Ashley Kang sat down with Park “Viper” Do-hyun of Griffin, who reflected on the results of the LCK finals a few days before the spring split. the lessons took out from the spring season, the meta at flux and why LCK has kept its slow playstyle despite this.
In the interview, Viper talked about his impressions on the recent MSI and being inspired by the performance of G2 Esports. Griffin now needed to go to an international tournament more than ever, Viper explained. “There is not much more time left to learn – the only time that is left is for us to show up. It’s time to prove ourselves.”
This interview is volume 2 in LCK Sketches, a series of in-depth interviews with the LCK players.
- Volume 1 – LCK Sketches – Kiin discusses Afreeca Freecs, the growing pains of LCK, his goals
- Volume 2 – LCK Sketches – Griffin Viper talks MSI, inspirations from G2, his goal to play in an international stage
Thank you for making time, Viper. Many people have been curious about what Griffin have been up to after the LCK spring split. How have you been spending the break?
Viper: I slept, I played games, I ate. That’s been the routine. We went for a team workshop [to Jeju Island].
The workshop was … Difficult. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind. We had to watch the sunrise on the second day, and I had to wake up so early. I usually sleep at 4 AM, and that day I had to wake up at 3 AM. So it was hard. But when I saw the sunrise, I thought, it was better than not having watched it.
How did you find the sunrise?
Viper: To be honest, it wasn’t too groundbreaking. But the important thing was that we were all there together.
How did other team members find the workshop?
Viper: I guess they all felt similarly. The good part was that we all went together. Food was good, too. We had cutlassfish. It’s an island, so we had a lot of seafood. Also Jeju black pork. Jeju speciality stuff.
The MSI experience would have taught us so much. I was regretful.
I’d like to ask about the recent MSI. What was your impression of the overall tournament?
Viper: The most shocking moment had to be the match between Team Liquid and Invictus Gaming. Team Liquid not only won but won on a 3-1. That was rattling.
I wasn’t too surprised about the rest of the outcomes. When G2 and SK Telecom T1 met before the semi-finals, G2 played Pyke top and won. When G2 pulled out Pyke top again at semifinals, I thought, SKT could lose this one, and … I wasn’t surprised by that. I just couldn’t help but think, it should have been us that went to the MSI.
Viper: I think we could have won it. However, it was a brief thought. These are meaningless noises. It’s not something that I should get to think about as a loser. But it’s just something I privately toyed with, in my head.
What were the moments or matches that triggered the thought, “It should have been us that went to the MSI”?
Viper: Every time I watched the G2 series. They not only had interesting drafts but knew how to play around these drafts. It was so fun to watch. It was impressive, just how well they played.
If we had gone to the MSI, we would have learnt more things, we would have played interesting games. The MSI experience would have taught us so much. [pause] I was regretful. It would have been a chance for us to build ourselves up and gain confidence leading up to the summer split. Then we let that opportunity slip away …
So you think you could have gotten a lot out of playing against G2.
Viper: Not G2 only, but by playing against all the powerful teams [at the MSI]. I would also have loved to go against Phong Vu Buffalo. Regardless of the results, going through such an experience would have been extremely valuable. Well, we didn’t make it [to the MSI], so there’s that.
Griffin recently ran a Reddit AMA. Someone asked the question, “What player from the West would you like to face the most?” Every single player in Griffin named the G2 player in their respective role. I guess Griffin holds G2 in high regards.
Viper: G2 won the MSI, after all. I believe that whichever team wins is the best team in the world. It’s the competitive mindset of a professional player, to desire to go against the best team in the world.
G2 Perkz role-swapped from mid to AD carry, and brought his mage champions to the bot lane. Meanwhile, Viper, you have also been known as an off-meta AD carry. You flourished during 2018’s non-marksman meta. You were being compared to mid laners a lot during this period. Within that perspective, I’d like to ask how you saw Perkz’s performances.
Viper: It was fascinating. When I first heard that G2 was playing two mid laners on both of their dealer positions, I thought they “liked to have fun”. Then when I watched their games, they weren’t only having fun but also performing well. That was also a surprise.
I thought about how we approach meta — That it’s important to follow meta changes, but it is also important to preserve your own inherent playstyle. To not be swayed, but to believe in your own playstyle, that kind of confidence … I think, is important.
Compared to last year, this year you were seen mostly playing AD carries. Did watching the performance of G2 inspire you, or Griffin, to return to that style once more?
Viper: I do try things like Irelia AD carry on Korean solo queue, too. I think there was a difference in opinion, so to speak. I had decided that having an AD carry in the team makes the game more reliable, in teamfights and such. That it is easier to have a damage dealer at the front lines.
Then I watched [the MSI], and I thought — Through good execution, you can easily translate the cons of not having an AD carry into a pro. I have thought — In fact, I always think in the back of my mind, that [unique picks at the bot lane] are something that I can always pull off, too.
Then I thought the opportunity came in the finals, so I played [Taliyah] at the LCK finals, then … that happened.
