With their victory over Hanwha Life Esports in the final round of the 2021 LCK Regional Qualifiers, T1 heads to this year’s Worlds as the 3rd LCK seed. After missing Worlds in 2020, the legendary mid laner for T1, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, returns to the international stage, eager to capture his 4th Worlds title in his career.
Inven Global had a chance to catch up with Faker on what he’s been up to in preparation for Worlds, and also had a chance to ask some questions about the Worlds meta and his goals not as Faker, but Lee Sang-hyeok himself.
It’s been two weeks since T1’s regional finals win against HLE at the regional qualifiers. Give us an update on what you were up to.
We were really busy throughout the entirety of the Summer split, so after that series ended, I went on a mini vacation. Now, I’m back, fulfilling various things that were pre-scheduled, such as streaming.
I want to start off the interview by hearing how you reflect on your own performance during the season. Obviously, the team showed tremendous improvement throughout the split to earn their spot at Worlds, but what are some of the things that you personally feel you’ve improved since the beginning of the year?
I felt the need to take care of myself better, both physically and mentally. I think I’ve done a great job improving in that regard as the split went on.
Unlike the previous years at Worlds, you’ll be heading in with a lot of rookie players that have little international experience. How are things different with you when compared to the time when you went to Worlds with teammates that are more experienced on the international stage?
This time will mark the first time for a lot of players heading overseas, let alone Europe. I’ll need to give them some useful tips on how they can stay in form while in Europe. Other than that, I believe that they have a good grasp on the things that they need to do.
Are there any tips you want to give them for the EUW solo queue as well?
Although the overall skill level won’t be as high as the KR server, I don’t think they’ll have any problems climbing the ranked ladder. They’ll be fine against the certain type of trolls they’ll eventually meet.
Among those rookies you’re leading to Worlds, who do you have the highest expectations of? Who do you think will pop off the most? Who is the strongest under pressure?
I don’t think there’s a rookie player that’s more outstanding than the other, because they’re all good. I think that I’ll just focus on improving my own form.
In a previous interview, you said that the mid lane talent from LCK this year is the strongest it has ever been. Why do you think that is? What do you think the strengths and weaknesses of those players are?
I don’t think I’ve used the term ‘strongest’, but I do feel that the mid lane talent pool is very good this year. I feel that LCK’s mid lane talent pool this year are much better compared to that of any other region.
In a previous interview, you stated that you wanted to play against LPL teams. Which teams/players in particular did you have in mind?
I wanna play against the top two LPL seeds, EDG and FPX, because I feel that they played really well in the Summer split. As for the player, I don’t think I really have any particular player I’m excited to face, because I want to focus on how I can improve, rather than others.
How about from the West? Are there any teams/players in the West that you’re excited to meet?
I haven’t really watched any of their games, so it’s hard to say.
Taking a peek into the competitive meta at Worlds, the most talked about champion, especially in the mid lane, is Tryndamere. First of all, why Mid Tryndamere? Why not top lane?
Hmm… A lot of champions in the top lane are more consistent damage dealers, rather than being bursty. In the mid lane, however, a lot of the champions are bursty, but are gated by their mana pool. I think that Tryndamere does much better against the mid lane champion pool.
From the data that I was able to gather, the two core items for Tryndamere seems to be Goredrinker-Essence Reaver. However, the data suggests that Galeforce is the alternative mythic item for him. When should you build Goredrinker, and when should you build Galeforce?
I haven’t played that much solo queue in recent days, so I’ve yet to get a feel on what’s better at the moment. I’ll get the hang of it soon.
What are your thoughts on the champion?
I think that he’s a champion that can make plays happen with his mobility and pick up a lot of kills in the process. I think it’ll be fun to play him.
With so many world championship trophies under your belt, I’m curious about the Worlds mid lane meta that you like the most.
I don’t think I really took account of what specific meta I like the most. Each meta has its own strength that makes the game fun, so as long as it’s not a boring one, it’s enough for me. I think that this summer split was fun, but the Spring split meta, where I had to play champions like Seraphine, was a bit boring.
I’ve watched a segment from ‘You Quiz’, where you asked the really well known MC in Korea on whether or not what he does feels like ‘work’ for him. How much of your work feels like work?
In recent days, there are a lot of factors that overlap with one another. Interviews that I have to do as a pro gamer, just like the one we’re doing now, feels like work, but on the other hand, they’re all part of what I ultimately want to do. I’m satisfied with how things are in that regard at the moment, so it’s work, but it’s work that I like and want to do.
With such insurmountable achievements in your career, will there ever be a time in the future where you felt, “I’ve accomplished everything?”
I’ve been satisfied with my accomplishments and results, but never fully in life. That feeling is what keeps me motivated.
What’s your biggest source of motivation right now?
Right now, it's performing at a level that I’m satisfied with. Putting on a great performance for the fans is what keeps me going. And… yeah that’s it, I think [laughter].
What are your goals as the person, Lee Sang-hyeok?
My goal is to do and be the best I can in all the work that I’m doing. After that, I feel that my other goals in life will naturally present themselves.
Lastly, would you like to say anything to the fans cheering for you and T1 at Worlds?
There isn’t much time left until Worlds, so I’ll make sure that we can be at our best once it starts. I’m also very excited to be back in Europe, because I know it’ll be fun.
Oh, I forgot this one important question: Favorite Hollow Knight boss?
Hmm… I’m not really sure, because they were all pretty easy. I think Grimm was the most fun one though.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports