2019. The year is no more than any other year, but it’s kind of different to Han “Peanut” Wang-ho and Choi “Doran” Hyeon-joon. Before this point, Peanut hit the peak of his career, playing for ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1, but he fell in a slump in 2019, as the jungler of Gen.G. To Doran, it was his debut year. Doran shed tears when the team lost because of his mistake. Although he started the majority of the summer season, aiding Griffin to Worlds, but he wasn’t able to play a single game at the World Championship.
The year 2019 was a regretful year for Peanut and Doran, and they met in Gen.G, ahead of 2022. Peanut returned to his old team, being reunited with Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk, and Doran was reunited with his Griffin buddies, Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon and Son “Lehends” Si-woo. Although the paths Peanut and Doran took were different, they both overcame their difficult year and matured. How did they change from 2019 to 2022? Their attitudes heading into 2022 were somewhat different from that of 2019.
What have you been up to before getting together with the team?
Peanut: I haven’t been moving around much because of the pandemic. I was eliminated in the regional qualifiers, so I had some spare time. I got vaccinated and got my driver’s license during that time. I also had a trip to Jeju island, and besides that, I mostly spent time with my parents and family.
Doran: I also had quite some spare time, and I focused on maintaining my condition. I improved my posture, and kept my gaming form playing solo queue.
What did you think when you heard that you two were being interviewed together?
Peanut: I thought we got close already, but it seems Doran thinks otherwise. [Laughs]
Doran: I wanted to be close with Peanut too, but sometimes when he gives me pressure… I’m still alright though.
Peanut: I don’t think I gave him too much pressure, but Doran’s lifestyle needs a bit of improvement. All I said was, “Let’s not snack too much.”
Both of you have been reunited with former teammates. Do you think your teamwork and team synergy is better than playing in a completely new team?
Peanut: The Griffin trio’s synergy is really good, and the five of us, including Ruler and me, build better synergy. It’s really positive right now.
(To Peanut) Nongshim RedForce’s top side’s laning was considered weak, but in Gen.G, it’s the opposite. What kind of plays do you want to make?
Peanut: Even when I was in Nongshim RedForce, I thought Chovy and Doran were very strong laners. Especially in the laning phase. After coming together in Gen.G, and as we scrimmed on the same team, my evaluations towards them got even higher. They really don’t miss the details. So now I can try a lot of the plays that I’ve thought of. It’s great that I could attempt many different things.
On the other hand, Doran, Chovy, and Ruler all are strong laners. Although they are really strong now, you never know what’ll happen in official games. After all, all the opponents are also pro gamers. I think it’s more important to win the game, even when the laners lose lane. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter to me if the laners fall behind a bit in the laning phase. I’ve played a lot of those games, so I hope they don’t feel too pressured.
You’ve returned to Gen.G. There aren’t that many cases where players return to their old teams. How did you return?
Peanut: I came back through a trade, so I didn’t know how the roster would turn out. I just hoped everything works out fine, but it was even better for me when my teammates turned out to be much better than I hoped.
Although you were at the top for a while, you fell in a slump while playing for Gen.G. How are you different from back then?
Peanut: When I meet up with my friends, they ask me what happened in 2019. If I think back, I think things were beyond my ability. My own prowess was declining as well. I really hit an iceberg in 2019, and I really didn’t know how to overcome my slump.
However, I was able to break my limits after going to China. In China, it’s all different, starting from the environment. The atmosphere allows attempting new things without hesitation. When LPL was doing well, Korean team coaches said, “Don’t be afraid of dying and keep trying stuff,” but it really didn’t work out. When we made plays that were out of the ordinary, the ordinary loomed in someone’s head and we actually didn’t change much.
When I played in the LPL, the whole team was open-minded to change, so I played really comfortably, thinking that I really could play out of the norm. Although the feedback was about the mistakes we made during games, we focused more on how we could maximize our strengths to pull off that strategy. Obviously, I got lucky with the team as well. The LGD players’ personalities were really good.
You’ve known Score for a long time, and played against him. He’s the head coach now. You’ve been through a lot of different coaches. How do you evaluate him?
Peanut: In 2019, people wondered who would go to the relegation match, Peanut or Score. Thinking of that, time really flies. There’s something I say very often recently: “You never know what’ll happen.” I have had that thought in my mind for a while, and I feel that more than ever now.
