The Kids Are Alright

Echo Fox decided to keep me, and only me, out of all ten of their players from the 2017 roster.  I think the ten-man roster was a big part of my development, they obviously saw something in me.

I graduated high school in 2016. Around the time I graduated, I was playing with a bunch of solo queue teammates of mine. Looking back at the roster we had, it was a pretty insane line-up; we were all future LCS players:

Licorice, Grig, Myself, Deftly, and Zeyzal.

We were the Cloud9 Challenger team for a few months. We started as the subs for the roster that would eventually become FlyQuest, but after they were promoted we became the main roster for Cloud9 Challenger for a few months before disbanding.

I feel like our careers really started after Licorice, Deftly, and Zeyzal were all signed by eUnited. Grig and I played in the open qualifier tournament for the Challenger Series.

Not only did we qualify, but we didn’t lose a single game. It was after we qualified that Echo Fox picked us up, and that is how Delta Fox was formed.

It was cool, because Zeyzal, Deftly, and Licorice all got picked up by eUnited, Grig and I made it too with Delta Fox. Though they’d left us, we managed to fight our way through; it felt good to reach the same goal that they did.

That spring, though Delta Fox wasn’t very successful, everyone learned a lot. It was Brandini, Grig, Shynon, Big, and myself on the roster. We ended up getting 5th place.

The split after, however, we were promoted to the main Echo Fox roster. The organization wanted to expand the LCS roster from five players to ten and the new Delta Fox was what would go on to be known as the Stream Meme Team.

I played alongside Froggen and I credit so much of my development to scrimming him every day that summer. It launched me from being just another challenger mid into something greater. After that split, I knew I had the capability to become a full-time LCS player.

Froggen is really well known for working with his jungler to make himself stronger, before utilizing their combined strength as a two-man unit to spread that advantage around the map.

At the time, it was Froggen and Akaadian playing through mid, destroying the enemy jungler, and snowballing the rest of the map off of their lead, and that’s how Echo Fox won games.

The most important thing I learned from him is how important the way you communicate with your teammates is to leveraging your individual advantage; your lead is only as good as what you can do with it to help your team.

A good player is able to have an individual advantage over their enemy, but they should also be able to pick up the slack if their teammates aren’t doing as well.

Echo Fox’s approach to scrims was definitely good for the players on the bench (like myself), but I’m not sure how beneficial it was for the main roster.

Sure, I can give Froggen a challenge, but he’s going to be pushed a lot more scrimming against the likes of Bjergsen and Jensen than he will be scrimming against his own academy player. So, while I think it was beneficial for me and the other players on the “bench” in the ten-man roster, I’m not sure how helpful it was for the starters.

I didn’t think about it too much at the time, I had enough on my plate. It was really difficult for me at the beginning because, honestly, I was just getting obliterated by Froggen.

That said, I think by the time I debuted in the middle of the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split, I think our individual skill levels were a lot more even. People rightfully thought it was peculiar though and, admittedly, Froggen was still the better player of the two of us.

I remember stepping on to the NA LCS stage for the first time and just being a nervous wreck. I had big shoes to fill and because of that, I put way too much pressure on myself.

This year, I was obviously a lot less nervous. Working with Huni and Dardoch before I went on stage played a big part in making me feel more comfortable.

Even though I’m on the main roster full-time, I still talk to the academy players every day. Honestly, it was really my team in a sense. In spring, I was the only returning Echo Fox member, and I was the only player on Echo Fox Academy with any NA LCS experience – the other players looked up to me.

Playing in academy matters. You can see that a lot of mid laners who played at the academy level last split, who had previous professional experience, returned to the LCS much stronger – myself, Keane, Mickey, and Goldenglue – all of us have started in NA LCS since and made a difference on our respective teams.

I really do think that every player has the potential to be the best player in the world, they just have to have the right combination of mindset and environment to achieve it.

The ten-man roster move was questioned by everyone when Echo Fox first announced it, but I don’t think I would have become the player I am now without that experience.

I think that for the ten-man roster to have properly functioned how the organization would have wanted though, things would have had to be different.

It never felt like ten players working together, it always felt like two different teams of five, with one team trying to take the jobs of the players on the other team. In my opinion, that’s not the correct approach for a ten man roster.

I think we are starting to see it already in the NA LCS, where academy players come up and start for a weekend if their team is struggling. That serves as great motivation for the starting roster, sure, but the culture needs to shift from “this guy is trying to take my job” to “this guy is my teammate and we’re all trying to win.”

I think that’s the culture that the academy system is helping to implement in North America.

I spent this past spring on Echo Fox Academy and I can safely say that the academy system is so much more effective for scouting and developing talent than the Challenger Series ever was.

At least, at Echo Fox, the mentality is starting to change. The five players in our academy aren’t looked at as training to take our jobs because we all practice together in the same office space, we have this great culture of all trying to improve together as one unit.

That shift in culture matters so much because we can all help each other to improve.

Image Credit: Riot Games

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