With the return of OzoraVeki to their roster, Kuala Lumpur Hunters (KLH) looked poised to finally contest the Garena Premier League (GPL) first seed. They had seemingly shored up their weaknesses of last season with their former captain’s return from the Taiwanese League Master Series (LMS).
Considering KLH brought Gigabyte Marines (GAM) all the way to five games in GPL Spring 2017, OzoraVeki’s return meant all eyes were on KLH to perform during the summer.
Everything was on the line this season. There were two Worlds spots up for grabs and KLH was dead set on getting one of them. In everyone’s minds, the only teams that would be contesting these slots would be favorites: GAM and Young Generation (YG) from Vietnam and Ascension (ASC) from Thailand. KLH was determined to prove that they were also a contending team.
Based on their GPL Spring 2017 rankings, GAM and ASC received byes to the semifinals. The rankings also meant that Vietnam’s 2nd seed, YG, was placed into the group stage. This was the first test for KLH to prove that they were contenders for the Worlds slot.
Cue Day 1 Game 1, KLH vs YG. KLH came out the gates swinging, a lead was established courtesy of bot lane duo Ozoraveki and Bipolar’s plays which saw YG’s mid laner Naul go down a few times. The game was even for a time until YG’s Baron play resulted in a steal for Qaspiel which was followed by a team fight that saw ArrHedge land a devastating three-man Orianna shockwave. The fight enabled Ozoraveki to secure a triple kill and The Hunters closed out the game within the next few minutes. Veki ended the game with a 10/0/1 record. A clear statement in the first game of the GPL, KLH was here to play.
What happened next was not expected at all. After beating Young Generation many expected KLH to breeze through the rest of groups and take first seed.
Far from it, KLH faltered and dropped both their remaining two games of Day 1 against Team Manila Eagles (TME) and Resurgence (RSG). This shook the team quite hard as they, of all people, were not expecting things to turn out the way they did.
Coming into Day 2, KLH needed to secure 4 wins to secure a spot out of groups. They started the day off comfortably, beating Headhunters in both games easily.
That was as far as they got. KLH lost to RSG yet again which put them in a terrible situation. A win against TME would not guarantee them a way out of groups and with their current form, defeating now group leaders, YG on Day 3 did not look possible either. However, a loss against TME would mean the end of the road for KLH. They had to win if they had any chance of making it out of groups.
For KLH fans, the match against TME was probably the most painful game to watch of the entire tournament. KLH drafted a very pick focused comp with Bipolar on Blitzcrank and Qaspiel on Khazix. KLH also managed to secure OzoraVeki’s Tristana. Both the playmakers from Spring season were on playmaking/carry champions while their captain was on his best performing champion of the tournament. They were set up for success.
KLH came out guns blazing from Level 1. Qaspiel’s early gank on bot lane early secured an easy kill on TME’s Support, Raux. The game quickly spiraled out of control in favor of KLH who established a 12K Gold lead. The end result left many in utter disbelief as KLH botched team fight after team fight to the point that TME Marky’s Kog’Maw was too much to handle and The Hunters finally fell. From knocking on the nexus towers of TME’s base to losing their own Nexus.
This loss marked the end of KLH’s GPL journey. A disappointing performance to say the least considering the amount of effort and work poured into this season that belittled any previous season. Alas, it was all for naught. It was a crushing feeling to know once again they had failed. This was not only their job, it was their dream. From the beginning of every professional player’s career, all they want is to get on a good team and go to Worlds, to showcase to everyone that they have the talent worthy of applause.
The sheer willpower required to get back up and go back to training after a loss like this one is admirable. To brush it off and work even harder to succeed the next time round. That’s what it means to be a professional. To never give up no matter what. No matter how many people are telling you to quit or how badly a tournament goes. No matter how bad you feel. To be able to lift your head up and say, “I’m going to win” and go right back to the grind. This is what it means to be a Hunter.
Who knows what the next season will bring for KLH. It shouldn’t be doubted that this loss will be the drive to train even harder and perform for LCM 2018 to make it back into the international stage. Their journey to chase the dream will begin once again.
Only time will tell what the future has in store.
Ramsay Lochhead “Bipolar”Devaraj