Going into his 2019, Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu had to face a new era in his pro career. He decides to set off to Kingzone DragonX, a team that rebuilt their entire starting lineup. Looking at the 2019 Kingzone roster, they clearly needed a player that can be on a carry role and Deft indeed was a perfect fit. His broad experience in the LCK, LPL, and international tournaments made him such a valuable asset for the team. And as expected, he proved himself right throughout this split by delivering exceptional performance.
The new Kingzone seemed to have finally finished its adjustments starting from Round 2 of the 2019 LCK Spring. Alongside the Deft-TusiN duo, who were recognized as one of the best bottom lane in the LCK, their young top-jungle, Rascal-Cuzz started to perform well and their mid laner PawN seemed to have recovered the performance he delivered back in his prime. With the team finishing 3rd in this Spring Split, the newly built Kingzone will have to once again aim for the top in the upcoming Summer. And for sure, Deft will have to step up for his team.
Fortunately, we were able to reach out to Kingzone and got a chance to talk with Deft during this MSI period. While he seemed more relaxed compared to his past split where he mostly had to perform in the finals without any rest at all, he was still the first player to come back to the Kingzone gaming house to practice; this veteran player just could not help but practice for more.
The following is the interview with Kingzone DragonX's bottom laner, Deft.
notes: This Interview was conducted during the 2019 MSI.
How have you been lately?
I usually have a thought of what to do during my rest. However, now that I finally do have quite a long vacation, I’m more thinking of how to maintain my performance. When I had some spare time, I was studying my “gumjung gosi” (notes: Korean equivalent of GED). Other than that, I’ve been mostly practicing and live streaming recently.
I also heard during your live stream that you were studying for “gumjung gosi”. You said that you asked Rush for help.
Well, I did ask Rush for help but I felt sorry to ask since it was a bit too easy. (laughs) The only subject I couldn’t study on my own was math and I had a hard time understanding the basic concepts of it. (Q. So, did you get good results?) I had about 86 or 87 points on it.
While your teammates were at their home, you came back to the gaming house early to practice.
I don’t feel like I’m resting at all when I get a long vacation after being eliminated in a tournament. Nevertheless, it feels awkward for us to rest when the other high-tier teams are practicing hard to get better.
Let’s talk about yourself for a bit. What were your hobbies when you were young?
Umm… Although I didn’t give up on my studies I hated doing it. And of course, I loved games. (Q. I heard that you like to play soccer as well.) Yeah, when I was in elementary school, I actually didn’t really like playing games. I used to be running outside and playing soccer. Since then, I’ve been a big soccer fan. However, after I jumped into the competitive gaming scene, I only watch soccer since I don’t have time to actually play it.
So, in a pro’s point of view, which team do you think will win the 2018-2019 Champions League Finals? (laughs)
I’m always wrong when I give out predictions. (laughs) As a fan, I’d like to see Tottenham win the Finals since I’m a fan of Son Heung-min.
Going back to games, what kind of games did you like to play other than LoL?
Before becoming a pro, I really loved to play Sudden Attack. I liked to play together with my middle school classmates. I think that was the only game that I was really good at.
Then, when did you seriously consider of becoming a LoL pro gamer?
I had to move to a totally different place when I was in my first year of high school. Since I’m quite a shy person, I’m really not good with strangers. I also didn’t have that much fun going to school so I spent time in a PC Bang playing LoL after school.
I started LoL since I was in my 3rd year of middle school. As I played more games going into high school, my solo queue ranks improved. That’s when I received friend requests inside the client from pro coaches. They told me to come for their tryouts. To be honest, I’ve never actually thought about jumping into the pro scene but after I received those offers, I started to think, “Wait… I am quite good at this right?” That was when I seriously thought of becoming a pro gamer.
When did you receive those offers?
I think it was during a preseason. Once my ranks skyrocketed from 1700 to 2400, I suddenly went all the way to 4th or 5th place in KR server.
Actually, my computer wasn’t that good. When teamfights occurred, sometimes my monitor just went off. (laughs) That’s why I had to go to a PC bang and from that point on, the game became so much easier. I think this was the main reason for my improvement. (laughs)
After you made your debut, wasn’t it hard to adjust since you didn’t actually think about becoming a pro?
At first, it was so fun since I didn’t need to go to school. However, my performance wasn’t that good and I started to think, “Wait, my life might be totally ruined…” So, I simply did what I had to do; play games. I put in all my effort.
Did you have a mentor that helped you out?
In MVP Blue, I was with players that are currently performing as a coach such as Acorn, Heart, and Easyhoon. These guys were players that were already good at this kind of genre. On the other hand, I was a player that only did solo queue so I didn’t know how to play this game as a team. They gave me concrete advice on how to play LoL as a team.
Personally, I remember Imp coming up to me after he was drunk and say, “Hey, let me tell you something about how to play ADC.” (laughs) He was sometimes a 1 on 1 tutor. (Q. Only when he was drunk?) Mostly… (laughs) Everyone knows that Imp was so good back in the days. I received valuable advice from him a lot.
After Samsung White-Blue had to merge, you decide to set off to EDG and start your LPL career. What was the reason behind your move?
These days, the concept of starters and subs are quite clear. Also, most of the players are positive towards competition. However, at that time, I just couldn’t accept that I had the possibility of playing as a sub. Moreover, we lost against our sister team, Samsung White; I wanted to beat them so bad. And, I knew that EDG’s jungler, Clearlove was such a fantastic player and I had a thought that I might be able to beat Samsung White if I play with him.
