DAMWON Gaming have pulled off a massive coup in LCK free agency with the signing of 2022 world champion Kim ‘Deft’ Hyuk-kyu.
The announcement came just 24 hours after Deft’s former team, DRX, announced that their Worlds-winning roster was up for grabs following the expiry of the players’ contracts.
DRX said that they would communicate with the players in an attempt to extend the deals, but in the end, they were powerless to prevent veteran AD Carry Deft — who played a key role in the team’s Worlds-winning campaign — from signing with Korean rivals DWG KIA.
DRX provided one of the biggest Cinderella stories in esports in recent memory as they won the Worlds title in unlikely fashion as only the fourth-ranked team from the LCK. For 26-year-old Deft, it meant that his quest for a Worlds ring could finally end after six unsuccessful campaigns at the event between 2014 and 2021.
Deft had suggested that he could retire at the end of the year — laying out a “last dance” storyline that became a central theme of Worlds —, though he brushed off that possibility on November 21 in a post for The Players’ Tribune titled “I Want to Keep Dreaming”.
“And with a grateful heart, I would like to stay and make more happy memories with my teammates and fans, to continue this journey,” he wrote. “I can say now that I will be able to walk away from League with no regrets one day. But it is not that day yet. See you soon.”
Besides unveiling Deft, DWG KIA have also announced Kim ‘Canna’ Chang-dong, who was last seen playing for Nongshim RedForce, as their new top laner. On November 22, Nongshim RedForce had announced that they had parted ways with their entire LCK roster and that they were promoting their Challenger players to the main team for the 2023 season.
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Meanwhile, DWG KIA have also announced two additions to their backroom staff in the form of head coach Choi ‘Acorn’ Cheon-ju and coach Kang ‘GorillA’ Beom-hyeon.
With the signings of Deft and Canna, DWG KIA should be one of the favorites for the Worlds title in 2023. After winning the trophy in 2020, beating Suning in the final, DWG KIA finished runners-up to EDward Gaming in 2021 and placed 5th-8th in 2022.
DWG KIA’s 2023 roster:
- Kim ‘Canna’ Chang-dong
- Kim ‘Canyon’ Geon-bu
- Heo ‘ShowMaker’ Su
- Kim ‘Deft’ Hyuk-kyu
- Kim ‘Kellin’ Hyeong-gyu
- Choi ‘Acorn’ Cheon-ju (head coach)
- Kang ‘GorillA’ Beom-hyeon (coach)