The stars of the old Samsung lineup split apart and joined teams across China. A portion of the players is still playing the game to this day, whereas some retired or continued their esports careers as coaches.
Samsung Blue's support player, Heart, chose to remain in the esports scene as a coach and has had his fair share of glory. In 2015, he led LGD to win the LPL Summer Split and qualified for the World Championship. However, he also had his fair share of hardships. In 2016, despite having recruited Marin, a previous World Champion at the price of over two million USD, LGD was rated as the worst team in the LPL that year.
Looking back at the year, Heart confessed that his time in LGD was the hardest time in his life. He shared that he also was suffering from 'panic disorder' at the time. Getting poor results on stage while at the same time suffering from an illness -- it was the worst of times for Heart.
"My condition? It wasn't good. I was suffering from panic disorder. When it was severe, I couldn't even make it up on stage for picks and bans. I had seizures a couple of times, too. Those who suffer from the same illness would know, but you can't even leave your house. You're always in fear that you could die at any time, anywhere.
I think I was under the pressure that I was responsible for everything. Since my amateur days as a player, I always filled the role of team captain. Picks and bans, setting up scrim schedules and taking note of the results on stage... I felt that I was responsible for everything.
'Why must I work harder than everyone else? Why am I doing things that others are responsible for doing?'
The life that I was living wasn't the life that I had wanted. Despite putting in so much effort, I was never acknowledged for it. No, I didn't need to be acknowledged, but shouldn't my efforts have at least inspired others to work harder? I always lived my life thinking that I just need to put in the extra work if others don't do their part, but deep inside, I didn't want that."
When his symptoms were severe, Heart stated that he read a lot of famous quotes regarding life. The one that affected him the most was, 'You don't want to end your life. You just simply don't want to live this kind of life."
Being born with a heart disease, Heart explained that the fear of having a heart attack worsened his panic disorder symptoms. Heart continued, stating that he would often have troubles falling asleep at night due to it.
In order to overcome his illness, Heart put in a lot of effort; he said he had no choice but to do so. He didn't like that his illness affected those close to him and not just himself. So with the mindset that he'd been born anew, Heart moved forward step by step, challenging himself by doing common activities such as leaving his house, eating at restaurants, and riding on a plane.
"I made a request to RNG when I joined the team. I told them that they don't need to give me a high salary, but enough free time so that I can maintain and work on my health. And when I first arrived at the team, I had the mindset of a student -- I began working with the full intention of learning from the organization. I also constantly told myself, 'you've lived in China before, so what are you afraid of?' in order to combat the panic disorder.
When head coach Kezman arrived, I felt that the team environment became perfect -- everything started clicking in place. With his arrival, the trust between coaches and players improved, and even when we were struggling at the beginning of this year, Kezman never lost faith in me. That really motivated me.
Head coach Kezman also gives me more authority within the team. In China, most coaches don't carry any power with what they say. If there is a conflict within a team, players would often talk directly to the team owner and not the coach -- but that's not the case for our team, RNG. I think Kezman created an environment in which the players have no choice but to speak to the coaches. He implanted the idea that 'we need to solve our problems on our own, that it's the only surefire way to fix it,' in the players.
It's difficult for someone in a high position to put so much trust in someone below him or her. Because the head coach takes all the responsibility in the end. He trusted me even during hardships, I was really moved by it."
With RNG, Coach Heart started overcoming his personal ordeals; and the reason he was able to do so was head coach Kezman. Heart continued the interview by sharing his interesting and unique coaching philosophy.
"You have to do well, no matter the environment. A team that can only win through a certain strategy or meta will never be successful in the long run. 'Blaming the picks and bans is just an excuse.' I told that to the players countless times. If we do well, we can win with any champion. This, of course, is much easier said than done, but the players started putting more trust in each other.
The ability to play different types of compositions in any given meta is a valuable asset, and in order to do that, the players need to be competent. With that said, I don't think I've proved my worth yet... the only reason RNG has been so successful is that the players are all very talented. The only way that I can proudly say that I'm a 'great coach' is if I join a bottom tier team and boost their performance.
'I guess I'm not too bad, my coaching methods aren't wrong'. This is as far as I think of myself. I've managed many different players in the past, so I know just how great my players are."
RNG is a team that often tries unorthodox but entertaining strategies on stage. As an example, RNG is the very first team that played Yasuo in the bot lane. In addition, RNG had once employed both junglers, Karsa and MLXG, in a game and won. There were even cases in which Uzi was sent to the top or mid lane. Heart explained that he usually comes up with these kinds of ideas far before they are actually played. When the meta seems right for it, that's when Heart puts those ideas to use.
