When SK Telecom T1 jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho locked in Ivern against Team WE, casters and fans were stunned.
“Well Peanut, that is not a fighter, that is Ivern from Peanut,” OnGameNet’s English LCK caster Christopher “PapaSmithy” Smith said. “There has only been a single Ivern game from any team in the LCK and that was Score on KT Rolster. And our second one happens, from all people, Peanut!”
Shock and a hint of confusion were audible in his voice. Ivern was the perfect champion for G2 Esports’ Kim “Trick” Gang-yun or Team SoloMid’s Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, but not the proactive Peanut.
Known for his aggressive counterjungling, striking out into opponents’ jungles to not only take their camps but their lives as well, Peanut earned the nickname, “The Battle Ward” from the English-language LCK cast in 2016. It was an underhanded jab at his abysmal warding numbers that also awed at his mechanical prowess and intelligent jungle paths.
Now on SK Telecom T1, Peanut’s aggressive legacy with the ROX Tigers has become the foundation of his jungle style — earlier that day, Peanut dazzled Svenskeren with his Lee Sin, a champion on which Peanut has yet to lose a game in 2017 — but he’s also evolved into a more flexible jungler.
After a myriad of interviews, features, and a round in the Kiss and Cry with various media outlets, Peanut bounced into our smaller interview room, still full of energy after his most recent victory over Team WE, the last match of the day.
“I actually am feeling very well today,” Peanut told me. “I think I was at my best.”
He sat down on a nearby couch. His back was straight, surprisingly so for a professional player, and he was attentive and alert, folding his hands on his lap. Peanut was all-too-ready to launch into why he played Ivern, coming alive as he described his journey to master the champion, gesturing and laughing.
“A good jungler at the highest level should be able to play all champions very well,” Peanut said. “Ivern wasn’t necessarily something that I wouldn’t play and I actually practiced very hard. I played it solo queue, I played it in scrims, and I died a lot. So, I tried to develop a good path for the early game. Ivern is very vulnerable and it’s critical to do well in the early game to take full advantage of the champion itself.”
Lively and talkative, he interrupted his translator to add more about the champion that he forgot in his first monologue.
“Especially since a lot of the teams are playing Ivern as their jungle. To be able to counter Ivern, I should know how to play him. That’s why I tried really hard in solo queue to play Ivern and practice my jungle pathing in solo queue games too.”
He’s surprisingly humble throughout, especially when compared to his teammate Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, who proclaimed SKT’s dominance with ease.
“I don’t particularly think SKT is that much better than the others,” he said. “The games where we didn’t give away any turrets, we just countered their strategy very well. On the other hand, the games where we lost turrets and fell behind, our opponents made pretty good moves compared to how we countered them.”
Even when describing his early game rout of TSM, Peanut attributed this to minute pathing adjustments without boasting, showcasing a newfound maturation powered by a more subdued confidence.
“I definitely didn’t expect [Svenskeren] to be so aggressive in his path,” Peanut said. “When I started taking TSM’s blue, they were forced to go aggressive or lose. We actually planned around it so we could make the call to collapse.”
He shrugged his shoulders, a slight nervous tic. When I began to ask my final question, he groaned after hearing the name of the ROX Tigers, sliding back on the couch for a moment, disturbing his posture for the first time since he was seated. I wanted to know if he sees anything specific to SKT’s success, now that he’s been on both sides of the matchup
“Firstly, I don’t think that SKT being a successful organization impacts my performance,” he began. “When I was on ROX Tigers and we were out of the tournament in [Worlds] Semifinals last year, I think I was the one who didn’t play that well. I think I was the one who should have played better to win the whole thing. If I had played better we would have won the World Championship last year. When I decided to move to SKT, it’s a team that has won many championships before, almost all of them, and also has more experienced members. Overall I think all of the teams try very hard.”
He smiled again. This was a new, introspective Peanut. Still wholly confident in his abilities, he also now acknowledges his team more in victory and is harsher on himself when speaking of past defeats. Perhaps he was always this way, covering it up with braggadocio and a boisterous nature. Now on SKT, the rambunctious side of Peanut is still there, but he has a newfound air of maturity.
This is a Peanut who will now play Ivern and win just as admirably as he does on Lee Sin.
Emily Rand’s love of the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.