Seven years. Enough time to make an eager young boy into a mature man. From 2013 to 2020, Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu's time flew faster than anyone. The time that has passed made him from the youngest player in MVP Blue to the captain and the oldest player in DragonX.
In the 2020 LCK Spring Split, Deft finished in 3rd place along with one of the oddest head coaches in the scene and two rookies. It was a decent result, but it may not have been enough to fill Deft's expectations.
"What’s regretful was that the match was a complete loss, rather than the fact that we finished in 3rd place. If the match were close, I would have thought we did well enough. T1 was a team that had rebuilt the team as well, and they had a rookie too. The situation was similar. If we had shown a higher level of performance, it might have been different."
"After the match was over, Keria showed tears. Seeing him cry made me think of my younger days. I had also cried when I lost during the early days of my debut. I felt that I never want to see my teammates cry again. Now, I don’t have regrets lingering in my mind; I only have determination for the next season."
Prior to the 2020 season, the starting members of DragonX left the team one by one. Deft also had to make up his mind. Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho, who joined the team during that time, had a long conversation with Deft. Through confidence, trust, and sincerity, cvMax persuaded Deft to stay. Deft's instinct told him to trust cvMax.
"After the 2019 season, I was thinking of what to do, to join a new team or to stay, but cvMax told me to trust him no matter what. The more I talked with him, I felt that everything will go well if I was with him. At that time, all I had was my instincts, so I decided to follow my instincts and stay with cvMax up to at least the end of this year."
"The most interesting part of cvMax is how he changes so drastically. In everyday life, he sometimes looks dumb and feels even more immature than the younger players. But when he’s doing the role of a head coach, he’s more objective and meticulous than anybody else, a true leader. It seems that cvMax thinks the closeness in life is connected to the in-game performance. He makes the players extremely comfortable and is absolutely trusted by the players."
"There’s no reason to have trouble between him and the players. Unless it’s practice time, he doesn’t touch us at all and doesn’t say much during feedback to players who can do well by themselves. I personally wish cvMax is always good at LoL. I don’t think I can respect him if he’s terrible at LoL (Laughs)."
"I enjoy my conversations with cvMax. We don’t talk all night, but we discuss various topics until we go to bed. Recently in our workshop, I bruised my rib. When I said that my ribs hurt, he started to talk about boxing, that you have to protect your liver when your boxing. Then about the left hook, right hook… And then about what makes a good boxing player. That went on for about two hours. I also took part in that conversation actively as well, asking questions."
When Deft was in MVP Blue, all the players were quite older than he was. In the current DragonX team, the age gap with his teammates is similar; this time, he's on the older end.
"I don’t have a fixed lifestyle, so when I’m with the younger players, my thoughts also get younger so that I can play along with them. When I’m alone, I get lost in my thoughts. There’s nothing uncomfortable in my real life. The younger players have slight age differences, but they’re in chaos. They use swear words to each other and sometimes they’re polite… You won’t be able to tell who’s older than the other."
"Doran has a strong responsibility. I don’t know if his responsibility is injected, but he practices harder than anybody else. Pyosik is the mood maker of the team. He tries to stay bright all the time and doesn’t show that he’s tired. Chovy is simply really good at LoL. I’ve been with several mid laners, but Chovy’s the most consistent. Keria helps me a lot so that I can do more things. I talked with him the most, and he acts as a second captain of the team."
Stepping forward from his younger days, where he relied on the older players, this time, Deft had to be the person that others could rely on. In DragonX, there were two rookies, Hong "Pyosik" Chang-hyeon and Ryu "Keria" Min-seok, with Choi "Doran" Hyeon-joon, who just debuted in the previous season.
"If I met these teammates before I joined kt Rolster, I would have felt anxious, but through my experience, I gained confidence that I can carry the role of a coach more than before. And we already have cvMax as head coach who’s already proved his ability. Even with all the rookies, there was no anxiousness about the mistakes we might make due to inexperience or worries that we won’t be able to move forward."
"When I was in EDG, I used to be a selfish player. I had a very narrow vision, and I looked at the game only in my perspective. Since others thought I was a good player as well, they didn’t say much about me. When I joined kt Rolster, it was the first time I received “proper” feedback. Everybody else was well-known players, so whenever we lost, it felt more like my mistake. I was able to think more deeply about my plays, and as my vision got wider, I was able to understand LoL better."
Deft debuted in the League of Legends esports scene in MVP Blue, led the prime of EDward Gaming in the LPL, and also played alongside the veterans in the "super team" kt Rolster. The seven years changed Deft in many different ways.
