Before the League of Legends 2019 season started, one of the most iconic bot duos of the scene split up. SK Telecom T1’s Bae “Bang” Jun-sik left and joined 100 Thieves of the LCS, and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan, who had been saying that he’ll be retiring all the time, left the LCK and headed to Turkey for a new journey.
Half a year has passed since Wolf joined SuperMassive. We were curious if he was doing alright or if the food was alright for him, and how much he has changed during his stay there.
Wolf returned to Korea during the season break so we found a chance to talk to him at LoL Park.
So good to see you again. You look healthier than before. How have you been?
How am I doing? I’m just taking a break, resting at home and eating good stuff. It’s been about a month since I came back to Korea, and I haven’t been doing any interviews. Just meeting friends and helping out in the MSI analyst desk.
Right, your MSI analyses were amazing.
(*Note: This interview was conducted before the Day 2 match of the Semifinals)
Yeah, I was literally a prophet. (Laughs) There are people who are always wrong, but unlike them, I’m an active pro gamer, so that could be why. And since there are players that I’m keeping an eye on, it’s better for me to analyze. At first, I thought I should watch the games for fun, but while I was watching, teams that could rise caught my eye.
Teams that could rise?
So Team Liquid. Their key players are Doublelift, Impact, and CoreJJ. I personally like those players as well. I predict after watching them perform. CoreJJ seems amazing.
How about other teams?
Frankly, I thought the teams other than the semifinalists would be eliminated as many people did predict. For TL going to the finals… I actually didn’t see any games in last year’s Worlds, so I didn’t know how good iG is. This was my first time seeing them, so I relied on what others said for my predictions. Of course, it could be a big upset that Team Liquid won, but in my eyes, having watched only this year, I thought it could happen.
For iG, it’s visible that their mentality is a bit weak; in and out of the game. Most of the players have a short career except for Rookie. I didn’t think too much in detail, but I can see that they feel pressured if they lose a game or two in a Bo5. Unfortunately for them, Team Liquid won Game 1. Impact was awesome.
Then do you think TL rose because of those three players?
Doublelift is in good form, and from what I’ve heard, CoreJJ is the core of the team, and as much as he played and went from the LCK, he has strengths in macro. And I personally wish players that have been around for a long time like Doublelift do well. I’ve been around quite a while as well. I thought it’s really cool that those players do well in international stages so I cheered for him a lot.
It's quite satisfying when we see a player that’s been around for long finally raise the trophy.
It is quite satisfying. I almost shed a tear while watching. When I saw Doublelift and CoreJJ hug each other, probably saying, “We did it!” made me feel many things. Doublelift had been playing for 9 years, but he’s still very driven; he still feels that joy of winning and gets emotional. It made me look back on myself as well.
For us, we didn’t show any emotions and were busy preparing for the next match and feedback. If the games were regretful or bad, we just had long faces. However, after seeing a player with such a long career enjoy the victory and expressing his joy like a child made me feel many things.
How do you think G2 vs SKT will go?
I think SKT will win, and I hope they win. (Laughs)
This interview is going to be published after it’s all over. We’re not going to change it for you.
(Laughs) For the big picture, it would be better if G2 gets to the finals. NA vs EU… Amazing… Who would have ever thought that the finals of an international competition be NA vs EU? And if NA comes up on top? It would be better for the scene, LoL would extend its life, and it would be really symbolic.
Right, it’s time that Doublelift to become a champion.
Of course! It’s way past time!
So how long have you been in Turkey?
About 4-5 months? I’ve adapted well and living there is quite convenient. They say Korea and Turkey are brothers; it really seems that people are more kind because of that.
How is life there?
It’s actually a bit different from what I’ve thought. They are European, so their mindset is European. Gaming, living… If you want to do something, you can just do it. That makes people more flexible. There are so many things that you can do that need second thoughts in Korea. Of course, there are pros and cons. In Korea, since it isn’t like that, the practice can be efficient and meaningful.
There’s time difference there, if we do evening scrims, it’s 2AM in Korea. But when we go in the server, there are tons of Korean teams there. Whenever I see that, it looks really tiring. So if I see Effort, I say hi and try to encourage him.
You’re living with Frozen now, right?
