Surprising news came from Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon: he will be returning to NA as a player of Wildcard Gaming — an amateur team that competes in a league below LCS Academy. But after two years without a team and with the mandatory military service creeping upon him, the progamer life — with all its prospects and commitments — was already weighing heavy on the storied player.
“I didn’t do much. I didn’t have a team, but you never know what would happen, so I kept practicing. But as the period of not having a team got longer, I felt empty. That was hard for me. I thought, ’What was I expecting by practicing like this?’ It was exhausting. I could have just gone to the army, but I wanted to have another chance.”
The quest for green card on election year
One of the things Arrow was waiting for was his green card. As he still believed he could continue as a pro player, he wanted to push back his military duty and have another shot at professional League of Legends. By acquiring permanent residency, he would be able to postpone going to the army, but the process wasn’t easy.
“I first applied for my green card about 3-4 years ago when I was in OpTic Gaming, but my interview was scheduled after I had left. If I had passed the interview, I would get my green card, but all of a sudden, COVID-19 came and the US embassy in Seoul shut down. The pandemic stopped everything.
Furthermore, there were Trump’s anti-immigration policies and my chances of getting a green card got even slimmer. I rooted for Biden in the presidential election because of that. I never watch the news, but I watched this election with deep interest. Thankfully and luckily for me, Biden was elected and he eased the anti-immigration policies. Around March, I got the email for an interview. I went in for the interview in April, and now I have my green card.
The reason it’s important is that if I have a green card, I would have more value as a player. My English is pretty good, and my ability to play the game was still pro level — I’m still in high Challenger. But before I got the green card, I would take up an import slot as a Korean player. The LCS teams might not evaluate me as highly, but I tried to stay positive while practicing, streaming, and just waiting.”
One thing Arrow used to keep his positivity up was his Youtube channel. With almost 13K subscribers, Arrow not only shares highlights from his games, but does a lot of “How to play” guides, helping players improve, especially on ADC champions.
In hindsight, this initiative should’ve come much, much earlier, Arrow admits.
“I spent nearly two years just streaming and practicing. One of the regrets I have was that I should have started Youtube earlier. I know well that I’m not an eloquent speaker — I’m not that fun when I talk. But what I do do well is teaching, and I like teaching. Since there’s a lot I know from my career.
Another thing is that the NA region isn’t as good as the other major regions. You know, NA is always getting memed and being teased. That made me feel sorry. Why don’t they improve? Why can’t they play smart? That made me start Youtube about last year. If I started earlier, I would have a better channel, of course, and I would have been able to teach people more stuff.
Frankly, I didn’t start earlier because of my laziness. I had some extra money that I earned, so I just played games and waited. Now that I think of it, I should have worked on my Youtube more and maybe exercised more. I have a small excuse for exercising though — the gyms were shut down because of the pandemic after about a month after I registered for the gym.”
The dread of the wait: Zero offers. What now?
After acquiring his green card, Arrow thought he would be able to join a team soon, as he wouldn’t be an import anymore. But the reality was different. The offers never came — an understandable outcome given how the season was at its mid-point — so Arrow’s salvation became the Proving Grounds and Wildcard Gaming.
“It was ironic. I thought I would be able to do well, and I would be able to join a team soon if I wasn’t an import anymore. If my value was higher, the teams might have reacted better. It could be because they were in the middle of the season, I don’t know, but the LCS teams didn’t react that actively.
That way, I came across Wildcard Gaming. This team is in a league that’s lower than the Academy league. It’s an amateur team, but a lot of the players in this league are former LCS players. The team that won Proving Grounds this spring has V1per, AnDa, and Big, who was my support back in OpTic Gaming. I contacted Wildcard Gaming because of that. Rather than having to go to the army right away, I could take a challenge and find a chance on my own to get back to the LCS.
I wanted to keep going as a player, but there were no options. Specifically, the best options weren’t available for me. Although it isn’t the LCS, I might have a chance if I prove myself there.”
Arrow believed that he was still pro material and it was the pandemic that was keeping him from competitive LoL. Finding Proving Grounds was the narrow path back to where he wanted to be.
“The timing was bad. I had a two-year contract. When I came back to Korea after the first year for vacation, they told me they were going to find an import in a different position. So I was waiting to find another team, but that was when COVID-19 struck. As far as I know, there weren’t any players that went abroad during that stove league. The OPL was discontinued as well and they were able to play as NA players in the LCS as well, which makes it more competitive.
I was really struggling. As a player, I need that ego. I felt that I could do better, and I did do quite well. I kept practicing and learning, but all I was able to do was wait. Whenever I went to bed, I became doubtful, wondering if this was the right way. I endured that pain, hoping for a real break to come soon. I stayed positive and waited things out. I could have just gone to the army without waiting for this break, but I stayed hopeful. Of course, I feel good because I did get that last chance.
All things came into place in April. I got my green card, I got connected with Wildcard Gaming, and good things didn’t just happen to me. One of my close friends is a classical singer. He was accepted into the military band in April. Ssumday got his green card in April too. He got his green card on the day I went for the interview. As much as I had a hard time doing nothing, I got to think, ‘Okay, are things finally working out for me?’ That thought made me work harder.”
On MSI, DWG, and the unjustly undervalued Ghost
Arrow seemed to be a big fan of DWG KIA. He often praised DWG KIA’s performance. Out of curiosity, I asked him about DWG KIA and how Cloud9 would do at the MSI.
“DWG KIA is a team that really knows how to win. That makes everything fun about them. DWG KIA is really different. Most LCK teams aren’t that good at adapting — they’re stubborn, but DWG KIA isn’t. What I remember is the Senna-Cho’Gath comp. It hadn’t been that long since they played that in the LEC, and DWG KIA picked it up right away. DWG KIA always tries new things and all five players have an insanely wide champion pool.
People say that RNG is pretty strong too, and I agree. And I don’t think a lot of people expected MAD Lions to reach MSI. Everyone probably expected G2. That’s why I’m looking forward to them play. As for Cloud9, I think they’ll make it through groups. DWG KIA will surely get through. C9 should win, but you don’t know. LCS teams sometimes win impossible games and lose easy games. That’s why they’re memed more.
I want to say DWG KIA would win it all. One thing I feel bad about is that there are so many people that under-evaluate Ghost. I really don’t understand how people could under-evaluate a world champion, someone who proved himself already. Ghost is a player that knows how to win, how to snowball, and how to endure — all of which are very important virtues as an ADC.”
As the interview came to an end, there was really just one question left to ask: Would he find success in Proving Grounds? Would we ever see Arrow on the LCS stage again?
“I’ll be able to do well. Well, I’d need to at least say that I’m confident, right? [Laughs] If I say that I’m not confident, who would cheer for me? Even if I’m not confident, I should say that I am so people would cheer for me. I don’t want to let go of being a professional LoL player. If I really win the championship in the Proving Grounds, I might have a chance next year. Of course, that chance might not come, but since I was given a chance, I want to do my best. I’ll have to “prove” myself at the Proving Grounds this year.
I’ll be heading to the NA on May 3. And as always, I’m thankful to all the fans. They come to my streams and cheer for me. And especially, I’m thankful to my family and friends, who supported me when I was struggling and having a hard time.”
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports