Nine years running without a break: What drives Deft still?

I still remember the day I talked to Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu two years ago, in a small cafe near DRX’s team facility. Deft’s calm, relaxed voice and mild way of speaking perfectly complemented his mature answers and views. At that time, Deft had a seven-year-long career, which had molded him from a child into a revered leader.


When I talked to him again this month, two years later, Deft seemed the same at first but already early in our interview I realized he had drastically changed. It wasn’t so much about his skills as a pro gamer improving, but rather his behavior and mindset having almost reached Nirvana. 


Now, nine years later since his first pro match — a comparable career length to that of Lee “Faker” Sang-heyok — and at what many would consider the zenith of his career, Deft talked to Inven about what keeps him hungry and motivated.

Advocates vs Accusers? All for the team

“During the vacation, I thought a lot about what I did and didn’t do well during the Spring Season, but I wasn’t able to come up with much about the former. There were so many areas where I lacked as an individual, and on team-levle too. That was so regretful. I should have been able to lead my team in a better direction, but I wasn’t able to do all that I could have done.


I have no doubts about my teammates’ individual prowess — I didn’t doubt them during the season, and I don’t doubt them now. So I hope we can become more of a team that looks like… a team. During the Spring split, we weren’t able to be “advocates” for each other. We should have been able to make up for each other’s mistakes, but it didn’t work out well.


Rather than advocates, we were like accusers [or “prosecutors” — Ed.] — we kept pointing out each other’s mistakes. Both styles have their pros and cons. When we act like prosecutors, we can specifically locate a player’s mistake and improve that, but if the feedback is focused on one person, it doesn’t help the other players much. When it’s a match between top tier teams, I don’t think this is a good method. To compete among the top tier teams, team players should become advocates for one another.”



Back to DRX

“I returned to DRX after a year, and everything changed for the better. The environment improved systematically so that players could focus more on the game. Also, I was able to act as the captain of the team more conveniently than before, thanks to the help of the coaching staff and BeryL. In Summer, I’ll find something that I can do better than them and serve my teammates better.


I don’t think Kingen and Zeka would lose in lane against anyone. They also look incredibly strong in real life, I don’t think they’ll lose IRL fights either. [Laughs] Pyosik has always been good and has a great personality, so we really need him on the team. BeryL has a clear line between in-game and real life. Even if there was an uncomfortable situation in-game, he instantly returned to the friendly dumb pal in real life.


Whether fans said I played well or bad, I personally thought that my skill level was always similar. I think their evaluations change depending on how perfect I make my team.”

Postponed Asian Games

“The teams or players that have played well recently should be selected for the Asian Games roster, so it was an honor for me to have just been selected as a candidate. Now that it has been postponed, it doesn’t really matter anymore. I actually had a chance, but my own performance wasn’t as good by my own standards.


If I were retired, I would have thought that Gumayusi being confident is really cool, but I was a player standing next to him, competing against him. So for now, I’m thinking, ‘I can play better.’ [Laughs] Keria was a player that has always been better than awesome. I’ve always known he’d become such a great support.”

The story of Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu

“The first time I played LoL was in 2011 on the NA server. It was the first MOVA I ever played, and it was really new to me. I remember I was the worst player among my friends, so I tried really hard to improve my skills. [Laughs] Maybe my rank climbed constantly because of that, but I didn’t think about going pro back then.


While I was climbing, one day there started to be pro gamers in my games. One of the pro players asked me if I wanted to become a pro player, and at that moment, I felt it. I felt that I should do this.


Ever since I was young, I hated losing at anything. Although not to the same degree as back then, I’m still quite competitive. When I have a long win streak in solo queue, it’s not fun if my skill heavily outmatches that of my opponent. On the other hand, if I fall into a losing streak, I get much more motivated and keep on playing.



I did suffer from a back ailment, but now it’s almost as good as new. It doesn’t affect my practice or games anymore. Before I started suffering from it, I used to think that my body recovers over a night’s sleep, but I found out that doesn’t work anymore, so I try to stay fit. I don’t wantonly practice anymore.


It’s really hard to pick one support that’s the most memorable, but if I had to, I’d pick Mata. He influenced me much both in-game and out of the game. Mata really talked about LoL 24/7 or watched something about LoL. While I played with him in KT Rolster for two years, there were difficult times and hard memories, but it was really fun.


The most memorable moment in my career is when I was in EDG. Before I returned to the LCK, there was an LPL award ceremony. I remember so many fans chanting my name. EDG winning Worlds last year made me recall that moment. I knew that Meiko and Scout deserved to win, so I congratulated them. At the same time, I felt complicated looking at where I was.

Inevitable retirement

“Until last year, I thought there was nothing else I could do but be a pro gamer, and I wanted to play more. But now, maybe because I’ve accepted everything and laid it down, I feel more comfortable. I just want to show everything I’ve got before I leave.


My goal is still to win Worlds as a player or as a coach, but I also know that it isn’t something I can do if I want to. If I objectively feel that I could become one of the best coaches, then I’ll become a coach. I don’t want to be one of the “common” coaches.


When I saw old teammates taking new steps in their lives after retirement, I thought my day will come someday. And I do feel that much time has passed. Looking back, there is no season without any regrets, but I believe these memories will one day become happy memories down the way.”

What keeps Deft going 

“There are many things, but the fans’ cheers and support are what keep me up. There are many things I’ve done as a pro gamer, and I believe that stacked with the fans’ faith in me. I do not want to break that faith.


I feel that there isn’t much time left in my career, but there’s a big difference between “not much time” and “no time”. I want to do my best so that I can show what the fans and I both want to see in my remaining time.”

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