The Golden Road: A Path Paved by Legends

Published On: 7/2/2024

Chasing Glory: Gen.G's Unyielding Pursuit of the Elusive Golden Road and the Grand Slam Triumph in the 2024 League of Legends Esports Season

If you follow competitive League of Legends, you might have heard of the ‘Golden Road’ — the feat of winning four major Riot-sanctioned competitions in the same year. This means a team has to win both splits of their regional league, win the Mid-Season Invitational, and win the World Championship… all within the same year. You could call this the ‘Grand Slam’ of League of Legends. Unlike in the realm of traditional sports, however, no team has achieved this feat yet in the history of LoL Esports.

Some have come close to walking the Golden Road. SK Telecom T1 (now known as T1) were close in both 2015 and 2016, Royal Never Give Up (RNG) in 2018, G2 Esports in 2019, and, most recently, JD Gaming in 2023. But each squad missed a step.

Unlike in traditional sports, where an athlete’s ability to maintain their skill level is the key factor, League of Legends is a game that’s constantly evolving. The game updates every two to three weeks, which means that the meta also changes to match those updates. In short, it’s a much harder feat to achieve — and League esports have only gotten more competitive.

But even with all these failed contenders, one team’s path down the Golden Road looks clear this year: the 2024 Gen.G roster. Despite dominating the LCK, often touted as the hardest region in League, Gen.G, in recent years, has always fallen short when it comes to the international stage. However, they’re proving that 2024 is a different story. The current 5 players on Gen.G have always been considered among the best in the world. This time, however, not only are they continuing to exert absolute dominance in the LCK, but they’ve finally won their first major international event, the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI). And their journey down the Golden Road looks absolutely unstoppable.

The Uncrowned King of the Top Lane, No Longer

Even before his debut in the LCK, Kiin was considered by fans and pundits alike to be the next big top laner. He debuted in pro play with Ever8 Winners in the Summer of 2017. While most notable top laners at the time — like Khan, MaRin, and Smeb — took years to really display their skills in the top lane, it did not take Kiin very long to reach the pinnacle of top lane and to prove that he belonged there.

Despite such a reputation, the championship title always seemed far from his reach. The only trophy that he lifted was the KeSPA Cup in 2019. Yet, even as the uncrowned king, his reputation led him to represent Team Korea in the 2018 Asian Games, where he brought the silver medal back home to Korea. Everyone knew he was good, but the gold always seemed to elude him.

But then, everything changed in 2024. Kiin finally captured that elusive gold by winning his first domestic title in Spring, immediately followed by the Mid-Season Invitational.

“Personally, winning the Spring split had a bigger impact on me [than MSI],” Kiin said. “It was the first title of my pro career, and at the time, it felt like, ‘Did I really do it? After all this time?’ The fact that I’ve become a champion didn’t really hit me until some time after the victory. It doesn’t mean that winning MSI didn’t feel good of course. From seeing all the different picks from teams in different regions to winning in front of a crowd that wasn’t natively Korean, MSI just felt very different. Capturing the MSI title was a confidence boost, where it now feels like our team is truly unstoppable."

Having climbed from the lowest of lows to become champion, Kiin now holds the most unique record in the LCK, where he’s the only player to ever place in all 10 ranks in the standings. Of course, currently he’s focused on finishing at the top of the standings.

“I didn’t even realize that I held such a record,” he said with a laugh. “It’s cool, but my goal for 2024 is to finish no lower than 1st, and all I can do now is to look forward and continue working hard.”

Gen.G’s bot lane, Elevated by a Former World Champion

Going into 2024, Gen.G kept bot laner Peyz and reacquired support Lehends. This bot lane already gave fans high hopes, but once we truly got to see what these two could do, everyone was left in awe. 

Lehends was already a player who innovated both through his gameplay and champion picks, but this year, he truly showed what it meant for a Support player to carry the game. Paired up with Peyz’s Kalista as Blitzcrank in game 2 of MSI Finals against BLG, he landed 19 out of the 28 hooks that he threw. Out of the 9 hooks that he missed, 5 of them went wide, while 4 of them resulted in BLG either burning their Summoner Spells, or Gen.G cleaning up the skirmishes and teamfights. That game in particular showcased Lehends’s caliber as a playmaker, as he essentially spoonfed Peyz 28 kills and a Pentakill.

