The 2022 League of Legends World Championship has only gotten better. The quarterfinals have already shown off two of the best series the tournament has ever had — one of them incredibly meaningful for Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu, who may be competing in his final international event. Despite being one of the best players to ever play the game, the AD carry has struggled to find any success internationally.
For years, he's failed to make it past the quarterfinals of the tournament — a streak that seemed likely to continue versus this year's match against EDward Gaming. After a heartbreaking Game 2 loss that brought them down 0-2, fans and analysts alike saw DRX's chances of winning as remote. However, Deft and co. maintained an unreal sense of determination, and reverse-swept EDG to win the series. Without a doubt, it is one of the best series Worlds has ever had. Inven Global spoke to DRX's coach Kim "Ssong" Sang-soo, and discussed his thoughts on the series, Deft's career, and the surprise performance of Kim "Zeka" Geon-woo.
Thanks so much for talking! That was one of the most exciting sets of the year — give me your general impressions of it.
Yeah, I'm so happy that we won, and I'm especially happy with the fact that we made a reverse-sweep.
It was an incredible comeback — especially after what looked like a very demoralizing loss. What did you and the rest of the coaching staff tell the team after Game 2 for them to come back with a strong victory?
Watching Game 1 and 2, I was pretty sure that our performance was on a better level. And also — looking at their strategy and their compositions — I realized that other than what we actually prepared and saw in practice, we could actually read what they prepared for this matchup in the series. We were able to analyze their moves, so I was pretty sure that as long as we had some adjustments with our draft and had a good discussion before the game, we would be able to secure the wins. I was doing my best to deliver this message.
Was there ever a point that the team seemed discouraged, or did everyone stay determined even at the series' harshest points?
I couldn't really say they were not discouraged at all. They were also feeling the pressure — they were feeling nervous. But our team has a lot of experience with best-of-fives and reverse sweeps. So based on this experience, I knew that they would be able to get through this kind of pressure — they were not too stressed about it. And also, I was pretty confident.
You’ve had a storied career both as a player and a coach. How memorable and significant does tonight represent as far as your career in League of Legends?
Like top three. I was so touched and moved by this win and everything that happened tonight. There were so many ups and downs in our practice — the whole process of our journey getting here. Every player has their own story, and they're so talented. We weren't just going all in for this — we just wanted to leave any regrets behind. They were so determined for this match. And they got to win, so I was so happy. This is such a memorable night for me.
Clearly, Deft was one of the standout players of this series. Give me your initial impressions of Deft's play tonight, as well as perhaps share some of the interactions you had with him throughout the series (and tournament).
Deft and I actually debuted in almost the same year. So I have huge respect for him, with the fact that he's still playing as a professional player. I really want him to do well and accomplish his goal — that was one of my motives. So we had a lot of discussion about this. We want to make sure that he can win and leave with no regrets.
And we wanted to make sure we can actually meet everything he wanted to meet. And then, throughout the five-game series — I cannot really go into all the details about our strategy. But yeah, we just kept thinking of how we can allow him to do what he wants to do in this game, and we were able to make it happen and get the win in the end. So we are so happy.
There’s a lot of discussion that this may be Deft’s last game — you’re someone that has played in the Korean league at the same time as him, and have had the opportunity to coach him. You touched on it briefly, but ignoring the possibility that he continues competing, how do you reflect on his career and what he means to the game?
Yeah, I debuted a little bit earlier than him, but we almost debuted in a similar era. Myself as a player — I also won the title, and I've been at Worlds. I know how hard it is in order to compete at the top level. But throughout the competition, he has been so good at self-discipline, and also has always kept his very positive mentality. So regardless of his age, I think he deserves a lot of respect. And I don't know how things will unfold because of the military duty issue in Korea, but whatever he does in the future, I'm one-hundred percent sure that he will find huge success. And yeah, best of luck in the future.
The last question I had for you is regarding the other standout player of this series: Zeka. Outside of those that actively follow the LCK, he was a pleasant surprise in this series. Give me your impressions of his play, and the future potential you believe he has in the LCK and international competitions.
I remember this interview I had in the Play-In stage. I was like, "He still has so much up his sleeve — so much to show!" He's living up to that expectation. He's doing great, and he's popping off. I'm so proud of him. And also I want to say his performance is not the final version. He still has not met his limits — he has an even higher ceiling. So I see huge potential in him, and he has a lot more to show. So I'm just so excited and looking forward to seeing him in the future as well.
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