Hughbo "SoulDra" Shim Announces His Retirement + Exclusive Interview
I'd like to officially announce my retirement from all League of Legends coaching and analysis. I may watch some VODs on the side as a favor, but will most likely not accept any official positions on Challenger and LCS teams. I would like to thank every single friend, colleague, and fan who has made this journey special; you guys truly are what make e-Sports so addicting and fun. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I plan to write a few articles as I slowly phase out of the scene - please look out for those!
- Hughbo "Souldra" Shim
Let’s start right from the beginning, possibly all the way back to your childhood years. What was your first experience with video games?
Oh man. Some of my first memories include taking turns playing Tetris and Mario on the Super Nintendo. I think the first video games that had major impacts on me were Tales of Symphonia and Custom Robo; I remember being fascinated by just how much fun I was having on these adventures.
The online games I spent time in before LoL were Guild Wars, Brood War, and DotA.
Do you remember the first esports event you watched? What about the first esports event you attended?
I can’t even remember the first event I watched. I’m pretty sure I was catching Brood War on T.V when I was 8 or 9….every day, right before I showered, I’d be able to catch some StarCraft. The first e-Sports event I ever attended in person was Gravity’s first game in the North American LCS (v. WinterFox)!
At which point in your career did you decide you wanted to give coaching a go?
Gravity management suggested that I come to California to coach in mid-January. Honestly, before the owner suggested it, I was trying to become one of the team’s online analysts and intended to return to Swarthmore to finish my sophomore year. When Davis and Jake essentially offered me the job, I just thought about how many other kids like me would kill to get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity- a chance to live “the dream.” Obviously I got burned for my rash decision-making just a month later, and I do regret leaving school so suddenly (and foolishly), but it was a good experience.
You’re most known for your coaching stint at Gravity in NA, but not many people know that you were head coach of two European teams; the well-known Gamers2 and prior to that; the not-so-well-known GSI Gaming. How did you first get involved with GSI, and what was it like working with them?
I guess I always had a plan for my “e-Sports career.” There’s visible progression of my journey through this market. Before coaching, I had previously been writing for Mundoverse and working on China Talk- this was just the next step towards “success.” I knew that Josh “HowSpiffing” Raven (shout-out to my man) was working with a new team, and I approached him about coaching GSI Gaming. Honestly, the guys at GSI (Mozilla, Taikki, PerkZ, Krislund, Hiiva) were super good to me, and it was a great- albeit unsuccessful- opportunity to learn how to interact with players.
After GSI Gaming you worked with Gamers2, how was your time with Gamers2?
No complaints. Nearly everyone in the Gamers 2 organization treated me super well. It helped that Brokenshard was in the G2 team house to help get my points across. I was brought on board to help the guys with the way they conceptualized Macro-strategy, and a few weeks with them brought a lot of success in online tournaments. I’m really happy with my time at Gamers 2.
Ocelote is a player that has come under a lot of scrutiny in the past months, what was it like working with him back then? Was he as you expected?
Not like what I expected at all. He’s really stubborn and sometimes makes claims about his play that aren’t necessarily true (i.e “I did ward here when I saw the Jungler”), but he 100% understands that coaching is a two-way street. He was always really attentive and made sure that the team quieted down during my discussions with them. Obviously I don’t have a lot of insight into the inner-workings of that team, but from what I saw Ocelote was an extremely fair captain and good player to work with.
How did you get involved with the LPLen crew? What made you want to work with China as opposed to any other region?
The LPLen crew essentially consists of everyone who is/was on China Talk, in addition to the play-by-play casters that we brought on. Unlike a lot of my friends, I didn’t necessarily have any special love for the Chinese professional scene. Rather, I realized early on that the market was about to explode- there was a demand for content while supply remained nonexistent- and that this was my ticket to “success.” It wasn’t until I kept watching Chinese LoL that I began to fall in love with the game play itself.
If I had to start over right now, you’d probably know me as SoulDra the “CBLoL Specialist.”
You’ve mentioned that you were unhappy doing China Talk, do you regret your time on the show? Would you do it all again?
