Most fans and analysts counted out Machi Esports and the PCS as a whole, but they turned some heads by the end of their run in the Worlds group stage. Not only did Machi beat Team Liquid, they also gave both G2 and Suning a run for their money in a few of their games, and PSG Talon even took down JD Gaming in one of their matches.
This is the first year of the PCS region, which is a consolidation of the former LMS and SEA regions. Though they didn't outperform the other major regions, they exceeded expectations in many ways. Machi coach, and former ahq eSports jungler, Xue "Mountain" Zhao-Hong, spoke with us about what it was like coming to Worlds as a coach for the first time as well as how the PCS is different from the LMS and what it needs to improve.
First off, I know you would've loved to advance to the knockout stage, but what are your thoughts and reflections about the team's performance this year at Worlds?
Personally, I think it's a special Worlds for me because previously I was here as a player, but now I'm here as a coach, which gives me so much more knowledge. I'm definitely growing as a coach being here.
What was different this time around as far as your approach to the game and the way you think about the game? Did you enjoy it more than when you were here as a player?
So I actually prefer coming to Worlds as a player. As a coach, I not only have to focus on the game itself - which I also did as a player - but I also need to figure out every opponent we will have and simultaneously consider the relationship of my players and other duties. That kept me away from focusing on just the game itself.
Ah I see, so why did you become a coach? I think many will remember you from your time on ahq as a jungler, so why make the change?
Two years after I left ahq I was not satisfied with my performance, mainly due to my physical condition - I have a problem with my hand. So that's why, as a player, I don't think those two years did anything for me to have a stronger performance. So when I turned 25, I thought being a coach I could help my teammates go beyond just getting stuck in the group stage.
You're in the PCS now compared to the LMS when you were at Worlds previously with ahq. What is different about the PCS as a region compared to the LMS?
For the LMS they were usually mostly Taiwanese, and every player and team knows each other very well. But right now, in the PCS, there are players from all over the world. So there is a lot of variety about the meta and the draft, there is a lot more creativity in this region.
That makes sense, there were a lot of players from the LMS that moved to the LPL. What do you think the PCS needs to become more competitive like the LMS was when ahq and Flash Wolves were so strong? The Taipei Assassins won Worlds! What does the PCS need to get close to that level?
I think it's mostly just the funding. When TPA won the World Championship, League was a leading trend around the World which made many people want to play the game, giving the LMS many more players. But right now the PCS doesn't have a lot of money so we will mostly just keep old players rather than attracting other players from other regions. I think that's the main issue.
Lastly, do you have anything to say to encourage fans of the teams of the PCS and the region as a whole?
Even though the PCS is not favored by any analyst in the world, as a coach, I don't think it's as bad as some people make it to be. Some thought we'd have zero wins in this competition, but in fact, we got one [and PSG later got two]. We do have strong players in our region, so please for everyone who supports us and for everyone in the PCS, please have confidence in us and our region.
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