Peanut’s Journey: From Najin to SKT

All Images courtesy of Riot Games

On February 25, 2015, Han “Peanut” Wang-ho stepped onto the Rift to play his first LCK game. He was a part of the Najin e-mFire roster, and opposing them was the monstrous SKT T1 lineup. It’s hard to think of a tougher opponent for your first professional showing.

Yet Peanut didn’t let that get to him.

He looked overjoyed as he got his team first blood on Piccaboo’s Veigar, and he was shouting on the voice comms while being at the helm of every play. Najin lost that game—and the series. But Peanut still made a statement that day. Watching him, you couldn’t shake the impression that this guy was happy simply being there, among LCK legends.

And that was only a taste of things to come.

Gaining Momentum

A single promising substitute can’t turn entire Split’s worth of under-performances. Especially, if he’s still learning himself. Ultimately, Najin didn’t have what it takes to reach Playoffs, and Peanut spent most of the next season sitting on the bench. He didn’t know yet, but soon he’d get another chance to shine. This time, as a part of the ROX Tigers lineup.

Peanut came into ROX in place of their previous jungler, Lee “Lee” Ho-jin. The Tigers were doing well for themselves, finishing 4th in the Summer of 2015. After losing their sponsors, things didn’t look as promising for them. But they stuck together. And with the addition of Peanut—an untested jungle with barely any games under his belt last season—something magical started to happen.

Something clicked.

Relentless aggression became ROX’s trademark playstyle. Every member of this team complemented the others’ strengths, and it showed the most with Peanut who routinely pulled off deep invades and bold plays while his teammates backed him up. When Tigers went 16-2 throughout the 2016 Spring Split, everyone realized that they were the real deal. To anyone who’s followed LCK that season, it was crystal clear that ROX should win the whole season. But they didn’t, instead falling prey to SKT T1’s miracle run.

Summer 2016 came and once again Tigers bared their fangs with Peanut being at the vanguard of their offensive. Their 15-3 record almost mirrored their previous Split. But ROX weren’t going to let the history repeat itself in the Playoffs. They battled kt Rolster in a cutthroat 5-game series. It came down to a missed Baron smite from KT’s Score and a series of back and forth team fights, but Tigers took the series with a 3-2 score. You couldn’t help smiling as every single ROX member screamed, laughed, and wept in celebration of their victory.

They were a team of rejects. A team with no fancy gaming house or big money behind it. Just hard work and dedication. Yet here they were. And Peanut walked on stage, trying to hold his tears, still coming to terms with winning his first domestic title.

But his gaze was already set at Worlds.

Setting the Worlds Ablaze

When it comes to Worlds Championships, everyone wants to see Koreans fail. LCK teams represent powerful opponents that inspire fear and respect but not love. At the start, ROX was no different—another powerhouse, an obstacle for fan favorites to overcome.

Things were about to change, though, as ROX stunned League fans—not with exceptional play, but with emotion. Tigers weren’t another faceless team. Their games were charged with energy. They laughed at stupid deaths—especially if those were their own—they celebrated victories and wept in defeat. ROX had character. And Peanut was their face.

The young jungler played his heart out throughout the championship. His plays were key to ROX’s success, and the team once again came into its series against SKT as the clear-cut favorite. The games were close but—ultimately—not even ROX with their wild energy could stand in the way of SKT’s international dominance. The series that was later dubbed the real finals of 2016 ended with a 2-3 win in favor of SKT. Usually, the crowd would chant the victor’s name here.

But they chanted for Peanut.

Moments after suffering a soul-crushing loss, the young jungler walked away from the Worlds stage and listened to people shouting his name. He bowed to them. Defeated, yet filled with resolve.

Second Chances

Peanut joining SKT raised many questions. Was this the epitome of “can’t beat them, join them” or was it that his talent was finally recognized by the best team in the world? Either way, becoming a member of SKT was like a dream come true for Peanut. He was now a part of League’s history. Surrounding him were legends like Wolf, Bang, and—most importantly—Faker.

And Peanut was set to prove that he deserved to stand among them.

His trademark aggression reinvented SKT’s playstyle. It’s been a while since this team played with a dominant jungler, and the change was welcomed by SKT fans. Still, despite Peanut’s monstrous 5.1 KDA and 5.3 CS per minute over the regular season, there were times when he looked shaky. So much so that his substitute, Blank, had to play in his stead.

It seemed that history was once again going to repeat itself with Peanut stumbling when it mattered most. But this time was different. This time Peanut managed to pick himself up and went against Score who was considered the best jungler in the LCK. And he won. SKT made a clean sweep against kt Rolster’s superteam that was supposed to be their greatest nemesis.

This LCK title signified many things. Fame, glory, and the acclaim of winning the best league in the world. But—most importantly—it meant that Peanut had a chance at redemption, another opportunity to win an international title.

Peanut’s career is filled with hits and misses. To some that might signify that his play is not consistent enough for the young jungler to stand at the top of competitive League of Legends. But it also means that every time Peanut falls short of his goals, he works hard to make an explosive comeback.

And this time, he’s coming for MSI.

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inthecure

Hi! I'm a League of Legends writer and an expert on three major regions of North America, Europe, and Korea.