Gamsu is back to settle unfinished business in League of Legends
After five years playing Overwatch, Gamsu has returned to his original game
In Katowice, Poland, back in 2016, an underdog faced a behemoth. Top laner Noh “Gamsu” Young-jin, playing for Fnatic, was looking to finally reach the top of League of Legends after travelling across the world for multiple teams. On the other side, living legend Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and SKT Telecom T1 wanted to continue their dominance.
After going down 2-0, Gamsu and Fnatic only had one game left to bring the series back. Gamsu struck first blood early on, leaving hope for the potential comeback. But that was Fnatic’s only kill in the first fifteen minutes. As Faker grew stronger on Zed, uncontested, Fnatic were swept away. In the most important match of his career at the time, Gamsu watched his dream slip from between his fingers.
That game was the closest Gamsu got to a major title in League of Legends. The long journey to that point started in 2014, a couple months before turning 20, when he took a risk and left South Korea for North America. While it took him far from home, the decision helped him find a new one.
“Dignitas was my first team outside of Korea, and I didn’t know how to speak English at that time,” Gamsu said. “In the first year, I started to like Western culture more and more. I learned English, and now I think I like to play more in Western teams, NA and EU, than Korean ones.”
That was when he became a multilingual esport player. With that extra knowledge, he moved to Fnatic in Europe and got his shot to make that initial risk worth it. But, that’s when the biggest loss of his career, so far, hit him.
And after that game, Gamsu said the frustration he felt drove him to try something new.
“I was burnt out at League at that time, stressed,” Gamsu said. “Overwatch was fun, and I started playing seriously and got better. Good enough to play in the Overwatch League.”
When the Overwatch League’s teams started recruiting for the inaugural season in 2018, the Boston Uprising looked at Gamsu as their main tank. His time within APEX, the Korea-hosted top tier of Overwatch before the main league, didn’t lead to any championships or high finishes — but the experience Gamsu brought from another esport transitioned over.
“I knew his English was good from his time in League, so that was a good pickup for a team like Boston, but I didn’t think he was better than the top tanks in Korea, like Gong “Miro” Jin-hyuk or Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung,” League of Legends and Overwatch caster Wolf Schröder said. “After Boston played, it was clear that Gamsu was a leader-type, making sure everyone was good mentally.”
That was when Gamsu became a figure in a second esport. Through the strong tank duo of Gamsu and Lucas “NotE” Meissner — and the carrying potential of Kwon “Striker” Nam-joo — Boston finished third place overall in OWL’s inaugural regular season, off the back of an unbeaten run in stage three. It all culminated with their toughest matchup in that stage, a single moment that stayed with him years later.
“One of my favorite memories in esports was playing on Boston against the London Spitfire in Stage 3,” Gamsu said. “It was Oasis, map five, 99/99, and we barely won. Striker and I popped off and we continued our perfect stage.”
That Uprising team didn’t know it, but that stage was their peak. They went on to flame out in Stage 4, barely progressing in the season playoffs. And Gamsu himself didn’t know that would be his only full season on the Uprising. He was traded to the Shanghai Dragons on February 12, 2019, without his say on the move.
“I was sad that I got traded, regardless of my opinion,” Gamsu said. “But, I was much happier with the results from being with Shanghai.”
A historically winless team before his arrival, the Shanghai Dragons won their first-ever match with Gamsu playing main tank, against his old team no less. All their teamwork even culminated in a huge win over the eventual 2019 season champions, the San Francisco Shock, earning them the Stage 3 title.
It wasn’t a full championship, but Gamsu had finally won a major competition, and he marked this as another of his favorite career moments. After Shanghai got eliminated in the 2019 playoffs, an offer came to him. Another team, the Dallas Fuel, were looking for his skill set and leadership to aid a relatively new roster for the 2020 season. Plus, he would be reunited with his old off-tank from the Boston Uprising days, NotE. Getting Gamsu alongside a familiar face could build the foundation the Fuel coaching staff needed.
