The former NA LCS MVP is returning to the league. Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae had a glorious debut in the NA LCS. Afterward, he returned to Korea for a while to improve. His time away awarded him a championship in the LCK. Spending a whole year with veteran players, Rush learned quite a lot both in and out of the gaming scene.
It hasn’t been long since Rush returned to the US so he had a lot of things to do, starting from figuring out a place to stay, practicing, and reviving the English skills he began to forget. He squeezed in some time for an interview during his busy schedule.
You’ve returned to the LCS. Would you like to say hello to the fans?
I know that many of you cheered me on and supported me from afar. I’d like to thank you for that. During 2017 and 2018, I wanted to improve as a player in Korea, and now I’m back.
You debuted in NA and were given the MVP award here. As you said, you went to Korea to improve. What did you improve most on, and what did you learn?
The last performance the NA fans remember of me was in 2016. During 2017, I felt that I was far behind many of the players in the LCK and I practiced on my own a lot. There were offers from other countries, but I wanted to see what it's like to be a pro player in the LCK so I took a break from pro play and practiced.
I got to join KT in 2018, and although I didn’t have many chances to play on stage, I think I improved a lot as a player and as a person as well. I had the opportunity to play with veteran players like Smeb, Score, and Mata. Even Deft and PawN; they are players that have a long career and I was able to learn their expertise and their perspectives on the game.
Also, when I was in the NA LCS, I was kind of the main player of the team so the team game was centered around me and I was lacking when it came to moving or playing as a team. In KT, I was able to learn to look at the big picture and how to become more of a team player.
So before, you were more aggressive and fearless, but now you’ve learned to play the team game more.
Putting it that way may make it sound that I’ve become passive, but I haven’t. Before, I used to make decisions depending on whether I can make a play or not, but now, I consider other teammates’ situations more than before. I’ve learned to look at different perspectives of the game and positions and now I can make even more openings.
You’ve been playing with Score. He’s a very talented player with such a long career. What did you learn from him?
Personally, I think Score was the best jungler of 2018. Probably most people do. Although we were competing for the starting position in the same team, he was an extremely skilled and versatile player and was very good at fitting himself into the team. Even among the players of KT who all have unique personalities, he didn’t lose his style and brought the team together.
They say that the jungler should play around the carry lanes in a team game. Score was a first generation gamer. He played as a top laner and in the bot lane as well. Since the jungle and mid lane are one, you can say he experienced all lanes. So he has a very good understanding of all lanes.
When I first started, I only thought of myself. I was very simple, thinking ‘we’re pushing lane, the opponent laner’s HP is low; I can dive since I’m strong’, or ‘that guy’s pushing so far out so fearlessly; I’ll make him pay’. I was concentrating on my own mechanics thinking of how to hit skills or how to track down enemies to kill them. But while I was with Score, I gained more comprehension on the entire team game situation.
Although you didn’t have that much play time, you did become an LCK champion. There should be things you contributed to the team that people can’t see.
Even if Score and the other players are extremely good and are world class players, if they’re human, they can’t be perfect. I praised Score a lot, but I can also think of and see things that he can’t, and there are some of my own strengths as well. I shared my thoughts on the game and the jungler position so that we could both improve.
Other than that, I have a trait that makes people feel comfortable when they talk to me. Others tend to tell me things they find hard to tell others. I think I contributed to the team in that way.
League of Legends may be a team game, but the players aren’t always friends with their teammates. In my case, I become good, close friends with my teammates rather than just thinking of them as colleagues. Because of that, the whole team style becomes more open and we can talk about things more freely, and this is a good chance to improve as a team.
You’re back in NA now. What was the main reason that you returned?
First, I did learn a lot while I was in KT and in the LCK. However, as long as Score was there, he was always a better fit for the team. He’s been in the team for so long and understands how everything is better than anyone else.
Also, I’m not a player that has a big influence in the LCK; I wanted to see what I can do with the improvements I made during the last two years. Wherever I go, I wanted to play according to my thoughts and improve with the team I join, so I was looking for a team where I could be the leader. NA was the best place to come for that.
During the offseason, there were offers from all regions; the LCS, LEC, LCK… It’s not that the LCS offered the largest amount of money; I thought the possibility of players following my lead was the highest in the NA so I decided to join the LCS.