I think there was a difference in everything. A difference in desperation, a difference in minds … In every aspect, [SKT] was at a level above us.
It sounds like the spring split finals rests heavy in your mind. You had a bit of time to process the finals and its results. Looking back at it, what are your thoughts on the loss?
Viper: I think there was a difference in skill. I can’t blame it on any other factor. The opposing team had so much to show, while we had so little to show. I won’t say that it was a slip. We had prepared our cards, but our preparations were insufficient. Bottom line, our execution was below quality. In that way, I think we can have a better result if we improve and play again next time.
Griffin had a very dominant split throughout the 2019 spring. Then came the LCK finals, and Griffin seemed to falter. I might say that I observed a drop in performance within Griffin.
Viper: Yeah, I agree. I think we did bad, and that’s why we lost. There’s no argument about that. We lost because there was a long distance between us and the other team. We are self-aware. We’ve been preparing hard ever since that day. Now, it’s time for us to show what we have been preparing.
The difference you speak of. What kind of difference was it?
Viper: I think there was a difference in everything. A difference in desperation, a difference in minds. I don’t know the thoughts of the enemy team, however … In every aspect, [SKT] was at a level above us.
The MSI was a testimony that the teams that play a fast-paced, skirmish heavy style can come out with good results.
Viper: I’d agree.
I wonder what your thought on this is. Compared to the international meta, the LCK is …
Viper: Slow. Yep. Even you, someone watching the game, feels that the LCK is slow – of course, the games are slow. I think the direction of the game has been shifting that way. Whoever acts faster takes more advantages away. Before, even if you acted first, the team that would solidly push lane would eventually take more advantages away. Even now, that is often the way to go.
[Riot] has prepared alternative win conditions; to take advantages through jungle or objectives and snowball fast. The Baron is very important now. If you have created a lead, you can take the Baron to solidify the lead. I believe such meta changes have accelerated the pace of the games. Therefore, the teams that are able to match this new pace of the game are yielding good results.
This meta is not a new thing.
Viper: Yep, it’s been so for a while, even during Worlds. Ever since the Baron patch.
The Baron patch, the scuttle crabs, the turret plates. None of these changes are new. At Worlds, the LCK teams seemed to fall prone to other teams that played the high-skirmish, aggressive playstyle. Yet, the pace of the games in the LCK is still deemed slow. I wonder why this is the case.
Viper: I believe that this is LCK’s innate playstyle. People are making these judgements now because the LCK way of playing hasn’t had success on the international stage. If the LCK had achieved good results on the international stage, we would have proven the “LCK playstyle” is still strong.
It’s a difference in style. I don’t think this is the wrong way to play. It’s simply a different path to victory. It may just seem wrong because of the recent losses, however, you can still snowball advantages while playing slow. There are pros to rolling the unseen snowball, taking slow but sure advantages. Of course, there are cons too – if you fall susceptible to a fast-paced opponent then you falter to no return. However, there are pros. I believe this is the case, too. Perhaps that is why the LCK teams are continuing to play slow.
There is not much more time left to learn – the only time that is left is for us to show up. It’s time to prove ourselves.
You use the term, “learn”, a lot. In our previous interviews, you have repeatedly mentioned that even after a loss, you learn something from it. What is one thing you’ve taken out of the spring split?
Viper: That everyone out there is good, that everyone out there is working hard. I always knew it, but that was an important reminder. And … [pauses]
I’m not sure. We lost so swiftly, on the biggest stage. There was nothing much to take out of it. There is not much more time left to learn – the only time that is left is for us to show up. It’s time to prove ourselves.
Griffin’s goal, as all players and teams’ goal would be, will be to go to Worlds. What’s the one thing Griffin could change in order to go to Worlds? That there is nothing to change is also a perfectly fine answer.
Viper: We’ll have to play well. Yeah. We’ll have to do better. In every single aspect. In the level of performance of the individual players, in the teamwork, in our experience.
Last year, we had promoted to the summer split from Challengers Korea. We didn’t have the circuit points, and the only way we could qualify to Worlds was by winning. We didn’t win, so we didn’t go to Worlds. This time, we have the circuit points and there are more avenues for us to go to Worlds.
I’d like to go to Worlds, at all costs – It’s a valuable chance that we just cannot miss out on. If we do qualify for Worlds, then I will worry about what we should do from that point onwards. It’ll depend on the meta at that time, and we will decide on our playstyle accordingly. Of course, we should also improve our performance to a level that we can confidently stay competitive on the big stage. That’s a given.
Thank you for the interview, Viper, and best of luck for the 2019 summer split. You now have a large international following, you and your team. Would you like to say anything to these fans out there?
Viper: I’d like to go to an international event at all costs, to experience the different teams around the world and different international cultures. It would be such a valuable experience to play in a different region. I want to meet international fans, too. I want to go to an international tournament.
Is there anything you’d like to say to Perkz?
Viper: I’ve enjoyed your matches, I’ve learnt a lot from you. You seem to enjoy playing the game, so that’s awesome. You’ve won, you’ve shown everyone, and I respect you for it.