Exclusive interview with HLE’s new faces, DuDu and Viper

Thank you for joining me for the interview, both of you guys. DuDu, congratulations on debuting through Hanwha Life Esports.

DuDu: I haven’t debuted yet …

Viper: [Starts clapping]

Everyone: [Claps]

Well, you’ve been registered on the roster.

DuDu: That’s true. [Laughs]

And Viper, congratulations on your new start with Hanwha Life Esports. Hurray!

Everyone: [Claps]

Now, DuDu, you’ve recently been promoted to the main roster. The news went official. How have you been feeling ever since you got promoted to the main roster?

DuDu: Well … It feels a little surreal at the moment, it’s not like I’ve played a match yet.

But still — The team would have communicated their decision to promote you to the main roster. How did you feel when you first heard the news from the team? Then, how did you feel once the news went public, and you watched the community react to the news?

DuDu: I usually don’t stalk the communities, but being promoted to the main roster feels like … well, it does feel different from just being a trainee. I’m playing on a different floor, and the faces around me have changed, and the level of the game everyone is playing has just been elevated. I have to work hard, among all these good players. I do have a long way to go.

And Viper, you are also a newcomer to the HLE teamhouse. We are conducting this very interview at none other than Hanwha Life Esports teamhouse. How have you been finding it? How’s the teamhouse life bee?

Viper: Well … The food’s really good here. The facilities are great. They separated different facilities into different rooms. It’s an environment that is built to help a player to focus on the game.

I’ve only moved into the teamhouse the last week. Yet, my impression of the teamhouse so far has been very positive. The fact that there is an in-house gym, that there is a separate area for the players to relax and wind down. All of these things are great.

And how about the team atmosphere?

Viper: Everyone’s out for each other, the atmosphere is … Fun. The way they play the game, and all. All my teammates are easy-going and friendly.

I recently watched head coach Kezman conduct a video AMA with you two. And DuDu, I got the feeling you’ve got the “top laner’s mindset”. And when someone asked you which player you are interested in the most, you picked TheShy.

DuDu: Personally — TheShy’s so cool to watch. That man. His plays are a joy to watch. He’s always styling on [the enemy top laner], whacking them around … I thought he was pretty cool, so I named him. That’s pretty much it.

Viper: That’s already enough reason, right there.

DuDu: It’s cool to watch him whack people around.

Viper, what do you think about DuDu’s answer?

Viper: Hey, I like TheShy too. And DuDu’s got the mindset, at least … [laughs] I’m not sure. I haven’t played with DuDu for too long, but maybe he’ll become a TheShy himself with enough time. I believe he can become a “DuShy” someday.

While I was watching the AMA, I got the impression that Kezman really cares about both of you guys. Almost like a father-figure. Now that you are here at the team house and interacting with Kezman more often, I’d like to hear what your impression is on the head coach.

DuDu: He told us, treat him like a close older brother. And he does take good care of us. He puts in the extra effort to make his players more confident. It’s the way he coordinates the daily lives, the way he provides feedback.

Viper: He does put in extra attention so we can meld into the existing [HLE] team seamlessly.

DuDu, [now that you’ve been registered on the main roster], the fans in Korea and around the world really want to learn more about you. If this is ok, I wanted to ask a few questions about you to find out more about you as a person. First of all — May we ask how old you are?

DuDu: I’m now 20 [in Korean age]. I was born in 2001. Born in the Year of the Snake.

Viper: Snake, huh. Disappointing. I’m a Dragon.

DuDu: Snake, dragon, pretty much the same thing. 

When did you first start playing League, DuDu?

DuDu: In the final year of primary school. I was 13 [in Korean age]. It must have been Season 3. I kinda picked it up without thinking. That was the time when any champion could get picked, nothing would be too surprising. The idea of roles wasn’t as fixed at that time, so I pretty much went to any lane. The first pick player did all the bans …

Viper: The first pick was the king.

So you started League REALLY early on. But when did you decide you wanted to play professionally?

DuDu: It must have been last year, was it August? July? I was a school kid, studying and playing League of Legends whenever I had free time. It was so fun to play League. I was climbing the ladder. It was around this time when I started getting approached by coaches and the Challengers Korea teams, and that started making me wonder, hey, maybe, I can go professional. When I got the first message, I thought they sent the message to the wrong person [laughs]. But I became more certain when I started getting more DMs, the second one, the third one.

