Many players have taken on new ventures in 2019. GorillA went to Misfits while Ambition began the 2nd part of his gaming career as a streamer. Other players that represented the LCK are in the midst of preparing for their new start in different environments. Korean players aren’t the only ones; SwordArt, the face of the LMS and the star of the Flash Wolves franchise also joined the LPL.
SwordArt is a name many League of Legends fans are familiar with. He was a player that stood out the most in Flash Wolves. SwordArt made his debut in 2012 as part of ahq Amateur. In 2013, he made his first appearance in an international tournament with the Gamania Bears, but was met with bitter defeat. Later that same year, he joined Flash Wolves.
The period he began to climb to the peak was in the years 2015 and 2016. There was no one to compete against him in the LMS and he had proven his strength in both the MSI and Worlds. He had engraved his name in the hearts of the Korean fans by defeating both KOO Tigers and SKT T1 during single-round matches; the teams were part of the ‘Big 3’ in Korea at the time. His Alistar is still described to this day as the ‘Alistar from hell’ due to how he tormented his opponent players during the match against SKT T1.
The news about your transfer to Suning Gaming gained a lot of attention among the Korean fans.
I didn’t know I had a reputation in Korea (Laughs). I did think that there would be Korean fans who would like me even though they are not fans of LMS since I have a long gaming career, but I feel a little flustered to hear it directly. Anyways, I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce myself here.
You left Flash Wolves, where you’ve stayed for a long time. What is the current team’s atmosphere like?
First of all, I am very satisfied with my current teammates’ skills. Each individual has great ability so I’m looking forward to the next season. But we still need to work on our teamwork at the moment so we will need more time before we are able to show our ability at 100%. But for now, I have a great feeling about [the future].
Most of your teammates are rookies. What do you find most satisfying?
I’ve enjoyed watching the LPL and LCK since I was in Flash Wolves. Since then, I thought our AD Carry, Smlz, is a great player, and I wanted to play with him in the same team if I got the chance. The AD Carries I played with before were great players too but Smlz felt like a player with a special talent.
We are curious about how you left Flash Wolves. Weren’t you the face of the team and a representative for the LMS?
I’d been in Flash Wolves for 5 years. They were a team that could regularly get their hands on the trophy cup. But if I stay in just one team, I’ll become ‘stale’. I thought that this was the time for me to leave the team if I wanted to develop more. (Q: Weren’t you interested in playing for a Korean team?) I haven’t really thought seriously about it (Laughs). If I were to pick a team I’d like to join, it would be SKT T1. They are a team with a magnificent history and looking at them winning in their prime time makes them feel like they are a team from another world so I wanted to feel that once.
You transferred with Maple. What are you two like normally?
Maple is a great friend. I’ve known him before I joined Flash Wolves so it’s been like 7-8 years now. We’ve known each other so long we’re almost like an old couple (Laughs). We often argue but our faith in each other is deep like real brothers. He is a teammate I can trust not just in-games but also in my daily life.
Were you planning to move teams together initially? Who recommended transferring to SNG first?
We didn’t plan to transfer together at first. We said that we both wanted SNG when we were talking together about several things. But it was up to each person to decide so we didn’t recommend it to each other. When I was almost done with my transfer, I heard that Maple also chose SNG. This made me think we really have a connection (Laughs).
Another new thing you get to experience is Korean coaches. How was it now that you got to stay with Easyhoon and Comet?
I’ve experienced playing in the LMS and Head Coach Comet is originally from the LCK. Also, Coach Easyhoon was a player in the LPL before he retired so theoretically, we are a team with a lot of experience. I’m satisfied with my coaches at the moment. My head coach tends to check the overall macros like a true LCK native and I tend to discuss the in-game details with Coach Easyhoon.
Any special anecdote from the boot camp?
Nothing special yet, but the most memorable thing to me is kimchi. It’s Korean people’s favorite dish but I couldn’t find any of its appeals yet (Laughs). Personally, I like Korean beef. It tastes different from the meat I had in China and the taste seems deeper than Bulgogi.
It’s not just food - you seem quite deeply related to Korea as you’ve been playing on the KR server since 2013.
There were talks of playing on the KR server in my team because there were many great players and amateur pros back then. It’s not a problem right now but it was hard to play properly due to the ping at the time. Regardless, I was able to improve a lot thanks to the great amateur and pro players I met on the KR server. I also learned a whole new concept of swear words without meaning to (Laughs).
Who was the most impressive player you met in KR solo ranked?
The player that left the biggest impression in KR solo ranked was Wolf. Whenever we met as enemies, I felt that he was very detail-oriented during the laning phase. He was a support who cared about even the smallest things. The other player was Mata. He’s the opposite style of Wolf; he was a player who was more outstanding in the overall macro-management or creating game flow than he was in the laning phase. Both are great but if I were to include playing in tournaments, then Mata is the support I would find hard to play against. I hate supports who roam so much like that (Laughs).
Do you believe Flash Wolves became known as “Korean Killers” because they have played in the Korean server so much?
That’s a question that I’ve been often asked. I don’t know if this would be a clear answer, but Flash Wolves was a team that was once close to the Korean teams. FW had similar a playstyle to the Korean teams in terms of macro and strategy, so our picks and bans were similar as well. I think we were able to defeat the Korean teams whenever we were able to secure a strong champion during drafts.
However, you weren’t able to defeat a Korean team in a Bo5 series. We’re curious as to why.
Bo1 games have a lot of variables. Even if we are to face a team that is stronger than us, we can prepare a unique strategy to defeat them in a Bo1. It also works the other way around; a team considered weaker than us can defeat us in a Bo1. In a Bo5, however, it’s a different story.
Preparing for a Bo5 and actually playing in such a series is completely different to a Bo1. While the series is ongoing, you have to figure out the opponent’s playstyle and strategy in order to develop a counter strategy of your own for the next game. Your ability to figure out your opponent’s moves decides the winner of that series. In that regard, the Korean teams are ahead of us.
The tournament that comes to mind is the 2016 MSI. At the time, SK Telecom T1 was stronger than us in every aspect. The most regretful game was when we played against Kingzone DragonX at the 2018 MSI. It was a game that made me feel that our team lacked understanding of the meta.
Many teams struggled to adapt to the meta in the past. Flash Wolves was one of them. While that was going on, new rookie players were making a name for themselves.
I’m not too concerned about the new rising players. Many rookie players will surely make a name for themselves through some of their games. However, I have played in a number of international tournaments, and have gathered a lot of experience. I’m confident in playing against anyone. I’m not trying to boast that I’m a world-class player. I simply have self-esteem from having often competed in the biggest League of Legends tournament, the World Championship.
The LMS fans must’ve been heartbroken upon hearing the news that you’re leaving. Any message for them?
Some fans asked me to stay, but most fans supported my decision. I’m thankful for their support, and I wish the best for Flash Wolves and their future endeavors. The remaining players on Flash Wolves are all great individuals; I sincerely believe that they’ll continue to impress their fans. It’ll be amazing if I meet Flash Wolves at the Worlds stage. In addition, Betty is a player with the potential to grow. I truly hope that he does well with his new support so that we can meet at the World Championship.