In my early days as a journalist with Inven Global, I wrote a guide about how to be efficient when a bootcamper is in Korea to practice solo queue on the KR server. The reason I wrote that piece was because I got a lot of DMs about what they need to do for housing, food, and other living commodities in Korea, so I wanted to help them get a feel for what they need to do in order to not just survive, but also thrive in Korea.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, there have been a handful of amateur players and streamers alike that travelled to Korea to play solo queue. Although the reasons why they came here were individually different, the one reason that unified all of the bootcampers I’ve met was this: KR server was better than their regional servers.
Meet Yamikaze. He’s a Twitch streamer/LoL Youtuber who first made his name known in the LoL community as the Challenger Talon main that was tearing up NA solo queue. I had a chance to meet with him to sit down for a conversation, and he talked about his story as a streamer within the North American community, as well as his experiences in Korea and KR solo queue.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello, I’m Yamikaze! On NA, I’m considered a Challenger Talon player, and I make content on Youtube and stream on Twitch. When I was more focused on solo queue, I once hit top 30 on the NA ladder; not that it means much because it’s the NA server [laughter].
It’s actually been a long time since I really grinded hard on the solo queue ladder; almost 2 years, actually. I became a full-time content creator right before COVID. I don’t think I’m that good anymore because the most recent time I hit Challenger, it was a bit of a struggle. Streaming in NA, you know, you read chat a lot and what not, so you don’t really try too hard. It’s actually worse for you to stream as you climb higher on the NA server, because of long queue times.
I came to Korea to stream and try to climb because I just didn’t like the NA solo queue. There’s a lot of dodges, the players aren’t that good, and the server isn’t a challenge at all. I expect myself to climb super high on the KR ladder; my goal was to hit Grandmaster here. The goal in Korea was to grind and get that spark of motivation to play League, because I’ve been missing that lately. I’m probably going to school really soon, so this was something I wanted to do.
When would you say that you’ve had your big break as a streamer?
I started Youtube when I was 17; back then, I was a small personality, just uploading Talon gameplay. I think I started doing well after studying the Youtube algorithm by doing the clickbait stuff and what not. In solo queue, and while I don’t even think I played that well back then, Broken Blade, Nisqy, Closer, Zven were in a Discord call, and they were making fun of Nisqy for playing and losing on Renekton by a Talon [laughter]. My editor, who’s a really good editor, made a really good video of it, and from that point on, I made a lot of videos playing against pros. The Youtube algorithm really liked my videos, so I think that’s how I first blew up.
I’m pretty washed up right now, but I’d still do fine in the laning phase on NA challenger. However, in Korea, I’d get heavily punished in lane in D1-Master. When I meet lower-tier LCS mid laners in solo queue, they aren’t good in lane; I don’t think they practice the laning phase seriously. I think NA made it really hard to properly gauge how good I am as a player, because I wouldn’t get punished for the mistakes I make in lane.
I’ve personally never played solo queue in NA, but from what I hear, there’s an unspoken rule among the NA LoL streamers, where if they meet a player that’s known to be toxic/griefer, they all just report the person before the start of the game. Tell me about some of your interesting interactions with such people in NA solo queue.
I actually never heard of that! As a streamer on NA, I can tell you that if I run into someone that I don’t like, I’ll blatantly say, “Oh, this guy sucks”. I’m petty, and I know I shouldn’t be doing that [laughter]. I can tell you about my recent drama with Niles, who’s the top laner for Golden Guardians Academy.
That day, I wanted to practice something else other than Talon in solo queue. He basically flamed me for not being able to play anything other than Talon, and I just hit back. I know that the minimum LCS salary is 65,000 USD, which isn’t low at all; however, I was triggered, so I just made fun of his salary. I apologized to him, because it was uncalled for; the weird thing was, he gifted me like 100 subs on Twitch, then retweeted my comment to him. Again, my comment was uncalled for, but I was in a bad mood, so I was being a dick to him. I don’t like him because he’s just really annoying in solo queue, but I don’t hold grudges.
Are there any other unspoken rules/culture among the streamers like the one I just mentioned?
NA is a server basically for streamers. In EU, because regional leagues are a thing, players actually grind to get picked up by teams. In NA, there’s a lot of player recycling. I remember vividly a story that my friend told me; one of his players on his team didn’t play solo queue for years because he didn’t notice his skill dropping from not playing solo queue. The player only scrimmed; I guess that’s fine for NA, but that’s unacceptable for EU or KR. I’ve seen this guy go from one LCS academy team to another for years.
When pros stop caring about solo queue, then regular players stop caring about it as well, because there’s no incentive to climb high on the ladder. Meanwhile, NA streamers get more attention and more viewers, so people’s goals become into being a streamer. If a player wants to hit rank 1, it’d be more for the fact that they want to stream and make money; which is highly respectable, but it’s a unique culture that I feel only exists in NA. I feel that being ‘successful’ means to become a big streamer; in recent years, I don’t think I’ve heard people say that “I want to play in the LCS”.
Tell me some of the differences you’ve noticed between NA and KR server.
