Yeon: spelled Y-e-o-n, it’s pronounced like the word “yawn.”Like an opening, a term you reserve for epic-style writing – yawning abysses, maws, entrances, and exits. All that drama.Alternatively: Like the thing you do when you’ve finished a long day of work.Fittingly, Yeon is also the tag of a very young, very talented carry built out of North America’s increasing interest in infrastructure. He comes as the most subtle piece of a 5 man amateur exodia that formed under the 100 Thieves banner. Formed up by Papasmithy and Kelsey Moser and called 100 Thieves Next, this team blitzed through the amateur scene. Over the course of June and August, 100T Next won 4 different amateur leagues – Challengers Uprising regular season , BIG League Season 3, Legends Weekend League, and the Upsurge League (UPL). It was so much success that Yeon lost track of it.
100T Next also did super well in the UPL season in general. What was that run like for you?“I don’t really remember, we did so many tournaments actually. They were all like mushed together and on the same week. We had 5 game days a week, I think. So it was kind of crazy.” Yeon speaks in an even keel for the most part. It gives the sense that from his perspective, the competition around him is natural and in some ways run-of-the-mill. In competitive, performance-based worlds, this approach can be key. It keeps the mind steady and less easily shaken from the task at hand.
Was that really stressful for you?“Um,” Yeon pauses, “not really. Surprisingly enough, I thought I’d be more tired from it but it was really fun.”Sometimes putting down an abnormal weight and feeling on something that comes naturally can take away from the moment. Inside a flurry of thoughts and desires, everything tightens and the conscious mind constantly interferes. In my experience, this is often the tacit understanding a professional operates under.When someone’s craft requires skill, even the parts of it that require a great deal of conscious thinking will also take an intuition that comes from being loose. Game winning plays come from free flowing action and game losing ones come from blocked and stilted ones. Just a few frames of doubt can rupture that flow, so in the moment where the work gets done, you don’t want to think too hard.
In your [Mobalytics] player questionnaire you said that you really hated to play badly and don’t particularly like to get carried. When did you really start to take pride in your performances? When did playing bad start to sting for you?As soon as I started competitive I guess. I think it’s pretty normal, like if you play bad you’re just gonna feel bad about how you perform but if you play well you’ll always feel good – kinda thing
How do you know just when to use your summoners and how do you maintain a calm?I’ll just use whatever I can or need to [in order to] win a fight. If the fight requires me killing someone for my flash or the fight requires me to stay alive the entire fight, I’ll just do whatever it takes to win that fight.
How do you get the sense of what that fight requires?I dunno, it’s hard to say but in the moment I feel like you realize what you need to do.
Is it sort of like a muscle memory from playing so often?I think so. It’s like, you think about what their champions can do so you just realize what you need to do to survive or win the fight – whether it be a one-for-one or just killing them all.
As a player going from amateur to academy, Yeon already has the mark of a professional both in his game and in the way he talks about it. Let’s look at the game first.When I ask Yeon about his summoner usage and maintaining calm, it’s because it’s a standout part of his gameplay in the amateur scene. As a player, he was regularly put on weak side not only because a weak side botlane fit the fasting Senna meta but also because he could absorb and reflect pressure well.In the Grand Finals of the UPL 2020 Summer Playoffs, Yeon earned the series MVP award for keeping a cool head and steady hand on his defensive keys.
In game one, Yeon positions just a bit too forward, causing ANEW to collapse on him. In these moments, Yeon often waits a thin tick before committing to an escape tool, seeing if there isn’t a less expensive way out first. He holds cleanse for that tick before seeing enough ANEW members to know that he needed to burn it. Rather than flash here, he uses hail of arrows as he’s being stunned to put a slow field between him and ANEW’s follow-up. When the reengage comes and the Galio ult lays out over the teamfight, Yeon holds flash again, patiently playing to the outer edge of the ult, and letting the knockback hit because the rest of ANEW aren’t near enough to follow up. With his flash saved, he’ll use it in a very tight window to break out of a team combo between the Galio and Lee Sin. In the process, he dodges several protobelt missiles, and repositions to win the fight that will lead to baron.Come game 4, Yeon will score the back-breaking play the nails the series shut and he’ll do it with the same patient, tight-margin defense. 100T Next’s jungler goes topside to get the Rift Herald, leading ANEW to look for a counterpunch on the bottom lane. ANEW’s bot lane pushes the wave to set up for a 4-man dive. If the dive succeeds, then ANEW can nullify the Herald by trading a tower for a tower.
