Heart of Reignover

April 06 2017

“I thought that I was a player who was really strong mental wise. But after the early season, I kind of realized that it wasn’t enough and that I wasn’t strong enough. I feel like my mentality is getting better and better and stronger and stronger, though, and I definitely get a lot of help from my family and my friends and by praying a lot.”

- Yeu-jin "Reignover" Kim

Over the span of his four-year League of Legends career, Yeu-jin “Reignover” Kim chased his dreams through three regions and four different teams. In this time, Reignover wrought a pedigree of excellence that includes two European championships, a Worlds top four placing, and an NA LCS Spring Split MVP award.

But despite all his previous achievements, Reignover faced many great struggles too. On Fnatic, he was in arms length of ultimate international success but fell just short of the glory. On Immortals, he failed to make Worlds despite a near perfect season record for his team. And on Team Liquid, he continues to shake this slump and by the skin of his teeth avoided total defeat in relegations.

But even through it all, the best players do not falter. Reignover may have one of the most brilliant minds in League of Legends, but his character is built on more than just incredible play. Reignover is an individual with strengths, sensitivity, shortcomings, and perseverance. He takes all aspects of his life, whether it be his career, his friendships, or his struggles, at face value and with a desire to not only maintain but improve.

The Player

“When I made mistakes it was really bad and it was really hurting our team. Even more than on my previous teams."
Now part of Liquid, Reignover enters his sophomore year in North America. Memories of Fnatic have begun to fade; the win streaks, the game 5 SKT series at MSI, Worlds semi-finals. It’s all past achievement. Even his success alongside Seong-hoon “Huni” Heo is printed and bound, left behind in the previous chapters of his career. Reignover trudges on, weathering the struggles of a beaten Team Liquid.

“At the beginning of the split, it was just really hard,” Reignover said on his rough start with his new team, “it was just way complicated to like find the start of the puzzle and then try to solve it, so we struggled a lot, but when I see the efforts paying off and then I see myself being used to it and making less mistakes and my team making less mistakes and the communication getting better I see the puzzle's getting solved. I get a lot of motivation from that and can try more especially when we’re having fun, and improving as a team”

Reignover’s immense potential is born from this sustained source of internal motivation. For his poor performance so far this season, he approaches even his most tragic failures with an improvement-hungry understanding and meditation of his own weaknesses, saying, “season 7 has had really big changes to the jungle role. There have been so many DPS jungle carry type drafts that I usually didn’t play at all in my career, so it was kinda hard for me to get used to it.”

This discomfort with the meta and overall team dysfunction plagued Reignover’s performance for the majority of the split, leaving him at the bottom half of the jungle standings in several metrics including KDA, first blood rate, and kill participation.

He continues, “When I made mistakes it was really bad and it was really hurting our team— even more than on my previous teams. There was just a lot of issues at the beginning of the split so it was just really hard.”

In comparison, by the end of the Spring Split last year, Reignover sat firmly on top of the jungle standings in KDA, second in first blood rate, and middle of the pack in kill participation.

“I’ve had struggles sometimes and success sometimes but I think it's never enough, and I think there's always something that can be improved.”

Reignover’s pain in under-improvement stems from the stern obligation of excellence that he holds to himself, his teammates, and his organization. As far as paying that forward, effort is key— “I just have to put in more time, and play more scrims or watch more vods than usual and really try to think harder."

The team wide failure only adds to the need to perform, something less familiar to Reignover when compared to his past experiences. “Before I could focus on myself and my gameplay and it was ok, but now on Liquid, I have to focus on other things a lot while I’m also more busy focusing on myself. So it is just a lot of things combined that can add to my stress.”

Through all the trouble and problems facing TL, Reignover finds focus in a minimalistic view to the game. While some players, coaches, and management staff get caught up in the endless factors that can affect team synergy and performance, he said simply, “it's just about like effort and how desperately the player wants to improve their communication and how desperately the coaching staff wants to improve the communication.”

Reignover is less fixated than most on even the great amount of time it takes to build solid communication and team synergy, stating, “time is important because communication isn’t something that is just fixed in like one or two days, it's gonna take a few months. It could be fixed in like a few weeks if we like really go ham on it though, so I guess what’s important is that we just really take it seriously.”

The Human

As he fights for success and stumbles along the way, Reignover learned to reach out to loved ones and find support outside of his own efforts.

“I haven’t been in such stress outside of like the first year of my career," he said when asked about how he manages his mentality, "at that time I was really young so I didn’t really know how to deal with it so I was just in a really bad slump but after having hard times this year I tried to ask for a lot of help from my friends and family like mentality wise, so I have been talking to them and I’m a Christian too so I’ve been praying a lot just for myself and my team.”

Reignover’s support system is something that he takes with him wherever he goes, and it’s kept him collected even halfway across the world. Whether it’s sadness from losing, anger from team issues, or just general exhaustion as a price paid for improvement, he leans on three things: family, friends, and faith.

“League is such a confidence dependent game. When you lose a lot of games you kind of get used to losing and when you get that mentality you start giving up games or stop trusting your teammates or lose confidence in yourself and your gameplay—these kinds of things are all like big issues. I thought of myself as a player that could deal with this alone no matter what happens, but it was actually not like that and now those things are what I ask for help with from my friends and family and through prayer.”

"I find a lot of confidence by praying and it's helping me a lot and I know that it's helping"
In a world overflowing with unproven ego, Reignover shows true confidence. He achieves this not only through his own accomplishments and success, but through his deep respect for the challenges he faces, and the weaknesses they exploit. In loss, Reignover confronts his stress and sadness head-on and with a mature understanding that he is not alone.

One of the greatest changes Reignover faces this year is the absence of Huni who has been one of his best friends and a strong support for him on both Fnatic and Immortals. When asked if this was hard for him at all, he seemed light-hearted and okay with the change, telling me, “Huni and I talk every week. Sometimes it’s about like the life wise outside of the game, sometimes it’s about in game stuff. We talk a lot.”

As far as his new teammates, Reignover finds it easy to get along, adding, “I mean I haven’t had like a single player or teammate who was really hard to deal with or was mean or anything. I really like all our teammates. Of course I miss Huni, but I don’t think it’s a big deal outside of the game, you know?”

Regardless, Reignover took a strong hit to his in game synergy without Huni at his side. Add to that a meta shifting to the bottom lane, and it becomes even more crucial for him to adapt and excel to not only the state of the game, but his companions on the rift.

Rather than having Huni as his fellow Korean teammate, Team Liquid’s second import slot is taken by world champion Gwang-jin “Piglet” Chae. Although Piglet and Reignover share the experience of international transition, Reignover showed reserve when asked if there was a special connection between the two of them, saying, “usually it’s kind of hard for me to be friendly with the elders, and I’m usually more friendly with players who are my age or younger, but me and Piglet have been drinking a lot and going out a lot too, which I cannot do with younger players.”

Reignover finds camaraderie to be essential both for dealing with stress and improving in-game communication. He fills his life with love, and in doing so builds strong bonds between those around him. When applying this to his teammates, Reignover not only becomes a source of team energy, but someone who helps others by simply being a pleasure to be around.

“Usually when you're in the gaming house there's not that much to talk about so you talk a lot about the game. You can watch vods, or like share your hobbies, or go out together and talk about like the teams and how you want to play against them or you can talk about the state of the game,” Reignover said on team friendship, “usually most of the topics are about the game and you can just talk a lot with everyone because you all have the same things to accomplish, so I think that really builds a relationship.”

On a more individual level, Reignover finds a strength in faith that goes beyond his day to day interactions. Through prayer, he maintains confidence in himself and his ability to persevere. Reignover approaches his spirituality in a way that almost mirrors his direct and minimal views on the game itself, with great assurance he said, “for me, I find a lot of confidence by praying and it's helping me a lot and I know that it's helping, so that's why I'm constantly doing it. I mean, it all depends on the person, but for me it is easy.”

“It just all comes from my experience,” he continued, retaining his confident and pragmatic outlook, “I have been getting paid off by praying. It’s just really natural for me right now. Like every time I have a hard time and if I feel pressure or I’m preparing for something, I usually just pray and it helps me a lot by making me calm down or helping me build confidence and cure my mental.”

When asked about finding time to go to church, Reignover remarked on the busy schedule of professional League, telling me “during the season I usually don’t really go to church or maybe like couldn’t because of the schedules so I just pray at home, but when I’m on break when I go to Korea that’s like the times that I usually go to church with my family,” he continued, stressing the familial aspects of his faith.

This is the classic balancing act of pro play and personal health. For Reignover it all hinges on what he revealed to me as his favorite English word: love. Love for the game, love for his friends and family, and love for God. He approaches this love, and all parts of his life with a results based attitude: if it helps and it brings him and his loved ones happiness, then he’ll keep going.

Reignover’s calculated kindness and vulnerability strike the equilibrium between his dedicated practice routine and personal care. He stares challenge in the eyes knowing with wisdom, effort, and love, there is no trial that can keep him from getting back up, and hitting even harder than before.

League of Legends

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Interviewer/Writer // Logan Leavitt
Editor // Ken Serra
Graphics // Felix Temple
Photo Credit // Riot Games

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