Over the course of the competitive League of Legends history, the LCK took home five championship trophies in the nine-year long history of the LoL World Championships. However, over the last two years, the LPL took the World Championship trophy, and the consensus was that the LCK was no longer the strongest region in the world.
With franchising in the LCK looming around the corner, many organizations are preparing to become a part of ‘The second act’ of the LCK. Both the LCK and the Challengers Korea teams (the secondary LoL league in Korea) are busily preparing to be accepted into the long-term partnership model, and is once again, looking to reclaim the throne as the best region in the world.
RunAway is a team that’s found incredible success in the Overwatch scene. Co-founded by the streamer couple Yoon “Runner” Dae-hoon and Lee “Flowervin” Hyeon-ah, they’ve successfully nurtured some of the best players in Overwatch, and with the recent announcement of sponsoring/taking over a CK team called Asura Gaming, they now look to continue their success in the League of Legends scene as well.
On a warm day in May, Inven Global had a chance to sit down for a conversation with Runner on the failures and the successes he experienced while running a competitive esports team, as well as the upcoming franchising in the LCK. As a content creator/co-founder, he had many different approaches to operating a team. Such approaches seemed to be effective, as a sense of unity and progress was in the air of the main practice room, which was right next to where the interview took place.
It’s very nice to meet you, and personally, I’ve been a big fan of you since your early days as a streamer on AfreecaTV. For the readers at home, can you please introduce yourself to the readers?
Hello, my name is Yoon “Runner” Dae-hoon, and I’m a content creator/streamer, as well as the co-founder/manager of a competitive esports team called RunAway.
How did your journey in esports begin?
At first, I didn’t really plan to have a career in esports. I first started streaming Overwatch when the game came out, and when there was news of an OW league on OGN, I decided to play in it for fun. While I started a player, various reasons, such as my age, skill cap, and my compulsory military service made me step down as a player, but continued to operate the team. My wife, Flowervin took over operations while I was in the military, so I want to use this chance to thank her for all her work.
When RunAway started to really take off in the esports scene, what did you hope to achieve?
The thrill that came with winning and losing was just incredibly fun, so we didn't really have a clear goal in sight. Also, the appeal came from being able to emotionally move people as well, so it all stemmed from passion.
After achieving incredible success in Overwatch, at which point did you decide to create a League of Legends team?
The idea first came to my mind when I was serving in the military. I really enjoyed playing League of Legends since my early days of streaming, and since the esports scene in LoL was already a substantial market as well, I decided to form a LoL team as well.
Then, when the LoL team first started, what was your goal?
When we first decided to give this a shot, since the LCK Promotion Tournament was still a thing, we set our goal high and worked towards making it into the LCK. Initially, our plan was to just buy a spot in Challengers Korea and work from there, but things didn’t work out for us the way I wanted to. What's worse is that we were knocked out in the 2020 Spring CK Promotion Qualifiers, so things were pretty difficult back then.
There is no LCK Promotion Tournament after the Summer split, so despite people around me advising me not to do so, I thought to myself, “I already put my foot in the door, so I want to see through this until the end”, and decided to buy out a team from Challengers Korea.
Is there anything that you learned from failing to qualify for Challengers Korea in Spring?
We didn’t have enough time, so we couldn’t properly prepare for the CK Promotion Qualifiers. Although it was a good experience overall, I learned that we really need to thoroughly prepare for it.
This past Spring split, RunAway announced the sponsorship and the takeover of Asura Gaming, a team in Challengers Korea. Can you tell us a bit more about how it came to be?
When I first started our talks with Asura Gaming, they were in 6th place in CK. However, by the end of the regular season, they came in last place, so I thought, “What the…” (laughter). I thought about giving up, but since I set my mind to it, I just went on with the takeover.
My viewers have been teasing me and said that I wasted 300,000,000 KRW (~245,000 USD), but I keep denying it. I’ve been co-streaming the Asura games on my channel, and since the team was going to rebrand itself to RunAway, I really became hyped up for their matches. When I got hyped up, my viewers would say things like that.
After you took over the roster, you’ve rebuilt the roster. There are faces that are familiar within CK and even the LCK, so can you introduce the roster to our readers?
In the Top Lane, we have KronG, who used to be the sub Top Laner for a CK team called Brion Blade, and is currently undergoing tryouts with us. Another Top Laner who’s helping us right now is Snowpowder, who’s a Challenger Top Laner that streams on AfreecaTV.
In the Jungle, we have Moojin, who used to be with Flash Wolves and Hanwha Life Esports, and has a ton of experience. We have two Mid Laners on the roster right now. Edge was with us in our first rendition of the LoL roster, while Mask was previously a trainee at T1. In the Bot lane, we have 5Kid, who was the Bot Laner for Asura Gaming, and on Support, we have PluTo, who has overseas experience, as well as in CK.
▲ An introduction video to the new RunAway LoL roster (Source:러너꽃빈TV)
If you had to choose, who would you pick to be the ace of the team?
