Top lane king is coming back: Nuguri

For two years, Khan, Kiin, 369, Bin, TheShy, and many more played and aimed to become the best in the top lane but only one player shined as the king: Nuguri. After an unforgettable failure at Worlds 2021, he decided to take a break and left his throne unoccupied. After the spring season, news of him coming back started to float around, so this is the perfect time to remember who Nuguri was and what his name meant, even if you knew about him or not.

A young Korean player changed the laning strategies on top lane all by himself, and while doing that, he couldn’t even win Worlds or LCK. He was called arrogant, stubborn and disrespectful. One year later, he was no doubt the best top laner in the world, and probably the best player. Everyone forgot about how they hated Nuguri just twelve months before his Worlds championship. Let’s start from the beginning.

Nuguri’s career starts in CK

Jang Ha-gwon started his professional career on I Gaming Star, a team competing in the secondary league of South Korean League of Legends esports. In his first season, Nuguri took over the top lane for the last five weeks, winning three series and losing two. He wasn’t able to take his team to promotion, and in summer, I Gaming Star was relegated.

Nuguri played against famous names we now know from that year. BeryL, Sword, Tarzan, Rather, cvMax, Malrang and Lehends were among his opponents, while he played with Dove at I Gaming Star. Next year, Nuguri would be acquired by a rising CK team, DAMWON Gaming. 2018 was owned by Griffin from CK 2017, and DAMWON waited for their turn.

DAMWON Gaming Nuguri

Playing together with names like ShowMaker, Alive, BeryL and Hoit, Nuguri spent the entirety of 2018 with DAMWON in CK. After a good start in CK 2018 Spring, they weren’t able to find a promotion spot. However, Nuclear joined in summer, helping the team get even better results and win the CK 2018 Summer.

After an easy promotion challenge, DAMWON Gaming advanced to LCK 2019, where they would cause some trouble. A team made up of rookies was challenging legendary teams like SKT T1, Gen.G, Kingzone DragonX and kt Rolster twice in a row, after Griffin’s success in 2018. SKT T1 was back and winning everything in 2019, but DAMWON Gaming’s achievements didn’t go unnoticed.

Heading up to Worlds 2019, DAMWON managed to improve their form even more, only to get defeated by SKT 3-0 during the semifinals. However, taking down Kingzone DragonX with Rascal, Cuzz and Deft, Nuguri was headed to his first Worlds together with DWG.

This incredible young man caused quite a stir during Worlds. He was using the rune “Kleptomancy” on every single matchup, even with champions that had better synergy with other runes, such as Vladimir. He believed that he could win every single lane with ease, thus used Kleptomancy to acquire more gold through the rune and bully his opponent better.

League of Legends fans were split into two factions, some thinking that Nuguri is doing something great, twisting the meta using his strengths and introducing something different to the game. Others believed that he was disrespecting his opponent, and deserved to get eliminated as earliest as possible.

Exceeding expectations for such a young team, DAMWON Gaming crushed the Play-In stage and moved on to take down Invictus Gaming during the group stage, the Worlds 2018 champions. However, another storyline started during the quarterfinals.

After making it out as first place in their group, G2 Esports became their opponent as Griffin bested them in the tiebreakers. With Caps brought in and Perkz moved to bot lane, G2 was on top of their form and already won MSI 2019. They crushed DAMWON, moved on to also crushing SKT T1 and the hearts of Korean fans, before getting stomped by FunPlus Phoenix in the grand final. Nuguri and his friends would never forget about that series.

2020: year of DWG

After a praisable achievement, DAMWON moved on to 2020 with more confidence. They changed Nuclear with Ghost during the year, and even though they couldn’t win LCK 2020 Spring, it didn’t matter much, MSI 2020 was cancelled because of the pandemic and DAMWON had more time to make a comeback.

Ask anyone: they will tell you that DAMWON in summer was one of the most dominating teams in League of Legends esports history. After a 16-2 split, they bested DRX 3-0 in the finals of LCK and went to Worlds as Korea’s number one representative. Amongst the ashes of the pandemic, a monstrous destruction machine emerged in DAMWON Gaming.