Among the many teams of the LCS, why did you pick Echo Fox?
I put in a lot of thought about joining Echo Fox. It’s a team that’s completely rebuilding and restarting, so the team isn’t stable. But I heard that Fenix would be joining and since Apollo, who was a teammate while I was in TiP, is also in the team. Since there are players that I know a bit, I thought we would improve quickly even if we’re practically a new team.
I thought that this team was a team that I can become a leader of. Even if we don’t do well, it seemed that this team could overcome the hard times to improve more; it felt like a productive team.
So all members of Echo Fox have changed. You’re starting from ground zero. How is it so far?
As a new team, we obviously struggle a lot. However, it’s not that we’re far behind. All these players are good players. Although we may lack in some areas, there are things that we are good at. Like we're lacking macro but our micro is really good. There are strengths and weaknesses that can be overcome. Even if it’s from ground zero, I believe we’ll do well.
It’s not been too long, but as you said, you wanted to be a leader. How is it going?
I think it’s going pretty well. Other players listen closely when I say something. It’s not that I play selfishly; I try to harmonize the other players’ thoughts with my thoughts and make decisions accordingly.
Scrims have been happening. Is there a team or jungler that you’re keeping an eye on?
Not really. I know that people are rating our team low, but even when we scrim against the so-called ‘strong teams’, we don’t fall that far behind. The more we play, the more it seems that we have a good chance. Even if it’s a strong team, they have weaknesses. The scrims make me feel that if I do well, our team will do well.
As for other junglers; I don’t think about my opponents that much. It’s not that I’m trying to avoid answering your question. (Laughs) I just think that if I make the plays I seek well, I will win. Up till now, there haven’t been any opponents that make me feel extremely uncomfortable or opponents that seem really good. I just concentrate on my own plays.
As you said, Apollo is an old teammate from TiP. Is it helpful that you're both together?
Yes. We know each others’ personalities and we’re used to each other. We talk about things we can improve on without worrying about hurting each others’ feelings. We both know that we can help each other positively and improve.
I watched you stream the other day; it seems that your English is really good.
Still, I think I have a long way to go when it comes to my English skills. When I speak Korean, I talk really fast, but when I use English, I can’t say things as fast as I can in Korean. It’s difficult when I need to translate what I want to say in my head when I want to say so many things.
Actually, I think if I speak slowly, I can talk really well, but in games, those short seconds are really important. In those situations, if my head is struggling to find the right words to blurt out, I get irritated with myself. I may be better than some Korean players, but I still need to improve.
So I try to stream more, of course in English. Since I haven’t used English much in the past two years, I need to bring it out more.
What did you try to improve the most during the offseason?
Before, I thought all I needed to do as a pro gamer was play the game well. I thought all the communication skills I need were just for in-game communication, but after being in Korea and returning here, I began to think that communication skills are really important. Not just in-game. So I tried to improve my English the most.
I gave a lot of thought of to how I should express my thoughts in game, how to deliver what I think so that the other players understand exactly what I’m thinking. I concentrated on that the most, rather than trying to improve my prowess.
Also, I tried to make a good environment for the team so that we can all improve together. On that front, I think we’ve already improved a lot.
The mid-jungle synergy is really important. How is it when playing with Fenix?
Up to now, we both have strong characteristics and different styles. So we’re doing our best to fit in with each other’s styles while we play together. When we play games, even if we’re doing well, there are times where we lack connection. Since we’re playing a team game, we need to coordinate our thoughts, but there are things that we need to figure out. We’re working on that. It’s a lot better already than the beginning, but not perfect yet. If we pull this together, I think we’ll become a very solid team.
Lastly, a word for the NA fans?
I know there should be fans that were disappointed in me because I disappeared after 2016. There may be some fans that hoped I would come back, and I’m back. You know, back then, I was awarded MVP, now I’m even better. (Laughs) You can look forward to what I can accomplish this time.
Did you know you’re still extremely popular in NA and on Reddit? Your viewership on Twitch is pretty good too.
Actually, I enjoy reading the community reactions, but I was grinding in Korea to improve; I didn’t have enough time to read the Reddit reactions. I also felt kind of guilty reading Reddit because I left the NA fans so I felt too sorry to read it. (Laughs) Anyways, I’m very thankful that the fans still remember me and support me after all this time.