FPX Milkyway: Next Faker in the making

Carver Fisher
FPX Milkyway the next Faker

FPX Milkyway came out of seemingly nowhere to carry an ailing FPX back to LPL prominence, and he’s already being recognized by League of Legends players worldwide for his jungle prowess. But where did he come from, and why is he such a special player?

Every once in a while, there’s a young rookie who comes into a long-established League of Legends meta and changes everything. They don’t bank on their personality or a specific flashy playstyle to stand out, they just play the way they want to and let that performance speak for itself.

In 2013, Faker was that rookie. In 2017, Caps was that rookie. And in 2024, Cai ‘Milkyway’ Zi-Jun will be that rookie if he keeps up his current level of performance.

In a meta where most junglers play to enable their team, secure objectives, and put their laners in the position to carry, Milkyway is capable of making himself the win condition and puts an entire team on his back.

But where did this emerging superstar come from? And why does he play so damn well?

Marked for greatness

Like all great League players before him, Milkyway really made his mark in solo queue. Even with him currently competing in the LPL, he’s ranked 96th in Korean solo queue at the time of writing and has long had a reputation for playing hard carry junglers.

And, while he’s currently spamming Lee Sin to completely dominate matches, his old main says a lot about him as a player: Kindred.

Prestige Porcelain Kindred

For those unfamiliar with her kit, Kindred’s passive requires her to pick her targets and steal enemy jungle in order to put herself in a position to carry. She has to work a lot harder than other characters when it comes to planning and thinking ahead of your opponent than most other jungle champions.

Kindred’s playstyle conditions you to have the sort of mentality that’s necessary for solo carrying a match by obliterating the enemy jungler and shutting them out. 2022 World Champion Pyosik is an example of another former Kindred one-trick who’s had great success off the back of learning the game in this way. Milkyway’s wealth of game knowledge gives him the tools to carry in every circumstance.

If he’s not counter-jungling, he’s counter-ganking. If he’s not taking a fight, he’s cross-mapping and taking other objectives. There’s no point in the game where it feels like he doesn’t know what to do to give his team the best chance of winning.

Dragging FPX back into relevance

FPX’s current roster isn’t exactly star-studded. Top laner Xiaolaohu and mid laner Care are both players who were scouted and brought into the pro league by FunPlus Phoenix, and, though they’ve both had their moments of greatness, neither player stood out as one of the best in their region before this iteration of the team.

deokdam and Life both played in the LCK for years before joining FPX, with deokdam in particular having some demons he’s had to battle over the years. Since a breakout debut on Nongshim RedForce in 2021, he’s failed to deliver even by his own account.

He reflected on Damwon KIA (now DPlus KIA) doing their best to put him in the position to be the “main character” and carry the match in an interview with Dexerto after they dropped out of Worlds 2022. He claimed he’d never be able to be proud of his performance then, and his career only went downhill from there in 2023. Though he kept playing even through a crippling injury and never gave up.

None of these laners stand out as a reliable win condition. For most junglers, that’d doom their odds of being able to succeed at a pro level. Milkyway, meanwhile, just decided to become that reliable win condition when FPX was struggling.

Though he can play frontline and engage-oriented junglers like Maokai and Sejuani, he and the team really started to shine when he was put on carries. And, while he isn’t statistically the best in every category, he’s exceptionally strong in all of them.

He’s got the 2nd best kill participation at an average of 81%, bested only by Jiejie with how hard the 2021 World Champion was trying to carry EDG before an injury unfortunately took him out of commission.

Additionally, he’s got the 3rd best damage per minute, the most kills per match on average at almost 5 per match, and the 2nd highest KDA at over 5 on average. All while having the 5th highest CS per minute. And, with how FPX’s matches are trending, these stats are only going to go up.

Milkyway is literally doing it all, dominating the map and pressuring everyone out without sacrificing much. It’s typical for even the best junglers to have an above average CS per minute at the cost of early map impact and vice versa, but Milkyway is just doing both.

Milkyway is the type of guy to fearlessly run through some of the best players in the LPL on an off-meta jungler with no issue. Even if every lane is losing, he can bring a game back from the brink.

He’s been getting praise heaped upon him by analysts and pro players alike, with many believing he’ll be able to solo carry FPX to an international. They’ve already become one of the first LPL teams to lock in a Playoffs spot, and it’s only up from here for Milkyway and the rest of FPX.

Milkyway is an all-time great in the making

It doesn’t feel like there’s any one solution that LPL teams can come up with to shut Milkyway down. He hit the ground running in his debut split and hasn’t stopped in what is widely regarded as one of the best rookie runs in League of Legends history.

There’s genuinely no argument to be made that Milkyway’s getting carried by his team or his champions. He’s playing in a way that’s been continually nerfed by Riot with complete and total disregard for the meta. He plays what he thinks will win the game for his team, and it just works.

And, even with him being such a massive factor behind FunPlus Phoenix’s comeback, he takes every opportunity he can to try and lift his teammates up and help them improve along with him. Fan sentiment in China is that he’s 1v9ing, but he isn’t interested in throwing his team under the bus.

There’s a genuine argument to be made that, as FPX have climbed the LPL rankings, that Milkyway has helped develop his team and built up their confidence to make them all play better. Confidence is a hell of a thing.

Care is playing a number of mages meant to enable his teammates like Azir, Neeko, Karma, and even Annie. Life is playing Rumble support for the hell of it, with deokdam alternating between utility ADCs like Senna and Ashe or hypercarries like Zeri. Xiaolaohu is a strong weaksider on K’Sante or Gnar, but also has a crazy Fiora up his sleeve and a penchant for carries.

Juggling this many playstyles only works when a team has unwavering confidence in their overall direction both in draft and in game, and FPX is pulling it off. Milkyway has been able to take a group of players that didn’t seem all that great and give them a chance to shine, and he’s found more and more success playing junglers that enable his teammates as the split has gone on.

In the same way that T1 nosedived when Faker was injured, it feels like FPX wouldn’t have a chance if Milkyway wasn’t on the team. He really seems like the glue keeping everyone together. Even if these two don’t play the same role, it’s impossible not to draw a comparison.

With BLG being the sole exception, all of FPX’s recent matches have made them look like the best team in the LPL. He made taking down iG’s Leyan in the best split of his career look easy, and there’s a very good chance we see FPX at MSI 2024.

Making it to MSI could give Milkyway a chance to clash with Faker.

That is, if T1 even makes it. There are only 2 spots up for grabs in both the LPL and LCK, and T1 were just bested by Hanwha Life Esports in their most recent regular season match at the time of writing. There’s a world out there where Milkyway makes it to MSI and Faker doesn’t.

With how long League of Legends has been around and how many years professional analysts and players have spent figuring out how to best play League of Legends, a rookie coming out of nowhere and changing the way the game is played on his own seems like something that’s impossible.

However, that’s the beautiful thing about League of Legends. There are some players who make it look like they’re playing a different game from everyone else. It’s rare, but, when someone like that comes along, the world stops and takes note.

Faker was that player at one point, and Milkyway is that player now.