On July 1, T1 announced Kim "Surrender" Jungsoo as the team's newest content creator — a player, who had already been representing the org in professional Hearthstone.
Surrender was the first person ever to reach Legend rank on the Asia server and is still continuing his competitive career as a Hearthstone Grandmaster. He joined T1 as a Hearthstone player back in July 2018, but after three years of competition, he announced that he'll be switching to a content creator role.
We chatted up Surrender about his whole career, from how he started in Hearthstone to now his future plans as a content creator.
We want to start the interview with the story of Surrender as a Hearthstone player. How did you stumble upon Hearthstone?
While I was looking for a game to play, I found Hearthstone on the top of Naver’s trending keywords list. I was curious about what Hearthstone was and it happened to be a card game in beta testing. Back then, it was very difficult to get a beta invitation key but luckily, I got one at the very last moment. That’s how I started in Hearthstone.
The ranked mode launched two months after the end of beta testing and apparently, I was a better Hearthstone player than I expected. I hit #1 legend rank when the ranked mode was first updated. Then I became famous in the Hearthstone community and some great players asked me to join their team. That was when I started to think it would be exciting to play tournaments and become a competitive Hearthstone player.
Can you tell us about how you came up with the name “Surrender”?
I only played Hunter during the beta. At the time, Hunter played many low-health minions. If my opponent played even one AOE spell, I had to surrender. I was a Hunter one-trick at the time.
[Surrender's original Korean battletag was "광역맞으면서렌함", which means "I will surrender if I get AOE'd" — Ed.]
You started as the first player ever to reach Legend rank in Asia server and still play in the Grandmasters circuit, maintaining the highest win rate out of all Grandmasters. Do you have any secret method for such outstanding consistency?
Honestly, Hearthstone is a game in which RNG plays a big part. Many expect a secret method for doing well in competitive Hearthstone, but I don’t think there’s anything like that. What I think is the most important is that because Hearthstone is an RNG-based game, no matter how hard you try, there will be times when the results don’t follow. But my favorite esports players from other games say that “the results of hard work don't follow immediately, but six months later.”
I think it's the same with Hearthstone. Even there, the immediate results may not be the best because of RNG. Consistently putting effort might not give immediate results, but it will for sure in the future. Consistency is the most important factor.
The Hearthstone scene grew a lot over the last eight years, it was not the same back then. Did you play the game to become a competitive player from the beginning?
If I had such intentions, I think I would have used kinder words on the Internet. Back in 2015, I once wrote a post saying “anyone who thinks Hearthstone is a 100% skill-based game is a *****” because I was tilted after losing in a tournament.
To be honest, I didn’t feel the need to be careful about what I said. Now, I've learned the need for it. Even up to that point, I did not know that I would be playing Hearthstone competitively for such a long time.
Over the last eight years, you’ve participated and performed well in countless tournaments: from “KR-CN Hearthstone Masters” to the Grandmasters circuit. Are there any games in particular that you remember the most?
The most memorable games are the ones with the fans and the audience. For example, more than 4,000 people visited Haeundae to watch the Grand Final of OGN Hearthstone Masters Korea Season 3. It is still a memorable game even though I lost in the finals.
The next one is the World Championship in Amsterdam. It seemed like every Hearthstone fan in Europe came to watch the tournament. The tournament took place in a building that has been used as a trade center since medieval times. The audience cheered for every great play and clapped during the post-game interviews. These tournaments with a live audience are the most memorable ones.
I also remember a game you played against OmegaZero where you intentionally traded your minions to clear your own board to play around Unleash the Hounds lethal. The audience cheered out loud for that play.
That was when I practiced the most throughout my entire Hearthstone career. It was also when I could easily find practice partners. During practice games, I found out that in Druid vs. Hunter, Druid never loses if I get to play Malfurion the Pestilent. I also had a Spreading Plague in my hand. I thought I would not lose if I played around Unleash the Hounds lethal. I still remember the details of the games because I practiced a lot.
Speaking of practicing for tournaments, you are performing very well in the Grandmasters circuit. Are there any special tips for practicing or anyone in particular who helps you with preparation?
For every tournament, I practice with my friends who are very passionate and love the game the most. There are players who help with practicing whenever I ask for help. Recently, I’ve been practicing the most with Seulsiho and RaFaEl.
