You can't see him: The rise of Lustboy | LoL Esports
You can't see him: The rise of Lustboy
Standing in front of 10,000 people, including his former teammates, Jang-sik "Lustboy" Ham grinned like a man in love as he held the IEM World Championship trophy high back in March. As the star support for No. 1 ranked NA LCS squad Team SoloMid, the social media darling has had a lot to be happy about. Lately, at least.
Started from the bottom
Lustboy's gaming days began back in 2001, when the 7-year-old took to his PC for a game that had been captivating Korea: StarCraft. But since the game had been out for so long, he never had the opportunity to make his mark on the community. "I really like to make innovation," Lustboy says. "I like trying new things no one's ever tried before. But [Blizzard] already made SC1 a long time ago so there [wasn't much for me to do]."
Not one for hitting the books, Lustboy decimated opponents in competitive PC games until StarCraft 2 came out in 2010. With a swarm of new tactics to try, he knew this was his chance to shine. "[Being innovative] worked in StarCraft 2 because I played it as soon as it launched and everything I thought worked well."
His new Terran playstyle worked so well in fact that he was eventually able to go semi-pro, joining Team Prime in 2010. Yet any pro gamer dreams he had quickly crumbled as he was eliminated from the top SC2 league in the world before he even had a chance to play on the big stage. "I had terrible [GSL Code S] brackets two times in a row," he explains. "I got nervous myself because I thought I would never be a pro if I lost here. And I just quit the scene after that happened."
A Champion's Calling
Miserable with his failure, Lustboy wasn't sure what to do with himself. He first thought he'd turn his attention towards college in 2011 along with his friends, but that was a bust too. "I wasn't a study person, so I went back to playing games and apparently there was a low-key popular game. It was League of Legends."
"I was interested in League of Legends because it's completely free-to-play," he says. "And also, Miss Fortune looked so cool to me." He was hooked immediately, his fire for competition reignited. Sadly, his buddies weren't as moved. "I tried multiple times to make my friends play it, saying 'Hey this game is so cool, I'm pretty sure this is going to be really big post StarCraft 1 in Korea' but they never listened, and they had to focus on [studying] anyways."
Without any close friends to play with, he began climbing the ladder with mixed success, testing out unique champion builds because he didn't have the IP to buy runes. "I played it only for fun and I ran like scaling mana regen runes as Mordekaiser, even though I knew it doesn't work at all," he says. "I did that when I was stuck in Gold, and my duo partner got rid of me on his [friend] list after he saw that happen."
"Unfortunately I didn't do much for the innovation [of League], but everything I did was pretty optimal already without any try-out or learning. I climbed [the ladder] and I started to play against popular players like MakNooN, TheRainMan, Saintvicious, and Doublelift in Solo Queue games."
Korean servers didn't exist at the time, and because lonely Lustboy was only barely able to type in English on the NA server, he looked to a Korean community board to find some friends. "I wanted to hang out with Koreans, and I found a Korean casual amateur team. The members were me, Helios, Avalon, a friend of Piglet, and four others."
Shot in the dark
Usually, the group would just chill in chat, as no one on the casual team had aspirations to go pro, except Dong-jin "Helios" Shin. "Helios was the only one," Lustboy recalls. "I thought that was really cool, to be motivated to be a pro. And honestly, I wanted to be a pro too. But I already failed last time, so I was scared about it."
Helios' dreams came true sooner rather than later, when he got picked up by MiG and placed on the starting roster of MiG Blaze. Through it all, Helios and Lustboy remained close. So when Blaze's starting support suddenly quit the team, Helios had an idea for how to recover. "He knew I wanted to be a pro, so he helped me to get picked up by the team. Helios just suggested me and it worked."
The new Blaze was made up of Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu, Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong, Kang "Cpt Jack" Hyung-woo, Helios, and Lustboy.
In the beginning of his time on Blaze, Lustboy was eager to impress. But after his previous failings, he was hesitant to expect too much from the team, or himself. "I had no confidence for myself and I just wanted to be a starting member for a pro team." Looking back, he says that if he had played poorly, he would have left immediately. "But somehow, I fit in so well and I learned faster than everyone expected."
That may have been due in part to his relationship with Hong "MadLife" Min-gi, the godlike support of his sister team, MiG Frost. "I learned so much from MadLife when I was just a rookie, and I became pretty much even as him," Lustboy says. "He didn't teach me at all, I just watched him and tried to copy him. Then I gave up what didn't fit me and took what worked well."
"I was so happy that I was doing fine there, even though I wasn't making any income," he remembers. "Honestly, I loved to play the game so I had a nice excuse to play the game all day, which I didn't have before. I spent like 16 hours a day playing. We'd just play scrims and Solo Queue, whatever we could." And through all of the good times, he only had one goal. "The only thing that I wanted to achieve was not sucking."
With Blaze sweeping tournaments, both Lustboy and the team felt exhilarated with their success. They went on to win the first season of OGN over their sister team Frost, and even beat Team SoloMid at the MLG Summer Arena in 2012.
Lustboy thinks back on those days fondly, recalling how the team would always go out to eat together and constantly shared their thoughts with one another. "I think that helped me to play better," he says. "We were so tight before we lost in the next season."
A few steps back
The team that was once so close-knit began to unravel when they failed to make it to Worlds in Season 2. "First we lost OGN in Round 4. Second we lost our third and fourth placement match as well. Third, we lost in the extra Wildcard Tournament, and we were in the Final already because we had good seeding, and we lost it as well," Lustboy recalls, laughing in disbelief. "The mood was so bad and we started to argue with each other."
