Since 2015, Korean players have been actively joining overseas teams. Many of those same players have also sought admission to SKT T1 and Samsung Galaxy, but the lofty requirements needed to be a member of those teams are not so easily met. During this year’s World Championship, we could see the gap between other regional teams and the Korean teams close to some extent. Further proving this, there were two Chinese teams who made it to the quarterfinals: RNG, a team made up entirely of Chinese players, and WE, who hadn’t made it to the semifinals in 5 years. This elevated the overall power status of the LPL league.
Some attribute WE’s renewed success to their coach. Coach Homme was recruited by Team WE, but initially, his leadership went essentially underappreciated by WE. Eventually, China realized how important it is to have a good coaching staff and started to pay attention to Coach Homme. Thanks to Coach Homme’s consistent and careful guidance, Mystic grew in skill while Xiye came out of his ‘cocoon’ to become an excellent player. Let’s see how Coach Homme changed Team WE for the better.
¤ You have been in China for a considerably long time. What have you been up to?
I have been working in China for a long time since I left Korea. Because moving to a whole different environment requires an extreme amount of effort, I didn’t have an opportunity like this to reach out to my fans.
¤ How were your results in China?
I was working with and was responsible for VG and LGD in 2015. Although LGD successfully made it to Worlds, VG could not get past the qualifying rounds and unfortunately did not produce good results. Afterwards, I joined Team WE and got them to win the LPL and placed them in the quarterfinals for Worlds.
¤ It must not have been easy organizing two teams.
In LGD, there was Imp and other high tier Chinese players. VG, on the other hand, had amateur players on the team. Because they had DanDy and Mata, they could at least get 4th place. At that time, the LPL was based on two premises. Although VG’s objective prowess was rather weak, they did not lose. They would have a clean game against some teams. DanDy and Mata played an important role. People thought DanDy and Mata were rather weak in China, but I disagree. They were right next to me while I was watching them play.
¤ I heard that you learned a lot from China.
Realistically speaking, taking two teams at the same time is nearly impossible. At that time, however, I truly believed I could bring both those teams to win their games. My confidence was at an all-time high as well because it was prior to Worlds. I realized that the job of a coach was not an easy one, from player recruitment to player coordination. If I had not experienced such hardship as a coach back then, I would not have been able to strengthen Team WE to what it is now.
¤ I have often heard stories about Mata being irritable.
These stories have no basis whatsoever. I personally think that what the coaches and players think should be discussed truthfully. I am responsible for processing, and they are responsible for the results. Because of this, we can only go forward as a team if we work together. Maybe, this story/rumor came to fruition because of a misunderstanding from the Chinese fans due to a heated debate on stage.
¤ How were the Korean players leading in China?
Because DanDy and Mata are just very good players, they would alleviate some of the team’s weakness rather than just taking hold of the team. Mystic is really good; however, when he is grabbing CS, he is susceptible to getting attacked by the opponent. If he focused on this weakness, he would become a much better player. Zero is really talented as well. If he constantly tries his best, he will show great results.
¤ What are the differences between Korean and Chinese players?
The culture difference is immense. Korea has a fierce growing competitive society. On the other hand, China is very unfamiliar with this competitiveness. Because of this, it is very difficult to expect good results right off the bat following the recruitment of both players and coaching staff.
¤ Come to think of it, you have succeeded both as a player and coach in China and Korea. What’s your secret?
In the instance of Korea, I don’t think I have a ‘secret’. I never gave up and always tried my best. But then again, everyone is trying as hard as I was. I think that might be the secret of Korea itself. The opportunity to play with the best in the world also attributed to my success.
In the instance of China, I honestly think that the monetary portion is a huge factor. I was a bit salty about this when I first realized it. A part of me was arrogant to admit it. Because of this, before I went to Team WE, I took into account the team’s strengths and the potential of its players. Whether one can do well and exceed their limits is the key to success.
¤ What would you say are Team WE’s strengths?
