DRX Pyosik says “giving up wasn’t an option” on his path to Worlds 2022

Lance Skundrich/Riot Games

DRX just barely scraped their way into Worlds 2022, but they’ve had an explosive performance so far. We sat with Pyosik to talk about his journey to Worlds, and the hardships he went through when DRX was tenth place in the LCK.

Hong ‘Pyosik’ Chang-hyeon may not have the same trophy cabinet as other LCK junglers like Canyon or Peanut, but it’d be a disservice to Pyosik to say that he hasn’t left his mark on the world.

He’s one of the most bombastic players to ever touch the LCK, both in playstyle and personality. He pioneered the Udyr meta in 2021, and was the one of the first pro players to adopt the champion. He’s a cheerful, optimistic player that has always stolen the show on DRX.

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But 2021 wasn’t kind to Pyosik.

DRX ended their 2021 Summer Split in dead last, only winning 2 sets out of the 18 they played. 2022 was better, but DRX certainly weren’t frontrunners for the LCK. The fact that DRX beat out Liiv Sandbox was a surprise for many, and their rocky path to Worlds 2022 came with a fair share of skepticism from both fans and analysts.

DRX went on to have a flawless record through Play-Ins, and also managed to take down Top Esports, one of the strongest teams in China. Pyosik’s path to Worlds 2022 has been uncertain in more ways than one, but he and his team have more than earned their spot.

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We sat with Pyosik to ask about their Worlds run so far, his personality and unrivaled stage presence within the LCK, and how he went from being last place in the LCK to representing his region at Worlds 2022.

Pyosik has only gotten better since Play-Ins

Pyosik may be a fun player to watch in the regular season, but, come Worlds, he’s all business. Since coming to New York, he and DRX have been hard at work honing their skills. “We’ve mainly stayed at the hotel, and we barely go outside.”

Where many other teams have looked around the city and explored, DRX have been hard at work since the moment they touched down. This may have also been partially due to the fact that DRX had to work their way through Play-Ins, and haven’t had nearly as much of a break as teams that directly qualified for the Group Stage.

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Though DRX did go 5-0 in Play-Ins, Pyosik still wasn’t overly satisfied with his performance.

“So… I did play really well during the scrims before Play-Ins happened. But, during the Play-Ins, I wasn’t really comfortable with my play because of the new atmosphere. I was a little nervous, but I’m trying my best to get myself used to the new environment. I think I’m getting settled and being more calm, that’s why I’m showing a better performance now.”

It isn’t ever day you gap a World Champion jungler. Pyosik’s seen a huge resurgence at Worlds 2022, and he’s been outperforming almost every jungler he’s faced. When he’s playing, that is.

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Pyosik’s been in and out of the starting position, being replaced by Juhan here and there. Both players are strong in their own way, but changing players so often is something few teams do at an international competition. We wanted Pyosik’s perspective on why DRX have decided to swap between him and Juhan.

“I don’t know the specific reason because our head coach and strategic coach decide after feedback. I also know that Juhan is a very good player, so, if I’m not playing well, he can play for me. If he’s not playing well, I can play for him.”

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While Juhan has had his fair share of strong performances on DRX, there’s a certain presence and energy that Pyosik brings to DRX that’s impossible to replace.

Standing out as a player and a person

Though we haven’t seen Pyosik’s personality on full display at Worlds as of yet, he’s always looked like a player that wants to have fun. Sure, he wants to win, too, but Pyosik seems invested in making any game he participates in fun to watch for the audience.

When we asked him about his thoughts on the Worlds 2022 jungle meta, the audience was the first thing that came to mind for him.

“Summer split was more supportive junglers, the meta was like that. But for Worlds, Riot has buffed supportive junglers and carry junglers. For the audience, it’s much more fun.”

Most pros are, understandably, laser focused on doing what wins games. There’s merit to that mentality, but Pyosik’s personality shows through his play and his stage presence. It makes him a player worth rooting for, regardless of how well his team’s doing.

That said, Pyosik’s been a lot more serious when it comes to Worlds 2022. Particularly with his mentality in draft.

“I’m very confident about being the player with the widest range of champion picks. Like Evelynn, I’ve been trying that. I’m always willing to try odd picks, but not for Worlds.”

Pyosik’s been playing very well on meta champions like Graves and Maokai, but he’s also shown us that he can still play Kindred when there’s a good draft for it. We may not see Evelynn or something like that, but Pyosik’s wide champion pool leaves room for plenty of surprises without him having to try something new.

There are some aspects of Pyosik’s play and personality that have been toned down alongside his want to play some unorthodox jungle champions. Pyosik is well known for his post-game pop-offs, but we haven’t seen many of those at Worlds so far.

“I’m always willing to do celebrations after the game, but the camera shooting is different here. In the LCK, they tend to film every player after the game. At Worlds, it’s just a wide angle camera and we just bow all together as a team. It’s hard for me to do celebrations.”

A tragic turn of events for the only player willing to Xin Zhao ult IRL, but logistics are a real concern when it comes to international competition. That said, the fact that Pyosik thought about how he’d look on camera means that he may still have something up his sleeve for the fans.

Pyosik’s had a big rebound in 2022, and there’s been good reason to celebrate for this player. He’s been rewarded for sticking through DRX’s downturn, but spending 2021 at the bottom of the LCK may have been the most difficult thing he’s ever experienced.

From last place to representing his region

Pyosik played a big part in bringing DRX back to being one of the best teams in the LCK, and he’s confident that things would have been different if they were at their current power level during the Summer Playoffs: “With our current strength, I think we would have at least made it to the Finals.”

This is a massive change in power level compared to where DRX was last year. For a while, DRX was on a dark path. Pyosik’s electric personality and infectious smile were absent through much of 2021. It was difficult to stay in good spirits when he was at the bottom of the LCK.

DRX had a stacked roster in 2020. Choi ‘Doran’ Hyeon-joon, Jeong ‘Chovy’ Ji-hoon, Kim ‘Deft’ Hyuk-kyu, and Ryu ‘Keria’ Min-seok were fighting alongside Pyosik. But, after getting decimated by Damwon at Worlds in 2020, every player on the roster left for other teams.

Except for Pyosik.

DRX | YouTube
Hard times for 2021 DRX

Pyosik is the only surviving member of DRX’s most successful roster up to this point, and he was given the impossible task of trying to guide a new roster to victory. And, while Pyosik had his fair share of standout performances individually, it’s fair to say that 2021 was a very dark time for both him and for DRX.

“2021 was the hardest time I’d ever encountered in my life. But giving up wasn’t an option. So, I just practiced and dug in.”

“Looking back on 2021, Spring Split wasn’t too bad for me because I was able to find new picks like Udyr. So it wasn’t really, really bad. But the Summer Split was a very rough time for me.”

Fortunately, Pyosik’s feelings on this time in his life weren’t all negative. He’s been able to turn his misfortune into motivation. His mental fortitude and ability to persevere through DRX’s darkest moments has brought him all the way to Worlds in 2022.

“I know what it’s like to hit the bottom. That became motivation for me to improve.”