In competitive League of Legends, it is understandably rare for a player to reach the World Championship, let alone make it all the way to the knockout stage of the competition. It’s even rarer for a player to do this multiple times, as indicated by the precedent set by only a few choice individuals.
Lee “Duke” Ho-seong is, at present, the only player to actually win Worlds on two entirely separate teams. The oft-forgotten prodigal son of top lane was SK Telecom T1’s rock throughout the 2016 season and became a reliable backup option for Invictus Gaming in 2018. While Duke himself definitely deserves an article focusing on his storied career, it’s actually another former member of the T1 dynasty that we’re going to be paying attention to.
Enter Han “Peanut” Wang-ho
, the breath of fresh air to many a stagnant roster. Renowned for his early aggression, explosive gameplay, and ability to shine regardless of his solo laners, Peanut is a legend in his own right. In fact, there are only two major criticisms to be had about the veteran jungler: one is that he doesn’t know when to tone down said aggression, and the other is that he changes team literally every year.
Honeymoon periods can be addictive, and Peanut’s career demonstrates why.
The first year of Peanut’s career can be seen as fairly underwhelming — a 35% win rate on a roster that had, just one year prior, attended the World Championship. However, as Peanut cut his teeth as a part of Najin e-mFire’s 2015 roster, his ability to relentlessly punish the LCK’s more “herbivore” (utility, farm-focused) junglers was becoming more and more apparent.
Spending your rookie split substituting in for your organization’s franchise player is never an easy feat — just look at T1’s Lee “Clozer” Ju-hyeon this season — but Peanut was unshaken. The more aggressive, mechanically-gifted jungler served as a wildcard option for Najin to bring in over team captain Cho “Watch” Jae-geol, to mixed results.
After failing to find success on Najin, Peanut could have given up and faded into obscurity. However, there was another fan-favorite team taking the LCK by storm at the time. It was notorious for rejuvenating the career of every player that joined: the legendary ROX Tigers.
Following a narrow 3-1 defeat at the hands of a peak-form SKT T1 roster in the World Finals, the recently-rebranded ROX Tigers were in need of a roster change. Another Najin alumni, Lee “Hojin” Ho-jin had often been looked at as the weakest link on the ROX Tigers superteam. So, when Hojin decided to retire, the Tigers looked at his successor from his former team: Peanut.
Peanut’s addition to the ROX Tigers now meant that the team had a viable carry threat in every position. His Rek’Sai and Nidalee were to be feared, and it was these two picks specifically that led to the Tigers taking the 2016 LCK Summer title home.
Unfortunately, even with heroic Lee Sin performances alongside a must-ban Nidalee, Peanut was unable to carry the ROX Tigers to a repeat Finals finish at the World Championship. Falling to reigning and eventual World Champions SKT T1, Peanut’s time on ROX Tigers was crucial for his career and personal development.
With what was seen as a second year of disappointment for the more established members of the squad, however, the ROX Tigers disbanded. The team had tragically decided that, heading into the World Championship, should they again fail to win a title this year then they should part ways and try their luck elsewhere.
Thus began Peanut’s next chapter, in a not altogether unfamiliar environment.
What happens when you put one of the world’s most exciting new prospects on the undisputed number one team? The answer, in most cases, is great success.
Getting to play alongside all-time League great Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is an honor that most junglers would kill for. After all, his innate ability to secure lane priority for early invades was unmatched, to say nothing of the prestige and amount that one could learn. Peanut was lucky enough to have the chance to play alongside most of the roster that ended his 2016 World Championship run prematurely, and the team flourished. An LCK Spring title quickly followed, as well as the 2017 Mid Season Invitational’s gold medal.
Unfortunately, like with the ROX Tigers before them, this line-up peaked long before the finish line.
A second-place finish at Rift Rivals did not bode well for the world’s superteam, as it was quickly followed by a fourth-place finish during the Summer Split. SKT were able to pick up the pieces and land in second place, but this blessing quickly became a curse. They secured a silver medal at the World Championship, putting an end to the organization’s winning streak.
Peanut’s time on SKT was especially notable as it marked the beginnings of his move from a traditional carry jungler to more of a utility-focused support. Zac, Sejuani, and Jarvan IV were all becoming part of the Peanut standard, and this would continue for the years to come.
