NA Challenger Series is currently undergoing the most important summer season. Since Riot announced franchising via 2017 NA LCS Evolution as well as the reboot of NA CS to Academy League, this summer season will be the last chance to join NA LCS for Challenger teams.
We caught up with members of Gold Coin United, one of the NA Challenger teams and were able to hear about the synergy between old friend Mingi “Madlife” Hong and his new ADC partner Richard “Rikara” Oh.
Additionally, we got a glimpse into Youngjun “Fly” Song’s new life on GCU after transferring from Longzhu Gaming this summer. How are they adapting to lives in the US? Does Fly have a message to his old teammates in Longzhu? Here’s what they had to say.
Q. [To Madlife] You’ve already finished one season since you transferred to NA. Do you feel you’re completely assimilated now?
As far as living goes, it’s much more comfortable here than Korea. I don’t have to worry about the weather, and life in general is pretty convenient despite what I’ve previously thought. I got used to the temperature difference between day and night, and I’ve been eating well, thanks to Koreatown nearby.
Gameplay-wise though, we had many issues at first. Support players have to speak a lot, and I was frustrated because of language barrier. I think we’re in a good shape because we worked on those aspects as the season went on. Last season’s result could been better, but I plan to work harder this summer.
Q. [To Madlife] Your ADC partner is Korean-American. How’s the coordination with him?
I briefly played with Rikara in spring and really started to practice together this summer. Since he’s a new player, I taught him about various aspects of the game and also asked him to tell me if there was anything he needed me to do. I’m a little irritated that he doesn’t readily say what he needs, though. [Laughs]
Rikara doesn’t speak Korean that well, but he can understand it very well. It’s convenient for me because I can easily tell him in Korean what I want to do in lane phase. We all communicate in English once the game is in macro phase.
Q. [To Rikara] Since you’re a new player, how does it feel to partner with Madlife? Do you think you’ve learned a thing or two?
I was a bit terrified at first. Before I went pro, my friends and I used to joke about being “Madlife good” whenever someone connects a skillshot or something. And now I get to play games with the man himself! [Laughs] We’ve gotten closer since, and I can now play without feeling pressured. I’ve learned so much from Madlife for the past 2 months. I can feel that I’ve improved a lot.
Q. [To Rikara] Do you remember any fun moments while living with Madlife?
Madlife understands English pretty well now, though he doesn’t speak it as well. I can understand Korean but can’t really speak the language. So, he and I work together to be an interpreter for the rest of the team in the game.
Q. [To Fly] What a nice surprise to see you in America. How did you get to come to GCU? How do you like it here and how’s your English?
I’m at loss for words when it comes to English. I initially thought I was going to take some time off when I left my previous team, but Locodoco’s persistent offer changed my mind. I think I’ve adjusted well in most aspects like the new time zone. I just have to work on my English.
Q. [To Fly] How’s the practice environment and the general team atmosphere?
I think I practice harder than I did in Korea. What I like it about here is that people value punctuality. I like it when they show up on time.
Q. [To Fly] GCU almost made it through promotion last season. I’m sure the team has high hopes now that you’re here. Do you think the pressure will get to you?
I don’t really feel that pressured. I don’t yet have a clear idea of what I’m doing and don’t know CS players, so I just make up plays as I go along. I don’t worry too much because we somehow end up winning.
Q. [To Rikara] How do you feel about playing with Fly?
I’m not concerned at all about his performance because he’s always been impressive in scrims. Since he and I are both in carry roles, I tend to push myself harder to keep up with him.
Q. [To Fly] I heard you’ve been in the US for a couple weeks. Did you do anything interesting during that time?
I take a nap, play solo queue, sleep, and scrim. Rinse and repeat. I play Battlegrounds with people and practice speaking English on off-days. I’ve been to Santa Monica Beach once. I’m not an outdoor type of person, so I didn’t go out much.
Q. [To Fly] Have you gotten any advice from other Korean players in LCS?
I’ve talked to Ssumday and Arrow. They told me to find a good team. They also wished to see me next year in LCS.
Q. [To Fly] Arrow has been playing well and was named MVP in the spring split.
He flaunted about that. I guess he’s been doing well, wearing that red underwear of his. He gets along with anyone.
Q. [To Madlife] You’ve been in the states for almost 6 months. Have you been to any place fun since joining the team?
In spring season, we went out to fancy restaurants and had barbecues like I did in Korea. Some of the dishes didn’t taste right for me, though. A couple days ago, I went to a Chinese place with a few teammates including Locodoco and got some Korean style food. We always get our food delivered, but I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat delivery food anymore after having a meal at that restaurant. We eat ramen and Korean shaved ice dessert together after practice. I’d like to go to an arcade next time. I’ve been wanting to go but didn’t have a chance in 6 months.
Q. [To Madlife] One season has passed since you’ve left LCK. Do you miss your fans?
After I terminated the contract, I had many things in my mind while looking for foreign teams. Fans will be sad to see me go overseas, and so was I. Despite the concerns, I thought I should do what my heart tells me. I’m trying to interact with my fans more. I’m on social media and looking for other ways to fill the need.
Q. Could you tell us about your mindset for this season?
Madlife: We got so close to being promoted in spring. I’ll use that stage experience to move on to LCS this summer season with Fly.
Fly: My utmost goal is promotion. It’s my first time changing teams twice within a year. It feels odd for something like this to happen to me. Though it’s first time, I’ll make sure to get promoted.
Riraka: I love working with my teammates toward promotion. We’ve been playing really well, and I’m improving every day. I hope to say hi to the fans on the LCS stage.
After the group interview, we asked Fly for a solo interview. There were many things we’d like to hear from him as former three Longzhu members – Ssong, Fly, and Crash – leaving the team within the same season was something unprecedented in the LCK. We were interested to know if the mass exodus had to do with the organization’s late salary payment.
“I don’t exactly remember. I just know the team atmosphere was at rock bottom as people weren’t getting paid. It happened a couple times. On the day before the opening match, head coach told us for the first time that there were problems and that we weren’t going to be paid. Things went downhill from there.
Players waited for another month because the head coach persuaded us, and we decided that we should at least play games. On February 25th, the company missed salary again. Mood was pretty grim back then.”
Fly recalled more things as he continued his story. He distinctly remembered that February 25th was the day he couldn’t forget because it happened on his birthday.
“We were only a few days away from the end of Round 1. February 25th also happened to be my birthday. It was a birthday I really couldn’t forget. On that day, coach Ssong said he was leaving and left for good. After contracts were signed on March, salary payments were on time. Still, we didn’t move to a new team house, which was something we were promised. My teammates were telling others about how happy they were that they got to move. When the move didn’t happen, team morale suffered and everyone had a difficult time. No one could properly focus on practice.”
Fly seemed apprehensive when he told his story. He wasn’t sure how much he could divulge, so he tried his best to stay with what was already a public knowledge. After he told us what he could, we asked him if he was happy with the current arrangements in America.
“I feel at ease now. I like my new life in US, but I’m a little bothered by the negative words I said in various interviews before I left Longzhu. I’m also sorry to my fans for leaving so abruptly.
I think doing well in NA is the best way to repay my fans. I wish only the best for Longzhu players. I’m actually a little jealous that they’re doing well right now. [Laughs] Still, I’m so happy for them. I wish the best of luck for the players.”