Gen.G Kiin is the best top laner in the world – and he has been for years

Carver Fisher
Gen.G-Kiin-is-the-best-top-laner-in-the-world

Kiin is one of the most tenured League of Legends pros in the game’s competitive history, yet he tends to get overlooked due to him rarely making it to internationals.

Now that he’s on Gen.G, he’s able to show what he’s truly capable of at MSI 2024. But I’m convinced he’s been the best for years.

During his long tenure on Afreeca Freecs (now Kwangdong Freecs), Kiin experienced pretty much everything he possibly could have. From flying high and qualifying for Worlds near the top of the LCK all the way to languishing in 10th place, he’s seen it all.

But, with almost a decade of competitive experience under his belt and a team of world-class players around him, Kiin is finally getting his time in the spotlight.

Years of hard work have paid off for him, and I wanted to ask him about it to get his perspective on his tumultuous rise to the top.

Kiin is the missing piece Gen.G needed

It’s hard to escape the feeling that people look at pretty much everyone but Kiin when it comes to Gen.G.

Chovy and Canyon are heralded as some of the best players not just in their roles, but the best of all time. Peyz is a young talent who’s only growing. Lehends is a bit of an oddball, someone who isn’t afraid to play off-meta support like Singed, but can play standard supports well.

And Kiin is… well, what is Kiin?

Is he a carry player? He’s looked great on champs like Akali, Jayce, Quinn, and others who are meant to put the game on their back.

Is he a weakside player? But he’s also adapted to the lane swap meta and can play consistent, safe top laners just as well. What is Kiin’s role on Gen.G?

He’s whatever his team needs him to be. On past teams, he had to be the carry. Everything was on him. If he died, the game was over. But with Gen.G, things are different.

kiin-afreeca-freecs-worlds-2018
Kiin on Afreeca Freecs at Worlds 2018

“Back when I was in Kwangdong Freecs, if I died, the entire team lost as well. The chances of losing were high, so I tended to play a lot safer. But now, ever since I changed teams, I can still die and keep the snowball going. I’m able to add more pressure and, when I can, I’m taking more risks,” he explained.

That “when I can” bit at the end is more important than you’d think, and it’s a key part of why he’s so strong.

Other strong 1v1 top laners like Ale, Bin, and Morgan are very good at what they do, they’ve got that sort of 1v1 supremacy and in-your-face playstyle that can take over in solo queue.

Things don’t work that way in pro play. Not every team can send resources top lane every game, not every team can support a top lane carry. There’s just as much value in knowing how to neutralize a lane as there is in winning it, especially in a lane swap meta.

“I think it all comes down to the team comp. Those champions are a lot trickier to round out the comp,” Kiin explained when asked about when and why he picks niche counters.

And it’s true, you can see exactly how he works his way through a draft. K’Sante is one of the most oppressive champs in pro play right now, but Kiin has figured out exactly how to work against him.

First, let’s look at two scenarios when he counter-picked K’Sante and how he answered:

Top draft is Game 1 against TES at MSI 2024, bottom draft is Game 3 against BLG

In the Vayne game vs Top Esports, Kiin identified that he needed to neutralize and outscale 369 and cleave through the enemy frontline so they’d have a hard time blocking Chovy’s poke. The enemy team sorely lacks range, so they’d have to get up close to engage.

Meanwhile, the Poppy game vs BLG was him properly reading he needed counter-engage to win. Against a heavy dive comp with a lack of CC outside of Nautilus, they’d have been torn apart if he wasn’t there to keep the backline alive.

In both instances, he found a counter matchup that answers K’Sante well that still fits into his team comp. Getting a good matchup isn’t Kiin’s only priority; he’s always thinking about the bigger picture.

This isn’t something any other top laner is doing, and it’s due in large part to Kiin’s unwavering confidence in his own skill.

Kiin has the brawn to match his brains

Though he just now got his first domestic title within the LCK and has only made it to three big internationals in his career (and that includes MSI 2024), Kiin has a number of accolades.

All pro placements, massive milestones (including being the second top laner to reach 1000 all-time kills domestically), and the Spring 2024 Finals MVP for his outstanding performance against T1 are just a few.

Freed of the inhibitions that were on him from prior teams where he had to be the carry, Kiin can put everything he has into making space for his team instead. And the full extent of Kiin’s power is frightening.

When he gets K’Sante, he’s unstoppable. When he doesn’t get him, he knows exactly how to counter him.

Having an iron grip on what is LoL pro play’s most prominent champion is an absolute godsend for Gen.G, and Kiin being off carry duty has only made him shine brighter than ever before.

“After last year, when I got so close to winning the LCK when I was part of KT Rolster and I failed… At that point, I was feeling unsure of myself. Maybe my chance slipped away. But I’m so relieved I managed to finally win the LCK title this year, it was amazing.”

7 years after his pro play debut, he finally did it.

UmTi had a similar storyline in the LCS for himself after he finally took a domestic title despite his past failures in the LCK, and it’s players like these that prove how important it is to never give up.

But, according to Kiin, he never doubted himself. Not even once, not even when he was at 10th place in the LCK.

That stalwart confidence is something that has kept him going and pushing himself further and further to get where he is today.

Gen.G-Kiin-contemplating

“I was always very confident in myself. I’ve never thought that my performance wasn’t good,” he stated confidently when asked about his past career. And he isn’t worried about this tournament, either.

“I feel no such pressure, I believe in my teammates. I believe they’re very talented and great players, so I’m just trying to make sure that we all do our best in order to achieve what we want.”

However, when it came to asking about whether or not he thought he could win Worlds this year, Kiin was a bit more humble.

“(laughs) I mean… I couldn’t even imagine winning LCK would take me so long. Winning Worlds would require a lot of luck as well, so I’m not so sure.”

Even if he isn’t sure, I am. On game day, Kiin shows up when it counts. Just because he often takes one for the team and gives resources to his carries doesn’t mean he’s any less vital to Gen.G’s biggest victories this year than players like Chovy and Canyon.

Kiin is the best top laner in the world, and he has been for years. All his time invested, hours worked, time stuck near the bottom of the LCK while outperforming every other top laner in the LCK? It’s finally paying off this year. If there’s a man who’s going to make history and pave the first Golden Road ever, it’s him.

2024 is the year Kiin’s going to make history.