NA is ‘4Fun’; the players aren’t good mechanically, the player base is lower than other regions, and the biggest has to be the west coast ping. People make fun of those complaining about having 60 ping, but after playing in Korea, I think it’s real. Players in Korea are just mechanically insane. They’ve been playing on 9 ping since day 1; I can’t dodge skillshots in Korea. In NA, adc players in master can’t carry games, but in KR, even plat players have insane positioning and mechanics! I was personally impressed, but people made fun of me for saying that [laughter].
While the players on KR server are mechanically better, they’re also notorious for being incredibly toxic. Tell me about your experience with toxicity in KR solo queue.
My jungler was Zac, and we were playing Yasuo-Gragas [mid/jg]. He wanted to contest for scuttle crab, but because we both didn’t have ult, I pinged him off, because I could tell that it would go sideways. He said “Fuck that”, died to Yasuo-Gragas, then proceeded to follow me around, spamming laugh and taking my CS. At that point, we were winning around the map, but I didn’t want to play because of his behavior. If he didn’t do that, we would’ve won the game, because both of our side lanes were winning, and I solo killed him twice as well.
That’s normal, especially in KR diamond. I wrote my Twitlonger saying that my mental has been broken, but I got bored yesterday and played a game. I didn’t even type anything, but my jungler literally ran it down four times in a row; when I checked his match history, he had only lost one game before.
I was talking to some solo queue players here, and from what I’ve been told, they told me that the reason they do this is because these players don’t actually think they’re ‘griefing’. In their mind, they’re just participating in the Korean solo queue culture of griefing. It’s not healthy. I don’t have the mental capacity to deal with them; I can only dodge so many games a day, to deal with them in the games I can’t was just too much.
Unrelated game, but you can clearly see what dealing with KR toxicity has done to this man's mental (Source: Twitchy on Youtube)
Prior to this interview, I took questions from Twitter, and one guy, who you may be too familiar with, asked, “How does it feel to be hardstuck diamond in Korea and on a lethal dose of COPIUM every morning?”
[Laughter] I wonder who asked that question. It seems that he knows a lot about me [laughter]. I don’t have an ego about being good at the game, but it hurts to know that I’m stuck in mid diamond on the KR server.
Yami really wanted me to ask this question in the interview
Again, I’m not here to try hard and climb; I’m here to stream. However, I’ve spectated some GM-C1 games, and they were really good; I really do want to play with those players, but unfortunately, I can’t.
I don’t think I’m that good anymore. I was hoping to come here and get better, because in the past, I’ve become rusty, but gotten better. I couldn’t do it here. Individually, the players are really good here. Even below diamond, I think the team play is really good here. Even the gold/plat players will hold your wave, junglers will give you blue buff, and look to play towards you.
I genuinely think that gold/plat KR players are better than NA diamond players. The players played really well towards their win conditions; they’d go for objectives and group really well. However, you don’t see this in NA because everyone has an ego about carrying; everyone wants to be the ‘streamer’ who carries.
Outside of that unique ‘grief culture’ that exists in KR Diamond, I think the player base in Korea’s really insane. My mechanics were tested by negative win rate D4 Yasuos; they were playing the Yasuo vs Talon matchup in ways that I’ve never seen NA players play. I’ve never seen Grandmaster Yasuo players play the way they did. Experiencing that skill gap and realizing that I can’t climb higher on the ladder was a humbling experience.
You’ve talked about the skill gap and culture differences, but what are some of the similarities that both NA and KR servers share?
This is a good question. I like this one. Diamond is really hard to get out of; even some pros would spend weeks and months struggling in Diamond. One really super interesting similarity that I found was that the streamers in both NA and KR both want to go to each other’s regions for the solo queue quality. When I heard KR streamers say that, I was absolutely mind blown, because NA solo queue is absolutely trash.
I think the reason behind this is because people get used to the unique problems that exist in their respective servers, thus overlooking the positives. For myself, the problems that I faced in NA were things like target bans and ghosting; I already forgot about those problems after a month in Korea. I’m going to hate it again when I go back, but right now, I’m just like, “It’d be nice to play with some English speaking people”.
Lastly, what advice would you give to those that come to Korea to play on the server?
If you’re just coming here to play solo queue, you have to be aware that you’re not as good as you think you are. Especially those from NA; the server really warps your perception of how good you are because the players that you play against are bad. If you can’t hit high challenger really easily on NA, don’t expect KR to be any easier.
I think LS [content creator for T1] was the one who said this; if you don’t know how to improve on NA, you don’t need Korea. If a player comes to Korea to grind solo queue, the chances are, it won’t be worth your time. Pros are different; I’m strictly talking about solo queue players trying to go pro. The skill gap is just too big.
Source: Lathyrus on Youtube
There was a Bard main who came to Korea and hit challenger on the ladder; his name is Lathyrus. I have so much respect for the guy, because he did it on stream. I personally thought that because of that huge achievement, his viewership would go up much higher, but it didn’t. The point I’m trying to make is, if you’re a high elo streamer, expect things to be much harder here.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports