Several players returned to the LCS this year, and among them, I remember having a deep talk with Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyun. Last year, we talked about his return to NA over some chicken and beer. At that time, he was returning to NA in an amateur team, Wildcard Gaming. It wasn't certain that he'd be back on the big stages. However, over a year, Arrow managed to join an LCS team. It began in the academy, but he reached the LCS Arena, playing most of the latter half of the spring season. I knew I had to talk to him again, and over Discord, we talked about his past year.
It’s been a bit over a year since we met eating chicken. How have you been?
I started the season in Immortals Academy and then had some time in the LCS, so I’ve been pretty good. However, my results weren’t that good. I’ve been alright, but it’s a bummer that I didn’t play that well.
In our last interview, you mentioned that you wanted to play board games with your teammates. Did you play?
[Laughs] We did play a few times. I bought some games and played with my uncle’s family, with my cousins too. Board games are fun. It was good to refresh and get closer to my teammates.
You also mentioned that you missed Ssumday. Did you see him?
The pandemic is still around, and we were busy in our own spot so we weren’t able to meet up often. As for me, I wanted to get back into the LCS, so I worked hard. We met up about once. We would have been able to meet up during the season, but since I was in the academy team, the schedule was off. When we play, LCS is on a break; when LCS plays, we’re on a break.
You did get back to the LCS, from Wildcard Gaming. How was the process?
In Wildcard Gaming, we played in an amateur league. We didn’t really gather in one place — we just played online. It was like when I played online before my debut. We didn’t have a team house or anything, and all the matches were just played online. I played a few tournaments there and then joined the Immortals academy.
The results in Wildcard Gaming were pretty good, and you ended up 5-6th at Proving Grounds. How was that experience?
They were tournaments that amateur players played in. My teammates were amateurs as well, but it was kind of different, since they were pro players that didn’t have a team — they’re not completely amateurs. That’s probably why we did well.
I had a pretty long break, so those were like warm-up tournaments for me. It did help in getting used to playing competitive LoL. It may not have been as effective as playing in the LCS or academy, but it was much more helpful than solo queue. At that time, we only lost to the main academy teams from the LCS. We could have won those too, but…
Anyways, you got to join Immortals Academy after that.
After Proving Grounds, I looked for LCS teams here and there, and I joined Immortals Academy after some thought.
How is the LCS academy?
It’s kind of like the LCK Challengers — a minor league. The difference between the LCS and academy used to be really big, but it’s really close now. The best academy teams are as good as or even better than low LCS teams. All the teams are different, and there are teams trying to bring up young talent too.
You also got to play in the LCS for a while in Spring.
I was working hard in the academy team, practicing and doing my stuff, and the coaching staff discussed calling me up. I was given an opportunity, so I took it, but the result wasn’t really good. The team didn’t play that well… It would have been awesome if I did well as soon as I was called up, though.
I actually didn’t think I would have been called up so early; I just thought if I worked hard and do well in the academy team, I would get a chance some day. I assumed I’d be called up even later in the season. Maybe at the end. If I won a lot through that chance, it would have been great, but the results weren’t good.
Why do you think Immortals didn’t play too well when you returned to the LCS?
Simply, we weren’t very good as a team. I didn’t do that well either, but everyone underperformed. There were so many games that we should have won but lost, so everyone’s mentality was shredded. That continued, so we had a bad run.
Results aside, it had been quite a long time since you played on the LCS stage. How was it?
I did play at the LCS arena, but it was kind of tiring because of COVID. We had to get tested before game day and even four hours in advance on game day. And we had to do it every game. That was kind of exhausting.
Playing on stage was really good and fun, it’s just that I didn’t play as well as I should have played, so the results were kind of stressful for me. Still, getting back on that stage was somewhat new to me, and I was happy to be back. It was unfortunate that there weren’t any fans there, but hopefully in the summer, they’ll be back. I hope I can feel that atmosphere again.
