Earlier last month, Challenger team Gold Coin United made headlines through the signing of support Hong "MadLife" Min-gi. Head coach Choi "Locodoco" Yoon-seop, MadLife, and new signing, Gold Coin United in-house substitute support Ryan "Whyin" Karaszkiewicz took some time to tell theScore esports how they came together and what they seek to achieve in the coming NA CS season.
Locodoco said that he expects his new recruits will add to the macro heavy and well-refined playstyle that he expects from the team. An active work ethic and drive to improve was also a big part in his decision to bring both of these supports in.
"We were considering a few EU supports but we weren't able to try any of them out, and Madlife was available for tryouts and he performed okay," Locodoco said.
"It was a hard decision but I've known MadLife for over 5 years and I knew how much of his life he devoted to being the absolute best at this game. He also had a few chances to play with English speaking players and I was confident in his ability to be a vocal leader in the game."
Both MadLife and Locodoco are well aware of the kind of splash his move to North America makes. Locodoco hopes that MadLife will help with an often-forgotten problem in Challenger, that of high-pressure promotion situations.
"Veteran presence is extremely important in the challenger scene and we built our roster to have as many proven players as possible," Locodoco said.
"The promotion match for Challenger teams is actually really scary since they don't get many chances to play on stage while LCS teams play on stage every week. It's crucial to have veterans on your team to be able to overcome that weakness."
However, MadLife is also aware of the difficulties of making a big move across regions. "There's a lot of feelings but I'm not sure how to put it into words," he said.
"I've been playing for four years so there's a lot of meaning. It's too bad about leaving Korea because I'll be away from a lot of fans and I keep thinking about the teammates that I've had."
MadLife hoped to be as comfortable as possible in his new team — making his friendship with Locodoco so important. "While I was looking at a lot of different teams, this team had the best conditions... but I was somewhat close with Loco and he was on the team so I decided to go," he said. "I think of this league as a new start. I have a goal of advancing [to the LCS]."
It might seem odd at first to pair MadLife with a substitute support under him, as most would think his status as a legend in the game makes him impossible to drop as a starter. However, Locodoco said that the addition of Whyin wasn't just about being a competitive substitute.
"I handpicked players that I previously worked with that showed talent but was undervalued by other teams," he said. "I looked for the most talented players available and had to compete with several LCS teams in NA and EU to secure the roster we ended up with."
Whyin himself relishes the opportunity, saying, "I feel less pressured as I'm excited and eager to be able to learn as much as possible as I can from [MadLife]."
Whyin was a standout support at the North American Scouting Grounds this year as part of the winning Team Ocean, but is one of only a few scouting grounds prospects to land a spot in the CS or LCS.
"The main reason most players from NASG weren't picked up is because a good majority of the players at NASG were what you would expect from a random solo [queue] player," he said.
"I'd like to thank Riot for hosting the scouting grounds as it has provided me the means of showing teams I'm not just a random solo [queue] player and that I have the potential to become a lot better than I already am. I'd also like to thank Loco and GCU for providing me with the opportunity to grow as a player."
And as to whether we'll see Blitzcrank and Thresh for some potential MadLifes in the NA CS? MadLife was blunt and to the point.
"If the team needs it I'll do it."
Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a news editor for theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.