I’d have to choose Moojin. The Jungler’s like the pillar of the team, and since he’s so experienced, I think he’s definitely someone that can lead the team very well. Also, I have high hopes on 5Kid’s potential, because he’s definitely proven that he can single handedly carry a game.
How’s the team atmosphere?
Since it’s a new team, we’re still building our synergy and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. They’re all still learning. They initially told themselves that they should really put themselves into high gear two weeks before the CK Summer Promotion, but as practice went on, the boys started to get anxious, so we’re trying to book as many scrims and put in as much practice as possible.
Let’s talk a little bit about the franchising model being implemented into the LCK in 2021. You recently announced that RunAway will be applying for it, so how has the preparation been so far?
Well, we first have to make sure that we stay in Challengers Korea (laughter). The CK Promotion matches are at the end of May, so we’re working hard to keep our spot. Business wise, there are a few domestic and overseas companies that we’re in contact with for potential partnership, and as we’re very different from other teams, I think those potential partners find the appeal in how different we are.
Which aspects would you consider RunAway different from the other teams?
In terms of operations, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be a player in esports, gave it my all, and I’d like to think that I’m still very young (laughter). Because both Flowervin and I are content creators, we have a lot more exposure with the team’s media content. Also, although it’s a different game, we’ve been operating the RunAway Overwatch team for over three years and have been very successful, so I think the potential partners we’re in contact with are seeing those factors to be different, but in a very good way.
What are there some things that you learned from operating a successful Overwatch team that could be implemented into the League of Legends team?
They’re both team games, so I believe the things like managing the players' mentality and trust between the teammates is critical. Although my in-game knowledge of League of Legends is lackluster, I believe that I’m good at contributing to building unity and keeping the morale high. People say that RunAway is like one big family because there’s that much effort into making sure the players and the staff feel like a family.
Apart from the business aspects of managing a team, what are some of the things that you have to take care of when running a team?
It would have to be the trust between the player and the team itself. I’ve seen a lot of players where the players don’t feel like they belong there, so they lose the drive to be a part of that team. Making sure they feel they’re needed and rightfully the part of the team is something I consider very important in operating a team.
Many teams will be applying for the LCK franchising, and you must’ve researched on how the other teams are preparing for it.
I think that more than half of the current LCK teams will fill up the slots, and CK teams will be fighting for 1 to 3 spots. It’s a great opportunity, but right now, I don’t want to get too anxious about it because keeping our spot in CK comes first. I hope that we’ll be able to meet great partners for the franchising and give it a shot.
In your opinion, what is the most important factor that’ll be considered for making it into the LCK franchising?
I think it all comes down to passion. I believe that you need to have that passion to properly manage a team, and the next thing that’s equally important would have to be capital.
What is your unique philosophy behind operating a team?
As the person in charge of a team, I believe that identifying with the players on the same level is important. Although I’m not good at the game, I spend a lot of time studying the game by watching replays of various pro matches, replays, and scrims, and I’ve been doing so since we started our Overwatch team. Because I’m not as good as the players myself, I need to learn a lot more about the game to not only show that I’m just as passionate as the guys, but potentially offer a different, but valid insight to the players. That way, there’s trust built between the players and the team, and I think it’s a philosophy that I follow.
League of Legends is five players acting as a unit, and things like communication, trust between the players, is definitely important as well. Also, there’s always going to be a clash of opinions, so effectively dealing with those scenarios is something I feel I’ve already proven that aspect through our Overwatch team, and is something I’m trying to utilize a lot with our LoL team as well.
You’ll be playing the CK Promotion at the end of May alongside Jin Air Greenwings. Can you share how you’re preparing for it and your resolution for it as well?
Last time, we only had 6 days to prepare for the Spring Promotion Qualifiers, but this time, we have around a month to prepare for it. Although it’s not as long as how the other teams have been preparing, we’ll make sure to give it our all for good results.
Is there anything that you’d like to say to the players and the coaching staff, who’s working hard preparing even right now?
I hoped that I’d acquire a team that would just start from the Summer split in CK, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we have to play in the CK Summer Promotions. There’s a lot of burden on their shoulders right now, but I believe that they’ll make it as the underdogs. As much as the pressure is on them, I’ll make sure to work just as hard, so I hope that we’ll be able to build something beautiful.
Oh, also, potential sponsors may read this interview as well, so is there anything you’d like to say to them?
First, we’re a team that’s operated by content creators, and is a team built by someone with experience as a player, and such unique qualities is what defines us as an organization. Esports is something that’s more suited for the younger generation, and a successful streamer that plays games for a living, I have a good grasp of what they like. If a company decides to partner up with us, I believe we’re a team that can stand out from the rest.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
RunAway is something that started out of curiosity and passion, and in the very early days of RunAway (the original RunAway OW team), fans provided us with things like the washing machine. Without your support, we couldn’t have come to this point. I want to always thank them for always supporting us, and because of all of you, it always drives all of us to work harder. We’ll work harder to stay in CK and greet all of you with our heads held up high.
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