Was there a specific reason you chose Hanwha Life Esports above all other offers?

DuDu: It wasn’t like, too remarkable. I was refusing down all the offers that came before the HLE on. Then, HLE reached out to me around the time the idea of going pro started creeping on me. So, yeah, I came.

The coaching staff first asked if I can come to the team house to have a trial. I told him, that it’s too far from my house, it’s going to be hard. I was still studying at school and playing League on the side … Yet, the coaching staff kept inquiring me. So I trusted them and went through a trial.

So you signed with HLE a trainee — And now, you have been promoted into the main roster. You’ve told me that the summer split still feels surreal for you, but I wonder if you have any expectations around playing on the stage.

DuDu: Yeah. I had these ever since I was a trainee. I don’t know whether I’ll be playing these matches on the stage, or watching from the lobby as a substitute … But I guess it’ll all rush over me when I step into LoL Park for the first time. “I’ve finally come this far.” [Laughs]

And what emotion will that be, exactly?

DuDu: I guess nerves?

DuDu, what kind of top laner do you aspire to become?

DuDu: I like going hard on the lane phase. I always play around pushing the enemy laner back, throwing my punches at them. Countering their punches isn’t really my style.

In that case, what are some of your favorite champions?

DuDu: Lucian, Jayce, Aatrox. I like champions that can be annoying and poke, slowly withering the other laner away.

If both top laners can call for their jungles, what’s your preference? Both top lanes call for their jungles, or neither jungles come to the top lane?

DuDu: I don’t like calling my jungler over, and I like the opponent jungler coming over even less. I prefer 1v1. The top lane itself means the 1v1 situation happens very often. So the top lane suits me a lot.

“The top lane is a sacred arena.”

DuDu: Yep. [Laughs]

Of course. [laughs] Viper, I’ll now put you in the spotlight. The communities were super hyped to hear you joined Hanwha Life Esports. How did it feel, to watch the news break for the first time, to see people react to it?

Viper: I didn’t think too much of it. I was like, oh, the news went out. Yeah. But there was a sense of appreciation, watching the fans welcome me, put that expectation on me.

The overwhelming welcome the Hanwha Life Esports and LCK fans showed at the news [of you joining HLE] — It is a testimony in itself. A testimony that people continue to put faith in your capabilities.

Viper: It almost felt like … A reward. The cumulation of all this hard work I’ve been putting in, in present continuous-form … It all rushed over me at that moment.

No, I didn’t yield a good result last split. Yet, people continued to support me and place their expectations upon me. And that is because I’ve been running all this time, from the very first time I started League and professional gaming up to this moment, going through great teams, teammates, coaches. [The people’s welcome] reminded me — That I’ve been doing well, all this time.

And why did you choose HLE as your next destination?

Viper: The offer was good. Hanwha Life Esports was the first team that approached me. HLE wanted me, probably also because Lehends-hyung is here, too. I thought that it would be a good match, for me to perform well in a team that has a need for me. I gotta add, the team house is great.

[HLE] a place where I may once again begin the climb, begin the preparation. After the spring split, I was in the mindset of having a fresh start. I believed HLE is a place that can instill that kind of mindset from me. So I came.

What do you mean, Viper, to “prepare”?

Viper: Prepare … To once again rise up to that place where I may reach for the trophy.

And I wonder how Lehends, your ex-teammate, reacted when he heard you are joining Hanwha Life Esports.

Viper: I’m not sure. We’re not that close … [Laughs] He’ll understand me, even if I say words like this. [Laughs] We know each other. Well, he doesn’t express it, but I guess he will be happy? Lehends didn’t say anything special. Or maybe, I just don’t remember. The days have been a blur, I’ve only arrived here recently and been spending all my time adjusting to the new team.

What was the most memorable part of adjusting to HLE?

Viper: The wake-up call time is super early. The team has a group exercise session two times every week, and the session is early in the morning. We have to wake up early and come to the team house by eleven. It’s hard, waking up, but it feels good because I feel like I’m getting healthy. The exercise part is hard, but when I’m done, I feel accomplished for the rest of the day. 

After a while, there will be a difference between someone who exercised and someone who didn’t. So I put in the effort.

