Unicorns Of Love and the LCL made history this year, qualifying for the Main Event for the first time since the addition of the play-ins at Worlds. Though UOL finished 0-6 in the group stage, they leave Worlds with pride, knowing they put up a fight with their strong playstyle.
After their elimination, we spoke with Unicorns Of Love coach, Fabian "Sheepy" Mallant, about the team's time at Worlds, his mad scientist coaching style, representing the LCL, and his relationships with former players. Watch the interview here, or read the full transcript below.
Quickly to start things off, I wanted to ask how the team is doing. It seems like everyone is in good spirits, but I wanted to check.
Yeah, right now it seems like there is the opinion going around that if you're smiling after a loss you're just a useless person, and how dare you. I think when you're expecting pain and the doctor is like, "This is going to hurt," and then you just start crying, in my tendency, I start to laugh. I know it's going to hurt, I know what is coming, I know this is a possibility.
So we're not smiling because we're happy that we lost games, but we knew this was a very real possibility, and what happened in the game... There were so many mistakes and so many other things going through our heads. "What do we need to improve on for next year? How did we actually lose?" We're just trying to work through all this that's going through our heads. We're not this kind of team that's like, "Ahh, my teammate, how dare he lose me the game." We know we'll get better, and the next months are going to matter, not the 20 seconds after the game is done.
That's a great point. Plus, you're here with the LCL and you already made history by making it to the group stage, which is commendable. And of course, for you, you were in EU and are now representing the LCL with the same great organization. What does that mean for you?
It's beautiful. The Russian people are super supportive. I've received so much fan art. The comments on our VK page are way more than on our Twitter for a lot of our other teams, so we're just the most popular team over there in Russia. Even the Dota 2 teams, where Dota 2 is massive compared to us, just don't have this kind of interaction and it's fantastic. Our social media manager is smurfing over there. I don't know, it's crazy. Our graphic designer is fantastic.
"I think the game is perfectly imbalanced, kind of like Rock, Paper, Scissors. It's not like stone is just always going to win and we've got to go for stone."
The community is super lovely. They're a little bit crasser than in Europe. In Europe it's more, "I think they didn't perform to the standards required to win this tournament." And sometimes it's like, "They were bad" and people will say, "No, you can't say that they're bad!" But in Russia, it just goes way over the line. So you have to have a thick skin, and I think we have that — or we're at least learning to have it.
I take it with a lot of humor, I love it. The LCL is fantastic and I think we'll make it even greater in the future. We've already tried to and managed to. This is the part of the interview where I'm like, "I'm really looking forward to it, it will be great."
You always got to throw a bit of PR in there! Something you talked about at the beginning of groups was the toughness of coming from the play-ins in regards to a mismatch in information. In the past, we've seen play-in teams making it to the knockouts, but this year we didn't get any. Do you want to expand on that point a bit?
Yeah, I don't know if people realize but the draft is kind of important. Also, from a critique standpoint, it's number one. It's kind of hard to say, "This guy should've rotated mid lane at 5:30," and then some other guy is like, "Well it's against their win condition of jungle needing to farm so they reset for drake," and then you have this arbitrary discussion between two internet people where nobody really knows the answer and nobody really cares.
"Right now, it seems like there is the opinion going around that if you're smiling after a loss you're just a useless person, and how dare you."
It's way easier to be like, "Bjergsen on Zilean? Wow, that's crazy! It's so good!" or when he goes 20 cs behind, to be like, "Zilean was the worst pick in the world." So right now I think people care a lot about drafts, and it's really difficult to prepare a draft if you have two-month-old information. We worked on that. We saw in some games they didn't prioritize Ornn or Nidalee the way we wanted to, and there were some trade-offs we wanted to make. And you can see we drafted to gain an advantage because we thought that we needed to.
But it's very hard to draft an advantage with two-month-old information, and what we learned at this point is those other teams play a lot of champions, even if they didn't practice them particularly. Especially if they're easy. So yeah we learned that from the first game, and it kind of sucked. It would've been cooler if the teams that didn't play in the play-ins played against each other first, so we could see like FlyQuest against DRX, DRX against TES, and TES against FlyQuest. Even one game would've been cool.
I don't know if it's possible, and I don't think it's a massive talking point — we can still do it [without making changes] but I just thought it might be a cool change. I don't know, Riot Games? Or just make us first seed, you know, whatever gives us the advantage. [Yeah we can give it to you, NA sure isn't doing anything with it.] I'm ready! Riot, please!
