The "NA Deft and Mata" duo were reunited this Spring after spending a couple years apart. Matthew "Deftly" Chen started his LCS career a couple years ago with Matthew "Matt" Elento as his first LCS support. Since then, each has bounced around a couple times, with Deftly most recently playing a couple games for Cloud9 at Worlds.
We spoke with the duo earlier on this season about their reunion, as well as thoughts on their past growth, future goals, and how they'll spend their time on Academy. They've since played through the rest of the split and reached the Playoff Finals after defeating the early season league favorites, Dignitas Academy, in the Semis.
When did you find out you'd be reunited and how has it been resynergizing since then?
Matt: Well during the off-season, I was kind of looking forward to any sort of options I could get for LCS, but it seems like I couldn't really get anywhere past a plan B or C, but I did have a bunch of Academy stuff I was looking through. And for EG, I thought it was kinda cool cus in my career, this was the first time I was a free agent. And having people reach out and say, "We really want you, we want you on our team." That sort of attitude boosted me in wanting to come to Evil Geniuses. They really wanted me here to play for their Academy team. That kind of pulled me over here and I learned I'd be with Deftly, and he's coming off the C9 Worlds, so I was really excited cus it seemed like he'd be able to bring a lot of knowledge of top tier play, and I'd been in Academy for the whole year. So I was actually really ready to up my level back up to that competitiveness.
Deftly: For me, I had a really turbulent off-season I guess. At first, I was told I'd be starting LCS for two or three different teams. And I thought, "Okay, that sounds great to me." And then last minute, it turns out those spots were taken and I actually had to play Academy. But even then, that's fine with me. I felt like over the past half of the 2019 Summer Season when I got moved to Cloud9, I improved a lot as a player and as a person on top of that. When I first started playing with Matt, that really was the beginning of my career, and I had no clue how to play the game, I had no clue how to be an ADC. And from being on C9 and going to Worlds with them and even getting to play scrims and play on stage, I feel like I just learned so much so I was really excited to show him the progress I made over the past year and a half.
Yeah! So what is the actual progress? Give us the scoop.
Matt: Well it's pretty natural as any player to grow a lot in several years, so it's cool that I was able to see how Deftly was able to develop as a rookie on day one till years later after moving a few teams. It's a really cool experience. And for me personally, I'm kind of a veteran in terms of years. You know I've been around for 5 or so years. I've seen a lot of players rise, I've seen a lot of players fall. It's always a really cool experience to work with someone who's been on the climb. It's really a special thing.
Deflty, what is the biggest thing you got out of Worlds this year?
In the past it felt like I was in tenth place in the LCS, like how could I even compete in the LCS. But getting to scrim against the Worlds teams, the Worlds bot lanes. It's just like, "Wow. It's definitely feasible, it's not out of my reach." It's not that they're just better than me. So getting to see that and experience that whole Worlds gives me a whole different drive on wanting to get that far. Get past playoffs, make it to Worlds, and do well there.
So what's the timeline for you guys as far as getting to LCS. I figure that's the goal, but what are you doing now to ensure that it happens and that you're actually ready to make it to playoffs and international tournaments.
Deftly: For me, I try not to think too much about the wins or losses in Academy, but how I'm bettering myself and my team as individual players. I don't think Academy score really matters, you can be first in Academy and not get picked up by a team, so I think it's really important that all the players in Academy try to develop themselves rather purely think about wins and losses. Of course winning is nice, but I think having a growth mindset is really important.
Matt: Yeah I agree with that. I mean Sun "Cody" "Cody Sun" Li-Yu is just an example. He went 3-15 in one of his Academy splits and the next split he got picked up. So, I'm not saying he played bad or good in that split. It's just a fact. From 3-15 to then he is starting LCS. So I'm also not focused on whether we're going to win today or lose today, but if I'm going to be better than I was yesterday.
And yeah, doing that through play with my team and also studying on my own. I do a lot of ProView watching, and watching other regions. I think as a pro, you just have to learn a good sense of how the game flows and put yourself in a situation where you can do the most for your team and have a really strong identity as a role. Especially as support, you just have to understand your role on a team. And yeah, as the year goes on I'll be looking to improve myself to be at the level of having a strong sense of identity.
How's it been with EG specifically? I know there were multiple visa issues earlier in the split. How did that affect what you were trying to do for your growth?
Deftly: The visa stuff for the first week kinda sucked because we were practicing with Andy "AnDa" Hoang and Aidan "5fire" Reckamp, but we had to play on stage with Colin "Kumo" Zhao mid and Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen. So that kinda sucked. They're good players but Kumo was like autofilled mid Ornn vs Zoe, so it wasn't a good time for him. And then the second game, Brandon "Brandini" Chen had to play mid. So it was a bit of a fiesta, but I'm glad that we caught our bearings and continued to improve as a team.
Historically, Academy has been a place meant for new, younger talent, but there are a ton of veterans in Academy this year. Like Dignitas Academy is just five LCS players. You both obviously are as well. What are your thoughts on that?
Matt: So yeah DIG is the first roster with all veterans and it's obviously showing that they have a lot of LCS talent left. But it seems natural with the way that the league is set up, having no minor league for players that can play on an LCS team but let's say had a falling out with their team, didn't get picked up. There was a lot of drama a couple years ago with Kim "Fenix" Jae-hun, Adrian "Adrian" Ma, Johnny "Altec" Ru not getting picked up, and just cus you're not starting in an LCS roster meaning you have no place to go seems kind of off to me. So Academy seems like the natural place for people to go if they don't have an LCS team. But they shouldn't just retire, that doesn't make any sense. After one year of playing pro and then to just retire doesn't make any sense at all to me. So I do agree that Academy needs to have newer, fresh faces, but it also needs to be a place for people who have an unfortunate off-season.
Deftly: I think in esports it's funny because people are so quick to write off a player, but just because they had one bad split or one bad year, that doesn't really define a whole players career. There are many top players now who have been tenth place, or have looked really bad, and they developed throughout the years. So I think it's just weird how a lot of fans, after seeing a player play for one year, they say, "Oh this guy shouldn't even be a pro player."
Matt: I would hard agree with the example of Yiliang "Peter" "Doublelift" Peng. Doublelift's a player who had a huge meme that he never won anything. He had that subreddit called "Doublelift's Trophy Case" that was always empty. And also he had times in relegation too, if he had lost, he would've gotten CLG relegated. But he is now at worst top two in NA, but most would say he is the best player in NA. [Note: This interview was conducted before Doublelift's benching this split.]
Does it feel different playing Academy this year compared to last year?
Matt: If you're talking about overall changes, it's definitely different because we have an interesting schedule with the Monday games. Aside from the day to day, maybe the competition has changed where I think last year I didn't have anyone that I thought, "Well I'm scared to play against these guys, it feels really unwinnable." But this year, yeah when I play against DIG, they do have a sort of elevated level of competition where I'm not necessarily scared, but I definitely acknowledge that they're a strong team and we really gotta prepare. Last year, literally anything could happen, it was just a coin flip result for pretty much every game.
Anything else about this year, excitement, talking to fans, etc.?
Matt: Well I appreciate EG so far. Especially as a new organization, they're doing a good job. I've been on fresh orgs before and it was really hard to do a lot of operational stuff, but I'm really proud of EG. They were basically a new org with zero assets at the start of the preseason, you know and they've been delivering what every player needs, at least as far as I know. On Academy, you're usually not the top tier level of accommodations, but I've been getting a really nice accommodations, so I really appreciate EG.
For more esports content, please follow our Twitter below. Also, check out all our VALORANT content, on our YouTube and our new page on our site.