The dive ends up looking foolish but this is because Yeon uses his resources close to perfectly. First, Yeon uses Senna’s Last Embrace to root Shoryu’s Ashe and slow down the follow up. Then he uses Senna’s invisibility to force Winter’s Braum forward. After the initial collapse, Yeon dumps out one last bit of healing and damage before casting his ult right as he’s stunned. The ult will still channel through the stun, laying out a huge field of damage, healing his support Auto, and shielding him just enough to survive ANEW’s CC chain. Up to this point Yeon’s held both his flash and stopwatch. Now he’ll use both. First comes the stop watch to throw off the aggression and bring ANEW’s focus to him, letting Auto scoop an easy kill off of Winter. Then, he finds the small timing window to flash out of Camille’s W and survive. The play ends with Winter dying, bot lane resetting, and 100T Next getting two plates off the top turret for free. Make no mistake, ANEW misplayed the dive. Winter lost focus on Auto and didn’t respect the Blitz hook nearly enough. The CC layering between Camille, Volibear, and Braum didn’t look as airtight as it could’ve been either. However, this is what you expect from the amateur or semi-pro leagues. Ironing out these plays in a high pressure environment is what these leagues are literally made for.This is also why Yeon’s defensive play is still impressive. It’s a difference in levels: a professional’s understanding within an amateur’s league.
You were really known for being a potent weak side laner. So what do you think goes into being a good weak side laner?Just doing what it takes to win. It’s kind of weird cause… I think you just do whatever it takes to win – for me. So if it requires me to go down a certain amount of CS or play for the jungle, or do something, it’ll just happen. It should happen.I think during that meta, ezreal, senna, those poke champions and support champions were really good at the time as well. […] Senna was actually just busted. Spawn said that you’re surprisingly vocal over comms.Hmm…
There’s a little bit of hesitation, do you agree?Recently I haven’t been as much cause I feel like my team is pretty vocal so I don’t need to be. I’ve been pretty quiet recently but I used to [speak up] in the past. Especially in Scouting Grounds cause I tried my best to win. I was a bit more vocal about what I wanted.
Do you kind of adapt that based on your team?If I need to do something, I’ll do it for sure, you know? Right now, it’s like a waste of time, you know. But I do need to work on it a bit more again.Do you have any specific moment or game in your competitive career that you wish you could’ve redone?Hmm… Not really. The only thing I wish I coulda done better is land more Ashe ults [chuckles]. That champion’s so hard for me. Ashe ults are not my forte for now
Now let’s talk about the talking. A professional often sits in a still zone of quiet enjoyment and confidence. It’s a space where you acknowledge the skill set you have and the fun that’s in expressing it. However, it’s not too great a space to ponder about the skill, where it came from, what it means. That isn’t always pragmatic and it can bleed into an attachment to things that distract from the end goal.When I was young, I always wanted my mom to talk more about her job – because she is a professional clown (children’s entertainer, technically). The ins-and-outs of it were fascinating to me. But to her, the job has long been dull and quietly enjoyable. A lot of what I learned about the job was through the noise of balloon pumps, twisting rubber, and phone calls.One thing I learned was at the end of the day, you usually don’t have the time to consider the whole process. Instead, it’s often more productive to hone in on one element you’ve been working on recently. That previous piece that you worked on isn’t in the working memory anymore, buried somewhere for if you need it later.In Yeon’s case, the Ashe arrows are fresh memories and good ones to highlight. His arrows were a big part of both Team Ocean’s successes and struggles.
