Paul "sOAZ" Boyer has been playing League of Legends professionally for nearly a decade, but that hasn't stopped him from taking on new challenges. The legendary French top laner has left the nest of the League of Legends European Championship for the first time in his career to join Immortals for the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split.
On LCS Opening Day, sOAZ sat down with Inven Global's Nick Geracie to talk about the formation of the 2020 Immortals squad, not playing in Europe for the first time, and what he learned from his time on Misfits last season.
I'm joined by Immortals Top Laner sOAZ after your first game in the LCS. Was playing on the LCS stage any different than other stages you've played on before?
Playing on the LCS stage isn't necessarily what makes it a new experience. Mostly, it's going somewhere else than Germany and thinking that I'll be playing there for one or two years. This is a new experience for me, but playing on stage here is very much the same as other stages.
The community didn't seem to really think much of you playing in a different region this season because of how often you've competed internationally throughout your career, but being localized in a different country for the entire year is different from international competition. What are some of the new challenges in residing in a new region and calling that your home for the season?
I got here only four days ago, so like many other teams, we didn't have much time to practice due to visa issues and what not. I'm usually fine with jetlag, so I didn't have many issues with that. Overall, it's been good so far; the main difference is the type of weather. You wake up in the morning and it's sunny and bright.
In Berlin, it's not as fun to be outside most of the time; it's usually really cold. I haven't seen much outside here yet, and when I was traveling to Los Angeles or Las Vegas earlier in my career for — or anywhere, frankly — we hardly ever have time to 'visit'.
You don't have time to see the sights when you're in your scrim room the entire time.
Yeah, exactly. It's apartment to office, then office to apartment. Sometimes we go out to eat; that's the main thing we get to experience in terms of being in a new place. We can try different types of food, and through that, become more familiar with a different culture.
You haven't even been here for a full week, so have you had any time outside of practice to see LA?
The first day I was here, the team took me around to understand the fundamentals of living here — laundry etc. I got here four days ago, and Eika got here three days ago, so the night he got here, we all went out to eat together, but that's pretty much it. I'm not planning on going out too much, at least for now. I want to be really good as a team, and then, eventually, I will think about experiencing LA a bit more. Right now, I just want to be successful.
The team has only been together a few days, but did you know any of these players previously from playing in Europe or competing at international events?
I knew all of the players on the roster by name. I had met them all briefly before, but I hadn't really gotten the chance to know them. I spoke a little bit with Eika and Xmithie before in the past, but that's all. Everyone is really nice, I just think we need to play together for a bit more time and figure out things in-game. Only time will tell.
All five of Immortals' starters have a lot of experience. Even though you lost in your first match today, was the team able to take it more in stride due to the experience of the roster, especially since the team has had little to no time to gel before the start of the split?
The frustrating part is that we know we didn't have much time to practice before this, but people outside of the situation either don't know that or they don't really think about it. Even if you tell yourself not to expect too much due to having only a few days of practice, you still don't want to lose, right? It still sucks badly. I wish I had more time to practice with the team beforehand, and I wish that we could have shown a better performance on our first day.
Competitive League of Legends is starting up again all around the world, and people are excited to watch all of their favorite teams again, so it kind of sucks to have a bad team performance on the first day.
You joined Immortals after a down year as part of the Misfits superteam in the LEC last season. Since Misfits fell short of expectations, was there anything specific you were looking for in the off-season in terms of an organization?
Like any other player, I always go for the best opportunity in term of team and contract. There's never one offer that I subjectively value over the others. This off-season, more than half of the LEC teams wanted to acquire rookies and newer players, so there weren't very many good options for me, both in terms of teams and contracts. Thus, I went for the best option, which was Immortals.
I'd rather be on an LCS playoff team than a 9th or 10th place team in the LEC. I have a better chance to qualify for the World Championship, even if it's the 2nd or 3rd seed, from North America. Every player will always tell you that they want to win Worlds; that's the goal of every player in the end. However, when I think step by step, the first thing I think about is making playoffs. There wasn't a chance for me to do that in Europe, so I came to North America.
There are three teams in the LEC that feature almost entirely rebuilt rosters with young talent.
Yes, there are a lot of new faces.
From your perspective as a veteran, do you think this is a sensible approach for organizations? Is there enough young, undeveloped European talent to where we can see these teams succeed?
I think it's a mixture of both. There are some newer players that should have the chance to eventually make it to the LEC, but I also think organizations wanted to pay a lot less. It's less risky if the team doesn't work out if it costs very little for new players.
What I took from this off-season is that organizations don't really care about the difference between 6th place and 8th place. Organizations don't care about gaining a few extra places in the standings by getting slightly better players, they want to make profits within 1-3 years.
So you think it's more of a budgetary decision?
It's a bit of both. Some of those players deserve these opportunities. Overall, I don't have enough knowledge of the European Masters scene to say who and who doesn't deserve LEC starting spots, specifically. I believe that I'm better than at least some of those players, though.
Your last team, Misfits, had five veterans on its starting roster, which is also true of the current Immortals roster. Is there anything you were able to learn last year on MSF individually or as a team that you think can be used to benefit IMT in 2020?
I learned a lot, mostly about myself. Game-wise, you always learn stuff throughout a season, but because it wasn't such a good year for us, we didn't learn much as a whole. Because of this, I mostly worked on trying to improve myself both inside and outside of the game. Before joining Misfits, I played a very specific style within Fnatic for two straight years. My time in Misfits was me trying to break out of the Fnatic playstyle so I could improve all-around. That's been my focus since last year.
You're no stranger to polarizing opinions of players from the community, and you've defied expectations time and time again. It was hard to evaluate individuals in Misfits last year due to the myriad of variables that led to a disappointing season, so from your perspective, what should we expect from sOAZ in 2020?
As long as we are decent as a team, I think I will be one of the best top laners. I might a few more days, but I really feel like I'm up there. I'm already confident in my play, we just need to mesh together as a team. It works both ways — individuals make the team better, and a good team makes the individual players better as well. I'm satisfied; I know I can do so much better; but I do feel like I'm up there among the best right now, so I'll be working on doing better with my team overall.
Thank you so much for the interview, sOAZ. You have plenty of North American fans due to your countless international appearances, but now your fans can see you play here all season long! Is there anything you want to say to your NA fans?
There is a stigma around imports coming to North America. I've been a player since the beginning of the competitive scene, and my reason for playing the game was not money. *laughs* It still isn't about money now, NA simply provided me with the best offer I could take in the off-season. I'm going to try my best after a bad year on Misfits last year, and I don't want to repeat that because that would look really bad on me. I'm going to try my best to make Immortals a good team.