“Players have their own distinct style,” assistant coach of the Dallas Fuel Kim “Yong” Yong-jin said, “like how our current main tank Lee ‘Fearless’ Eui-Seok is very aggressive. In contrast, Gamsu was a lot more safe and stable.”
While the idea of adding Gamsu to this new Fuel team made sense, it didn’t work out. The team finished 13th out of 20, with 9 wins and 12 losses. For a team looking to compete for the championship, they just couldn’t find their groove during the 2020 season. When the season ended, the feeling of not winning the important matches crept back into Gamsu’s mind.
Gamsu was at a crossroads. He was thinking about his career, knowing that he wanted to stay in esports, but not necessarily Overwatch. That’s when he decided to retread familiar ground by attempting to resolve some unfinished business.
“After spending several years in Overwatch I got more mature and kept thinking about the future,” he said. “And, I decided that I’m going to work for League of Legends, even after my pro career is done.”
He knew that he wanted to go back to his first esport and try again. Even if that wasn’t as a player, he wanted to give it another try. With encouragement from former Dignitas teammate and long-time friend CoreJJ, he made his decision to go back to League of Legends.
However, going back after four years in Overwatch meant he had to start from the bottom again, so to speak. Gamsu himself noted this but didn’t think of his physical skills as his main issue in transitioning games. He felt that if he could stay focused through the challenges, he’d find success.
“If I have a positive mental, I can play well, but transitioning is always trouble mentally,” Gamsu said. “I don’t feel there is a big difference in the games themselves, but it’s more on my mindset, my attitude.”
The reason Gamsu wasn’t as concerned is that despite the differences between Overwatch and League of Legends, certain skills carry over between games.
“As a top laner in League and a tank in Overwatch, there’s overlap in leadership and playmaking,” said Overwatch and League of Legends caster Erik “DoA” Lonnquist. “For example, for Shen and Gangplank, you need full map knowledge to get value. Same with main tanks in Overwatch. You control the tempo.”
The special thing in Gamsu’s case was he has transitioned esports twice, from League to Overwatch and then back to League again. That experience of working with different players from multiple countries in two separate esports gave him rare experience. Now — after joining the 100 Thieves’ amateur team 100 Thieves Next and getting promoted to their academy team — he is rising back up through the ranks, despite some initial skepticism from people like League of Legends caster Joshua “Joushi” Howard.
“With watching how Gamsu came in, I had a lot of questions,” said Joushi. “For 100 Thieves Next, he’s been solid. But, I expected him to be a clear tier below at the Academy level. In that way, he outperformed my expectations. He faced a top laner who destroyed other Academy-level top laners and held his own.”
Joushi cast Gamsu’s first game for 100 Thieves Academy after his promotion. During the match, Gamsu got to show off his skills on more complex and powerful champions, like Jayce. He did make some standout errors in that game, like messing up a flash engage early on, but he recovered. Yet according to Joushi, Gamsu will have to keep improving on those power picks to reach his goals.
“It’s clear that Gamsu is trying to be more flexible, despite some mistakes,” Joushi said. “He’s still a dedicated tank, though, which is worth even more when he can flex. The best role players tend to be weak side tops, but the ultimate role players can play those more aggressive tops.”
As of right now, Gamsu continues to hunt for that starting role on an LCS team. His record for 100 Thieves Academy is undefeated, with his team recently winning Proving Grounds. The likelihood that he outplays Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho for the top position on the main 100 Thieves roster is low, but the attributes he provides could be useful for other teams across the league.
But while his future is still wide open, Gamsu said he knows exactly what he can control and what he wants to get across with his play.
“I don’t think I’m playing well right now, but I’m improving,” he said. “Sometimes, I think if I had more time to play League, I would be in a different spot now. Either way, I want to improve and show that old players like me can learn new tricks.”