Jungler Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok has been competing with JD Gaming since 2019 when he was loaned out from Griffin.

He’s found a permanent place on the LPL team, working with head coach Yoon “Homme” Sung-young for the longest time whom he describes as a “sibling” outside the game, he tells ONE Esports. Within the game, they maintain a strict professional relationship.

Top laner Bai “369” Jia-Hao and support Lou “MISSING” Yun-Feng joined in 2022, and together, this trio has been tight.

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In 2023, replacements were found for bot laner Wang “Hope” Jie and mid laner Zeng “Yagao” Qi. Two big names at the pinnacle of League of Legends esports, Worlds 2017 champion Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk and former Top Esports mid laner Zhuo “knight” Ding, entered the fray.

This lineup has won every title possible this year: LPL Spring 2023, MSI 2023, and LPL Summer 2023. Kanavi and Ruler even bagged a gold medal at the Asian Games with Team Korea.

JD Gaming at MSI 2023 photoshoot doing the "Shhh" pose
Credit: Riot Games

While their accumulated achievements are a testament to the strength of this roster, it hasn’t always been a smooth sailing ride. Homme told ONE Esports at MSI 2023 that it’s precisely because they’ve brought in “premier players” who are “best in their positions,” they have egos that need to be managed.

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Sharing a player perspective on how he’s worked out the kinks with new members, Kanavi tells us more about his growth in this exclusive interview with ONE Esports.

JD Gaming’s jungler Kanavi is incredibly humble, eager to learn, and accommodating

Before joining JD Gaming, Ruler was on a roll with Gen.G while knight came from Top Esports, an org that developed a heated rivalry with JDG since 2020.

“Since they came from different teams, it may have been challenging to try to synchronize our playstyles,” Kanavi told ONE Esports. “They had their own playstyle, but as we tried to synchronize, it seems like we are now all heading in the direction we want.”

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Because it’s Ruler’s first time in the LPL, many were curious how Kanavi, the only fellow Korean player on JD Gaming, had accommodated him. To our surprise, Ruler joked during our interview at MSI that Kanavi “abandoned” him and hadn’t help him actively.

“Truthfully, I do tend to neglect bot lane during scrims,” Kanavi responded. “But in tournaments, I do pay more attention, especially if bot lane is at a disadvantage or if there’s a chance for a dive.”

JD Gaming at the League of Legends - Mid-Season Invitational Features Day on May 7, 2023 in London, England
Credit: Riot Games

Naturally as their jungler, he has to work with every member throughout the game as he combs the map. When mic checks are aired, he’s often heard shotcalling and talking the most.

“When I’m in a strong position or playing a strong champion, I tend to ask my teammates to pay attention to me more aggressively,” he shared on how he effectively communicates with his teammates. “But when I’m playing a weaker champion, I try to accommodate my teammates.”

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His objective assessment of champions applies even when he decides to play off-meta picks, like when the team boldly flexed Nautilus to the jungle in the first game of the MSI 2023 final against Bilibili Gaming.

“I picked Nautilus on a whim right before the actual match, and it worked out well,” Kanavi said. “Actually, we were discussing picks and bans about 30 minutes before the match, and Nautilus suddenly seemed like a good idea, so I suggested it. We had three games, so I thought, ‘Why not give it a try in the first game?'”

He’s also one of the few junlgers within major regions to excel on technically intensive champions Lillia and Bel’Veth. Lillia was picked 18 times this year, twice by Kanavi who holds a 100% win rate. Bel’Veth was picked 32 times, and Kanavi played her the most, maintaining a 75% win rate across eight games, based on stats from gol.gg.

LoL champion Bel'Veth official wallpaper
Credit: Riot Games

“From my perspective as a jungler, the importance of the champion itself isn’t as critical,” said Kanavi. “Each champion has its strengths and weaknesses, and I honestly think it’s just about bringing out the characteristics of each.”

He even made history by pulling Shaco out of that hat two years ago. It was the first time in seven years that this champion was used in LPL. What’s even more surprising is that he was actually inspired to use Shaco because of a lower-ranked player.

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“I recall in 2021 seeing someone playing Shaco in Diamond very well, so I learned from that player and tried it in a tournament, which turned out pretty good,” Kanavi said.

“Whenever I try to grasp a champion and feel that there’s something lacking compared to others, I analyze masters of that particular champion, regardless of their tier,” he added. “Even if they’re in a lower tier, many of these players understand their champions well, so I learn from them and adapt it to my style.”

Evolving under Homme, he won his first-ever title in LPL Spring 2020. During LPL Summer 2020, JDG finished second and made it to the Worlds 2020 quarterfinals. The following year, Homme took a break before coming back to lead in 2022, winning Summer and making it all the way to the Worlds 2022 semifinals.

 Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok of JD Gaming at the League of Legends - Mid-Season Invitational Features Day on May 7, 2023 in London, England
Credit: Riot Games

Before he tasted success, Kanavi admits that he “didn’t have much confidence” in his skills. “But after my first victory in 2020 and winning various tournaments, I felt like I was doing better than I thought, and that motivated me to work harder to become the best,” he said. “Looking at this year, I think I could be considered one of the top players because of the results.”

“This year, starting from MSI, it wasn’t easy. We barely won against T1 with a 3-2 score, and now we’ve made it to Worlds,” Kanavi added. “Honestly, achieving good results at this year’s Worlds is probably the most challenging task.”

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