From the start, they have always been strong in the late game. However, the downside is that in the early game they don’t really do anything. From this point, I started to wonder how it was possible that they could be so strong in the late game but not do anything early. I realized that if I just adjusted their early game, Team WE would be an extremely strong team.
¤ If this is so, why didn’t you sign on again with Team WE?
The first problem was my health. I put everything I had to offer to Team WE. Keeping the position would be too greedy on my part. I have fulfilled my job on Team WE. I now have to find a new team and face a new challenge.
¤ Then what team do you want to work with?
If I were to be greedy, I would want IG. If it had to be a Korean team, I would choose kt Rolster. It was extremely unfortunate for me, as a fan, to see such a great team not be able to make it to Worlds. To some extent, this is all just mostly personal thoughts. I haven’t been contacted by any teams as of yet.
¤ What environment do you think the Chinese teams need in order to be successful at Worlds?
A lot of coaching staff from Korea have implemented a Korean-style system to the Chinese teams, alongside Korean players adjusting well to the Chinese culture. I think that's where the great results came from. Also, Chinese players don’t have that much difficulty going up against Korean players anymore, in terms of individual skill. Looking at a team as a whole, however, the Chinese teams are still incomplete. Because of this, I know that when we face a Korean team, it will be a difficult game.
¤ There are a lot of people saying that the Chinese teams were able to move forward because of the Ardent Censer meta.
It is hard for me to agree to that. That saying states that the Chinese ADC players are better than the Korean ADC players. Instead of saying China had a strict advantage over Korea, it is more correct to say that the Ardent Censer meta nullified some of the Korean team’s strengths. If the Korean teams were able to pull off two executions at once, the Ardent Censer meta made it so that the Koreans were forced to allocate their resources in one place/fight. This resulted in the other regional teams becoming on par with the Korea teams.
¤ There are a lot of discussions here and there, but in the end, the Chinese teams were unable to beat the Korean teams.
In general, Korean teams are really good. To be honest, up to the quarterfinals, the Chinese teams seemed stronger than the Korean ones. However, the Korean teams grew throughout the tournament and perfected the meta as it continues.
¤ Although they’re still the best, what do you think the Korean teams need in order to improve further?
As a Korean myself, I too have great faith in my country’s teams. But, we still need to be aware of the different meta in other regions. They won’t get easily beaten by other teams for now, but I suppose that they could’ve delivered more satisfying performances from the start for the fans if they had prepared in advance, rather than experiencing the new meta and completing it during the duration of the tournament.
¤ Who is the player that you would like to teach personally?
I would like to teach Rookie. Even if you don't live with him, you could probably recognize his skills when you look at his jungler's pathing in a game. You can tell that he frequently talks to his team. His performance is good and so is his communication, but it’s such a shame that he didn’t have any luck with winning the league. I’d like to have experiences with all players who I wasn’t able to be with, in Korea. (How about Uzi?) Um… I doubt there’s anyone who can control Uzi.
¤ Do you have any specific plans for the future?
It may not be right now, but when I return to Korea, I’ll definitely adjust myself to that environment, and if there’s any team that wants me in China, I’ll have a thorough conversation and continue my career as a leader. I’d like to consider this as my personal challenge and look for a team.
¤ Last question; in your opinion, what does it take to be the best coach?
The fans have become more accurate in analysis now, and I agree with most of the problems that they have pointed out in a team. But, the ban-pick strategies are usually done together with players and coaching staff. The coach’s capability shines when you look at his alternative "Plan B" because once the comp you’ve dedicated so much effort to make has crumbled, you need to check the players’ status and make a decision on whether you should trust them one more time or bring out the other card.
Even if it's the players that play the game - and they have a great understanding of the game - there are times when opinions from an outside perspective are more correct, especially with competitions that have a coach such as 'go' or 'soccer'. After all, our job as leaders is to observe and teach. The best coach, therefore, is a person who improves players with all the data they pick up.