When I first signed for Counter Logic Gaming as a substitute, I was told multiple times that there was a zero percent chance that I would ever play; even in the worst case scenario, they’d just fly a challenger player back as a last resort.
Riot Games mandates that all NA LCS teams feature a substitute on their roster. Even though CLG already had a challenger squad, because the challenger team hadn’t qualified for the North American Challenger Series, the organization planned to fly them to Europe for a tournament.
There was only one problem with that – the rules dictate that if a player leaves the country to compete, they can’t be used as subs in the NA LCS.
I was friends with some of the CLG guys at the time, so they asked if I could be their sub – it wasn’t based on my ability at all, though I was pretty high Challenger at the time.
One night, I got a panicked call from CLG’s manager at 3 A.M. “Please tell me you’re up. We need to fly you out immediately.” I woke my parents up and left to get on a plane without any sleep.
I get to the team gaming house and Darshan walks by and gives me a look. He walked into the scrim room, where the rest of the guys were all gathered waiting to be told what was going on. “Stixxay’s not going to be able to play today, guys… This is who we’re playing with.”
They all looked at me and were like: “Who’s that?”
Looking back, I know that if I had gone into that LCS game prepared, I think things would have gone better. In the two matches I played, I wasn’t prepared at all. I wasn’t given the tools to succeed and I hadn’t slept.
Aphromoo hadn’t played AD Carry in years, so he didn’t talk that much because he had to focus on CSing. The next day, after Stixxay returned, I got to chill backstage and I could hear he was just 1v9ing with his comms and I couldn’t help but think, “Huh…maybe I should have just played AD.”
CLG re-signed me as their substitute for the next split, but our relationship didn’t really continue past that. They were good to me and let me go so I could get a better opportunity for myself before the contract deadline.
It was around the time that Riot was hosting Scouting Grounds. That became my goal, I took time off college to work towards it, I wanted to be in top form.
My friend, Hard messaged me and said: “Hey, Team Liquid Academy is doing tryouts for the support position. Even if you don’t want to join Team Liquid as a team, I think you should do it just to get some competitive experience and coaching ahead of Scouting Grounds. It’ll make you a better pick.”
Admittedly, I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of joining Team Liquid at the time. I was just using it as a stepping stone; a way to improve before Scouting Grounds – they weren’t held in very high regard at that time. It was probably one of the last organizations that I wanted to join.
It was tough to decide whether I should drop out of Scouting Grounds or not, especially since I had been training for the event all year. I expected to beast it at Scouting Grounds and get picked up by a team after being recognized as a great player, but I ended up passing on the opportunity.
It was a really stressful decision because Riot found out that a bunch of players were planning on dropping out of Scouting Grounds and they got really mad at us. They decided to impose a deadline on when teams could talk to us and we were basically left with one day to decide which team we wanted to join.
I’ve had a lot of retrospective talks with Riot about Scouting Grounds. I had a lot of complaints before the last Scouting Grounds because the main reason players dropped out was due to the free agent rule that Riot had imposed.
If you’re drafted by a team in Scouting Grounds, they have exclusive rights to you for 28 days. They don’t have to sign you though and that’s really fucking scary, especially when you have multiple offers before you go into Scouting Grounds. It’s very possible that you’ll end up with nothing.
I couldn’t take that risk.
It wasn’t the anime storyline I’d imagined, but it was the right move for my career to join Team Liquid Academy.
TLA is a very hard working team – we scrim more than any other team in the NA Academy League and the NA LCS and we beat LCS teams a lot during scrims. If relegations were still a thing, this roster would definitely relegate somebody.
Once Team Liquid had qualified for the 2018 NA LCS Spring Finals, Artress asked me if I wanted to come with the team to Miami as their substitute. I think I was chosen because I was the most interactive, and I have the most responsibility on Team Liquid Academy.
After arriving in Miami, I was told I was free to do whatever I wanted; I could go to the beach if I wanted to.
But I just sat there. I watched the scrims. I learned, and I observed what it was like to be a really good professional player; I had five insane role models on Team Liquid.
Every TL player is a legendary veteran in their own right and just by being a fly on the wall for their conversations, I almost feel like I’m a veteran just by listening to them. It’s helped me to improve so much as a player by being a part of Team Liquid throughout the Finals and, of course, the Mid-Season Invitational.
Throughout Finals and MSI, my main focus as a substitute was to try and absorb information from the Bot Lane and provide perspective for Doublelift and Olleh.
I tried to work with them as much as I could and offered a voice in team settings where Cain was asking for matchup input.
Still, ahead of the international tournament, I figured there was about a five percent chance that I played on stage at MSI…
I felt that I was in good form heading into the event and I remember thinking I could be pretty good with the main roster if I had more time to synergize with them.
We scrimmed twice against Fnatic, and Olleh wanted a break in the last scrim; he wanted to regroup his mental and take a step back. I played pretty well in his place got the better of Hylissang.
Later, we had a scrim set vs. RNG, where Olleh was playing Janna. It was a pretty rough scrim, so I was trying to give him some input on Janna since I’m known for my Janna play. I was trying to help him and he asked me to step outside and talk things through with him.
He told me he wasn’t feeling confident in his ability on the current meta champions. He said that because of my proficiency with Janna and Soraka, it would be better if I played on stage in his place.
I was like, “Whoa whoa whoa what!? No, I think you should just try again.” But he insisted that it would be useful and that he would benefit from taking a step back.
Olleh and I talked with the team about bringing me in for the third game of the group stage because I was individually superior on Janna and Soraka. I had 1v9’d a scrim the night before against RNG playing Janna. Things went badly in the draft phase though and I ended up playing Braum – I knew things weren’t going to go well. I hard-inted.
Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have played Braum on stage. I didn’t feel that I was outclassed by the level of competition at MSI, as cocky as that sounds. I really feel that if I was on a champion that I was comfortable on, I (and the team) could’ve performed much better.
That’s on me for not voicing my opinion at the time.
My competitive experiences with both CLG and TL have helped me to grow and shaped me into who I am today.
It’s rare that you get to test your dream before you actually live it, but I got to do just that with CLG. I got to see what it was like to live in a gaming house; to practice with a team; to interact with fans – all that stuff. That really motivated me to set my sights on going pro.
The MSI experience with TL helped me realize that I’m a much better player than I thought I was and now I need to prove that.
I know I performed poorly on stage, but that’s not who I am as a player. I know that given the right conditions, I can be a support who can perform on an international level for North America.
Image Credit: Riot Games