Frozen’s really a good guy. Better than I thought. I originally knew him from before, since we spoke to each other a few times. I remember asking him how Turkey is; it’s a wonder that we’ve met here as teammates. His body is awesome, too. By his face, he looks really sharp, but his body is wow. (Laughs)
There are some questions from fans as well. Although you’re in different teams, is Untara doing well there?
I think he’s doing alright, but I’m a bit worried about him. He has literally 0 English skills, but I heard that he evaluated his own English as 6 out of 10. I thought this is application fraud. (Laughs)
It’s the same with Blank. There’s a Discord channel where former T1 players are, and it’s really fun if we have a chat there. Once, when Blank came in, I said, “Hisashiburi!” He was surprised and asked how I knew Japanese. I personally wish the Japanese LoL League does well. Anyways, I tell him, “Do well and leave a good impression, since you’re one of the first ones there.” I envy him. I really like Japanese food. Since Japanese isn’t too hard for a Korean to learn, he’ll adapt without much trouble.
Are you happy that Untara is now in Turkey? Do you have any advice for him?
Of course! I’m really happy. As we lost at the finals, I almost gave up the dream to get to Worlds, but Untara joined the team (Fenerbahçe) that defeated us. He lit a fire on my fighting spirit.
As for advice, I would say be prepared for whatever that comes in the mind. It’s far from Korea, and it wouldn’t matter if they all speak only English, but since they also use Turkish, it’s going to be hard. Turkish is really difficult to learn; I hope he thinks it’s going to be hard, and come with a prepared mindset, doing what he needs to do. Back when we were in SKT, coach kkOma said that if we just do our things well, he’ll send us to Worlds. He said doing what we need to do is the best way to raise our own values. I totally agree with him. Wherever we are, if we put in our best efforts, our values will rise.
Do you still keep in touch with the SKT players?
With the players that I played with, yes. As for the current SKT, I don’t know them well and we’re so far away; we don’t talk that much. I just talk to old friends.
So you would be keeping in touch with your business partner, Bang.
Yeah, we talk often. He seems to be doing well, exercising a lot.
How would you rate your recent performance?
I’m not sure because I don’t watch my previous matches much, but to speak of the playoffs and finals, I would say about 8 out of 10. There were some regretful moments, but I think I did my best. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever spoken so much in-game. I did speak a lot in Korea, but while I’m there, I’m not even proficient at English, but I never stop talking. It feels like everything stops if I stop talking for 1 second.
What do you talk about?
I usually talk about big-picture-macro. Things like ‘I think the opponent jungler is here’, or ‘we’ll push here, so get vision here and prepare to take the dragon…’ Usually the LCK style macro, but it feels that the meta or macro is a bit different here.
It’s not only Turkey; it’s mostly different. Here, when the game isn’t going well, we just do the ‘everyone, gather mid!’ strategy. The fundamentals would be spreading wings to the side lanes, but in that case, one of the lanes would get penetrated, so it’s hard to pull off that style macro.
You must have ended up doing most of the shotcalling.
If I’m not there, nothing goes around in the team. My team also listens close to me, probably because of my career.
How do you view the Korean teams' performances? How do you think this year’s SKT would do?
I felt this from two years ago; all teams are now at the top-tier level. I’m not sure if they could do what the SKT from the past did, dominating every single match. All the other teams’ players also have experience and prowess now.
So what I feel is… You know, when you look back at the plays from 2012 in 2013, it looks bad. And it’s the same the next year, 2013 plays look bad from 2014. It’s not that a certain player dominated the year, it’s just that he was a bit better in that period of time. Now, a lot more players have vast experience and their prowess is top-notch. It’s harder to predict.
As a support player yourself, who's better, CoreJJ or Mata?
It’s vague. They’re in different leagues now, and they’re both good. Personally, I think CoreJJ may be better in a way. He was in Dignitas before, and he went to the NA again. It’s completely different when a player goes abroad from just moving a team, but CoreJJ already has infinite trust from his teammates like Doublelift or Impact. On one side of me, I envy him. His current form is in good shape as well. CoreJJ’s the player that can’t be taken out from Team Liquid now; he went to a perfect spot for himself.
The next question is from a fan with some expertise. Fenerbahçe was eliminated early in this MSI. Did you anticipate that would happen?
