In the 2020 LCK Spring Split, there’s a team that took the league by storm. They’re the underdogs of the underdogs that no one expected to perform when it mattered, but on game days, they won in the ways they wanted to.
And that team is APK Prince. They were promoted into the LCK from Challengers Korea through the 2020 LCK Spring Promotion Tournament. Many predicted that they wouldn’t even make it into the LCK in the first place, and even when they did, many predicted that they'd be considered the ‘Freelo’ team of the LCK.
However, they once again proved the doubters wrong. Their first win in the LCK came in their 5th match of the split, and finished Round 1 with roughly a 40% win rate. At a glance, 7th place is pretty low in the standings. However, because of the team’s storyline, the number came to symbolize luck.
From unpredictable drafts, ikssu’s vast Champion pool and unorthodox item builds, HyBriD’s fearless ability to carry the game, an explosive playstyle, tightly knit teamwork, to their grit of making things happen even when behind, these characteristics are all the things that defined APK Prince in the 2020 LCK Spring, and they’ve won over many fans of the LCK and around the world.
Around the time where most teams come back from vacation to prepare for the upcoming Summer Split, Inven sat with HyBriD for an in-depth interview. For a player that scored three Pentakills in one season, came in 5th place in the POG standings in his debut season, and was even considered by some to be LCK’s best Bot Laner in Round 2 of 2020 LCK Spring, we took the time to ask him what the past season meant to him.
Most teams are now back from vacation and are back in practice mode for the upcoming Summer Split. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to?
Our team’s vacation was roughly two weeks long, and we came back on the 1st. I went home for a bit and came back to the team house a bit early to go on a trip to Gangwon-do with some of my teammates and players from another team that we were close with. It was a much needed time off, and while our practice/scrim schedule isn’t set in stone just yet, it’ll be back in full throttle soon.
As this is your first one on one interview, I want to start things off a bit slow. When you joined APK, the team had already been promoted into the LCK. How did you come to join the team?
I don’t think there’s anything noteworthy about me coming into the team. I was already close friends with Secret, and felt we had good synergy, so we’ve always talked about playing together. The right opportunity came at the right time, so I joined. As this probably is the case with many others, my personal dream and goal was to play in the LCK. Although I was with Longzhu back in 2017, I couldn’t start for the team. With much anticipation and butterflies in my stomach, I joined APK.
While you were in Longzhu, because of PraY, who’s been performing exceptionally well at the time, it would’ve been hard for you to start for the team. However, it feels like there’s a lot you learned from back then.
It was my first time being in a pro team, and since all the players back then were phenomenal players, there’s definitely a lot I learned from them. In terms of growth in my performance level, PraY definitely had the biggest impact on it. I always watched him from behind, tried to mimic what he did, and compared his plays to mine, and the process definitely elevated my gameplay.
Let’s go back to your debut match in the LCK. It must’ve been nerve wracking for you, but how would you describe how you felt back then?
I think the feeling of nervousness and anticipation filled me up 50/50, right down the middle. I couldn’t believe that I was going to play in the LCK. Although we lost pretty one-sided to SANDBOX Gaming back then… Hmm… How should I describe this… Because I felt that way, the disappointment of defeat didn’t really affect me. After I got adjusted to playing on the LCK stage, the matches that we lost felt very different.
The second moment of reminiscence is your first victory in the LCK against kt Rolster. What can you tell us about back then?
In the very early stages of Round 1, I felt the same way as my debut match, then Week 3 came, where we faced off against kt Rolster. That was the point in time where I started to get used to the LCK stage, where I was sick of losing and the desire to win was at an all time high.
On match day, for some reason, it felt like we were going to win. For some reason, I was very confident. I was on good terms with KT’s Head Coach, Hirai, since my Longzhu days, and I jokingly told him that I was going to win and do an exclusive interview. Those words came to fruition, as it came to be exactly how I said it’ll be, and it was pretty wild.
As time passed, many people said that your personal performance level went up as well. Is this because you now felt comfortable playing on stage?
Although you can say that my performance level went up, I think that I was able to perform at that level from the beginning, and the thought of improvement is always there. However, it does feel like a huge mental burden has been lifted. The pressure of playing well on the stage that I’ve always dreamed of was definitely there, and I’m glad I could show at least a little bit of what I can do. I want to ride this momentum to continue to play well during the rest of the year, and continue to do well as a Pro player.
As extravagant as you’ve been in Round 2, it feels like you could’ve aimed for one of the titles in the LCK Awards.
I honestly didn’t expect a single award, so the fact that I wasn’t in contention for any award didn’t disappoint me in any shape or form. I was just like, ‘Ah, so this player got this award’, and that’s it. There’ll be more opportunities down the road, and I’m confident in myself, so I wasn’t wary about it at all.
In terms of the POG (Player of the Game) standings, you were in 5th alongside DAMWON’s Nuguri at 900 points.
Compared to the other players in the top of the POG standings, my team was a lot lower in the standings. Despite such, I was grateful and humbled that I was in 5th place.
Can you tell us the Champion that you’re most confident in?
Aphelios. People said that the Champion looked hard when his gameplay video was released, but after playing him when he was released, he wasn’t that hard to play. He also did tons of damage, so I felt that he was a Champion that was just for me. You need to be calculative about how to get the right weapons at the right time, yet it came to me very naturally, so I’m very confident with Aphelios.
