Original interview link: http://bit.ly/1RxTyZX
Date of interview release: October 7th, 2015, After week 1 of group stages.
All photos and credit of interview goes to Mr. Nam Yoon Sung of dailyEsports. This is just a FAN translation.
The League of Legends World championship 2015 is well on its way. With the first week of the tournament wrapping up, the fate of the 16 participating teams are much unknown at this point. For the participating teams, every win and loss has a meaningful impact. But for those that are watching from the sidelines, they can only be envious of those who are performing on the world stage.
This is no exception for CJ Entus Min-ki “MadLife” Hong. Due to the time zone differences, he stays up late to view the games. As he views the games, he can only ask, “why couldn’t it be me up in that stage?” and “If only we tried harder, I would’ve had the chance to play on that stage”, feeling constant remorse about his failures. Even though he did not get a chance to play in the world stage, he did receive an offer to be on the analyst desk, which he declined. Due to his state of mind, he wouldn’t have provided meaningful analysis on the analyst desk.
Even though he was devastated after failing to make it to the world championship, Hong is still hopeful. Rather than being disappointed, he is determined to come back stronger and view his failures as a mere stepping stone to his eventual comeback and rise to being the world’s best.
I met with Hong who was determined to return next year as a force to be reckoned with.
What have you been up to recently?
Just experiencing the off-season like any other Korean players that did not make it into the World Championship. I think our team is more disappointed compared to the other teams because we were so close to getting that spot to the world championship. But it can’t be helped because after all, it is our fault in the end that we failed. I take breaks on the weekends but I regularly practice on the weekdays. The only real vacation I took was during the Korean thanksgiving when I went to visit my family in Seoul.
The ticket to the World Championship was within your grasp but couldn’t obtain it. How do you feel?
I think it’s been a month since the qualifiers? I don’t feel anything to be honest. When CJ failed to make it to last year’s World Championship, it was very hard for me and I couldn’t even watch any of last year’s World Championship games. But this year, I’m not as down compared to last year. OGN asked if I wanted to be on the analyst desk during peak hours, but I declined. I think I would’ve been too sad to provide any meaningful analysis. I didn’t even watch the group stages through OGN this year. When I listen to the shout caster and analysts, it kept reminding me of my failure to qualify for Worlds. I ended up watching the games through Azubu instead. I can’t understand the English commentary and analysis, so I can primarily focus on the games themselves. However, when I watch any Korean teams play, I even turn off the English commentary. I only watch out for specific parts during the games such as the movement patterns of the support players and how they cooperate with the jungler to control vision and so on.
Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black of Counter Logic Gaming played Blitzcrank in the group stages which is your iconic champion. Did you watch that game?
Yes, I saw that game. It was very interesting. When we scrimmed with the foreign teams they used Blitzcrank against us. Although they weren’t very skilled with Blitzcrank. Honestly, if Blitzcrank doesn’t snowball during the early laning phase, it doesn’t translate well into the late game and doesn’t help the team. It’s almost playing 4 vs 5 if that happens. I think CLG attempted to throw KOO Tigers off guard with a surprise pick, but in the end, it threw CLG off their game instead. Bum-Hyun “Gorilla” Kang tried to pick Kennen but picked Morgana into Blitzcrank instead which threw CLG off.
Want to turn back time to the Spring Playoffs against SK Telecom T1
There is a champion in League of Legend called “Ekko” that has the ultimate ability of turning back time. When Ekko uses “Chronobreak”, he becomes invulnerable and moves back to his position 4 seconds ago. When I asked Hong if he was Ekko, what time during the 2015 season he would Chronobreak to, he said he would turn back time to the 3rd and 4th match against SK Telecom T1 during the 2015 Spring season playoffs. Hong says if CJ won those two games, they would be playing in the World Championship at this moment.
Your 2015 season with CJ Entus has many disappointing moments. How do you feel?
Many times I felt like I was tripping on a doorsill as I’m trying to walk through a door and wiping out. The worst was when we lost to SK Telecom T1 during the spring season playoffs. Being reverse swept is not a great feeling. Maybe if we did pick/bans differently or if we collected ourselves during the games we might have been in Europe right now. If we did, I don’t think I would be doing this interview right now.
Looking back at the game, any finer points you want to mention that lead to your loss?
I think the return of Sung Woong “Bengi” Bae was the biggest reason. Bae was struggling during the season so we researched more into Jae Hyun “T0M” Im’s jungling patterns, but then Bae showed up as the starting lineup which threw us off guard. Well to be honest, his appearance wasn’t that unexpected, but when he brought out the Rek’sai which he rarely played was surprising. The seal on the black dragon (Bengi’s right hand’s nickname?) had been removed so we lost. Looking back at those games now, we should’ve really banned out Rek’sai in the next set of games.
I think you were disappointed with the results of the regional qualifiers as well. CJ went to the final blind pick game with Jin air but ended up losing. How do you feel about that?