His hit rate was overall low, especially at the start of the series versus Infernal. That spelled some trouble for Team Ocean because their team comp in game 1 needed the engage tool. Rodov’s Renekton was the other biggest engage tool and without either a tricky flash in or teleport flank, Renekton’s engage is linear.Yeon often fired ambitious or telegraphed arrows that called for him making a heavy read, or his opponent falling asleep at the keyboard, or both. By the mid and late game, he changed his strategy and landed several crucial stuns. With aggressive arrows, he started firing as his opponents were preoccupied, making a reaction flash or juke much harder.On the defense, he found some of his best arrows by exploiting Rakan and Lilia’s tendencies to play like agility tanks. At their ceiling both of these champs soak a huge amount of unseen damage by using mobility to bait and dodge CC. Yeon shot two arrows from point blank range at Lillia and Rakan as they overstepped, hitting them with hard, nearly unreactable, CC.
How do you feel like you developed [your sense of the game]?I wasn’t on a team but I watched other people play so it was a good headstart and then I did have a lot of friends to teach me how to play the game and think about the game. […] One was Max Waldo [C9 Academy’s current coach] and another was kitsuo.
What about your teammates in 100T and in general? Do you feel like they shaped your idea of the game at all?Oh yeah. I think I improved a lot on that team as well. I think they all did. I think a lot of my fundamentals came from there as well – my polished ones.
What was the biggest lesson you felt you learned in the amateur league?It’s kind of hard to think on the spot cause I just learned so many things. […] I’d say it’s level 1 – game starts at level 1. We’d always do these level 1 cheeses and invade if we have the stronger lanes or 3v3. Use our advantages.
I think a lot of players would approach [playing weak side] with a bit of ego – maybe even wounded ego. “I need to be the carry!” kind of mentality. Did you ever feel that?Once in a while, right? But I know to my own standards if it requires me to be a carry, I will be a carry. If it doesn’t, I’ll just do whatever it takes to win. I think my ego was hurt at one point but I don’t think it bothered me that much.
Another thing that was impressive [about your play] was you could have less resources but you were still outputting a lot of damage. Do you feel like you managed that through your own strengths, through the meta? What do you think created that?I think I’m pretty resourceful so I’ll just do a lot of damage regardless. Like, if I don’t have enough resources I’ll probably still do it cause in the end I think I still am a carry player but I don’t need to be one. You know?
Who was the most challenging bot laner for you to play against so far in your career?In solo queue or competitive?Let’s start with competitive.I don’t really struggle at all with competitive bot lanes. It doesn’t seem like they play the game in amateur at least.
[Laughs] Can you expand on that a little bit?They’re not trying to do anything, they’re just playing to play. They’re not trying to expand on anything or make any aggressive plays. It’s hard to explain. I’m sure it’ll be harder this year but I’m expecting myself to be on top still.[…]
For you is it sort of like they’re autopiloting a little?I guess. One example would be, if they’re playing in challenger and my support’s playing a tank, their support would not be up in my tank’s face. They’d just be behind their casters and not know what they can actually do. That kind of thing.
What’s the answer for solo queue?It would probably be Zven-Vulcan, Tactical-CoreJJ. They’re really good. They know what they can do. They will choke me out if they can whereas another AD carry or support will not do the same. Just like, being oppressive basically.
Are you looking forward to talking and working with Tactical and Core?Yeah I think they’re both really nice people and I’ve actually learned a lot from Core especially. I think he’s a really great person and he tries to help everyone. […]He’d tell me what I can do better on my fundamentals. “you should auto-attack here, you shouldn’t be scared. You should have a bigger ego when you can.” You should know your limits, kinda thing.