Lehends was named the MSI Finals MVP. The general consensus was that he deserved it, but he himself was confused.

“Quite frankly, I was confused when I was named MVP,” Lehends said. “Maybe because it was just because we were all focused on the series. Maybe it was because I was really sick during the tournament, so I unconsciously thought I performed worse than usual. However, rewatching that series… did make me say, ‘Okay, I get it now’.”

To quote Michael Jordan, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Peyz and Lehends definitely have talent, but Mata is the hidden MVP behind Gen.G’s bot lane, helping to provide that intelligence. 

“I also have to give a lot of credit to coach Mata,” Lehends said. “In the beginning of the season, he was a huge help in building synergy with Peyz, by focusing on the fundamental things that Peyz and I were both unconsciously neglecting. He was a Support player in his player days as well, so whenever I would talk with him, there would be a lot of things that I’d realize I was missing out. He was the type of player more known for his vision control, while I’m more of the type to figure out win conditions through skirmishes. From vision control and laning phase, to details such as positioning in teamfights, the feedback I’d get from him were eye-opening. He’s definitely the hidden MVP of Gen.G.”

Skill Gap? Or Champion Canyon?

Canyon left DPlus KIA, a team he’d been part of for the majority of his career, because he felt he needed a fresh environment to prove that he could stand at the top once again, just as he once did 4 years ago.

The results speak for themselves.

Canyon was always known for his prowess on the so-called “Carry” Jungle champions, such as Graves, Nidalee, and Kha’zix, but struggled with champions outside of the category. However, not only has he proven this year that he can play any champion that fits Gen.G’s team compositions, he’s also brought in pocket picks that weren’t meta. According to a post MSI Finals interview, the head coach for Gen.G, Coach KIM, stated that there were a lot of niche picks that they prepared. And that statement turned out to be true, as Canyon debuted his Zyra jungle recently in the LCK Summer split.

“Yes, it’s true that there were a lot of unique pocket picks that we prepared,” said Canyon. “We just didn’t have the right angle to showcase some of them. We’re all collectively working together to find meta-defining champions: As for Zyra, there’s this one solo queue player that hit Challenger with Zyra jungle. I was inspired by it, tried it in scrims, and decided it was good enough to showcase her.”

For Chovy, It’s Just Another Day in the Kitchen

Chovy is, by many, currently considered to be the best mid laner in the world. He’s capable of creating a lead by aggressively suffocating opponents, or simply outfarming them over time. , He may be the only mid laner capable of truly rivaling the greatest League of Legends player of all time: Faker

In an interview that Chovy did with Kookmin Ilbo prior to the start of the season, he went into detail about what separates the great players from the best.

"Proactive gameplay always means taking some risk,” Chovy said. “To come to the conclusion where no risk should be taken is a very result based one... In the end, League of Legends starts from 0-0, and while there may be some advantages and disadvantages from the draft, where you go from that zero all stems from individual skills as a player. Your gameplay always has to have risks. Both playing against Faker and watching his matches made me think, 'Why does he perform better when it comes to such important matches'? The answer was in his gameplay, where he's not afraid to take risks, no matter what in-game scenario he is in.”

Fast-forward to the present day;. Chovy finally has his first international title. Yet, for him, his mindset is just the same as always.

“I think since [that last interview], I haven’t really realized a particular change in how I approach the game,” Chovy said. “All I can really do is to continue to work hard and continue to reflect on how I can be better than the guys on the opposite side of the Rift. Alongside my team, our end goal will always be, ‘How do we win?’”

Gen.G’s Golden Road, Paved by Legends in the Making

History has shown that no path in League of Legends is as grueling and unforgiving as the Golden Road. Even with Gen.G’s victories in LCK Spring and at MSI, as well as their current undefeated run in the LCK Summer, there’s still a chance that they end up straying away from the path. Plenty of very strong opponents await them at home and abroad, all looking to write their own stories over Gen G’s.

Individually, these players are all already legends in the making. They’ve all proved themselves at this point, making history in their individual careers. The question is, can they take it a step further and make history as a team?