Yeon: No Pressure for the Rookie
2023 saw a complete change in approach for Team Liquid League of Legends program. For fans, players, and leadership, it felt like a necessary one. Two straight years of falling short with super teams culminated in the team missing the World Championship for the first time since 2017. In response, TL rebuilt completely around MVP caliber support Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in, bringing in South Korean top laner Park “Summit” Woo-tae and jungler Hong "Pyosik" Chang-hyeon – the latter of whom is fresh off of a Worlds 2022 win with DRX – and promoting two of their Team Liquid Academy talents alongside a Korean speaking coaching staff in head coach Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-hwan and assistant coach Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin.
Playing off the EG model, the new TL roster brought together a mix of veteran talent and fresh rookie talent. The twist being, this roster will communicate in Korean, so that CoreJJ can lead the team with a much reduced language barrier. For many, the veteran pieces slot in with little question. It’s the rookies—coming up from TL’s own development tract—that many analysts look to as the lever to whether this roster wins or loses. In fact, the most eyes might just be on rookie ADC Sean “Yeon” Sung.
Before their promotion to LCS this season, mid laner Harry "Haeri" Kang and AD carry Yeon were considered among the top players in their respective roles on Team Liquid Academy, but unlike Haeri, Yeon actually got a chance to play for TL as their starting AD carry for two games in the 2022 LCS Lock In alongside CoreJJ. Now, in 2023, Yeon will be taking up the mantle of Team Liquid’s starting AD carry full-time, and while all eyes will be on him as he debuts on a roster with high expectations, his focus has not waned in the midst of external pressure.
The grind, for the ever-professional carry, remains unchanged.
How did your League of Legends career begin?
So, my brother was into League of Legends and I saw him play it when I was maybe like, in sixth grade. I was like, ‘Well, [this] looks pretty fun,’ but I never actually played it a lot until I was in like, seventh or eighth grade. I [still] didn't play it as much as like any other games. It was like a mix and match; I was playing CS:GO or Minecraft or that kind of thing. And then I started playing League a lot more in freshman year of high school.
In my senior year, I thought I could go pro and then I decided I'm gonna take a break for a year before college to try. Starting in junior year I had a friend that was pretty decent and he was on a team, so I would just watch him play and was a sub for that team. And then I thought ‘Wow, this looks pretty fun, I want to try to do it too.’
You spent time on 100 Thieves Next before joining the Team Liquid organization. How did that come to fruition?
I joined them after doing a trial. They were trying out AD carries because their AD carry was swapping to support. So I did the tryout and they picked me. After that, I think we got overhyped, but we did pretty well. We were one of the top amateur teams. After we won everything we got a seed at Scouting Grounds. I played the tournament on the team that was working with Team Liquid and CLG. CLG picked me, but I decided not to sign with them because I wanted to see what TL had to say because I felt they had interest. So I waited for them.
How crucial was your start in the 2022 LCS Lock In alongside CoreJJ last year in the development of yourself as a LCS-ready player?
The start was very nice, because I could feel at least 2/10 of what it was like to play in the LCS.. Also, the performance I showed was something I wasn’t proud of, so that frustration also helped throughout the year. It was not how I wanted to be and it was not the level of play I wanted to show, so that also helped.I was pretty prepared to play Lock In at some point at the start of the year; I was scrimming with the LCS team. Then, when Hans got here, I assumed I wasn’t playing, so I wasn’t prepared for that game either.
At what point did you know you were ready to start in LCS?
There are certain points where I do believe I would have done well in the LCS because of the meta and certain champions I was good at, but I don't think I would have been like a top contender for LCS, I think I would have just done decent and okay.
What’s your working relationship been like with CoreJJ before becoming a starter? Was he involved at all in your development as a TLA player?
Since 2020 Scouting Grounds he’s [been] sending me notes, working with me, and talking to me pretty frequently. I would say it’s way closer than in every other Academy-style system. He would help out and talk to me if he saw something he thought I didn't do well or saw something he thought was really weird. Then he would come to me and say ‘You could have done this better. This is how you should play.’ It’s pretty much the same as now.
Was this something Core decided to do himself, or was it orchestrated by the team?
It’s just Core’s personality. I don’t know how to say it, but if he sees someone doing something wrong, he’s helping.
From the outside, people feel this roster is built ‘for’ CoreJJ in a way because he will be able to speak in his native tongue. Have you noticed a shift in his dynamic within the team with the new roster?
I think, compared to the past years, he could probably speak more freely and explain what he wants to do. And like how he wants to do everything more as a leader. Before, I would say he could maybe express 6/10 of himself, but now he can express 10/10 of himself. That’s what I would say, but I wouldn’t exactly know because I wasn’t on the LCS team before.
TL’s new players have a lot of experience and accolades, including two world championships. Does that put any extra pressure on you to perform as a rookie?
I can't see myself as a player who can just do fine because our goal is not to just do well domestically. The goal, at least, is to do very, very well at the international events.
Are there any AD carries you’d like to see yourself match up against on the international stage?
The two players I want to play against are Viper and Ruler. Those are the two players I watched the most. I looked at a lot of Ruler’s games when I first started 2021. Then, after I went to Korea and played against him in 2022, I didn't really know much about him, because I don't particularly watch specific AD carries, more just the game itself. After I played against him, I was like, ‘This is the type of player that I would probably want to be at some point’.
Is there anything you want to say to the Team Liquid fans before you make your debut as an LCS starter?
Keep cheering us on. We’ll bring you lots of content and a new trophy as well.