LOS ANGELES -- Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun's remodeling of his career began this weekend at the League of Legends Championship Series Arena.
On Friday, the Golden Guardians Academy bottom lane duo of Ian Victor "FBI" Huang and support Huhi were called up to the main team. They would start in place of Matthew "Deftly" Chen and Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung in Week 5 of the LCS summer split.
Huhi was relatively familiar with that stage. However, it was his first start at the LCS Arena since March 3, when the former mid laner was demoted from 100 Thieves' LCS lineup to their Academy roster. He left the team during the midyear offseason, and Saturday, he made his first appearance as an LCS support.
"On 100 Thieves we just in general had a really bad showing," Huhi said Sunday. "We went to last place, and it was pretty shocking to me. It was really hard to recover from that.
"I enjoy playing with the crowd onstage. It's just a lot more challenging for myself, and it helps me improve a lot more too. Even yesterday when we lost, I just learned a lot, I feel like. It's just a good opportunity for me, and I'm really thankful to have that."
Going into last weekend, Golden Guardians had begun to slip in the standings after enjoying an organization-best 3-1 start to the summer. An increased strength of schedule and perceived inflexibility in draft appeared to be part of the problem. FBI and Huhi were brought up after splitting scrimmage time on the main LCS team; their first game together onstage, a loss to OpTic Gaming, marked FBI's LCS debut.
Huhi's team bounced back a day later with a victory against Echo Fox. Golden Guardians' newly-minted support tore apart the his opponents with a 5/0/19 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) in a rout.
The victory showed that despite the position change might be a good call both for Huhi and his squad.
"I really wanted to come back in a stronger form than ever," he said. "I feel like in mid lane, I could do it, but it would be so hard, and I had a lot of doubt too."
Throughout his career as a mid laner, Huhi had a unique style that was more focused on pushing out the mid minion wave in order to roam and affect his team's side lanes. He became known for champions that did just that, like Taliyah and Aurelion Sol, and was also acknowledged for his in-game communication skills, especially during his time on Counter Logic Gaming from early 2016 through 2018.
Despite doubts around coming back to the LCS mid lane, he wanted to leverage these strengths in the support position.
"I felt like with my playstyle, maybe role-swapping would be a really good idea because I really like supporting people, and I like communicating in game a lot too," he said. "I'll slowly learn and eventually be a top support. That's my goal."
It's a lofty goal, especially for a player who has been around the pro League of Legends scene since 2014.
His transition to the support role comes at a time where another generation of veteran League players are transitioning in and out of coaching and playing, among other avenues. His former 100 Thieves teammate/coach Ryu "Ryu" Sang-wook is an example.
The transition from being a mid laner to a support has been a bit of a wisecrack over the years in North America specifically, where solo queue mids have joked about swapping their roles to support just to be noticed by a team.
"Honestly speaking, in this industry first impressions are really important no matter whether it's onstage or if you're just playing a scrim or tryout," Huhi said. "I feel like people get a really fast read on someone's performance and judge them even though later on he does improve. That kind of image is really hard to get over. It's not only about mid lane; this goes for every player. It's just more apparent with NA mid laners. I think that's just at this point the culture of esports."
Due to his more supportive mid lane playstyle and years in the LCS, Huhi is considered by many to be a known quantity. Even during CLG's success and run to the Mid-Season Invitational finals in 2016, Huhi was often cited as a weak link on the team, especially in laning statistics.
Dealing with the criticism is difficult but something he's learned to accept over the years.
"It's not like the criticism doesn't get to me," Huhi said. "Whenever I see it I'm also sad and not happy. But I guess I just try to get over it as fast as possible and not try to waste my energy on the negativity where I cannot change anything. Yeah, maybe I did play bad and they're saying those things, but that's not a thing I can waste my energy and change at that moment.
"I'd rather spend that energy to, I don't know, help people that love me, support them, or improve myself. That's why I try to get over it as fast as I can and move on."