For a lot of gamers, hitting #1 in any one game would be a dream. But Cloud9’s Lee “Portia” Dong-jae has done it many times in many different games, including Hearthstone Constructed, Battlegrounds, Shadowverse, Auto Chess, Teamfight Tactics and even hit Challenger in the KR server of League of Legends. And on top of it all, he is known as the best Wardancer player in Lost Ark.
For the past two years, the talent gamer has been focusing on Hearthstone Battlegrounds, streaming everyday and only taking breaks to cast major tournaments. Inven sat down with Portia to talk about Battlegrounds, Lost Ark, and streaming as a competitive player.
Could you introduce yourself to the readers overseas?
Before, I used to mostly play Hearthstone Constructed. I started streaming when Auto Chess was released, mostly focusing on auto battler genre games. I moved onto TFT and Battlegrounds when they were first released, and even streamed both games from time to time. Now, I stream Battlegrounds as my main game and Lost Ark as a hobby.
You’ve hit #1 in ranked and have won tournaments in many different games throughout your career, but you’ve stayed with Battlegrounds for years now. Why do you like Battlegrounds more than the other games you’ve played?
That was something that I thought about for a long time. I wasn’t able to decide which game I should be playing as the main game for my stream. I once streamed both Battlegrounds and TFT, but playing both games everyday was too difficult and tiring. I could probably play both games as a hobby, but I had to play both of them competitively. I was too stressed out and couldn’t focus on either of the games.
I had to choose one game to focus on. Battlegrounds was less stressful to me — it is a lighter game with shorter playtime. It’s simpler and makes less changes to the game compared to TFT.
Competitive Battlegrounds has consistently been a topic of concern in the western community. Korean Battlegrounds players have got more chances to play in tournaments thanks to the streamers and tournament organizers. As a competitive player and streamer with extensive tournament experience, what do you think about the competitive Battlegrounds?
I would love to see more Battlegrounds tournaments. I think that Battlegrounds is a game that can be successful in the esports scene. In fact, Battlegrounds tournaments are held periodically in Korea, including the recent Oronamin C major and the regular Afreeca invitationals.
Fundamentally, Battlegrounds is fun to watch. I think it’s a great game for streaming because of it’s intuitiveness. Even if you don’t know much about the game, the numbers make the fights intuitive and easy to understand. Deck tracker also calculates the win rates of each battle, making the game easier to understand.
RNG makes the game more exciting because you really can’t expect the results. I died to a 0.2% chance in the tournament against RDU. At the same time, there can be unexpected outplays that could win you the game. For example, if your opponent plays Scallywag combo comp, you could counter it with minions like Voidlord. In the same tournament I died to the 0.2% chance, I won a round by countering Nadina with Rat Pack.
I think it’s important for Blizzard to open more tournaments for the competitive scene to be bigger. It’s disappointing that we don’t have much support from Blizzard yet.
As you said, RNG and skills are what make Battlegrounds fun but also something that players argue about. In your opinion, how much does skill matter in Battlegrounds?
To start with, I don’t think Battlegrounds is as deep as other auto battler games. That does not mean that Battlegrounds is easy, but there are some difficult aspects in other auto batters like scouting what other players are playing and thinking about possible items and synergies.
One of the skills in Battlegrounds is understanding the meta after a new patch and it takes time for players to know which minions are strong. Also, understanding the tempo of each lobby is very important. The fact that Battlegrounds doesn’t show the real-time comp of other players creates a new skill itself because it’s more difficult to decide whether you want to play safe for a top 4 finish or take risks to win the lobby.
So with these two skills combined, I think understanding the meta after the patch to go for the right comp in each lobby is the most important skill in Battlegrounds.
Various formats have been tested for competitive Battlegrounds events. Besides the basic free-for-all format, there were 2v2v2v2 and 4v4 formats. What do you think is the best format for tournaments?
For now, I don’t think 2v2v2v2 and 4v4 tournaments are ideal because they aren’t formats that are supported in the game client. There are some issues that follow when you force teams in a game that doesn’t support them.
However, I think 2v2v2v2 will be very fun if there is in-game support for it. For example, Auto Chess has the 2-player team mode where players can pass their units and items to their teammates. TFT is also getting the same format updated. I think Battlegrounds will be more fun if they can make a new format for it.
As a C9 streamer, you’ve been streaming almost every day for years, only missing a day this year to cast a Battlegrounds tournament. Many streamers, whether they are new or experienced, get easily tired and take long rests. What advice can you give to streamers who want to stream more consistently?
I think the most important thing is not to be too stressed. RNG is a thing in auto battler games and in many other genres. Losing to a bad RNG can cause a lot of stress, especially to competitive players. When I began streaming, I often got tilted from the losses and ended streams early. I think I got used to it as I’ve been streaming for years now.
A lot of gamers begin to stream because they do well competitively. However, streaming will inevitably cause distractions from the game because you will lose some of your focus on streaming and there could also be stream snipers. Some streamers don’t want to show lower ranks on the stream, so they turn off the stream until they restore their rank.
For any player in any game, there will be times when you can’t perform as well as before due to reasons like change in the meta, personal conditions, and RNG. If you’ve streamed for a while and you’ve gained some viewers, those viewers watch you because they like your personality and your stream. Whether you are #1, top 50, or top 100, viewers know that you are a great player. I think it’s important to understand that rank and MMR are not everything.
Now let’s talk about Lost Ark. While you are a competitive Battlegrounds streamer, you’ve been spending your time on Lost Ark a lot, too. What is the charming point of Lost Ark?
Lost Ark is an RPG game about collecting things. There are many things to collect like skill points, Adventurer's Tome, Mokokos, and Island Tokens. You can do these with your friends, too. By collecting these, your character gets stronger.
Compared to other Korean RPG games, playing all the content in Lost Ark is cheaper. By completing daily and weekly quests, you earn items used to upgrade your character. In Lost Ark, these quest rewards are mostly untradeable items that belong to your character. You can enjoy most of the game content only with these rewards. It is a significant merit considering how expensive other Korean RPG games are.
I think the most charming point for Lost Ark is Commander Raids. Most of the Commander Raids are 8-person raids, which require co-op plays. Earning MVP title at the end of each raid is also a great feeling.
Boss raids in many other RPG games can be beaten by upgrading your character enormously to destroy the boss without having to understand it. Lost Ark balanced both character upgrades and understanding boss patterns well as a requirement to finish the raid. Both pay-to-win and free-to-play players can enjoy the game the way they want to. Paying money helps beat the bosses, but understanding the boss is still required.
There is also fun in choosing the path for your character. Most other RPG games have one correct answer that you have to make. Lost Ark also has meta picks, but there are various possibilities you can choose based on your personal favorites. For example, there are many different choices for engravings and tripods.
Is there a class that you want to recommend to the new players?
I recommend playing Martial Artist characters. Martial Artist characters have high health points and armor. They are also well-rounded — they have decent DPS, utility skills, and mobility.
Could you tell us more about your character?
My main character is a Wardancer. As a Martial Artist, the Wardancer has a decent DPS, high health/armor, and the best mobility. It also has the best party synergies. Wardancer is considered a good class on the Korean server. It is the best example of the all-rounder that I would recommend to the new players.