FlyQuest and Team Liquid have both qualified for the 2020 League of Legends World Championship, but last weekend, both teams faced off to see who would head to the Grand Finals of the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Playoffs undefeated. FLY triumphed over TL in a 3-2 epic, and TL will now have to face off against TSM, the third NA team qualified for Worlds, to see who will face off against FLY in the organization's second consecutive LCS finals appearance.
FlyQuest top laner Colin "Solo" Earnest spoke to Inven Global's Nick Geracie after defeating Team Liquid to discuss the rest of the post-season picture, qualifying for Worlds 2020, and the nuances of the LoL esports community's perception of FlyQuest as a competitive force.
Congrats on the win after such a long series, Solo. How did the series end up compared to your expectations?
Honestly, I thought we were gonna beat their ass, like I said. *laughs* I thought people who picked Team Liquid over us were not paying attention because I thought we were way better than them. I feel now the same as I felt before the series: the only team that has looked good against us has been Cloud9.
Once we beat C9, I thought we were probably going to finals. Once TSM beat C9, we thought we could actually win the whole thing because I think C9 is the only team that had our number in any degree. I'm not surprised that we won; it was kind of funny that we threw a game, but it happens.
You mentioned that you felt that of all teams in the post-season, only C9 had FLY's number. What do you think gives your team a favorable matchup against TL?
When looking at our matches against Team Liquid in the Summer Split, we kind of dominated them. We beat them down hard in the second game, and in the first game we were winning and just tossed the win away at Baron Nashor with some unfortunate plays. We felt like we were fine playing against them, and stylistically, we match up super well.
TL is a very un-proactive team; they don't really do anything or press anything so we know we are going to make better decisions than they are and actually be proactive. We knew that if they were going to let us do what we wanted, we were going to win.
Did you think there was any chance of Golden Guardians beating TL and facing you guys here instead?
There were some mixed opinions internally for us. Some people thought GG had a real shot, but I figured that while GG may have a good early game, they're kind of all over the place in the mid and late game. I thought that even if GG got ahead against TL, TL would just scale and make good decisions later on, and GG will inevitably throw the game. I thought it'd be hard for GG to beat TL realistically because they don't have the cleanest macro. It wasn't that surprising that TL won.
Can you go a bit more into how FlyQuest possesses a stylistic advantage against Team Liquid?
Number one: I think we are all better individual players, which is probably our biggest advantage. Specifically, we looked at Team Liquid and knew that their jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen only plays two champions, so we didn't want to let him play those two champions. It was as simple as that for the most part: pick on Broxah and expose him because our jungler, Lucas "Santorin" Tao Kilmer Larsen, is way better, and we ended up doing that.
You brought up Broxah playing pretty much only Lee Sin and Volibear, while Santorin pulled out Evelynn and also the first Kha'Zix in the LCS all summer. Does playing with those assassin-style jungle champions change the way you play your role?
A little bit. We always try to make sure we have a really good composition for what we are trying to accomplish. You don't want to have something that's really clunky composition-wise even if matchups are good individually, so we're always trying to skirt that line of knowing how much support we need if we're going to pick an assassin.
For example, does top need to have a tank setup, or do we need more playmakers in other roles alongside the assassin? You're always trying to figure out what you can optimize as far as matchups go against your team compositions. We did an okay job of that today; I think both the Kha'Zix and Evelynn games had pretty good drafts but TL ended up playing well and beat us on those games.
Still, it's nice having flexibility and it's great that Santorin has a really big champion pool. It makes it easy for us to expose the junglers who don't.
You also mentioned that your players are individually better than Team Liquid's roster. Did you expect to be in one of the 3 All-Pro teams for the Summer Split?
Yeah, I was a little disappointed. I thought I earned it and had a better split than some of the people in the top 3 top laners, but I understand it's a popularity contest and also kind of a familiarity contest.
I think simply getting recognition from the community and some of the people who voted and thought I should have been included is good enough for me at the end of the day. Also, it gives me a bit more motivation for next split to try and put together a really insane 18-game split with solid performances front to back. At the end of the day, it's also a small award. Going to the finals and winning an LCS championship is obviously much more important than All-Pro. *laughs*
What are your thoughts on Cloud9 missing Worlds for the first time ever? Did you expect C9 to beat TSM?
For sure I did. I was very, very surprised to see the result. When we beat C9, I felt part of their problem was that they had been so good for so long in scrims that it's sometimes difficult to see what will translate well in actual games. They had a big misread on the meta against us, so I thought it was good that we were able to upset them, but I thought they'd be really good again once they had a better read on the meta.
I thought C9 solved those problems to a certain degree against Evil Geniuses, but they kind of right went back to making the mistakes in draft against TSM just like they did against us. I was really shocked that C9 couldn't find its identity again. Obviously, I don't know what's going on, but as an outsider, it seemed kind of obvious what the problems were, and I'm surprised they never dealt with them. I'm sure there are reasons why, but it's quite shocking that C9 couldn't figure it out.