Your Samsung teammate, PawN also decides to move to EDG. How did you guys end up in the same team?
Like I’ve told you, I went to China to beat Samsung White. However, their players also decided to move teams. I’ve wanted to play alongside PawN and as a matter of fact, EDG wanted us to play together as well.
Did you ever think about playing in an LCK team at then?
We were the best in Korea at that time. So, I thought, “Would I be able to defeat Samsung White if I move to another team in the LCK?” I also wanted to play with Clearlove real bad.
Although Samsung White and Blue had a different playstyle, they both knew how to play their macro game very well. Weren’t you rather afraid to go to China since you’d have to adjust to a totally different league playstyle?
When I was in Samsung Blue, I was asked to be on teamfight champions and go 50:50 in laning phase. However, once I moved to EDG, I had to go aggressive in the early laning phase and dominate my opponent. This also led to quite good win rates. Eventually, I had to adjust in order to survive.
I had to go through some tough times in my first year in China. My second year was much more fun and I really became close with my teammates. They’re like a family to me.
Then you decided to make your comeback to the LCK. You must have received numerous offers from Chinese teams as well.
I knew that my following 1-2 years would be my heyday. That’s why I wanted to deliver concrete results to feel no regrets in the future. Of course, I didn’t have any doubts about my EDG teammates. However, I decided to go back because of communication issues. Let’s say LCK and LPL players are on the exact same level performance-wise. It would be pretty obvious for me to play in the LCK to get better results since I speak better Korean.
After staying in KT for more than a year, you decide to move teams to Kingzone DragonX for the 2019 LCK Spring.
The performance I delivered in 2018 was pretty good so I did have a lot of options to choose from. I received numerous offers from LCK and foreign teams… But it all came down to potential results and I saw a good future in KZ.
To be honest, I was on the verge of signing with a foreign team. However, if I was to move overseas, I thought that it would be best to move after displaying the performance I’ve delivered back in my LPL days. I was very good in China and I wanted to prove that I could be even better. In case of that, I knew that Kingzone would offer a good environment for me to perform well.
Alongside numerous LCK teams, Kingzone also went through some big tweaks in their starting lineup. Were you sure you could perform well with your new players?
I knew that there would be a risk. However, I always had faith in their plays since I heard a lot of positive things about the Kingzone players. After I joined the team, I clearly saw that they perform very well and my faith even grew stronger.
During the 2019 Spring Split, when did you think Kingzone had a chance for a higher spot in the standings?
After we won against Griffin, I started to think that my team was actually very good. Our team gained the confidence to push forward from that win. From that point on, we didn’t think we would lose against any team.
What kind of feedback did you guys share in order to shape up your teamwork?
Our head coach always emphasized, “We are on a long journey. That’s why it’s most important to not lose faith in each other.” Players can be hurt if their fellow players point out mistakes. In that case, our coaching staff stood up and made a positive atmosphere during feedbacks. This was big for shaping up our teamwork.
Although Kingzone didn’t start off well, you guys eventually finished on 3rd place. What do you think was the main reason for the team’s improvement during this split?
We were on a big losing streak starting from the KeSPA Cup. I think that acted as a motivator. We didn’t want our fans to say, “We should no longer expect anything from them.” That’s why our team practiced so hard.
Kingzone lost against SKT in the playoffs but numerous fans believed that you guys had quite a big chance of winning as well. What do you think was the reason for that defeat?
I haven’t been watching that match ever since yesterday before going into scrims. After watching that match again, I thought that we could’ve won if we were a bit more careful. We made a lot of mistakes that we don’t usually make… Well, making mistakes, of course, is a part of a team’s performance.
By the way, are you watching the MSI?
I won’t be watching every single game, but I’ll probably watch SKT games.
Don’t you miss going to international tournaments?
That’s why I don’t want to watch it that much… Still, the teams that made it are better than us so I’m watching this MSI in order to learn something.
Which international tournament do you want to perform in?
As a LoL pro, Worlds is included of course. Personally, I’d like to perform in Rift Rivals since Korea never won it before. I’m happy that I can be a help for the LCK representatives this year. I think the Korean fans tend to be rather emotional [on Rift Rivals] since the LPL has been winning every international tournament lately. As a player, I don’t want to lose.
Now the Summer Split is just around the corner. Looking back at your 2019, are you satisfied with your performance?
They say we have endless greed and I’m not fully satisfied. Nevertheless, I do think our team displayed positive performance this Spring. That’s why I really want to do better this Summer Split.
If you could improve on one thing going into this Summer Split, what would it be?
A pro has to be motivated at all times. However, near the end of the split where a single win can be so crucial, I sometimes tend to lose motivation. That’s why I’d like to learn how to efficiently pace myself.
Now you’re going into your 6th year of pro. Have you ever thought about your retirement?
I’ve never thought about what I’d do after retiring. However, I did think about retirement in general during my rest recently. I’ve been putting in my everything for the past 6-7 years… If I don’t have anything to do the next day, wouldn’t my life become so painful?
After you finish your pro career and get some free time, what do you want to try?
I think I’ve done absolutely nothing else during my pro career. So, I’ll be able to enjoy everything I do since whatever it is, it’d be my first try.
Do you have any words for your fans across the globe?
I'll do my best to improve going into this Summer Split and deliver better results. I want to make it to the Worlds. If I do, I'd like to defeat every team and lift the trophy. Thank you, everyone, for your support!