Yeon-Joon “ArK” Hong plays Main Support for the New York Excelsior and is Overwatch’s highest-ranked Mercy and fourth-highest ranked player overall (per Winston’s Lab). This week his team is 8-1 and primed to face off against the London Spitfire in the grand finale of Stage 1 before the Playoffs this Saturday. Last week we had a chat about his experience in California, his team NYXL, and some of their Overwatch League competition. After some quality small-talk and introductory formalities (ArK is indeed easier to pronounce than Yeon-Joon Hong) we got straight down to business and dove into the nitty-gritty.
The Nitty Gritty
Tepojama: Now that you’re in California, have you been listening to any American music or watching TV?
ArK: “I listen to some music but not any TV shows. Probably some Ed Sheeran songs and some Camila [Cabello].”
So no rap then? No “Gucci Gang Gucci Gang” like Saebyoelbe?
“[Laughs] No, it’ll take like a year I think. It’s so hard to understand rap. Actually it’s hard to understand in Korean rap even.”
The NA Ladder
People are constantly amazed by your PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) when playing Comp and that has made you pretty popular. Did you see when EFFECT got tilted on stream? How do you avoid tilt?
ArK: “Oh yeah. I saw that [laughs]. I think the mindset is different for EFFECT and I. EFFECT wants his teammates to always be in good condition and playing hard, but for me I think it doesn’t matter a lot — I just want my teammates to not be tilted or scolding anyone — and that is a different kind of mindset. I think if I did really good in a game then it doesn’t matter if I lose or win. It’s going to be fine, I just don’t want anyone tilted. EFFECT just wants to win and I think his mindset is really good for hard gaming, but for me it’s kind of different.”
So, any tips for getting stuck with a Symmetra one-trick?
“[Laughs] I think just kind of… laugh, you know? Because it’s hard to answer the question like — it’s kind of like asking Japanese people ‘How do you deal with earthquakes?’ or something. You have to just adapt. Use it. Get used to it. Don’t be tilted, because it can be helped.”
How about comparing the NA ladder to Korean, are there more one-tricks, is it more toxic?
“I think there are more one-tricks in America actually. And in Korea they are more toxic. People tend to play more and are really fixed on competition, so they always use D.Va, Winston, Tracer, Mercy, Zen and swap 1 DPS or something. They really hate to play Reinhardt or something, so they don’t like it if someone picks it.”
In December you said your favorite person to duo with is DreamKazper, is that still true or has it changed?
“Actually my favorite player to play with is probably Libero, but besides our teammates I think it’s still Kazper because he is really good at flexing to other heroes and he’s kind of PMA.”
So why Libero? Is it the same reasons?
“I like his mindset because he is a really kind person and doesn’t really care about losing a lot. And I also like that his flexibility is at the top of the world.”
ArK & Overwatch
You’ve mentioned that you were inspired by DSPStanky’s “Vindication” video to start playing more Lucio; are there any players that inspire you now?
ArK: “Oh, yeah that one and then I saw his frag-movie and really liked it. Actually, when I was playing Lucio I had to be a chameleon and take advantages from other people who were playing Lucio — like Tobi or WakaWaka — but now, it’s kind of hard because it’s hard to differentiate the sections of Mercy. So I’m just trying to like find the wrong parts with me and fix them. But it will be different when Lucio is meta.”
Speaking of which, are you excited for the next patch and Lucio’s return? Or are you going to miss Mercy?
“It’s kind of a hard question. I’m getting many questions, many kinds of questions — but you know I’m getting better at Mercy so it’s kind of hard for me to leave her you know? If I’m going to be a dominant Lucio, then I’m probably glad to hear that Mercy is going to be nerfed. But there are many really good Lucios in Overwatch League so I think it’s probably going to be hard. So I would rather be the dominant Mercy.”
You’re also well-known for your ult-tracking. Any tips?
“You just need to practice. I think anyone can do it if you just keep tracking ultimates.”
OWL & NYXL
Have you been enjoying the Overwatch League? How does it compare to OGN APEX?
ArK: “For now I’m enjoying it! And I think it might be better actually. I really like the facility and I really like the size of the stage and the arena. Also the crowd, they’re just shouting all of the time and I really like it.”
Did you see all of the NYXL fans at the viewing party in New York?
“Yeah it was really amazing. I haven’t expected something like that to happen.”
Regarding NYXL, some Korean teams (like Bishop’s London Spitfire) have set schedules with breakfast, gym, scrims, and curfews — what is NY’s schedule like?
“I think we are kind of flexible. We have English lessons and the gym at 9:30, but if you’re really tired then it’s okay not to do it. Also our schedule always ends at 8 or earlier so you can get more rest or you can stream, so I think we are more flexible.”
What’s your scrim schedule like? It’s mostly against the San Francisco Shock right?
“Yeah. We don’t scrim every day or something, and I think we scrim against every team but the quantity is 1-2x more with them I think.”
Is it different from scrimming against LW Blue? Do you have to hide strats from OWL teams?
“Kind of. We try to, but we sometimes have a match a lot later so in that case we don’t need to hide because we’re going to change the strat again anyway. But if we have a close match then we try to hide strats.”
How is it playing with teammates from Luxury Watch?
“I’ve known most of the LW teammates the longest I think — like SBB, Janus, Meko, and Pine. And when I was in LW Red I really wanted to play with them so I really like it.”
