2020 world champion and Korean top lane superstar Jang ‘Nuguri’ Ha-gwon is back on Summoner’s Rift after a hiatus at the start of the season , and he’s changed. He led DWG KIA to a 2-0 victory in their return to the LCK in the summer of 2022, and while the star feels no different, there’s a new air around him.
Nuguri turned heads at the end of the 2021 season announcing his intention to take a break of competitive League of Legends.
After reaching the highs of lifting the Summoner’s Cup at Worlds 2020 with DWG KIA, a trade to LPL and 2019 champions FunPlus Phoenix didn’t work out for the top lane star. He fizzled out overseas, made it to Worlds but fell in groups far below expectations.
The star was mentally exhausted after having to acclimate to a new culture in China. She also wanted to spend some time with family after five years of pushing her way to the top — and reach that climax.
But now it’s back. Nuguri debuted again as part of a new DWG KIA roster at LCK Summer 2022 against Fredit BRION on June 16, with the top laner taking over from Yoon ‘Hoya’ Yong-ho and Noh ‘Burdol’ Tae-yoon who split its functions. in the first half of the year.
To tell the truth, it was hardly clinical. Game 1 almost made history for all the wrong reasons. It took the game over 34 minutes to break its deadlock with one of the last first bloods in competitive League of Legends history. Nuguri at Sejuani helped secure the key pick at Park ‘Hena’ Jeung-hwan at baron. The game ended a minute later.
Game 2 was much more aggressive with constant fighting. The top laner was the center of much of Fredit BRION’s early pressure as they tried to set up a snowball for Park ‘Morgan’ Gi-tae over Camille. It almost worked when Morgan and Hena’s Kai’Sa blasted through DWG KIA mid-game, but the veterans steadied themselves and got it back thanks to clean performances from Heo ‘ShowMaker’ Su’s Aatrox and Seo ‘deokdam’ Dae-gil’s Ezreal. .
When the game was all said and done, Nuguri couldn’t help but feel relieved at the result.
“I’m relieved that we won,” he said at the post-match news conference. according to a translation by Inven. “It sucks to say I’m relieved, but that’s the first thought that came to mind. I feel good about it. It was a nostalgic feeling.”
The star had butterflies in her stomach that day, feeling the same nerves she felt on her competitive debut five years ago: “When I got on the bus to head to LoL Park, I felt the same way I felt when I arrived. She first debuted in Challengers Korea.
“I know it hasn’t been a long break, but I was very excited and nervous. Playing on stage calmed my nerves, but I messed up a lot.”
-LCK (@LCK) June 16, 2022
Having him back apparently sparked something new in the DWG KIA side that came so close to glory in 2021, losing both the MSI and Worlds in tight five-game finals. The pressure might have been piling up from the fans, but jungler Kim ‘Canyon’ Geon-bu didn’t feel it onstage.
“I’m just focused on improving ourselves and playing better,” he said after the game. “Having Nuguri back on our roster doesn’t add any more pressure or make us nervous. We just have to focus on our performance as a team.”
However, for Nuguri it was quite a different system to integrate into. ShowMaker said it wasn’t “too surprising or shocking” to have the top laner back, but the same can’t be said for Jang.
“There have been a lot of gameplay changes,” Nuguri explained. “Ghost and BeryL were in charge of being the solid anchor for the team [down bot]while deokdam and kellin were the carries even on their last team.
“Overall, I can really tell the difference in champ picks and gameplay. Stylistic change is something we are working on through practice.”
There has been a bit of talk about the 22-year-old coming of age since his time on FunPlus Phoenix. After being the hyper aggressive top laner who tested the limits and pushed LoL’s mechanics to the limit in his early days, he has mellowed a bit according to the backroom staff.
He doesn’t feel that personally, but the feeling hasn’t been lost on him.
“I just keep living my life the way I do. It may have changed, but I don’t notice anything different. I keep hearing about this, and it’s great to know that something has changed with me. I’m not doing anything different, so I don’t know about big changes,” she admitted.
What has returned for Nuguri after her 2021 burnout is a push to get back on the big stage where everything matters — Worlds. There’s still a long way to go in LCK Summer 2022, especially with a drastic meta change taking the aggressive star off his game a bit.
“My playstyle before the durability patch was the complete opposite of how I currently play,” he said. “It seems like my previous playstyle doesn’t fit the current meta, but I feel like it’s up to me. I still have to become more flexible.
However, he will not be satisfied until he can re-establish his place at the top.
“I am really grateful for everything, especially for all the support. Now that I’m back, I’ll make sure to do well.”