A bright start for Hai's new esports org Radiance
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When Hai Lam announced his new organization, Radiance, it filled the League of Legends scene with buzz. In an era of franchising, where the semi-pro scene is still struggling to rebuild after the death of Challenger in 2017, not much is really expected of most organizations. Fewer still are expected to be relevant enough to produce talent worthy of the Academy League or the NA LCS. So imagine the surprise when the match made in heaven happened.

The Nameless Kings

For the majority of 2018, Polar Ace were considered the best team in the North American League of Legends amateur scene. They won all but two tournaments they played in, and were in all but a single finals out of tournaments they saw to conclusion. Out of the twenty players that attended Scouting Grounds, five were on Polar Ace at some point in 2018. To close out the year, they won the Tyler1 Championship Series in front of 100K viewers.

Since returning to the amateur scene, Polar Ace had posted a record of 46-4 through January 2019. At the tail end of 2018 they lost their starting jungler Kim “dragonminkim” Yong-min and mid laner Julien “Julien” Gelinas, but quickly found replacements. Then, after a rare loss at the Wichita tournament, the team left Polar Ace in February. They were now sporting the five-man of Cuong “Aetheres” Ta (formerly known as Flaresz on team NME), Nathan “OddOrange” Ryan, KatEvolved, Jurassiq, and Winter.

Now without an organization to call their own, they operated under the name of Buff Katarina. Their dominance continued, winning the PlayerOne Esports tournament for the second time and becoming the first team to make playoffs in the new Bloody Invitational Gaming League (B.I.G. League for short), with rumors circulating of the team even taking scrims off Academy rosters.

A Brand New Face

Radiance launched in February to both surprise and excitement. In League of Legends at least, gone were the days of organizations being founded by former players rather than corporations or big-money names. So when Radiance was announced as an organization, eyebrows were raised and interests were piqued.

Sporting a staff of former LCS player Hai Lam, former LCS player and coach Derek “LemonNation” Hart, Notion Theory CEO Kristian Bouw, Katrina Lee, Kasumi “Sumichu” Yogi, and former Golden Guardians manager Daniel “dGon” Gonzalez, Radiance had plenty of experience at the organizational level.

They started by hosting a Dota 2 AutoChess tournament for a ten-thousand-dollar prize pool, soon adding influencers like League of Legends streamer and cosplayer “Emiru” and Overwatch streamer “Wanted.” Things were picking up for Radiance, but people were wondering when they’d have a competitive team of their own.

Match Made in Heaven

On March 18, Radiance announced that they were acquiring the team and coaches of Buff Katarina, the biggest move in the amateur League of Legends scene since the death of the Challenger Series. For the first time in almost a year and a half, a big name had brought attention to the development of North American talent. There was no time to rest however, as an old rival was waiting.

The First Challenge

For their first match after the acquisition, the Radiance roster faced their oldest and most heated rival, Super Nova, in the B.I.G. League Semifinals.

Super Nova was another roster considered elite in the scene, having sent three players to Scouting Grounds, facing Polar Ace twice in tournament finals and twice in tournament semifinals, in the process dealing Polar Ace half of their match losses in 2018. They had revamped as well after losing their top laner Thomas “Jenkins” Tran and ADC Edward “Tactical” Ra to the Academy League.

With big names of their own in Kostyantyn “PieCakeLord” Dudarchuk, Ethan “lc0nic” Wilkinson, Lee “Strompest” Seung-min, Ross “Value” Luppino, and Spencer “TheOddTurtle” Auch, Super Nova were arguably the biggest first match Radiance could have asked for.

Shining Bright

Coming in as the higher seed in the best-of-five semi-final matchup, Radiance were the favorite from the get-go. The first game went as the pundits had predicted, with the top half of the map for Radiance dominating off of the advantages their Poppy, Jarvan, and Vladimir had of the Camille, Urgot, and Akali of Super Nova.

Super Nova, however, were not going to go down without a fight. In game two they came out swinging due to Strompest and Value, but went down after a few picks led to a game-ending baron for Radiance. Game three was all Super Nova, snowballing hard off of the monstrous LeBlanc of Strompest and unkillable Kalista of Value.

Game four was arguably the closest of the series. Fights flip-flopped, kills and objectives were traded, and the Baron Nashor buff of Super Nova faced off against the five stack Elder Dragon buff of Radiance. It led to a climactic final fight that allowed Radiance to take the series three to one, taking their spot in Los Angeles for the live finals of the B.I.G. League.

The Future is RAD?

Going forward, there is a lot of buzz around the organization and its League of Legends division. In addition to adding prominent streamer “RTO,” roster buzz is afoot. With the end of Academy usually comes roster changes, with all but KatEvolved (who doesn’t meet age requirement) being talked about as potential call ups.

Looking ahead to the aforementioned B.I.G. Finals, the champions of amateur will take on the reigning collegiate champions in the University of California Irvine. With such well-known names as former Team Liquid ADC Youngbin and former World Championship attendee Bloodwater at support, they are among the most stacked rosters in NA’s collegiate scene. The UCI squad has been on a rampage ever since regaining their starting five, and it all comes to a head in Los Angeles.

With the event happening days before MSI, all eyes in NA will be on the event and the outcome. Regardless of the result, Radiance seem to have a bright future ahead of them as an organization. Who knows, LCS may expand one day.