The mid/jungle team-up was one of the most common strategies in 5v5 games.
Since the middle lane was positioned between the top and bottom lanes, the mid laner was the player who could most easily provide support to the other two lanes. The jungler was a player who roamed all over the map, and thus the one who could best keep up with a jungler was the mid laner.
When the jungler went to gank on the top lane, the mid laner could swiftly rush up to help. When the jungler went to attack the bottom lane, the mid laner could rush down in time to assist there as well.
Junglers typically played heroes with high damage output, but if they ran into an opponent who was being protected by a support, if they failed to take down their opponent in one go, then their attack would be rendered useless. In the worst case scenario, they could even be the victim of a counter-kill.
When a jungler linked up with a mid laner, the mid/jungle duo had the attack power of two heroes. That was plenty to kill fragile heroes on the enemy team.
That was the most fearsome aspect of a mid/jungle duo.
However, a successful mid/jungle duo absolutely had to have a strong tacit understanding between them. If they weren't on the same wavelength, it was very easy for the following to happen—the mid laner and jungler group up, then one dies right after the other. As a result, the whole team loses power and crumbles on all three lanes.
In Season 6 of Gods War, Team Tianhuan had used the mid/jungle duo strategy to achieve the longest regular season winning streak in the league's history. That year, Chi Shuo had just debuted. The youth's play style was incredibly precise. He slaughtered everyone in the canyon with his Bloodstained Assassin, and he struck fear in his enemies with the Stealthy Rogue. If all his victims lined up, they could form a full circle around the map.
Back then, Tianhuan's mid laner had been Chi Shuo's mentor. That was also the person who had brought Chi Shuo into the professional esports industry.
Later on, the game received a major update. Two river crabs which granted a ton of experience were added as monster spawns on either side of the middle lane. It was more vital than ever for both junglers to fight for control of the resources by the river, which significantly quickened the rhythm of the game. It became very difficult for mid/jungle duos to put pressure on their enemies. The focus shifted towards developing steadily on the bottom lane, and marksman/support duos became the new meta.
After Chi Shuo's master retired, Tianhuan's new mid laner Qu Jiang proved he was better at playing mages. His play style wasn't exactly a match for Chi Shuo's, and Tianhuan gradually shifted the focus of their strategies to their marksman.
Moreover, everyone in the league knew Chi Shuo was powerful. They targeted him like crazy. When other teams played against Tianhuan in official matches, their coaches would deliberately ban Chi Shuo's best heroes, leaving Chi Shuo with hardly any junglers to choose from.
Last season, Tianhuan didn't perform all that well. They made it to the playoffs, only to come in fourth. They didn't even qualify for the world championships. This season, they'd made it into the playoffs again. But Chi Shuo didn't have high hopes for their upcoming games.
As the team's jungler, Chi Shuo was always targeted by their enemies. Their mid laner Qu Jiang was a stable player, but the mages Qu Jiang could play didn't have the ability to instakill opponents. They were better in team fights. But when it came to team fights, Tianhuan's marksman Nie Cheng had been experiencing a decline in his hand speed as of late. He couldn't keep up with his teammates, and their new marksman wasn't ready to take the field yet.
Tianhuan was left in the awkward position of not having enough new players to replace the old.
Although Tianhuan had been going downhill these past two years, Chi Shuo's eyes remained firmly fixed on the world championships—that was his obsession.
Would Xiao Bai be the teammate of his dreams?
Chi Shuo wasn't sure yet.
But he didn't want to give up on this opportunity.
This was a chance to completely cure Tianhuan of its plight.
While Chi Shuo sat with his head bowed in thought, a patter of footsteps sounded out from behind him. The night owls on the team had all woken up. Chi Shuo checked the time and saw that it was already one in the afternoon—lunchtime for Team Tianhuan.
A surprised voice sounded out in his ear. "Master, you're up so early to train?"
It was Cheng Xing, who'd just rushed over to the training room after eating lunch. Two grains of rice were still stuck to the corner of his lips.
He opened his eyes wide and added, "Co… Coach is here too…"
The youth looked like a middle school student who'd just bumped into his homeroom teacher while running late for class.
His head drooped with apprehension.
Coach Lin walked over and patted him on the head. He reassured warmly, "Captain Chi and I had something to take care of, so we got up early today. Don't worry, you woke up at the right time. No one is going to scold you."
Cheng Xing cautiously peeked at Chi Shuo. It seemed his master really didn't have any intention of scolding him. Chi Shuo only stood up after turning off his computer, and calmly said, "I'm going to eat lunch."
He took two steps, then turned back to glance at Cheng Xing with a frown. "Wipe your mouth."
Cheng Xing instinctively wiped a hand over his mouth and found the grains of rice that had been stuck there. He was so embarrassed that he blushed to the tips of his ears.
