Longzhu Gaming may have earned tremendous plaudits last week by ascending to the top of League Champions Korea, but the supremacy is as precarious as it is fresh. Their 11W-3L match record is matched by 2nd-place Samsung Galaxy and 3rd-place KT Rolster, and both could easily overtake Longzhu’s game record by the end of the split. More importantly, the three teams have yet to play their return fixtures against each other, which will most likely determine their final playoff seedings.
The first of those momentous matches -- Samsung Galaxy vs. KT Rolster -- takes place this Tuesday, and one of its highlights should be the top lane showdown between former Worlds finalists Lee “CuVee” Sung-jin and Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho. Hoping to shed some extra personal light on the lesser known of the two stars, Blitz Esports sat down briefly with CuVee last week to talk about his style of play, personality, and history.
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Today you pulled out your signature Kled again, a champion that few other Korean top laners use regularly. Is your preference for Kled linked to your natural style of play?
CuVee: I think so. I have an aggressive style of play. I always want to win my lane, and I always want to keep that advantage going into the [split push phase]. That’s why I prefer champions like Kled and Camille, who can really crush and oppress the opponent when properly played.
A good number of Korean fans believe your Kled and Camille are the best in Korea. Do you agree with their assessment?
CuVee: Well… [laughs] I practice those kinds of champions a lot, and I do think I’ve gotten really good at them.
Another irregularity in your champion pool is the absence of Rumble. Is there a reason why you haven’t been playing it at all?
CuVee: Rumble is a champion that needs to be played very defensively at times -- his early game is strong, but the lane [dynamic] changes once the enemy laner grabs some items, so there are windows in which you really need to be careful. But I’m not good enough yet at playing that kind of [more measured] style, so I haven’t been able to perform that well on Rumble, and that led me to drift away from picking him.
Your combative approach to lane forms an interesting juxtaposition with your bubbly, happy-go-lucky public image. How would you describe your own personality?
CuVee: Well, I think my public image is quite similar to my personality. I do think that I’m solidly on the positive side, and I don’t exactly have that kind of grim persistence that some players have. But I think that I’m quite competitive.
Come to think of it, my competitive streak actually was formed by League of Legends. When I was a student, I always had a let-it-be mindset -- a loss is just a loss, let’s just go with the flow, that kind of attitude -- but I simply could not help but get angry after losing in League, especially solo queue games. [laughs]
Sounds like League perfectly conditioned your personality for esports. So when exactly did you start thinking of becoming a professional gamer?
CuVee: I think my story is pretty dramatic. I originally had no intention of going pro because my mind was set on going to college. I refused all offers that came my way. But on Suneung [South Korea’s College Scholastic Ability Test] day, I didn’t perform very well. My scores weren’t high enough for me to apply to where I had been aiming for. So I came home really, really dejected.
When I logged onto League to cheer up a bit, Park “BlisS” Jong-won -- who then was on Samsung Galaxy -- whispered me out of the blue, asking me if I was willing to try out for his team. His message made me think that perhaps this was the path I should now be walking. So I accepted, tried out, and was signed.
And how did you decide upon your summoner name?
CuVee: I took it from the name of an anime character. I used it when I was an amateur, then kept it when I went pro.
That character is Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, right? And if it is, did you choose an alternate spelling on purpose?
CuVee: It is that Kyubey, yeah. [laughs] And as for the spelling, it wasn’t intentional. I don’t speak English very well, so I used a machine translator when I had to choose a [romanization]. “Cuvee” is how the translator spelled it, so I used that.
Returning to the story behind your debut -- how did your family react to your sudden change of heart?
CuVee: My parents don’t know games that well, so they knew very little about professional gaming. My brother and I had to explain what kind of job it was. But overall they never really objected -- the talk went really smoothly. My parents had always trusted me a lot, so they assumed that I knew what I was doing.
Prior to the twist of fate that led you to professional gaming, what kind of life had you planned on living?
CuVee: I had planned on living an ordinary life in an ordinary way. I wanted to enter an ordinary company, have an ordinary career, lead an ordinary life, and die an ordinary death. That’s really how I felt. But now… [laughs] things haven’t quite gone according to plan!
Have you ever regretted your decision to go pro?
CuVee: No, not for a single moment. I think I’m very lucky and blessed to have the life I am living now. I’m perfectly content with how things turned out.
What do you want to achieve over the span of your career?
CuVee: I want to play for as long as possible -- I’ll have to leave for compulsory military service one day, but hopefully I will stay competitive up to my late twenties. And I think that professional gaming is [ultimately] just a job, a career choice, like any other. So over my playing career, I want to earn the most money I can, and build the best reputation I can.
Do you have any last words for your foreign fans?
CuVee: Thank you all for cheering for me from so far away. I promise to work hard to make it to the international stage so that we can meet.
[This interview has been translated and edited for clarity.]