Peanut left his relatively successful team at the end of the 2017 Season, now looking to try his fortune with KingZone DragonX. Again, Peanut would play a major part in his team’s claim over the Spring LCK title, but a complete implosion come Summer (combined with Gen.G’s unprecedented resurgence) resulted in the upstart jungler missing Worlds… and changing teams again.
Gen.G went through a near-complete rebuild following a disappointing Worlds 2018 showing, and Peanut now found himself on a roster without reliably winning solo laners to play around. Combined with a shift to more utility-centric champions, Peanut’s stylish success was quickly brought to a halt and the perpetual next big thing now looked past his sell-by date.
After a disappointing 2019, Peanut departed from Gen.G — and Korea entirely — to join a struggling LGD Gaming in the LPL.
With teams from the LPL claiming the coveted World Championship trophy two years in a row, it was made abundantly clear that China was the region to beat in 2020. Dominance from Invictus Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix the years before meant that competition in the region was heating up, and teams were forming rosters that fans could only dream of years prior.
There were so many superteams, in fact, that LGD Gaming fell entirely by the wayside. It felt like the organization - strangers to international competition since a disappointing showing at the 2015 World Championship - had put together an incredibly lackluster attempt at staying relevant. In fact, even Peanut’s traditional overperformance in Spring couldn’t save the team from a 15th place finish to start their 2020 season.
Fortunately, Summer would be an entirely different story, as the addition of Su “xiye” Han-Wei and Ling “Mark” Xu to the team gave Peanut exactly what he was missing compared to his previous success stories. Laners that could go toe-to-toe with the best of the best, and — even better — ones that weren’t afraid to transition that lead onto the jungler, facilitating his crazy invades and more.
With the LPL (and the LEC) receiving 4 slots apiece at Worlds for 2020, LGD’s surge to 4th allowed the team to just about qualify over a struggling Invictus Gaming. The team would have to play through the Play-Ins stage of the tournament, but they made the impossible possible - from near-last place in Spring, to Worlds in the Summer, all while competing in the best region in the world. After a tumultuous Play-Ins ordeal, the team would respectfully bow out with a 3rd place finish in their group during the main event.
Peanut’s hard-carry performances on Nidalee, Kindred, and Graves called back to his roots, posting a 15 KDA on Graves throughout a surprisingly rocky Play-Ins stage of the event. Peanut’s relentless aggression could carry games, for sure - but it could just as easily be his undoing should something go wrong.
A combined win-loss percentage of 25% on Lillia throughout Peanut’s 2020 Worlds showing demonstrated that the veteran jungler was still adjusting to some of the newer aspects of the game. In particular, the newest utility champion and AP threat would prove difficult for him to master, as 2021 statistics would also indicate.
The 2021 Season marks Peanut’s return to Korea, joining a Nongshim RedForce team that had near-zero expectations surrounding it. A successful run at the KeSPA Cup — falling only to World Champions DamWon Gaming in the Finals — indicated that perhaps Peanut could work some of his Spring magic again this year, but audiences would quickly find out that the LCK was becoming a one-horse race, with two or three other teams fighting for the silver medal.
Nongshim RedForce is unfortunately not one of them.
Peanut’s explosive Graves, Kindred, and Olaf would find him a decent amount of success in his highly competitive home region. Unfortunately, his signature Nidalee became somewhat of a trap pick - the only teams disrespectful enough to leave it open initially outclassed NS tremendously on an individual basis, and dealt with the champion accordingly. Despite being his most-played champion, Peanut’s Nidalee posted a 30% win rate throughout the Spring Split.
Given the inconsistency of the players surrounding him (barring star marksman Seo “deokdam” Dae-gil), Peanut’s tendency to be shoehorned into a carry role should be both familiar and within his comfort zone. However, this Split seems to be more like a repeat of LGD’s Spring 2020 for the jungler, and if Peanut is going to replicate his miracle of yesteryear, he will need winning lanes to fully unlock his potential.
On a good day, Peanut can match most of the top junglers in the World blow-for-blow mechanically. Unfortunately, the jungle meta is becoming more and more cerebral and team-dependent, so if Peanut is to truly find success again, then perhaps a shift in individual playstyle should come alongside new teammates.