Before T1’s Worlds 2022 run begins, we sat down with Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok to ask about his experience in NA so far, which region is the best in the world, and what it means to be the greatest player of all time.
From his time as the Barcode Killer when he smurfed on North American solo queue early in his career to Unkillable Demon King following his many successes domestically and internationally, Faker has many titles.
But one title trumps them all: the Greatest of All Time. In the minds of many, Faker is the best player to ever touch League of Legends. And Faker is still a serious competitor almost 10 years after his very first World Championship title in 2013, with over 500 domestic wins in the LCK.
In our time with Faker, we asked him about every aspect of preparing for and playing through a tournament. From the process of preparing for Worlds, to what he thinks is going to be played at the tournament, and his opinion on how strong the LPL is compared to the LCK.
With almost every question came the same, laser-focused mentality: Faker wants to win and keep South Korea on top of League of Legends internationally.
Different country, same solo queue issues
Getting settled into the US hasn’t been an easy task for T1’s players, with Faker saying that “It’s been tough because I’ve been getting used to the jet lag. But I do enjoy America for the most part.”
T1 has the luxury of skipping the Play-In stage, which gives them plenty of time to adjust to being in North America. They had a brief stay at the Red Bull Gaming offices in Santa Monica to practice before their trip to New York for the group stage, and had a little time to explore California.
However, Faker was a little sad about not getting the chance to see Mexico. “It’s a bit unfortunate, I’ve never been to Mexico.”
Champions Queue has been a hot topic among pros, and Faker had some thoughts on the play environment: “It’s definitely better than solo queue, and there’s a wide variety of pros you get to play with.”
“Better than solo queue” isn’t a high bar, but at least it’s an improvement. Additionally, he agrees that Champions Queue helps combat the issues related to wintrading in ranked games that continue to plague solo queue in both South Korea and North America.
“For pro players, Champions Queue is fine. But for normal players, there should be heavy restrictions for those kinds of issues.”
Faker has been heavily targeted by people betting on and wintrading in his solo queue games over the years, and he agreed that more should be done to keep solo queue a healthy environment to practice and play in.
Faker still thinks South Korea is the best region
It’s no secret that the LCK and LPL are heavily favored to win in comparison to other regions. But when pressed on which region is stronger, Faker believes that his region still has as slight edge.
“There’s not a huge gap between the LCK and the LPL, but I think the LCK is better than the LPL.”
This led to a chat about DRX beating RNG, the team that T1 lost to at MSI. There’s a score to settle there between these two teams for Faker to back up this statement. And Faker’s eager to play against RNG again if they get the chance.
“I want to play against RNG, and I have the desire to win against them this time around. Regardless of the matchup, I want to come out on top.”
This sentiment was repeated through the interview. While Faker certainly didn’t mind talking about his opinion on other teams and regions, he also didn’t seem intimidated or deterred by any opponent. Above all else, Faker wants to win again.
Almost 10 years later, Faker has his eyes on another World title
When it comes to practicing, teams often have different approaches to the game. There’s no shortage of angles on the long, uncertain road to improvement.
While some teams will try to prepare by analyzing the opponent, Faker’s mentality is more focused on more than merely being better against certain teams: “Instead of focusing on adapting to the opponent, we focus on playing our game.”
Faker’s first World Championship title was in 2013. It’s 2022, and Faker is still solely focused on winning. Quizzed on what it takes to be a player with such longevity, he said: “It’s important to keep a grinding mindset and always maintain your passion for the game.”
The secret is that there is no secret. Faker is just that good. His hard work and passion for the game come clearly through in his play. Faker doesn’t just want to win: he knows he can.
In order to prove that South Korea is the best region in the World and to hold onto his title as League’s G.O.A.T., Faker will have to push himself beyond his limits to earn his first Worlds title since 2016. He knows it, too, and his goal this year was incredibly clear:
“My one and only goal is to win.”