Barney "Alphari" Morris is inseparable from European League of Legends. Origen's top lane veteran has been through highs and lows with the teams he has played for and always bouncing back, determined to improve. And improved he has. Alphari counts as one of the best Top Laners Europe has to offer. We spoke to Alphari about the changes the top lane meta is subject to, the impact he has on Origen, and which other Top Laners he considers to be among the greats of the LEC.
I want to talk to you about your role as a Top Laner. It's a role that has gone up and down when it comes to its relevance to the game. What's your perspective on this?
Since turret platings got added the role has been more impactful. It's always been quite an easy lane to gank and snowball, but now you get more from it. That has kept progressing the past year and a half. It has made the top 2v2, between Top Laners and Junglers, more important than it was before. That's why you see dominant Top Laners right now like TheShy, Khan, and Nuguri. Their playstyle works really well now, compared to 2017 where there were many tanks et cetera. Back then the meta was really all about the bot lane. Bot lane is still really important of course.
Since the playstyle of players like TheShy and Nuguri has become more effective since those changes to the top lane, have you made any changes to your playstyle?
No, I don't think I have. It's just important to play more in a 2v2 with your Jungler. Before, you could sit back and play a tank in a 1v2 if you needed to. You'd fall behind in CS, but it wasn't a huge deal. Now that's really hard to do in a lot of matchups. You have to have good synergy with your Jungler.
"I'm definitely one of the best at laning in the LEC, but there certainly are other good Top Laners in Europe."
The top lane has seen many metas, and in this Spring Split we saw some champions that are traditionally played as support characters make it to the top lane. How did that affect your play?
Oh man, that was really annoying. I hated that. I hated seeing them come out of nowhere. These champions were very easy to play mechanically. It just meant that you have to be playing in a very team-oriented way. It was really busted. For me, it was really unfun. It annoyed me that, for the first time since I started playing the game, you'd be happy to pick a champion that automatically loses the matchup. You have no pressure in the lane, but then you'd just scale. Even if you were behind a whole item, you'd be more useful to your team than their top to their team.
I don't mind playing support champions or any other style. Top has always been a very flexible role. There are ranged champions, bruisers, casters... any champion can be played in the top lane at some point. But I just didn't like that it didn't matter how much gold or XP you had. The lane phase always mattered until then. It's a very important part of the game. This was the first time I felt like the laning phase was irrelevant. All that mattered was the champion you picked. I'm glad Riot nerfed it.
A while ago I spoke to Drakos, and he shared some interesting data which implied that Origen's top lane game is very strong in the laning phase. What do you attribute this to? Do you feel like a dominant Top Laner?
I'm not sure whether I have a dominant presence. I'm definitely one of the best at laning in the LEC, but there are certainly other good Top Laners in Europe. I think it has more to do with the way we play, and how we played early in the Split as well. We were pathing towards top a lot. It was also because of the meta—as I said earlier, many matchups were hard to play without pressure from your Jungler.
Overall, you've been receiving praise for the role you have within the team. Do you see yourself as one of the more impactful players on Origen?
I think it depends on the champion I'm playing. If I'm playing Gangplank it's just really easy for me to have a large impact on the game. I'm very comfortable with playing the champion in the early game and once you're out of the early game, it's very easy for your team to win team fights. Aatrox is another impactful champion. He has a lot of playmaking during the laning phase. He can completely take over if he gets ahead.
I don't think I'd say that I'm any more impactful than my teammates, though. Everyone has champions they can take over games with. For us, it mostly depends on how the draft goes and how we have to play the game as a result of it.
You acknowledged your own laning skills, but you also spoke of other good Top Laners in the LEC. What names are you thinking of?
That would easily be Bwipo and Wunder. In general, I feel like it's hard to learn a lot from other Top Laners in Europe. Individually, they don't have anything that stands out. But it's different with Bwipo and Wunder. They do some things really well, and can pull out strange champions to play. They also work really well with their Junglers—Jankos and Wunder are hard to play against. Bwipo and Wunder are a challenge for me to play against. They make me want to learn more and think about champions differently. I think neither of us three is a perfect Top Laner. We all have different things going for us.
What are the strengths and weaknesses you see in Bwipo and Wunder, then?
Bwipo is very creative and has a unique champion pool. I think it's a good and a bad thing. I think some of his picks are terrible, like the Swain he played against us in the first week. But other times he makes great, creative picks. I have an idea for what I think Wunder is good and bad at, but I don't want to go too in-depth about that. I don't want to give away the strategies and stuff like that.
As you're heading into the LEC Spring Split Playoffs, is there anything you'd like to say to those who have been cheering for you?
Of course: thanks for continuing to support us. Also thanks to our sponsors. Hopefully, we will do well in Playoffs this weekend and win the Split. That's the goal!
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.