There are high expectations placed upon the addition of Viper to HLE, and a large part of this expectation stems from the bot-lane synergy between you and Lehends. Viper, what are your personal expectations on this bot lane?

Viper: Personally, I have very high expectations. Our performance at worlds last year would have left some impression on people’s memories.

Yes, the expectations are high. But… Lehends and I haven’t worked on our synergy for an entire split, so there will be some time spent on us getting our foot back in rhythm once again. We’ll have to work hard for our performance to meet this high expectation, each of us putting in the effort to construct a solid level of play.

And I saw you duo-queue with Lehends, Viper. I saw all sorts of champions locked in for the bot lane, Aatrox, Sylas …

Viper: Yeah. Sometimes the game feels boring, and when champions like that catch my eye, I lock them in.

DuDu, have you seen Viper play melee bruisers at the bot laner?

DuDu: Yeah. I remember him playing Sylas that one time.

Who’s a better Aatrox, between you two, DuDu and Viper?

DuDu: When it comes to Aatrox, I’m the better …

Viper: Huuuuh?

DuDu: I’ve played more than 1000 games on Aatrox. I’m confident at least on Aatrox.

Viper: Wanna someday …

DuDu: Wanna 1v1 someday?

Viper: We will have to settle this.

I mean, I’ve heard from [HLE] that DuDu has a great Aatrox.

Viper: That’s even better. A tasty game right in front of my eyes. [Laughs]

Ok, in that case, who’s the better Lucian?

Viper, DuDu: Hey –

DuDu: Lucian’s not even a bot anymore. He’s become a top champion, a mid champion … Lucian rarely locks in as an AD carry these days.

So DuDu’s the better Lucian?

DuDu: Hmmm, not sure if I’d go that far …

Viper: I haven’t seen him play Lucian yet. Hmmm. [To DuDu] Time to get to know each other.

When we discuss Viper the bot laner, we cannot help but mention his large champion pool. Viper, can you tell me more about your champion pool?

Viper: The bigger and deeper your champion pool is, the better. Back when I first debuted and got promoted to the LCK, I really benefitted for having that large champion pool. Back then … I had so much fun playing the game.

It’s easier said than done, to build up a large champion pool. What’s your secret to developing such a large champion pool?

Viper: I was really bad at sticking at doing one thing for too long. This was before I became a pro. I’d try out a champion, then would immediately want to try another champion. So I ended up experimenting across many different champions. I guess that period, experimenting, perhaps was a good influence. I’m not sure … I just ended up being good at it.

You’re just too good at the game, huh.

Viper: Ah, yeah. You could also put it that way. [Laughs]

While we are on the subject of champion pools, I’d like to ask about your champion pool, too, DuDu.

DuDu: I’m not too interested in champions that can be roleswapped into other lanes. I guess I’m more interested in champions that are meant for the top lane.

Viper: Disappointing. Disappointing. [Laughs]

DuDu: I tend to favor AD champions.

The recent patches may have shifted the lane dynamics. What are your thoughts on the meta, from the perspective of a top laner?

DuDu: I don’t think the top lane will make a big impact on the win or loss of the game in this patch. Not yet. The mid-jungle will continue to be first-tier lanes, unless a big change comes up … The mid-jungle can open up all other lanes.

Viper: League is a mid-jungle game, huh? [Laughs]

Guys, what’s up with the banter … Viper, what are your thoughts on the current meta? There are some buffs planned AD carries coming up on the next match.

Viper: I guess it will be some boost. The AD carries will have extra health. However … When I’m playing the game, I didn’t experience a significant change compared to the previous patches. The AD carries that used to be OP continue to get picked, and the lower tier AD carries continue to be less frequent.

DuDu: [ADC] ain’t need no buff, huh? [Laughs]

Viper: I guess I’m inclined to wait a little longer. Perhaps there are more changes coming up on the horizon. But for now, from what I’ve seen, there hasn’t been too much change. Or perhaps I haven’t found out these changes just yet. I’ll continue to research it as I adjust to Hanwha Life Esports.

Viper, we all know how great you are at playing non-marksman champions. Do you agree with the statement that non-marksman bot laners aren’t very viable in the current meta?

Viper: I do agree somewhat, but it all depends on how you wield the champion. It’s not radical to say that the difference between AD carry and non-AD carry has all but faded. Varus, for example — Comet Varus’s popular these days, right? Strictly speaking, he gives off too much of a non-AD carry vibe to be called an AD carry … He’s just OP, in general.

The times have blurred the line between marksman and non-marksman champions. The difference comes down to how you execute them. And I never got the impression that a meta is too difficult of an environment for one to use a non-marksman. They pop up in other leagues, and different AD carries keep getting tried out. It all depends on how each team interprets and executes a champion.

DuDu, you are relatively new to all this, right? Doing interviews like this … All this must be a new experience for you. And Viper, you have a few more years of experience compared to DuDu. How do you feel, as you see DuDu sitting next to you?

Viper: I never went through a trainee phase as he did. So, I see DuDu, and realize that this League scene is continuing to develop … Ok, perhaps develop is not the most accurate word here, but I do feel like the scene is growing. There will be more cases [like DuDu] in the future, rookie players going through a trainee curriculum before being promoted into the main roster. Watching that, I — It will be possible for the players to start at a young age, practice through a structured process. Then, I look back to when [Griffin] first debuted. We were a little … Different.

It’s fascinating. I wish him well. I hope DuDu becomes a top laner that surpasses TheShy.

DuDu: Yeah. I’d love for that to happen, too.

DuDu, you are surrounded by a mix of rookies and veterans here at HLE. Haru has been active on several teams, and Lehends and CuVee are also seasoned players. How do you feel, when you look around and see your veteran teammates?

DuDu: There are so many things I can learn by looking over their shoulders. They are all experienced players. There are things like, certain plays, that come from having that experience. I can take things away by watching them and learning from them.

HLE is often dubbed “The Korean G2”. They are famously the precursors, attempting new expressions of the meta, innovating drafts. What do you guys think about this playstyle of HLE?

Viper: Well, I really like our open-minded approach. We are not only open-minded but boldly try these ideas out on the stage. I’ve watched HLE do this, second-hand, last split … I’d say it is admirable. It’s not easy to try out new things, right? It’s difficult to have the courage to play in a way different from the rest 

Maybe we’ll get to see a bot lane Aatrox, even?

Viper: [Laughs] Maybe that one’s a stretch.

I’m speaking to a man who once played Teemo AD carry.

Viper: Well, Teemo’s a ranged champion, at least.

DuDu, I do understand this is the first professional team you’ve played with. But, still — What are some of your impressions about the playstyle of Hanwha Life Esports.

DuDu: I’ve never been to another team … Personally, HLE has the “Do first, talk later” approach. They don’t sit around and do nothing. When you play the game, there are moments that are a gamble, right? HLE maybe don’t let these moments pass by, they try these moments out. They go in head-on first then talk about it later. And I guess we will improve faster than others, by keep doing this? Maybe we won’t get these immediate results, but we’ll be the fastest team to improve. 

What kind of expectation can we have on Hanwha Life Esports as we head into the summer split?

Dudu: Well … It’ll depend on how we do, but I guess we’ll be above the middle of the pack? I don’t know exactly how high that might look like. I’m looking forward to it, personally.

Viper: I hope the fans see us as an “attractive” team. If we end up being a “good” team, even better. I want to do well, I think we can do well. I want to return to the stage, changed, like a better version of myself … It will be safe for the fans to expect more from us compared to the previous split.

So we can look forward to the [Lehends-Viper] bot lane the next split?

Viper: Of course, as much as you want. [Laughs]

Now, I wonder if there’s a specific placement in standing that you guys want to end up in. Yes, Hanwha Life Esports has often been seen as this “attractive” innovators. A fun team to watch out for. However, the fans would really like to see this “fun” element followed up by results, too.

Viper: First and foremost, I’d love for us to qualify for the playoffs. It’s a realistic goal, given that I have only arrived on this team recently and haven’t played many matches with this team. My immediate goal is to get to the playoffs. My wish is to yield a good result from the playoffs and qualify for worlds.

Viper — Was it early this year, or perhaps last year? You said, in one of the interviews, you have “Things to prove.” What is the one thing you want to prove in THIS team — Hanwha Life Esports?

Viper: I want to prove that I have the talent to win the championship, that I can win the championship. I want to prove that I can be the best. Always.

And DuDu, I’m curious about your answer to this question, too. I know you’re new to all this, but let’s say, there’s this one thing you want to prove to the world.