How about the new teammate? JJoNak has really surprised people because he was never on a Tier 1 team in Korea, but apparently he was famous on ladder. Did you know him before?
“I think all of the Korean pros knew him. He seemed really luxurious sometimes, but he was really good. Like he was just rank #1 all the time. And we all knew that he was gonna be good, but first I was just curious about if he was going to be this good during scrimmages or competitions? So after some scrimmages we had no doubt that he would be really good, that he would be like Ryujehong or something.”
MekO also seems really good suddenly. Did he improve?
“I think Meko was always good, but there were some style differences with our team. Our teamwork got better so he looks better.”
People have enjoyed the team’s creativity with strats like the Horizon Lunar Colony quad-tank. Do the coaches or specific players come up with more strats?
“I think it’s the whole team actually. Not much difference across the team.”
Obviously NYXL is the best Korean team; who do you think is the best Western team?
ArK: “Two of the three teams are Philadelphia and the Valiant I think.”
Saebyoelbe and Pine both want to be MVP — who do you think is their biggest MVP competition? Fleta, Carpe, 2x OGN APEX MVP Ryujehong?
“I think maybe if Pine has more chances to come out then maybe he will get it, but if not… I want to see Libero! He is really good and I think he is very underrated. Outside of New York, it’s kind of hard but maybe Profit will be one of the candidates. And from Seoul maybe Ryujehong.”
How about the top DPS outside of NY?
“Carpe, Shadowburn, Linkzr, Fleta, Profit.”
Oh, Profit. So that’s why London doesn’t play Rascal?
“I think so. He’s really good. And Birdring is the better Tracer so Profit plays his Genji.”
You guys beat Boston in Week 1 and you mentioned on stream that their DPS Striker once called you a noob in Korea…
“[Laughs] Yeah, when he was in Korea he did not know that it was me and I made some orders to him on Zarya so he just scolded me and said ‘just play the game!’ or something.”
Did it feel good to beat him?
“Kind of I think. But it’s in the past.”
So no tea-bagging or anything?
“[Laughs] Yeah no, because if I like scold him or tea-bag him then I’ll be bad and I’ll feel bad and then he will just want revenge. So I don’t want that.”
You guys also beat Houston, how was playing against their DPS?
“I think Jake is the best Junkrat. His ult management and timing is really good so I don’t know how to avoid it. And I think Linkzr is, in one style, one of the best Widowmakers because his placement is really good and he can land shots that are hard to avoid.”
So Seoul was not joking when they kept talking about Houston?
“Yeah I think they’re serious actually, they are really good.”
Philadelphia is the only team to beat you guys so far. Are Carpe and Shadowburn the best DPS duo in the League?
“I think they are the best Genji/Tracer combo maybe, their diving is really perfect. But London would be very competitive and might even be better.”
So it’s between London and Philadelphia for best DPS duo?
“Yeah I think so. Like Fleta is really good, but they are really having a hard time putting the other DPS in like Wekeed or Bunny.”
Speaking of Wekeed and Seoul, you played together for LW Red, was it helpful knowing his style when NY faced the Dynasty?
“Yeah that’s right. I knew that his Junkrat is really good so I knew he was going to try pressuring me a lot.”
Should he be starting as their second DPS?
“It’s a hard question actually, because he is really good at projectile but Fleta works well with a Tracer.”
When you beat Seoul, they did not play Miro — what did you think about that?
“I’ve heard that Kuki is doing more shout-calls than Miro. I’ve heard that he is making almost every shout-call when he plays so that is probably why. I know sometimes Ryujehong makes shout-calls, but when Kuki is playing he does many so they were probably looking for that.”
Was Mano disappointed he couldn’t face his rival?
“I think so, but maybe not. He wants to beat the better one so since Seoul probably knows they are putting out their best roster, I think he is just glad to have won.”
Sometimes Mano plays instead of Janus or Pine instead of SBB. Do you have to change your play style to match different lineups?
“Yes. Janus and Mano’s styles are completely different. And Pine is much more different than any other players we have. Mano is kind of more aggressive. Sometimes I should give more care to him so it’s hard to carry two aggressive players at once. It is much easier to play with Libero and Mano at once.”
Last, But Not Least
Who are best players not in the OWL right now?
ArK: “Maybe Nenne, because he is really good. He was carrying all of the games with LW Red. He was just breaking games all the time. For Runaway it’s hard because the teammates are really good but their teamwork is what is really good. And maybe some players from Element Mystic and X6 gaming like ChoiHyoBin and GodsB.”
What about Geguri? Did you play against her?
“Yes, when she was with Rox Orcas I was playing against her. And I think she is also one of the good players and one of the best D.Vas. It’s hard to measure if she is going to be dominant in the Overwatch League though since it will be very hard.”
Anybody you want to play with Fl0w3r on his Contenders team?
“Maybe Nenne? [Laughs] but it’s kind of hard, maybe people from other Korean Contenders teams?”
Finally — you’ve done a great job representing NYC — any closing words for the fans back in New York?
“We thank you for always cheering! It is so amazing that New York people are cheering for us because we cannot believe that we are influencing and representing New York for now since it is really far away from us. We are really looking forward to going there. We always thank you for cheering and supporting!”
Many thanks to ArK for taking some time to do this interview and NYXL for allowing us to chat with their backbone for a bit!
If you have any ideas for who Tepojama should interview next then feel free to hit him up on Twitter.
Image Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment Press