Kim “Croco” Dong-beom is one of the newest faces to join the LCK, but not an unfamiliar one to those that followed Challengers Korea for the last two seasons. From a humble beginning as a streamer, to competing in the secondary league of Korean League of Legends scene, Croco now finds himself on the verge of debuting in the LCK, the highest stage Korea has to offer. Ashley Kang from Korizon had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with the jungler for Liiv SANDBOX before the start of the 2021 Spring Season
Croco, it’s already been more than a month since you were announced as Liiv SANDBOX’s new jungler. I’m guessing you have had time to familiarize yourself with your new teammates. What has been your impression of the team, and your new teammates, so far?
Croco: I was actually familiar with a few players in LSB even before I had joined the team. The team atmosphere is like … All the players here are really upbeat. Been getting along really well with everyone, in terms of performance, too.
I know that you briefly played with your current mid laner FATE, back at Challengers Korea [for Brion Blades]. But sounds like you also had other familiar faces in the team.
Croco: Players that I got to know throughout the solo queue, right. Names that I already knew of.
The players sometimes tell me, they start chatting and making friends with other players through solo queue games. Then, when these players actually meet these online friends in person, suddenly they feel extremely awkward! I wonder if your experience was similar, Croco?
Croco: When I met these players first in the solo queue, then later in real life — Yeah, for sure. They weren’t exactly the personalities I had expected to be sitting behind the monitors. Like, they were “calmer” than I had thought? When I had interacted with these players online, they were more of clowns, right. But when I met them in person, they actually turned out to be calm and collected individuals.
Which LSB players are we talking about?
Croco: Let’s skip on this question. [laughs]
And congratulations, because joining Liiv SANDBOX also means that you will be playing in the LCK in 2021. You had competed in Challengers Korea the last two years, but LSB will be your LCK debut.
Croco: I’ll get to play in the LCK for the very first time … I’ll be honest, I guess I got lucky. Things fell into place at the right timing.
Every team has its specific playstyle, a team color. Some team perhaps plays more aggressively, while other teams develop a more defensive playstyle. From your experience at LSB so far, how would you describe 2021 LSB’s playstyle, its team color?
Croco: Like, when you watch football. There are strikers, midfielders, defenders. I’d say SANDBOX is like a striker. As a team, we highly prefer aggressive plays. Of course, we sometimes regress to defensive plays. But the current direction of the team is that we are giving up these defensive plays. We aspire to be aggressive.
LSB’s new head coach, Kim Mok-kyung would be an integral part of the team’s direction. He is famous for building the early DAMWON Gaming, he is a respected figure when it comes to discovering and nurturing rookie players.
Croco: Actually, my biggest reason for choosing Liiv SANDBOX was because of head coach Kim and his ability to nurture new talents. Really, he’s an amazing head coach. I’d say he was the main reason for me joining the team.
Head coach Kim approached me, it was by a stroke of luck, and … I guess that’s why I said earlier, I got lucky. The series of events.
now that I’m here at Liiv SANDBOX, I’m now once again given the opportunity to show what I’m all about. Go on a bit of a rampage.
Croco, you’ll be a new face joining the LCK, but you are certainly a known figure to League fans who keep up with the South Korean solo queue ladder. Your IGN is a staple name on Challengers. I’ve watched highlights of your Lee Sin solo queue games. In your opinion, how were you able to climb so high in the Korean solo queue and make a name for yourself?
Croco: I was fortunate enough that I got to duo with LCK players that are already famous, the big names. So I can see why fans out there might be already familiar with my name. And I was placed pretty high on the ladder, too. I had my solo queue ID at 4th place in the South Korean ladder at one point.
Before this interview, I did some background research on you, Croco. I browsed through the Korean League communities and found out people often referenced you as that Jungler Who Used To Duo With Nuguri.
Croco: I first met, then became friends, with Nuguri through solo queue games. We used to duo together now and then, and … Before we noticed, we came … To need each other’s presence. [Ashley laughs] When I say that, I mean as in, we had such a high winrate when we were queueing up together. I don’t know how Nuguri felt, but from my perspective, Nuguri became that player that I needed. We kept seeking out for each other.
Then, one day, Nuguri went on an interview and brought me up. Quoted me as his favorite jungler to duo with. Now, if I think about the fact that he eventually became a World Champion … It feels strange, right.
How would you describe yourself, as a player, as a jungler?
Croco: I’d say I am — I’d say I had been, up to this point — A bit of a dumb player. [laughs] Someone who only has his mechanics to back himself up. A bit of a wild animal. But now I’d say I’m a bit more well-rounded as a player. When it comes to seeing the overall game state.
