Interview by Daniel, translated by 5MahN, and edited by impakt.
Please introduce yourself.
Hello, I am SKT T1’s mid laner Lee Sang-hyeok. Nice to meet you.
Starting right off with the first question. What was the first LoL game you ever played like, and what champion did you play?
In LoL… in the beginning, I played Ryze a lot, and Ryze is a mage, right? So I played mid a lot.
So when did you start playing Lol, and when did you decide you wanted to become a pro gamer?
I started LoL less than a month after the Korean server was released. Yeah, so I started play LoL since then. In the beginning I played a lot of normal games. After I raised my skill level in normals I entered into ranked games. More than I had expected, my solo queue rank rose consistently. That motivated me to keep playing ranked.
And by climbing the ranked ladder you found naturally found the opportunity to become a pro. I see.
At the end of Season 2, it was widely accepted that Europe had the strongest mid laners in the world, what with the likes of Froggen and Alex Ich. In the present day, have Korean mid laners matched or surpassed the skill level of the Europeans? Also, who do you think are at that top level?
From the European mid laners…?
I mean, from the Korean players, who do you think can match the skill level of the Europeans?
This season there haven’t been particularly many matches between Korean teams and international teams. Therefore, comparing skill level is rather difficult. Korean pro players have improved a lot to match the level of the Chinese. To compare us to the Europeans… I would have to face them to know.
You’ve become extremely popular in the States after your performance in the Spring season and this season. How are you feeling about that?
Well, it’s thought that I am the most popular member on our team…. More than me doing well, however, our jungler helps me out a lot. Plus, we often lane swap to my advantage. I think those factors have helped me become famous.
In an interview, Gambit Gaming’s Alex Ich said you were the best midlaner in the world. What was your reaction to that?
Well, I’ve only ever played in Korea. To say I’m the best midlaner in the world is a bit much.
Who do you think is the best midlaner in Korea? For the entire world?
Nowadays, I think Korean midlaners on average have a high skill level. So it’s hard to pick one specific player who’s strongest right now. Comparing the span of their entire careers, though, I think Ambition is the best.
Then, in the world…?
I haven’t really been watching the foreign games so I can’t say who’s the best in the world. However, I think the Chinese midlaners are very good.
When choosing which champion to play, are you the style that goes for innovative picks or champions that are considered OP?
I think I’m a mixture of both styles. Usually I look at the opponent’s champion first and then choose my own.
In the recent patch, Leblanc underwent a series of changes. Does that mean you might use her again in competitive gaming?
It’s a bit hard to give you an answer about that… For now, I’ll say that Leblanc has been changed for the worse.
You went from a top solo queue player to a pro, right? What do you think is the biggest difference between those two levels?
First of all, in solo queue, not all five members on a team are completely focused. I think that leads to a decrease in the quality of games. When playing in solo queue, one person can make a huge impact. Focus is the main difference.
Now onto questions about gameplay. As a midlaner, what two locations do you think are most important to ward?
Well, for the most part, warding the two bushes on the side of the lane isn’t very important. Basically…
Hypothetically, if you’re on blue…
If you’re talking about the basics for blue side, then… on the mid-lower side, not in the brush but in the 3-way intersection is a good place to ward. You should also ward in the center of mid lane.
Are there any champions you feel are difficult to play at the highest level, or in specific team compositions?
There aren’t any champions that are particularly difficult to manage. It all depends on how familiar you are with that champion, how much you’ve practiced.
When a new champion is released or you’re trying to learn a champion you haven’t often played before, how do you familiarize yourself with it? Do you play bots, 1v1 with teammates, or just dash into solo queue?
I’m the type that just goes into solo queue. You just have to not feed. And after I read the skill explanations a couple of times, I get a good handle of the champion.
You’re quite different from the rest of us. In the game against MVP Blue when you played Ahri, you’re GPM was 490 and you had over 400 CS. How do you balance roaming and taking CS?
Once you push lane, you have to watch the minion line to determine whether or not you can roam. If you can’t roam, then just take the jungle camps. If you can, then try roaming.
So it’s best to push out your lane.
Please pick the strongest team in Korea and the strongest team in the world. It’s okay to pick your own team, too.
In Korea, I think currently SKT T1 is pretty strong. Yeah, that team plays the best. Internationally… these days I heard OMG in China is very good. I don’t really know for NA and EU, because I don’t watch the LCS games. I hope the fans aren’t too sad about that.
What sets SKT T1 apart from all the other OGN teams? What does SKT T1 do better than everyone else?
Hmm… what is there? First of all–
(offscreen) Mid does well, right? Mid does well. He’s the best in the world.
SKT… what our team does best is control the flow of the game. Yeah so game control is strong. We also team fight well.
Then in order to execute the game control and team fights, who’s giving the calls?
We split the shotcalling between all five players.
So there’s no person appointed to give calls?
Do you study teams from NA, EU, China or SEA? If so, is there a player from those regions that you admire?
Well, I don’t really watch a lot of foreign games.
Is it because you don’t have time to watch them?
Yes. So, I can’t say much about foreign teams.
It’s often said that the overall skill level of the Korean teams has risen above that of the NA or EU teams. What do you think those teams need to do to rise to the level of world class competitors?
Korean teams tend to practice a lot more. If NA and EU teams also practice like us, I think they could catch up. So they just need to increase their practice times then… I see.
Your mechanics are so spectacular. International fans were wondering whether you would ever stream.
The issue is, streaming is prohibited for members of our team. The NA and EU teams tend to stream often, so sometimes I watch. For the majority of Korean teams, however, scrims take up all of our time.
Ah, that is regretful.
Okay, last question! Out of all the champions, if you could bring one into the real world, who would it be?
I’d bring Zilean into the real world. Use his ‘E’ skill to win marathons and earn all the money. Then use his ultimate whenever I die to come back to life and be immortal.
That’s a very intelligent answer.
Then, we’ll end the interview with a final message from you.
Our team, so last season we reached 4th place, this season too—
(offscreen) 3rd place.
—I mean, 3rd place. This season, too, we definitely want to reach the top 4 again and continue to yield good results. Thank you.