When someone asks you, who’s the most aggressive player in the LCK, it won’t take long for you to answer “Nuguri”. DAMWON Gaming’s top laner Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon has been one of the most aggressive players since his debut. With his relentless laning phase where he continues to attack even if he dies several times, Nuguri always entertains the LCK fans with his performances.
However, the Nuguri we met had a different side. It seemed that he would always look forward, but he knew how to look around and look back. He was very careful when mentioning others and was very objective to himself. While making others comfortable with his warm smile, he had thoughts he didn’t express to others.
Nuguri had been running without a break since DAMWON Gaming was promoted to the LCK. It was time to look back and think.
How have you been after the spring playoffs?
I rested well during the vacation. After returning to the team house, I’ve been playing scrims and solo queues at about a 2:8 or 3:7 ratio.
What did you think when you heard that there will be a Mid-Season Cup with the top LPL teams?
I heard that news after I returned to the team house. The first thought that came to mind was that it would be fun since there are many good teams in the LPL. We lack international match experience, so I also thought this tournament would be a great chance for us.
Did you watch some of the LPL matches? Were there any teams or players that you’ve been following?
I only watched Invictus Gaming’s matches during the regular season. What I felt was that the composition or counters didn’t mean much for them. They made wins by simply fighting well. I watched TheShy especially closely. It was incredible that he was always ahead in CS whenever I watched.
But I was extremely surprised that Top Esports and JD Gaming reached the finals, by beating Invictus Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix. I didn’t expect that. I did have fun watching Khan and TheShy play against each other in the 3rd place match. Khan is still really good. During the regular season, GimGoon usually played so I wasn’t able to see him, but in the 3rd place match, his performance was awesome from Fiora to even Ornn.
There are many fans that say you’re closer to the LPL style. Do you agree?
I also heard that a lot. Especially when I talked with the Chinese fans when I was streaming. But I don’t think I can define my style as that. I’m Nuguri style (Laughs).
Jayce hasn’t been used much in the LPL until TheShy played him often in the playoffs. The results weren’t that good. How do you think Jayce is?
I’ll just talk about what I felt while playing solo queue, since there are many LPL pro players that play in the Korean solo queue. If players do well in skirmishes or respond well to ganks with Ornn or Wukong, it feels that Jayce rots. Especially after Wukong changed. Wukong wasn’t banned in the LPL. Jayce may be strong in laning and some fights, but it’s more punishing than other champions when Jayce makes a mistake. It’s staggering already when Jayce doesn’t have Flash.
Jayce appeared really often in the LCK, but as much as it’s a difficult pick, many people say that he shouldn’t be used unless they’re as good as Nuguri.
The biggest advantage Jayce has is that he has the initiative in the laning phase. Jayce can also be picked first. If all goes extremely well, he can farm gold from the turret plates in all three lanes. I think Jayce’s ability to carry in demolishing and snowballing is really good, so he appeared often late in the LCK season.
As for the evaluations towards my Jayce was just out of luck. When other players practiced solid champions like Ornn early in the season, I kept practicing aggressive damage dealing champions. When we play, my team often push the resources towards me, so my Jayce was able to shine more.
Jayce’s head-to-head record against Ornn isn’t that good, but it doesn’t seem to mean much when looking at Nuguri’s Jayce.
Even against Ornn, Jayce has initiative. The only dangerous time is when Ornn has Ignite while using Unsealed Spellbook. I don’t think Ornn is the counter to Jayce; both champions are playable against each other.
You often bought Cull or built Serrated Dirk from last year.
Serrated Dirk is good to maximize initiative in the laning phase, so I started building it. It’s good when playing 1v1 against damage champions and also useful for poking. You can create variables by dealing explosive damage to opponent damage dealers. On the other hand, the Black Cleaver is a stable build, which you build often against tank champions. But still, I built Serrated Dirk more often.
As for Cull, I think there’s more to gain when you survive the laning phase well. Jayce sometimes can push the lane using Cull based on the lane priority. Obviously, if the opponent jungle is a strong champion, it’s correct to select an item that has HP like the Doran’s Blade.
We heard that you strongly recommended Cull to ShowMaker.
ShowMaker used to buy Cull on Corki already, but there was a match where he bought Cull on Zoe against Kassadin. I recommended buying Cull and hitting Kassadin with AD. At first, he was reluctant, but he did it later on. It’s good for me since if it’s only me who uses Cull, the coaches disapprove, but if more players use it, they might approve (Laughs).
