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Pobelter: “SSONG is really important because he’s smart at the game, but also he can really connect to the Korean players.”

Pobelter says SSONG has had a large impact on Immortals this summer.
Immortals Pobelter (Eugene Park) says SSONG's impact as a coach has been palpable. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

Immortals clinched a bye to the semifinals of the North American League of Legends Championship Series summer playoffs, staking its claim at the top of the standings after missing the playoffs in the spring. Slingshot’s Emily Rand caught up with mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park after Immortals’ Week 9 series against Echo Fox to discuss the team’s strong split and coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo.

Emily Rand: Congratulations on the win. You’ve secured a playoff bye but first seed and second seed are still undetermined (note: Team SoloMid earned the top seed). How much do Immortals care about first seed versus second seed?

Eugene “Pobelter” Park: Yeah, I was thinking about it but there’s no point in stressing about it since we can’t control who advances from playoffs anyway, from the quarterfinals stage. We don’t know if C9 is going to win, CLG is going to win, whoever is going to win, so we don’t know if first or second seed might be better in regards to whether we’ll face a weaker opponent in semifinals. None of that is predictable. We’re just happy that we got the bye, and we’re not paying too much attention to, “Oh, well if we place first and C9 places fourth and then they win and the third place team drops, nah.”

Emily Rand: Is there any team that you would rather face, or not face?

EP: It doesn’t really matter. Whatever teams advance, they’ll be there because they won the best-of-five, so they’re the opponent that we should face given our seeding. I don’t think there’s any particular team that we would like to face.

ER: How does it affect your preparation for playoffs, if at all?

EP: We’ll probably just focus for a couple weeks on ourselves. Once it’s determined who we’ll face, in quarterfinals we’ll get to see them play a full best-of-five, so we’ll then tailor our practice specifically towards playing against them.

ER: As a player who has been around for a while, do you think it’s better that, as a higher seed, you get to see the team in action in a best-of-five? Or are there drawbacks to that?

EP: It’s not huge, but it’s decent. They also get the edge of going through a full playoff best-of-five, so they’ll be more comfortable onstage rather than the team that gets the playoff bye. So you can consider them kind of equal in the end, actually.

ER: You will be on a new patch for playoffs as well. How much do you think that will matter?

EP: Uh, I don’t think so. I think everything is pretty much the same, in regards to mid, anyway. Everyone is still playing Syndra, Corki, Orianna, Taliyah so . . . (shrugs)

ER: Are you getting a bit bored with the mid lane champion pool right now?

EP: Nah, all four of those champs are really fun actually.

ER: Given the current mid lane pool, how surprising was it that you had to face Froggen (Henrik Hansen)’s Talon today?

EP: Yeah that was pretty unexpected. I just kind of played it safe. I could have pressed my advantages a lot harder. I was up 15cs and wasn’t pressuring him enough. But if we just played it safe, we would win. We were pretty unfamiliar against Talon, actually. I think at one point he was 7-1. We definitely weren’t prepared for the pick and we played — well we played recklessly since at one point he was 7-1. But we played conservatively enough that we didn’t lose because of it.

ER: What is the No. 1 thing you’ve learned this split?

EP: Probably just playing safe when I need to, avoiding unnecessary deaths a lot more. That’s probably the No. 1 thing. Also team fight positioning.

ER: There has been a lot of talk about this being a career split for you. Would you agree? And how do you feel like you’ve performed this split?

EP: Yeah I would agree. I think I’ve performed pretty well this split. It’s just like every split I keep learning from having new teammates, new coaches, things like that, so I’m really thankful for that. Hopefully I can keep improving and reach higher highs.

ER: Speaking of coaches, SSONG has been mentioned alongside the arrival of Xmithie (Jake Puchero) as a reason behind Immortals’ success. You’re already familiar with Xmithie, but how has SSONG helped the team?

EP: I think SSONG is really important because he’s smart at the game, but also he can really connect to the Korean players as well, whereas last split it was like, we had an English speaking coach and he couldn’t really convey to them, because of language differences and cultural differences, his full message. But SSONG is able to bypass that because he speaks Korean to them. I think that actually turned out to be really important. I think that Flame and Olleh really started to play much much better after the split started, and I think that SSONG was a huge factor in that.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games