Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan entered the brightly lit cubicle. “안녕하세요(Annyeonghaseyo),” we bow and say to each other. Someone outside interrupts to ask, “Do you need water? I can go get you some.”
The translator points to the corner where a box of bottled water lay. Wolf bends down and picks up three. He offers one to the translator and one to me. I politely decline but take it and place it on the ground anyway.
As he got comfortable in his chair and took a moment to hydrate, I noticed that his skin was glossy. The two spotlights flooding the room wasn’t helping. Wearing both the SKT jersey and jacket, he had just finished a 44 minute game against EDG. They were down by as much as 9.8k gold, and yet managed to edge their opponents out with one decisive wombo-combo that got them back in the game.
Wolf was the one who initiated that fight.
For a moment, I looked up at him in awe.
“Yeah, okay, we can start,” the translator says. We were sitting in a trinity. Wolf was in the middle, while the translator and I sat perpendicular to him.
I nodded and smiled at Wolf. He had settled down in a pose we’re all familiar with: Interlocked fingers, relaxed shoulders, and two feet firmly on the ground.
What do you say to someone you see daily on a 20-inch screen 12 inches away from your face, who is now in front of you in the flesh?
“The crowd was cheering very loudly for EDG. How did you feel about that?” I begun.
WOLF: I already have so much experience with it. Not only with EDG here, but if I’m playing in NA then there’s the TSM chant. I get used to it. I’ve been there, done that, so it doesn’t really affect my performance.
The last time you played the Rakan-Twitch duo was in game 2 against Longzhu in the LCK Summer finals which SKT lost. Rakan seems to be picked as a denial to the enemy team. How does SKT plan around Rakan, who may not have as good synergy with other ADCs?
Xayah and Rakan are broken. It was a denial pick for sure. Secondly, even without Xayah, Rakan is a play-making champion. Even against Longzhu in game 2, if SKT didn’t make mistakes, we believe we could have won the game. Rakan is one of my favourite champions because I can make plays.
Would you say he’s is the most fun champion you’re playing now?
Rakan is the most fun right now because if you think about champions like Lulu, Soraka or Janna, these kind of champions are passive. Rakan can be more active. If you recall what happened in this game, without Rakan initiations, who will win the game? Besides, champions like Soraka, Janna or Lulu do not grant me much attention.
You’ve been on SKT for so long, and you’ve played from behind for so many games. How does the communication change in that scenario?
When mistakes happen, the game goes on. It’s bad, but we leave it behind because we have to keep playing. For this game, we kept discussing about what’s the winning point we can have, how to minimize losses and how can we come back. We thought that to win this game, we need Infinity Edge for Twitch.
Was there any point in this game against EDG where you thought it wasn’t winnable?
Unless we’re really, really behind, we don’t think games are unwinnable. However this kind of emotion occurs when we’re really behind in the [team] composition. If the composition is difficult to come back from behind, even in those cases we’ll keep discussing; maybe we can find the solution by split pushing.
Any reason why SKT has been doing full-scale compositions?
For this game we got a very good composition. I believe that fans, commentators, pro-players, everyone have different perspectives.
(Wolf to me) Why do you ask? Is it because we’re picking very skilful, high difficulty picks?
In any kind of game, there’s high risk, high return. In the end we’re pro-players. We’re trying to win. We try many things and pick those with good results.
You’ve said that you don’t like playing supports in solo queue. But recently you’ve been playing a lot of supports like Janna, to climb to Challenger. What’s up with that?
(Wolf starts laughing and we all laugh together) I’m absolutely one of the best supports in the world, right?
There was a time I was 2nd place in ranked. If I won 3 more games, I would’ve been 1st place. But then I had a losing streak and I lost so much. I climbed a bit but still had a low score. As a professional support player, I have to be good at support.
The reason I started to play support and jungle right now is because (pause) – very honestly there was so much blame on me for not playing support in solo queue and I couldn’t stand for it anymore! So I decided, I’ll just play support.
Okay. That’s cool.
(We all laugh again)
WOLF: How do you know I play Janna in solo queue?
All the fans are always checking on you!
The fans are watching me, reporting on me… scary.
What’s the rooming situation now?
We’re all in individual rooms. I don’t really like sleeping alone. I’ll turn on the light and play music before I sleep.
If you could put a ward down in real life, which ward would you put and where?
Of course, absolutely, I’ll put a vision ward in my room.
(We all start laughing again)
Because if I had such a ward, I’ll avoid anyone over watching me! I want to protect my privacy. (Wolf smiles and chuckles)
Every time SKT streams, it’s very noisy. Who makes the most noise? Is it you?
It’s probably Huni. (pauses) It’s probably me and Huni maybe.
But because I am a conscious person, at least I close the door when I’m playing. However in the case of Huni, he struggles not to make noise. It must be very tiring because we start playing 30 minutes after practice where we scrimmed for 3 to 4 hours. Even in the old days we sang songs when we were farming. If you don’t feel like playing, then it’s very hard to play. It’s the same for me.
(Wolf goes on)
This is a story no one knows. There are 3 rooms in the SKT practice place and there’s only one air conditioner in the middle. When we turn on the air conditioner in the middle, the air goes down to the other two sides. But because Faker feels cold very easily, he always does not let anyone turn on the air conditioner.
So while I’m playing in the side room, I have to bring in the fan to help me cool down. However the one who actually complains [about noise] is Faker. If he feels it’s noisy, then he should just let us turn on the air-conditioner and he can close the door! Or, if he opens the door and I’m using the fan, he will complain that it’s so noisy because the door is open. What can I do?
(laughing) So just let us close the door!
Could you give a special message to your fans?
I’ve had a very long career as a player. It’s already my 6th year. Before this time I always tell fans, thank you for cheering for me and I’ll give back by getting good results. But this year I’ve started to take more care for my health.
Please take care of your health because health is the most important part of your life. It’s an indicator for happiness. Being healthy is the most important thing in life.
This interview was translated from Korean. (Cover photo credit: LoL Esports Flickr)