The Ezreal pick in particular was disappointing to see again.
Yep. C9 didn't realize how good Shen was when playing against us, and I think picking Ezreal over and over again was a mistake.
I think C9 just lost track of what was winning the games this season, which was a lot of bot lane priority picks and playing through bot and mid with Licorice doing his own thing in top lane. Obviously C9 plays through top sometimes, but I think when bot lane is snowballing and has priority, they are a really dangerous team. For some reason, they were just stuck on always picking Ezreal, it was really strange.
I'm glad you brought up Shen, too, because you won games on Shen against C9 in good and bad matchups and even blind picked it, and it never seemed like C9 figured out how to play against that pick. What about Shen seems to counter C9 stylistically?
I don't know what they thought about it, but from my perspective, Shen counters a lot of what they want to do as a really skirmish-heavy team. When you have a global shield/teleport combo, it's really easy to counter C9's aggression and punish them for doing those kinds of things. It was surprising that C9 didn't pick up the champ as well, and also, that they were willing to play into it when it seemed like it was causing them so many problems.
When C9 was still the best team in NA earlier this summer, TL and TSM were always the teams expected to be most likely to beat them, but not FlyQuest, despite qualifying for the finals in the LCS Spring Playoffs. Now that you're the best performing LCS team in the post-season, I'd like to know why you think your team has been so heavily underestimated?
I think it's as simple as branding and name recognition. TSM, Team Liquid, and C9 all are bigger brands with premiere players. People are going to overhype those players even if they're not playing that well, and it's hard for people to imagine FlyQuest on the same level even though you can see how good we are if you're just watching our play.
Do you think FlyQuest's #GoGreen brand initiatives and an appearance at Worlds will change people's perception of the team and its players?
I think we're slowly improving at getting people to buy into us. It takes time; people are always going to ride the coattails of the big names, but I think we're doing a good job of proving to people that we're a team you can rely on to compete at a super high level. Hopefully, we can continue doing that.
Winning the finals would be terrific, and obviously, having a good showing at Worlds 2020 would also have an immense effect on whether people look at FlyQuest as a 'top dog' organization moving forward.
Speaking of finals, who do you think you will end up facing for the LCS championship?
Oh, man, I don't know. I haven't given it a ton of thought yet. Part of me thinks TSM will just get it done and we'll play them because they have looked better, but stylistically, I think TL has played really well against TSM, so I kind of want to lean towards TL. It's kind of a coin flip; I'm not super confident either way.
If I had to guess, I'd say I think TSM will barely win, but we'll see. TSM also showed a lot against C9, which is important because they revealed a lot of tricks up their sleeve. For example, I think Lucian was a pretty important pick for them going into that series, but yeah, we'll see.
How important is the finals result in the LCS Summer Playoffs when considering people's perception of FlyQuest heading into Worlds? Your team is qualified, win or lose.
Obviously, it'd be incredible if we won, but funnily enough, now that I think about it...I think the perception of NA will be worse if we win the LCS finals. *laughs* Even though we have played better than all the other teams, assuming we win the finals, I think people will look at us winning and say, "Wow, NA is so weak, their top team is FlyQuest."
It's kind of bizarre, but I think that's just the kind of bandwagoning negativity that can happen when TL, C9, and TSM aren't the three teams going to Worlds. Hopefully, people we see it as an opportunity to have new blood for NA at the World Championship with players who have played super well and pretty much dominated the Summer Playoffs. We'll see; hopefully, the reception is good, but I can't really control what people think. We just have to keep winning games.
There seems to be a perceived lower ceiling of FlyQuest compared to other top teams in the LCS in an international setting. Do you think that factors back into brand recognition and reputation like what you mentioned earlier?
Yeah, exactly. I think if we slapped on some different jerseys people would be like 'Wow, this team is so good! Look how they're winning!' *laughs* or maybe it would happen if we had a player with a name as big as TSM's Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng or Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg.
I think we have big-name players, and we have great players, but we definitely don't have the brand appeal that some other teams have. It's easy to think they're better because they are more recognizable than the competition, but we're obviously doing something right. *laughs* I guess we're like the old school Detroit Pistons of League of Legends, we just play and win through teamwork!
That's a great comparison, but hopefully, playing at Worlds gives FlyQuest some more recognition. What top laners do you want to play against at the World Championship?
I’ve always wanted to play against Martin "Wunder" Hansen from G2 Esports, and also Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon if DAMWON Gaming qualify for Worlds. I’d like to play against Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau on Fnatic as well; all of those top laners have playstyles I’d like to play against.
Have you had a chance to reflect on your incredible 2020? You started the split without a job and then went from positional coach on FlyQuest to back-to-back finalist and starting top laner in a matter of months.
*Laughs* It’s been a rollercoaster for sure. This year has been insane for a lot of reasons in the world, but I don’t think anyone realizes how crazy this year has been for me not just professionally, but personally, too. Overall, I’m grateful to our General Manager Nick Phan and FlyQuest for giving me a chance to come back to the LCS.
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