Traveling to Korea to play League of Legends on the Korean server isn’t a new concept within the space. League streamers and pro players from all around the world all hope to travel to Korea for all sorts of reasons, but in the end, it involves playing solo queue in Korea, as the public perception of the server in Korea is that the quality is above any other servers around the world.
In the beginning of my journey as a storyteller in the esports journalism space, I wrote a guide called “A bootcamper’s guide to Korea: How to be efficient in the city that never sleeps.” Since then, I’ve interviewed all the different people that traveled to Korea to play solo queue. From pro teams, individual players
The next person in this ongoing saga of interviews is ‘Elite500’. He’s a Challenger player from Europe that climbed to the top of the ladder on a champion called Vladimir. He recently traveled back to Korea for the second time, and I had a chance to have an intimate conversation about the game, and his return to Korea.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Calvin, also known as Elite500. If I am to describe myself as a personality, I’d say that I primarily see myself as a high-elo League player. I’m also a streamer, and I’d say that my stream is a place for the homies to chill in chat. What I mean by that is that you don't necessarily have to play League to enjoy League; I try to provide a safe space for people to enjoy League through my gameplay.
Tell me about how you became a streamer.
Ever since I was five years old, I wanted to make money by playing video games. It was my dream. However, my parents did tell me that I need to study, so I did an IT apprenticeship and got my diploma. Halfway through the apprenticeship, I decided to stream and see where things go, so I had to balance the studies and the streaming. The streaming turned out to be very successful, so many years later, here I am in Korea.
Around season 7 was when I first hit Challenger in League of Legends. I will say that I got Challenger through the so-called ‘cheese strats’. I was the most cheesy player on the planet. I found a strat that I can abuse every game, so while I don’t think I was REALLY a Challenger player, I still hit Challenger.
When would you say you had the biggest break as a streamer?
Honestly, right now [laughter]. Ever since I came to Korea, my viewer count has been growing quite a bit. My other big break would be around two years ago, when I made this in-depth Vladimir guide and posted it on Reddit. That’s when I got a lot of exposure in the scene, and growth in view count.
As far as I know, this isn’t your first time in Korea. Tell me about your last trip to Korea.
When I was here last time, my focus was only on the grind. I’d stream 10 hours a day for close to four months. Playing 14 games a day made me go… Insane [laughter]. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Solo queue itself at the time was also really hard, where even a player like Faker was stuck in Masters with 250 games played in that season. If he can’t get out of Masters, how the fuck am I was going to [laughter]?
Players [on the KR ladder back then] gave up really easily, and they just decided not to play the game. In EUW, it’s not like every game is winnable, but they keep playing. Sure they talk shit, where a guy that’s frustrated with the game says, “Fuck it, I’m buying Mobis and running it”. In KR, players actually bought Mobis and just stopped playing. It wasn’t a great experience.
Outside of the game, I still really enjoyed the food; compared to Switzerland, everything is a lot cheaper in Korea, so the price difference on everything was really nice. I also came here alone, because I wanted to experience what it’s like living independently, since I wanted to live with my girlfriend at the time.
How did you plan your trip to Korea differently this time around?
I looked around to find a friend to come with, so I ended up coming here with a long-time friend of mine. We’re basically just two complete idiots chilling in Korea at the moment. That’s the fun part of it. I’ve been streaming for around 5-7 hours a day, going out to get food, meeting people, drinking coffee; living the good life.
I live in a very rural area in Switzerland. I live in a village with like 300 people, so Korea feels very otherworldly. Two days ago, I ordered a coffee, a burrito, and a sandwich through a delivery app for 13,000 KRW [~10 USD], and to see it arrive in less than 20 minutes was mind blowing. You can’t even get delivery in my village. The only thing close to that is this tiny little corner store that’s even smaller than your regular-sized convenience store in Korea.
Based on your last time in Korea + the small sample size of games that you played in Korea this time, how does the gameplay compare?
Maybe this also has to do with how I also improved since then, but before, everything inside the KR solo queue felt messy and nonsensical. RIght now, things feel more textbook, where everybody on the server received a quick 30 minute coaching session. It feels like everybody understands the game more on a fundamental level. This is all based on the small sample size of low elo, smurf queue games that I played in Korea this time around, but it was still mind blowing how good it was.
In the end, when it comes to the climb, it’s all about the mentality. It’s all about the reasons you want to get it. For myself, this 2nd trip to Korea is my revenge arc, so if I see my jungler buy Mobis, I type “CAN WIN” in chat every five seconds [laughter].
So why Vladimir? What aspects of the champion clicked for you?
Let’s say I’m five minutes into the game. My lane opponent presses tab, and sees that he’s five CS behind. Realizing the fear that he has in his head is just so fun. It’s my favorite thing in the world.
