After this gruelling facedown between two of the biggest LCK squads, both teams sat down at the post-match press conference to answer questions from the media after the first quarterfinals.
HLE - nerves and mentally burdened
It was an understandably dour Hanwha Life Esports that faced the press first. While the team were often muted in answering some questions - they’d barely had a chance to process the series, after all - behind the obvious disappointment were some very honest and insightful comments.
Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu answered a challenging question about his struggles to progress beyond Worlds quarterfinals. With today’s loss to T1, Deft has now failed to advance past the quarterfinals in his last 5 Worlds appearances. He focused on the “gap between practice and the real games” and that resolving that has been “difficult for me.”
While he considered making quarterfinals his most memorable moment at Worlds despite thinking “it would be really hard after week 1”, by the same token “the most difficult moment [of Worlds] is now, because we lost.”
Coach Son “Kezman” Dae-young also defended the Varus pick into Gumayusi’s Aphelios. “[The Varus pick] was a result of internal decisions, so I can’t expose the details, but from our internal communication I felt it would be okay. I personally have no actual regrets over using Varus, but I still feel sorry that my team and I couldn’t do better. On the stage my players and I weren’t perfect so I’m so sorry about that.”
Coach Kezman also admitted his players were “mentally burderened and they were nervous because it was a quarterfinals match,” suggesting it was one of the main reasons HLE struggled against T1. “Actually, I think I did not do my best,” he continued, “I feel so sorry for my players.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, with HLE’s rookie jungler Willer, offering a number of insightful comments and answers. When asked about his love of NBA great Michael Jordan, Willer explained he admires his “passion for victory.” “I want to grow like Michael Jordan, [with my development] based on passion,” Willer said.
Similarly, Willer had a lot to say when asked about his journey this year, from joining HLE as its third jungler for the year and then helping to take the team from an 8th place regular-season finish to quarterfinals at Worlds, however disappointing the result was.
“I believe I need to grow more, but at the moment this year was really meaningful… I was very fortunate. Here [at Worlds] I could learn a lot, I believe I will grow and be a better player [moving forwards].”
T1 - “Well on our way to winning Worlds”
T1 on the other hand were very confident after their victory, taking the place of HLE for their turn in front of the microphones.
As always, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok was refreshingly open about his thoughts on his own play. When asked about his matchup against Chovy, Faker still wasn’t entirely happy despite serving Chovy his first negative [email protected] for the whole tournament in game 1 and holding Chovy’s LeBlanc accountable in games 2 and 3 with Lissandra. “I think that I could’ve gotten more advantages from my laning phase,” he said, “I’ll make sure to improve for the future.”
He also offered his take on what’s changed in his mindset since his last appearance at Worlds. “I think that my level of focus dropped due to my past failures, so I worked hard to get my level of focus back up again,” Faker said.
Later on in the press conference, he elaborated “I think that I’m more open-minded, and have more freedom within myself to enjoy the games. Even so, I see matches as a “wall” to overcome and help me grow, so I try to develop myself with the games.”
Ryu “Keria” Min-seok added praise for the rookie members of T1 later on, saying “the mindset is the most important thing for growth. The individual mental strength of players is really important,” and the rookie players of T1 have really impressed on that front.
In fact, when the team was asked about nerves, most of T1’s players said they had gotten less nervous as the tournament has progressed. Kim “Canna” Chang-dong said he felt they were “well on their way to winning Worlds,” and that “I was nervous in my first game at Worlds, but I’ve not been nervous after that,” with Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong saying that he too got “less nervous the more matches I played.”
Keria offered a slightly different take: “Last year [at Worlds] I wasn’t confident in my skills and talents, but I am confident in my performance this year; I’m treating this World Championship as my playground, so I’m not that nervous.”
Perhaps ironically, the most nervous members of T1 were Moon “Oner” Hyeon-joon, who admitted that “actually, I’m a little nervous before every match,” and that his nerves allegedly ended up affecting Faker, who semi-jokingly said “Oner became quite nervous, so I became nervous as well!”
As for actual draft and play decisions, there were some interesting insights as well. Both Gumayusi and Canna voiced how happy they were with the drafts in this series, with the T1 ADC saying he was able to get consistent bot pressure “because of the coaches,” and Canna sheepishly admitted he hadn’t even realised he’d drawn four bans in their final game.
“I had an idea of my champion in mind already, so I didn't realise I’d drawn four bans… but it meant that bottom and mid lanes could have more opportunities, so I was really happy with the trade-off.” Gumayusi later went on to say he feels he’s improved since summer, and the meta has given him even more power to work with: “I’m confident I can 1v9”.
Faker also explained his choice to max Lissandra’s E, Glacial Path, second over the more standard W, Ring of Frost. “Skill order is a preference in the end, and I decided considering the circumstances within the game I needed to be more mobile, so I valued the decreased cooldown on the E.”
Coach Kim “Moment” Ji-hwan opened up a little about some of the T1’s pick-ban strategies as well, saying “I’m quite confident in the capacity of my players [to deal with OP picks]. We wanted to demonstrate that we have strategies in place to deal with those power picks to our opposition.”
When asked about their expectations coming into the quarterfinals, head coach Son “Stardust” Seok-hee was very candid. “We believe that we are way better than the other team [HLE] so our result was quite natural. But still, I feel really thankful that our players gave really diligent performances. For the rest of the tournament, we will do our best with our best skills and talent. If we make no mistakes, I’m confident of victory so I have high expectations.”
Stardust also said he was hoping to face Cloud9 in the finals. “I’d like to play the NA team, but practically speaking GenG or one of the LPL teams may well be in the finals [ahead of C9]. I’m confident against whoever we end up meeting in the finals and we’ll prepare well for them.”
For more Worlds and League of Legends Coverage, head on over to our dedicated LoL section!
Featured image courtesy of Riot Games and Getty Images