Last December, a player joined kt Rolster. His name was very familiar to some, but completely new to others. That man was Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae, who played in the NA LCS for TiP and Cloud9, and even earned himself the MVP award.
However, he had never played a game in the LCK, and since he had also gone on a short break, he was almost completely unknown to LCK fans.
“Hello, I’m Rush.”
Rush greeted us with a calm voice. He said that he was rather shy, and yet he had a very bright and forward attitude during the interview. This was his first interview in Korea, and it started off with him talking in a rather sedated and cautious manner. As the conversation continued, his intelligent personality became clear. Rush’s schedule was quite busy, so we weren’t able to talk for long, but his frank and forthright response made up for our lack of time.
His memories from NA and his dream to make kt Rolster win Worlds; let’s learn more about kt Rolster’s jungler, Rush.
Q. You’ve been abroad for a while and didn’t play for a while. Can you briefly tell us about your career?
I used to play other AOS games before I first played LoL in 2012. I wasn’t able to play much in 2013 because I needed to study, and I started playing more in August of 2014. When I reached 1st in KR solo queue, I received several offers from US, China and Europe. After thinking it through, I started my professional career at Team Impulse in 2015 and transferred to C9 in 2016. However, there were internal issues in the team, and I also wanted to go back to Korea, so I parted ways with C9 on good terms.
Afterwards, I streamed for a while, but it felt like my prowess and concentration was lower than when I was a pro. I practiced hard to restore my strength and I was able to sign a contract with kt Rolster at the end of 2017, to begin my career in the LCK.
Q. When you were in C9; who was the most impressive, and who were you closest with?
I got along well with everyone, so there’s no particular player that I was closer to, but it seems that fans think I’m really close to Sneaky and Jensen. (Q. You were keeping in touch with them during streams.) Yes, I still do. (Laughs)
Q. What was C9’s biggest appeal? Do you want to go back?
I’ve only been in three pro teams, so it’s hard to say. I think the biggest thing for C9 is the freewheeling lifestyle. Many fans see C9 as a freewheeling and fun team, and it really was like that. I wasn’t there for long, but it was really fun.
Q. What was the best and most regretful memory of your NA life?
There’s one regret that comes to mind. I played well to get Spring Split MVP, but I wasn’t able to get to the finals. The best memory is just the new start and interesting experiences that NA gave me. I had my debut as a pro gamer, and I was happy communicating with the fans.
Q. You’re back in Korea now. How is it different from NA as a player?
There’s not that much hierarchy in NA compared to Korea. The coaches and players are like the same, and the head coach doesn’t reign over us much; it’s a rather horizontal relation. There’s the advantage of anyone being able to say what they want to say, but at the same time, the individualism and lack of leadership becomes a weakness. There’s no one in charge that can correct mistakes or set a good example as a leader.
In Korea, it’s really systematic. The practice environment is consistent, and there’s someone to arbitrate when there are conflicts of opinion. In the US, they have to solve everything on their own when there are problems, but in Korea, the coaches and staff, everybody helps with my personal problems so I can concentrate more on my game.
Q. You’re really popular in NA. Why do you think that is?
There should be several reasons, but I think the biggest reason is that I delivered performance with a lot of impact in my debut season. The junglers of the NA LCS at that time like “Meteos” played the game mainly concentrating on farming. I preferred fighting and ganking, playing aggressive champions like Lee Sin and Nidalee. Another reason was that I was one of the few Koreans that were able to communicate well in English. After joining C9, I think the nice image I had with the fans from getting along with the C9 members had some appeal too, and my performance was quite alright. Nowadays, there are a lot of Korean players in NA, but I think back then, I was a rare case.
Q. Do you watch the NA LCS competition? If you do, who do you think will win in the finals?
I’m not able to watch all the matches, but I always look up the results or highlights. Since I wasn’t able to see how the teams perform, it’s hard to decide which team will become the champions. However, I think the big 3 getting cut off is a very unexpected event. All the teams remaining in the finals and third place match have really good performance, so it’s hard to decide who will win.
Q. Let’s go further back in the past. You graduated at a foreign language high school and went to a prestigious university. How did you decide to become a pro gamer?
I’m the type that can’t concentrate on what I don’t enjoy. When I do things I like, the results are better. Studying was an obligation as a student; I did my best studying because I needed to have good grades to do whatever I wanted to do.
But games were different. As you know, games are more fun the more you play. When I played LoL, I thought I was pretty good. When I hit 1st in solo queue on the KR server, several offers came from different regions. When I got those offers, I thought that I could be good enough as a pro gamer so I started my pro career in the NA.
When I told my parents that I wanted to try being a pro gamer, they worried a lot. They didn’t express it on the outside, but I think they were concerned on the inside. I was able to go to the US because they told me that they trusted me, that I would do well. Since I lived a dormitory life in high school, my parents were less worried and less objective about me living on my own in a far away place. After I became a pro gamer, they also liked it a lot. They told me “our son being on TV is the best.” (Laughs)
Q. Why did you choose kt Rolster among the many pro LoL teams?
I left NA because I wanted to try playing in the LCK, and I wanted a team where I could learn the team game in a more orderly manner. In that situation, kt Rolster viewed me favorably and made me an offer. I thought it was a timely offer and a great chance so I joined them.
Q. Your debut was on the last match of the 2018 LCK Spring Split. What were your thoughts at that moment?
Actually, there were several chances for me to play during the split, but they were postponed continuously until it came to the last match. My playstyle is usually carrying the team myself or having the whole team stumble because of me. I’m more of a solo-queue guy (Laughs). But competitions are a lot more of a team game; I was aware of my weaknesses so I tried to delay my debut until I was completely integrated into the team. During that time, I hit 1st in solo queue again, and I finally thought I was prepared, so I thought it was a good chance, since our rank was confirmed, and it was the last match before the postseason.
Q. Lee Sin was 0-3 during this split. It’s not a champion that goes well with the meta and was even nerfed indirectly, but you played him still.
Frankly, I didn’t play Lee Sin during scrims a single time. I rarely play him in solo queue too, but as the picks & bans went, jungle became the last pick. All the top tier jungle champions were banned and the only remaining choices were Jarvan IV and Lee Sin. In normal situations, I would have played Jarvan, but at that time, I thought if I needed to choose from the two, I thought Lee Sin was the right choice.
I was actually quite worried, since recently, Lee Sin hasn’t been that good compared to other champions; I was worried, thinking ‘what if we lose because of me?’ However, the whole draft composition was the best environment for Lee Sin, and if I didn’t play him, I thought I wouldn’t be able to play Lee Sin again. I thought ‘Since it’s my debut, I’ll make a bold decision.’ It’s a relief that I delivered a decent performance.
Q. Unlike now, you were quite nervous in the interview after the match.
Well, it’s not that I extremely nervous. I was able to speak, but since the interview was live in real time, I had too many thoughts trying not to make a mistake. I think that since I was carefully choosing which words to blurt out, it seemed like I was really nervous on screen. After all, silence may be better than unnecessary comments.
Q. All the members of kt Rolster are younger than you. Are there any inconveniences in the gaming house life? How’s the atmosphere?
The atmosphere is really bright, and there’s nothing uncomfortable. Since I haven’t experienced many teams, I can’t really compare much, but I think all the kt Rolster players are very nice. Everyone is friendly to one another.
Q. In a way, Score is your rival, competing to play in the same position. Do you feel any pressure regarding this?
I think Score does a lot more things for the team than I do. I’m not really stressed from the lack of playing time, and rather than thinking of him as a competitor, I watch him and learn, to become more determined. If I always do my best and maintain my peak performance, I’m sure that there will be a moment where my team really needs me. My first priority is to be ready for any situation, whenever my team needs me.
Q. You’re still currently very high up in the KR ranked ladder. Do you have any tips that you’d kindly like to share with other junglers?
A jungler’s most important role is helping his or her laners. Anyone can farm jungle camps. What separates a good jungler from a bad one is how he interacts and helps his laner. You have to constantly think and act on how you can help your team. In solo queue, especially, if you don’t show any presence in lane, it’ll complicate things. Even if the enemy jungler fails to secure a kill, he’ll give over the lane advantage to his laner in other ways, such as allowing his laner to take a CS or HP lead. Whether it be warding or counter-ganking, you have to help your laners as much as possible.
If I’m to give another tip, I’d like to advise every jungler to make good use of his or her time. A jungle camp takes time to respawn, so you need to make good use of the time in-between them. You also need to have the freedom of mind to change your jungle pathing at will depending on where your enemy jungler is. You can also help your team by securing Scuttle Crabs and Scryer’s Blooms; on top of that, of course, pinging and warding.
Q. You have a very wide champion-pool. Which champion are you the most confident with?
It would probably be Lee Sin and Nidalee, as I’ve played them the most. But I haven’t been playing them much recently, as they don’t fit very well in the current meta. Currently, when it comes to champions, Skarner and Olaf are very good. When playing these two, I feel like I can’t lose.
Q. What are your goals for this year?
I want to reach the Spring Finals no matter what. Last year, KT couldn’t make Worlds by a slim margin. But this year, I want to take them there, and even win. My goal for this year would be to become a jungler that gives KT their first Worlds win.
Q. Anything you want to say for your fans?
It’s basically my first time playing as a pro here in Korea, so many fans probably have no idea who I am. I’ll do my best so that every League of Legends fan will come to know me. Please expect more from me.
Q. Can you say something for your fans overseas?
I’m sorry to have kept you guys waiting. I’ll make sure it is worth the wait.
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