In the world of competitive League of Legends, November and December can either bring joy or shock to fans around the world. For those unaware, it’s the free-agency period, where many pro players are officially declared as free agents, and are allowed to find new teams for themselves.
This year, there’s an interesting trend in the NA market. Not only are there old players finding their new home in NA academy rosters, there are many imports from the OPL who found their new home in NA. However, apart from IgNar transferring to Flyquest, there hasn’t been any imports from Korea, except for these two players.
Counter Logic Gaming announced that Alexey “Deus” Zatorski and Oh “Wind” Myeongjin joined their academy roster. Deus is a solo laner who’s technically an NA resident, but he was one of the first imports to play in Korea, under bbq Olivers. He was also in Korea for two years, and during his time, he has reached the top 20 in the Korean solo queue ladder. Wind is a bot laner who also played on bbq Olivers alongside Deus, and while not much is known about him to the public, many pros and coaches had nothing but praise for this upcoming prospect.
Inven Global had a chance to catch up with Deus and Wind to talk about their past, present, and their future in North America.
Can you please introduce yourselves to our readers?
Deus: My name is Deus, and I’m the new solo laner for CLG Academy.
Wind: Hello, my name is Myeongjin, and I’ll be the new bot laner for CLG Academy.
How did your competitive league career start?
Deus: Apart from the small tournaments that you play with amateur teams, my career started with the first Scouting Grounds that Riot hosted in 2016. I performed really well in it, so I was asked to be a sub for Gold Coin United for the NA Challenger Series.
Wind: I started playing League of Legends through a friend of mine in middle school. Since then, two of my friends asked me if I wanted to try becoming a pro player with them, and it seemed fun, so that's how it all started.
(To Wind) When you first started, did you know that you were going to be a pro player?
Wind: At first, it seemed fun because I was playing with my friends, but once I started to play in amateur tournaments, it was very exhilarating, so I decided to take it a bit more seriously.
(To Deus) As far as I know, you’ve been in Korea for quite a long time, so can you tell me when and why you came to Korea?
Deus: I came to Korea roughly two years ago. Right when the LCS became franchised and the academy league system started, I was supposed to be on one of the academy teams, but the deal fell through, so I had nothing else to do. That’s why I came to Korea, with the ultimate goal of going back and playing for one of the NA teams.
How many hours/games of solo queue would you say you played in Korea?
Deus: I’m not sure in the total amount of games or hours of solo queue, but for the first year that I was grinding solo queue, I would play at a PC Cafe for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.
With all that practice, what was your peak LP in the Korean ladder?
Deus: In Season 8, I reached top 20 on the ladder, which was, at the time, 1000LP. However, in Season 9, the LP system changed, so the MMR got inflated, so the top 20 would be around 1300LP.
Since you played a lot of games here, can you share your overall experience with Korean solo queue?
Deus: Compared to NA, it’s definitely a lot better. When I first came here, I was really surprised at how even the lower tier players are mechanically good in the game. Overall, it’s been a great experience playing in Korea. Also, when it comes to the top of the ladder, it’s all filled with pros from close regions, such as China, Taiwan, Japan, etc, so the quality of the games in Korean solo queue becomes that much higher.
(To Wind) I know that you hit Master tier in 3 days with 180 ping in Korea. What would you say the differences are between NA and KR solo queue?
Wind: In Korea, the solo queue is a lot more competitive. For instance, if there are 3-4 people per game that are trying really hard to win, but in NA, I'd say there’s only about 1-2 per game.
On the flip side, there has also been much negative feedback about Korean solo queue and some pros have even been very vocal about it. Which aspects of Korean solo queue would you like to see change?
Deus: Despite some players intentionally ruining games by selling their items or randomly going AFK, I actually quite like it because for me, my goal is obviously to win the game, and with those players, my level of discipline and focus goes up while playing games.
Wind: I think that it’s really hard to punish those kinds of players in League of Legends, so I just live with the fact that there are certain people who only exist to ruin your day.
Let’s talk about your time in bbq Olivers. First, how’d you two end up joining the team?
Deus: At the time, I was really high on the Korean solo queue ladder, and LS pays a lot of attention to all the foreigners that are bootcamping in Korea. When he got the offer to join bbq as a coach, I was asked to join the roster.
Wind: Back then, I played in an amateur tournament with Autumn (former mid laner for bbq). Autumn watched LS’ coaching stream, got close to him, and asked me if I wanted to be coached by LS. Since then, he thought of me very highly. Despite trying out for Griffin, when he asked me to join bbq Olivers, I happily said yes because of my faith in his ability to coach a team.
What were your first impressions of each other?
Wind: I knew that we’d get along really well.
Deus: When Myeongjin plays solo queue, he always becomes very animated, where he’d react to certain plays very vigorously, such as falling out of his chair. I also always saw him practicing champions in sandbox mode, so my thoughts were, not only is he a mechanically gifted player, he also took solo queue very seriously.
(To Deus) When South Korean players go to the West as imports, the cultural differences can sometimes limit a player from playing to their fullest. Did you face any difficulties in playing under a Korean pro team?
Deus: Generally speaking, I didn’t face any difficulties. Despite being a Korean team, we had LS, Malice, Max (the assistant coach), and Dan (former head coach for bbq), so I feel that the team had a good mix of Western and Korean culture. The only difficulty I faced was learning Korean. I feel that I had a good start to learning Korean, but as time went by, I spent more time focusing on my gameplay. I wish I learned more Korean though.
From a foreigner and a Korean’s perspective, can you share some good and bad things the two of you experienced in a Korean pro team?
Deus: I loved all the players and the coaching staff of the team. I do feel that the communication between the team and the management could’ve been a lot better.
Wind: It was my first team, so I liked the environment of how everyone was working really hard towards our goals. I feel that if the management had a little more faith in the team, I feel that we could’ve worked even harder and achieved even more.
I feel that while the NA academy scene is more structured, Challengers Korea has more raw talent. Since they’re both leagues right under LCK/LCS, what are your thoughts on both?
Deus: Because the promotional system still exists in Korea, every single player in Challengers Korea is playing with the goal of trying to get into the LCK, so I feel that the quality and the quantity of practice is a lot higher.
Wind: I feel that the structure and the support behind the NA academy players are a lot better. In terms of talent in NA, I’ve only watched the LCS, not the academy games, so I feel that I’ll only know how good they are when I actually start playing in the league.
You’re now teammates once again on CLG. What are your goals?
Deus: My initial goal is to move up to the LCS starting roster with Myeongjin.
Wind: On bbq, there were many days where everything just felt terrible, so on CLG, I hope that there will only be days that end in laughter and happiness.
(To Wind) Not only you went to the U.S. for the first time to try out for CLG, it’ll now be the first time you’ll be living outside of Korea. What are you most excited about?
Wind: I’m most excited about the matches I’ll be playing. That’s what matters the most. Then, I’m excited to learn English, and getting to know other players on other teams.
On the other hand, what are you most worried about?
Wind: I don’t think there’s anything in particular that I’m worried about. One thing that both excites and worries me is that since I’m the only Korean there, I am worried about the communication issues, but excited in how I’ll overcome and lead the team.
What kind of role do you envision yourself taking within the team?
Wind: Instead of trying to carry games on my own, I want to work together with my teammates to be a part of a team with 5 carry threats.
(To Deus) You’ve been in Korea for 2 years, so what are you most excited about in going back to NA?
Deus: I’m most excited to play with/against the players that I used to play with in solo queue and in matches, and to see how much I’ve improved, while I was in Korea.
On the other hand, what are you most worried about?
Deus: While I am excited about playing with the people I used to play with in solo queue, I’m worried about how the quality of the games will prove to be demotivating.
Are there any players in NA that you’re excited to interact with and play against?
Deus: I was a huge fan of Crown when he was on Samsung, but now that he’s in CLG, it’s almost as if fate brought us together. I’m very excited to meet him and to talk about the game during breaks. There’s a lot of players that are Riven one-tricks in NA, and they actually play her in competitive, so I want to play against them. Also, a tank matchup vs. Allorim also sounds fun.
Wind: I want to meet CoreJJ because I’ve been a fan of him for a long time, and I feel like he has that older brother vibe. In terms of players that I want to face, I want to play against everyone in the LCS.
What’s your end goal in NA, and in your League career as a whole?
Deus: After I move up to the LCS roster, I have to prove myself to be the top contenders in NA, win the LCS, and go to Worlds.
Wind: I don’t have any specific plans for now, but my ultimate goal is to show the world that a player called Wind exists. To do so, I need to win LCS, and ultimately go to Worlds as well, but I need to experience many things, and improve on the things that I need to work on through that process.
What lies after your League career ends?
Deus: I haven’t thought about it too much, but I’d love to get into bodybuilding or powerlifting.
Wind: I think that I’m just going to go on a lot of vacations with my family. I haven’t thought about what I’ll do after.
For those that are unfamiliar with how you play, how would you describe your playstyle?
Deus: Before I came to Korea, I was just like any other NA players, where I would play safe and farm for late-game. However, in KR solo queue, everyone tries to look for solo kills in lane, and exerts a lot of pressure, so I’ve embraced that aspect of the game.
Wind: I feel that if you’re a pro, mechanics shouldn’t be something you work towards, so I try to focus more on the trade timings and positioning in lane, since it determines how the rest of the game will play out.
Which champion would you say is your signature champion?
Deus: I used to be a Gangplank one-trick, so I’d say Gangplank.
Now that you’re teammates once again, please look at each other’s eyes and say something to each other.
Deus: I hope that you won’t get too tilted from NA solo queue and that you’ll adjust to the ping.
Wind: Let’s work hard as we did in bbq, and do well on CLG.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers, and to your future fans?
Deus: I practiced really hard during my two years in Korea, so I’m ready to make North America great aga… for the first time (laughter).
Wind: I just want to show everyone that I can be the best.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports