After a successful few years as part of KT Rolster in League Champions Korea, No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon has moved to North America’s Phoenix1. Well known for his mastery as a top-tier AD Carry in Korea, Arrow will be making his debut in the NA LCS on Friday against Echo Fox.
Slingshot’s Andrew Kim had the chance to talk to Arrow (in Korean and translated to English) about moving across the globe, his supportive style as an AD Carry and how he feels heading into the new season.
Andrew Kim: What was the process of moving to a North American team from Korea?
No “Arrow” Dong-hyun: After I left KT, I was wondering whether I should stay in Korea or go overseas while I was looking for a new team. Since I left the best team I could enter, KT, I wanted to seek out a new experience away from Korea. So I was thinking of going abroad since then, and another big reason is making it to worlds, since it’s really tough because of the level of Korean teams. I’m not saying that other regions are weak, but comparatively, I felt like I would be able to go to worlds as long as I do well and carry. I originally was looking to go to China since it’s closer, even though I didn’t get any offers. NA was the first to extend the an offer. I think it was Phoenix 1 and Immortals. After talking with both of the teams, I thought that P1 was more eager to work with me and that they really wanted me, so I chose here.
AK: I believe the decision to go with P1 must have gone through a lot of thought. P1 wasn’t a team that performed that well (last year), so were there any concerns you had as you made the decision?
NDH: I did some research about the team, and they didn’t do well in the last season. (I thought) if I do end up going, I’ll be going with Ryu (Ryu Sang-wook) as a set, and I thought that if Ryu was in the mid lane, the team had potential to make it far. When I looked at the foreigner teammates, I thought Adrian (Adrian Ma) wasn’t that bad, and Eric (general manager Eric Ma) showed me the VODs of Inori (Rami Charagh) playing, and I thought he also could improve with coaching. So if the mid and AD Carry play their best, I thought they would also play well, so I entered P1.
AK: When you were in KT, you were one of the best ADCs in Korea. But despite having such a high evaluation, it almost seemed like your other teammates garnered more of the spotlight. Did you personally feel that way?
NDH: No. I think it depends on the game itself. If I do well, I get compliments, and if I just play without making any notable plays, that’s how it goes. I don’t care about who takes the spotlight, and I didn’t feel that way.
AK: In Korea you were very well known for a stable play style that is consistent, rather than making super plays. What do you think of that evaluation?
NDH: I do think that evaluation is a compliment, and I focus on the good part that I am a stable, consistent player rather than dwell on the negative of “not making super plays.”
AK: Where do you think the center was when you were in KT?
NDH: The center of the team is dependent on the meta. If it’s a top meta, then the center is at the top. The last season I spent with KT was during the jungle meta, so I think it was with Score (Go Dong-bin).
AK: As the KT rebuilding happened, Score was the only person that stayed with the team as every other position was changed. Do you think this was the case because of his role as the “center” in the last season?
NDH: It’s unclear. I think that played at least a small part in the rebuild, and with the new meta, the gameplay and spotlight changes, I think there would be some effect. I guess KT knows best.
AK: You seem to have a very close relationship with head coach Lee Ji-hoon, as you’re often seen talking with him on social media. How close were you with him?
NDH: When we go to team workshops or when we all go drinking, I talk with him and the other coaching staff. I was close with everyone on KT. I was just really close with them. On days off or when the team had dinner together after games, we all talked with each other.
AK: KT became a strong team that would be a strong contender for the top team of the LCK as time passed. During that growth, a lot of fans also saw you grow as a player. Were you satisfied with the team and your growth? Were you unsatisfied with anything?
NDH: As KT became a strong team, I didn’t have anything to complain about. I got better, the team got better and got that far, so there wasn’t anything I was dissatisfied with.
AK: As you moved to NA, what are some of the big differences?
NDH: I’m trying to nail down the proper mentality for NA, but in Korea it kind of comes to me naturally, like from the coaching staff. Although if they didn’t have their heart in it, it would be no different. P1 feeds me very well like KT, so I’m gaining weight. I guess the biggest difference would be that KT has their practice room separate from where the players sleep, and P1 has the the rooms we sleep in on the second floor and the practice room on the first floor. If I could speak no English I guess it would have been difficult to adapt, but I can understand conversational English, so I think it’ll be like in KT.
AK: One of the topics that’s always brought up is communication. Like you said, you have a decent grasp of the language, but do you find that communication is smooth in games too?
NDH: At first that was very difficult. Around Dec. 16, I scrimmed with the team when they came to Korea, and I scrimmed with them from January 11th to now, and I got more used to playing in English in that time. At first was kind of tough, but it’s much better now. From time to time, Korean and English gets mixed up in-game.
AK: When that happens, does Ryu help you out and make things clear? Or is he more busy with his own play?
NDH: When I have a moment I fix it, but when it gets too hectic, he helps fix it.
AK: When we look at some of the Korean imports to NA before you, such as Piglet and Impact, did you take note of anything as they played in NA for some time? Any lessons learned?
NDH: Not really. I didn’t really keep a close eye on the two of them, so when I decided to go to NA it didn’t really matter.
AK: The ADC role has been mired in controversy in 2017, with many players complaining that the role has been rendered useless. What do you think about that?
NDH: In solo queue, I think nothing can be helped. Even if you do well, if the top lane collapses, it’s difficult to bring the game back. In a team-based competitive game, though, it’s a bit different. Two people from the same team are in the bot lane. The lanes don’t blow up as easily, given the lanes are even matchups, and the meta right now is focused around the mid and jungle, so in a team game it’s still workable.
AK: Would you say that the pro-level games and solo queue games are two different entities?
NDH: Yes. In solo-queue, it’s one person or at most two, and if the other lanes don’t do well, then the entire enemy team focuses on the bottom lane, so it’s quite different.
AK: As you play scrims with NA teams, what differences do you find between KR bottom lanes and NA bottom lanes?
NDH: I don’t really know. I can’t find any large differences. In Korea, good bot lanes play well and bad ones don’t. That should be the same anywhere, so I don’t think it’s that much different.
AK: So it’s either you’re good or you’re bad?
NDH: Yeah. Just largely those two categories. A good bottom lane should be good in NA and KR.
AK: Would you put yourself as a good bottom lane?
NDH: Of course. I have to put myself there since that’s why I’m in NA.
AK: A lot of Korean players have moved into NA with you. Did you feel like the league became more difficult? And what teams are you keeping an eye out for?
NDH: I thought, “Why did all the Korean players have to move with me when I decided to go to NA?” Seriously, though, I do think I need to be careful around teams with Korean players. Rather than pointing out one team, I think all of the NA teams can beat each other and are at a similar level. It was the same in Korea. The teams could beat each other at any point, and any team could win or lose. I don’t think one particular team is dangerous, but I think it’s more important that we’re careful. We could win or lose.
AK: Your role as Arrow of KT was very clear, with many people able to identify you by the manner you play. How would you describe your own play style?
NDH: Rather than trying to play by myself, I try to play with the team. I guess it’s like a “team work” style.
AK: Do you mean that rather than carrying the game yourself, you want to assist the team win?
NDH: Yeah. It is a team game after all.
AK: I’m sure you guys have a translator for the team. With Korean imports, many fans would think that such a role is crucial to the team. Realistically, what is the effect of the translator on both you and Ryu’s life within the team?
NDH: It’ll be uncomfortable without one. I think there should be one. I don’t really know how to really say it, but it helps a lot. There should be one for sure.
AK: Does the translator also work outside of the game like when you interact with the team?
NDH: They eat with the team and stuff, so I think we need one.
AK: Many Korean pros have said that they find NA fans to be very passionate. Now that you move from KR to NA, what do you look forward to, and what are you concerned about?
NDH: I am looking forward to the passionate and excited fans. As for concerns, this happened in Korea well, but I think I would get more upset if I receive mean comments, because they’d be foreigners to me. In Korea, I’d just think, “people like this exist, I guess,” and I could say the same with NA fans, but I think it’ll feel different.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games