One day after top laner Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon’s departure, FunPlus Phoenix also announced to part ways with their jungler Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang. One of the players that brought FPX to glory back in 2019 will leave the team, following a disappointing 2021.
Tian Leaves FPX after 3 years in the team
Tian has parted ways with FPX after playing in the team for three consecutive years. The Chinese jungler helped FPX win Worlds 2019, beating G2 Esports 3-0 in the finals on the enemies’ home soil. Tian’s playmaking in that series earned him the MVP. The organization was able to bring the trophy back to China for the second year running, establishing a new era of Chinese dominance.
He also made a presence in the Worlds 2020 song “Take Over” as Lee Sin, his signature champion. Upon winning Worlds 2019, Tian also chose Lee Sin as his champion for the team skin, showing how he’s proficient at him.
Throughout his career at FPX, Tian has always shown great chemistry with the star mid-laner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang. The mid-jungle duo worked extremely well, as they were able to constantly get a lead in the early game thanks to the pressure they created around the map. Mechanically speaking, Tian was also exceptional: not only his Lee Sin was good, but he showed great prowess on other high-skill champions like Qiyana.
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FPX Tian’s rising health issues following 2020
In 2020, Tian and FPX failed to qualify for Worlds. Their surprising loss against Invictus Gaming eliminated them from the LPL 2020 Regional Finals and shattered any hope of defending their title. FPX became rather inconsistent and decided to make changes to the roster, bringing in the-later World Champion Nuguri, the top laner of DAMWON Gaming at the time.
With such a world-class in the top lane, FPX hoped to return to glory back with Tian. The jungler, however, started facing a lot of stress and his physical conditions started deteriorating. These issues saw him sit out most of Spring Split, as FPX found a rising star in Zhou “Bo” Yang-Bo.
The rookie, however, was caught in a match-fixing scandal and was suspended shortly after. Tian, despite his non-optimal conditions, returned to competitive play and proved that he’s still a top-tier talent. The jungler helped FPX reach second place in the LPL 2021 Spring Playoffs, after winning four Bo5 series.
In summer, FunPlusPhoenix really started to showcase all their potential, ending first in the Summer Split, with an insane 81% win rate. It seemed like Doinb and Tian found that 2019 magic and looked so dominant that fans regarded them as the favorites for the Worlds trophy. Unfortunately, FPX came crashing down very quickly: their loss against EDG for the Summer Championship was only the beginning.
Tian and FPX’s disastrous Worlds 2021
Despite the loss against EDG, people still regarded FPX as a top-tier team, ready to compete for Worlds 2021. Ending in what should’ve been an easy group A, fans witnessed the unimaginable: the Chinese team dropped out of groups, losing the tie-breakers to Rogue and Cloud9 and last in their group.
Fans could not understand how FPX’s performance dropped so suddenly in the span of two months. Former teammate and FPX top laner Kim “GimGoon” Han-saem gave some context regarding Tian and how the jungler’s injuries were a major factor at Worlds 2021. It seemed like Tian suffered from a serious wrist injury, in addition to already poor health conditions. The whole situation around Bo forced Tian to return prematurely, and he was not able to recover well from the injuries.
Now that FPX has dropped Tian, we don’t know what his next destination will be. It is likely that he will look to improve his health conditions next year, taking a break to fully recuperate.
“Today the journey ofhas come to an end, but the story of Gao Tianliang is still waiting for you to write.” is what FPX wrote to thank Tian for his 3-year service.