When you play aggressive champions, pushing the lane, you tend to get ganked often. If your opponent concentrates their ganks on top lane, how do you deal with that situation?
The general situation is important. If I’m pressured and my team can’t help out while we can’t benefit in other areas, I really have to be careful. I shouldn’t lose my Flash too easily or die.
Most top laners answer that they’re confident in both tank and damage champions when we ask them which they prefer, but it feels that Nuguri would answer differently.
I think it’s been quite a while since I played tank champions. When I first joined DAMWON, our head coach, Micro, recommended for me to play tank champions. There was a time when I was quite confident in playing tanks as well, but as I played more damage champions, my style changed in that direction.
I can still play tank champions well, but I just want to play tanks to the level that we can use in competitions and play more damage champions. Honestly, if I say that I’m good at tanks, that would be way too arrogant (Laughs). I think I just play it to the level where I don’t wreck the game. I do want to be good at both, but it’s hard to play at a high enough level in both areas.
You had said that preferring damage champions is a “selfish” style, yet you still prefer the selfish style. Why is that?
The team sacrifices a lot for me. From the draft to the playstyle; the team plays a lot towards me. There are sacrifices my teammates make that’s hard to see for the viewers. Other lanes make choices that help the top lane, and I often grow through my teammates’ sacrifices. If I’m in good form and play well, it doesn’t matter, but there are also times that I don’t play well. I think I have to be more careful as well.
Watching you play, there were often times when you have several deaths but still push the lane, sometimes even carrying the team in teamfights.
Before, I thought about that a lot. Recently, my teammates or coaching staff sometimes ask me not to play that way. I mostly agree with the team’s opinion as well. Small differences can lead to bigger consequences in pro games. Precision is key; I need to improve myself more. It might be that my plays became blunter… I try not to do that anymore now.
Most of the top damage champions that you play had an important role in the game. Champions that shouldn’t die and deal damage well.
When I am required to do many things in the game, I sometimes feel pressured. I have to push the lane and not be ganked when the matchup is difficult while I also have to prevent my opponent from doing something. It’s like walking a tightrope. I often fell in those situations, so it’s pressuring in the competitions.
Your teammates often sacrifice for you. How do you repay them?
I think all I have to do is showing it in that game, as much as they sacrificed for me. If my ability isn’t enough, then I should support my teammates and sacrifice for them. It’s also ideal to have whichever lane carry.
Let’s talk about the spring playoffs. It was a very close loss against DragonX.
Even if we were playing from the team house, I was quite nervous playing against DragonX. It felt that we all weren’t active enough in the first two games. That was really regretful. We played our game in the 3rd and 4th games, but it was unfortunate that we lost Game 5. I did think that if we just were able to beat DragonX, everything might have been different. We may have been more nervous since we trailed to DragonX in our head-to-head record and in crimes.
The game DAMWON played in the playoffs was end-to-end. When you won, the games were extremely exciting, but when you lost, it was a landslide.
I think the difference comes from playing aggressively or passively. After we reached the LCK, the difference between our peak and bottom has been quite big. I honestly don’t know the main reason. There are often times when we did well in scrims, playing aggressively, but didn’t do as well in official matches. It could be just a difference in experience.
What did you think watching Gen.G, T1, and DragonX play each other?
It was really regretful that we were eliminated by losing. As for the games, I just watched comfortably at home. It seemed that Canna was doing really well. I was surprised when he made a solo kill in an insane timing. I’ve always known that he’s really good in solo queue; he proved his prowess in the finals.
It is said that you’ll be in the same group as T1 in the upcoming Mid-Season Cup.
We won against T1 in a very important match last season. We still have to be on our toes since they’re the best team. But mostly, I’m looking forward to playing against the LPL teams. They have quite a unique style. JDG’s top laner, Zoom, is really solid and plays Gangplank really well. Other than Zoom, I think TheShy, Khan, and GimGoon are all very good, so I want to face them properly.
Other than them, all the LPL players’ styles are very different. I meet the Chinese pros playing on the Korean server often. Bin from Suning Gaming was quite famous on the Korean server with the IGN, ‘love camille’. Flandre has been playing top Zed. He used to play Kleptomancy Shen… They all have extremely unique styles; their item builds and runes are really unusual.
If you had the choice to choose one LCK team to be in your group, which team would you choose?
I think it would be T1. The first reason is because of our head-to-head record. We have some wins against T1 in important matches. Another reason is that T1 is a team that has a lot of experience. I felt that they make good decisions in critical situations, especially in important stages. It was something that other LCK teams don’t have, so I wanted to be more like that. As for the group… Whichever group it is, it's the group of death. It’s either the death group or the hell group (Laughs).
Do you have a new champion or build prepared for the MSC?
I don’t know if Wukong will be playable which was a global ban in the LCK. Since it should be available someday, I’ve been practicing him with several builds and runes. Wukong has high defense so some people say that he’s good against ranged champions. There could be changes from the first pick Jayce meta. The stats say that Wukong isn’t as strong against tank champions like Maokai or Malphite too.
The LPL teams have been using Wukong in competitions already. If he’s available in this tournament, the LPL might be advantageous. But I personally hope Wukong isn’t global banned since it would be regretful not being able to play what I’ve practiced. He could be pickable during the summer, so I think it would be good to keep practicing him.
You’ve been with coach Kim Jeong-soo and coach Zefa. How are their styles different?
It feels that they have completely opposite styles. Coach Kim has very strong leadership. When we were at Worlds last year, he told us to be more confident rather than spending too much time discussing the draft. It’s difficult to say… He’s very reliable and solid. Most of the team is quite introverted and coach Kim brought out our potentials well.
Zefa is a former pro gamer. He has the expertise of a former pro player. Zefa gives us feedback in detail about the in-game things from the draft to managing the lane. What coach Kim used to do is done by other coaches, so I think the current coaching staff has good synergy.
Looking at the side
We can talk a bit about announcer Kim Min-ah. She always thanks Nuguri for helping her out.
I used to think that I helped her a lot, but recently, she’s been doing so well with the interviews and all. Her Youtube videos are doing really great as well so I thought she would have been fine even without me.
What do you think when you see her improving at LoL and attracting popularity through her unique character?
I never imagined she would be like that (Laughs). I played 1v1 with her when she was shooting WhyMan. The PD told me not to play easy on her, so I played top Lucian against her Darius. They asked me to play more, but I remember that I ran away as soon as possible since being on that video was harder than I thought. She used to be really a beginner back then, but I was really surprised that she beat Kim Hee-cheol in a 1v1.
She said that you might worry about how you would do in your sophomore year in the LCK.
I do have quite a few worries. As I said before, I don’t know my identity. I didn’t say it too seriously, but it’s a very big issue for me. There was a time when I felt that I wasn’t any help to the team. I recently thought I lost a lot of my own unique color as well. The style can change, but it didn’t feel that I’m standing my ground. I need to make this clear to play well in the summer and look further on. I do have an aggressive style, but there’s more than just that. Just using the word “aggressive” isn’t enough; it’s hard to explain.
Comparing this year to last year… If it felt that I was doing quite okay by looking at the stats, but this year, it feels that it’s been forged. It seems that my stats are mostly similar to that of last year, but there were many mistakes and poor decisions. The number of isolated deaths is a very good example. I’m still trying to improve in these parts.
A pro looking higher
DAMWON and Nuguri both had decent results, but always fell short in important tournaments. Isn’t it exhausting to fall short like that?
I felt many different things playing in the competitions. There were times that we lost ridiculously or times when my mentality was shattered. Since we don’t have a player with a lot of experience, sometimes we’re shaken up bad. So when someone asks what my goal is, while most people say it’s to win the championship, I answer that I want to get to the finals. For us to grow more, I think we need to reach and overcome that obstacle at least once.
What would the goal destination be for pro gamer Nuguri and Jang Ha-gwon?
It’s hard to stay as a pro gamer for a long time. When I start working in a different area someday in the future, I’d like to gain confidence through my pro gaming experience that I could reach a high place in that area as well. I want to become a person that can improve continuously in whichever area I’m in. And as I just said, the start of that goal is to reach the finals.
Lastly, a word to the fans?
Even when we weren’t doing well, there were many fans that cheered for us and sent us presents to the team house. I’d like to thank you all for that. It feels that we concluded the season in a decent condition since many people evaluated that we showed “DAMWONlike” performances at the end. I hope both the fans and the team move forward in a positive way. We’ll also do our best to survive in the exhibition tournament, MSC, which seems would be quite bloody.
If you are looking for more League of Legends esports news, check out our official page.