On Sep 16, Inven had a chance to meet with the bot laner for DRX, Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu, at DRX’s headquarters. It was around 10 days after DRX finished their regional qualifiers run, and players were coming back from their mini vacation. It’s been a while since we had an in-depth conversation with Deft; he was brutally honest about the topics that we discussed.
DRX are LCK’s #4 seed at Worlds 2022. They’ll be playing in group B in the play-in stages, and the group is considered to be the ‘group of death’ in the play-in stages. Including DRX, there will be three teams from the ‘major 4’ regions of LoL Esports, which includes the 2022 MSI champions, RNG.
For Deft, RNG was the obvious #1 team to be the most wary of. He was most excited to face RNG’s bot laner ‘GALA’, where he commented, “Even the way he walks feels different, and I’m personally a big fan of his tempo and rhythm”.
You’re starting your Worlds run from the play-in stages this year, just like you did in 2021.
Last year, it felt like I was going there early to gain the experience I needed, but it feels like that leisure is gone this year. It feels like I’m being thrown in the deep end right from the get-go. If I can survive the play-in stage, then I think it’ll actually be a really good opportunity for the team in groups and onward.
Is it perhaps because DRX’s competition in the play-in stage has gotten much more competitive?
Yes, and I’m also worried about not being able to practice properly due to not having scrim partners. While I think this is true for the other teams as well, I think every team has their own ‘tempo’, where each team has a different pace of really getting used to things. I think that we’re slow starters in that regard, but all we can do is to try to accelerate that process.
Have you watched the group draws live? How did you react to your group?
I didn’t watch it live. Truth be told, it felt like there was only one other good team in the play-in stage, so it felt like we’d make it to the group stage even if we played poorly. However, it feels like we’d be sent home early if we didn’t play well right from the get-go. I thought that there’s a chance we might return to Korea without even making it to the U.S.
Is RNG the obvious choice to be the most wary of in the play-in stage?
Not only did RNG played really well in the Spring split and at MSI, I also personally think that they’re a very solid team. Also, we have a general idea on what type of team RNG is through scrims, but we don’t have any data on any of the other teams in our group, including MAD Lions. I think how we manage to deal with the unexpected aspects of their plays will be crucial.
RNG’s bot lane are also very formidable. In terms of mechanics, ‘GALA-Ming’ are the two players that are on top of the LPL.
There are a few players where I can tell this guy’s good just by their movement, and one of them is GALA. I think the matchup will be fun. Even if I lose once, it won’t be the end of the world, so I want to learn from it and utilize it in the later stages of the tournament.
Can you elaborate on the movement aspect of your answer just now?
Players like ‘Uzi’ and ‘Imp’ have a particular tempo and rhythm behind their movement. I really like that rhythm, and it’s fun to watch.
Then, how do you rate your own movement?
It was pretty good in the past, but it feels like I lost a lot of that recently. It feels like I lost a bit of that feeling.
I’m sure you’ve heard of how many people look up to you and how you play, right? Do you think that your plays live up to their expectations?
I’ve heard [laughter]. I think I do live up to their expectations whenever I’m playing near my peak, but there are a lot of bot laners that play just as well. There are a lot of things I can learn from other players, where I also think, “This guy’s good.” It’s the same with me.
Which aspects of your plays do you think makes people look up to you?
I personally like creating favorable situations through proactivity. Plus, I think that if a player loses that aggression, then there’s nothing going for that player. That thought process is somewhat translated through how I play, so I think that’s why people think so highly.
Personally, the moment I remember the most from your plays is avoiding the enemy’s CC by flashing forward. What’s the secret?
In the end, you can only avoid it through much experience of getting hit, so you’ll eventually find the solution through trial and error.
Have you gotten ‘hit’ a lot?
Not really. I personally haven’t, but… I’m sure you’ll learn how to avoid CC through trial and error. Through it, you can avoid almost every skill.
Let’s get back to the topic of Worlds. Objectively, how far do you think DRX will make it in the tournament?
We’ve improved a lot through the regional qualifiers, but this also means that if we don’t improve from where we are now, I think we’ll only make it to the quarterfinals. If we improve through play-ins and groups, I think we’ll make top four, and even winning the tournament.
Can you go into detail on what the team needs to do to improve?
I think that good teams are at a similar level, but when I watch teams like Gen.G or the good LPL teams, there’s a certain type of play that can be seen repetitively. Maybe it’s an in-game call that they promised to make, but since we haven’t heard what that call is, we have to deduce it from the way they play. We’ll have to do a very good job in absorbing such plays, things like positioning for objective teamfights and rotation timings.
This next question can only be asked because you’re a veteran; is there a change in mindset whenever you’re playing on a domestic stage vs international stage?
Domestically, there are more chances to get revenge. On the international stage, you only have a certain number of matches you get to play, so you don’t have that many opportunities to get revenge. So there’s added pressure in that regard. There’s also that added sense of responsibility, since you’re not just representing your team; you’re representing the LCK.
How about maintaining your form? I’d assume that it’s much harder during an international tournament.
I don’t think there were that many times where I couldn’t sleep properly or whatever; I actually felt that the solo queue I played in other regions ruined my form. In the last 2-3 years, the solo queue felt like poor practice to me. Our practice regimen is something we’ll all need to think hard about during Worlds this year.
When it comes to solo queue, is there no other server like the KR server?
I think so. The ping’s more of an issue in comparison to the player base. If I think such a practice environment isn’t that great, I think it’s more helpful to hop into a custom game and practice laning 2 vs 2.
We talked about a lot of topics today; to close out this interview, can you share your resolutions for Worlds this year?
Us making it to Worlds is definitely something to be happy about, but the time to celebrate that is over. It’ll be embarrassing and a dishonor to get knocked out in play-ins or groups, so I hope that all of us perform at our best. I know that the expectations for us aren’t that high, but I want to prove them wrong.
Lastly, I know that our fans were quite worried throughout most of the season, but I’m glad that we were able to make them at least a bit happy in the end. I’ll try my best to entertain everyone through our performance, so please cheer for us until the end.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports