Since joining Counter Logic Gaming back in 2015, mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun has faced nearly constant criticism.
In the earliest days he faced heat for losing lane and not getting the damage or kills he needed to in order to help the team succeed. Then the criticisms moved towards his champion pool, claiming that he played too few champions to be a professional player. At the end of each split, the conversation would inevitably turn to how CLG needed to find a new mid laner.
But Choi remained unfazed. He moved past these criticisms and used them as motivation to improve and show just how good he can be. Now, at the end of two consecutive great splits — the best of his career by far — Choi has a new status, not only as the best player on CLG, but as one of the best and most consistent in the entire 2017 NA LCS.
We got to talk to Choi after winning the third place match against Team Dignitas on Saturday.
Rift Herald: Talking about this season in general, how have you had to change your play style to deal with having two different junglers throughout this split?
Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun: I’ll say that we had a pretty hard time adapting to different junglers because we had an unlucky scenario that came up in the middle of the season, so we struggled a little bit. We were used to playing with Dardoch but we switched him with Omargod. He came from CLG academy so he wasn’t really aware of how the macro game and team play goes, so we had to teach him from the basic and go from the basic again. But Omar is a really driven person and really willing to learn so that’s why the step was easier and now we are just getting better and better.
RH: Do you feel like you played any different with the two junglers?
Huhi: Yes for sure. Mid lane is another duo lane with the jungler like bottom lane. Having different supports changed my communication and ow I want to play a lot. I will say Dardoch taught me a lot as a player like how to play aggressive how to punish my match up and Omargod also taught me a lot about how I can support the jungler and how we could snowball together.
RH: This has probably been your best year ever, and you have faced criticisms in the past, how do you feel like you have improve this year?
Huhi: Right now, everyone tells me I’m playing great and how I improved a lot, and I’m pretty happy that people are recognizing that and telling me that, because before they criticized me a lot. So, I just want to make sure that I’m not getting lazy at all and I try to keep improving and prove to them that they are supporting the right person.
RH: You were always known for the weirder Aurelion Sol pick that other people couldn’t play, but more recently you have been known for all kinds of different picks. What has it been like expanding your champion pool and being open to picks that not everybody is playing?
Huhi: I think that comes from the team’s support that I have now a days. Even before when people thought I had a small champion pool, I had the biggest in the team. It was just a matter of whether or not people were comfortable enough for me to pick those champions in real games or practice those things, but now a days they are more willing to execute those scenarios so that’s why I am available to pull out the new picks that people aren’t really playing, or to meet in the middle, because I also think that picking the meta champions is really strong.
RH: Does that open the conversations up around how you go into pick and ban and prepare for a series, or is it more in the moment “let’s do this thing that we practiced.”
Huhi: I think it’s pretty random. For example, the Vel’Koz pick was pretty random. We did practiced some games in scrims but the scenario came up so I just randomly brought up that I thought Vel’Koz fit the scenario and people agreed.
RH: Does it ever feel good to look across at the first two bans and see that they are both champions that no one else can play and they are banning them against you?
Huhi: We always laugh in champion select. But this series when they banned Vel’Koz and Sol, my teammates were saying why are they banning those champions, and joking around.
RH: Do you think it’s been helpful for you to have so many of the same teammates over the last few years now?
Huhi: I’ll say it has pros and cons, like if I talk about pros: we get more synergy and we understand each other better as people. If someone is tired or not feeling well, we can tell right away, we can go off and have a conversation with them. We feel comfortable saying any issue we have with each other cause we have been together for such a long time.
But if we get new players and change players it gives us new perspective, we call it the uh ...
RH: Honeymoon phase?
Huhi: Yeah, honeymoon phase. Where everyone is willing to sacrifice everything and work as a team.
RH: Do you feel like there is something that can bring those two things together? Something that can help you bring back that honeymoon period even if you have been together forever?
Huhi: Yeah. It’s easy to say that you just need five driven players who are willing to sacrifice for each other, but I’ll say it’s really hard to find five of that kind of players.
RH: I guess that’s been true with Zikz as well, has it been pretty much the same thing having the same coach for so long?
Huhi: It’s pretty much the same thing. He is comfortable criticizing us, we are comfortable getting criticized from him, and we are comfortable criticizing his coaching when there is a problem.
RH: One last question, as the new king of the weird picks and off-meta picks. Do you have any advice for players that might want to play an off-meta champ but might feel discouraged from something like that because, the champ’s win-rate isn’t very good or their friends don’t want them to play it. Do you have anything to say to people like that?
Huhi: For players that casually enjoy the game, it’s important that they just find a champion that they really enjoy in the game. It doesn’t matter if it’s a meta pick or not, because as long as they are having fun, in the end they will get better at the champion, they will probably win the game. That’s why there is a word like, one-trick-pony, in challenger. There are lots of players who play off-meta and make it really high just because they are so good at that champion.