One More Time

Martin Kordmaa

As a competitor and as an LCS player who has been through two tough splits in a row, I would never want anyone else to share the experience I’ve had.

My time with Giants Gaming and Ninjas in Pyjamas was probably the most stressful period in my life, I’ve had to gradually build up some resilience before reaching the stage I’m at right now.

I remember how I felt before going pro. I was about 16 or 17, I was Rank 20 on the ladder and I had played in amateur teams and met lots of players. Yet in spite of all that, I failed the Challenger series qualifier three times. It was always pretty close, but I never quite made it.

After I failed the qualifier for the third time, I played in the Turkish Challenger Series with the team that would become Fenerbahce and got promoted to the Turkish Champions League. Soon afterwards, Memento approached me to tell me that I could try out for Giants Gaming after Upset left randomly. It was really nerve-wracking because it was such a big opportunity; getting into the EU LCS had always seemed like an unachievable dream.

When I became a pro for Giants, I was so damn excited! I was playing against all these names – Zven, Rekkles – but I didn’t have the self-confidence to play well against them. I respected them probably too much, and I felt like no matter how hard I practised or studied, they would always have more knowledge or more experience than me.

I accept that I had a bad mindset at Giants, especially in the first five or six weeks. I know that our team consisted of mostly rookies and that we didn’t have a clear leader, but I played within myself; I played not to lose.

Before each game, I would tell myself: “How do I not make any mistakes? I don’t want to die, I don’t want to look bad.” I played really scared, like the complete rookie I was.

I didn’t have the inner confidence in myself or my team to play well. I don’t think I relegated the team, but I certainly played a part in it. Though it was difficult to come to terms with failure, I learned a lot about myself.

I didn’t really expect to get another LCS opportunity the following split because I didn’t feel that I had played that well, but in came the Ninjas in Pyjamas offer.

I thought to myself: “Alright! I have so much experience now. Things are going to be different.” I had new teammates: two Koreans in Nagne and Profit, two big names in the Korean esports; Promisq, who I knew was great before we started scrimming; and Shook, who always looked good in the past.

“This is my split. I can prove myself again,” and my coach, NicoThePico, thought the same.

As soon as the split was underway, however, I felt myself going into a downward spiral again. I still had the same issues I had with Giants: confidence and stage performance problems, not trusting myself, and not trusting my instincts.

It was bearable during the regular season, but against Schalke 04 Esports in the Promotion qualifier, all the negative parts of my play came to the foreground. We lost 3-0, NiP was relegated, and I thought my career was over.

I was the only player in Europe to get relegated twice in the same year, and that was tough to realize. I really doubted I would get another LCS offer after that. I started putting plans in place to go back to school.

During the off-season, Flyy – ROCCAT’s team manager – randomly called me and said: “What do you think about joining ROCCAT?”.

In truth, I wasn’t even that happy. How could this happen? Why did I get another chance to play in the LCS after having the most horrible year out of any new player? At the same time, and I know that it’s a cliché to say, but it almost felt like my destiny – to do this one more time. I knew if I didn’t accept ROCCAT’s offer, I would probably regret it in the future.

This is my last time. If I play well, and if I’m satisfied with my individual play, I’ll keep going. If I’m not, I’ll consider quitting altogether. If I’m giving it my all and I still can’t perform on the rift, then there really is no point in playing any longer.

When it comes to how the community sees me, I feel that almost everyone thought I was garbage, I know a lot of people still think so to this day. When League of Legends is basically all you have in life, that can be tough to take.

When ROCCAT announced the lineup for 2018, I saw a string of Reddit comments asking “how does HeaQ get into these teams? How does he have so many contacts?”

What people don’t know is that behind the scenes at Giants Gaming and in Ninjas in Pyjamas, I was both hardworking and disciplined; I’ve always had the right mindset for team improvement, I’ve never caused issues and I’ve never been toxic. Before ROCCAT picked me up, they spoke to some of my previous coaches and teammates, and fortunately, they got that insight on me.

The community really likes to hop on the hate train, but at the same time, I can’t really blame them. The LCS is all that matters, that’s what everybody sees, they don’t see anything that happens behind the scenes. I think I just need to prove them all wrong, just keep improving and get to the level I want to be performing at; I guess that’s when they’ll change their minds.

It isn’t as if I let social media affect me, it’s just that whenever I think I play well, there’s no comment, but whenever I make the slightest mistake, there’s so much flaming. I have experience dealing with abuse, but everyone has their limit. I had a Twitter DM when we lost against Schalke 04 Esports with Boris as a substitute, where this one guy told me to kill myself – it’s ridiculous.

Nowadays, I feel that my mental resilience is really strong, but there are still times when I get down, mostly when I play poorly individually or I let my team down. I was in my room alone for the entire day after the Vitality game; I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was re-watching the game, seeing what I could do better.

What worries me most is that: if I don’t play to the level I want to play at each and every game in the LCS, I feel that my teammates may begin to distrust me or lose hope in me.

That’s why the win against Misfits was so great for my mental health, especially after the losses against Vitality and Fnatic, where I was 0-6, inting out of my mind. The losses had started to weigh on my mind and I was starting to lose faith in myself.

Against Misfits, I tried to get into the zone and focus on what I needed to do in-game. I played well, I didn’t make mistakes and I also helped the team a lot in terms of communication. Even though it might not have done much to change the community’s perception of me, it felt good to have an almost perfect game against them.

The victory was a huge step for me. Hopefully, it gives me the boost to believe in myself again and have the confidence I need to have as an LCS competitor.

Image Credit: Riot Games

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