"I realized that going to Worlds is very tough."
Park "Teddy" Jin-seong is in his seventh year as a pro gamer and is known as one of the best bot laners in the world. But even for such a great player, making it to the 2021 LoL World Championship was not easy.
Teddy and T1 went through a lot of turmoil this year. T1's line-up changed so frequently during the Spring Split that fans called it the "Roster Wheel". Packaged with major coaching staff changes, such as the departures of Yang "Daeny" Dae-in and Lee "Zefa" Jae-min after round 1 of Summer, the road to Worlds was plagued with adversity for both T1 and Teddy.
"I had no time to think about anything else during the season because I was too tired. Every pro player probably felt it was difficult. It was more difficult when the practice games didn't go well."
Due to the rapid rotations, both of T1's bot laners — Teddy and Lee "Gumayusi" Min-hyeong — were not nominated for the All-Pro line-ups as they didn't meet the minimum requirements for games played. For a player competing for the best spot in the league, getting tagged as "a player who can't play" was a pity.
"I was subbed out of few games last year too, but I've never sat out so many games before. I obviously wanted to start in more, but it wasn't too disappointing because Gamyusi played very well, and he also cheered for me whenever I played. Competition or not, we kept a great relationship," Teddy said.
"Gumayusi is a player who's always honest. He speaks whatever he feels without overthinking. He is an entertaining streamer, and his feedback is directly on point. I can't do the same. I tend to get a little emotional whenever I give feedback," Teddy added.
For Worlds 2021, Teddy's focus is on the shifting metagame, as a slew of changes is coming to the bot lane. Familiar faces like Aphelions, Varus, Ashe, and Kalista are nerfed, while Jinx got a slight buff on her Q's mana cost. But even then, Teddy doesn't foresee a tectonic shift in the bot lane.
"What I have to do now is improve my champions based on the meta. I read the patch notes, but I don't think there will be much difference to how influential the bot lane is. The Aphelios and Varus nerfs won't bring any major changes, and Jinx will be picked more often now with less pressure on the mana cost. I like Kai'Sa a lot: her E got a slight nerf, but I think she is still playable. I think the meta pick will be Ezreal. Jinx, Ziggs, and Ashe are also viable picks. Kalista should also be playable as before. I am not sure about Varus yet."
After two years of missing Worlds, Teddy is ready to return and among the things he's excited about is the opportunity to meet the foreign players he hasn't seen for a long time. Cloud9's mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perković is one, as Teddy fondly remembers facing him in the bot lane back in 2019.
"I don't have much knowledge of foreign players because I never played in foreign leagues. Back at Worlds 2019, I got a chance to talk with Perkz. I was waiting in between filming, and Perkz approached and talked to me in a friendly way.
"Perkz is going back to the mid lane this time and I want to beat him if I get to face him again. Perkz said that 'T1 is a free win' in an interview. I have to do well because of that. Trash talk is rare in Korea but frequent in other countries. I think it's an interesting part," Teddy said, kindly refusing with a smile to return back the thrash talk.
When it comes to bot lane opposition at Worlds 2021, Teddy is looking at the LPL teams, whose bold plays and fearless mentality stand out in his mind. The LCK might be reigning champions, but in many pundits' eyes, the LPL is still the strongest region.
"I think bold plays are great. They are somewhat similar to my ideal plays but with a few differences. I agree that players have to make bold decisions but I think there are too many attempts [in the LPL]. I'd think, 'Isn't that too much?' from time to time, watching LPL teams.
"I want to face Viper and GALA. I have some expectations, especially for Viper. I've always thought he was a great player, even before he joined EDG. He also showed the most Viper-like plays in the LPL finals."
"Last time, we lost in the semifinals," Teddy said at the end of the interview. "So if we make it to the finals, wouldn't I be somewhat satisfied at least? It is a step forward from the last one. I will do my best to prepare well for the meta and perform well. We are all doing our best."