Personally, I can’t forget those games. Especially GBM’s Gangplank. It was so good he even got an article calling his Gangplank, “GankedByMomPlank” (it sounds better in Korean). Honestly, we couldn’t avoid facing against his Gangplank during the blind pick set. Our course of action was to shut down GBM in the early game so his Gangplank wouldn’t snowball as hard. This worked well until we lost a team fight around Baron which snowballed him out of control. After that, we couldn’t do anything to stop him which led to our loss.
The reason for Europe and NA’s rise
When asked why the Western teams are surging whilst the Chinese teams are declining, Hong answered by saying the teams who are succeeding have the ability to translate their plans into reality. It isn’t about who has the most practice or winning scrims, it is more about what you can learn and adapt from the practice and scrim sessions and apply it on the live stage. It is not about having great individual talent and more about the teamwork and synergy. Having surprise pocket picks, good shotcalling, moving in an orderly fashion and the ability to come up with a plan during the darkest of situations is what he saw from some of the Western teams.
I’ll ask a question since you are watching the World Championship. How do you feel about the current standings at the moment? The results are different from what the pro players and analysts were expecting it to be.
The week 1 results were unexpected for me as well. Personally, I thought the LPL teams were going to perform much better than what they have shown us. But at the moment, only EDG has shown good results. I thought LGD, who won the LOL Summer season, would perform well but right now is sitting with a W0/L3 record. I don’t want to make any comments since I’m a bystander, but I think there is some internal strife going on within the team.
Cloud9 and Origen are performing very well. How do you feel about those two teams?
The NA and European teams came to boot camp in Korea and we scrimmed with them a couple of times. Their play styles were unique. During practice, they focused on trying new things and experimenting with picks and team compositions rather than being fixated on the scrim results. The foreign teams tried to find organic team compositions unlike the Korean teams.
Can you reveal the scrim results with those teams?
I don’t think that would be fair to the teams we scrimmed with. I’ll reveal the results after Worlds is over. Until then, it’s a secret (laughs)
Let’s get more in-depth; what are your thoughts on the European LCS teams?
I think they are very focused on trying out new champions. I think one of the main qualities of teams like Origen is they have veteran players who have been playing for such a long time and can afford to try out champions nobody would’ve thought of and make it work using their know-how of the game. A good example is when Enrique “xPeke” Martinez brought out his Anivia and showed off his Twisted Fate play during their game against KT Rolster. I think Martinez is the core to Origen’s strategies. Fnatic’s approach to the gameplay is by the books. They play as if they have a manual or something, like “today is strategy number 1” and the next day would be “today we are using strategy number 2”. I guess it works for them because each individual player has great fundamentals. Even though they are W1/L2 in the group stage, they will make it out of the group stages.
What are the characteristics of the NA LCS teams?
NA likes to utilize the sidelanes especially the bot duo tends to take the initiative. There are support players that have great field of vision within the game. Players like “Aphromoo” or Derek “Lemonnation” Hart surprised me with their plays from time to time. Sometimes they would roam or be at places where supporters shouldn’t be at. As for analysis for each team, I think CLG’s style depends on “Doublelift” to carry the team because he has the highest percentage of resources allocated towards him. Because of this, if the other lanes fail, CLG usually loses the game. This is what happened to CLG against their game with KOO. KOO decided to pick on the midlane instead of stopping the bottom lane which led to the eventual downfall of CLG.
I thought C9 lost their style when Hai “Hai” Lam became their jungler and got Nicolai “Incarnati0n” Jensen as their new midlaner, but they performed very well during the group stages. Due to “Hai” and “Lemonnation”’s efforts in providing deep vision coverage, it helped the other lanes in their gameplay.
How do you rate TSM which Lustboy, your former CJ-teammate, is in and currently at 1 win and two losses?
TSM also has a textbook style approach much like Fnatic. Since TSM’s midlaner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg’s individual play is outstanding, the whole team’s game plan revolves around him. But after their loss against KT, they started to struggle a bit and lost their next game as well. They went back to their trademark TSM style of aggressive game play in their game against LGD and this is how they should operate. In any case, I believe that Choi “Locodoco” Yun Sup and Ham “Lustboy” Jang Sik will do very well.
How important is the support role in the current patch at the World Championship?
Ever since the spring season, I thought the game relied heavily on the top and mid laner’s performance. Nothing really happens in the bottom lane. If you look at In-Kyu “DanDy” Choi and Se-Hyuung “Mata” Cho, who left Korea after their win in the 2014 World Championship, joined Vici gaming and they didn’t have a great season. On the other hand, if you look at the players that went to EDG and LGD (mid, top, ADC), they performed very well in their season. I think the only exception to this trend is Invictus gaming with Ue-Jin “Rookie” Song, but if you overlook this one exception, any team with a strong solo laners will have a great results in the 2015 season.
Who is the “S rank” support players at the World Championship?