People have been talking about you as a mad scientist, talking about your draft that you mention now, talking about PowerOfEvil — whom you just played, who locked in Vayne mid, you couldn't ban him out — [Yeah, hate him! Friendship ended right there!] What is it about you that makes you this mad scientist?
Well as you can see I'm already getting closer and closer to the lab coat that I'll eventually wear with the glasses on stage and the different kinds of chemistry bottles. But yeah, I think that overall there's a lot to do in draft right now. There are so many questions right now being asked and not being asked, like why do we only play towards bot side, swaps were really popular in some cases, why are we not playing more through mid lane, etc., all this kind of stuff. And level 1 invades which have been a huge thing, too. I think there's more to learn about that and early game warding.
The game just gives you so much compared to any other mental sport that I can actually compare it to. Like chess and the development of chess, and Dota, which now has an AI that tells you the optimal ways or interesting ways to play the game. So I think there's so much to learn and I think the draft is not optimal at this point. I think people are defaulting too much to stuff that just works.
"The game just gives you so much compared to any other mental sport that I can actually compare it to."
I think the game is perfectly imbalanced, kind of like Rock, Paper, Scissors. It's not like stone is just always going to win and we've got to go for stone. Everything can beat something, and some things are just too strong so you have to fix it slowly through draft. So I like the draft, and generally, I've been working with the lowest amount of resources, and it's really difficult to get ahead with all the options you have when they're slightly worse than what the other person has. So I'm looking for ways to actually enhance our team and get some type of advantage.
And I think we're getting there, teams started banning Swain. We've made history multiple times with interesting picks, I think players showed their best behavior on our team as well. And Hylissang had his crazy picks and would flash hooking an invisible Talon, power playing Orianna with smite, all that kind of stuff. Shaco and Kikis, and Xerxe played the first time Ivern and went 7-0. So like I said, I love draft, I love League of Legends overall. I'm very interested in any aspect of the game, and at the end of the day, I just want to get better at the game and win it all.
I want to shout you out for a sec. I was talking with — wait is it ANaNaCiK? or ANaNaCiK? Or?
I call him Ana. I'm terrible with names so I'm just like, "Ana." But yeah it's ANaNaCiK.
Well, there you go! Thanks. I was talking with him and his time on Vega Squadron. He shouted you out as the real difference-maker, but then there was the conversation about you and POE, and you mentioned you were getting drinks with Hylissang later. So not only are you a mad scientist with your drafts, but you also seem to make some really close relationships with your players. What's different about you?
First off, I'm thankful because I don't think coaches usually receive much praise because it's difficult to see what we're doing. We're here to help the players, and they're in so much need it's often difficult for them to be like, "Oh yeah, this is a difficult situation, thanks for giving me the proper help." Because we're generally perpetually telling them to get better at this thing and pushing them. So it's difficult to take the time. So thank you so much, honestly. Any kind of compliments really mean a lot at this point, so I'm really happy.
"I'd rather burn out early and have done fantastic things than just be a small flame for a long time."
And yeah, close relationships because at the end of the day I just want my players to get better. I don't have any secondary thoughts. I don't care about anything else. I don't think there's a higher reason or any reason to do something, it's just all about missions and values you set for yourself. So I just help them accomplish that. Truthfully, I don't have any agendas other than that. I don't know what else may be important in life, I just try that. And I think later on they appreciate it when they realize what I do.
I always try to be the hardest working person and sacrifice everything for the greater good as much as I can. I'd rather burn out early and have done fantastic things than just be a small flame for a long time. So I enjoy it a lot and I think so do the players. I know Hyli and POE and I have been growing up, and it was great catching up, so I'm looking forward to that.
Lastly, before we go, do you have any closing remarks to sign off your time at Worlds?
Closing thoughts... I'm very grateful, I think Shanghai was beautiful, I think Worlds was absolutely beautiful. I can not be thankful enough in this situation. In life you can sometimes work as hard as you want and still not achieve much, that's a possibility and it happens to a lot of people. The fact that it paid off... I didn't have the biggest drive in my life, in the beginning, I was like, "Ah I'm going to be an esports coach," before that even was a thing. Otherwise, I just wanted to do mathematics because I was good at it.
So yeah, I'm just very thankful, I don't expect anything. I know that people have to look after themselves and obviously people are supporting me and my family and the organization and the players, and I can not be grateful enough for that, I know that's not a given. So thank you so much, it really means so much to me.
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