No Substitute

A lot of people think I come off too confident for a rookie substitute. Well, that’s because, technically, I’m not a rookie nor am I your standard LCS substitute.

Before Fnatic, I played in both Turkey and Russia’s domestic leagues, something a lot of people forget because I had very limited success.

I played for Dark Passage in Turkey. It didn’t go very well, and subsequently, I only lasted a month before I was gone. I didn’t think I was the reason we lost games, but I also wasn’t contributing to wins effectively, either.

When the team decided to make a change, it made sense to me as much as it did to them. I definitely didn’t perform well enough to stay on the team.

I then played for TORNADO ROX in Russia’s LCL. I was put on a pretty high pedestal by my coach since I was top 10 in solo queue the entire time I was playing in Russia, and I even hit Rank 1 at one point.

I was always given the counter-pick during the draft phase; the responsibility to carry. We came within one game of making playoffs but fell short.

It was unfortunate, but I don’t regret the experience. It was really good for me to get on stage and to get that experience. Sure, I fed my ass off the first few games because I was inexperienced but the fact that I got to feed there meant I had already gotten that part of my career out of the way by the time I joined Fnatic.

As I understand it, sOAZ was the one to suggest that Fnatic get an in-house sub for top lane. His thinking was that it would be useful to have someone he could split scrim time with.

That way, he could spectate and get an idea of what was going wrong with a more objective perspective; he could listen to the in-game communication and help us solve problems with a broader perspective than any individual participating in the scrim.

This was something that Fnatic had been looking at for some time. From what I’ve been told, the idea had been floating around since before the 2017 World Championship.

At the very start of the 2017 Summer Split, I had a call with Fnatic’s coach, Dylan Falco. Dylan had only been with Fnatic for two days, so from my perspective, it felt like he had enough on his plate without worrying about signing me. His main focus at the time was on familiarizing himself with his roster and getting them to Worlds.

I randomly got signed around last November. I use the word “randomly” because there were two weeks of contact, then nothing for two weeks. So I figured “Alright, I’m probably not going to make it. They’re probably not interested.”

Two days later, my agent called me to tell me that Fnatic had sent a contract, that it was good and that I should take it. I couldn’t believe it.

By this point in my career, I had already developed a ton of respect for the Fnatic legends sOAZ and Rekkles.

Broxah also seemed like a very good player and also a very good role model for a young player to model oneself after. He’s grown a lot under the Fnatic organization, and seeing his career develop has been inspiring.

By then, I already knew that Hylissang was going to be a part of the team as well, and he’s always been a support I’ve enjoyed playing with.

There are plenty of great professional supports playing competitively in Europe, but when it came to playing the solo queue style, Hylissang was the only LCS Support who genuinely impressed me. He makes things happen, and that’s what I like in a player.

Caps is the same. He makes things happen and he’s very talented. But, if I’m being honest, at the time when I signed for Fnatic, I held a grudge against Caps… I hated that guy!

Back in the day, in solo queue, Caps would either run it down mid or hard carry the game. He essentially decided whether you were going to win or lose, and he was so good that he delivered every time. It was the worst feeling because you were so helpless, you either watched him lose the game on purpose or win the game in an unbelievable fashion!

Before my first day with Fnatic, I had no idea what any of the players on the roster thought of me. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even 100% sure they knew I was coming – funnily enough, it turned that some of them didn’t.

I was surprised when I met Caps in the Fnatic house. It was like interacting with a completely different being from the one I thought I knew online. He’s always communicating and try-harding in scrims and is such a hard-working teammate.

Fnatic invested a lot in me. All of the players and coaching staff invested a lot of time making sure I was comfortable from my very first day. When we went over draft compositions and what champions I could play, we moved smoothly from one situation to the next.

I had joined a team with some of the biggest names in Europe, but not once did I feel unwelcome or like I didn’t belong. I felt like I could absorb all of the information I needed to perform and it was very simple for me to integrate myself into the team.

My teammates made it easy for me to get up to speed quickly. sOAZ pushed me to play one game per scrim day. I would get three games per week, and then, of course, sOAZ would play all of the scrims on the day before our EU LCS matches to make sure he got the most practice.

So I played three games per week, and after the first week, Rekkles made it very clear that there was no point in playing me unless I was going to be given chances to play champions I was good at.

Rekkles has always told me that he doesn’t consider me to be a rookie and never has.

There was no point in putting me on Maokai or Shen, which at the time, were the core picks in the meta for Top Lane. sOAZ is strictly a better player than I am at those champions, Gnar too. But in the draft, I trusted I had a few special picks that I could play when the time was right.

From then on, it was just a matter of looking into which picks were popping off in the meta and practising them enough in solo queue to pull them out in scrims. For me, those scrims were my EU LCS best of ones. If I inted, I’d feel like shit, and if I won, I’d feel amazing.

I did my absolute best to be involved within the team when I wasn’t playing. Around Week 6 or 7 in the Spring Split, I was in full communication with my coaches, voicing my ideas for the team, watching every draft phase, every scrim, looking for any way I could help improve the team by putting my best foot forward.

There’s great value in having a quality player, who understands all aspects of the game at a competitive level, that can bring an objective perspective to team discussions without it coming from a direct authority figure.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Man, this guy’s really cocky”… and fair enough, I am.

I’ve always felt this way though. I always knew I was this good and that I could perform at this level, but it only happened because my team was so trusting and open to letting me in. They allowed me to be my own player and to play to my own strengths.

The recent changes in the meta have allowed us to become a bonafide six-man roster, and for me personally, it’s been really great these past few months.

I’ve been able to step up and become a real part of the team because of the confidence I have in my own ability. However, I appreciate that it requires a bold team to allow a substitute player to do that, and I’m so thankful that my teammates at Fnatic did.

They let me in and I feel like that has played the biggest part in my success.

I want to set a really good precedent for substitutes and the value they can bring to an LCS team; a substitute can bring so much if they’re given the opportunity to do so.

I was lucky enough that I never really felt like your standard LCS substitute. Fnatic has always made me feel like a fully-fledged member of this team.

Image Credit: Riot Games

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