For me, I was rather sad during Spring. In the beginning, when I joined the academy team, I was really happy. Everyone worked hard, the coaches were good and they had much game knowledge, but when I was called up to the LCS team, the results were quite bad. I thought, “Maybe if I were called up together with the academy support.” [Laughs] It’s all in the past now, but it’s a bummer.
You’re a seasoned veteran. Do you often give advice to your younger teammates?
Yes. I talk about what’s important in the game and about the mindset. The players all have their own styles, so I try to talk about that. I talked the most with Joey since he was my support and we are roommates.
We mostly talk about the game, what to think about when we’re playing, what to keep an eye on, or about the flow of the game and plays. We watch important games we should watch together, like LCK games.
So the talks are mostly constructive debates to improve in-game?
Yeah. Out of the game, I talk about managing mentality. When you play a team game, you sometimes get stressed, and that stress affects individual performance. I try to help in those areas, telling them to avoid getting stressed, but of course, it’s easier said than done. [Laughs]
How about you? Do you get stressed when the results aren’t good?
I get stressed a LOT. When I lose, I get sad, but what can I do? A loss is a loss. I try not to dwell on the loss, though.
You’re one of the oldest active players now. What do you think about the aging curve?
I do think it exists, but I don’t think it’s that severe. I don’t think I’ve seen a player’s performance drop drastically due to age yet. It gets harder every year, that’s for sure — I do have to think more and play more strategically, but I don’t think it’s an aging curve. The younger players have better reflexes and mechanics, for sure, but in LoL, knowing how to play out the game is more important.
Evil Geniuses defeated all the teams in the playoffs to win the championship. You’ve played against them — what do you think about them?
They’re a well-balanced team. Danny and jojopyun are like fresh fish jumping all around. Maybe they’re more like young sheep, and the veterans that lead them are shepherds. It’s really difficult to find such young talent. They’re rough gemstones, waiting to be processed. While the fresh, young energetic rookies are jumping around, Impact is as he always was, solid, in the top lane. Vulcan and Inspired see the game widely too. That’s probably why their teamwork is so good. To make them even stronger, the rookies improved through the season.
They’re playing at the MSI in Busan. How do you think EG will do?
Jojopyun falls rather often in the early game, but EG are a team that can make up for it moving forward. I don’t think they’ll get exceptionally good results — they did lose to EU. EG are a team that I want to cheer for. It’s not that I think they’ll play well like T1, but I still do have high expectations for them.
As a player who’s playing in NA, I want to see them win a lot. I sincerely hope they do well. For now, EU does seem better. [Laughs] Maybe EG will do better in the long run? There’s still hope.
The time difference should make it difficult for you to watch MSI. Have you been watching all the games?
I watch the early games, but it gets way too late from the third or fourth game, so I fall asleep. [Laughs]
Are there any teams or players you’re keeping an eye on?
First, it’s NA and EU. I’ve been watching EG and G2 closely, and I always watch T1. I mainly focus on the strong teams. Besides them, I watch teams that have Korean players — like AZE 5kid, and DFM Steal. Steal and I were both on KT a long time ago. He’s been to Europe and moved on to Japan. It seems that he’s doing really well.
Do you contact old teammates often?
I actually don’t. [Laughs] I just think no news is good news.
IgNar joined Immortals, and you’ve probably seen him and played against him in the LCS. What do you think?
I might get a chance to play with him. I remember IgNar had good results when he played with PowerofEvil. I believe that they’ll create a good synergy. Frankly, I can’t really predict the results — I think they have a good chance to be on the mid-upper side of the standings.
What’s your goal for the next season?
I’d like to focus more on my own performance so that I can show everyone that I’m capable of playing well. The academy players are better than people may think, and I need to reach the top there to get a better chance to get back up. I’ll be playing with that mindset. If I return to the LCS, I want to stay there, but things don’t always happen the way you want them to happen, right? [Laughs] I just want to do my best while staying healthy.