We haven’t scrimmed too much yet, so I can’t really say about his coaching, but one thing for sure is that I know how detailed Score’s jungling is. He’s a big help, and since he’s a jungler, he understands junglers’ minds more.
I heard you got close with Khan as you both headed to the LPL in 2020. What did you think seeing him retire?
Peanut: I spoke with Khan a lot when we were in the LPL, and a lot in 2021 as well. When he said that he was retiring, I didn’t feel much emotion, but when I watched the finals at Worlds, I got sad. It was even more saddening as I watched them being interviewed in a bright mood. Even if Khan’s mentality is great, he’s a very competitive person. Since I know that, I choked up seeing him talking in such a calm manner. I thought to myself, if I lost my last match in my last competition, I wouldn’t be able to have that interview like he did.
(To Doran) You’ve been reunited with Chovy and Lehends. Have you ever talked about playing together again?
Doran: When we parted ways in Griffin, we did say that we should gather again sometime if we had the chance. We didn’t really talk about it during this stove league, but we were reunited like this. Chovy and Lehends always have been good players, and since I’ve already played with them before, I feel comfortable. They’re still amazing players.
Your former teammates, Tarzan and Viper, got good results at Worlds. What did you think watching them?
Doran: I wanted to congratulate them for doing so well on the international stage. On the other hand, I was really jealous of them.
As a top laner, is it really comfortable if you play with a good jungler? How was it practicing with Peanut?
Doran: Peanut is good, but my other teammates are all good too. So my game got much more comfortable. Recently, I feel comfortable playing. The games flow very naturally.
I heard that general manager Lee Ji-hoon went to Changwon to meet you and your family to persuade you. When did you decide to join Gen.G?
Doran: First, I felt that Gen.G evaluated me very highly. They contacted me early, so I thought that was their way of showing their faith in me. He said that there will be great teammates, so I decided to join Gen.G. From my first encounter with Gen.G, I had a positive vibe, and Lee Ji-hoon came to Changwon to seal the deal. That’s when I really made up my mind.
Many fans say that Gen.G’s roster is the strongest going into the next season. What do you think?
Doran: Our scrim results are pretty good, but it’s too early to judge because other teams aren’t as ready yet. As for us, we’ve only been scrimming for about 10 days, so I think we’d need to play more to be sure.
Peanut: Since we have Doran, our roster is awesome. [Laughs] The evaluations towards our roster could be half right and half wrong. All the LCK teams are very competitive, not just us Gen.G.
What do you think about the preseason changes?
Peanut: In last year’s preseason, they made Mythic items. It was a completely new system, and I thought it didn’t change as much this season. The dragon changes and some item changes were new to me. In the jungle, except for the Scuttle Crab changes, it’s not that different.
Doran: There are new champions that appear in the top lane, but they appeared from time to time before, so I don’t feel it changed too much up to now. First Strike Jayce or Viktor appear a lot these days, but I feel that First Strike isn’t always the best choice — it depends on the situation. I felt it’s not as good as the old Kleptomancy. As for the whole game, I think the dragon changes will have some effect.
What was the most regretful about last season? What do you want to resolve in Gen.G?
Peanut: It wouldn’t be only me, it would be the same with all the pro gamers. The regrets about my results are the biggest. I want to resolve that.
Doran: In 2021, aside from the results, I wanted to be recognized as a good top laner. But it was regretful that there were parts that I lacked. I think I was alright in laning and teamfights, but the details were regretful. I feel that I should show something next year.
There had been sort of a meme for Gen.G: if people have high hopes for the team, the results aren’t that good. Should fans look forward to Gen.G’s 2022?
Peanut: Well, I’ll do my best. Doran will solve everything. [Laughs] I think that’s all I can say, that I’ll do my best.
Doran: A lot of pro gamers like having high expectations and getting attention. I don’t think any of us will feel pressure from that. Please look forward to our performance.
Any last comments to the fans that are looking forward to Gen.G, Peanut, and Doran’s 2022?
Peanut: As much as you look forward to our performance, I’ll work hard to keep up with the expectations. I’ll be preparing for the matches well. Sometimes, pressure is good, but if it’s too much, it could have a negative effect. Since it’s a competition among pro gamers, there will be days that we lose as well. If you’re easygoing on us on those days, I think we’ll be able to play better through that positive environment.
Doran: I think our team will attract a lot of attention next year. I’ll do my best so that I could repay you for giving us all your attention.