Change is an inevitable part of life; people grow, learn, and, improve. However, improvement is not simply based on how much information someone builds up. People - and all living creatures in fact - learn from their experiences and mature from them. While happy experiences can help shape a person, it is more often the more heart-wrenching or frustrating experiences that really help us become stronger. From defeat and sadness, we often find the drive that propels us forward to our greatest achievements.
UmTi has left Jin Air Greenwings, a team he loves and respects. Having to bid farewell to the team with which he made his professional debut, UmTi’s departure is one he’s carrying out with a heavy heart. He spent a whole 3 years with Jin Air, and even got shot at the big stage with them. While he may be no longer be with the team, UmTi’s memories with Greenwings will last a lifetime. With the experience he has gained from those 3 years, UmTi is now prepared to take a step forward on the path to his future.
Seeing UmTi every day at Esports stadiums, it was strange seeing him outside of his work environment for the first time. Switching his Jin Air Greenwings uniform for regular clothes, UmTi was just another tall and skinny teenager. He looked like any other person his age. Despite this, UmTi still spoke like one-in-a-million as he boasted about his unique talents. Regardless, through his anecdotes, it was clear UmTi had matured. UmTi was no longer a kid who played for Jin Air Greenwings. UmTi was a full-fledged adult.
¤ Everyone is wondering why you left Jin Air.
I have thought about leaving the team for quite some time now. It all started last year in the 1st week of the Summer Split. During that time, I was going through a difficult period. I also didn’t match too well with my team. After the split ended, I had some time to recollect my thoughts. When time passed, the team manager came to see me. The future that Jin Air had planned and my future did not line up. Because of this, I started to think “I need to do do something before I miss my chance.”
¤ That is incredible. You had set out a plan in a situation where everything was up in the air.
I recognize that a lot of fans are worried for my well being. I have dropped in skill and had a lot of ups and downs. But in reality, when I play in scrims, I feel the opposite. Recently, I participated in scrims and have never doubted my own performance. Some people might hear this and just laugh at me though (laughs).
I will always be grateful to Jin Air Greenwings. I have learned a significant amount. Despite this - from talking to others and thinking it over - I came to a conclusion: “I don’t think I will be able to improve as a player if I stay with this team for another year.” I believe this is why I made such a bold decision.
¤ In a previous interview, you said that the biggest regret you had was that you never truly trusted in your teammates. Is this still the case?
Now, things have drastically changed. I like to think that I’ve given my teammates a lot of trust, and my teammates also reciprocated that. This was especially true in the Summer Split.
¤ Let’s talk a bit about your time in Jin Air. You have experienced being almost regulated out of the LCK but also experienced almost reaching the Playoffs. Between these experiences, which one taught you more?
Because both of those experiences were influential, it is hard to choose between the two. Everything I have gone through with Jin Air helped me get to where I am.
In regards to regulation matches, it was a helpful experience because I learned how and where I could improve to better my overall performance. In other words, if I was painting a picture, I had the wrong background foundation for my art piece. It was a time when I had to rapidly learn how to fix my mistakes. At the time, I not only learned about myself as a player but also myself as an individual. I taught myself to suppress my own ego and read the team atmosphere. To be honest, I was very wary. I knew better than anyone that I was the weak link on our team. I was extremely sorry. I even thought to myself ‘how can I help and make my teammates’ lives easier?’
The post season was a little bit different. While I did improve skill-wise, I still regret not being able to improve as much as I had hoped to. I guess that’s the regret of knowing I could have done so much better? Because of this thought, I like to believe I have matured even more. I was a little overconfident back then. Now that is not the case.
¤ You have guest commentated and also left a few comments on meta-analysis articles. It seems that you have a comprehensive understanding of the game. Would you agree that you have a deeper understanding of the game compared to other players?
Yeah, I guess so. But rather than me saying “I have a lot of confidence”, I think it’s more like “Why is no one studying this?” There are obviously a lot of players out there with outstanding skill and interest in the game. I just never understood why they don’t seek out and study. If anyone were to study these things, shouldn’t it be the pros?
In the Precision rune tree, there is a spec called “Tenacity”. When Sejuani was meta, no one bothered using it. But after I started using it in scrims and live games, everyone started to hop on the wagon. I was surprised that I was the first one to use it. I really didn’t understand why they didn’t attempt to find new ways to play the game. I know that a lot of players practice for an unbelievable amount of time. Whenever someone sees my build in soloq or scrims, they must think I am crazy. But why...(laughs)?
In a way, maybe it is detrimental to me. I am the innovator, and my builds are getting stolen. But no matter who innovated first or stole last, all that matters is that you succeed. Maybe I’m just the stupid one (laughs).
¤ I assume you also have some builds or picks that you have not yet shown on the stage?
Tristana jungle comes to mind. Oh, and Aatrox jungle. After the rework, Aatrox seemed really strong in the jungle. When I told my teammates, they just ignored me. My other teammates told me “Aatrox in other lanes is just so much better.” If you look at the soloq jungle meta right now, there is a lot of Aatrox. It is a bit unfortunate.
I remember when Spirit once played Tristana jungle against us in a scrim. It made be think that she is actually not that bad, depending on the situation. He took “Press the Attack” on her. Apparently, it was not just against us; Afreeca Freecs loves to test out new and unconventional picks against other teams in scrims too. Maybe this is why Afreeca Freecs was able to lead the meta in the LCK.
¤ It seems you’re good at planning out early-phase jungle routes against enemy teams. Is this where your gaming comprehension for LoL shines or was it just what your team asked for?
My team didn’t ask for it -- I just did it. I think even the smallest competition for jungling routes in the early phase is very important. I even thought, ‘Without this, I wouldn’t be able to play League.’ You know, if the jungler does well in the early phase, then the rest of the laners can easily do well for the rest of the game. This was what I’ve thought many times when I wasn’t doing great in last year’s Spring Split. It got to the point where failing to take even one Raptor or Rift Scuttler during the early phase would decide the game’s victory or defeat. So I often thought ‘I cannot lose during the early phase’, and I think that has continued to this moment.
¤ This year’s League of Legends Championship seems to be more of an upper-lane meta led by the jungles. Do you think that you, as a player who prioritizes early-phase competition for jungle routes, would have done well if you got to play in it?
There were many times where I did feel regret since I couldn’t [be in the tournament], but I accepted the reality right away. When I was watching the tournament with Teddy, we would say things like, ‘I’m confident I can do better than that person’ a lot. Whenever we said stuff like that though, we would always add at the end, ‘We are a jungler and ADC for a 10th place team.’’ (Laughs) In a way, we are building up frustration when we say things like that -- it’s like preparation to do better next time.
¤ This is when you should be looking for a team. Would you prefer to stay in Korea?
I do really want to stay in the LCK. There is still a dream I haven’t fulfilled yet. Of course, there obviously is a chance I might go abroad to play if any Western teams offer me good terms. I think the LCK will treat me as a ‘leftover player’. On the other hand, the West is highly likely to put me as their 1st choice. I think I will make decisions based on the terms like that.
¤ I heard that you are good at speaking English. Wouldn’t it be fine if you did transfer to an English-speaking team?
I think that’s a different thing. Even though Koreans use the same language, it doesn’t mean they get along. Just because I am good at English, there’s no guarantee we will understand each other well. I think it’s hard to think of speaking English as a benefit.
¤ I brought something different this time; this is called the ‘brain map’ and I would like you to fill this. After filling it, you explain your choices one by one.
Ah, I know what this is. I’ve seen this in other articles several times (Laughs).
¤ You wrote getting a job right in the center.
Actually, I worry about it a lot. As I said before, I am a jungler for a team placed 10th. I am worried about whether I can really find a new team. I wonder if people will let me take tryouts. I actually asked for a tryout at a team and got rejected. My self-esteem became very low because I started thinking ‘I have become a player not even worth a tryout’. I asked for the tryout because I wanted to change the impressions people had about me. That was the main reason, but I was deeply hurt after getting rejected. After that incident, my heart did turn to foreign teams very much. It got to the point where I started to think that no team in Korea wanted me.
¤ Maybe that’s why there are only game-related words in the brain chart.
It has been like that for a while. These words wouldn’t leave my head for 3 years. I always watch League of Legends clips before I go to sleep. I am curious about what champions other regional players use, or even what other players do for a fun game. I always look it up on websites. I want to know who is good at jungling in KR ranked games as well. I would often think things like, ‘I can counter this player going this route when I play against him’ as I watch them.
¤ What about this one: ‘Maybe start a new game’?
I used to be conflicted. I tried new games during my break. Actually, whenever it got strenuous, I would try forgetting the stress by playing other games. Then such thoughts went away eventually. Instead, I chose to increase my ranked points by a lot.
¤ Then have ever considered changing the game title at all?
I did -- Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. In the end, though, I am glad I didn’t change. I truly like LoL.
I’ve never been pushed out of the top rankings for Heroes of the Storm since the alpha phase. I would keep 1st grade then GM. However, I quit playing after I lost my account (Laughs). What I felt back then was, ‘this game is not as fun as LoL to me’; It felt like I was playing it rather mechanically to increase my points.
I also kept in the top rankings for Overwatch as well. I kept my GM tier. Bdosin, who played Overwatch with me back then, is now a pro player for the London Spitfire in the Overwatch League. Overwatch also lacked in the fun aspect for me. If I transferred to the Overwatch esports scene at the end of the inner conflict, I wouldn’t have been able to earn much renown.
To me, LoL always feels new. I can keep finding something new. For Overwatch, the pattern was always similar. I felt that the game having a skirmish structure was what made the play pattern too monotonous. As for League of Legends, you could suddenly face defeat due to a wrongly placed ward even in a scrim. This is why it always feels amazing and new and difficult.
¤ You wrote, ‘Nothing’ in this little space.
All of what I think nowadays is written in the big space. There’s nothing else so that’s why I wrote that.
¤ Because you started out as a pro gamer at such a young age, you couldn’t help but neglect your family and friends, is that right?
I feel very sorry for my best friend. I can’t reveal his real name… so let’s just call him Lee for now (Laughs). Before, I used to meet up with Lee and hang out all the time. But after I became a pro gamer, we couldn’t. He is an aspiring pro gamer but I heard he is slowly giving up on his dream. I always feel sorry since it must have felt like I was with him all the time then suddenly disappeared from his side.
And as for my family, actually… we meet often (Laughs). My mother looks after me a lot. She comes to see me once a week. But then she always asks me if I feel pressure. She doesn’t come when I’m with my teammates on purpose in case they might feel uncomfortable about it.
¤ We’ve talked about many things. If there’s anything you would like to add, please feel free.
I am sincerely grateful to Head Coach H-Dragon and the Jin Air Green Wings staff for choosing me 2 years ago. I wanted to say this at each official occasion I attended. They are the ones that opened the path for me to come this far. If they didn’t pick me back then, I probably would have been ruined.
I would also like to show my gratitude to my fans who have supported me until now. I’ve kept all of the fan letters I have received. Nowadays I go over them one by one. They give me a lot of strength whenever I am in a tough spot. Whether I will be in LCK or abroad next year, I will make sure I get good results and come back home after buying lots of good stuff (laughs).
¤ Can you also say something to your future team?
I’ll make sure you will never regret picking me (laughs).