I’d say I’m not completely there just yet. This is still a work in progress. I’ve been continuing to work on improving my overall eye for the game ever since I have joined this team.
You have been a prominent figure in the Korean solo queue for the last few years, and I realize you were also a streamer before debuting. How have you changed as a player; how has your “overall eye for the game” changed; ever since you started playing as a professional player, in 2018 for Challengers Korea?
Croco: I was an aspiring streamer, even before I debuted as a professional gamer. I loved League of Legends, and I wanted to become a streamer. Then this and that, and I was suddenly playing in Challengers Korea. Well — I was thankful, right. Because they suddenly gave me the opportunity to play on a stage. But I wasn’t able to show the performance that met the expectation.
So in this offseason, I started streaming again, while slowly reevaluating where my career was headed. Well, now that I’m here at Liiv SANDBOX, I’m now once again given the opportunity to show what I’m all about. Go on a bit of a rampage.
A rampaging wild animal?
Croco: A rampaging fox.
Croco: Like, as intelligent as a fox. Show more intelligent plays. But also daring, like a wolf.
You’re a fox, you’re a wolf, we have a zoo here. But isn’t Croco, your IGN, based on a Crocodile?
Croco: Yeah, a crocodile. A crocodile lurks under the surface, waits for the best moment to strike. I will become a jungler like a crocodile, that creates these perfect moments.
You totally had this catchphrase prepared.
Croco: I didn’t. [laughs]
A rampaging fox. Sure.
Even if my team doesn’t win worlds, I want to become a jungler like SofM. A player that made a name for himself.
Soon, you will be playing on the LCK for the very first time. To step onto that stage is a big milestone for a professional player. Do you have any personal expectations when it comes to playing in the LCK?
Croco: I did hear that Liiv SANDBOX didn’t have the best split in the previous split. The team didn’t find good results. I just want us to become more refined, and … If I were being realistic with my expectations, maybe I’d say the playoffs.
But if you ask me where I want to end up, my dream is to get to worlds. I’ll work hard towards that goal.
You mentioned you used to duo-queue with Nuguri a lot throughout 2020.
Back in 2019 January, KeSPA Cup, I interviewed Nuguri. At that time, he said his goal was to make it to worlds as the first seed LCK team, to win the World Championship. I replayed that interview recently after he had won worlds — It was a satisfying narrative. I wonder what you dream of, Croco, yourself when you try to visualize that worlds stage?
Croco: Well, winning the trophy is one thing, but … At 2020 Worlds, SofM lost the finals, but he made a name for himself on that stage as big as DWG Canyon, even though it was Canyon who had won worlds. SofM was being touted as a great jungler. So, even if my team doesn’t win worlds, I want to become a jungler like SofM. A player that made a name for himself.
I know that SofM is also rated high by people outside of his team. And … The coach of my previous team, this was two years ago, had actually worked with SofM, back at Snake Gaming. The coach was singing praises of SofM. Suning Gaming wasn’t rated as a strong team when it qualified to worlds, right? But on worlds stage, SofM caught everyone’s eyes, had an amazing performance that left a strong impression on me. I dream of becoming a player like SofM.
Do you have any particular jungler that you look up to or aspire towards, in terms of career or playstyle? There are so many legendary junglers throughout the history of the LCK, and also internationally …
Croco: Hmmm. I don’t think I ever “looked up” to a particular jungler, but … I’ve really looked up to Faker, ever since I was a student.
That’s amazing. And how more amazing would it be, when you play in the LCK and get to face Faker for the first time!
Croco: I feel … Nervous about that moment. It must feel like meeting a celebrity. I think it’s really sportsmanship-like, it’s really cool, that players shake hands after a match. Win or lose, you shake hands with each other. I’m kind of sad that [Faker and I] won’t get to shake hands after that match, though, because of the coronavirus situation. But I’d love to shake Faker’s hand if I ever get to.
Thank you for the interview, Croco, and best of luck for the 2021 LCK. There will be many fans, both within South Korea and worldwide, who do plan to tune into the LCK, who might end up [reading] this interview. Do you have anything to say to these fans?
Croco: I have recently joined Liiv SANDBOX, and I will be the starting jungler at least for the first round of the spring split. If there are fans out there who had been supporting SANDBOX Gaming throughout  — I can imagine these fans might feel nervous about me. I will be playing at the LCK for the first time, and I had never found great success at Challengers Korea. I know the fans won’t have a high expectation of me. But the team is truly “changing” in 2021 — I’d love for you to keep putting high expectations on us.
Thank you so much — Any words to your LSB teammates, perhaps?
Croco: To my teammates — I know that I’m still learning. I don’t know much. I don’t get to always make the plays that are in my head. But give me a little more time, and soon, I’ll carry you guys.