Even if it’s within the same genre, it’s not easy for a pro player to switch to a new game. It’s especially the case when a player leaves behind a legendary career in a game to delve himself in the competitive world of one of the most popular games in the world. However, the man that stood at the top of the Heroes of the Storm esports (HoTS), Lee “Rich” Jae-won, put everything behind, and now looks to write the second chapter of his career in LoL esports.
Although the move to LoL esports was something that was almost out of necessity, he’s determined to keep challenging himself and find success. In order to be on a starting roster in the LCK, he left the shades of Gen.G to join a Challengers Korea team, Team Dynamics, and was successfully promoted into the LCK. With the ultimate goal of winning the LoL World Championships, many new challenges awaited Rich in the 2020 LCK Summer Split.
Inven sat with Rich for a conversation on his past, present, and future. After promoting into the LCK, Rich looked a bit more comfortable with himself, as we emerged into a conversation that made time fly very quickly. The following is an interview with Rich, a player that prepares to climb to the very top in LoL esports.
First, congratulations on promoting into the LCK! Can you tell us what you’ve been up to after the Promotion Tournament?
Thank you. After the tournament, the team gave me some time off, so I came back home to recharge. I’ve also been streaming from time to time as well.
After you left Gen.G, you joined Team Dynamics to promote into the LCK in your very first split with the team. What was on your mind during the Promotion Tournament?
Since the latest Promotion Tournament was the very last one in the LCK, I put everything on the line. I felt like if I couldn’t get promoted with Team Dynamics into the LCK this time around, I thought that my pro career in LoL was going to hit a brick wall. That’s why I was incredibly happy when we locked in our spot in the LCK.
Why did you feel like it was going to be your last shot? There might be a chance that LCK teams will look to scout you after franchising happens.
Even if I didn’t make it this time, a team could’ve picked me up if I kept playing well. However, right now, if I went to a different team, I don’t think I could play the game the way I want. I like to actively give orders in-game and lead the team. Apart from Team Dynamics, I think it’ll be hard to do that in any other team. I also wanted to prove that the synergy I built with my teammates over this split can work well in the LCK as well.
Speaking of in-game orders, your orders during the Promotion Tournament that was on broadcast was noteworthy to watch. Are you confident in your own in-game decision making?
Yes. Not only does everyone follow my orders very well, I firmly believe that we’ll win if we do the things we planned. During the Promotion Tournament, we kept telling ourselves that as long as we don’t make mistakes, we’ll win. I was especially careful with my orders during the series vs. Seorabeol Gaming, because our track record against them during the regular season was pretty bad.
DYN defeated both SANDBOX Gaming and SRB 2-0. Some say that DYN overperformed in the tournament, and what are your thoughts on it?
Honestly, we didn’t think the tournament would be this easy for us. Our performance level went up during the CK playoffs, but I believe that the reason we were able to win was because since we played on the 10.7 patch for a long time, we adjusted to the meta really well, and all of our Laners also did well.
Did you predict that Griffin will be relegated?
No, not at all. Most of the players on Griffin are very good on a fundamental level, and they seemed to be performing much better towards the end of the regular season, so I was very surprised to see them get relegated first. I personally am a big fan of Tarzan, so I’m really curious to see what his next move will be.
Not only did you play Aatrox in your debut match with Gen.G, you also performed well on the Champion during the CK playoffs and the Promotion Tournament. Is there a particular reason why you really like to use Aatrox?
While I was still playing HoTS, Aatrox got reworked, and since then, I thought he was a really cool Champion, so I wanted to play him. At the time, Mid Aatrox was OP, so I started playing him, and I think I naturally became confident with him.
What’s the atmosphere/environment like in Team Dynamics?
The first thing I want to mention is that everyone has equal say in the team. Not only is the Head Coach position vacant at the moment, our coach, ‘sBs’ isn’t that much older than us, so we’re comfortable in saying whatever we want to say to each other. In terms of living conditions, although it’s not like a 5-star hotel, I’m not dissatisfied with anything as well. Since we were a CK team, I didn’t expect incredible treatment from the team, but the management treated us much better than I originally anticipated. Now that the team made it in the LCK, don’t you think they’ll treat us even better?
Are you still in contact with your old teammates from Gen.G/HoTS?
Of course. They’re walking their own path and doing well for themselves. They’ve all sent me a lot of support before the Promotion Tournament. Sake, who is now a coach on Hanwha Life Esports, gave me good practical advice before our series vs. SANDBOX. He analyzed HoTS teams back in the day, so he also analyzed all the LCK teams as well. It really helped in taking the 2-0 victory as well.
Ok. Here comes some sensitive questions. Do you miss your HoTS days, when you were unrivaled at the game?
Heroes of the Storm is a game that brought me incredible honor. So while I do still have some love for the game, I don’t miss those days. Even if its esports scene is revived, I’ll never go back to it.
