The SK Telecom T1 jungler Kang “Blank” Sun-gu is no stranger to criticism. Between questionable decision-making, blatant mechanical misplays, or non-existent early game pressure, many things contribute to the perception of him being the weakest link of his team. A multitude of jokes highlighting his biggest shortcomings certainly don’t help his case either.
This makes it easy to conclude that Blank was never good, and the only reason he is still on a team is the fact that even the likes of KkOma can fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy. However, Blank hasn’t always been the black sheep of SKT T1’s roster, and there were times when he legitimately acted as the backbone of the South Korean powerhouse.
Blank joined SKT T1 at the end of 2015 to share playtime with Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong. He was meant to provide a more forceful, carry-oriented presence—a stark contrast to Bengi’s controlled playstyle. Unfortunately, Blank had a hard time proving his worth on stage. He played a total of four games over the first half of the 2016 LCK Spring Split, three of them ending in a loss. And while he was along for the ride when SKT won the IEM Season 10 World Championship, there were many times when he struggled to keep up with his superstar teammates.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. The rest of the Spring Split saw Blank making noticeable improvements, and even though his name was never up there with the best LCK junglers, he still had the playstyle and the champion pool to give SKT the aggressive presence that Bengi couldn’t. During that era, his biggest achievement was challenging—and defeating—ROX Tigers’ Han “Peanut” Wang-ho in the final of the 2016 LCK Spring Split. But an LCK title didn’t put an end to Blank’s hardships.
Barring that final, Blank always seemed to crack under pressure and make critical misplays or a fatal overextensions in high-pressure matches. Stage fright is exceedingly common among performers, but if you’re fighting for a spot on the best team in the world, it can be a death sentence. Fortunately, SKT still had Bengi to fall back on. With that, Blank’s issues weren’t as detrimental, and he had the luxury of sitting out a game or two when the nerves got to him.
When SKT parted ways with Bengi and recruited Peanut for the 2017 LCK season Blank was moved to the substitute position. Now he was the stabilizing force, the clutch player that only went on stage when his team was already with its back against the wall.
And unexpectedly, Blank flourished.
At one point, he had a ridiculous 20-game winning streak going, and SKT frequently subbed him in for those do-or-die games. Perhaps the main reason behind this momentum was the opportunity to work with another talented carry jungler in Peanut, or maybe Blank owes his success to KkOma dissecting the game backstage and presenting him the best jungle routes on a silver platter. Whatever the case, there was something magical about seeing an underperforming player turn into the pillar of his team.
Fast-forward a year, and that magic is seemingly gone. Blank is once again struggling to put together cohesive jungle showings, and SKT are looking like one of the shakiest teams of the 2018 LCK season. That’s not to say that Blank can’t recapture his lightning in a bottle. His biggest victories came when he was sharing playtime with another jungler, and while the 2018 SKT had Blossom, the fact that they weren’t using him simultaneously made the team less flexible and put excessive pressure on Blank.
In the end, Blank isn’t stable or well-rounded enough to be the main jungler of SKT T1. However, he has proven he can be a solid substitute. And if SKT recruit a capable starter and go through the trouble of creating the right work environment, Blank can still be a great backup jungler for the team.
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