Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao is the current mid laner of the LPL’s Royal Never Give Up (RNG). He has earned the moniker “Tiger King of Spring” due to the fact that he manages to perform his best during the Spring Season, carrying RNG to the LPL Championship and competing in the Mid-Season Invitational. But how did RNG Xiaohu get his start? Let’s take a look at one of the most accomplished players in League of Legends.
The Tiger Cub’s Beginnings
Xiaohu began his career at MD E-sports Club in 2014 and eventually going to Gamtee in 2015, which is where he finally managed to compete in the League of Legends Pro League (LPL). However, Star Horn Royal Club purchased Gamtee’s LPL slot and roster in 2015 Summer after the team liquidated its previous League of Legends roster after Uzi’s departure to OMG. Alongside RNG Xiaohu was familiar names like LetMe, MLXG, NoHeart, and LeY, who made up the first iteration of the now rebranded Royal Never Give Up.
Unfortunately for the young tiger cub, the team didn’t really perform well in their first season accumulating on 3 wins, 12 losses, and 7 draws (LPL had a best-of-2 format in 2015), placing them 9th overall, just shy of making it onto the playoffs.
The Rise of the Tiger King of Spring
In 2016, Royal Never Give Up decided to bring back some old names and take recruit powerful imports from the LCK which included InSec, Mata (who was widely regarded as one of the best support players in history), Looper, and NaMei. This iteration saw RNG go 13-3 in the LPL’s Group B, even placing above the MSI 2015 champions in EDG. They also eventually won the Spring Season and competed in their first MSI tournament.
Unfortunately for RNG, they only managed to place third in MSI 2016 after losing to SKT T1 and SKT Faker, the defending World Champions, in the semifinals. They performed dominantly again in Summer, but eventually lost to EDG in the Finals. They also managed to place 5-8th in Worlds after losing again to SKT T1 in the quarterfinals, who would eventually win their 2nd World Championship title in a row.
The Puppy and the Tiger
The 2017 Season was an exciting one for RNG fans because it saw the Grand Return of the LPL’s most legendary player in Uzi. RNG Xiaohu was still the centerpiece of their team, but Uzi definitely overshadowed him in terms of prominence among the community and overall individual performance. RNG Uzi even brought along a hand-picked support in Ming, who would also eventually become another legendary player in history. In fact, RNG centered their playstyle to make sure that Uzi would succeed through the late game.
Royal Never Give Up was extremely dominant in both Spring and Summer, with the strongest bot lane to grace the LPL and a mechanical genius in Xiaohu. Unfortunately, RNG lost both finals in Spring and Summer, falling to Team WE and EDward Gaming respectively. Regardless of the end result, they were still considered the most dominant team in the region since they managed to maintain their standing in both seasons and reach the finals both times. They performed well at Worlds but lost again to SKT T1 in the Semifinals.
The 2nd MSI Winner From the LPL!
The 2018 season was a glorious era for RNG and the LPL in general. Royal Never Give Up didn’t place first, but they won the Spring Season that let them qualify for MSI 2018 and Rift Rivals 2018. In the Rift Rivals event, the LPL won the tournament overall with RNG leading the region at the helm. However, it was the RNG’s victory in MSI 2018 that really highlighted the team’s dominance, so much so that Riot Games released a worlds anthem that foreshadowed Uzi as a challenger to the trophy. In the shadows RNG Xiaohu and Ming would unknowingly walk a path of greatness with this as their stepping stone.
Team China competed in the Asian Games 2018 and unfortunately, RNG Xiaohu was the only member of the team that didn’t join the roster. The team won the event meaning they were only one win away from sweeping the entire year. Unfortunately, at Worlds 2018, Royal Never Give Up had a questionable performance and barely making it out of Groups only to lose to G2 Esports in the Quarterfinals. However, The LPL Dominance continued with Invictus Gaming winning the first world championship for the region.
