On 7th of July, Seoul, South Korea, the LCK defeated the LPL at the 2019 Rift Rivals finals and won the region’s first Rift Rivals.
This is a press conference with the LCK representatives after Rift Rivals finals; from Kingzone DragonX, coach Hirai and mid laner Naehyun; from SK Telecom T1, coach kkOma and mid laner Faker; from Griffin, coach cvMax and jungler Tarzan; and from DAMWON Gaming, coach Micro and AD carry Nuclear.
You have just won the LCK’s very first Rift Rivals. How are you feeling at the moment?
Kang “Hirai” Dong-hoon: I’m extremely happy. I was more nervous than any other competition, so this championship is very valuable to me. I’d like to thank all my players for doing so well.
Yoo “Naehyun” Nae-hyeon: It’s the first finals in my career, and I’m glad that it went well. We were able to win this Rift Rivals because all the players in every single team performed extremely well. I’m so happy.
Kim “kkOma” Jeong-kyun: I’m extremely happy that we’ve won Rift Rivals for the first time in three years – This [victory] is a new experience for me, too. I believe that the LCK was able to win Rift Rivals because the four teams united as one and worked together.
Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok: The LCK has won Rift Rivals for the first time in three years. Because the LCK was not able to win Rift Rivals for the last two years, this victory feels just more meaningful. I feel even happier because we have achieved this together with other [LCK] teams.
Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho: It was a good experience. We have not done our duty, but the other LCK teams have won their game for us. This is a bittersweet yet happy moment. Next time, hopefully, we will contribute more to [the LCK]’s victory.
Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong: I guess I’m in a similar shoe with my coach. We have lost our game, yet won the tournament, so it’s a bittersweet feeling. The other three teams have won, all of them have performed so well. I’m just grateful for them.
Kim “Micro” Mok-gyeong: This was [Damwon’s] first international tournament, this victory is very meaningful for us. The fact that the LCK teams have achieved this together by becoming one is extremely meaningful. So I am very happy.
Shin “Nuclear” Jeong-hyeon: This was our first international stage. It was an experience, to compete alongside such astounding players and coaching staffs. If this victory becomes a platform for us and we are able to qualify for Worlds — I’d like to have another series of amazing matches there.
To the coaches of DAMWON Gaming and Griffin — This was your first international tournament, for you two teams. How did you find the Rift Rivals experience?
Micro: We are the least experienced team coming into Rift Rivals. Griffin, at least, has LCK finals experience. Meanwhile, we, DAMWON, had been thrown into Rift Rivals on our first LCK split. We just tried our best to not let other LCK representatives down. We wanted to contribute if it meant that our regular split suffered as a result. We opened up a lot of our strategies and I’m glad it has led to a good result.
cvMax: This was our first international event too. We were excited and nervous. We wanted to enjoy the tournament while not be a burden to other teams. I guess — the nerves was bigger than the excitement. I’m regretful that we lost at the finals, but with the first two wins and DAMWON Gaming being such a powerful team, I knew that the victory was inevitable. If we get a chance to go to Worlds, we will return as a more refined team.
Hirai — After the match was over, the camera caught you high-fiving Coach Kim [the coach of DAMWON Gaming]. Can you tell us more about it?
Hirai: I was overjoyed. I just wanted to tell him that [Damwon] had done a good job. All the LCK coaches worked so hard for that moment [of victory]. We would put our heads over drafts into the late nights, staying up until 4 AM, 5 AM. Every single one of us laid our strategies on the table open. It’s not an easy thing but we still did it.
There have been questions on whether Rift Rivals as a tournament should continue for upcoming years. What are your thoughts on this?
kkOma: I initially had some issues about this tournament, it causes a strain on the schedule. Then came year three and I thought — that if we cannot avoid it we should just enjoy it. That I do really want to win this tournament. And to think that we have finally won Rift Rivals in our third year … Yeah.
Faker: This is our third year at Rift Rivals. When we first participated, I thought it was an empty tournament without merit. However, after losing two years in a row I realized that I really wanted to win. We gave our absolute best during the tournament and I’m glad that the effort yielded a satisfying result.
Faker, you are the first player to win all official international Riot tournaments. MSI, Worlds and Rift Rivals. What is it like to be a part of this historic milestone?
Faker: I’ve been to too many international tournaments so I guess that’s why I won so many. I guess I’m happy that my career is getting more robust.
We have a question to DAMWON Gaming. In the final match, you were behind at the beginning of the game, yet managed to overtake the game. Can you tell us how Damwon found the tenacity to come back in such a game?
Macro: We often faced a similar situation in our practices. We’d always start with one or two kills behind. However … When I heard the in-game comms they were all very calm, they trusted that the draft was good for the late game. We had drafted a comp that we wanted. Even while the first ten minutes of the game was going bad, I was confident that it was a game and a match-up that we can eventually win. Based on the in-game comms I was hearing, the players seemed to believe the same way too.
If Damwon had lost the fourth game, the Rift Rivals finals would have gone to game five. If the finals had indeed gone to game five, which LCK team would have played the final game?
Macro: We had never planned for game five. However, I was the person responsible for deciding who would play for game five. If we were confident, we would have played, and if we weren’t confident, I would have led the decision-making process of choosing the final team.
If that situation had come … Our final team would have been Kingzone DragonX. All teams would have performed great, but SK Telecom T1 would have had too much burden on their shoulder. Kingzone did play a good game today. If it [did go to game five], I think coaches would have unanimously come to a similar conclusion.
Throughout the tournament, it seemed that there was a skill gap between the LPL and the LCK. Where do you think this gap has come from?
Hirai: I believe that it came down to desperation, that we [the LCK] were more desperate to win. In terms of pure skill level, I do not believe there is a distinct difference between the LCK and the LPL. It is that we had a set goal and worked towards that goal, which reflected on the outcome.
All four teams that sit here each have their own distinct style. I believe this is proof that the LCK as a region has improved.
During the interview, you have reiterated again and again that the four LCK teams have collaborated for the tournament. Do you believe that this experience has helped the LCK grow as a region?
kkOma: I believe the LCK has grown as stronger as a region through this Rift Rivals. We have bonded as a team [during the tournament], and we’ve proven ourselves.
cvMax: We were in the position of receiving help from other teams when it came to an international stage. The four teams put their heads together and shared strategies and tactics. I believe that this experience will help us in future matches, and become stronger as a region.