League of Legends world champion Hong ‘Pyosik’ Chang-hyeon is Team Liquid’s new jungler for the 2023 season. The player made waves during his team’s 2022 Worlds run, but his interesting journey to LoL stardom predates that title.
Pyosik became a professional player in 2019 and has spent his entire career with DRX, or DragonX, as it was formerly named. He started in the organization’s academy system and was quickly called up to the main team, debuting with DRX in the 2019 KeSPA Cup.
Before joining DRX, Pyosik was a Grandmaster-level player and streamer. He was a Kindred one-trick, playing the champion almost exclusively. His name in Korean means ‘mark’, which is a reference to the champion’s main ability to mark enemies and jungle camps. The then-teenager was invited to try out for the DRX academy squad because of his highlight clips on social media — a far cry from how many other players turn pro by trying out for teams or climbing up the ladder with amateur and semi-pro sides.
He gave his first interview with Inven Global as a professional player in 2020 after finishing in the top four at the KeSPA Cup. Pyosik has become known as a charismatic player who is not afraid to dance or celebrate for the cameras: in his first interview, he said he hoped to be a player that fans would know and be able to approach comfortably and laid out a goal that he would eventually achieve.
“My goal is to win Worlds. I need to believe in myself, and I think it’s possible if we all do our best,” Pyosik said.
Pyosik as a pro before joining Team Liquid
When Pyosik started playing on the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) stage, he wasn’t exactly a highly-touted jungle prospect. His team at the time had two of the best solo-lane players in the league, top laner Choi ‘Doran’ Hyeon-joon and mid laner Jeong ‘Chovy’ Ji-hoon, along with South Korean legend Kim ‘Deft’ Hyuk-kyu as the bot laner.
During his first season, the young jungler would talk about how he didn’t think he was playing at the level required to be in the league. Many admired Pyosik’s mechanics (his Lee Sin play was always considered top-notch), but the cerebral aspects of playing jungle were not his strongest suit.
In Pyosik’s first season, DragonX placed third in the spring split and second in the summer split, with the team’s veteran players leading the way. Those performances were enough to earn DragonX a spot at the Worlds, where the team would place in the top eight, losing in the quarterfinals to eventual champions DAMWON Gaming.
Success proved to be more elusive in 2021 for Pyosik and DRX. The young player would go from being surrounded by veterans and touted prospects to being the leader of a young and inexperienced group. DRX signed only one new player for the 2021 season in top laner Hwang ‘Kingen’ Seong-hoon, promoting players from the academy team for the remaining positions.
The 2021 LCK summer split would prove to be Pyosik’s worst split as a pro player as the team only managed two series wins in the regular season and he missed out on the playoffs for the first time in his career. The sole highlight from 2021 for the young player was reviving Udyr from the dead in pro play, picking the champion for the first time in five years.
The rise of Pyosik in 2022
2022 was when the world become reacquainted with Pyosik as a reliable jungler. With Deft back on DRX, and Pyosik having grown more as a player and leader, the team picked up form in the spring split as they finished fourth in the regular season and fifth in the playoffs.
Throughout the year, Pyosik was open to playing many different champions. Viego and Lee Sin were his top picks with 22 games logged for both, he also played a total of 17 different champions with Poppy, Trundle and Xin Zhao as some of his most played. Over the entire season, Pyosik averaged a +10 experience lead at 15 minutes and participated in the first kill 40% of the time, according to gol.gg.
In the summer split, the team managed to sneak into Worlds thanks to the LCK Regional Finals, where they would breeze through the play-in and the group stage to reach the playoffs. This is where the legend of DRX was born as the team were losing every practice match before their quarterfinal clash against Edward Gaming.
From there, DRX’s coach suggested that the team should play for fun, without worrying about the result of the series. Pyosik would go on to have some of the best performances of his career after changing his mentality, including multiple stolen objectives from enemy junglers in key moments.
The young South Korean player also provided some of the most memorable post-match moments of Worlds 2022. He danced like his namesake Kindred after winning the championship, shadowboxed the camera during his grand final introduction, and helped Deft through a tearful post-match interview after defeating EDG.
In a recent stream appearance, Pyosik confirmed that he was leaving the LCK and that his next team had a “good environment for players” and good work benefits. Liquid General Manager Kang ‘Dodo’ Jun-hyeok has said that he aims to create the “hardest working environment”, which will be crucial for the team’s young players to continue their development.