"Everything has changed except for three things. The three things are: LoL is fun, I want to win, and that I get angry when I lose."
"When I was young, I was honest with my feelings. When I get mad, I didn’t express it in words, but I acted angrily, and everyone had to take a hint. As time passed, I learned to control my feelings and to express or hide properly."
"So when I see the young players get angry, they look really cute. I can see right through them; what they want, why they’re mad (Laughs). Then, I do for them whatever the older players did for me back then, and the things I wished they had done."
"I’ve always had a certain sense of responsibility, but the direction is different now. I didn’t appeal my thoughts that much before and only felt responsible for my own plays. But in DragonX, my role when making plays or drawing the draft became bigger. If the game doesn’t go well, I get disappointed and feel responsible."
"My behavior and thoughts have changed as well. I used to think, ‘how can I play better?’ but from about my second year in EDG, I started to think, ‘how can my team play better?’ This thought got bigger as I gained more experience. Now, the team clearly comes first more than myself."
"When I’m entirely concentrated, my mechanics are the same as the early days of my debut. But what I feel is that the duration of my concentration has become shorter. So I try to stay concentrated as long as I can during practice to keep it efficient."
Pro Gamer Deft
Although the life of a pro gamer might look fun, every single day is a fierce battle. Over the years Deft has been doing his best, what was on his mind?
"I’ve never thought that it’s too tiring to be a pro gamer. But in my early days, it was really mentally exhausting. I started my career and quit school even though my parents didn’t approve. I didn’t have a clear income, and I didn’t know if I would fare well."
"What was more was that my team was in the lower half of the standings, nowhere near my goal of winning the championship. I felt very uneasy. I still remember those days. One day, I wanted to eat a hamburger, but to do so, I needed to ask my parents to send me 5,000 won (≒ 4 USD). I felt too sorry to ask them, so I gave up."
"I never thought of giving up being a pro gamer, but I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Giving up is something you can do when you’ve achieved at least a little. I had found what I like the most and what I could do best, but if I fail without achieving anything, I wouldn’t be able to live a better life in the future."
"When I first reached 1st place in the solo ranked ladder, I was sure of myself. I thought that I have the talent, so if I put in more effort than others, I would b able to succeed as a pro gamer. When I was in MVP Blue, I was really motivated by seeing our brother team, Ozone, win the championship. If MVP Ozone was also a lower-ranked team, I may not have been able to reach where I am now."
Career and Goals
Deft has LCK, LPL, and MSI championships under his belt, but in the four LoL World Championships he has attended, the highest he reached was the semifinals. Deft's final goal was to win Worlds and it hasn't ever changed.
"There isn’t a game that I remember more, but there’s a vacation I had that stuck in my memory. It was the vacation after we beat SK Telecom T1 in MSI 2015. As a pro gamer, it’s my own loss if I don’t play games, so even if I’m on vacation, I can’t rest comfortably. But that time, I felt carefree since I had a sense of accomplishment. I shouldn’t have, but I really rested comfortably. If I win an international competition again, I might be able to have that rest again."
"When I was losing motivation for winning Worlds, I had a dream. I was playing in the finals at Worlds, and I lost. After I lost, I woke up, and I found myself crying. I thought that I should keep doing my best, and since I’m with my teammates who have the drive and motivation, I get motivated more as well."
"When I returned to the LCK in 2017, I thought, ‘I won’t be able to play as well as now, so I’ll do everything this year.’ I came back because I wanted to play more properly before my performance declined. But that year was alright, the next year was alright, and the year after that. I endured year by year, and it led to now. I’ll be playing until I think I’m not good enough; I think I’m still quite alright."
"I really haven’t thought about after retirement. I’ve been running up to now quite vigorously without a break. If I’m able to win Worlds as a player one day, I might find something less intense. Otherwise, I might keep trying to win Worlds as a coach."
"I’m always thankful to the fans that cheer for me, my teammates, and my head coach. It’s sometimes pressuring since I think I gain more attention than what I have, but it’s a great opportunity. If we do well under all this attention, showing good performances, we can appeal more of ourselves and get appreciated."
"Criticism about our performances is fine, but I wish people don’t attack without logic. We all monitor the communities, and my teammates sometimes get really hurt from those excessive comments. The fans who are truly interested in our team would know that there wouldn’t be any trouble within the team."
"I really want to meet the fans again at the arena, but since the coronavirus is still a big issue, I hope the fans all watch from home, safely. In the 2020 LCK Summer Split, we’ll return with a lot better performance. Please send us your support and cheers as before. Thank you."
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