As it is every year, this year’s offseason in LoL Esports has been hectic as well. In preparation of the 2021 season, leagues organizations and players alike are making their moves to compete at the highest level. LCK in its entirety is undergoing changes through the implementation of franchising, iconic players are hanging up their gloves to make way for young blood, and organizations work day and night to create a championship winning roster.
Fnatic, just like any other team around the world, have reorganized their roster for 2021. Rekkles, the iconic bot laner who’s been with the organization for the longest time, left the team to join the very same team that gave him so many top 2 finishes in the LEC, and with Nemesis also leaving the team, Fnatic brought on Upset and Nisqy as respective replacements. With the addition of a new coaching staff consisting of YamatoCannon and Tolki, Fnatic’s 2021 roster was complete.
Inven had a chance to speak with the newest strategic coach for the team, Gary “Tolki” Mialaret, over a Discord call. In the conversation, Tolki shared his past experiences with his former teams, reflected on what he did well and wrong in 2020, and shared how he envisions Fnatic will look like in 2021.
Can you please introduce yourselves to the readers?
My name is Gary Mialaret, and I'm also known as Tolki. I was previously an analyst for Splyce and T1, and am now the strategic coach for Fnatic, where I’ll be coaching the team alongside Jacob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi in the LEC. While I worked remotely in Japan with Splyce and T1, I’ll be relocating to Berlin, where I’ll finally be more hands-on with the team.
Give us your back story in esports. What are your origins, and how did you get started in LoL?
Over 20 years ago, I joined the fighting game community, playing a lot of Guilty Gear and Tekken. I got into PC gaming with Starcraft 2. I bought a PC suited just for Starcraft 2 and started making videos on them, and that’s when my esports career officially started.
I was a caster for Ogaming, casting Season 2 LoL World Championships. At the time, esports was more of a side gig for me, because I was always doing other work with it as well. I moved to Japan five years ago, and started my own LoL team, Hokuto Esports, for a year. It didn’t pan out the way I wanted, but it gave me the drive to continue pursuing esports, so my time with Splyce, T1, and Fnatic followed.
Even with esports-related work in my hands, I was always studying on the side. Having a good amount of education and work experience in other fields always helped me in my esports career, in terms of bringing management, organization, and efficiency into my role in esports.
Are there any games (apart from LoL) that you’re enjoying right now?
I’m actually playing a lot of games from Riot, such as Wild Rift and Legends of Runeterra as well because my wife and I love playing card games. I also play a lot of Divinity, and one thing about me and games is that I like to play games that achieve a certain level of completion and perfection, so I think I’m gonna wait two years until I decide to play Cyberpunk 2077 as well [laughter]. I want to wait until all the DLCs are released, no bugs in the game, and good mods as well, so I think I’ll wait two years so I can play the game for… 10 dollars [laughter].
I heard about the 100-page-long reports that you drafted up right after the team’s loss during the season. As a data analyst on T1, what were some of your responsibilities?
No, I didn’t write 100-page-long reports [laughter]. That’s a bit of a stretch. Some of the content that was in those reports were scouted information about our opponents, the meta, and analysis of how other regions play out the game. My goal was to help the team understand the game at a higher level through weekly reports that Park “Hajinsun” Hyun-seon would translate to Korean for the team. Since I was working remotely, I was more of a consultant, than being a real part of the team.
What are some things that you learned during your time with T1? How would you reflect upon 2020?
To be completely honest, I’m obviously disappointed with our results in 2020. I feel that with such a stacked roster, we could have potentially been a serious contender to win Worlds. If DAMWON Gaming could dominate as much as they did, I’m sure T1 could’ve been just as dominant, if not, better. While I’m obviously not satisfied with the year, I feel that I learned a lot in terms of organization, working remotely, and communication. Seeing how the Korean teams operated, how they approached the game, and the training to stay in top shape was also a key learning experience as well.
As there are many things that you picked up this year with T1, are you looking to implement some of what you learned, to Fnatic?
In terms of how much the players practice, Korea definitely has more volume compared to other regions. To be honest, I’m not sure if the same tactic will work in Europe. I don’t want to copy-paste the things I’ve learned in Korea; I want to explore and find new ways to approach things. I want Europe to go further than it has in the past.
In terms of coaching in League of Legends, I believe that it’s something that’s still in its infancy, and a lot of training methods can be run in different ways, and only time will tell if we can successfully implement new methods to achieve great heights. Just like G2 did [laughter].
You mentioned how dominant DWG was, so in your opinion, does DWG winning Worlds automatically elevate the LCK as a whole? Or was it just DWG being levels ahead of other teams?
I think DWG was a clear outlier at Worlds. I do not think DRX and Gen.G were close to them at Worlds. But because of that lack of competition for DWG locally, I thought that they would struggle internationally. I was completely wrong. DWG was just levels ahead of the other teams and smashed everyone on the Worlds’ stage.
Despite that, I do not think Korea is back to the #1 spot yet because of DWG’s dominance. I still think China, as a whole, is a stronger region, with a very deep talent pool and multiple top teams. But if other Korean teams can catch up to DWG, Korea would once again be the uncontested leader.
As far as I know, you’re also very into Magic the Gathering, and one topic that I think you can relate to is how the concepts of MTG correlates with competitive League of Legends (drafts, team comp scaling, etc). For example, when LS talks about team compositions in the draft phase, he always compares champion combinations to deck colors (Mono red = early aggression, Blue = control). Do the concepts in MTG, or any other genre of competitive gaming resonate with you the same way?