Yeon’s approach to ego was another way where he struck me as surprisingly professional.Ego is the dark side of the moon called confidence. Ego has a certain place in the professional world because it helps you hone style and find the right openings. However, too much ego is the death of profession – and sometimes skill too.Acknowledging better work, understanding where the levels are, recognizing the shoulders of giants when you’re standing on them – all of that matters in any field. Even in the deeply subjective world of writing, I can feel when I’m outdone. The artists and musicians I talk to – they feel it too: That unique pang of jealousy and that sense of excitement at seeing something awesome. I wanted to hit that angle but I didn’t even know it existed until you showed me.Yeon is straightforward about how he sees his own skill. He’s quick to say that he can carry and enjoys playing the meta’s heaviest hitters – like Kai’Sa or Lucian. He’s pretty firm in the belief he has for himself and his skill. At the same time, he knows where the levels are and looks forward to learning from the giants. His approach to League mirrors the simple approach you’d take to work. Do what needs to be done, fill the role that needs to be filled. If it’s shotcalling then it’s shotcalling, if it’s engage then it’s engage, if it’s weak side then it’s weak side. Yeon manages that bit of ego that you need with a steady sense of self. You don’t always see that in a 19 year old just breaking into a field.
Do you ever have a little bit of that “I need to prove myself” spirit?Not really. I don’t think I need to prove myself. I feel like I know what I can do and I think I know what I’m capable of and who I’m better than. So I don’t really think I care about proving myself too often.
Does it feel kind of like you’ve already proven yourself to yourself?Not to myself, but to other people it doesn’t really matter. Proving myself to others is not really one of my goals.
So then is it a goal to prove yourself to yourself?Yeah, that would be a bigger goal more than anything.
There’s always a tinge of the obvious when someone says they’re not concerned about how others see them. This is how we all should be, of course. Willing to self-express and focused on our internal goals.In reality, achieving that ready detachment from the narrative around you is difficult. It’s something that, when you start in a field, can feel impossible. I remember how much I used to track views, read comments, and engage. Slowly, the urge fell away, but it took making large mistakes in communication and being behind some big flops to get to that point.When I first talked with Tactical – who had two years of experience on Yeon at the time – it was clear there was more he wanted than to just win. There was an element of proving himself, returning to the LCS stage, showing that he was the wise choice over even Doublelift. That’s the normal motivation to have – and clearly not a bad one given what we’ve already seen from Tactical in 2021.It was Yeon’s relaxed attitude that ran counter to what I expected. This is an amateur player that held things down for a star-studded lower-league team. His weak side play enabled three of his teammates to get all-pro in the UPL while he got third team. The room is there to have an axe to grind. But those kinds of grinds always make for double-edged blades. Usually as players get older and sink deeper into their profession, those grudges don’t hold as well because they weigh a lot. Carry them too far and you start to sink. When I do get as close as I can to unearthing a real grudge or fire from Yeon, it’s more humor than anything.When I ask him if he’s looking forward to beating anyone in academy he says, “I’m really looking forward to beating K1ng and Isles because I know most people value them highly as well. I just wanna see how they are. Also I just wanna beat C9 [Academy] because they have Max [Waldo] and he’s a pretty close friend of mine and I can talk shit to him if I beat him.”It’s a surprisingly mature and honest approach: the best bot lane for the challenge and one of your best friends for the shit talk. Yeon’s answers are full of these mature and simple approaches that have little flare but a lot of wisdom.In our Academy announcement video, Spawn said that Yeon was surprisingly easy to talk to and that he could see the player becoming one of those next big homegrown ADCs. After speaking with Yeon and learning his unique career path as the weak side carry of an amateur juggernaut, I could see it too. And I’d like to see it, even though it could be for another LCS team and the path to that point is still a long and winding one. It seems there’s a lot more for Yeon to show and that he has the steady attitude to reveal those things all at his own pace.
So far, does it feel like you’ll be playing a similar weak side role on TLA as you did on 100T [Next]?Probably not based on the meta. RIght now it seems like Kai’Sa is just super busted and I really like champions like that. Short range carries that output a lot of damage.
Are you looking forward to showing off more of those [carry] talents?Yep, for sure. I think our team is really good so it wouldn’t be a surprise if we came in first to me.
What are you most looking forward to about playing in Academy?Just competing. Competing is always fun.
Writer // Austin R. Ryan
Editor // Olivia Richman
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