Clutch Gaming's opening day victory against Echo Fox was a clinical display of the team's strengths: early game aggression capitalizing on strong mechanics of Top Laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon and Bot Laner Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin to snowball through side lanes.
CG's second game was night and day compared to its first. Huni was solo killed twice by TSM's new Top Laner Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik and was down 0/3 without a tower. Doubters of Clutch Gaming pointed towards Huni's aggression and Piglet's demanding playstyle as an impossible counterbalance, and while Bot Lane managed to edge out a lead, Broken Blade's Aatrox was looming as an impending win condition for TSM.
However, TSM's new roster showed old problems and failed to capitalize on a Mid Lane advantage, and strong Akali play from Tanner "Damonte" Damonte kept CG afloat while Huni scaled up on Viktor. Clutch Gaming slowed the momentum of the game and eventually reversed it, defeating TSM and joining FlyQuest and Team Liquid at the top of the standings with a 2-0 week.
Huni sat down with Inven Global post-game to talk about joining Clutch Gaming, synergizing with LirA, and his growth as a player since returning to North America.
We're here with Huni. Congratulations on your 2-0 week 1, did you expect to perform this well at the beginning of the LCS?
Yeah, I mean, nothing for new Huni's teams in the beginning of the regular season; it's too easy for me. I think one of my strengths is getting along with others quickly.
Our scrims have been pretty tough; we had to get a lot of practice in and work a lot on certain things. We've put in a lot of work for language because that's our biggest issue. We have 3 Koreans on our roster, and even though I can speak English, it's not as good as my Korean. LirA isn't talking that much, and Piglet already doesn't communicate much since he's playing AD Carry.
We have to work on our communication if we want to improve our snowballing. If you want to make a snowball bigger, it's obviously going to require a lot of communication to plan in the moment and the future. I think as soon as we fix that, we're going to be much stronger.
Is your team planning on speaking entirely in English?
We're mostly trying to speak in English, but if it's something really urgent and only concerning me and LirA, we will use Korean sometimes. Saying 'here is a ward' is way faster in Korean.
You've talked about your desire to play with LirA and that being a factor in joining Clutch Gaming. He had a down year in 2018, so what do you think is going to help him return to the top of his game this year?
Even before I joined CG, I heard that LirA really wanted to play with a strong Top Laner who vocalizes a lot. He's not very vocal, so we balance each other out.
When I was playing with Reignover, he would respect me and my opinions and listen to what I had to say and maybe make some judgement. LirA will actually say "no" or "yes" so even though he isn't talking a lot, he knows when to commit. I think we're going to do really well together. He could be the new Reignover.
What was really impressive about your win today was how well CG played when things didn't go as planned. You were behind on Viktor and still managed to turn things around and pull out the win. How was the team able to slow things down and stop the bleeding in such a snowball-centric meta?
I feel like TSM messed up a bit. They didn't really use their top lane priority, and then used Rift Herald up top when it was not at all necessary to do so. Their snowball was not that fast, because even though Aatrox was stronger than me, our Akali was still getting every single one of our Blue Buffs, which is insanely good. Since Damonte was on a strong champion, nothing really happened in the Mid Lane and we never really fell that far behind.
TSM didn't snowball Top Lane hard enough, even though they got solo kills and a turret. They should have been able to use that advantage and make a rotating play, but we had Damonte with TP on Akali, so we didn't give any ground around the map.
Also, our Bot Lane had a pretty good laning phase, so we farmed up around the map until we got key items and focused on not dying or giving anything up. We had Ezreal and Tahm Kench in the Bot Lane, so as soon as mid game hit, we sent them to the mid lane and there was no more bleeding.
Even though I was behind, I was not tilted at all and tried to be positive. I kept my teammates updated on my scaling and they replied confidently and let me know things were okay.
Damonte kept saying, "As long as I keep get Blue Buff, I will carry boys!" Bot had priority and told me not to worry about it. And I realized they were right, because I was going to put a lot of damage into the teamfight, and that's what happened. We played really well as a team even though we were behind.
We thought Piglet might be flaming you.
Not really, honestly. I like Piglet since he gave me a Pentakill when I was on Immortals. I was playing Quinn, it was pretty fun.
TSM did not successfully push their advantage, but Damonte also had a great performance on Akali as well. This is his first time starting on an LCS team at the beginning of a season. What do you think his potential is?
I taught Damonte too much last year; he's going to do well.
You and Piglet both have been coached by Kkoma on SK Telecom T1. Do you find synergy in your play due to this?
I think he was on SKT too long of a time ago to have any direct comparisons, but he definitely knows a lot about the game and the league. Piglet learned a lot from Kkoma and he's very smart, so I can talk to him a lot about what we should be doing in-game.
Where do you think Clutch can end up in the standings at the end of the LCS Spring Split?
That's pretty hard to say, because it really depends on how hard we work and how well our practice goes throughout the split. I'm in Clutch Gaming, so we're definitely going to be at least top 5 in LCS.
Do you have any personal goals that you're looking to accomplish in 2019?
My personal goal is to actually win as a team, and not what I have done the past year. I think I should be able to be there to help my teammates more now that I have more experience. I've always talked a lot; even on Fnatic as a rookie I tried to lead in-game. On Immortals, it was the same, and even on SKT, I was trying to say a lot. I try to speak up everywhere that I go; I think that's one of my strengths.
Eventhough you've grown as a player, you've still maintained the same aggressive, flashy style. What do you think is the biggest change you've made as a player throughout your career?
I think I play kind of the same style, but before, there was too much variance between my good games and my bad games. My mentality was not very good; I didn't know much and I didn't have much experience as a pro player. If I didn't like something, I was like 'whatever,' but you can't do that when you are a professional player.
I've also gotten a lot better at communicating, not only with teammates and staff, but with people in general. If you're good at League of Legends, you should be able to help someone or at least give your opinion when you can. It might not be the right answer, but who cares? Having discussion is the first step to getting better at things, no matter what.
I learned from my experiences and I changed a lot. I care a lot more about the big picture now, and not just individual stuff.
Thanks for the interview, Huni. Best of luck with Clutch Gaming this year. Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans?
Even though I had kind of an awful early game, my teammates were doing super great. I'm very grateful for them. Also, even though I played really bad, everyone is still so supportive. I'll try my best next week and for the rest of the season.
That being said, next week...the week after....The one who holds the trophy at the end of the Final is the winner. Who cares about regular season?