Upon promotion into the LCK, he’s risen to the top ranks of the LCK Bot Laners. After three 2nd place finishes in the LCK and an appearance in the World Championships, the divide with his team that followed shortly after led to being relegated from the LCK. Park “Viper” Do-hyeon’s pro career over the last two years has been a wild roller coaster ride.
Perhaps that’s why seeing Viper in a Hanwha Life Esports uniform made him seem like a veteran, despite only being in his 3rd year of pro play. His unique baritone voice and prudent personality contributed to this atmosphere as well, which at one point, startled the interviewing journalist when trying to lighten up the mood.
Inven sat with Viper to talk about joining HLE and reuniting with Lehends, the sad behind-the-scenes story about relegating, and about his love for Yasuo. The following is the in-depth story about Viper, a player who prepares to rise again and reclaim glory.
This is your first interview after transferring to HLE. Can you please say hello to your fans?
Hello. My name is Viper, and I’m the new Bot Laner for Hanwha Life Esports.
Truth be told, even before you announced your FA status, many HLE fans hoped you’d join the team. How did you react to them?
Many people waited, and said so many great things about me, so I wanted to repay their support by getting great results. The fans’ hopes have come to fruition, and since I have so many regrets about the last season, all I want to do is really do better. I don’t feel too pressured though.
The fans call you, “Teacher Park Do-hyeon”. Do you know this nickname?
Yes, I do. I love it, of course, and I’m grateful.
HLE is known for their great player welfare. Although it hasn’t been long, how’s life been in the facility?
It hasn’t even been a week, so I’m not entirely sure just yet. Since the players usually don’t have time to work out, the fact that I get to work out twice a week at the gym inside the HLE facility is really good.
Do you usually enjoy going to the gym?
I usually do, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, these days, I can’t go. Now that I can actually go, I’m glad that I can work out.
Also, the food is really important. Do you like the food here?
Yes, it’s really good. The chef prepares it in a buffet style, and we get to take as much as we want. Everything our chef cooks is really good.
The announcement of you joining HLE came very early. You must’ve had a lot of other offers as well, so why did you decide to join HLE?
Although I did contemplate various offers, I wanted to continue playing in the LCK, and since Lehends was already in the team, I decided to take HLE’s offer. Also, I’m a big fan of Uzi, so the fact that our Head Coach, Kezman, was with RNG in the past, it contributed to making this decision as well.
You’ve reunited with Lehends after being apart for one split. How do you feel?
Since we played on different teams for a split, there are rusts we need to work out in our synergy, but I think we can get back into gear very quickly, so I’m not too worried about it.
When Griffin and HLE faced off last Spring, Lehends’ in-game comms became pretty controversial. Do you remember what he said?
I predicted such things would happen, so I didn’t really think too much about it. I just thought, “This is going to happen if I lose”. Rather than being angry, I remember laughing about it with him. We did stay in touch, but we didn’t talk about that.
If you had won back then, would you have taunted him with something like, “You’re useless without Viper”?
Although not in the same manner, I would’ve definitely thrown some shade.
Such trash talk usually comes from a close relationship. There aren’t any problems in your relationship with Lehends, right (laughter)?
I’m not that close with him, and I think Lehends will think the same way. (But you played with him for so long!) Because I was so engrossed in the game, I didn’t have too many opportunities to build a close relationship. Now that we’re on the same team again, I think we’ll naturally become closer.
How long has it been since the team started practicing?
It’s been 3-4 days. It’s been a while since I played, so the game feels really fun. Our scrim results… I didn’t really pay too much attention to it, so I’m not sure. My current focus is on improving my fundamentals. There are many veterans on the team, so it wasn’t hard for me to adapt to the team.
Apart from Lehends, you’re meeting most of the players for the first time. Are you past the awkward phase with the team?
All my teammates are great guys, so it wasn’t hard to get close to them. I think CuVee’s a bit quirky, but other than that, they’re generally great guys. (In which ways is CuVee quirky?) I won’t comment on that.
I’m a firm believer that teammates should not use honorifics in our speech with one another, since I believe that talking as if we’re friends will help in our gameplay. That’s why I’m always joking around with the older players like I’m their little brother. Fortunately, they’re all good-natured, so they’ve been pretty accepting.
