Taipei Assassins may have lost the luster it held in 2012, but the brand itself was still prestigious in the eyes of many. Living up to that name as a rookie is not exactly easy, but the next split, TPA was acquired by Jay Chou and became renamed as J Team. It was a new look for the team and the beginning of FoFo’s first split of LMS dominance.
With a split of experience under his belt, FoFo slightly adjusted his playstyle and his teammates adjusted accordingly. FoFo’s overaggressive laning phase matched perfectly with the jungle-control style of Chen “REFRA1N” Kuan-Ting and the duo partially emulated the playstyle of the famous duo of Faker and Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong. Soon, the team focused its compositions on providing any advantage it could for its mid laner. FoFo’s talent finally found itself being put on full display.
FoFo smoked every mid laner in the LMS and J Team averaged the fastest time for destroying mid lane towers (insert number later) en route to its domination of the LMS. FoFo was the best player in the LMS and J Team dropped a mere four maps as it clinched first place in the LMS regular season. FoFo was an absolute star and an LMS championship was not the only thing on the horizon; The World Championship was coming up and this star needed a bigger stage.
J Team was set for one best-of-five with Flash Wolves to determine which team would rise as the LMS Summer champion and punch its ticket to Worlds. J Team was so close to starting a new chapter in the LMS, but just as quickly, the team’s fairytale ended. FoFo’s starpower had seemingly evaporated and the team broke down in its inability to find victory through the mid lane. FoFo was not prepared for the newest mid lane champion, Taliyah, and the team suffered, leading the team to default to focusing on bot lane.
FoFo was defeated, J Team went down 3-0 in the finals without a whimper, and failed to make Worlds that year. The young mid lane phenom had broken and his team came crumbling down to follow. FoFo also followed with weak performances at the IEM Gyeonggi, where J Team failed to best North America’s Immortals in a BO3 (Best of 3), but that was the end of it. FoFo may have broken once, but his career would not become defined by it.
FoFo reached the heights of the LMS and claimed his first MVP award in 2016, but almost as quickly as he rose to the top, his team hit rock bottom. 2017 was a year for FoFo to stabilize himself and fully develop as a professional gamer. The talent was still there, the young star just needed more time.
J Team largely retained its roster from the 2016 Summer Split, but decided to move forward with a new jungler in Chen “Alex” Yu-Ming, as REFRA1N desired a break from competitive play. The change hurt J Team and FoFo’s ability to put on pressure in the laning phase, but that did not stop him from returning to form. FoFo once again rose as the strongest laner in the region and even began to best Maple as an overall mid laner.
Unfortunately, that did not translate to success for FoFo or J Team in the Spring Season. J Team managed to finally defeat Machi Esports in a BO5, after losing to them in the 2016 Spring Playoffs and 2016 World Championship qualifier, but ceased there. FoFo was back on top, but J Team itself still needed more of a spark.
Despite a lack of domestic success, FoFo received another chance to compete internationally against some of the best teams from China and Korea at Rift Rivals Asia. There, he proved that he could lane against elite mid lane talents like Lee “Crown” Min-Ho and Lee “Scout” Ye-Chan, even solo killing the former. J Team even notched a victory against EDward Gaming in likely the biggest victory of FoFo’s career to date.
Moving forward to the Summer Season, FoFo proved to be an absolute monster in the LMS. At this point, it became clear that FoFo was indeed the strongest mid laner in the LMS, as Maple continued to slump in the laning phase. He still exercised timidness when it came to teamfights, but more and more, he allowed himself to take chances and let his mechanics carry him through situations. J Team only placed 4th in LMS Summer 2017 and failed to make it to the World Championship, but FoFo earned his second MVP and Comeback Player of the Year, bouncing back from a disastrous end to his Summer 2016.
All-Star 2017 and the future
FoFo proved himself an elite player again, solidifying his star status in 2017, but could not put his talent on display for a larger audience due to missing out on the World Championship for a second year in a row. However, FoFo’s home region recognized his bonafide star status and gave him a chance to show his class at All-Star 2017, which conveniently switched to a more competitive format. FoFo was finally getting his chance and he was eternally thankful. “I am very appreciative of all the teammates, coaches and fans that supported me,” he said. “Also, of course, everyone that voted for me. It is an honor to be recognized in this way.”
FoFo had the opportunity to play newest mid-lane champion in League of Legends, Zoe, who is known for having a high skill ceiling. In his very first game against Turkey, he showed that the champion was an absolute killer in his hands, as he solo-killed Kim “Frozen” Tae-Il and led the LMS to victory. FoFo did not come to All-Star solely for pleasantries, he wanted to win and prove himself.
The LCK All-Star team made the mistake of allowing him to play Zoe again and he went deathless, standing up to Faker, and winning yet another game in front of a Western audience. Personally, it was one of the most defining moments of his career. “The moment that I fought against LCK was probably the most exciting game I’ve ever played. It was probably the most exciting moment of my life.”
FoFo and the LMS were not able to win All-Star 2017, eventually being bested by China’s LPL in the finals, but he simultaneously proved himself and Taiwan as entities that must be taken seriously. FoFo finally got a semblance of a large stage and he did not disappoint, showing all the stardom that he amassed for himself in the LMS.
Now, all that is left is to prepare for the upcoming season, with J Team finally moving on from its old talent, with BeBe notably retiring. FoFo recognizes it will not be easy to transition, but everyone will have to do their part. “Because the roster is mostly new and really more based on potential, it could be worse than before. The team and the coaches will have to step up and support them.”
FoFo has developed into one of the best mid laners in the world, proving to be the absolute backbone of his team’s success. As he continues to loosen up in teamfight scenarios, he will only continue to improve as he chases an LMS title with J Team. FoFo might not be a champion yet, but every star gets his due. No one can stop this celestial star from burning bright.
Photo Credit: Riot Games, Garena Esports