They bullied JD Gaming, PSG Talon and Rogue during the group stage, dismantled DRX in the quarterfinals and what they were hoping for happened in semifinals. All the interviews from DAMWON players were pointing out one fact: they wanted to face G2 before they get eliminated, and kick them out themselves. Although G2 managed to win a single game, DAMWON humiliated them the rest of the series, and headed to finals.

Nuguri’s opponent in the finals was the impressive young player Bin from China, while a final against Suning was one of the best scenarios for them. Although they took down LPL’s best teams on the way, SN failed to challenge DAMWON, and after a 3-1, Nuguri won a Worlds trophy in his second year playing for an LCK team.

Transfer to China

After winning Worlds 2020, Nuguri waited out his contract and joined FunPlus Phoenix in LPL, while they let go of their top laners Khan and GimGoon. Khan replaced him at DAMWON Gaming which became DWG KIA, and Nuguri found a sweet LPL contract. FunPlus Phoenix failed to make a presence after winning Worlds 2019, even though they had assets like Khan, Tian and Doinb. Nuguri was here to change that.

Once again, the spring season didn’t go too well for Nuguri. After a mediocre start that put them in fifth place, they somehow managed to improve their performance to the point that they made the LPL 2021 Spring Finals. RNG found the 3-1 win, but it was enough for FPX to find out what they are capable of.

Nuguri and FPX moved on to dominate the LPL following season, while their number one rival EDward Gaming’s form dropped, FPX’s form got better. With 13-3, they finished the regular season as number one, and they were dubbed the best team in the world thanks to their performances.

The playoffs were also going great for them. Two 3-0 victories against LNG Esports and Team WE got them to the grand final with an advantage, while EDG had to go through the loser’s bracket. Nuguri was still playing his own meta, and everyone agreed that he was on top of his form, being able to carry his team easily.

However, EDG proved to be too strong for them. Scout and Viper played one of the best series in their life, taking down FPX and pulling the upset. It was probably the point where things started to go poorly for FunPlus Phoenix, they weren’t expecting such a loss, and Tian’s health problems started to arise.

One of the most disappointing results in Chinese League of Legends history happened following that. FunPlus Phoenix, although they lost the LPL in the grand final, got eliminated in the group stage of Worlds 2021. After failing to defeat a single team from the West twice, Cloud9 and Rogue, FPX lost the first tiebreaker against Rogue, finishing the group in fourth place. Obviously, the roster was dissolved following such a stress. Nuguri announced that he would be taking a break, to come back during the summer season.

Stats from Nuguri’s career

Nuguri is known as a player who loves to be the carry, the center of attention. However, he doesn’t become an obstacle in his teammates’ ways while doing that. Winning his lane and playing champions that require high mechanical skills is how he gets himself ahead, and then he leads his team to victory.

His most played four champions are Jayce (78), Gnar (36), Camille and Kennen (35). Amongst them, the best win rate belongs to Camille, 82.9% win rate looks absolutely stunning. However, his Ornn is also very strong, he found 14 wins and 3 losses with him and the best KDA with a champion he played more than twice, 6.52.

Overall, Nuguri won a single league championship in 2020 Summer and Worlds 2020, aside from CK 2018 Summer. His overall KDA is 3.07 in 460 games, where he has a 63% win rate. During these 460 games, he played 49 different champions. As he decided he would take a break at the start of the year, we can’t offer more stats from the current year, sadly.

That could change though: Nuguri is rumored to be joining DWG KIA this summer, putting an end to his break. DWG KIA played with two low-profile top laners, Hoya and Burdol, and Nuguri could really change things there, and now that they have a more reliable bot lane, they could achieve the playstyle they were going for in 2019 and 2020 even smoother.

We will find out if such a transfer happens in the next couple of months, surely. If you are interested in LCK, make sure you check out Luckbox to find the best League of Legends events, watch them live and even bet on your favourites.