How far is a player ready to go in order to achieve their goal. How big does the desire to win mean to someone that is already considered one of the best?
Before Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok’s stardom as the best mid laner, there have been many names that carried a legacy through years of League of Legends. Misaya, xPeke, ocelote, dade or Toyz were all great players in their prime and all of them left their mark on the game. With such an abundance of talent, some are bound to live in the shadows, not getting the recognition deserved. Until this year, Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong was one such player.
The story begins in 2012 with a team called MiG Blaze which would later become Azubu Blaze. Blaze, together with their sister team of Azubu Frost laid the foundations of the Korean League of Legends dynasty. Azubu Blaze quickly became an urban myth: they were this team you could never beat in scrims. The line-up of Reapered, Helios, Ambition, Cpt Jack and Lustboy is still considered as one of the best teams that ever existed.
Yet, despite being considered the team to beat, success eluded Azubu Blaze. The fell to MakNooN’s Najin Black Sword in the Korea regional finals and once again to Azubu Frost, who ended up winning OGN Summer 2012. Their star player and then mid-laner Ambition had to stay home after being one game away from accomplishing his goal: to reach the World championship.
Not long thereafter, the short era-that-never-truly-was of Azubu Blaze ended. The team was acquired by CJ Entus, whose judgement day came at the hands of the rookies of SKT T1 #2 led by the still unknown solo queue talent Faker. A struggling CJ Entus looked to make changes, and Ambition was sent to wander the jungle.
The fall was rough for the mighty Ambition, once famous for his cocky and arrogant attitude around his self-proclaimed “best Korean mid-laner” title. The inventor of the aggressive laning style and the famed Ryze expert had lost himself in the jungle.
But this is not how the story of the greats end. The greats have always their ultimate goal in sight, and for Ambition that was still getting to Worlds. So in 2015 he joined a new roster: that of Samsung Galaxy.
It was a period of inner turmoil for Samsung. The organization had to rebuild its line-up from scratch after losing all their players to China in the Korean exodus. Putting on the colors of Samsung, Ambition found himself among the rookies CuVee, Crown, Stitch and Wraith, on whose shoulders lay the daunting responsibility to rebuild the powerhouse.
Much like Samsung who would eventually recover to be two-times World Champions and three-times grand finalists, Ambition was reborn. Though he still initially struggled to find the right path in the jungle, his new team-mates were an enabler, catalysts which sped up his metamorphosis. In Azubu Blaze, Ambition was a star among four others. In Samsung, he became the leader that would not only guide new talent in the game, but also develop them and form them in real life. This was something new for Ambition, and he plunged into it, happily.
Ambition’s many years of hard work paid off. He built a true team, and not just five individuals under the same name. Stacked with talent on most positions, the team evolved over the years to become even more formidable. Samsung became synonymous with stellar macro game, a style of play developed by Ambition and which succeeded through mid-game sidelane control while looking out for possible fights. They had the early game designed to enable this too: Ambition played an early control style game, tracking the enemy’s jungler and denying him from supporting his laners to enable the team to play their team fighting and late game oriented playstyle.
2016 should have been the year of Ambition, after he took Faker — the one who had bested him years ago in that OGN game — to full five games at the Worlds grand finals. It should have been an apt ending to the huge mountain climb for Samsung and it should have denied SK Telecom T1 their third title. But this is not how stories in esports always go.
Ambition reached the grand finals only to re-establish his rivalry with Faker, which only made his determination stronger. And another story was now in the writing, one that could end in only one of two ways: either Faker would continue the history and become the truly immortal Demon King and a four-time world champion; or Ambition would be the one to bring god to his knees.
We now know how the 2017 story started and how it ended. Despite starting well in the Summer Split, Samsung struggled with the meta. Crown found himself in a slump and it was up to Ambition again to hold the team together. At Worlds, it was Ambition who led Samsung through Longzhu Gaming — against all odds — through the biggest playstyle transformation we saw all tournament. In the finals, it was Ambition’s one deciding call at the 57th minute which won Samsung the trophy.
Ambition is one of the best players we’ve seen to play this game. He’s been on top and on rock bottom multiple times. He didn’t fear the challenge of joining a team full of rookies and leading them to victories. He did not sy away from being a role model, or a chief tactician, or decisive shotcaller every time Samsung most needed him. He is the only captain to beat SKT in a best-of series on the biggest stage.
Samsung owes it all to Ambition. And still, the only thing he could think about after winning the World Championship was that he misses his wife.