My pick would be the three Korean supports (Gorilla, Picaboo, Wolf) and Bora “YellowStar” Kim can be considered as S rank support players. This season wasn’t really good for support players to shine, but players like Kim really showed the prowess of a great support player in the west. The support players I mentioned are great players who are able to display great performance regardless of the current meta.
Be excited for KeSPA cup
KeSPA cup, a new Korean tournament starting in November, is an opportunity for players who did not make it to Worlds to show their efforts and bring home good results to the fans who have supported them for the past year. It is also a chance for revenge and raise up the expectation for the 2016 season. Even though it is the off-season, the members of CJ are hard at work preparing the KeSPA cup.
They announced the tournament format for the KeSPA cup. How do you feel?
We are preparing for the KeSPA cup when we are not watching the World Championship. There are less teams to practice against, so I’m playing solo queue to practice my mechanics. We are analyzing any new meta and strategy that shows up during the World Championship.
KeSPA cup will be the first domestic pro-am League of Legends tournament. How do you think it will play out?
I think CJ will do very well. Of course, every team that did not make it to the World Championship are gritting their teeth at the chance of revenge. Among all the teams, I think CJ Entus, Jin Air GreenWings and Najin e-mFire will be the most prepared since we are the most hungry to win. I think this is a great opportunity whereas before, after the World Championship was over, we had a four month off season. This was a long period before we had the chance to play again. With the tournament like KeSPA cup, we have the drive and the motivation to practice hard to compete again as well as making it up to our fans who have been cheering for us for the year.
The streamer life and becoming close with the fans, one year later
As Korean pro players started streaming on their respective platforms, certain pros garnered a large viewer base and reputation. Hong is just behind Sang-Hyuk “Faker” Lee in the viewership leaderboard, making him the second most popular League of Legend streamer in Korea. Even though Hong doesn’t use a mic or a webcam setup, he is happy for the opportunity to interact with his fans and want to focus on providing quality content to the viewers.
I see that you still stream even to today. How does it feel after streaming for a full year?
I think KeSPA, AZUBU and the pro teams created a great service for the fan base. I tried to stream before they implemented the current system, but I think having a structured stream schedule helps me plan my day better.
You don’t commentate or have a webcam set up for your stream. Some people said it was the stream was a bit bland seeing only the gameplay screen.
I agree. Having a mic or webcam setup would be great but at the same time, if there was any unforeseen accidents, it could tarnish the reputation of the pro player. After we, the team, decided to join the streaming program, our coach stepped in and said that we should not provide audio commentary even if we are allowed to avoid any accidents that could become viral. All the players agreed with this opinion.
Any fun memories during streaming?
During the off season when there were no games, the coach allowed us to stream with mics on. We played team ranked with the CJ players and the coach where I played AD carry and the coach played Thresh as my support. But the coach never threw me the lantern at the time I wanted during the game. Guess I complained a bit because the coach was like “Min-Ki is mad at me because I didn’t throw him the lantern one time~”.
Were there any fun times with the stream chat?
I usually communicate with the fans via the stream chat. Sometimes the fans would make a montage of funny chat moments and post them online for me to see. This was when I realized that I have passionate fans in Korea that really supports me. Jong-Bin “Max” Jung loves “Ajae-Gag”* (*tr note: a form of gag where you use a word in a phrase and then follow up by saying the same word which has a different meaning in a funny context. A bad example would be a joke where you say “principle” instead of “principal” because the two words sound similar when pronounced. It’s a gag trend in Korea at the moment) and whenever he does it in chat I just lose my mind. He is the one that taught me you can entertain people through a text chat screen.
You are second in the streamer rankings in terms of viewership with Faker being number one. What is your secret to success?
I guess people really want to see my Blitzcrank? (Laughs) Although, even when I stream for fun I don’t play Blitzcrank. When people want to see my Blitzcrank I play Thresh instead. There was this one time when a Chinese fan used a translator and asked “Please play Blitzcrank”. I kindly refused and played Thresh instead. I guess people sort of gave up getting me to play Blitzcrank and are asking me for Thresh gameplays now.
Were there any improvements with Azubu 3.0?
I think the biggest change in Azubu 3.0 from 2.0 is that it is easier to revisit certain moments of a broadcast. This made it easier for me to find specific parts of a streamer’s broadcast that I wanted to rewatch. The broadcast quality of AzubuTV is excellent as well. This is where I primarily watch all my matches. Other broadcast platforms I have to download a program to use the service, but AzubuTV only needs an access to the internet which is very convenient for me.
Any final words for the fans waiting for the return of the “MadLife”?
I think I kept the fans waiting for a long time. We tried very hard this year to make it to the World Championship but we failed to do so. For that, I am very sorry to my fans for getting tired of our performance. We are practising during the off season to bring you better results in the near future. I want to thank our fans who support us whether we win or lose, but moving forward, I will work hard to bring you only victories. I will perform better next year to not to betray your trust for us in 2016. Thank you and I love you all!