DRX Zeka is confident he can beat Faker and win Worlds 2022
Ahead of his Grand Finals matchup against T1 Faker at Worlds 2022, Dexerto caught up with DRX Zeka. He reflected on his historic Worlds 2022 run, his personal journey to international stardom, and assured DRX fans that they’re going to win Worlds.
DRX has already had the best underdog story in League of Legends history, and they haven’t even played their Grand Finals match against T1 yet. The fact that they’ve made it to the very end from Play-Ins speaks volumes for their resilience and adaptability.
At the center of this success has been Kim ‘Zeka’ Geon-woo, a 19-year-old mid laner that has gone from relative obscurity to one of the world’s best players in record time.
While his teammates have also played exceptionally well and overperformed in comparison to the regular season, Zeka has been the star of the show. Now, days before his historic matchup against T1 Faker, Dexerto spoke to Zeka about his mindset going into the final match of Worlds 2022.
DRX are underdogs for a reason
Going into Play-Ins, DRX was heavily underestimated. Though, judging by their regular season, it’s easy to see why. This team’s meteoric rise has been all the more surprising because of where they started.
DRX’s last week of the regular season was rough, and saw them losing to both KT Rolster and an ailing Hanwha Life Esports roster that didn’t even make it to Playoffs. They barely slid into Playoffs qualification at sixth place, and were immediately eliminated by Liiv SANDBOX.
After that, DRX had to play through the regional qualifiers and barely won back-to-back best of 5 sets against KT Rolster and Liiv SANDBOX. Being able to win against teams they very recently lost to was impressive, but DRX’s 3-2 victories weren’t exactly convincing. One mistake in any of those games could have kept this team from making it to Worlds 2022 in the first place.
Zeka explained that this turnaround was the most crucial period, in converting DRX from a mid-tier team in the regular season, to where they are now: world finalists.
“I think it was the experience in LCK regional qualifiers. Back in the regular season, we were defeated by the team at the bottom and fell out of the playoffs round 1. However, as we went through the regional qualifier, we came to trust each other and gained confidence even in unfavorable situations.”
This confidence would mark the beginning of a new era for DRX, one where they were able to gain momentum over the course of Worlds 2022. And, though some players on this team had no international experience when Worlds started, that’s certainly changed by now.
“Some of the team members, including me, didn’t have much experience in international matches before. It was a great help to start in Play-Ins in terms of experience.” Despite spending over a month in foreign countries, playing for their tournament lives over and over, Zeka is feeling “fully refreshed after DRX made it to the Finals.”
From the outside looking in, DRX’s run at Worlds 2022 may seem exhausting. For Zeka, that experience has been a boon. This team’s trust in each other has kept them going, and there’s one player in particular on DRX whose bright personality shows any time they’re on stage.
Dexerto talked with Hong ‘Pyosik’ Chang-hyeon, a player that has been with DRX even through their last place finish in Summer 2021, during the Group Stage. He’s had an incredible rise of his own, and came across as such a genuine and likeable person both in-game and out. Zeka’s sentiment mirrored that positive impression.
“What I felt while I was with him for a year is that he has a great energy and can give it to the people around him. And when he got feedback from the team game, he took it positively and created a good atmosphere. Thanks to his personality, everyone likes him very much.”
Kim ‘Deft’ Hyuk-kyu and Cho ‘BeryL’ Geon-hee also had potential to be the best bot lane in the LCK, potential they’ve lived up to during Worlds 2022. And we can’t forget about Hwang ‘Kingen’ Seong-hoon, a player that has gone from a so-so top laner to a reliable, solo lane rock that comes through in teamfights when it matters most.
But none of this would have been possible if all five of these players weren’t playing as a confident, cohesive team. When talking with Zeka about DRX’s growth as well as his own, that was the word that came up most: confidence.
DRX Zeka doesn’t play like an LCK mid laner
What many may not know is that Zeka’s career wasn’t made in the LCK. After a short stint on KT Rolster’s Challengers League roster, Zeka left Korea to play in the LPL. He got picked up by Vici Gaming (the team that would go on to be Rare Atom) for a year, followed by joining Bilibili Gaming through 2021. After being unable to break into the LPL’s upper echelon, Zeka returned to the LCK in 2022.
In fact, Zeka viewed his time in the LPL as one of the biggest factors in his success at Worlds 2022.
“It seems that the time I spent in LPL shines in Worlds rather than LCK. Here in Worlds, when I met LPL mid laners, it was very helpful to know their characteristics and have the experience of playing against them.”
It’s fair to say that the LPL rubbed off on him a bit, and he’s been able to realize his full potential through playing aggressive mid laners that want to take fights and skirmish whenever they can.
He’s played Azir here and there, but the bulk of his time at the LCK Regional Finals and Worlds 2022 has been spent on melee mid laners like Akali and Sylas. Zeka plays characters that want to fight, and he does it without getting zoned off of farm like other mid laners.
“Of course, it’s the kind of situation that ranged champions have to win against melee. In my case, I focus on farming in the early lane phase. It’s hard for the opposing laners not to panic because they should have the lead but they can’t. Then they make mistakes, and I just use them.”
But is there a way for Faker to break his hot streak? Will Zeka be able to pressure Faker the same way he’s been able to pressure other opponents he’s faced?
“If the play I’ve been doing so far didn’t work, I wouldn’t be here in Worlds. If I do what I do, I can beat whoever the opponents are.”
Zeka has managed to combine the patient, LCK style of farming with the skirmishing and aggressive play of LPL mid laners. He’s channeled what makes both regions strong into a playstyle all his own that has felled every mid laner that stands in his way.
Between Deft’s possible retirement after Worlds this year and the odds being stacked against them from the start, DRX’s journey to the top has been an emotional one for players and fans.
These players have had a hard time keeping their feelings in, with everyone on the team elated with their run so far and excited for what’s next. Zeka had a message he wanted to give DRX fans before their final showdown with T1.
“I know both new and old fans were touched by the story that DRX has written in Worlds. What I’d like to say to them is, it’s too early to cry. We will continue our enjoyable challenge and win the Finals. In the end, the story will finish with a happy ending.”