There must’ve been a reason why the fans hoped to see you with HLE. What do you think that reason is?
I think that because the fans wanted to see me reunite with Lehends, and they wanted to see a Bot Lane duo that’s been proven to work.
Yet, the fact of the matter is that you’re a player that’s been through relegations. That’s why you’re in a position that’s even more keen to prove yourself.
Instead of putting it into words, it’s time for me to prove myself through my in-game performance. No matter what I say right now, it’ll all come down to how I perform during the split. I’m only thinking about playing better in the future, and I’m confident I can perform. I want to stand in front of my fans with my head held high.
Many things happened after you debuted as a pro player. Although you’re only in your third year, it seems that you gained a lot of experience.
I’ve been through a lot, so compared to how I was before my life as a pro player, it definitely feels like I’ve leveled up. This may seem obvious, but I really do feel I’ve grown. If I am to compare myself to a racehorse that knew only to look forward, I’ve now learned how to look at my surroundings. Maybe that’s just me getting older, though.
As a pro gamer, getting relegated is an incredibly difficult experience.
I really didn’t want to play in the Promotion Tournament, and I think everyone will feel the same if they were in the same shoes. However, at some point during the split, I did realize the possibility of playing in that tournament. Even when my team and I lost, it didn’t matter if we learned something, but there were games where we felt helpless, and those where we could’ve played well, but just couldn’t perform, so those were the times when I came upon such realization.
Even when Griffin was confirmed to play in the Promotion Tournament, it was hard to predict that the team would get relegated due to an upswing in performance towards the end of the Spring split.
When it was confirmed that we were going to get relegated, it was like a bad dream. It was a very difficult time, where I really couldn’t think properly and felt like I was in a trance. Things looked so bleak to the point where I couldn’t even properly weigh my options for the future. Then, reality hit me, so since I couldn’t turn back time, I made up my mind to just relax for the time being.
In such a situation, your new beginnings with HLE must be a great opportunity in more than one way.
Yes. I’ve let go of everything that was holding me back, recharged myself, and am now at HLE, so I’m determined to perform in the near future. Nothing else but working hard is currently on my mind.
Then, while on the topic, can you tell us your goal for the Summer split?
They always say to set your goals high, so my goal is always winning the split. I want to win the split and go to Worlds again.
I know that it’s only been a couple days since the team started practicing, but which aspects do you think needs to be improved to perform better for the upcoming Summer split?
Above all else, the number one priority is for me to improve my individual skills. When you watch a great player, you can just tell that they’re good, so I want to be like that. No matter what team the Bot duo is on, I want to prove that we’re just a great duo. All my teammates are veterans and are great players, so as long as Lehends and I do our part, I believe we’ll become a team that can aim high.
As a team, I believe that the level of performance should be the same as on stage. This is something I always believed in, and it’s not something I thought after I joined HLE. It’s critical to be able to recreate the plays that the team makes in scrims on stage.
Although you’re very good with Marksman Champions, you’re also very well known to be good with the non-traditional Marksman Champions in the Bot Lane. Which of the two are you more confident with?
I’m confident with just about every single Champion. (Then, to change up my question a bit, what Champion are you most confident in right now?) Uh… I’m confident that I can play all of them well. (But if you had to choose one?) Yasuo. I think I can play him exceptionally well.
Looking back in the past Spring split, the meta shifted away from the non-traditional Marksman carries. Do you think Yasuo will see playtime in the Bot Lane again?
I always think that it all depends on how you use the Champion. The meta’s always shifting, and if a team suddenly does well on a Champion, it has the potential to fit into the meta. In the end, it comes down to the team’s analysis and the usage of a Champion.
Then, can we expect Yasuo in the Bot Lane from HLE’s Bot Lane?
Sure. It’s always strategically advantageous to be unpredictable.
Lastly, what would you like to say to those fans who’ve been waiting for “Teacher Park Do-hyeon”?
There were so many fans sending their support, but I’ve greatly let them down in the last split. As a great opportunity offered a fresh start with a great team and teammates, I really hope to repay all the love and support I’ve received from the fans by doing well. No matter what, I’ll make sure to get great results to make it to Worlds.
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