DuDu: I want to become a top laner that people will remember. Someone that League fans might watch and one day say, “Hey, there was a player like that.” Like, there are players out there that just “pass by”, without leaving any mark, without having been special, right? I don’t wanna be a player like that. I want to be remembered in people’s memories, “There is a player who plays like that. There’s the player who plays that unique style. This player did this.” I want to become a player that people remember.

Viper, I remember watching you at the 2019 World Championship. I remember your Pentakill against Invictus Gaming. You were on Xayah. It’s not an everyday feat, to get a Pentakill at a worlds stage. You left a strong impression on the international fans that day. I wonder what kind of memories you yourself hold around worlds.

Viper: I have too many memories of worlds. Well, it was very exhilarating, playing at worlds. It was beyond the joy of the game I’d usually feel. It was more fun, it was more motivating, I was hungrier to do more.

When a player plays at a World Championship, they seem to come back a changed man. They tell me — That once you step onto that stage, you can never forget what it’s like there.

Viper: Yeah. When you make it once, you want to make it again. You want to make it next year, the year after. It is a stage that you want to continue to return to.

And that’s a satisfying imagery to paint. Viper, the man who landed a Pentakill at 2019 worlds, makes it back to worlds, shoulder-to-shoulder with his partner Lehends and brand new teammates. I wonder what kind of imagery you yourself paint in your head when you think of worlds.

Viper: Yes. I’m always painting that picture in my head. The first painting is me making it to worlds. And the paintings that come after it, I haven’t even begun the sketch … Well, the biggest goal is to win the LCK, and right after that, it is to qualify for worlds. To be honest, I covet both of them. I want to win the LCK, I want to go back to worlds. I guess they’re kinda balanced in weight — But I guess more desperate for a trophy. I guess it will be even better if I go to worlds AND win the trophy there, right? [Laughs]

Viper, you have stepped onto that LCK finals stage [three times] and experienced defeat three times. You played on that finals stage as the trophy stood in front of you, but wasn’t able to lift it. If you do ever get to finally lift the LCK trophy — Viper, what would that moment mean for you?

Viper: Hmmm. I’m not sure. I’ve never experienced what that moment feels like.

I guess I will be happy, perhaps overjoyed? It will hold a big meaning for me. Whatever happens in life after that moment, as long as I have taken away that memory, that tangible result of having won a championship … Whatever I do in my life after that moment, I will do them with pride within myself, with confidence … Perhaps this knot in my heart will finally become undone …

DuDu, you haven’t played your first stage game just yet. But this is the dream that every single player, rookie, trainee, has dared to toy with. What would it be like for them to win the LCK? What would it be like for them to stand on that world stage? DuDu, when you visualize yourself as a professional player, what is the strongest imagery that stuck with you?

DuDu: The first imagery, of course, is to win [the LCK]. And if I do make it to worlds — You know how Nuguri went to worlds, and the fans around the world came to know him as “That Kleptomancy Player?” I also want to leave a strong impression. Yeah, winning is the first priority, but … I do want to leave an impression. Maybe the international fans didn’t know about Nuguri before worlds. Like, it was his very first international tournament. Then he left an impression, first impressions are important. I don’t know what the meta might look like by the time [the worlds roll around]. But if I do make it to worlds, I want to try something out, make myself known.

And what kind of player do you want to be remembered as in three year’s time?

DuDu: In three years, I would have more matches under my belt. I’ll be an experienced player. Well, first of all, I do well, and … I want to be remembered as, something like, “The most aggressive top laner in the LCK.” Similar to Nuguri. And if I do better than Nuguri, that’s even better. I want to leave a strong impression on the league.

Thank you so much for the time, both of you. Finally — Do you want to say anything to the Korean and international fans around the world?

DuDu: Fans wouldn’t know me that well, even in Korea. So it’s an honor if there are international fans out there watching out for me. I haven’t played on the stage yet, but I’ll become better and develop into a player worth watching out for. So, please keep watching me.

Viper: I’ve joined amazing teammates here at Hanwha Life Esports, I have a premonition that I’ll do even better this split. I want to perform well and show the fans out there that I’m still good. I’ll put in the effort so I can claim good results here at Hanwha Life Esports. Please continue supporting me, and I will repay this support from the fans.

 

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