I was writing for Wizards of the Coast’s official website in French, so I was definitely into it [laughter]. I did learn a lot from MTG, in terms of strategic thinking and decision making. I see things very differently when compared to LS, but I do think there are parallels that can be found between MTG and LoL. For me, drafting in League of Legends is more like deck building in MTG, because you have open information, and with it, you have to build the deck for what you want to play and have a coherent team composition.
When comparing the draft mode in MTG to League, there is hidden information that can be utilized in MTG, but not in League. From my experience with various fighting and card games, I’ve picked up pieces of strategic knowledge that can collectively be used to implement in League. Parallels definitely exist between the worlds’ top-level competitive gaming. For example, “fancy-play syndrome” exists in every single game, where players want to win by making cool plays, not via optimal methods.
What are your thoughts on the preseason? With so many new items and in-game mechanics changed, do you believe that the game is heading in the right direction?
I’ll be honest, I don’t have a real input nor opinion on that topic, as Riot Games clearly stated that they’re in their experimental phase. I think that everybody who’s playing solo queue right now is Riot Games’ guinea pigs. Things will be very different once the 2021 season starts since there are two or three more patches still waiting to be implemented.
I don’t really care about the state of the game right now, because there won’t be any competitive matches that will be taking place on this patch. Once things become more stabilized and after those two patches, we’ll see if marksman champions are still weak [laughter].
I think Riot will push in the same direction as last year. I think Riot’s pretty happy with the state of the game, thus not wanting to push in a completely new direction with the new items.
Let's talk about Fnatic. What was the main reason behind joining Fnatic?
Well, I’d say they’re a pretty good team [laughter]. For me, I thought it would be easier to go back to an English-speaking environment to be more hands-on with the team I’d be working on, and Fnatic stood out above the rest while fulfilling the aforementioned criteria. Being a coach on a great English-speaking team with great players is all I can really hope for.
What I can say is that if I didn’t get a good offer, I’d most likely have stopped working in esports. Every offseason, I think to myself that I’m not going to work in esports if I don’t get a good offer, but Fnatic came, and I’d say that it’s a very good team to work with. I think that we’re going to achieve great things next year.
What are your first impressions of the players/YamatoCannon?
They were all very good! Yamato and I get along very well. We have the same vision, but different approaches, where he’s more hands-on and practical. He’s always thinking about the specifics of what needs to be done, while I’m more about the overarching strategy and the concepts that come with it. When I tell him that we need to head towards a certain direction, he thinks about the specific steps to achieve our goals. In the end, I’d say that we complement each other pretty well.
In terms of the players, we’re still in the offseason, so I’ve been in touch with them very lightly. I want them to take a break at the moment, because they’ll definitely need some rest to head into the Spring split 100%. Based on the light conversations that I’ve had with the players, I feel that the team will mesh together very well. We wouldn’t have picked them if we didn’t believe they could [laughter].
I saw your tweet where you compare you and Yamato to Goku and Vegeta. Would you say you’re Goku? Or Vegeta?
I’m definitely Vegeta [laughter]. Yamato’s the hero, and I’m the guy on the side trying to surpass him. It’s a friendly rivalry [laughter].
Taking on a different role on Fnatic, does it all become harder? Easier? How does it all change?
There’s definitely going to be a lot more work. I had the leisure of creating my own schedule with remote work and have my own set of goals. I can be very efficient in achieving those goals, because I’m obviously not going to spend hours in calls for feedback, and I’m much faster through written feedback. Next year, I’m probably going to be working 12-13 hours a day, due to myself always being available for the players. I feel that things are going to be much harder, but I’m up for the challenge. I want to prove that I can do it.
Do you think that players’ abilities outweigh the coaching staff’s abilities? Or vice-versa?
I think that while players’ abilities will far outweigh that of the coaching staff, good coaches will enable them to reach new heights. I think that a player can look very different from one team to another. Environment is crucial, and as a coach, your job is to elevate the players’ performance and help them reach new heights. There are a lot of players who might’ve been underused or not been performing at their peak due to coaching issues, but at the same time when they’re successful, I wouldn’t credit all their success to their coaches. In the end, the players are the ones making the plays that matter on stage, and as a coach, my only role is to help the players shine.
As a key part of Fnatic’s 2021 roster, how do you envision the team’s future for the upcoming season? Are there realistic goals that you can share with us?
For me, the realistic goal is to win the LEC back-to-back and eventually, Worlds. It’s definitely not 100%, but it’s definitely realistic, and it’s something that we’re aiming for. I don’t think you should aim for something lower, ever. I’m not here at Fnatic for the team to get 2nd place; the team had too many 2nd place finishes last year. I want to get our crown back as the king of EU, and help Rekkles get 2nd place again on G2 [laughter].
Speaking of Rekkles, does G2 remain the number one team to beat in the LEC? Or are there any other teams that you think will be strong contenders?
I think G2, without a doubt, are the best team in the LEC. They’ll definitely remain to be our biggest rivals, but I’m not tunnel-visioned to just beating G2; I want to beat every team in the LEC.
Speaking more of G2, I believe that the departure of Perkz will impact the team more than people would assume. I think he was a much bigger part of G2’s success than people realize, and his impact on the team is something that’s hard to reproduce. That being said, I’m not undermining Rekkles as a player, so I’m waiting to see how he will mesh with the team, and integrate into the team’s success, such as their strong mid-game macro, and their ability to come back from a gold deficit through sheer decision making. I’m excited to see how they’ll perform next year, as it’s very hard to predict right now.
Do you believe that Perkz will be able to bring much success to Cloud9 and help NA finally step up as a region?
In NA, for sure, but internationally, we’ll have to see.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to the fans/readers at home?
Watch us. We’re going to hopefully dominate the LEC next year, and we’re very confident that we made the right choices in building our roster for 2021. G2 might look strong, but we can be stronger. That’s all that matters.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports