BLG Elk opens up about doubting himself on the arduous path to MSI 2023
Elk has been a breakout star for BLG, establishing himself as one of the best ADCs in the world and massively improving upon his subpar showing in 2022. Dexerto asked him about his tumultuous path to the top and whether or not he ever stopped believing in himself.
Building a good League of Legends team is a tall order. Not only do players have to be strong individually, but they have to mesh well together and have playstyles that are well-suited to each other. It’s not exactly rare for a really good player to be stuck on a bottom-tier team.
With a player like Zhao ‘Elk’ Jia-Hao having missed multiple chances to reach Worlds 2021 on Team WE and subsequently seeing his performance nosedive while he was on Ultra Prime in 2022, it’s easy to see why so many people wrote him off.
However, he was able to maintain an incredibly high level of individual skill and prove that he’s worthy of playing on the international stage at MSI 2023. Dexerto sat down for an interview with the emerging superstar, who spoke about not only the highest highs of making it all the way to MSI, but some of the lowest lows in his career and how he came back from them.
Elk is the carry Bilibili Gaming needed
Despite having by far the most games played in the 2023 LPL Spring Playoffs, Elk managed to have incredibly consistent stats across his 26 games. He boasted a 5.25 KDA, over 10 CS per minute, more gold per minute than any ADC other than JD Gaming’s Park ‘Ruler’ Jae-hyuk, and a hell of a reputation for carrying his team over the finish line. For those who keep up with the LPL, it wasn’t a surprise to see Elk have such a strong presence in the bot lane during his opening matches at MSI 2023.
However, the player hasn’t been at the top for long. He was a mid-tier ADC overshadowed by other, stronger players in the LPL for a long time. In an interview with Dexerto, BLG top laner Chen ‘Bin’ Zebin spoke about how much he believed in Elk and how happy he is to see the ADC succeed with him on the international stage.
“We both knew each other when we were younger players and on an academy team. But Bin went to another team, and we didn’t get to play together at the time. Now it feels pretty good to play with Bin. When he was in his rookie year, he got second place at Worlds! It feels so good to be on the same team as him now.”
What’s more, Elk actually gets time in the spotlight on this team now. Despite Bin’s reputation as a hard carry, BLG’s identity has changed to allow anyone to carry. Bin has grown past having to play carries every match, and it’s thanks to the prowess of teammates like Elk, who can bring home a win, even if Bin is on a tanky frontliner.
“Actually, I think every member of the team has the ability to carry the team. We have a lot of unique and different playstyles. I’m a carry player for the team, but also Xun can carry the team with jungle carries, Bin can carry the game with certain top lane playstyles.”
BLG’s players seem confident in relying on each other, to the point that Elk is “really looking forward” to his rematch against Park ‘Ruler’ Jae-hyuk rather than fearing it. “Before he joined the LPL, I watched a lot of his gameplay and videos at that time. I’m really, really looking forward to playing against him.”
Going by his performance so far and confidence in his mechanics, you’d think Elk is one of the hottest ADC commodities in China. And, while that’s true now, that wasn’t the case until recently.
Living up to the World Elite name
Team WE (World Elite) is an esports club with an incredibly rich and storied history. They’re the first esports club based out of China and made a name for themselves in games like Warcraft 3 and the original Dota, during esports’ infancy. They’ve still got a huge following in China, but that following hasn’t translated onto the international stage as other teams have taken the spotlight.
When Elk was on Team WE in 2021, he had to shoulder the pressure of the org not having been to Worlds since 2017. They started in the lower bracket at the Summer Playoffs and had a Cinderella run all the way to the top, even managing to beat 2021’s Worlds-winning EDward Gaming roster in a nail-biter of a five-game set. Finally, Team WE seemed to be putting themselves back on the map.
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But disaster struck when they took back-to-back 0-3 losses, resulting in a third-place finish and a missed Worlds qualification. They then botched their second chance at making it to Worlds during the subsequent Regional Finals, losing to both RNG and LNG, only managing to take one game off of LNG and making their record 1-12 in the last four matches. It’s one of the biggest and most memorable instances of a team completely collapsing in LPL history.
Elk told us about how this run with Team WE was historic for all the wrong reasons and gave the members of that roster a nickname among Chinese fans.
“When I just started playing professional League, I told myself I wanted to be one of the best players in the game and I wanted to get better results. But in 2021 people called us ‘ticket sellers’ because Team WE missed a lot of chances to make it to Worlds.” Elk explained.
A single series victory against one of EDG, RNG, LNG, or FPX that year would have secured Team WE a trip to Worlds. Team WE, in one way or another, ensured the teams they went against were able to make it to Worlds 2022. Thus, the ‘ticket seller’ memes were born. This resulted in the team imploding, with Elk, Lou ‘Missing’ Yun-Feng, and Chen ‘Breathe’ Chen going their separate ways.
Things only got worse for Elk from here. His run with Ultra Prime saw him go all the way down to 15th place in 2022, and many players assumed that his spark of brilliance with Team WE was lightning in a bottle that we’d never see again. Even Elk doubted himself at the time.
“In 2022 on Ultra Prime, I didn’t play very well. At that time, I was wondering and asking myself, ‘How do I play better?’ I needed to play better. I really doubted my own performance at that time, and I wasn’t in good form. But now I’m very happy. I’m really honored to be here and to have gotten to this stage with my team. I’m very happy.”
With Breathe, Elk, and Missing all putting in strong individual performances on teams of their own, the meaning of ticket seller for the players who were on that Team WE roster has changed from being an insult into something that rallies fans behind them.
Rather than providing a path for other teams to get to international events, they’re making sure that their fans are able to see them on the biggest stages in the world.
It’s one thing for an ADC to come in and almost immediately be the best. Players like Jian ‘Uzi’ Zi-Hao and Chen ‘GALA’ Wei have built their legacy off of being exceptionally strong in their roles and standout players on any roster they’re a part of. But Elk having such a fall from grace, only to come back stronger, makes it really hard not to cheer him on.
Elk might not be on Team WE anymore, but he’s living up to the World Elite name.