Coach Lin laughed and said, "You're almost eighteen. Why are you still like a little kid? Hurry up and get started on your training. Two hours of farming practice, three hours of solo queueing as a marksman. Get yourself to 30 stars in the King rank today."
Cheng Xing nodded vigorously. "Understood, Coach!"
When Chi Shuo reached the cafeteria, several other players from Tianhuan were still eating.
Tianhuan was one of the top esports teams in the nation. They'd bought a three-story building in a very nice neighborhood in the capital city, which they then renovated into their headquarters. Dorms for the players, coaches, and staff were located on the third floor. The second floor was home to a few training rooms and meeting rooms. The gym, recreation area, coffee bar, and cafeteria were on the ground floor.
The team had paid a huge sum to hire a professional chef for the cafeteria. The players were always treated to very good food.
Chi Shuo grabbed a tray of food and carried it over to one of the tables. Qu Jiang, who was in the middle of eating, set down his chopsticks and curiously asked, "What's going on, Captain Chi? Why did you get up so early today?"
Nie Cheng yawned and also asked, "Don't you usually sleep until noon? I was all woozy this morning, but I could have sworn I heard you get up at nine."
Chi Shuo didn't tell them about Xiao Bai. Nothing was a done deal yet. If everyone knew, it would distract them from the playoffs. He casually answered, "Nothing much. Just got up to talk to the coach about tactics."
Their support Song Yu'ning said, "Speaking of which, the playoffs schedule should be out already, right?"
Nie Cheng gulped down the rest of his egg drop soup, then wiped his mouth and said, "I just checked out the league's official website. The first round is the winners bracket, Jingzhe versus Huowen. The winners bracket is sure to be intense."
His teammates fell into a brief silence.
Tianhuan's performance during the regular season had been quite poor. They barely managed to squeeze out a fourth place finish in the groups stage, which earned them a spot in the losers bracket of the playoffs.
The playoffs followed a double elimination format. Teams in the winners bracket could lose and get one more chance. But if a team from the losers bracket lost, they would be eliminated right away. Tianhuan would only be able to take the championship title if they didn't lose a single game.
Their hopes were slim to none.
Tianhuan's main problems were that the performance of their primary marksman, Old Nie, was starting to decline, and their mid laner Qu Jiang and jungler Chi Shuo didn't work well together. Plus, their opponents always zeroed in on Chi Shuo. He could never move freely in team fights.
The team that had once set a record for the longest winning streak in a regular season was now deteriorating. This left the players with an intense feeling of unease, but they were working hard to change things.
Qu Jiang smiled faintly and broke the silence. "Jingzhe and Huowen. Which side has a better chance?"
Coach Lin happened to walk over with his dining plate at just that moment. Hearing those words, he interjected, "It'll be a match-up between the two best mid laners in the league. The outcome will depend on how their mid laners play."
Old Nie mourned, "Fang Zhengqing's Cobra King has been living on the ban list for two seasons already. Jingzhe hasn't been allowed to run their poison comp since they showed it off at worlds in Season 8. I'm actually looking forward to seeing him play the Cobra King again."
"When Jingzhe and Huowen play each other, the coaches will definitely ban mid lane heroes," Chi Shuo said. "Fang Zhengqing's Cobra King won't be left free. Zhou Jiawen's Flame Goddess will also be banned as a sign of respect."
A hero that was banned in the B&P stage was essentially locked up in a 'little black box'. They couldn't be used in the ensuing match.
If a player could force an opponent to ban one of their heroes, it was a testament to their strength with that hero.
An opposing coach would only prohibit you from using a hero out of fear.
Fang Zhengqing's Cobra King was always banned because the poison comp was just too irritating to deal with. Not even the league's best mid/jungle duo or best marksman/support duo could necessarily defeat Jingzhe's double poison mage comp.
So it was better to ban the Cobra King right away and stop them from running that comp in the first place.
Chi Shuo suddenly thought, if one day Xiao Bai joined the professional league…
Would the Abyssal Lord also earn a permanent spot on the ban list?
Xiao Bai would soon be able to take the Abyssal Lord onto the national leaderboards, after all.
Just then, Tang Can-jiejie from the organizational team came into the cafeteria and greeted everyone with a smile. "The opening game of the playoffs will be held next Saturday. The league doesn't require all teams to be there, those without an upcoming game can choose not to go. What do you all think? The opening game is in Star City this time. Should we head out a bit early?"
Xiao Bai's Abyssal Lord had been marked #1 in Star City.
Gods War ranked players automatically based on locations associated with the IP address a player used to log in. If Xiao Bai was #1 in Star City, that meant he was currently living in Star City of Mingzhou Province.
