2022 was a very dynamic year for Liiv SANDBOX’s young mid laner, Lee “Clozer” Ju-hyeon. He still felt like the former T1 rookie in the beginning of the year, but whether it’s his playstyle or in any other way he was active as a pro, his growth was very visible.
Clozer started getting recognition when he was on T1’s secondary league team. Through his aggressive, mechanically intensive plays that outmaneuvered all his opponents, especially on strong early game champions, his playstyle was all about gaining advantages in the laning phase. It did not take long for him to be the next big mid laner that looked to continue the legacy of T1’s mid lane, a standard set by none other than the legendary player, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok.
Clozer received a lot of attention when he debuted in the LCK as well. He definitely played well. However, due to the roster rotations at the time on T1, he naturally had less opportunities to start for his team. For Clozer, 2022 was also a huge challenge, as he shed the familiar red uniform and represented LSB’s yellow, as their starting mid laner.
In our conversation with Clozer, he revealed that the 2022 season was a season of growth. While he prefers to play fearlessly and aggressively on the rift, he also learned how to look at situations more objectively, and learned how to become more versatile. Furthermore, building teamwork with brand new teammates this year also made him learn the importance of communication.
He also went through a variety of emotions, something that not many players get to experience in a single year. From the pains of a losing streak, learning how to overcome a slump, the thrill of a win streak, to experiencing his first Bo5s, his season’s been nothing short of dynamic. Although he ultimately failed to make it to the Worlds stage, the 2022 season was only the beginning for this young mid laner.
It’s been one hell of a year for you. What have you been up to recently?
I worked very hard over this past year, so recently, I’ve been focusing on nothing but rest. I play a little bit of solo queue, and am spending my time working out.
It’s actually the first time seeing you outside of LoL Park. What kind of a person would you say you are outside of the competitive environment?
I would say that I’m a very normal person [laughter]. Just your typical 20 year old dude. I recently started playing badminton, and I think it’s a fun way to get your cardio workout, so I try to consistently play. I first tried it with my younger sister, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Also, I went to karaoke with Ellim [jungler for Kwangdong Freecs] recently as well [laughter].
You spent three years at T1, then joined Liiv SANDBOX.
When I left T1, I had this fresh mindset of needing to perform well. At the very least, I wanted to be considered one of the mid-top tier mid laners in the LCK. Also, at the time, I was full of confidence in my abilities as a player, but I was moving to a new team for the first time in my life, so everything felt awkward, and I was worried whether or not I’ll be able to adjust to the new environment.
However, the Spring split for you wasn’t easy. There must’ve been things that weighed you down mentally as well.
Apart from my own abilities, I was honestly worried about a lot of things, such as having a lot of rookies on the team. A lot of us didn’t have enough experience in the LCK; even ‘Dove’, who did have more experience than us, swapped positions to top lane, so there were a lot of firsts for all of us.
Also, in the beginning, we lost almost all our scrims. I mean, it wasn’t all bad since we were able to identify each of our strengths, but there was that pressure of how “LSB’s mid-jungle needs to step up for the team to thrive”, so that stunted a lot of my plays.
Personally, I think that the team not having that close relationship at the time also played a part in our underperformance. The fact that we weren’t doing well in the standings also led to a poor team atmosphere. Through time, we filled in such gaps within our team, so I think that’s what eventually led to our improvement.
It feels like that improvement came after ‘Prince’ joined the team in the Summer. When do you think that things started to really improve?
Prince joining our team definitely changed a lot. Our support, ‘Kael’, is a very quiet and a gentle guy by nature, but Prince proactively trying to reach out to him and have conversations definitely led to better communication in the bot lane. That’s when it all started, and the atmosphere became much better. However, because we didn’t have enough time to build our teamwork, it’s not like our scrim results got drastically better, so there was still doubt before the start of the Summer split. I think I realized that we can make this work after we beat Kwangdong Freecs in round 1. I think that victory woke something inside of us.
It definitely felt like momentum is a big part of a team’s success or failure.
Definitely. I experienced both win streaks and losing streaks, and I realized that the team atmosphere, as well as that momentum you spoke of is really important. For example, if a certain strategy leads to a losing streak, then you start to doubt, which leads to hesitation in the plays, even if it’s by 0.1 seconds. However, if you’re on a win streak, then you’re fearless in the execution.
Although it’s unfortunate that LSB failed to make it to Worlds this year, the team’s run in the LCK this season has been an amazing one.
We always say, “Let’s showcase everything we can, even if we end up losing”. I didn’t want us to be called a weak team. That’s why everyone made feisty plays, which kind of led to all of us seeing the game through the same set of eyes.
I’ve heard that you share a lot of information with LSB’s positional coach, ‘PawN’.
Having a former player as a coach definitely helped me. From meta champion tier lists, matchups, to even just little tips about the game, they’ve all helped. He definitely knows a lot of those small tips. On a side note, I didn’t know that he was a player with such a celebrated history as a pro player.
I just knew of him as a former pro. Then I watched his montages and all these videos about his history on Youtube, and I learned that he was an incredible player [laughter]. I learned this after the Summer split ended.
Is there a moment in the 2022 season you’d like to return to?
Definitely game 4 of the regional qualifier finals. We didn’t play like how we normally play; we weren’t patient. Personally, I wasn't used to a Bo5 environment, so I also felt physically tired.
What’s the biggest change you went through since your time at T1?
When I was on T1, I lacked objective decision making skills. I think I’ve learned how to make decisions more objectively, and I’d say that was the biggest lesson I learned this year.
Since Worlds is just days away, what’s your take on the recent mid lane meta?
Twisted Fate did get his damage output buffed a little bit, but he’s not a champion that teams pick for his damage. I don’t think he’s going to be a meta pick. I think champions like Azir and Ahri will still be picked, and since the bot lane has lost a lot of their power, I predict that mid-jungle synergy will be more important.
I usually watch the games that seem interesting, so I plan to watch all of the LCK teams’ matches. As for the LPL, I’m very curious to see how ‘Knight’ will play. He’s someone where you can just tell that he’s good just by watching his movement, and Knight fits that bill. Players like ‘Knight’, ‘Rookie’, and ‘Xiaohu’ are prime examples in the LPL.
As for the LCK, Chovy’s the number one player that always gets mentioned. In my opinion, he’s very meticulous even for one CS, to the point where he’s very good at calculating minion damage. He doesn’t like to waste a single second, and he maintains that level of focus from start to finish.
By recent solo queue standards, ‘Rookie’ is the player that left a great impression on me. When I was back in my academy days at T1, there was a point in time where I felt I was the best in the world, but ‘Rookie’ reality checked me. I’m really confident in my ability to see a 1 vs 1 kill angle, but there was an instance where I helplessly died before I even saw that angle against ‘Rookie’.
There’s always a new generation of players that receive attention. Is there a player you consider to be a rival?
I’d say ‘Zeka’. I got really close to him when he was in China, but things somehow became awkward when he came to the LCK. I think I felt closer because we were in different leagues, so it was easier to share tips about the game. However, once he came to the LCK, we awkwardly just said hello [laughter].
It feels like this is just the beginning of your pro career. What kind of a player do you strive to be?
I want to be a legendary mid laner like coach ‘PawN’. I’m confident I can do it, so please continue to cheer for me next season as well.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports