The Road Back

I want to play in the EU LCS. So does every other player currently competing in Europe’s regional leagues. But what I’ve learned from my experiences is that the jump isn’t as big as many people think; I know that I’m not far away from the standard required for the EU LCS.

The feeling I got from playing and winning on the EU LCS stage was amazing, even if it felt like I didn’t actually do that much in the series itself, it was both an inspiring and eye-opening experience.

Having spent the entirety of my career playing in the Spanish regional league up until that point, I imagined that the calibre of competition in the EU LCS would be a significant step up from the opponents I faced on a regular basis in the LVP Superliga Orange – it’s really not, the mechanical level of the players in the EU LCS is the same as those competing for the top teams in regional leagues.

Where things differ significantly is players’ macro understanding of the game. The way players play around the map in the LCS is on another level to the style of play you see in regional leagues.

Macro can be learned though. Provided that they have the right attitude and the ability to handle pressurized situations, I honestly believe that any player who reaches high challenger regularly and has some competitive experience under their belt has the potential to play in the LCS. The difficult part is just getting that chance to prove yourself.

Whatever happens in the future, I will always be grateful to G2 Esports for giving me the opportunity to play on the EU LCS stage.

I was made the substitute for G2’s EU LCS roster in the build-up to the LVP Superliga Orange Playoffs. Before the finals, Carlos and Mithy had travelled over to join the team and we were all going out to eat. There were a lot of us – managers, staff and players of different nationalities – all sat around a table. I found myself sat in the middle of the group, speaking three different languages at once.

Mithy told me later that he had a realisation while we (G2’s staff, managers and players) were all just sat there getting food. At one point he just turned to Ocelote and said: “this guy is doing really well in the Spanish league, he’s already a part of G2 and he could communicate with me in-game in three different languages, that’s three more than our Korean imports… why is he not our sub!?”.

Ocelote just looked at him and said: “Hey Mithy, you’re right!”, took his phone out, sent a few messages and that was it, I was the substitute for G2 Esports’ EU LCS roster.

At first, I thought it was just a meaningless title; for most teams in Europe, substitutes don’t actually do anything. To G2’s credit though, they really made an effort to integrate me into the team. Once I joined up with the roster, I actually saw some scrim time and was encouraged to offer my opinion during game reviews and analysis sessions.

Being a part of the team’s 2017 Spring Split Playoff Final victory in Hamburg was really special for me. I’m originally Spanish, but when I was very young, my parents moved to a town 40km outside of Hamburg; it felt like I was coming home for the biggest League of Legends event in Europe.

The whole experience was incredible, I wasn’t expecting to feel as emotional as I did. As I stood on the sidelines watching the guys take to the stage, I felt like a proud parent watching their kids leave home.

I know that in reality, I probably didn’t contribute that much to the team’s victory – Joey should probably take the credit for the team’s preparation – but I still felt immensely proud. Hamburg reaffirmed to me that I wanted more than anything to be on that stage myself, I wanted to reach those heights.

After I returned to G2 Vodafone, I thought that would be the end of my role as the substitute. The Superliga Orange starts and finishes later than the EU LCS, so I went back to Spain ready to focus on the remainder of the split.

During MSI 2017 however, I received a Skype message from Joey. It was weird, I’d played in front of a few thousand people before in Spain, but nothing in my career had made me as nervous or as excited as that one single Skype message:

“Holy shit, of course, I want to!” Playing in the EU LCS had been my ultimate goal and there it was, laid out in front of me.

We had just one week of preparation together and it was all a bit rushed to be honest, but nonetheless, we all gave it everything we had. To make things worse, Perkz got really sick  – to the point where his doctor wouldn’t let him travel back to Berlin to play – and we then had to find a substitute mid laner just one day before our match.

I felt quietly confident in myself though. I’d been playing well in scrims, even outplaying top laners that were considered to be amongst the best in the EU LCS. I felt so happy to win.

I learned so much from playing in the EU LCS, macro concepts in particular. I don’t claim to know every intricacy of LCS macro after spending just a week in that environment, but I’d seen how things should be done and I wanted to apply at least small parts of that to G2V.

It was really hard, I was trying to conduct everything on the rift but it was just too complicated to execute. I ended up knowingly adjusting myself downwards to the macro standards of the LVP; it was a sad realisation.

At the same time, I couldn’t allow it to demoralise me. I knew that, in honesty, my place in the competitive League of Legends scene was to be playing for a regional league team. What I needed was a change of atmosphere. I felt like I was stuck at G2, I’d been there for two and half years and whilst I’d enjoyed some success, I needed to move on; I wasn’t progressing anymore.

I saw the offer come in to join exceL Esports and compete in the UK Premiership. Everything about the offer felt good. Firstly, I lost nothing salary-wise but in addition to that, exceL had just invested in its own gaming house, had just announced a major sponsorship deal and was fully committed to becoming a dominant force in the UK scene.

There are a lot of critics who say that the UK league is considerably weaker than the Spanish league… and they’re right. The general skill level is lower, the scene isn’t as professional and there are a lot of teams with no infrastructure whatsoever.

But it’s for that reason that I’m proud to be a part of exceL Esports, this organization is doing a lot to improve the standard of the UK league, to the point where now, the two top teams in the UK can easily hold their own against the top teams from other European leagues.

It feels good to experience success again with exceL. When we first came together, we really weren’t a good team at all – players weren’t used to the gaming house and weren’t comfortable around one another – but by the time we reached our first LAN tournament, we were ready to step it up. We dominated the UK Masters and swept the final at Insomnia.

The EU Masters is what we’d really been focussed on, it was the tournament I wanted to play in from the moment I signed with exceL Esports.

I think we were a little unlucky with how it all panned out, but ultimately we didn’t show what we could do. We never played our natural game consistently – one day we were capable of beating the best regional teams in Europe, the next we were having trouble beating a team like Atlantis. Inconsistency was our major takeaway from the tournament, next time, we’ll show so much more.

If I’m being honest with myself – ‘has joining exceL Esports taken me a step closer to getting back to the EU LCS?’ – probably not. But then again, if G2 was ever going to promote me to the starting roster, they would have done it during the off-season, instead, they brought in Wunder. There wasn’t a chance for me there.

Who knows, maybe I can do the Alphari – from UK Premiership all the way to Worlds! I honestly don’t know what the path back to the LCS looks like for me now, all I can do is keep myself in contention.

Heading into the summer, everyone at exceL Esports is motivated to build upon our success this split. We want to win every LAN event we attend, win the UK Premiership and provide a good account of ourselves at the next EU Masters.

I know karma doesn’t exist, but at the very least, I’m a fan of the concept – I hope that if I keep working hard, eventually, I will get the chance to step onto that EU LCS stage once again.

Image Credit: Riot Games/G2 Esports/LVP Superliga Orange/Insomnia

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