Week 7 of the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split marked the debut of Tanner "Damonte" Damonte, who was signed by Counter Logic Gaming last week to start in the mid lane in place of Eugene "Pobelter" Park.
Without a full week of practice or much preparation, CLG went 0-3, losing its first pair of games to Team Liquid and Cloud9. Against Immortals, CLG showed impressive form and pulled ahead early on in the match, but looked completely lost on how to close out the game. Immortals didn't get a kill until 37 minutes, but ultimately, was able to outlast CLG and win the game against all odds.
A few days after his first matches with Counter Logic Gaming, Damonte spoke to Inven Global about his friendship with Dignitas jungler Matthew "Akaadian" Higginbotham and reflected upon his first week with his new team.
Now that you've had a bit more time on CLG, what's it like being back in the swing of things with LCS, and how does your new practice facility compare to the one you utilized on 100 Thieves?
It feels good to be back in an office again. For the couple of months I was focusing on streaming, it was all from my room, and it's really easy to just get stuck in your room. Now, I have to make the extra effort to get out of the house and be outside, so I really enjoy the dynamic I have between the office and my apartment that I've been doing the last couple of years in the LCS. The CLG facility is super nice, too.
I know that you and Akaadian were roommates earlier this year. Is that still the case now that you've returned to the LCS?
Yeah, Akaadian and I still live together.
Has the dynamic changed at all since you joined a team? I recall you saying on broadcast earlier in the split that DIG should sign you again so you and Akaadian could play together.
*laughs* This happened once before, too. When I went to Golden Guardians, he was playing for Dignitas at that time as well before Dardoch joined. Honestly, the dynamic of us being on different teams while living together has been around for a while. It's super chill. Obviously, we don't really talk strategy, but it's always nice to have someone who I've been so close to for so long as my roommate. It's been pretty cool.
I had no idea you've been living together this long.
Yeah, I think we've been living together for almost two and a half years.
You and Akaadian have had similar experiences in your careers. Is that part of what bonds the two of you?
If I'm being honest, dude, my relationship with Matt probably extends way further than the game. It feels like it's been nice that we've been there for each other when experiencing hardships on LCS teams and Academy teams, but I wouldn't say that's why we're friends or anything. Me, Matt, and Daniel "Mango" Morissette, who used to coach Golden Guardians Academy, have been super tight for a couple of years now. It's been a really good time to have people like that in my life.
What was Akaadian's reaction when you told him you would be returning to the LCS?
Honestly, my signing with CLG was so fast and out of nowhere that I only told him the night before it was announced. That's basically when anyone close to me was finding out, even my parents, because the contract was signed that close to our first day of scrims. Akaadian was definitely one of the first people to know, and he didn't tell anyone, thank God.
Because of the lack of time you had with CLG before your games last week, you mentioned to the media on Friday that the team didn't have time to prepare for specific opponents. Now that you've had some more time, are there takeaways from your matchups last weekend?
Going into next week, we're paying a lot of attention to our match against Golden Guardians because of what the standings look like.
Upon reflecting on our games last week, our first two games were basically blown up before anyone really got to play. The game was in a bad state before the five-minute mark. On Sunday, the game was the complete opposite of the first two. We were in such a good place in that game, and then things ended up going south.
We were able to have two very big takeaways from last weekend. One takeaway was to not make the early game super, super volatile, and the other takeaway was making sure our practice this week is better than our practice last week. I don't think our practice was super terrible, but since we have such limited time, we really have to make every single scrim game count.
Can you talk a bit more about what happened in the third game? CLG did plenty of things well to get very far ahead in gold, but simply failed to close it out. What went wrong, and also, what did you do right initially to build that advantage?
I think that we were really good in the early game in the 'week' of practice we had.
We had good intentions within the game, and I don't know how good CLG was at the early game before I joined, but I feel like it's something for which I have good vision.
I feel like I really understand the jungle and how to get an early game advantage. I don't know if that's something I brought to the team or if it's just something that is naturally happening now. In our game on Sunday, once one thing went wrong, we got in our own heads a lot. It almost felt like people were thinking, 'Holy f**k, there's no way we're going to lose again like this.' It felt like there was too much focus on the outcome.
There is so much pressure on my teammates, but I wouldn't say there's that much pressure on me, if I'm being honest. It's a relatively easy situation. It's difficult in a lot of ways, but I'm the ringer coming in, so there's not that much pressure on me to make everything better instantly. After last weekend, we've been talking to everyone and making sure everyone realizes that we are the last place team. We shouldn't have the pressure on us, the pressure should be on everyone else.
I think that's a healthier way of looking at it rather than look at all of the unusual circumstances surrounding your joining and stressing about things out of your control. That being said, you did say that you were trying to lift the team's spirits. Has the environment changed with your joining despite not yet recording a win?
I think I'm helping lift their spirits a bit. Everyone here is a professional player. They've all been in the LCS or the LEC for years and years now, so, if I'm being honest, the one thing that will probably make everyone feel better is if we start playing better. That's really what I'm focusing on for the rest of the season.
These guys all just really want to win and I feel like a lot of them, in some ways, forgot what winning feels like. When you're not winning any games, it's such a stressful environment, and I think that reflected a lot in our match on Sunday. We were in a great position to win the game, and in a very clean way, too. The game should have been a very easy, clean win, but we had so much pressure on ourselves.
Do you think the combined split record of the 2021 LCS season adds more of this type of pressure than previous seasons?
The one big thing I would say is that one of the first things I was told in a draft meeting was that we were not going to have side selection for the rest of the season. This means that every game I'm playing in for CLG will be without side selection because the fifth round robin of the LCS season gives side selection to the team with the winning record in the head-to-head matchup. I thought that was really interesting. It kind of feels like a 'the rich get richer' kind of thing.
All of the top teams are just going to have side selection for every game left in the season, and a team like CLG doesn't have a single side selection, so that's pretty interesting.
I wasn't aware of that.
Yeah, neither was I. When they told me, I was like, 'Damn, we're really fighting an uphill battle here.' *laughs*
You certainly have your work cut out for you, so best of luck. Is there anything you want to say to the CLG fans before your upcoming matches?
For all the fans of CLG or the fans of the players on the team: Do your best to support all the guys. Do your best to not add to all of the negativity that I feel the community puts on the players right now. Just do your best to support everyone as well as you can. We're all pro players, we're all trying to win the game, and s**t is stressful when it feels like you're getting attacked from every single angle.