Nihat "Innaxe" Aliev is the newest addition to Schalke 04, joining in as Bot Laner, substituting the highly anticipated and biggest let down of the season Konstantinos-Napoleon "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou. Restructured, the team finds itself slowly moving up the ladder of the championship. On the fifth week of the League of Legends European Championship, the player shared his expectations for the remainder of the split and doubling down on team duty.
I have a feeling that right now, you have probably heard this question so many times, but you have had such high expectations placed on you to fill in FORG1VEN’s shoes. How has it been for you to start in the LEC?
Coming in was pretty hard, not in terms of filling in any shoes, but not knowing what people were thinking about me, what role I needed to fill, or what level the team was on. Even before I came in the team, I knew the atmosphere had to be fixed as soon as possible, because everyone was down due to the 0-6. There had been a lot of clashes and disagreements. I think everyone tried to use the “honeymoon phase” you get when you swap a player to kind of bond with the team, get a common goal and fix the atmosphere issues we have, then focus on the important things, which is to get better at the game and be a good team.
What are some of the pressures you have faced when knowing your role was so strategic for Schalke?
I don’t really feel that much pressure when I come on stage, I don’t really like wake up thinking “Oh, man, I need to fill in these big shoes”, I just don’t care about these things because at the end of the day, the narrative, the comments and the past don’t really matter as long as all I am focusing on is doing all I can to get our team to win, and for me to become a better player.
Obviously it matters for the fans and for the casters, but I don’t focus too much on it. When I have opportunities to show what kind of person I am, like in interviews, obviously, or anything that will get fans to see who I am and relate with me, I will do it, but I don’t really feel any pressure to fill in anyone’s shoes. Maybe it’s because I am in a team that no one is expecting to win, but I can expect the real pressure when we actually reach playoffs and we get to the point of “If we win we make playoffs, if we lose we don’t”. Right now I am just playing the game and trying to be good.
“I win games and I blow up nexuses. That’s my job.”
What have you brought into the team that Forg1ven was not able to bring?
I don’t really know yet. I watched a few of the main team’s games since we are in the same office, but I couldn’t tell exactly what he was doing that much, so I can only paraphrase what others have said. What I see in myself that I didn’t see in Konstantinos was to be open to criticism and to criticize others in a non-emotional way. I am able to admit I was wrong and acknowledge what I have to do the next time, and see things in a way that is five people and the coach versus the problem, rather than me versus everyone else as the problem. I am just really focusing on Schalke being a better team and if I have to sacrifice something I am really fine with doing this.
You have been playing both on FC Schalke 04 Evolution and now on Schalke’s LEC team. How has your workload been like?
For about two weeks, this is what my day was like: I would wake up about 10-ish, shower, bla bla bla, have an LEC meeting at 11:45, then I would play one solo queue game and play your LEC scrims at 13:00, which is five games, and roughly five hours with no break. Then it would finish it up around 18:00, and around 19:00 I would have three more games with Academy, plus the meetings, reviews, and around 21:00 to 22:00 I would be done with my day. Then I would watch VODs and play some solo queue. I was having a 12-14 hour work day, which is kind of normal for me.
If I wouldn’t be doing scrims, I would be playing solo queue and watching VODs anyway. It doesn’t affect me that much, I am really happy that I can play double. If I could keep doing it, I would.
Do you think that’s sustainable or do you fear burnout?
There might be an issue with burnout, but at the same time, it’s really not as tiring. Solo queue is almost as tiring as scrims, but because you have these reviews and breaks where you are not actually playing the game, it’s less demanding than solo queue, because I was playing non-stop in a sense. For me it’s really fine. Both teams have different vibes. The main team has their own priority and the Academy has theirs. I also play with a different support, so I think it helps me get better really fast.
This is a very unique situation. You don’t see a lot of LEC players with this specific background, that are doubling down on teams. What do you bring from this experience that puts you at an advantage to most players in the league?
The amount of games is a big plus, and the different perspectives really help. I just get more practice, different opinions, different views. When you play in two different teams, you play with two different supports, two different coaches and two different teams completely, there are different shoes you have to fill. The general thing that happens is when I play LEC scrims, there’s a lot of stuff that we do right, and in Academy, there are things we are missing, and I can notice them way easier and point them out. I know what to put to use in Academy and in the LEC.
If I play badly in the LEC, I can learn from it. If I get stomped in lane, in a situation I think I should win, then rewatch the VOD, I can use what I learned in Academy. They are both different leagues, in terms of meta, play style, and player level too. These different nuances help me learn what to do in every situation, almost.
Your team is performing super well in the Prime League Pro Division, you have a 90% win rate.
Yeah, we are 9-1.
In the LEC, it’s not quite the same situation. Where do you see the Academy team succeed when the LEC team has struggled?
The main reason is that the level of competition in the LEC is way higher than the ERLs, still, I think the Prime League is for sure the second best league out there. There are about four or five good teams, that could barely make it to bottom-tier LEC. Actually winning so many games shows that our Academy team is playing well and we are really really f*cking good. Our players are good and our mid-jungle, especially with Lurox, had really good synergy. Now that we have Gillius and this whole sub situation is going, with the new AD Carry we have coming to Academy, that I cannot confirm who it is yet, I can just focus on LEC, and play the Academy official games because the other AD can’t yet. Then I can play more solo queue.
Thinking about fitting in even more work huh?
Not really *laughs*
Well, I have to do something that other players don’t, otherwise you’re just going to be at the same level, you know?
And what can the fans expect from you at the LEC?
I am very creative when it comes to the game, I’m not playing the standard unless I have to. Expect wins, I win games and I blow up nexuses. That’s my job.