Chi Shuo considered it, then quietly said, "I'd suggest going early. Our game is scheduled for next Thursday, and it's also in Star City. Going early will give us time to familiarize ourselves with the environment."
Tang Can looked towards Coach Lin.
Lin Feng smiled slightly and said, "Chi Shuo has a point. Let's go early to avoid anyone not being able to adjust to the new locale or sleeping schedule. Little Tang, you go book the plane tickets and hotels for everyone. I'll send you the specifics later."
Tang Can nodded. "Alright! Oh, by the way. The tournament organizers said they reserved a row of VIP tickets by the stage for players who need tickets for their family members. If anyone wants one, come talk to me."
"Save two for me," Chi Shuo said.
Tang Can gave him a curious look. "Captain Chi, do you have family in Star City? They're going to watch the game live?"
"A friend," Chi Shuo said.
The friend he was referring to was, of course, Xiao Bai.
After carefully observing Xiao Bai's gameplay, Chi Shuo discovered that Xiao Bai's talent was truly outstanding.
He felt a pressing need to meet this person.
If he simply said, 'Host, let me visit you at your home,' the other party was sure to refuse. By sending Xiao Bai these tickets, he could give Xiao Bai an unconcerning way to attend the game. And there, he could meet Xiao Bai in person.
He wanted to see whether or not Xiao Bai was really suitable for professional esports.
After lunch, Ye Shaoyang returned to the game and saw that the boss had gone offline. There was a message from the boss waiting for him, though.
[Xiao Bai, I have some stuff to do this afternoon, so I won't be able to queue with you. I'll wait for your Abyssal Lord to reach the national leaderboards, then come back to send more gifts.]
Since his didi had gone to meet up with friends and his boss was busy, Ye Shaoyang could only queue up by himself.
When solo queueing, players were assigned four random teammates. It was inevitable that Ye Shaoyang would run into some griefers who deliberately lost or went AFK at the start of a match. He couldn't help but lose a few rounds. Fortunately, Ye Shaoyang had already rediscovered his knack for playing as a mid laner. He began to feel more and more familiar with the game.
As long as a player demonstrated their skills well, they could be named the MVP of the losing team. In those cases, the game didn't deduct too much battle power. The battle power of Ye Shaoyang's Abyssal Lord continued to climb steadily. By the time he logged off that night, his battle power had already passed the 10,000 mark.
The weekend was when the game saw the most player activity. In order to avoid being overtaken in the rankings, Ye Shaoyang continued playing ranked matches for two more days. He got his Abyssal Lord up to a battle power of 12,000—the highest it would go. He also reached 30 stars in the King rank.
At midnight on Monday, Ye Shaoyang received a system notification—
Congratulations! Your hero, the Abyssal Lord, has been ranked as the #1 in the country with a total battle power of 12,000. You have been awarded the title of National #1 Abyssal Lord!
The first in the nation, and the golden trophy symbol that was awarded with the title!
Ye Shaoyang stared at the #1 title he'd earned, then smiled slightly and stood up to stretch.
Those days of hard work hadn't been in vain after all.
As a result of that achievement, Ye Shaoyang received an onslaught of gifts in his streaming room—
[Xiao Bai #1 Fan has sent Xiao Bai a deep sea torpedo. x1]
[Don't OTL In Ranked has sent Xiao Bai a deep sea torpedo. x1]
[Jungler No. 8 has sent Xiao Bai a deep sea torpedo. x100]
Ye Shaoyang sat back down in front of his computer and said, "Thank you Xiao Bai #1 Fan and Don't OTL In Ranked for the torpedo. Thank you Jungler No. 8 for the one hundred torpedoes… boss, you'll go broke. Don't send any more."
Jungler No. 8 was back.
This big spender was extremely generous. Whenever he showed up in Xiao Bai's streaming room, he filled up the chat screen with his gifts. The other viewers all spammed '666' and begged to ride his coattails.
[Jungler No. 8: Congratulations for taking the Abyssal Lord to the national rankings, Xiao Bai.]
[Jungler No. 8: Check your in-game private messages.]
Ye Shaoyang closed the window of the streaming room and loaded up his in-game inbox—
The opening game of the playoffs is on Saturday at 2pm. The playoffs will be held at two venues this year, one in the north and one in the south. The southern venue is Star City's Esports Center. I saw that you were awarded the title of #1 Abyssal Lord in Star City before. Is that where you live? I have two extra tickets to a game, if you're interested. You can come watch live with your didi.
Two tickets with QR codes were attached.
Ye Shaoyang typed back: [Thank you, boss!]
He hadn't imagined that the opening game of the year's playoffs would be right outside his door.
Getting to see a game live was a rare opportunity. He definitely wouldn't miss it.