Do you usually watch other Hearthstone tournaments?
I don't think there are any Hearthstone tournaments that I’ve missed. Whenever I am not streaming or practicing, I enjoy watching other Hearthstone streams. I spend most of my day with Hearthstone.
Recently, there was an announcement that you will now be part of the T1 Content Creators team. On your stream, tou said that you are considering retirement from the competitive scene. Is your contract change related to the retirement consideration?
At the beginning of 2021 Hearthstone Grandmasters Season 1, I performed so poorly that I was in danger of relegation. The pressure from that possibility was no joke. If I got relegated, my contract as a “competitive player” would not mean much anymore. I was also worried about what I should do in the future if I got relegated. I also thought about what my strengths were besides Hearthstone. I spent a lot of time thinking about my future.
I concluded that I should specialize in something else. I wanted to make streaming one of my specialties. I thought that my viewership would increase if I streamed consistently. I also started working out as a hobby. After setting my goals to focus on streaming and working out, I decided to change my contract with T1 to become a content creator because it is difficult to do other things alongside playing Hearthstone competitively as a pro gamer.
Are you still considering retirement from competitive Hearthstone? I am curious if you changed your mind after a comeback in Grandmasters to make it to the playoffs.
I am still thinking about that. Honestly, my passion as a competitive player is not the same as before because I've played Hearthstone for eight years now. I am still thinking about whether I should pass my Grandmasters spot to another passionate player or try to compete in the league for as long as possible to prove my ability as a competitive player. For now, I will be competing in the upcoming 2021 Hearthstone Grandmasters Season 2.
Now that you are streaming for more hours, we got to see you playing other games more often. How interested are you in other esports scenes?
When I was young, I always had Ongamenet on my TV. During school break seasons, they had StarCraft leagues rebroadcasts on 24/7. I loved StarCraft so much that I watched every single StarCraft game broadcast. I also love the LoL esports scene. I was a big fan of T1 even before I joined the team.
It was relatively easier for me to challenge myself to become a competitive Hearthstone player because I was naturally exposed to the esports scene for a long time. I really wanted to become a pro gamer since I was young.
How good are were you at playing other games?
For League of Legends, I put my best efforts during Season 3 and reached Platinum 1. For StarCraft, I’ve tried my best for a long time but my hands were too slow. My mechanics became even worse after I started playing Hearthstone. It feels like my brain works well but my hands do not. I only watch the game now.
Did you ever get to play games like Hearthstone or League of Legends with other T1 players?
It’s not easy to do something with other T1 players because the League of Legends team is always busy. But I enjoy playing League of Legends when I take a break from Hearthstone. I’d like to learn League of Legends or play ARAM games with them.
You’ve played in many different tournaments overseas. Are there any foreign players you are close with?
Before joining T1, I was playing for teams based outside Korea. At the time, I was in a team with Xixo and Hoej. I still communicate with them often. I don’t get to meet them at the moment due to COVID-19, but we made a promise to go on a trip together in the future. We are very close friends because we were on the same team for about 3-4 years. They promised to come to visit Korea for the wedding ceremony if I marry. Because of these promises, even if we quit playing Hearthstone, our friendship won't end.
I want to hear your opinions on Hearthstone. You’ve been talking often about how Hearthstone will become more popular with the release of Mercenaries mode. You were also into Battlegrounds at one point and even hit #1 in Asia. But it seems like you haven’t played Battlegrounds recently. What do you think of game modes other than Constructed?
I enjoyed Battlegrounds a lot but it suddenly felt like it was not a game for me. I felt the limit. After hitting #1, I started losing my interest in Battlegrounds. I am very excited about Mercenaries because it is very similar to Slay the Spire, which is a game I enjoyed a lot. Slay the Spire was also a game that my viewers liked the most. When Mercenaries gets launched, I will be streaming it a lot and also try hard if competitive tournaments for Mercenaries are available.
Any last words to the fans?
After T1 announced that I will now be working as a Content Creator, my fans have supported me a lot. There are currently 600 subscribers on my stream. Subscriptions cost $5 per month, which is not a small amount of money. I always appreciate the love from my fans. Before, I returned the favor by doing well in tournaments as a competitive player. Now, as a streamer, I will try to return the favor by providing enjoyable streams more often.