When Eric "Licorice" Ritchie was suddenly transferred to Golden Guardians on Tuesday, July 6, perhaps no one was as surprised as the top laner himself. "One day I woke up on FlyQuest and I had no plans of moving," Licorice told Inven Global the evening after his transfer. "The next day, I woke up and went to scrim at the Golden Guardians office."
Golden Guardians extended Licorice's contract upon to 2023 upon acquiring it, and he is expected to make his debut on GG in place of Colin "Solo" Earnest in week 6 of the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split. Both teams could benefit from a change — FlyQuest is tied for 8th place at 9-24 on a 10-game loss streak, and GG is in last place with a record of 8-25.
"I was told Monday morning that it was an option," Licorice said of his eventual transfer to GG. "There was an offer on the table. We were doing some internal scrims that day, so we did the scrims and thought about it a bit, then I ended up getting traded."
"I was not the mastermind pulling the strings."
On FlyQuest, Licorice did not look like the elite top laner that had excelled on Cloud9 for the previous three seasons immediately from his LCS debut, but felt that he was making some progress throughout his time on FlyQuest in terms of fixing his mistakes. "In the Spring Split, I think I had a lot of inconsistent gameplay, but I actually figured a lot of that out," said Licorice. "At least, in terms of laning and map movements, I think I was doing a pretty good job by the end."
Despite any individual improvements by Licorice or other members, FLY has continued to struggle as a unit, even substituting in members of FLY Academy for part of last week and the entirety of the team this week due to the main roster's lack of cohesion. "It definitely felt like something was missing in our stage games when I was on FlyQuest," Licorice said. "I never really quite figured out what it was. *Laughs* Maybe if I knew what it was, I could have fixed it."
"I wish I could have done better, for sure. I think I expected that I was going to do better earlier in the year, but I wasn't able to do it."
It'd be a lie to say Licorice's time on FlyQuest was successful, but for a top laner who has only ever won in his LCS career and even in his time prior in the North American Challenger scene, it provided new perspective. "It's a totally different feeling," Licorice said of playing on a losing team. "There are a lot of things about it that are really painful, and while it's not every enjoyable...*laughs* I think there's a lot of value in that experience."
Licorice has only been with Golden Guardians for a few days, but his new digs seem to be suiting him nicely. "Everything is really structured over here," Licorice said of GG's infrastructure. "They have a positional coach for each role so there's always someone watching your gameplay and giving individual feedback. That's been super nice for me as well."
Despite the record of Golden Guardians, Licorice's new jersey carries some extra weight in the form of expectation. Solo had leveled up GG significantly from its level of play in the Spring Split, and while Licorice has historically been the better player of the two, Solo has looked like the better player throughout this summer. However, despite his struggles on FlyQuest, Licorice is confident in his ability to deliver.
"From the outside looking in it seemed to me that Solo was doing pretty well," Licorice admitted. "He was pretty consistent in his games, but I also know that I'm a good player and while something wasn't working on the team in FlyQuest, it doesn't mean that I'm bad all of a sudden."
The past week has been a whirlwind for Licorice more than arguably anyone else, but his confidence despite a rough 2021 season so far speaks to his recent change of scenery being a potential benefit for himself and his new team. "It was a big surprise for things to turn out this way, but I'm hopeful I can do really well here and I hope that the fans all give me a chance to show them what I've got. I think I do have a lot to bring and hopefully, I can lead us to a nice playoffs run this year."
All images by: Tina Jo/Riot Games via ESPAT