6 Western pros that could’ve kept going

Some League of Legends players simply step down too soon. We look at 6 of the best Western pros that could have kept going... but didn't.

(Image Credit: Riot Games)

For most League of Legends pros, retirement feels almost natural. At some point, their skill deteriorates and they can no longer keep up with the new blood, so stepping away from the spotlight becomes a logical conclusion to their careers. But there are exceptions. 

Some pros are so adept at their craft that their decision to retire seemingly comes out of the blue. And while many of them have already achieved greatness, the fact that they choose to stop without pursuing new heights leaves thousands of fans scratching their heads and contemplating various “what ifs”. These players are walking enigmas, as so many parts of their stories tend to be shrouded in mystery. It’s these players that we’re going to focus on in our list of 6 Western pros that could have kept going… but didn’t.

1. Zorozero

If you were to build a time machine and go back to the middle of 2013 to ask European fans what they saw in Morten "Zorozero" Rosenquist, most would answer “a rising star." Nowadays, Lemondogs are but a blip in EU LCS history, but at the time, they were the talk of the league—a newly-promoted lineup that went from playing in the Challenger Series to qualifying for the World Championship over the span of a single split. Zorozero stood at its helm.

In the 2013 EU LCS Summer Split, he cemented himself as confident carry that routinely produced solo kills, turned 1v2s, and took over entire games with stunning performances on Ryze and Kennen. But unlike most carry top laners, Zorozero didn’t fall off when the meta shifted towards tanks. He adapted. 

At the beginning of 2014, Zorozero joined Ninjas in Pyjamas and became one of the best tank players in Europe. To a casual fan, there wasn’t much difference between all the Shyvana and Dr. Mundo players that flooded the top lane during that era, but there were subtle points and nuances to Zorozero’s play that made him stand out from the competition. He went for roams to snowball his teammates, he timed his teleports perfectly to secure objectives, and he created a ton of space to free up his carries in teamfights. He was the spitting image of a perfect top laner.

Thorin and MonteCristo discuss the possibility of Zorozero joining CLG.

In the end, Ninjas in Pyjamas fell short in the Promotion Tournament, but Zorozero still established himself as a standout player. He looked set to have a brilliant career, as multiple teams (including North America’s Counter Logic Gaming) were trying to sign him. But, inexplicably, he vanished. To this day, no one truly knows what prompted one of the most promising Western top laners to quit the game. Perhaps it was as simple as taking time off to finish school—a temporary break that turned into a permanent breakup with the pro scene. Regardless, Zorozero remains one of the best pro players to play a single LCS split, and he’s still missed to this day.

2. Chauster

There once was a time when Steve "Chauster" Chau was considered a living legend—and he would be the first person to let you know that. The funny thing is that he would probably be right. Unlike most self-proclaimed geniuses, Chauster wasn’t just saying he’s the best player to ever touch the game, he was actively proving it on the Rift. Despite not having the best mechanics and reaction time, he had such an in-depth understanding of League of Legends that he always seemed to know exactly what he needs to do to outmaneuver his opponents and lead his team to a confident victory. This is also why he had no issues role swapping to other positions, making him the only player to successfully play top, jungle, mid lane, ADC, and support on a professional level. 

Chausters talents weren’t limited to gameplay either. He was widely regarded as the éminence grise of Counter Logic Gaming, simultaneously performing the roles of a coach, shot caller, and a key member of the team. Last but not least, he holds the credit for teaching Doublelift how to navigate bot lane, turning him from “someone who can click accurately very fast” into the monstrous marksman he is today. 

Chauster didn’t quit at his peak. His motivation wavered, and it got so bad that he was only playing mandatory scrims towards the end of season 2. But what if it didn’t? Even after his motivational slump, Chauster’s game knowledge and natural talent carried him for the entirety of 2013. And if he never stopped grinding, there’s a good chance he would still be among the best pro players (and minds) in the West.

3. Dexter

To say that Marcel "Dexter" Feldkamp started his career with a bang would be an understatement. Originally part of the Lemondogs lineup that took the 2013 EU LCS Spring Split by storm, Dexter made a name for himself with strong showings on early game champions like Elise, Lee Sin, and Jarvan IV. 

He kept this momentum going in North America where he replaced Bigfatlp on Counter Logic Gaming. His confident playmaking became the foundation of CLG’s early game, as he was constantly looking to set the pace of the game and get in the face of the enemy jungler. Combine that with his natural knack for shot calling, and Dexter seemed like the perfect fit for the North American lineup. 

CLG members talk about Dexter as a player and a teammate.

Unfortunately, he joined CLG right when the team was rife with internal conflict. This was the Donezo Manifesto era when teammates turned on each other and personal clashes drowned out discussion. With that, it’s not exactly surprising that Dexter’s form suffered. His ganks became inconsistent, his plays started backfiring, and his calls fell on deaf ears because no one on CLG trusted his teammates.  

Dexter could have very well recovered from this disaster if he went back to Europe and signed with a good team. Instead, he joined Elements. The supposed European superteam suffered from the same issues as CLG coupled with a complete lack of in-game direction, and two back-to-back trainwrecks proved too much for Dexter to handle. He stepped away from the spotlight, first becoming a substitute, then an interviewer, and finally an owner of his esports talent agency

4. xPeke

Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez has always been a weird player to look back on. Hailed as a top representative of the first generation of EU mid laners, he never had the mechanics of Froggen or the champion pool of Alex Ich. What he did have, though, was the clutch factor. When push came to shove, xPeke never failed to step up to the challenge and win a key skirmish, make a game-changing play, or take over a crucial teamfight. 

xPeke's iconic backdoor play against SK Gaming.

Most Europeans fans still remember his backdoor play against SK Gaming—the perfect encapsulation of xPeke as a player. Confident, daring, constantly looking for ways to tip the scales into his favor. It seemed like whenever xPeke was on the Rift, his teams always had a chance to claw their back from monumental gold deficits and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And—perhaps—it’s this extraordinary grit that made it so easy for his teammates to rally around him. 

Yet, xPeke’s legacy is marred by his ventures outside of the game. Juggling the duties of a captain with the responsibilities of a team owner proved too heavy of a burden, so he had to step away from the starting lineup when he still had the skill to compete on the EU LCS stage. The irony is that both he and Origen would’ve probably been better off if xPeke found someone else to manage the team. xPeke would get a few more years in the spotlight, and Origen would avoid a multitude of management issues that ultimately led to its demise. But that’s just another “what if” in the long League of Legends history.

5. IWillDominate

Nowadays, it’s common to view Christian "IWDominate" Rivera as nothing more than a skilled (and very opinionated) League of Legends streamer, but there was a time when he had a solid claim to being the best native jungler in North America. A carry player at heart, he had the talent and the killer instinct to play some of the most mechanically intensive champions in the game. He also had the flexibility and self-awareness to recognize when he needed to accommodate the needs of his teammates by shifting towards a more supportive playstyle.

IWillDominate predicts a flash.

This versatility paid off in spades when IWillDominate was paired with resource-hungry carries like Scarra and Voyboy on the 2012 iteration of Team Dignitas. The partnership was so effective that Dignitas were at one point pushing for the title of a top-2 team in North America. 

Unfortunately, a year-long ban for toxicity prevented IWillDominate from capitalizing on this momentum. To most players, this would’ve been a death sentence. To IWillDominate, it was but a setback. Once his punishment was lifted, he came back even stronger, becoming the pillar of NA LCS’ Team Curse and—later—Team Liquid. 

IWillDominate’s story doesn’t end on a big win. Despite his best efforts, there’s no LCS trophy or a deep World Championship run to silence his critics and cement him as one of the greatest North American junglers of all time. But he definitely had a natural knack for the game. And if he didn’t voluntarily leave the competitive scene, he could’ve still been competing at the top of his region. 

6. BloodWater

Lyubomir "BloodWater" Spasov has been a part of many teams, but in the NA LCS, he’s best known for his time on Team Vulcun. Back then, Vulcun were a newly-promoted lineup taking on the 2013 Summer Split. No one expected much from them, but Vulcun turned these expectations on their head and took the NA LCS by storm with their relentless aggression and confident teamfighting.

At first glance, BloodWater didn’t seem like the flashiest member on the team. However, he quickly proved his worth with a string of dominant showings on Sona, Zyra, and Thresh. Whether it’s laning, playmaking, or vision control, BloodWater ticked all the boxes that make a top-tier support player. And it’s largely because of him acting as Vulcun’s backbone that they made it all the way to Worlds during their first NA LCS split.

BloodWater makes a miracle steal.

From there, everything went downhill. Vulcun rebranded as XDG and collapsed under the weight of management issues and questionable roster moves. This culminated in the organization announcing that BloodWater retired from League of Legends at the beginning of 2014 when he had no plans of doing so until later in the year.

These days, BloodWater can be seen representing the collegiate League of Legends team of UC Irvene. Yet, it’s hard to think of this with anything other than disappointment when you’re talking about a player that could’ve been the next Xpecial or Aphromoo.

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Daniil Volkov

I craft League of Legends narratives and cover LCK, NA & EU LCS.