Vladimir is the hardest scaling mage in the game. Once you’re ahead on him, you’re pretty much set. If your enemy makes even the tiniest mistake and you capitalize on it, the enemy’s basically just fucked. It’s so enjoyable to know that you have this secure win condition, where all you have to do is continue to farm resources.
After the durability patch on 12.10, the meta shifted in favor of scaling champions. What kind of spot is Vladimir in the meta right now?
While I will say that I’m a bit biased towards Vladimir, I think he’s absolutely broken. The potions being nerfed [on patch 12.14] doesn’t really affect him due to his insane sustain. Dragons being buffed is good, because the dragon teamfights are the ones you want to be in anyways. Scorch being buffed is also good because you can abuse it yourself. Night Harvester is also really good on Vlad now because they buffed the item twice in a row. All these systematic changes have made the stars align for me to hit Challenger in Korea this time.
You can build other Mythic items like Protobelt, but if you want to win in Korea, I’d say Night Harvester is the go-to Mythic.
Whenever I watch streamers that are insanely good at a certain champion, I always think that some of the viewers get inspired to play that champion as well. For this next part of the interview, I want you to give advice to the beginner, intermediate, and the expert Vladimir players. First, what kind of advice would you give to those that are looking to pick up playing Vladimir for the first time?
Literally, go into practice tool every day and practice last hitting. I genuinely win against EUW Challenger players because they can’t last hit. They miss 20 CS, while I miss zero; I already have a game winning advantage from that. CSing is THE most important thing on Vladimir.
Next, what would you say to those players that don’t really main the champion, but play Vladimir occasionally?
I’d tell them to have confidence in the in-game decisions that they make. At that level, you’re already thinking about concepts and whether or not to make certain decisions, but if you hesitate, then you’ll never learn the difference between a good play and a bad play on Vladimir.
For example, let’s say that you’re a Challenger player playing in Silver. Your Silver teammates will ping you and be like, “What is he doing?” But obviously, they’re completely clueless. It’s like an ant trying to understand human concepts.
The point is, ignore what your teammates are saying, and be more confident in your own plays. Even if the play you make goes awry, that’s how you learn.
Lastly, what would you say to those that have Vladimir in their most top three champions played? What would they learn from watching your stream?
I’d say that it’s all in the little details. Every little thing that I do has such a huge impact. It’s almost like a trade secret in what I do to make sure my lane opponent doesn’t roam, doesn’t have impact in the game, or even how the enemy jungler doesn’t gain advantage over mine, it’s all in the finite details.
I guess what I’m about to say next is for every one of these players. Vladimir is the hardest scaling champion in the game, so the spotlight’s on you. You’re this 3000 HP champion that’s 100 to zero-ing enemies when you scale, so if your other lanes, especially bot lane [laughter], gets dumpstered on, you always have to look back and see what you could’ve done better. You just have that much carry potential.
No matter how bad they played, it’s always on you. Even if your bot lane goes 0-20, there are very few games where I go, “Damn, I couldn’t have done anything.” You probably messed up somewhere, so you have to watch the VOD and see where those mistakes were. That’s ultimately how you improve.
We spoke a bit on items earlier; what’s the Elite500 approved item build?
If you have no AP on your team and there’s no threat of the enemy building MR, you go Night Harvester into Rabadon’s Deathcap. Night Harvester has so much CDR now, so you don’t need any more CDR items. If you can manage to play the game until those two items, then you’re completely unleashed. Once you hit that huge two-item power spike, you just continue to get stronger.
It’s also important to note that after those two items, you cannot build survival luxury items like Zhonya’s Hourglass. After Rabadon’s, you HAVE to build Void Staff, then you HAVE to build Shadowflame. Otherwise, you’re going to be useless. Let’s say you build Protobelt instead of Night Harvester. The Mythic passive on Protobelt is extra five magic penetration with each legendary item purchase, and that makes a huge difference in your damage. You have to think about how you can deal as close to true damage as possible.
Now that you’ve returned to Korea for the second time, what’s the goal?
I had this goal to get 1,000 LP on the EUW server, and that took seven to eight months. The next season came, and I was just playing to just enjoy the game and to just improve; I ended up hitting 1,100 LP and rank 30. Things felt so much easier when I did that.
So I literally just want to enjoy myself. If I do, then the streaming just naturally becomes better. If you’re in a better mood and you’re just chilling, then the viewers will catch your vibe. It’s a win-win.
Lastly, is there anyone you’d like to give a shoutout in this interview?
Shoutout to all my homies. A big shoutout to Lathyrus, because he’s like a mentor to me. He’s incredibly smart; whenever I talk to him about any big decisions I have to make, he gives wise advice. I respect him a lot as a player as well; he got Challenger in his first season in the game. AND he did it on the NA server with 120 ping, because he thought North America was where all the talent was at the time.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports