Zhu "NaMei" Jiawen was regarded by some as the best AD carry in the world for parts of 2013 and 2014. He made the first four finals in the history of the LPL, but 2015 was met with disappointing results. Both teams for which NaMei played for in 2015 were relegated from the League of Legends Pro League.
At the start of the season, NaMei was announced as a final addition to Royal Never Give Up. A few highly anticipated the NaMei and Cho "Mata" Sehyeong bottom lane, but NaMei only started for the main team in Week 8 of the regular season against Vici Gaming. NaMei talked to theScore esports about some moments in his career, how he joined Royal Never Give Up's lineup and playing with Mata.
Back when you were playing for Positive Energy in 2013 and 2014, how would you compare your playstyle to players like Uzi and WeiXiao?
I think it isn’t just about the AD carry, but each team has their own playstyle. Some players naturally change and adapt to the rest of the team. During that time, my teams’ playstyles were very similar to WE’s where the team had a carry mid and a carry ADC as opposed to Uzi’s team where the team just focused around him, and it was very focused on bot and Uzi plus four other members.
In 2013 when you played for PE, your jungler very suddenly left the roster before the Regional Qualifier, so you lost in the first round. If Jing had stayed, do you think PE had a chance to make the World Championship?
I feel that, at that time, our jungler’s mentality had depreciated a lot, so even if he hadn’t left, I don’t think we would have had the confidence to get through the qualifier.
After the qualifier, I read in another interview that the loss really motivated you to win the Summer Final. Were you surprised by the turnaround PE was able to have by that time?
It really wasn’t surprising to us. I felt that, at that time, the team was really strong. After that, we thought we really should have won the Spring Final, but perhaps at that time we weren’t as lucky.
What do you think was PE’s strength at that time, then?
Because PE was the very first professional team that I joined, it wasn’t so much that each of us were particularly strong, but that the five of us worked together very well. We were new so we really wanted to win. It was a time when League of Legends was gaining a lot of fire and a lot of popularity.
When you began playing for EDward Gaming instead of Positive Energy, I felt your playstyle changed a lot, and it’s somewhat rare for a player to suddenly change how he plays. Was this transition difficult at all?
It may have been because of the way that the game was played and the meta switch. In PE we focused a lot on a duo carry style around mid and ADC. It’s really easy to when two people have an advantage.
When I was on EDG, our top and mid laner were newer players. I was personally close to the jungler and support player since we had come from the same organization. We had a good relationship, even though we hadn’t played on the same team. Clearlove and Fzzf were both aware of my strengths and how I could play, so we very naturally gravitated toward focusing on the bottom lane and playing to get bottom lane to snowball. As time went on, it became our playstyle.
Was the relationship with Clearlove and Fzzf the reason you ended up joining EDward Gaming?
I don’t think that that was really the case. We were close, but we weren’t that close. Though we were on the same club for a short period of time, they asked me onto EDG because of my strength as an AD carry. I also really think it had to do with the ADCs available at that time. During that transfer window, there weren’t a lot of options.
In the west there’s this conception that 2013 and 2014 was a time with a lot of strong Chinese ADCs. Did you have this feeling that it was competitive and if so, was this motivating?
I think at that point, the only other ADC that really pressured me in lane was Uzi. So maybe to outsiders watching the games, they may have thought that a lot of ADCs were really strong, but I felt that, besides Uzi, the other AD carries were kind of all on the same level. I also felt that for Royal Club, they were the type of team that used the other lanes to help their bottom lane get an advantage.
At this time, when you faced a player like Uzi who really pressured you in lane, how did you compensate or make up for this in other ways?
I think that, during that period of time, if I fell behind early, there wasn’t a lot I could do besides count on my teammates. If I had to just rely on myself, I would just fall further and further behind in gold.
Last year, you joined Royal Club. Did you expect the results to be as poor as they were in your new team?
Back in 2015, there were a lot of issues that were going on amongst the team members. It isn’t that convenient for me to really go into detail about it right now, but it really just was about things going on between us, and I think that’s why we performed poorly.
Regarding your World Championship performance in 2014, you’ve since said you were very sick at that time. Do these circumstances make you want to compete internationally again or make you feel like you need to prove yourself?
I didn’t play very well during that World Championship, but whether or not I do well in future competitions, even if I do do well, it has no connection to that Worlds or me wanting to prove myself.
You spent some time playing in the LPPL, or the LPL reserve league. Do you have any thoughts on that experience and, from your perspective, what is the value of the LPPL?
I don’t think that the LPPL is very important. I think the point of the LPPL is really just to allow players who won’t get the chance to play in the LPL a chance to play in competitions and get a feel for them.
Recently, you have joined Royal Never Give Up’s starting roster. Under what circumstances were you invited to play with the main lineup again?
The coach suddenly came up to me once and told me that he wanted to try playing me in the LPL. So before my first LPL match, I’d actually only played two scrims with the team. The LPL match went surprisingly well, so after that, the team decided to continuing using me on the main squad.
Oh, so in your opening match when there was a moment at Level 1 where Mata went to invade, but you stayed in river, and there seemed to be some miscommunication between the two of you, were you still working on establishing your synergy?
I remember this situation. At that time, the two of us didn’t talk much. I didn’t know if Mata had gone into the jungle to put a ward down or he was going to help Mlxg. At that time, I just wanted to push out the minion wave and push it under the enemy's turret, so I thought maybe he had just gone to ward river. But we didn’t really communicate.
Since then, you’ve played more games with Mata. You’ve played with a lot of supports with strong reputations, but what do you think distinguishes Mata from some other supports you’ve laned with?
When I was playing with previous supports, my supports would usually listen to me, so I would be the one making the calls. So my supports would try to adapt to me, and they would try to listen to what I said.
Right now, I feel like it’s the reverse. Mata is the one making the calls because Mata talks a lot, and he also likes to tell me what to do. Though I agree with how he calls. Sometimes I’ll be thinking something, and then Mata will say it.
Though laning phase hasn’t been what you’ve been known for in the past, recently since you’ve returned you’ve seemed to fall behind more often. Is this a result of having spent time away from the LPL?
My performance in lane is dependent on a lot of factors. The first factor is that I definitely think my own laning ability has decreased. But I also think that the types of champions I pick is another factor, and the final factor is how the rest of the team is setting out to play the game and what composition we choose. Though, yes, I do think a lot of it is because of my own performance.
Right now Royal Never Give Up are fairly high in the LPL standings. What are your goal for the playoffs and the rest of the split?
I feel that, for the Spring Split, RNG is pretty close to winning the Championship. For the rest of the year, I really want to go to the World Championship and play there again.
Any final thoughts before we end the interview?
This might be my last year playing as a professional gamer, so I really hope I’ll be able to have a good performance in the LPL and the World Championships.
Translation assistance provided by Jenny Lee.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.