An Unlikely Champion: CoreJJ’s Journey From Dignitas To The Bird’s Nest

Samsung Galaxy’s Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in has one of the best turnaround stories in the League of Legends scene.

As with every heartwarming story, CoreJJ’s starts with humble beginnings. After moving from South Korea where he was on a lesser-known team, Biglife Miracle, with future American star Choi “HuHi” Jae-Hyun, he joined a newly reformed Team Dignitas in the North American League Championship Series Spring Split of 2015.

The team did not live up to the success it thought it would attain, tallying just six wins and 12 losses in the spring, they would face relegation before getting another chance to show their worth in the Summer Split.

It would take CoreJJ – then an AD carry – and Dignitas the full five games to pull back from the brink of being relegated.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

After one year in the NA LCS, CoreJJ decided to return to his homeland, joining Samsung Galaxy as the team’s starting ADC. Although his inaugural return to the Korean scene wasn’t the strongest, he did help the team secure a 6th place finish in the LCK, just short of playoffs and safe for the following split.

Heading into the Summer Split, it was announced that CoreJJ would be switching to the support position and would be splitting playtime with Kwon “Wraith” Ji-min.

With these roster changes, Samsung Galaxy would prove to have a chance at the 2016 World Championships. After a 4th place finish, Samsung Galaxy found themselves in contention at the LCK playoffs.

Defeating Afreeca Freecs in the Wildcard best-of-3 qualifier 2-0, CoreJJ and the SSG squad would go on to face KT Rolster in the quarter-finals, the team would however fail to defeat KT Rolster, losing 3-0.

Samsung then faced a gauntlet run in the regional qualifiers to secure Korea’s treasured final seed for Worlds 2016. Jin Air Green Wings presented the first hurdle, clinched narrowly by Samsung in a 3-2 victory, before besting the Afreeca Freecs 3-1 to set up a grudge match against KT Rolster.

 

Source: Riot Games Flickr

KT Rolster would be a difficult opponent to beat, heavy favourites after their previous victory over CoreJJ and his teammates. However, the history faded into the background once the series had begun, utilising the change in supports and the power that CoreJJ bought to the team, Samsung was able to defeat KT in a 3-2 series and secure their ticket as the 3rd seed to the World Championship.

 

Mid-September, CoreJJ’s handed over his boarding pass for a flight back to the United States for the 2016 World Championship, just one year after fighting off NA LCS relegation.

Despite a supposed ‘Group of Death’ draw, Samsung Galaxy convincingly progressed through the tournament, finishing first in their group and defeating both Cloud9 and H2K-Gaming 3-0quarterfinalsr finals and semi-finals respectively.

World Championship Finals 2016
Source: lolesports

Samsung Galaxy inevitably faced Korean SK Telecom T1 in the finals. Reigning champions and having defeated favourites ROX Tigers in the previous round, SKT entered the matchup heavily favoured.

However, CoreJJ and his Samsung brothers in arms decided instead to fight until the very end. Although they were down 2-0 some incredible play by Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong kept the team alive and they banded together to take the series to a full five games.

Although SKT would ultimately show their class to close out yet another World Championship final win, this was just the beginning of CoreJJ and Samsung stamping their mark on the international stage.

 

Source: Riot Games Flickr

 

Samsung Galaxy returned with the same roster in 2017, though CoreJJ was now the official starter in the support position alongsidePark “Ruler” Jae-hyuk.

The squad would finish 2nd in the regular season but would ultimately fall short of winning the Spring Split after falling to KT Rolster in the playoffs 3-0 once again.

After finishing 3rd in a competitive LCK Summer Split, Samsung found themselves poised to once again battle their way through the playoffs to return to the international stage.

Falling to SKT in the quarterfinals of playoffs meant that the teams only option, however, would be to win the regionals once again. With an eerily similar run to the previous year, CoreJJ and his team would fell Afreeca Freecs before facing KT Rolster in the finals.

This time around the team was far better equipped to deal with the region’s ‘super team’ and would sweep the series 3-0 to try and improve upon 2016 World Championship final appearance.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Samsung battled through a difficult group once again, exiting the group in 2nd place with a 4-2 record behind regional hopefuls Royal Never Give Up.

Their first opponents in the bracket stage would be Korean 1st seed Longzhu Gaming who had cruised through their group with a 6-0 record and odds-on to lift the Summoners Cup.

Samsung soon ended that narrative, outclassing the LCK Summer Split champions to seal a 3-0 victory and in turn, stamp their mark as a force to be reckoned with at the event.

Team WE, the Chinese squad, had a lot of hype coming into the tournament but would suffer the same fate as Longzhu as Samsung smashed passed them with a 3-1 record to move onto the finals.

Once again, CoreJJ squared up to Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and SK Telecom T1. No matter how much hype Faker and his team bought with them, CoreJJ wasn’t phased, knowing they came so close last year, SSG knew they had what was required to prevail.

Samsung Galaxy’s bot lane was a major catalyst in the turning of the tides in international League of Legends, dominating SKT to seal the trophy for Korea’s perpetual underdogs.

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Throughout the 2017 World Championship, CoreJJ and his ADC Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk outplayed every bot lane they were put up against, cementing themselves as the best botlane in the world.