This article is contributed by Robin Lin, a content creator for Talon Esports
From streamer to the world stage
The start to Su “Hanabi” Chia-Hsiang’s competitive League of Legends career was one that many people dream about. Picked up by LMS powerhouse Flash Wolves, the former Mid Lane Yasuo/Zed two-trick debuted in the Top Lane to win the LMS 2018 Spring title and qualify for The 2018 Mid Season Invitational.
In Germany and then in Paris, Hanabi competed and held his own against the best players in the world. In half a year, the 17-year-old streamer had gone from playing in front of a couple of thousand fans to playing live to millions of viewers across the globe.
Then came the darkness.
Joining Talon Esports
The underperformance of the LMS at Worlds 2018 and the rising economic strength of the neighboring LPL region brought about a wave of Taiwanese pros leaving the LMS for China.
The Chinese Exodus took from Flash Wolves Coach Chen “WarHorse” Ju-Chih, Mid Laner Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and Support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh.
For Hanabi, these individuals leaving meant the departure of his support system. Maple and SwordArt in particular were veterans who were very supportive of Hanabi and took him under their wing. Flash Wolves were left to scramble for replacement players and staff.
Hanabi was left in a pit of self-doubt. Part of him felt that if he had performed better at Worlds, his once brothers-in-arms would still be by his side.
“I played poorly. I think their (Maple, SwordArt) departure from Flash Wolves may be due to me,” said Hanabi.
In 2019, Hanabi stepped up to fill the void left by his friends. Now a veteran, he led Flash Wolves to another Spring title and MSI appearance but failed to maintain his team’s strength in Summer, despite his good individual performance.
2020 signified a new beginning. Joining upstart Talon (later becoming PSG Talon), Hanabi played an instrumental role in helping the organization secure its first PCS title in its debut season.
They continued their good performance in the Summer, finishing Top 12 at Worlds despite extraneous circumstances, including visa issues, and last-minute substitutes.
Leading his team to 17-1
This year, Hanabi comes into the PCS competitive season in a whole new capacity. Reunited with his old friend and teammate Maple, Hanabi is now a member of a star-studded PCS super team.
The team went 17-1 in the regular season, going on a whopping 15 game win streak. But despite PSG’s incredible highs, Hanabi was seen by casters and fans alike as the weak link in the team. His laning statistics were modest, as were his combat statistics. He is far from the limelight, as he dies often before the highlight reel for PSG Talon starts to play.
What many fans fail to realize however, is that PSG Talon’s success is built on Hanabi’s play.
With perhaps the best Mid and Bot Lane in the region, Hanabi’s play absorbs pressure and creates space for his teammates to farm and scale.
Starting from the pick ban phase, Hanabi is already playing weakside. His counterpick rate (the rate at which he picks his champion after his lane opponent) is lowest among all starting Top Laners in the PCS at 24%.
This allows his teammates to be able to counterpick for Mid Lane, Jungle and, to an extent, Bot. There is a reason why Maple and River have one of the highest Counter Pick Rates among their positions.
In the game, Hanabi plays to absorb pressure and plays his role well.
Although often seen slightly down in CS during the laning phase, he almost always manages to keep within touching distance of his counterpart.
In fact, despite his low Counter Pick Rate, Hanabi has the highest CSPM at 8.5. This means that he is able to stay even with or outright win against Counter Picks.
Fans often see him dying while overextended, or dove under Tower with his lane pushed in.
What fans fail to notice, however, is how these mistakes seem to be a calculated decision from PSG Talon’s part. The team almost always gets a good objective trade or map control with each Hanabi disadvantage.
In his first matchup game against Beyond Gaming, Hanabi was solo-killed after a sloppy contestation of the minion wave. However, Hanabi recovered by building a slow push into a losing matchup, making Beyond Gaming’s Jungler to show Top Side and hover for a play.
PSG Talon was thus able to secure the first Dragon despite having a weaker early game composition and Jungler. PSG made similar map trades for the second Dragon, which created enough time and space for the team’s hyper carries to scale and come online.
At MSI, Hanabi will face stiff competition.
In group B, MAD Lions’ İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek will be his main rival. Outside of group B, Damwon KIA’s Kim “Khan” Dong-ha and Royal Never Give Up’s Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao will be his biggest challenge.
All three players, despite different play styles, are oppressive laners with high Jungle attention. For PSG to go far in the tournament, Hanabi will once again have to step up to absorb the pressure and neutralize his Top Lane counterparts against all odds.
PSG Talon is currently competing at MSI 2021. At time of publishing, the team is 4-2 in Group B and has qualified for the Rumble Stage.