Eventually they decided to kick Reapered, who made most of the calls. "We thought his individual play was pretty bad and it was the reason why we lost. We were so frustrated that we didn't make it to the World Championship and moreover we had to pick a new top laner."
They first tried Helios' brother Deongyheon "Avalon" Shin, but ultimately thought he was too young to handle the pro scene. "After that, we found Flame in Solo Queue and asked him to try out."
"Honestly his individual play was not that great," Lustboy admits. "But he was so positive and motivated. We saw his potential there. He improved like a godlike player in a month."
Lee "Flame" Ho-Jong had such a good attitude that Lustboy remembers how the top laner, along with Ambition, taught him about side lane control and how to annoy enemy solo laners. With everyone getting along, "We thought we solved the problem," says Lustboy. That is, until the next OGN season when they faced their sister team Frost.
With Blaze and Frost having a rivalry comparable to that of TSM and CLG, the pressure for Lustboy and his team to triumph was monumental. So when they lost, "We started to argue once again," he says, recalling how both the community and his teammates were quick to pass harsh judgement for his mistakes.
"They blamed Cpt Jack this time. He got so much stress from it and he eventually quit. But the problem hadn't been solved yet, so everyone blamed Helios. Still we were bad, so they blamed me, and we both quit."
The stress from failing and being blamed for the team's blunders crushed Lustboy's spirit, and his play suffered through it all. But for him, the worst part was being forced to live in MadLife's shadow, as many were now calling him the best support player in the world. "That made me play so much worse than I actually could." But now that he had finally made it as a pro, he wasn't ready to give everything up.
Bottom to Baylife
Lustboy took some time off and evaluated his options. Down one road, he could travel to China, and potentially earn tons of new fans and money. Another road would take him to America, where he'd always dreamed of playing.
His dreams would soon turn to reality, thanks to Yoon-sup "Locodoco" Choi.
Lustboy originally met Locodoco when the two were both playing on MiG. While Lustboy was on Blaze, Locodoco was playing AD carry on Frost. The two would scrim one another, and eventually they became close friends.
With Locodoco now coaching a top-ranked team in North America and in need of a new support, he asked Lustboy to come join the squad. "Locodoco just called me and asked me to fly over there tomorrow. He said Gleeb couldn't play with them anymore and they needed to recover."
"It was the most random thing I'd ever heard."
Without hesitation, Lustboy said he'd do it. "I knew TSM was like a dream team for players." But after his sour fallout with Blaze, he was terribly nervous about what his new teammates would think of him. "I was just worrying about what if the team doesn't like me. I wasn’t able to communicate with team at the start."
At first, he says he tried to just listen to the words his teammates used and how they'd make a sentence. "It's better now," he says, but originally there were early struggles around shot-calling between him and his new lane partner Jason "WildTurtle" Tran.
"He's gotten a lot better working with Santorin and myself," says WildTurtle of his support. "He communicates a lot more. He knows what he wants to do, and he tries his best to communicate with the team. And I think it's gotten a lot better over the last year. I like playing with him. He's really fun to play with."
The two may have worked out their bot lane synergy, but Lustboy also commends his coach for their growth. "Locodoco helped us a lot and now I think we have really good synergy. He told me what kind of calls I should've made and forced Turtle to make a lot of calls instead of me. I think it made Turtle have a hard time, but now we've found a midpoint."
Together with Lustboy, Team SoloMid has enjoyed tremendous success. The team went to Worlds last year after winning the NA LCS, and they stomped through the 2015 NA LCS Spring Split regular season, coming out on top with a 13-5 record. Lustboy's incredibly aggressive playstyle shined bright throughout the split, with the support player locking down a substantial 6.52 KDA after earning the most assists in the NA LCS at 204.
Now that he's found his home on TSM, Lustboy's enjoying having solid infrastructure behind him and a coach who constantly pushes him to succeed. "I see how much [Loco] wants to be better and make the team better and it really motivates us. I really like being here."
Lustboy also enjoys the attention he gets from being a comedian on social media. "To be honest, I'm not a talkative or funny person in real life," he reveals, but you'd never know based on the hilarious things he says regularly on Twitter, or his John Cena imitations, which he learned about thanks to TSM's top laner Marcus "Dyrus" Hill.
"One of Dyrus' smurf accounts [mentioned John Cena] and he was spamming John Cena things in games," Lustboy says. "I was curious about where it came from and I searched about it. [Now] I would say John Cena is my favorite for sure. I thought his hand shake taunting was really cool and funny and decided to do this if I won the first match of NA LCS. I didn’t expect [such an incredible reaction] at all, but fans really liked it!"
Now He's Here
Lustboy had the chance to delight fans once again when he and TSM took the IEM World Championship at Katowice over Team WE, and more importantly, Lustboy's old sister team Frost, now known as CJ Entus. For Lustboy, it was his proudest memory on TSM.
"The moment we won against CJ was my best moment on TSM because I was a part of CJ and I got so much blame from that team. Then I won against them. I felt satisfied, like I wasn't the wrong one." Moreover, he finally had his chance to shine against MadLife. "It was really good."
Now standing together with Team SoloMid at the top of the North American LCS heading into the 2015 Spring Split Playoffs, Lustboy has much to smile about. With his impeccable play, a supportive organization, and a steadfast attitude that drives him to be the best, Lustboy enters into the golden age of his career not in Korea, but with his new North American family.
To see all of Lustboy's performances from the NA LCS, head over to the Lolesports spoiler-free VODs page. Team SoloMid will compete in the 2015 Spring Split Playoffs on Sunday, April 12 at 12PM Pacific Time.
Leah Jackson is a web content editor at Lolesports. Her favorite champion is currently Heimerdinger. Feel free to follow her on Twitter for esports banter and corgi pictures.