It was a bittersweet spring for the top laner of KT Rolster, Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho. After failing to qualify for Worlds in 2017, KT Rolsters decided to put faith in their players and renew contracts with all 5 members of their roster.
KT Rolster had a shaky start to Spring Split, losing their first match against Afreeca Freecs. KT Rolster had moments of brilliance during the Split; they finally defeated their nemesis SK Telecom 1, they successfully explored outside their 5 man roster to debut Ucal and sub in Rush. However, KT Rolster’s dreams would end in Playoffs Round 2 where they were again defeated by Afreeca Freecs.
In the interview, Smeb told Kenzi “I was extremely regretful…We [KT Rolster] got together and committed to delivering, worked painstakingly hard and yet we finished in 3rd place. However, what’s done is done. I’d like to be rid of this regret at Summer Split.”
“Not only KT as a team, but all our teammates have records of loses against SKT. gaining confidence Against SKT was a big takeaway from this Split.”
What have you been up to since the end of Spring Split?
I’ve been resting up. Playing some games, having a good time overall. My family is based in Seoul, I got to have mum’s home cooked food for the first time in a while.
KT Rolster ended Spring Split at 3rd place.
I was extremely regretful. We [KT Rolster] got together and committed to delivering, worked painstakingly hard and yet we finished in 3rd place. However, what’s done is done. I’d like to be rid of this regret at Summer Split.
Earlier in the Split, you often said: “We’re still working on our synergy” in interviews.
There are many different moving parts to “team synergy”. If you look at the large picture such as how we pick and ban, I think we are already there as a team. But in the fine nuisances of teamwork, we do have places that we lack and could improve upon.
You’ve managed to break KT’s jinx against their nemesis SKT.
Not only KT as a team, but all our teammates have records of loses against SKT. To have gained confidence [Against SKT] was a big takeaway from this Split.
What was the most regretful match for you this Split?
It was the match against Afreeca Freecs. If we had won that game we would have gained a nice momentum going into the Split, while the opposing team wouldn’t have experienced so much growth. I personally think Afreeca’s victory against our team triggered their rise to power this Split.
Speaking of Afreeca, you were denied from Split Finals by losing against Afreeca in the Playoffs.
We did not have enough time after Playoffs Round 1. There was not enough time to prepare (Going into Playoffs Round 2). We did not have a clarity on our goals, on what we should defend and what we should strategize on.
If you had made it to the finals, you would have been going against your Old Rox teammates. Did you feel like you were missing out on it?
Yes, extremely. It would have been a fun match, to be at that stage. I cheered for Kuro-hyung a lot and it’s a pity that he didn’t win that day. I didn’t dwell too much on the missed opportunity of going against the Old ROX. Dwelling on it just seemed to make me angry.
There has been an influx of high performing top laners this Split.
It’s been since last year that I’ve begun to look around and think that there are a lot of good emerging top laners in LCK. This year, top laners have been continuing to stand out in their respective teams. I also have to continue doing well, I don’t think it’s bad to be a follower for a change. There are lots to learn from the upcoming players. Kingzone DragonX’s Kim “Khan” Dong-ha and Afreeca Freecs’ Kim “Kiin” Ki-in are the two most prominent top-laners at the moment. Other top-laners also, in general, have a high level of performance. I’ll have to continue working hard so I don’t fall behind.
“Since I’ve become a team captain, We’ve grown so much closer as a team…I’d personally say Deft has changed a lot. So has Score-hyung.”
This is your 6th year as a competitive player. How would you define KT Rolster?
It’s a place that I’ve had some of the most difficult times as a professional player, yet it’s a team that I am mysterious pulled towards. The team with that glimpse of success, as if this is the team where I’ll finally achieve all my goals. I’ve also been appointed as a team captain this year, and it’s the first time I’ve taken the role seriously. I’ve been really keen to live up to responsibility.
The responsibilities of a team captain won’t be as prominent in an esports team compared to other traditional sports.
I don’t think I hold a lot of authority (from my position as the team captain). That being said, I do feel that my opinions now hold more weight during team conversations. My belief always has been that “If you have fun playing the game, you’ll also do well”. It’s a belief that I’ve been wanting to express to the rest of the team, but was not able to raise as a player. Now that I’m the team captain and am able to communicate these things to my teammates, things have gone for the better. Teammates that used to be introverted now are more talkative. We’ve grown so much closer as a team.
Deft, for one, has become more talkative.
I’d personally say Deft has changed a lot. So has Score-hyung.
What’s your view on Ucal, who has made his debut this Split? What’s his potential as a player like?
I’d say Ucal has a lot of potential. I can’t name too many players who have performed so well in the same Split he has debuted. Ucal has already spent Spring Split familiarizing himself with the professional scene. In Summer Split we may see Ucal perform with both the flair of a rookie and the maturity of an experienced player.
In this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, we’ll be seeing the best AD carries from the top regions come to play. Out of the AD carries playing in MSI who would you rate the highest?
I have to go with Pray-hyung and Uzi. I’d also keep an eye on Fnatic’s Rekkles. He is titled the No.1 AD carry in EU and has shown a good performance to live up to that name. I’m curious to see how well he will perform when he is matched against Korean and Chinese AD carries.
Uzi’s performance on Kai’Sa, especially, was very memorable. He showed a pinnacle performance playing that particular style of AD carry, diving deep into the enemy lines. However, I still predict that Kingzone DragonX will take the MSI cup.
You’ve also qualified for 2018 Rift Rivals. Is there a team you’re personally looking forward to facing?
Invictus Gaming. There’s Rookie, and I’m curious to lane against TheShy.
“In previous teams, I used to play more variety of picks; I’d say that it’s the current team’s style. Just because you’re only playing few select champions it doesn’t mean you’re less of a player.“
Going into Summer Split, Kongdoo Monster has been relegated and in their place, Griffin has been promoted. What are your predictions on Griffin’s chances in LCK?
Griffin is a team of rookies, upcoming players. I think they could cause some upsets with their confidence. They are a team to watch out for. Griffin as a team likes to draft new, off-meta picks, but in LCK picks are very standardized. If their attempts [of off-meta picks] work out, Griffin might become a huge upset; but if their attempts fail, we might see the team lose their confidence.
Some analysts might say that you have a limited champion pool.
I’d agree that I’ve played with a limited champion pool in Spring Split. In previous teams, I used to play more variety of picks; I’d say that it’s the current team’s style. Just because you’re only playing few select champions it doesn’t mean you’re less of a player. You’re serving your role within your team using these specific champions. It’s all about different styles.
What’s your personal goal? Professionally as a gamer, the highest goal you could aspire for would be winning Worlds, right?
I always feel weird when I think of goals. As if I’ve failed if I have not reached the 1st place. You know, you’ve never truly failed because more chances always come along. However, winning Worlds continues to be the ultimate goal.
World Championships is being held in Korea this year. Any thoughts on this?
I don’t know where the finals will be held, but my house is in front of Gocheok Sky Dome. It’s a very big venue and I wonder if the finals will be held there. I’d love to play for the finals, invite all my friends over, and show them my plays. Since the stadium is across the street from my house, they could just walk from my house to the venue, and there’ll be a crowd. I’ve had these silly thoughts. (Laughs)