"For example, if there is a great Yasuo player in our team, I brainstorm many different ideas to try and get that player to play the champion on stage. When the meta changes and the situation seems right, that's when I pull the idea from the corner of my brain to actually put it to use.
I love and enjoy breaking biased opinions. Everyone has a certain opinion towards certain champions. Even in solo queue, if someone picks an "odd" champion, the others flame, and even dodge. Professional players are worse because they believe that their level of understanding is much higher than the average person. To persuade the players to play these unorthodox picks, it all comes down to how much trust the players have in each other when playing the picks -- and how much trust they have in me.
I think the biggest example is when GSG used the 5-man mid strategy. It was the 2012-2013 NLB Winter Season. In game 5 of the Finals against CJ Entus, we used a 5-man mid strategy. Easyhoon came up with the idea, and I saw it as a good one. So we prepared it just in case... and the situation called for it during the final set, so we played it. (Laughs)"
The 5th set of the Finals between GSG and CJ Entus is a game talked about even to this day. At the time, GSG which was an amateur team which met CJ Entus in the Finals. Both teams played their hearts out and reached the 5th set of the series. There, GSG had all five members go mid lane, winning the game before 20 minutes passed. It was a tactic that defied the EU meta.
Coach Heart wasn't conservative with his praise towards the players. Starting with Uzi, Heart talked about the strengths and weaknesses of each RNG member -- he shared that he was especially astounded by Uzi and his mechanical prowess.
"I used to be a support player, so I can tell just how good an ADC player is by looking at how they farm CS. Uzi has animal instincts, and it's astounding. If Deft and PraY play like model students who just graduated from school, Uzi feels like someone who's lived with animals from a jungle somewhere. He does things that just don't seem humanly capable.
Although he's weak in the 'theoretical department', his animal-like instincts are truly outstanding. His playstyle is similar to Imp's [during his prime] and Ruler's.
Honestly speaking, last year, everyone on the team didn't feel human. Put it roughly, it felt like a team of beasts. 'I'll bark first, so you bark, too!' Kind of like this? There was no synergy between the players. At first, they were a bit self-centered. Now, they're working really hard to form that bond with each other."
The 2018 LPL Spring, MSI, and even the Demacia Cup. RNG is claiming the trophies of every tournament that they attend. Currently, in China, the fans' expectations towards RNG is growing larger by the minute. The LPL fans are in high hope that RNG will be the team to finally bring back the Summoner's Cup to China, and coach Heart is wary of it.
"If we don't win, it'll be really, really bad. (Laughs) I'm actually scared. Right now, due to our busy schedule, we don't have time to practice. Tomorrow [the day after the interview] is a tournament day, but we couldn't secure enough time to practice for it. The meta is changing by the minute, but we're always short on time.
To win, you really need a lot of luck on your side. Depending on the day, depending on how the players feel; all elements inside and outside of the game affect the outcome of a match. Even if one player performs outstandingly, that doesn't guarantee a victory. In order to win, all 5 players and coach on stage need to do well. One mistake can cost you a game, so you really need to stay focused.
That's why I always regard so highly of SK Telecom T1. I just really wish that the fans wouldn't give them so much flak. The things that they have already accomplished alone is deserving of a free pass. Winning multiple splits in a row -- often consecutively -- is not an easy task. Here in China, there were many cases where LPL champion teams landed on 7th or 8th place in the following split. Staying at the absolute top for numerous years is insanely difficult, and I really wish that the fans can see this as well.
One thing that I'm glad about is that my players don't feel too much pressure from this situation. Maybe it's because they're veterans, but I feel that they enjoy the burden. This is a very valuable asset that a player can have. In addition, the players say it themselves, that they have never practiced this hard before in their entire life."
Coach Heart shared that he wants to be a brother figure for his players. Someone that can comfort them during hardships, and someone that can correct them if they've done something wrong. Although Heart wasn't sure if he is viewed as such, he was confident that he has a good relationship with the players.
If RNG qualifies for the World Championship this year, Heart will return to Korea after having spent three long years in China. He shared that he's overjoyed at the thought of going back. He wanted to thank all the Chinese fans and the Korean fans that still remember him.
"I believe that it's really important to return the kindness and love that the fans give us, in ways such as speaking to them or interacting with them. They spend their valuable time and emotions with us. Even an interview like this one is a small way to repay them.
I want to thank the [Korean] fans that still remember me to this day... I'm still thinking of ways to repay them. I'm really grateful that some fans still remember me. I only want to show them the best, so I'll make sure to continue to do well."