AP Insider — Gama Bears’ dissolution, rise of yoe Flash Wolves, and the effect on the Taiwanese scene.
Twenty two days after Taiwanese representative, Gamania Bears, was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 2013 World Championship by eventual winners, SK Telecom T1, the organization disbanded their League of Legends squad. Citing an issue of age, as Garena Pro League’s Winter season requires players to be 17 years or older, the entire team decided to disband as both Maple and SwordArt, the mid laner and support player respectively, are only sixteen years old. The team gave up qualification positions in three major events in Taiwan & Southeast Asia, LNL Winter, GPL Winter, and the WCG Taiwan finals. LNL, or League of Legends Nova League. Six days later, on October 21st, yoe Flash Wolves picked up four of the six former Gama Bears members, Steak, Maple, SwordArt, and sub Maooo (formerly Galala). The following day, the Flash Wolves acquired former Gamania AD carry, NL, and HK Attitude Mage’s top laner, HueiYun. These two players were the last pieces of the starting lineup for yoe Flash Wolves and secured 5 of the 6 Gamania players. Role swaps did occur during this transition, with HueiYun moving from top lane to the jungle, and Maooo moving from a sub for top lane to a sub for the jungle position. The question remained, would the team get the qualifications spots for everything Gama deserved for qualifying and participating in the World Championship? Each league had tough decisions over the course of the week leading up to the formation of yoe Flash Wolves as contracts and transfers were being drawn up from Gamania to yoe. I’m going to walk you through the decisions each league made during the week that the Taiwanese world championship representatives didn’t have a home.
WCG Taiwan, or World Cyber Games Taiwan, is the qualification tournament to decide which team will represent Taiwan in the World Cyber Games Grand Finals in China at the end of the year. The tournament is run in an Olympic-style format with countries around the world having national qualifiers over the course of the year. WCG Taiwan was originally only one best-of-3 between Gama Bears and the winner of the LNL Winter Qualifiers, Taipei Assassins. The best-of-3 was scheduled to be played on October 20th, five days after the Bears had disbanded. WCG quickly decided they were going to change the format and dates of the tournament and decided on a four team, single elimination bracket to crown the Taiwanese representation to participate in the WCG Grand Finals in China at the end of the year. After the formation of yoe Flash Wolves, WCG allowed the players to keep their spot in the tournament due to having 5 of the 6 original Gamania Bears lineup. The other three spots were filled by the top three Taiwanese teams in the LNL Winter Qualifier, Taipei Assassins, Taipei Snipers, and ahq e-Sports Club. The tournament action took place over the last three days, with the Flash Wolves taking a convincing 2-0 victory over TPA, and meeting ahq in the finals. I’m not sure how the seeding of the tournament ended up working out, but the original finals was going to be Gama vs TPA and instead we saw that in the Semifinals. The seeding was either random or TPA got the number one seed for winning hte LNL Qualifiers and yoe Flash Wolves got the fourth seed for being a newly formed team. Either way we saw yoe vs ahq in the finals this morning where the Flash Wolves took a 2-1 victory to become the Taiwanese representation in yet another international event. This is a good step for them after switching sponsors and having a full week of uncertainty of their futures.
LoL Nova League, or LNL is Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao’s first professional league in the region with other teams competing over the last month for the 7 other spots in the league. Between the time of Gamania Bears disbanding and yoe Flash Wolves new roster being announced, the LoL Nova League Winter qualifiers concluded. The community had no idea how the eighth and final spot was going to be decided as Gama had rightfully qualified for the position by going the the world championships. After the ex-Gama players resurfaced under the yoe Flash Wolves brand, LNL decided to allow the players to keep ownership of the position and will be competing along side the seven teams which qualified, including notable names from WCG Taiwan such as Taipei Assassins, Taipei Snipers, ahq e-Sports Club. The format is very similar to the LCS regular season, round robin and best-of-1, but teams only play each other three times as opposed to four. The top four teams from this regional league will qualify for next season of the Garena Pro League to represent the Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao region, while the bottom four will face elimination in the LNL Spring qualifiers. Games started this morning at 3:00 AM PDT and noon CEST and will run every Saturday and Sunday until the end of the year. Check out their Homepage and Leaguepedia for more details
Note: LNL Spring will also have the 17 years old age requirement, but the Winter season does not; allowing yoe Flash Wolves to participate.
The Garena Pro League, or GPL, is an entirely different beast, including multiple regions from Southeast Asia, including Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam. Each region held their own qualifiers, with the Taiwanese qualifiers being the same as the LNL qualifiers. While the top seven teams from the qualifier earned a spot to play in LNL Winter, only the top three earned a spot in GPL Winter with Gama Bears getting the fourth Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macao spot. With the age issues of Gama Bears not allowing their current lineup to participate in GPL Winter and ultimately causing the organization to drop the team, the community eagerly awaited Garena’s next move on the matter. When yoe Flash Wolves reformed, they received the qualification that Gama Bears had previously earned but declined to participate as they were not going to replace the two sixteen year old players on their lineup. The final spot from the region was then granted to 2013 GPL participant, ahq e-Sports Club, for placing fourth in the LNL Winter Qualifiers behind Taiwan’s Taipei Assassins and Taipei Snipsers and Hong Kong’s HK Attitude. The format is very similar to OGN with the twelve teams teams, split into two groups of six, playing their group one and the top 4 proceeding into a 8 team single elimination playoff bracket ultimately distributing the $200,000 prize pool. Games begin on October 30th but the schedule and groups are not yet known. For more information check out the Leaguepedia page or the GPL Homepage which has a very information and simple infographic explaining the new league format.
Ultimately, the effect was Gamania Bears dropping the lineup was very minimal. The team ended up replacing their jungler in their transition over to yoe Flash Wolves, but other than that the results and opportunities for the young team were very similar. GPL was not going to let them participate under either team name because of the new age requirements, while both WCG and LNL proceeded to honor their previous qualifications. Although the format for WCG Taiwan was ultimately change, it had no impact on Steak and crew as the Flash Wolves swept the tournament and became a second time international representative for their region. Decisions will have to be made around the next going into the spring season for each respective league as LNL will be implemented the seventeen year old age requirement but by that time, only the mid laner, Maple, will be under the age of 17 as SwordArt turns seventeen in December of this year. I’m glad to see that most of the Gama Bear players will be sticking around the scene and hopefully they can take their international experience for the 2013 World Champions back to Taiwan to help strengthen their region for 2014.