Speaking of those days, I want to take this chance to thank all the fans that supported me since back then. When I decided to switch over to LoL, the public opinion on the move was divided. While many said, “Oh, what can a HoTS pro can hope to achieve in LoL?”, my fans never stopped believing in me and said, “It’s Rich, so he can do it.” From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Compared to your monumental achievement in HoTS, there’s still a long way to go in your journey with LoL. How much do you envision achieving in LoL esports?
I believe there’s a ton of potential there. It hasn’t been long since I really started playing League of Legends, and I’m not that old. Although my immediate goals aren’t that high right now, I’m confident that I’ll be able to achieve great things in the long run.
You won most of the tournaments as a HoTS Pro, so I think that desire to win is huge with LoL as well.
Definitely. At the time, I’ve won a lot of international tournaments… so I’m really keen to win. However, as I mentioned before, my immediate goal isn’t lifting the trophy. My goal up to this point was to become good enough to become a starting member on a LCK roster, and I’ll be giving it my all to not only make it to Worlds, but to win the whole thing.
What are your thoughts on being called the “Faker of HoTS”?
It’s a nickname that I’ve heard a lot since my HoTS days. While I’m grateful that I’m compared to the greatest player in LoL… We’ve built our own careers in our own ways, so I’d like to ask the fans to hold off in comparing me to Faker. I’m just “Rich” in LoL, so I’d appreciate it if the fans think of me the same way.
Let’s lighten up the mood a little. If you had to choose, which LCK team would you like to join?
DragonX. I really want to receive feedback from cvMax. I really want to receive his feedback. As a Pro, I firmly believe that there’s only one way to prove yourself, and that’s through skill. While I do realize that there’s a lot of talk behind the way he gives feedback, the fact of the matter is that the players and the team got better in the end. No matter what kind of hardships I have to face, if I can become a better player at the end of the day, I think I’ll be really happy. Also, Chovy ‘Hyung’ (means older brother in Korean) is also on the team, who’s my favorite Mid Laner.
Hyung? Isn’t Chovy younger than you?
If a player’s good at the game, they’re all ‘Hyungs’ to me. He really did help me out a lot as well. There are many players that don’t answer back when you send them questions, but Chovy, even before I debuted, always kindly answered every question I asked him. He was also the player that I faced in my debut match, and the pressure I felt inside the game was insane. He’s reliable, and is incredibly skilled, so I hope to play on the same team one day.
Is there a Top Laner you hope to be like in the LCK?
I’d have to say Nuguri. The nature of the Top Lane makes it really difficult to come back from behind after dying once or twice, but it’s not like that with Nuguri. He exerts pressure even when behind, and if the Jungler just leaves him alone, he just outscales you really hard. As a Top Laner myself, that presence is extremely important, so in that sense, I want to be like him.
I noticed that you didn’t call Nuguri ‘Hyung’.
He sometimes doesn’t play like a ‘Hyung’... (laughter).
I think there’s a lot you learned from watching APK Prince in the LCK, the senior CK team that was promoted into the LCK last season.
APK left me in awe. Usually, teams become more cautious and tend to take less risks in the LCK, but APK did their own thing, made very bold plays, and put on a show for the fans. GuGer always told the team that we can also play like them, and motivated the team to work hard to be promoted into the LCK.
What kind of playstyle can the fans expect from Team Dynamics in the LCK?
Unlike APK, where they’ll always look to fight, our playstyle is just sticking to our game plan. However, that doesn’t mean that we’ll shy away from a fight when it comes to objectives around the map, since we’re just going to fall behind even further when behind, while get ahead even further when ahead. I think our playstyle will stay similar to how it was during the Promotion Tournament.
As a starting member on an LCK team, the 2020 LCK Summer will be your very first season. How far in the standings do you think the team will climb to?
Ambitiously speaking, it’s definitely making it into the playoffs. I think that we’ll perform well in a Bo5. However, from a realistic standpoint, I think the best we can do at the moment is 6th place. Our team synergy isn’t perfect, but we’re working towards perfection. It won’t be easy facing the teams in the LCK, but as long as we maintain the atmosphere within the team, things will work out for the best.
We’ve now reached the end of the interview. Is there anything you’d like to say?
I just entered the LCK, and as I said before, my ultimate goal lies at a much higher place. I’ll keep challenging myself to work harder to check off everything that I want to achieve. Also, I’d like to thank Evan Oh, the owner of Team Dynamics and Coach sBs, for believing in a player that had much to prove, and my fellow teammates, who worked tirelessly to get into the LCK. Lastly, I’ll make sure to make the best out of this great opportunity with a great team, so I hope that the fans will continue to cheer on the LoL Pro Gamer, “Rich”.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports