Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok is a two-time world champion, five-time Korean league winner and the undisputed best player to ever download the game of League of Legends. Still, as he stands after his first game of his third World Championships, he isn't satisfied.
After failing to win a fourth straight Korean championship, SK Telecom T1 was considered possibly weakened heading into the biggest tournament of the year. Faker and the rest of SKT quieted any critics with a blowout of North America's Cloud9 in the defending world champion's first game of the tournament.
"After summer split, SKT T1 as a team improved a lot, so in my opinion I didn't expect any struggle facing C9," Faker told ESPN after notching a vintage 5/1/4 score line on Syndra. "The team lived up to the expectation of mine."
The Worlds opener also marked the return of Faker's longtime jungle partner Bae "Bengi" Seong-woong, who was used sparingly across the year in professional matches in favor of rookie jungler Kang "Blank" Sun-gu. Although the Blank-infused team won the spring domestic season, IEM World Championship and Mid-Season Invitational, the youngster's inconsistency at the tail end of the summer season started to plague SKT. Bengi's return to the lineup couldn't have gone smoother: The veteran ended with a 3/1/4 on Elise -- a champion for which he has a personalized SKT T1 skin (although he didn't use it in the game itself).
"My style is that I adapt to my jungler," Faker said. "Bengi and [I] have a decent coordination and decent chemistry but it's [not] like it is special. He isn't the only one [I can excel alongside]."
"Obviously the game changes a lot," Faker said when asked if after four years of playing professionally he still loves loading up the game like he did as an amateur. "But the core of the game remains the same, I believe, so I still enjoy playing the game, somewhat. I really love playing ranked games, as well."
Two players Faker is constantly compared to in the western region are his main rival from Korea for the title of best player in the world, ROX Tigers' ace, Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho, and TSM's ace of the mid lane, Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, who has been gifted the nickname "North American Faker."
"[Bjergsen] deserves the title of 'North American Faker,'" said the man himself. "I am not at all offended by it. He's very much talented so it'll be [extremely] entertaining to face him in the tournament.
"I think Smeb is a very talented player, as well. But I don't consider him an absolutely overwhelming player, yet; [however] if he performs really well in this tournament he could become [one of the best]."
Faker said that while both players are talented, he believes Bjergsen has a higher ceiling to become a star because of the developing North American scene and how many fans support him. In North America, Bjergsen can shine the brightest. Unfortunately for Smeb, he plays in a league with the best in the world.
"Bjergsen has more of a chance [with American players] to be a star," Faker said.
ROX Tigers, Edward Gaming, even Team SoloMid have gotten more talk than SK Telecom T1 heading into the tournament. But Faker is still confident that if the Summoner's Cup comes down to SKT T1 or ROX, he likes his chances.
"When we didn't make it to the Korean finals during the summer split, our condition was very bad," he said. "Over the course of time we've recovered, so if we play [ROX] in the tournament, I think we have a higher chance of beating them."