Doinb earns his place as one of the LPL's best

Four years after falling short in an LPL final, mid laner Kim "Doinb" Tae-Sang led FunPlus Phoenix to an LPL title with a victory over Royal Never Give Up. Helena Kristiansson/ESL

Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang is a master of postmatch celebrations. Known for kicking his chair to the ground in fits of glee, screaming into the crowd, waving his arms in the air, or a combination of these things, the League of Legends Pro League mid laner plays to the cameras after a win.

Despite this, Doinb's initial reaction to winning his first-ever LPL championship on Friday was comparatively muted. He leapt up from his chair and immediately hugged his in-game partner in crime, FunPlus Phoenix jungler Gao "Tian" Tian-Liang. Doinb then jumped on Tian's back as the members of FPX crossed the LED floor of Shanghai's Mercedes-Benz Arena stage to shake the hands of Royal Never Give Up opponents, before backing off to give his jungler a quick shoulder massage. A hand warmer haphazardly clung to the mid laner's stomach as if one of the hugs with his coaches and teammates had pinned it there.

Throughout the trophy presentation, the smile never left Doinb's face. He cried openly and unashamed.

"We are the champions!" he screamed into the microphone at his first opportunity to address the crowd. His shoulders shook as he sobbed. After the microphone was passed to Tian, FPX top laner Kim "GimGoon" Han-saem leaned over to give Doinb a hug.

In that moment, the mythos of Doinb fell by the wayside. He was simply a bewildered and overjoyed young man, shifting his weight back and forth between his feet, vibrating with excitement as tears continued to well in the corners of his eyes.


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He picks weird champions. He moves oddly in lane. He's a jungler, not a mid laner. He builds suboptimally. All of these criticisms through the years along with streaks of bad luck and internal team issues have built up the Doinb mythos since he arrived in China for the 2015 season. Part of the first large wave of South Korean players to arrive in China -- the 2014-15 Korean exodus -- Doinb was a high-elo solo queue player known for his Katarina. He hadn't started for a team in South Korea at all and made his semiprofessional debut with Qiao Gu in China's LoL Secondary Pro League.

The first story contributing to the Doinb mythos occured in the 2015 Demacia Cup third-place match, well before he and QG graced the LPL stage that summer. In Game 2 against Team WE, Doinb locked in Maokai mid as a direct counter to WE mid laner Su "xiye" Han-Wei's Viktor.

The story goes that QG locked in the Maokai when they heard that "Maokai counters Viktor" and took it literally due to a communication error. The end result was an unkillable mid lane tree, buffed by QG top laner Bao "V" Bo's Lulu and support Zhang "TcT" Hong-Wei's Janna. Fans and analysts dubbed it "Juggertree," a nod to the "Juggermaw" Kog'Maw composition popularized in South Korea by the then-GE Tigers.

QG won the series 3-2. A week later, they qualified for the LPL. Four months later, QG and Doinb narrowly lost to LGD Gaming in the 2015 LPL summer final. The mythos of Doinb was growing. Doinb and then-jungler Baek "Swift" Da-hoon were considered one of the more formidable, albeit unique, mid-jungle duos in the world. In 2016, their partnership soured, resulting in a highly publicized feud that led to an embarrassing playoff semifinals forfeit.

In the fallout, Doinb continued to establish himself as a mid laner to watch. He became fluent in Mandarin to the point where Chinese journalists and interviewers joked that his Mandarin was better than theirs. He streamed constantly and built up a large fan base. He found a new jungler in Kim "Clid" Tae-min on Newbee Young, and the two stayed together through the 2017 season on QG and then JD Gaming. His time on JDG earned both praise and criticism for his strong carry performances and singular playstyle.

By the time he joined Rogue Warriors for the 2018 season, Doinb's style was well known. He was a jungler's mid laner, so much so that his movements allowed a wider vision net for his junglers to farm, while Doinb himself would gank side lanes. He controlled entire games on picks like mid lane Poppy and built tank items over more damage. Already in a league where people erroneously write off entire LPL teams as "overly aggressive" or "wacky," Doinb appeared to be both of these things. The mythos of Doinb overshadowed what became a fairly singular and predictable playstyle that has followed him to FPX in 2019 and even his LPL final victory.

Yet, in the final, Doinb's picks were relatively tame by comparison. The star of the series was FPX support Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song. Doinb performed his naturally supportive role well, and FPX executed. They might be a one-dimensional team, but they're the best at playing and executing their style. Four years after his first LPL final, Doinb won the title in his second final appearance.

Doinb has chosen the LPL and China as his home with the same singular-mindedness of his tanky mid-lane item builds and champions. His wife, who led the FPX fan chants at nearly every match, and streaming life are in China. His career is entirely in the LPL. Doinb is, above all else, a South Korean LPL player -- a pioneer, even when considering Invictus Gaming's Song "Rookie" Eui-jin (who has similarly embraced the LPL) and Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok (who similarly began his career in China, without having started for an LCK team).

Hours after he won his first LPL title, Doinb posted a unique celebration on his Weibo account. It had none of the Doinb staples: spindly arms waving wildly in the air, jumping and screaming. Instead, it was a loving smile at his wife as they both held the LPL cup.