Yeonjoon "ArK" Hong was part of the most dominant team in Overwatch League last year. This year, he's on the other side of the spectrum. Even though the Washington Justice struggled throughout the season, they kept their heads up under ArK's leadership, and became a winning team in Stage 4. ArK spoke with Inven Global about transitioning from NYXL to Washington, what he's learned about the team and himself, and what kind of potential the Justice has in 2020.
First of all, how does it feel to finally win this year in this stage with this team?
It's not like Stage 2 and 3 was really hard. I kept on grinding, even though we were losing. In this stage, I'm really proud of my teammates.
Now that everyone is coming together as a team and winning, do you feel like this stage was worth the emotions of losing in the previous stages?
It's good but not the same because we couldn't make playoffs. If we had the chance to make playoffs, I think we can make a serious run. Regardless, this stage has been a good experience for us moving forward. If there were a Stage 4 playoffs, I think we can make the Stage 4 finals.
Honestly, I'm happy to see you guys all have fun during this stage and hope you all carry this into next year.
Actually, before matches start, I feel like an old guy sometimes. Stratus and everyone is so loud so I have to tell them to calm down a bit and take a deep breath. Today, we just didn't care and had a lot of fun out there! We had no shot-calling, just play with your mechanics and have fun.
I want to go back to the beginning of the season when you were still with NYXL. When you were transferred to the Justice, how was that transition for you? Was it difficult at first?
I don't think it wasn't too hard because Washington has Korean players like Janus and Wizard who was with me in NYXL last year. However, adapting to the team and GOATS meta was hard. We were grinding as a team but results weren't showing.
Do you still talk to your old teammates in NYXL?
Yeah! Actually, I go out with them a lot. Today, I'm going to go shopping with Libero. We're going to go to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. We don't spend like that usually - we save money for months, eating cheap food, and waiting for the day to shop!
Coming over to Washington, you brought your leadership and experience from last season. What did you teach the rookie players like Corey and Stratus?
I personally feel like I learned a lot from Saebyeolbe last year. He taught me about leadership, how to create a comfortable atmosphere, and know when to be serious. I tried to adapt what he's taught me into this team. I really want to thank him.
When you finally started playing for Washington, what did you learn more about yourself as a player?
Even though I try hard, sometimes results don't come out the same way I thought of in my head. Last year, I really grinded a lot and our results showed it. This year, it took more than just grinding and I'm happy to see our results in Stage 4. I'm proud of this team.
When it comes to myself, I learned more about the game this year. Last year, the stages were long, and I was feeling burnt out on stage. I am the kind of person who tries to interact with my teammates - like talk and make opinions. It's made me experiment and know more about the game itself.
When you were with NYXL last year, did you feel more pressure because you were winning all the time?
The pressure itself is the same then as it is now besides playoffs. I'm always cautious and scared of any team. For example, I was even scared of the Shanghai Dragons last year because they might shift their style of play out of nowhere.
With you leading this Washington roster, what did you learn about your other teammates?
I know how to handle other people's stress than I did last year. Like, I know this person will tilt at this moment and feels better emotionally at another moment. I think that was most helpful for me, especially this stage.
What kind of advice would you give those people who feel tilted?
It depends on the person. Some people get better when we're playing good, and others get better when I cheer them up verbally.
Besides yourself, who else perks up the team?
Stratus is the person who keeps everyone's emotions high. I'm good at making them cheer up, but Stratus is good at hyping people up.
Would you say Stratus would be a good leader for this team eventually?
If he has more experience, he might be a good leader. For now, he's really good in making sure everyone's hyped up for the matches.
One thing that stood out to me about Stratus is his personality, especially today with the walkout. Was that his idea?
We talked about just walking together with sunglasses. I wanted to do it, especially doing what Stratus did before, putting two sunglasses on and pulling one off.
Let's talk about the future of this team. Where do you see this team moving forward?
Not sure because there will a lot of moves from other teams. However, if the meta is a sniper meta or Sombra, Corey and Stratus will do a great job. I think we can beat a team like New York next season.
What do you think you can keep improving on heading into next year?
A huge thing is our communication. This year, we had lots of problems with our communication. It was more about Korean and English players in the same place. Sometimes, we have miscommunication. If you're not good with English, then it's hard to understand any needs in the game. Then, you will have tunnel vision. We're getting better but there is still room to improve.
How did communication improve in this stage then?
This meta fits our styles a lot better since we have to rely on mechanical skill. Then, we know what things are needed from our supports, DPS, and tanks.
For yourself, what are your goals moving forward?
My goals are to be the best main support, getting into the Korean World Cup team, and winning the season.
What are you most looking forward to next year?
I'm looking forward to traveling but worried at the same time. I'm bad when it comes to jetlag.
One last thing, is there anything you want to say to all the Washington fans who stuck by this team since Day 1?
I really want to thank them because we played badly in the first 3 stages. Everyone kept cheering us even though we kept losing. I really want to thank them. It helped our spirits a lot inside.
Follow me on Twitter @itsjustchris for more coverage on Overwatch League and various games.
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