This is an old picture.
You just made it to your sixth GSL final. How does that feel?
I can’t say I’m all glad, because I had to face one of my closest friends in the semifinals. So at the moment I think I feel more guilty than pleased.
So it's a bittersweet experience for you?
Yeah, you could say that.
Reaching the Season 1 final seemed really improbable, but this season looked fated from the start. How did you feel starting from the Round of 32?
Last season was my first final in a long time, but after I had made it up there once it felt easier to do it again than it did the first time. So I was playing confidently and I think that helped me make it to the finals.
You didn't practice much early this season. Why is that?
When I got second place again last season I fell into a state of detachment, I lost a lot of motivation, I felt frustrated that I’d failed again. So I wanted to focus more on resting rather than practicing for a while.
You had Maru, Dark and Losira in the Round of 16 and started to play more. Is it fair to say it was as if a switch went off in your head, as if you said "this is serious now"?
In the Ro32 my opponents were relatively easy, so I took it easy on myself. But when I advanced to the Ro16 I couldn’t find a single weak opponent. I thought that I would get knocked out if I didn't take it seriously, so that's when I started practicing hard again.
The Round of 8 was against someone who you had a bad record against. How did you prepare against Rogue with your history?
There aren't many Zerg progamers, so it was hard for me to find practice partners. So I practiced mostly on ladder. And I thought about the games in my head a lot, so I think that mental preparation helped as well.
Can you explain the ceremony at the end of the match?
The ceremony? Yeah, I usually do the thumbs-up pose. There's no special meaning to it, I just did this pose a lot, even from the BW days. I guess it's kinda like muscle memory, I just do it out of habit.
Coming back to the semifinals, did you think it would be this easy?
I did not expect it. I thought it would be a very difficult match whether I won or lost. I thought it would go to the final map. But when I was practicing for the semis, I prepared so that I would be playing differently from my usual playstyle. I think Classic had prepared anticipating my usual playstyle, so I think this twist I added made it really hard for him.
You seemed to get the better end of the build orders in this series. Classic is known to be the better one between the two of you when it comes to preparation, but it didn't look that way.
Last season Classic helped me a lot with practice, so Classic knows my playstyle very well. I thought if I did my usual thing it would not work against Classic, so I tried to mix things up as much as possible. I alternated between games where I added a twist and where I played it straight up, and I think that confused Classic.
You've had a number of practice partners over the past two seasons, and you've also used the ladder to great effect. Do you think your preparation has actually benefitted from this new age of not having a team?
Back when I was at SKT there was the coaching staff as well as team management, so I was under constant pressure to practice. And if you're forced to do something against your will, it makes you not want to do it. As I spent more years in the team, the burnout got worse and I lost my focus. I slacked off a lot. Now that I'm not in a team, there's nobody who’s looking after me and there’s no regular salary. I feel like I’m on my own now, so I definitely practice harder compared to when I was still on the team.
You're now in your second consecutive finals. What are your impressions of GuMiho?
I didn’t consider him an especially strong player but recently he's been practicing very hard, so that's different now. I think that he's going to be my strongest opponent this season.
Looking a little ahead, you're pretty much locked for BlizzCon. What does making it to the stage mean to you?
I've been to BlizzCon once, but back then I think I didn't appreciate how important that was. I figured I would just make it up again next time. But it’s three years later and I still haven’t been back at BlizzCon. I’ve learned from the past three years and I won’t make the same mistake again. I’ll make the most of my opportunity and make sure I win this time.
You've been streaming for foreign audiences for almost a year now. Are you excited to play games for them in person?
I used to meet foreign fans a lot because I attended quite a few foreign tournaments. I really enjoyed the cheering from the foreign crowds, that was a great memory for me. I'm excited to go back and and experience that audience again.
I couldn't let you go without asking an age old TLnet question: If your loved ones were kidnapped by pirates and you could only rescue them by recruiting three other SC2 progamers, who would they be and why?
Do we need to like, vanquish the pirates? Hmmm (laughs). I’ve never thought about something like this. Give me a moment to think about it.
First would be Stats, because he's got such a great personality and he’s smiling all the time. So I think if Stats walks up to the pirates smiling, they'll listen to him. So he'll be there as a last resort. I don't want Classic 'cause he's a scaredy-cat. Can I take a foreign player?
Then I want MajOr. MajOr would be able to communicate with them really well. I think the pirates are going to be foreigners. And then Maru. They'll let him off the hook because he is really cute.