This is the third installment of Challenger Spotlight, a series dedicated to telling the stories of the rising Challenger talents and their first steps into competitive play.
Today we have 18 year old Dat “Kitzuo” Nguyen, a jungler most recently seen on the team “KR Players” in the NACS Open Qualifier. He is a Lee Sin, Rengar, and Ryze specialist recognized by his peers for his mechanical prowess.
Talk about your history with League. Why and when did you start playing, what got you hooked on the game, and how did you hit high elo? Was it a struggle or did it come kind of naturally to you?
I created my account on the last week of Season 1, and actually didn’t hit level 30 and start playing ranked until early Season 2. I got really hooked onto the game because of my natural competitiveness and saw the ranking system. I used the ranking system to grow as a player, as well as to advocate my competitive nature. At the end of Season 2, I finished 1550 elo, which was Gold at the time, and there wasn’t any sub-divisions until Season 3. I was stuck in Gold for about half of Season 3, and until I accepted that the issue with my gameplay lied in not recognizing my own issues, I started on a path of self-improvement, where I finished Diamond 1.
These issues reoccurred in Season 4, where I didn’t show any signs of improvement, and finished Diamond 3, but in Season 5, where I started to play competitively, I showed significant growth, finishing Challenger (Rank 139 – 577 LP). My problems did not lie in my mechanical ability, but was more of a decision making issue. A lot of my over aggression resulted in some kind of punishment, whether it was a throw of my lead or putting me in a disadvantageous position. Some small tweaks allowed me to reach where I am today.
You are a self described “Lee/Rengar/Ryze God”. What’s so appealing about these champions to you?
I’ve been a Lee Sin 1-Trick Pony since Season 2. And naturally, I’m mechanically talented, so picking him up wasn’t that big of a deal. It seemed that he just fit my playstyle and I’ve always loved the champion, and every season, he’s my most played. I’m pretty clean when it comes to mechanically executing combos and I feel I’m one of the best in NA.
Rengar was a champion that I didn’t originally like. On release, I tried picking him up but I wasn’t really having success and I dropped it on the spot. When he was reworked, I didn’t think much of it, but having seen Dardoch’s and Akaadian’s Rengars, I really wanted to pick it back up again at the end of Season 4, where it seemed really powerful building Madred’s, Mobility Boots, and Ghostblade. Seeing DanDy play it at World’s made it look extremely powerful so I felt I needed to pick it up. I spammed so many games on it and it just seemed like the reworked Rengar had found a place in my playstyle, so I found a lot of success on it, climbing to Challenger in Season 5 and had the reputation of being a Lee Sin and Rengar 2-Trick.
Ryze was the first champion I played (since Level 1) and I really just played him for that reason. When he was reworked into the champion he was with the permanent snare, I really enjoyed how his playstyle had changed. I adapted to learn it, and even through the nerfs I continued to play him when people didn’t think he was powerful. Faker showcased this at Season 5 Worlds, performing extremely well, making people pick him back up. I now have such a good understanding of the champion that I don’t really feel anyone else knows as much as I do about him. My combo speed is also really insane, reaching “scriptor” speeds and having that reputation in high elo.
How do you feel about the balance of each of these three champions?
Lee Sin isn’t exactly the most powerful champion right now, as it’s a Carry Jungle or Tank Jungle meta, and he doesn’t exactly fit either role properly. He’s underpowered at the moment but under good hands can be played at a high enough level to be played competitively just because of how flexible his kit is.
Rengar is balanced in his current state, but he still has the same identity he’s had before. I think Riot did what they needed to do with him, and I believe they won’t need to ever touch him again.
Ryze isn’t exactly balanced right now because of his ability to output so much damage. I don’t think anyone is playing him to maximum potential at the moment, but it’s still enough for people to question his balance, I don’t think he deserves a full rework, but Riot’s taking some action along those lines after the Mage Update.
Your mechanical proficiency on Lee and Rengar naturally leads to comparisons to Dardoch. How do you feel about this comparison? Have you ever talked to him about it, or perhaps about the game in general?
I feel like this comparison is justified, considering we have similar playstyles, and are mechanically talented. I’ve been friends with Dardoch since early Season 3, and we’ve talked about this before. I feel like I’m just a less developed version of him, whereas he has progressed further into LCS.
Most recently you played in the NACS Open Qualifiers on a team called “KR Players”, and fell in the first round. The fact that you, a jungle main, played top on a team with Viper, a Riven main, made me question how serious the team was. Was it more of a for fun thing, or if not, what was the rationale for the role selection?
The rationale for this selection was that because Ryze is such a powerful champion in the current meta-game, and he didn’t play it at all, and I didn’t play champions like Nidalee and Gragas, we could pull a role switch in draft if it called for the situation. It was more of a flex thing, but we didn’t have enough practice on it and hadn’t developed any team identity, the team had only been together for 2 days. It wasn’t really a for fun thing, but our inexperience was the biggest flaw in our team. As a Jungle main playing Top lane, and a Top lane main playing Jungle, it kind of threw off the competitive setting and led to our downfall.
Why should a team pick you up? What about your play or your personality do you think make you a good player and/or teammate?
A team should pick me up because I am mechanically talented, I love the game and have a dedication and drive to succeed. I wasn’t really able to have a chance to showcase my skills on the big stage yet and every attempt and failure has made me more hungry. Every team I’ve been on was last minute and I didn’t really have time to develop as a team player and gotten enough experience in the competitive scene. I really feel like NA has a lot of talent and hasn’t been polished enough to shine, through people like Matt and Dardoch. Unknown players have a lot of risk to them and it’s hard to choose players with little to no name. I feel like I can be the next Dardoch, having a similar playstyle and the same hunger and drive to succeed. With the right resources combined with my dedication and willingness to improve, I think I have what it takes to play at the next level.
How would you describe your jungling style, and what areas of your game do you think you still need to work on?
I am a very aggressive Jungler who likes to skirmish, 1v1, and 2v2 around the Solo lanes. I like to punish mistakes and grow leads and snowball the game out of control. I feel like I need to work more around recognizing that I am not always in a position to carry and learn to play the tank and supportive role and being able to adapt if needed.
Name one player in NA you’d really like to play with (could be LCS, CS, or outside) and why.
I think the one player in NA I would really like to play with is Huni. I feel his playstyle really compliments mine shown through how Reignover really likes to play around the snowball lane with him and their synergy. I feel like this would allow me to really showcase my strengths and allow a new perspective on Jungling rather than being a vision-based and supportive role.
What motivates you to play competitive?
I’m motivated to play competitive because League of Legends is a game I truly enjoy playing. My competitive nature really allows me to keep progressing upward and playing on the big stage is something I really want to do. It allows an outlet for me to pursue a career doing something I really enjoy and gives me a ceiling to reach for. With every new thing I learn it’s just helping the climb and I’m enjoying every moment of it. I really feel like I have something to prove, to myself and other people close to me, and having such a competitive environment makes it that much better.
You can see more of Kitzuo on Twitter @KitzuoLoL and Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/kitzuo.