Daily e-sports

[People] 'World Champion Head Coach 'Edgar' "We’ve Only Made it from 99F Below to the Ground Floor"

[People] 'World Champion Head Coach 'Edgar' "We’ve Only Made it from 99F Below to the Ground Floor"
Samsung Galaxy League of Legends team has cultivated possibly the biggest upset in the world in 2017. Although the team has never reached the Finals at League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), the team seized a 3-0 victory against ktRolster at the final match of Regional Qualifiers for World Championship (Worlds), securing their spot in China. At worlds, they again swept Longzhu Gaming by 3-0 in Quarterfinals, and went on to beat SK Telecom T1, again by 3-0 at the Grand Final. Although Samsung Galaxy did not come up with a good result at LCK, the team managed to show great concentration at Worlds, to become the World Champions of 2017.

But this is just the beginning, as Head Coach Woo-beom'Edgar' Choi's story is even more dramatic. Choi, who originally entered the gaming scene as a SC:Brood War player of Samsung Khan Starcraft Team (under the name of Su-beom Choi), was known as 'Sam (Three) Su-beom'. Whenever he had three Barracks, three firebats, or three medics, the fans would jeer at him, 'there's Edgar pulling off Sam Su-beom again.' Every actions he had made as a professional gamer was linked with the number 3 (pronounced as 'Sam' in Korean), leading to the creation of an internet meme which puts '~sam' at the end of every sentence.

Although never honored as a player, Choi was credited for his coaching as an assistant and head coach in both Starcraft and League of Legends. Choi became the coach of Samsung after the company has taken over MVP Ozone in 2013, and played a part in Samsung White's World Champion campaign in 2014. However, the coaches who were in the team since MVP were credited for the performance, while Choi was considered as just a person in the team.

[People] 'World Champion Head Coach 'Edgar' "We’ve Only Made it from 99F Below to the Ground Floor"

Choi's real value was revealed after 2014, when the coaches and players of Samsung White and Blue except for Choi left to China after becoming the World Champions. As a leader of the team with no players, Choi started to scout players one by one to rebuild and strengthen the team. Throughout the process, his team reached the Grand Finals of the Worlds in 2016, and went on to lift the Summoner's Cup in 2017, which in Choi's words were described as 'climbing up from 99th floor below to the ground floor'.

◆The Secret to Becoming the World Champions
Q. I know it's been a while, but congratulations again on becoming the World Champions. How do you feel?
A.To be honest, I never thought of becoming the World Champion even at the beginning of the tournament. There were so many strong teams from Korea like Longzhu Gaming and SK Telecom T1, and other foreign teams were doing so well, so I just wanted to take things easy.

Q.But surely you could have thought about winning the tournament after you beat kt Rolster 3-0 at the Regional Qualifiers.
A.To be honest again, the team was really confident that time. Everyone would have thought that KT was better than Samsung, and we've managed to seize a complete 3-0 victory and upset everyone's expectations. So I was really confident that we would be able to create a good result if we could continue the great momentum. However, when we were scrimming in China to prepare for the Group Stage, we've lost a lot. The team lacked in unity, and we lost every mid to long-duration games.

[People] 'World Champion Head Coach 'Edgar' "We’ve Only Made it from 99F Below to the Ground Floor"

Q.What do you think was the problem?
A.It was because the bottom duo was in such a great shape. The AD Carry Jae-hyeok 'Ruler' Park and Yong-in 'CoreJJ' Cho won the laning phases in every game. They fully understood the 'Ardent Censer' meta and they had every options ready for the matchups.

Q.I cannot understand that there could be a problem with having players who understand 'Censer Meta' better than anyone else.
A.Since they were so confident in their laning phase, they became too vain. During scrims, they would say '6-minute cut' or '7-minute cut', which means that the duo can claim the First Brick in six or seven minutes, which actually happened quite often. But the problem was, they were too obsessed with those six and seven minutes. They were so focused on their laning phase, and did not care about the enemy jungle. They would overextend and be ganked by jungle or by enemy top laners with TP, and often the games would be ruined, giving kills to the enemy without being able to earn anything.

Q.How did you resolve the issue?
A.The same thing happened during the first week of the Group Stage. During the team meeting, I told the players to “not be intoxicated”. Since the bottom duo was so dominant, everyone was relying on them. I told them to stick with our plays and see the game from a broader sight, even if we lose First Brick. The issue was partially solved during the second week, and we were able to completely come back to our team game style at the Quarterfinals.

Q. Is it similar to what Min-ho 'Crown' Lee mentioned in his interview after winning the tournament, “We talked with ourselves about how we should enjoy our games from the second week of the Group Stage'?
A. We talk about that every time before we scrim. 'Play our game', 'play like Samsung', I would say. I emphasized that we wouldn't have regrets if we stick to what we have practiced until now, no matter how strong the opponents are, and even if we lose. I always try to emphasize how the players should enjoy playing, and focus on teamworks rather than relying on individual techniques.

[People] 'World Champion Head Coach 'Edgar' "We’ve Only Made it from 99F Below to the Ground Floor"

◆ The Coach Who Knows Players the Best
Q. You had managed every picks and bans, unlike SKT and Longzhu. Is there a special reason for that?
A. I know my players, as I'm the one who's been with the players the longest. I was the only member of Samsung Galaxy after winning the Worlds in 2014. I was the one who chose and fostered the players in the team now. Seong-jin 'CuVee' Lee was a complete amateur who never played in professional matches, and so was Min-ho 'Crown' Lee. Chan-yong 'Ambition' Kang, Jae-hyeok 'Ruler' Park, Yong-in 'CoreJJ' Cho and Min-seung 'Haru' Kang are also the players I have scouted myself because I needed to have them in the team. I participated in the picks and bans myself since I know their champion pools and conditions the best.

Q. But you could have coaches Chang-dong 'TrAce' Yeo and Young-dal 'oDin' Ju do the picks and bans instead of you.
A. The two coaches are relatively new to the team, as they have been in the team for only one or two years. Since I have managed the team for quite a while from scouting to training them, I know my players the best. Since there can be many unpredictable variables at Worlds, I did the picks and bans, and even the post-game feedbacks by myself.

[People] 'World Champion Head Coach 'Edgar' "We’ve Only Made it from 99F Below to the Ground Floor"

Q.The coaching styles are quite different between the coaches. How would you describe your style?
A.Our players accept the feedbacks fast. I tend to speak directly rather than periphrase, and our team adopts my feedbacks real fast. To be honest, there's nothing much to feedback if we lose against perfect plays. I tend to speak directly strongly in games we've managed to win, although with many mistakes. Since the players and I have known each other for a long time, the players trust in the feedbacks of the coaches and adopt them real fast.

◆ Drama Created in Unity
Q. You have become the World Champions, and the team's progress throughout the year was an absolute drama.
A. It was dramatic all year long, and I think the beginning of everything was from 2016, not this year. We lost 2-3 to SKT last year, and the players were able to develop themselves from the match. Even though we were named the top three or four teams in 2017, I tried to keep myself patient. During the LCK, our goal was to reach the playoffs, and during the playoffs, our goal was to reach the next stage.

Q. But surely you would have wanted to reach the Finals at the Summer Split, since no one would want to play in the Qualifiers.
A.For myself, I really wanted to, but the team wasn't in good shape, not enough to reach the Finals. After the winning streak in the earlier parts of the Summer split, we were fighting for the 1st and second spot, but we lost to MVP, Jin Air, and Longzhu nearing the end of the split. That's when I realized that we couldn't finish first, so I decided to stimulate my players than cast the dice on the post-season. We really had a hard time during scrims nearing the playoffs. During the season our win rate was 50% more or less, but during that time we would lose 0-6 or 1-5. So I told my players that although we should try our best against SKT, we shouldn't let ourselves down and use it as an opportunity to look back at our performance. We lost 0-3, but I had Seung-joo 'Stitch' Lee and Ji-min 'Wraith' Kwon play in the 3rd set. I was trying to pave the groundwork for the Qualifiers. At the time, Stitch and Wraith were better than Ruler and CoreJJ.

Q. The loss against SKT at the Playoffs of the Summer Splitmust have been a great stimulant, as the players were on fire at the Qualifiers.
A. Managing the team for three years as a head coach, I realized that our team has ups and downs. While they seem to play well at short tournaments, it actually differs from time to time. Our players usually perform well from the beginning of the Qualifiers, till the end of Worlds. After losing to SKT at LCK Summer Playoffs, I told my players to grasp themselves and get ready for the Qualifiers, and the team focused on the forthcoming games as one.

[People] 'World Champion Head Coach 'Edgar' "We’ve Only Made it from 99F Below to the Ground Floor"

Q. The Qualifiers was also dramatic, as you pulled a reverse-sweep against AfreecaFreecs.
A. The game against Afreeca was what triggered our run throughout the World Championship. While Afreeca played well, I guess we were more focused. That's when we were able to gain the momentum, and that's how we secured our spot at Worlds after beating kt.

Q. Were there any special episodes during Worlds?
A. I am terribly sorry, but there was none. We didn't go on any tours. The whole month was all about the hotel, stage, and gaming facility. When players were scrimming, one of the coach watched them play, while the other coach and I analyzed the games of other teams who were playing that day. Whenever the players had time, I tried to make best use of that time by telling them what part of the games of teams we should watch to learn from or prepare for the next matchup.

Q. You've politely declined all interviews from the Quarterfinals. Was there any specific reason?
A.I wanted to concentrate only on the tournament. No one requested for an interview before the Quarterfinals with Longzhu Gaming. After winning 3-0, I took it as a new jinx; we win if we do not have interview. So after that, I declined every interview request from media around the world, except for the official interview for the tournament. In the end, I think the jinx was beneficial as a whole, since we became the World Champions. I feel sorry for the media officials, though.

Q. I believe that's what it takes to win at Worlds.
A. I really wanted to devote every part of myself. After the finals at Worlds 2016, the whole team learned something, which was to devote everything to game and not leave any regretseven if we lose. My son's birthday was on October 27th, and I completely forgot because of the training. I realized that the next day in the early morning, so I called my wife, and I got scolded really bad. That's how much I was focused.

◆"We've Only Made it from 99F Below to the Ground Floor"
Q. Let's talk about the past. In 2014, Samsung White became the world champions and Blue made it to semifinals, but everyone left before 2015. What were your feelings?
A.'Stuck' would be the best word to describe my feelings. I was the only one left in the team. After everyone in the team left to China, I only had a short amount of time to rebuild the team. While other teams held tryouts for new players or at least contacted them, it was not the case for us. I only had two weeks left, and I had to look for and interview players by myself. I had some players on my mind based on solo queue performance, so I tried to bring them into the team.

Q. You must have been really busy.
A. Although it wasn't too long, it was the busiest moments of my life. Now I have two coaches, but then I had to manage everything all by myself. I wanted to test more players, but I had to wrap up everything in a hurry because I had to submit the roster for LCK Spring Split 2015.

[People] 'World Champion Head Coach 'Edgar' "We’ve Only Made it from 99F Below to the Ground Floor"

Q. Of those players, 'CuVee' is still playing in the team.
A.Not only for CuVee, but I tell this to every player who has played for me, 'you are a successful player if you are scouted by another team'. Although I had to scout players in a really short amount of time, but most of my previous players have moved to other teams in and out of Korea.

Q.You were at the bottom of the table at the 2015 LCK Spring Split, and you had to play in the relegation round. Did you expect your team to rebound?
A. The players then were mostly amateurs who were new to professional gaming. Although they were really good at solo queue, but team games are different, especially in LCK. The league is home to the best players in the world. Although we were stuck at the bottom of the split and we had to go through the relegation round, I was sure that we were able to improve ourselves to get ready for LCK in the Summer Split. From then, our team continued to improve.

Q. Was there anything special you wanted your players to do?
A.Until 2015, I focused more on scrims than tournaments. We used to lose by 0-6 but as we got better through the series of 1-5, 2-4, and 3-3, the players and I were really happy with how we improved. The players and I felt ourselves grow from a bunch of well-playing amateurs to team Samsung. It was after 2015 season, when our management actively participated in the scouting. We scouted Ambition and CoreJJ before the Spring Split, and changed into the team we are, with Ruler coming in before the Summer Split.

Q.It seems that Samsung is different in style compared to other teams.
A. I am more focused on fostering new players rather than scouting one, which is the keynote of our team since 2015. The team now is the outcome of my direction of management, along with new scouts needed to boost the team a step further.

Q.I have high hopes for Samsung next year. Would you share your personal expectations for the next season?
A. Like this year, I would love to become the World Champions once more, but I would like to secure a seeded spot, rather than go through the Qualifiers once more. This means that we have to reach the LCK finals at least once, either to be seeded with circuit points or to be seeded as the champions of the Summer Split. I believe that our team has finally climbed up to the ground floor. After starting 2015 from 99 floors below ground, we were finally able to see some light after three years. I think we will be able to boast tangible outcomes if we perform well next year.

Q.The squad hasn't changed in 2018 (The interview took place before Samsung Galaxy was sold to KSV). Is there anything you would like to say to your players?
A. While we were able to cultivate a great outcome of becoming the World Champions, we should not be satisfied with ourselves settle for what we have now. We should look at higher places. Although we won Worlds this year, we didn't win the LCK. I hope that we win both Worlds and LCK next year. During the Worlds in China, we were able to eat Korean food on our matchdays, thanks to our fans, and I think that's what helped us win Worlds. We will always try our best to prepare ourselves to perform well in 2018 and repay our fan's kind support.

Translated by ROXCrew.

*This translation was provided through a partnership with the ROXGAMING.

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