When I started out in the NA LCS, I joined the last placed team, Renegades. I got thrown into the mix.
I had just broken into Challenger for the very first time – I had only played one match in Challenger before my first on-stage appearance – so I didn’t really have the build-up that most players have before their career starts.
Admittedly, we struggled a lot. We lost most of our games before we swapped out our solo laners, though once Seraph and Ninja joined, we turned things around for the remainder of the 2016 NA LCS Spring Split.
After Renegades was stripped of their NA LCS spot, EnVyUs picked us up and Freeze returned to Europe to play for H2K. I had a new Bot Lane partner in LOD, and we had a pretty strong summer together.
People in the LCS started to think of us as a pretty good duo since we would generally win lane and snowball that advantage to the rest of the map.
Unfortunately, Team NV’s problem was when it came to closing out games. We would get 10-15k gold leads and not know what to do with it. Our team was pretty poor when it came to macro play and the atmosphere was bad for practice.
It was at that point when teams started spending a lot more time investing in psychologists and support staff and started building dedicated offices. We didn’t have any of that.
At the time on Team NV, we had a Korean coach, and a rift formed between the Korean players and the NA players on the roster. As a result, LOD did not want to play with the team anymore after 2016, so we swapped AD carries with Team Dignitas and picked up Apollo.
Initially, we struggled as a duo because I wasn’t used to Apollo’s play style. Coming from DIG, Apollo’s style was more focused on being a role player. He would farm up and be valuable in team fights, so I had to adapt and adjust my style to suit his.
I could still play aggressively, but I had to make sure I was staying at Apollo’s pace. I didn’t want to put him in a situation where I made him take a fight that he didn’t want to and finding our rhythm in that way took some time.
Playing alongside Apollo, I finally started to develop my own style at the professional level; hook and skillshot champions have always been something that I like to play, mainly because I used to play on the East Coast.
When I first started playing League of Legends, the ping on the East Coast was about 120, so if you wanted to hit your skillshots, you had to predict a lot. That’s why I think I’m pretty accurate with my skillshots – I had to hit them for two years at 120 ping!
The high ping helped, in a way, because it forced me to get really good at predicting where people were going to go.
Skillshot is a misleading term because I think they’re more dependent on mind games than skill. You have to expect where they will dodge to and lead them into thinking it’s their idea.
Madlife was really good at this; he would just flash and throw the hook where he thought they were going to flash. More often than not, he would be right.
Even with the lower ping on LAN, players still have the same tendencies and I can predict their movements. I just gave Apollo the free lane to farm and pressure by myself if I had a good laning matchup, and then he would carry the team fights in the late game.
It often worked out because people didn’t know how to punish. They were afraid of trading with me because of how aggressive I was. If I could counter-pick, I would generally win the lane and, if you tried to trade with me, I would fight you to the death.
People didn’t really know what our weakness was at that time, and Apollo and I got away with a lot that we shouldn’t have. Even now, sometimes we’ll waste a summoner spell level 1, but we get away with mistakes like that because of the way we play the lane together.
I define myself as an aggressive, playmaking support. I like playing whatever can engage, and generally, you have to get ahead early on those champions if you want to have an impact. So I force a lot of fights early and try to capitalize on levels 2-3, then use that lead to help the rest of my team.
I think Apollo has become more aggressive as a result of the way I play. I always want to go up in the lane and pressure, whereas other teams in the NA LCS are content with farming.
Team SoloMid, for example, always just play super safe and never apply any pressure when they lane against us. I think we get away with throwing people off in lane and then winning teamfights due to the comfort of our advantage.
I think the main thing I’ve worked on in Clutch Gaming is to give my playstyle more dimension. Apollo and I are always trying to talk more about how we can become more aggressive as a duo and utilize our advantage to pressure the enemy jungler. If we see the enemy jungler show top for some reason, we’re going to fight, because we know we can win.
I feel like I proved that I deserve my spot in the NA LCS in the 2018 NA LCS Spring Quarterfinals match against TSM. Apollo and I played super well, and that was our match to show that we were a top team.
Apollo and I have been playing together for almost two years now, so we’re familiar with each other and we know what we want to do in any situation. I’d say we’re at least a top 3 roster in the region and, for the first time, we have a ton of infrastructure and support from our organization.
We have a great organization backing us, so I think, as long as the franchised organizations continue to prioritize helping players like Apollo and myself to grow, the NA LCS will reach new heights internationally.
Image Credit: Riot Games