Rare Atom: A Dark Horse Emerges in the LPL
Heading into the 2021 Spring Split, many were expecting the mostly unchanged rosters of last year’s worlds to dominate. The names of JD Gaming and Top Esports were still those that resonated fear into the hearts of many an LPL player, and yet, things were different. The Top 3 in the LPL (as of week 8) featured none of the 2020 Worlds participants, but rather some of the old titans on the League, RNG and EDG, and most surprisingly of them all a nearly unknown team who have burst onto the scene with 8 straight wins – Rare Atom.
A New Era
Who are Rare Atom? If the name doesn’t immediately resonate, don’t worry, it’s not just you. Rare Atom is a newly rebranded organization for 2021, and they were previously known as Vici Gaming. The most surprising part of this process is that while the organization rebranded, the team for the most part remained the same – save for the midlane, the roster that has been fielded this split is the same one that produced an astoundingly mediocre 8-8 series record in 2020 Summer. Now? They sit at 9-3 on the brink of an early playoff lock, with 2 and half weeks left in split regulation.
A Clash of Potential
Who could possibly have revived a team like Vici? Star rookies, grizzled veterans, new exciting players? Well…it’s quite complicated. Coming into the split, the expectations for this roster were low. The focal trio of Lu “Leyan” Jue, Hu “iBoy” Xianzhao, and Chu “FoFo” Chunlan were three of the players to have once been considered some of the most mechanically gifted young talents/prospects in League’s history, but all three had come up somewhat short of their expectations with stints on Invictus Gaming, EDward Gaming, and Bilibili Gaming, respectively. Each plagued with their respective serious issues preventing them from reaching their full community-expected potential, they would find their paths crossing here on this Rare Atom roster.
To The Moon
Nobody quite knows how, and nobody quite knows why, but the mentioned collection of three of the highest potential players in the League somehow unlocked something within all of them, and they have played surprisingly well so far this split, far beyond the level anyone would have predicted back in January. Despite being dealt heavy blows from the traditional heavyweights of JDG and TES, they have managed to deal equally crippling strikes to other key top contenders, defeating Suning, Funplus Phoenix, and Team WE. However, in spite of these victories, many remain reserved about this squad, and not without reason – their greatest test still lies ahead of them.
An Era or An Ephemerality?
As previously mentioned, both the pasts and the futures of the RA members is complicated. They have two very young players, support Fu “Hang” Minghang and top laner Dai “Cube” Yi, who certainly have potential to become solid players. But then you look at the rest of the roster. None of their core trio can be called fresh rookies, having all played games at the World Championship, and yet none save perhaps FoFo can truly be called veterans – at ages 18, 20, and 22. A true middle generation, the risks attached to each player is obvious, and yet so is the boundless potential. There are no absolutes, no control variables in this Rare Atom experiment.
This split is the biggest chance all of these players have to live up to what they set out to do. All that stands in their way now – three of the most storied organizations in LPL history. Closing out their season, three of their last four series come against the titans of IG, RNG, and EDG, with the latter two being the first and second placed teams in the current split.
March 13th (IG). March 22nd (RNG). March 28th (EDG). If Rare Atom can shake their past and break out into becoming a top team, these are the dates you must be watching. If they fall short, then their hot run this season may very well may be that of a real split atom – a flash, and then a distant memory.
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