I did. All teams have different styles and Fenerbahçe is a team that doesn’t have a winning plan aside from jungle or top carry. Their macro always lay strength on top lanes or sidelanes. If a team can reach MSI, it could be said that all laners are championship tier laners, yet they only do that style macro.
If it was our team, I think the chances may have been higher. We aim to become a team of macro, so all our lanes are quite solid. Anyways, we did lose to Fenerbahçe, so we would never know. I did predict that they would be eliminated early, which is quite regretful as well.
That’s it for the questions from fans. You said that going to Turkey is searching a new path for yourself. Where are you on that path?
I’ve changed a lot; up to now, I’ve been saying that I’ll retire every year, half kidding, and half seriously. But this time, I got to think, ‘It would be alright even if I play for 2-3 more years.’ It could be because of a changed mindset and maybe because playing there is a bit less tiring, but I think it’s a positive thing. I can now look at a healthy and long future as a player. If it’s possible, I want to become the longest active player in LoL.
Wow, you’re really completely different from when you were talking about retiring all the time.
Of course! A changed man. I’m now 25 years old, and it’s my 8th year as a pro. Bang as well. Other players that are older may need to consider retiring because of the army issues and stuff, but I think I still have at least 4 more years. I might even just become the longest active, oldest player. This might be a positive effect from the European open mind which makes me feel comfortable.
You said you want to play for long. Do you have the desire to play in other regions too?
Yes. Very. I want to play in all regions at least once. It’s interesting. There are players that adapt well to foreign countries and players who struggle, but for me, it suits me well. It’s an experience that I wasn't able to have, a feeling I didn't know when I was in Korea.
What’s your goal for this year?
First, it would be winning summer, and then it would be Worlds, obviously. As I said earlier, since Untara joined Fenerbahçe, I think we can win summer. Untara level is easy to beat. He won’t be able to adapt, without even being able to say a word. Ultimately, I want to set a big goal: reaching semifinals at Worlds.
How popular do you think you are in Turkey?
When I first decided to go to Turkey, there were quite some reactions. Once, in a restaurant in Turkey, one person came to me if I was a SuperMassive player. When I said yes, that person asked me if I was Frozen. That was kind of awkward. It was a question that I’ve never heard in Korea.
You also talked about things that didn’t work well on your team. In which area does your team have potential?
In a way, I’ve brought a meta or macro that the Turkish league hasn’t experienced before. If we were to understand it, we would win the championship. Of course, I didn’t think they would adapt immediately, and I thought maybe I need to fit myself to them. However, after this finals, I saw potential in this team. I constantly tried to help the players understand the LCK meta, and now, players have a pretty good grip.
The biggest change was that we don’t allow any turnarounds. As the macro started to find its place, my teammates started to adapt. Our scrim results jumped up drastically. This is where I see the potential. Also, since we missed out in the finals, so everybody is willing to fight. I have high hopes for the summer.
I guess Wolf is in the center of that flow of change.
Yes. Of course. Very. It could be a bit cocky for me to praise myself, but since I have my fame as ‘Wolf’, and I have experience winning Worlds, the team should do as I say. Even my experience playing in the jungle helps giving feedback for the jungle position.
Did you play jungle there too?
I seriously thought of playing jungle a lot, but I thought I would lose my identity if I do.
Is there anything you miss in Korea?
To be honest, I miss everything. Even all the Hangul that I see around in everyday life.
Anything you miss in the LCK?
Not a thing. (Laughs) What I miss is this type of atmosphere. Things like having an interview with you, or having a conversation with the commentary. And of course, all the fans at the scene. I’m living a very quiet life in Turkey.
Now it’s time for you to go to your rehearsal for the analyst desk. Lastly, some comments to your fans that missed you and to your fans in Turkey as well?
I’m having a marvelous time. Many fans worried about me, but I’m enjoying Turkish food and taking care of myself well. I wasn’t able to keep my promise, that I’ll see you fans at the MSI, but since I did meet you through the analyst desk, let’s say we did. I’ll do well so that I can meet you again at Worlds.
As for the fans in Turkey, I know that Fenerbaçe is the most popular team here, like the Turkish version SKT or TSM. It’s regretful that we lost to that popular team, but in the next season, we’ll win and end it all for a good finish.
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.