Because of your efficiency in the Bot Lane, you gained the nickname, ‘Mr. Fuel-Efficient’. Do you like the nickname?
As far as I know, I think the nickname came from the Korean casters, and that at the time, they gave me two nicknames. One was ‘The best Bot Laner of the East’, and the other was ‘Mr. Fuel-Efficient’, so they asked me which one was better (The East refers to being on the right side/lower half of the standings). I told them that since I wasn’t always going to be in ‘The East’, I’d rather be called ‘Mr. Fuel-Efficient’, so that nickname stuck with me. It goes well with my IGN, and the nickname sticks well to the mouth, so I definitely like it.
Being efficient as Bot Laner can also be interpreted as not proactively receiving resources, such as Farm in other lanes or Jungle camps. As a Bot Laner, do you ever feel inconvenienced in such aspects?
I think that anyone would like to have resources be funneled into them, but the nickname does come from making the best use of the resources given, and even if I don’t get a lot of resources, I’m confident in my ability to deal tons of damage and do well in teamfights, so I’m not too worried. It’s always better to scale together as a team, and I think that my teammates already give me a lot of resources.
You scored three Pentakills in your debut season. You’re the only player to achieve such a feat.
I scored my first Penta of the season against SANDBOX in Round 2, and it’s the most memorable match of this year’s Spring Split. Even though I played in Challengers Korea for quite a while, I’ve never scored a Pentakill. However, it felt amazing to score a Penta on the stage I’ve always dreamed of playing, and I was very happy.
After the DRX match in Round 2, I found out that I was the first player to score three Pentas in one Split. Although I was satisfied with the record, in the end, it’s a personal record, so the feeling of defeat affected me a lot harder. In the end, it’s a team game, so I was sad that we couldn’t achieve the team’s goal.
What was the goal for the Spring Split?
At first, it was making it to the playoffs. That’s why I was very disappointed with our performance in Round 1, as it felt like there were many matches that we definitely could’ve won, but ultimately lost. Also, I felt that I was a big reason why the team went on a four match losing streak, so I was disappointed in that sense as well.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Round 2 was held in an online format. Although it must’ve felt bad not being able to play at LoL Park, it must’ve helped in making you feel less nervous during matches.
There’s both good and bad in playing from the practice room. The one thing I’m disappointed in the most is not being able to meet the fans after matches at LoL Park. However, when it comes to gameplay, everything’s already set up in our practice room, so it’s definitely more comfortable. From the monitors, desks, to the height of our chairs, all the things are what we use every day, so there was no need getting used to anything new.
APK’s in-game voice comms always seem rowdy and lively. Is ikssu definitely the one that sets the bright mood for the team?
It’s ikssu and Secret. They always support the Jungle-Mid-Bot and are always leading the bright atmosphere in the team. While they’re usually the loudest in the team, but at times, I become pretty loud as well (laughter). I always welcome a fun atmosphere, so the bright mood of the team fits me very well. To be honest, I always forget what we talked about after the match, but watching the replays of our voice comms makes us laugh as well.
In an interview, ikssu mentioned that he has a lot of thoughts running through his head, and since you’re always by his side, you’re someone that he relies on and respects a lot. Did you happen to read that interview?
Ikssu didn’t tell me about the interview, but I did read it. It really felt good to have a teammate say such things about me.
Can you take this chance to give him a reply to what he said?
Whether it’s about the game or as a person, he’s someone that I can learn a lot from. Not only is he funny, he has that effect of making everyone around him very happy, so I sometimes wish that he’s my actual older brother.
Do you have a Bot Laner that you consider to be a role model?
Before joining Longzhu, my role model was Deft, but after joining, it changed to PraY. I always thought that it was a lonesome position, but seeing PraY lead the team definitely inspired me in many ways. I learned a lot from the intellectual plays that he made. I used to just play like an idiot, but watching PraY play did help me improve.
My IGN, ‘HyBriD’ comes from the desire to be like both Deft and PraY. I figured that if I can just take the strengths of both players, I can become a good player.
Can you tell us about your reflection on the Spring Split, and the goal for the upcoming Summer Split?
In Spring, although the performance in Round 1 was disappointing, I’m very satisfied with the performance in Round 2. From achieving a record to gaining a new nickname, it almost feels like the shortcomings of Round 1 is slightly forgiving. The goal for the Summer Split is, once again, making it to the playoffs. I think that until we actually do make it into the playoffs, the immediate goal will always be making it there first. There’s been many cases where teams that did worse in the regular season standings beat the teams that did better, so I want to experience playing in many Bo5s that come with many unknown variables.
Do you have a personal goal as a player?
I want to win both LCK and Worlds. I want to hold both titles. Also, when people think of the best Bot Laner, I hope to have people immediately think of the name, ‘HyBriD’. For example, when people think of the best Mid Laners this Spring, people immediately think of Faker, Bdd, and Chovy. Just as people think of those three names, I want people to immediately think of me when they think of Bot Laners.
Lastly, we’ll conclude this interview with a few words that you’d like to tell all the APK fans.
I’d like to thank all of you for the support and the interest you’ve all given us. I hope that by the start of the Summer Split, this coronavirus pandemic will settle down and will be able to meet all the fans at LoL Park!
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