Kim “PraY” Jong-in is a veteran of the South Korean League of Legends scene. He found a decent amount of success as the AD carry for NaJin Black Sword for two years. Now with the KOO Tigers, he’s confident that a victory at Worlds is in his future.
The quarter finals of the League of Legends World Championships are behind us, and we now know who will be taking the trip to Brussels to compete in the semis. The fourth quarter final was an all-South Korean affair between KT Rolster and KOO Tigers, two teams that have been playing each other all year. In the LCK summer playoffs, KT Rolster got the better of the Tigers in a thrilling best of five match that went down to the wire. At Wembley, however, KOO Tigers were able to make up for past mistakes with a solid 3-1 victory.
I spoke to KOO Tigers’ AD carry Kim “PraY” Jong-in after the match. He was in good spirits, making jokes that carried through the language barrier. KOO had a shaky start which saw KT Rolster take the first game of the series, but from there the Tigers took command and never let go. PraY was clearly very pleased with the comeback, and the team is confident that they can defeat Europe’s dominating Fnatic in their upcoming semi final matchup.
“Before the tournament started, we were doing really well in scrims,” PraY tells me. “But there were a lot of difficult moments and I was a little bit nervous. But overall it wasn’t too bad, even though we had to come back from a game down.”
From the second game onwards, KOO Tigers outmaneuvered their opponents across the map, and a big part of that success came down to the pick and ban phase. Before the games even started, it seemed as though KOO had the advantage. “I’d agree that we had a really good pick and ban phase. Our pick and ban success came from a lot of heavily discussed strategy from our coaching staff. I’m really glad they gave us such a good draft. But we didn’t win because of the draft, I think we just played better in general.”
A big talking point going into the match was the top lane matchup between KT Rolster’s Ssumday and KOO’s Smeb. Many eyed Ssumday as being one of the best in his role in the entire tournament. However, thanks to some incredible Fiora play that was a joy to watch, Smeb took over the top lane. KT were prioritising other bans, and although Ssumday got to play champions he was comfortable on, he seemed to be out of his depth against Smeb’s Fiora as each match went on.
“We thought that Fiora was a very good champion for the split push, so in each game we tried to pick a 2v2 jungler, and help Smeb in the early game,” says PraY. “But we, and Smeb in particular, had a very hard time because they counter-picked very well in the top lane. But I think overall even though Smeb struggled in the early game, our mid played Lulu very well, our bottom lane played very well, so we were able to help Smeb get to a point where he could carry us in the late game.”
So what went wrong in game one? KT got off to a strong start after Smeb got into difficulties in the top lane early, and KT looked like they were setting the tone for the entire series. Did something just not go to plan for the Tigers in that first game? “I wouldn’t say that ‘it didn’t go to plan’, but it’s just that Smeb had a hard time at top, so we in the bottom lane had to go top and help him finish his laning phase, which meant we gave up the bottom lane. Even though we tried to come back by doing that and helping get Smeb more farm, I think he wasn’t mentally too good at that stage. He had just had a failed dive at top. Then in the last team fight in the game it’s just that we weren’t in our best positions, so that’s why game one didn’t go that well.”
This was PraY’s first time in London, but this trip is all business - and he’s got a very specific goal in mind. “It’s my first time in London, but it’s my third time at the World Championships, and I really want to go to a final,” he says. “So I gave up all my chances to go sightseeing. Instead I’ve just been playing either scrims or solo queue all day.”
PraY played well and is confident in his team’s abilities, but he’s not entirely comfortable. In the LCK in Korea, he’s used to smaller crowds, and playing in booths away from a lot of the noise. “The difference between playing in the LCK and playing at the World Championships here in London is that it’s such a big crowd, and I feel more pressure to perform better. I think that’s one of the reasons we were nervous and started off bad in that first game.”
Europe’s Fnatic is up next for the KOO Tigers. Fnatic went undefeated in the LCS summer split, and have put on some very strong performances so far at Worlds. Is PraY worried that KOO will be Fnatic’s next victim? “We’re always very confident, and we’re aiming for the top. We want first place. Fnatic is just another obstacle to get over.”
PraY understands the home crowd’s desire for a European team in the final, but he doesn’t believe that Fnatic will be that team. “Since we’re here in Europe, I’m hoping that at least one European team will go to the final. But it won’t happen on our side of the bracket, it’ll happen on their side. On our side, I hope the Korean team will advance, and the European team will advance from the other side.”
Origen defeating the juggernaut of SKTelecom T1 and setting up a final against KOO Tigers would be a shock for most if not all League fans, but stranger things have happened. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens in Brussels next weekend.
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