After discussing Qiao Gu's development and their approach to teamwork with manager Link0, I had the opportunity to interview three of the players in more detail about their roles on the team. Kim "Doinb" Taesang, Yu "TnT" Rui, and Zhang "TcT" Hongwei seemed happy to provide some insight.
Mid laner Doinb: "If I want to play with the nice skins, I have to learn the champions."
Korean mid laner Doinb was known in Korea primarily as a high elo streamer before joining Qiao Gu. He spent time training for CJ Entus, but never played for them in a professional match. He's known best on Qiao Gu for the vast number of champions he plays and his willingness to play more supportive or tanky mid lane picks.
You have the least pro experience of the starting players on QG. Could you discuss your transition from streaming to playing in China?
Doinb: I first tried out for CJ. At the time, I was in Challenger ranked between 18 and 100 on the Korean ladder. In CJ, the organization had ten of us high elo players training to possibly join a team, so we would just play in-houses together all the time. Since Coco is the mid laner, and I wanted to start for a team, I decided I probably would not be able to start for CJ and left for QG after they saw my stream and invited me.
In that case, there is a chance still that CJ and QG could both make the World Championship. If you face CJ, how do you think you will do against Coco now?
Doinb: I don’t know how I’ll perform in the laning phase against Coco, but as a team, QG can beat CJ, apparently.
You have played a wide variety of champions since coming to China and seem to have a very large pool. How do you approach learning new champions?
Doinb: Riot keeps coming out with good skins. If I want to play with the nice skins, I have to learn the champions. So I end up learning more champions that way.
QG likes to leave mid lane last to counterpick in draft. Do you think QG prioritizes mid lane counterpick because it’s a good way to play, or does the team have trust in you to play the matchup well?
Doinb: If Viktor is open, and I can pick it first, I will first pick Viktor. But if I can’t pick Viktor, I will wait for the last pick so I can find the champion that complements my teammates picks the best. If it’s a counterpick, that’s just extra.
Swift often engages and goes into the fight, but you are usually the first to follow him. How does the communication and dynamic work between the two of you?
Doinb: If Swift thinks there’s a good chance to engage, he will communicate that one or two seconds before the team fight, and I will just follow him if he goes in. When Swift wants to engage, he will ping a lot also. I can communicate the best with Swift since we are both Korean.
You have played a lot of tank champions mid like Sion, Maokai, and Nautilus. Is that good for QG specifically, or do you think other teams should pick more mid lane tanks?
Doinb: When I pick a tank, it makes laning phase very difficult for me, but I know if our enemy picks a tank, it’s very hard for my bottom lane to do damage. I want to pick more tanks to make the enemy know how it feels.
Do you think you will make the World Championship with QG?
Doinb: Sure, of course.
AD Carry TnT: "I am the worst [LPL ADC]."
Qiao Gu's AD carry, TnT, has a unique history. He played for LPL in 2013 for Team LiveMore and Team LMQ. When LMQ left for the North American Championship Series, he chose to stay and join Royal Club Huang Zu while Jian "Uzi" Zihao switched to the mid lane role. From there, he spent a year on Vici Gaming in LSPL before joining Qiao Gu and playing with the team to return to LPL.
TnT has gone by several different names, including Avenger, F1sh, Ashe, and Sins. Lately, he's gained attention for ability to impact team fights from behind.
You’ve played LoL professionally for a while, but some newer fans are not familiar, since you spent the last year and a half in LSPL. Is there anything you think you learned from your time in LSPL?
TnT: I feel I actually learned nothing in LSPL.
What made you decide to stay in China and play for Royal Club instead of following LMQ to North America?
TnT: First, I didn’t have the best relationship with NoName, LMQ’s jungler. Second, I felt the players on LMQ weren’t that strong, and since LMQ at the time was Royal Club’s B Team, I thought I had a better chance of doing well on the main team.
What lead to your departure from Royal Club to Vici Gaming?
TnT: Royal Club didn’t have a lot of money to pay my salary at the time, so I requested a transfer and went to Vici Gaming.
You seem to have good synergy with TcT [Mor], and you played with him before on LMQ. Did you actively seek to play with him again on QG?
TnT: I tried to convince TcT to come with me to Royal Club when LMQ went to NA, but he decided to leave. When he returned to China, I contacted him immediately.
As a bottom lane, you tend to fall behind in laning phase a lot, but you have very strong impact in a team fight. What do you focus on in a team fight?
TnT: Because the team’s style is not suitable for us to play very aggressively in lane, we seek to just play stable and keep farming. We practice team fighting a lot as a team, so we are good at it and focus on that as our primary style.
You’ve probably changed your name more than any other player in LoL. Is there a reason you like to change your name so much?
TnT: It’s just a name, so I don’t care very much about it.
What do you think you can focus on individually to improve?
TnT: As the team improves, I will seek to improve to fit the team as it changes.
In the draft phase, QG tend to pick your AD carry and support champions very early while other teams might prioritize top or jungle champions. How does this affect your play in game?
TnT: In practice, we always pick bottom lane first, which means we will do the same in a professional match. We often get countered, but I don’t think that affects how I will play that much since we still emphasize team play.
How would you rate yourself among other LPL ADCs?
TnT: I am the worst one.
The absolute worst?
TnT: Yes, the worst.
Do you think that QG will make the World Championship?
TnT: We will. We will definitely try to make it.
Any message you would like to give to English-speaking fans who follow you in the West?
TnT: I didn’t know I had fans in the west. I really want to play well with TcT and make it to the World stage.
Support TcT: "Since I play a more defensive role, I die a lot less."
TcT, Qiao Gu's support, has been playing League of Legends professionally since July of 2012. He spent a lot of his career playing for the Royal Club organization, but played for all of 2014 as Mor in the North American LCS, where he was known for dying a lot. In LPL, he's noted for his synergy with TnT and for playing a lot of Janna.
I just spoke with TnT. He said he sought to play with you again. How would you describe your ingame relationship and how the two of you play together?
TcT: As a support, I have to make sure my AD carry farms very well, but my job is to not only worry about TnT, but to take care of the other three on the team. I still play very well with TnT, and we are comfortable talking with each other and communicate a lot during matches.
How would you compare playing with Vasilii and playing with TnT?
TcT: When I play with Vasilii or TnT, I can’t play extremely aggressively, so it doesn’t matter that much. On both LMQ and QG, I considered the rest of the team the first priority.
Even when other teams stopped picking Janna earlier in this summer, QG often would prioritize or even early pick Janna. What about the champion worked so well for you?
TcT: The team really prefers to play with Janna. First, Janna can protect the AD carry very well in the laning phase. Secondly, Janna can protect the whole team well in team fights. QG’s jungler and top lane want to pick champions to rush into and engage fights, so we really need someone to play more defensive roles like Janna. V and Swift want to attack, and I want to defend. It works well together.
In North America, you had a reputation for dying a lot, but this seems to have lessened. Did your style change or did you improve on QG?
TcT: For LMQ, I played a lot more engage champions like Annie and Leona, so dying a lot was acceptable. On QG, since I play a more defensive role, I die a lot less.
Would you say that the aggressive or defensive role suits your natural playstyle the best?
TcT: It’s very fun to play hard engage because when you play hard engage champions, you can do a lot more damage, but when you play a defensive champion, it’s very funny to stop the enemy trying to engage. For example, just throwing out Q and R with Janna can ruin an enemy’s fight. I really like both roles.
Your North American fans are happy you’re doing well in LPL. Do you have any messages for them?
TcT: Thank you for supporting me in both LCS and LPL.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. Thank you to manager Link0 and the QG players for the house visit and interviews, and thank you to Ryan Luwei from 15w.com for acting as my translator.