I actually consider that one of the puzzles of my career. I said earlier that the reason I jumped into Chinese League of Legends was because I could foresee how profitable that path would become. Yet it almost seems like when China Talk really reached its pinnacle (more viewers, joining OnGamers), I became weary of the show. I guess that’s one thing I learned about myself. Ultimately, I’m doing e-Sports because I like to entertain people and have fun doing it. I don’t know… this was also during the time Thooorin made a video about “making e-Sports bigger” that included our talk show. I received a lot of flak on Twitter and Reddit PM about not being a professional and that I was only there to talk shit (which is relatively true). Producing China Talk wasn’t making me happy, so I decided to use the two hours I spent every Sunday morning to study instead.
Was the decision to leave China Talk related to the personalities of China Talk? Did you enjoy working with Kelsey Moser, Froskurinn and Drexxin?
A ton of people come up to me and ask me how China Talk became so successful (not everyone is on S.I or FB). Honestly, while being the only source of information for the second best region in the World was one part of it, I often call our show an “e-Sports miracle” and a lot of people seem to agree. A show with four distinctly different personalities- that came from four different websites- meant that there was something for everyone.
And I loved it.
I loved working with Kelsey, Fro, and Drexx. I don’t necessarily think that there was this instant synergy or whatever- Froskurinn and I, for example, got into a hell of a lot of arguments over the direction of LPLen. Still, there’s no one else I’d rather have done the show with, and no one else I’d rather have inherit my role than Raz, one of my best friends in this scene.
On January 12 this year, you announced that you would be joining Gravity as head coach, what lead to you becoming Gravity coach, did you apply? Did they approach you?
I approached Jake about trying out for an online-analyst position, as I intended to return to school. About a week before my flight back to the United States, Gravity offered me the opportunity to go live in-house with the team. I told myself and my parents that I would be independent for six months- whether I got fired or not. Yes, it was really impulsive- even stupid- of me to fly to Los Angeles, but I’d probably make the decision again in a heart beat.
What strategies have you taken from China and tried to implement when working with NA or EU teams?
None. I don’t really believe in different styles, especially across regions. There’s a better and worse way to play the game, depending on what your Team Composition enables you to do. As a coach, you try to help the team reach the pinnacle of gameplay and find the right Compositions that suit them.
What coaches or esports personalities do you look up or have drawn influence from?
Everyone. I’m pretty sure I’ve gone over every piece of content from people like Thooorin, Monte, LS. I also watched some coaches’ streams- Twitch VODs of people like Fusion Magic and Leviathan talking about the game.
How does it feel being able to participate in Picks & Bans for Gravity, how much do you think it helps teams, having that extra opinion in Champion Select?
Being on stage was fucking awesome. I really think it depends; there are some teams that have absolutely no clue what they’re doing, so Coaches on stage are necessary. I don’t even think Gravity needed that much help to Draft, yet I still found myself contributing in Pick/Ban.
Do you have a favourite “meta” from over the years you’ve been analysing competitive league of legends?
I like watching League of Legends right now. It’s a lot of fun to watch for the average spectator; Pick, Poke, and Split are all viable strategies in the Meta and team’s constantly fight to contest objectives. Additionally, Riot’s GREAT Baron change ensures that there is a huge amount of strategic diversity in all aspects of the game. While I initially disliked the Season 5 changes, Riot’s balance team has really won me over.
Are there any champions you expect to rise in competitive popularity, any you expect to drop off?
Kennen will be even more popular than he is now. I’ve always thought Hecarim was fairly viable, and he’s recently seen some competitive play in China. Lux has also seen play across regions. Hmmmm….
I’d like to see a lot more Twisted Fate being played. Season 5 is all about having a large number of options each and every game, and TF is a Champion that inherently enables the highest number of choices any game.
In terms of Champions dropping off, Ahri is definitely a little harder to play after her nerf. I think teams will figure out how to play against Kalista soon. Teams are also learning how to play against Annie.
What do you think was your strongest and weakest areas a coach, if you were to start fresh at Gravity what things would you work on?
My stint on Gravity was pretty terrible. Working with the team was fine- I really liked every single member of Gravity, including management, and had a wonderful time there. However, I wasn’t able to dictate the pace of team discussions, had literally 0 confidence in my game knowledge, and was becoming increasingly frustrated with the game itself. The biggest thing was that when League of Legends suddenly turned into a job, the prospect of watching 12 hours of film a day wasn’t that exciting. I really hated the game.
