Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin is not an ordinary player.
A former world champion and once regarded as the best AD carry in the world, every move he makes -- inside or outside of the game -- sends ripples throughout the scene. Following a self-determined stint in the minor leagues last year on Team Liquid Academy, Piglet has returned to the team's starting roster following a myriad of changes in the offseason, including the signing of the former league MVP Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin as the new starting jungler and appointing of David Lim as head coach.
Although 17 matches remain on the docket for the split, Piglet and TL got off on the right footing, pushing its way past former two-time league champion Counter Logic Gaming to put itself in first place with a first match sweep. We caught up the with the candid sharpshooter following his re-debut on Liquid.
"It's been awhile since I've been on the LCS stage," he said. "It wasn't like a nervous feeling, but it was like I really want to do well because it's kind of a homecoming."
His homecoming was a quiet one to start, winning the first game but playing a background utility role on Ashe for the most part in a game he finished 1/4/9. The second set, however, it was back to business for a player who feels he can match up offensively with anyone in the world, picking an old friend in Twitch to spearhead a late-game focused team composition to a 2-0 sweep for Liquid, ending with a much more satisfactory five kills along with only a pair of deaths.
"Everyone on [the team] is working hard to fix their mistakes and fix their flaws and grow as players. We've been practicing not only our style but other teams' style as well, and that means we're not going to pick it up right away so we're going to have bad results at times. But it's good we can play [a variety] of styles in the LCS and be flexible on the LCS stage, because obviously playing a real game is different than a scrim."
And TL and Piglet backed up those words in the series against CLG. Team Liquid for the past few years, usually centered around Piglet, has been a lane-focused team, jumping out to big leads in the early-game and riding the wave of success to victory. Getting behind early was almost always a death sentence for the old TL, but the Reignover and Piglet-led squad was capable of forging a large comeback against CLG in game two, prioritizing for the end-game and getting to it through coordinated play across the map. With a new head coach bringing a new flavor to TL and the addition of one of the better junglers in the world, this could be the season where the perennial semifinalists go one step further.
"I've played with a lot of good junglers, but I think Reignover is the best," he said. "Reignover is really good at, even if they cheese or get him behind, he knows how to recover really well and he knows how to starve out the enemy jungler really well, so it just makes the game a lot easier for me."
Piglet also had praise to share with his now longtime top laner Samson "Lourlo" Jackson, talking over his progression from rookie to possibly one of the better tops in the league. "To preface this, I think Impact [his former top lane teammate on SK Telecom T1, now C9 starter] is one of the best top laners in the world," he said. "When Lourlo first came in, all he had was mechanics; actually, to be honest, he was pretty bad, he just didn't know how to win in a team game setting. He didn't know concepts. But he worked on it a lot throughout the whole year, and as concepts piled on and he has mastered and learned them, he got really good. I think his style is very similar to Impact's, and I think of [Lourlo] as a really good player. Also, as a person, I really like working with him."
"For AD carries, I don't think there is that defined of a meta," said Piglet. "People right now are playing Ashe and Varus, but for hard carry champions, if you don't die before level six, you outscale them really hard. And you should just play what you're confident at. But...if someone else picks a carry champion into me, I will destroy them."
That's Piglet in a nutshell. He isn't afraid to put himself out there, and even when he stumbles, his confidence doesn't waver. Behind his exterior is a playful soul, laughing with his teammates and jumping up and down watching his rivals play on the television. His goal, as it was when he first signed with Liquid two years ago, remains the same: Worlds, and if possible, the chance to prove to everyone, from Europe to his homeland of South Korea, that he's the best AD carry that League of Legends has ever produced.
"I was the one that chose to go to TLA," he said, attempting to clarify that he wasn't benched last summer, and instead it was his choice to reset his mindset by playing in the minors. "I still thought I was the best when I went to TLA, there wasn't an issue with my mindset there. But to specifically the people who doubted me, I've been doubted a lot, even when I was in my prime, so I don't have too much to say to them, but I still think I'm the best right now, especially in NA."
Team Liquid styles may vary. Piglet's play may become more flexible. But Piglet's confidence? That's here to stay.