A Grand Farewell, A Legacy Inherited
The 2019 season was a mediocre year for Royal Never Give Up and while they placed high in both seasons, they didn’t really win it all. Invictus Gaming won the Spring Season and lost to the semifinals of MSI 2019 while Funplus Phoenix, a newly-formed superteam, managed to win Summer and the LPL’s 2nd world championship title. On the sides, RNG was experiencing troubles in their roster.
After the 2019 Season, Uzi announced that he will be retiring from pro League of Legends marking the end of his journey in the esports (until his return in 2022). With his departure, Royal Never Give Up lost their centerpiece leaving only RNG Xiaohu and Ming. Xiaohu inherited team’s role as the centerpiece, but they struggled for the seasons to follow as Royal Never Give Up entered a rebuilding phase for the year to come.
The Failed Year
In 2020, RNG Xiaohu and Ming were kept by the team with pieces being moved in and out on the roster. Unfortunately, the team struggled badly with the pieces they had acquired and they didn’t make any achievements for the entirety of the year. For the 2nd and last time in Xiaohu’s career in the LPL, he failed to make the finals during the spring season. He would continue to lose until the summer and fail to make it to Worlds for the first time since he joined RNG.
Many criticized this as RNG simply losing the heart of the team and that Xiaohu wasn’t a worthy successor to the legacy that Uzi had built in the organization. Even though Xiaohu performed well during the season, Royal Never Give Up simply didn’t work well. They suffered especially in the top-side of the map, which has been one of the team’s trademark weaknesses ever since Uzi re-joined the team.
The Re-birth of the Tiger King of Spring
In 2021, everyone thought that RNG was on another rebuilding phase when they took out their entire roster once again and taking in GALA, Wei, and Cryin, who were on decent teams on the previous season. The deal-breaker that made fans extremely skeptical is that Royal Never Give Up decided that Xiaohu will role swap to the Top Lane despite spending his entire career as a mid laner. This was laughed at by the fans and the community with everyone thinking they’d barely make it into the playoffs.
However, RNG Xiaohu proved everyone wrong as the meta favored strong top laners and Xiaohu’s massive champion pool gave RNG a dominant Top Lane-focused game style that was unmatched. They won the 2021 Spring Season and competed in the MSI 2021 tournament where they won against Damwon Kia. This gave Xiaohu the achievement of being the first player to win two or more international tournaments on two separate roles. With this victory, he earned his title as the Tiger King of Spring.
The Tiger Lives Up to His Name!
The Tiger King of Spring didn’t win Worlds 2021, but he returned to the LPL the following season better than ever. He returned to the mid lane and kept the old roster with Cryin being replaced by Bin, a Worlds Finalist, in the top lane. Together, they dominated the Spring Season and eventually won the playoffs, giving them a chance to defend their title in the Mid-Season Invitationals.
For RNG Xiaohu, this was the biggest test to his career. He would face off against an undefeated T1, who they had never won against in a series. They’d also be facing off G2 Esports who had a reputation for spoiling RNG’s road to greatness. With all odds stacked against them, RNG and Xiaohu managed to overcome both rivals and be the 2nd team to defend their title successfully in the international scene and be the first team to win the MSI Trophy 3-times.
His Road Towards the Future
Xiaohu’s name means “Little Tiger”, but his achievements has given him the visage of a grand tiger that stands atop the rest of the competition. There is no doubt that Xiaohu is the heart of RNG and that he is at the center of their every achievement. He has become the face of Royal Never Give Up and it’s highly unlikely that the organization will let him go anytime soon after acquiring such a key role as a franchise player.
We don’t know if RNG Xiaohu will manage to keep his title as the Tiger King of Spring in the future consistently, but we’re sure that there will not be any other players in the LPL that will come close to the achievements he has for now. We’re looking forward to what he holds for us and can’t wait to see if he’ll break the streak of only being dominant in spring by finally winning the Worlds Tournament.