If I could do it all over, I would immediately put my foot down on team discussion. I’d work more on communicating with individual players on what they needed to improve on, instead of being scared to call people out. Honestly, I’d just have to find my passion for League of Legends again…. it isn’t something I can change. The game wasn’t fun anymore and that’s why everying fell apart.
Gravity started the split really strong, 3-1, the one loss being against Winterfox with three subs. Winterfox took control early through Pobelter and ShorterACE on Fizz and Rengar. With this being Gravity’s only loss under your oversight, what could Gravity have done to win this game? How did you feel walking away after Picks & Bans?
Saint disagrees, but I thought our Draft was fine. If I could go back in time, I’d tell Hauntzer and Bunny to pay more attention to the map and communicate where the carries (Fizz, Rengar) were at any given time. We lost the game because we were always 1 second late on rotations and let them get away with sub-100 health every single early game skirmish.
LS has been rumoured to join Gravity as a head coach, do you believe this would be a good pick up for Gravity? What are your thoughts on LS?
LS is excellent. I don’t think I’d ever get a beer with him, but his coaching ability is undeniable. You’ll notice that the best coaches in the Western scene are the ones who have the most experience in a competitive gaming environment (Magic, Poker, etc.)- LS combines a long tenure in e-Sports with the confidence/arrogance to lead a team. I think this is a match made in heaven, and Nick will do a lot of good things with Gravity. I’m rooting for you dude ^.^!
Overall, what were some of the biggest lessons you learned from your time at Gravity?
Tell Saint to shut the fuck up.
How do you see Gravity fairing this split? Do you think they could challenge for the #1 spot in the final weeks?
I don’t think they’ll contest for the #1 spot in the NALCS, especially after their losses to TiP, CLG, and TSM the past few weeks. They have a game with Liquid today, which should be indicative of where they’ll end up. I’m confident that they can get 5th in the table- better than the majority of North American teams, but just below Tier I.
What advice do you have for people looking to become a professional coach or analyst?
Depends. If you’re semi-serious about coaching/analysis and mostly want to expand your brand, then just keep producing the kind of content that YOU think the community should see. Half of the analysts I know own Youtube channels that are fairly successful and provide educational content. Even if your analysis/casting/podcast doesn’t hit front-page, just keep going at it. I promise that if you consistently put out content for… let’s say 10 weeks, then someone is bound to “notice” you.
Now, let’s say that someone makes you an in-house offer for either a LCS or Challenger team. If you’re making a decision that you know will improve your livelihood/economic situation, then I say go for it. After all, there’s nothing for you to lose. However, I do know that a large portion of prospective coaches and analysts are a little like me. If you’re a middle-class, possibly teenage college student who’s thinking about taking some time off to pursue e-Sports… think really, really hard about whether its the right thing to do. I’m not going to say that all everyone will burn out like I did, but you need to consider the personalities on the team, what you are missing academically by taking time off, and what the Plan B will be should you get fired. Honestly, and I can say this with confidence, I shouldn’t have left school.
Where to now for SoulDra?
I’m thinking about putting the SoulDra tag to rest, after all these years. I can’t return to College until August. I was going to go to Europe to live with a Challenger team, but ownership issues have made that nearly impossible. Right now, I’m just trying to find a way to not waste the next half-year of my life! I plan to release a few articles, and maybe a Vlog, while I am between jobs. Ultimately, unless I find my passion for the game again, SoulDra joins the list of failed/retired coaches- don’t worry, I’m actually really satisfied with how my coaching career went! It wasn’t a very successful one, but I had a lot of fun. That’s more than enough for me.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
A multi-millionaire owner of an e-Sports organization.
Anything else you would like to add? Shoutouts?
Shout-outs, of course, to the China Talk crew. Huge props to my own crew, who I love and appreciate dearly- you guys know who you are, even if nobody else does :>.
Special thanks to David and Jake for the opportunity to coach Gravity
Finally, as this is basically my retirement, I’d like to thank the Reddit Community. I kind of think of myself as “Reddit’s Champion” (LOL) sometimes. I’m just an average lurker who was able to get lucky and experience the joys and sorrows of e-Sports. Throughout the past year, I’ve always done my best to please and represent the common guy/gal- I hope you people are proud of me! Thanks for all the support.