With the 2021 LoL World Championships around the corner, the draw for the Play-in and group stages has been set (RIP Rogue). Around this time each year, Riot’s balance team implements a large set of changes into the game, aimed to shake up the meta for the biggest League of Legends tournament of the year.
In my last interview with Gen.G's Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek, he was very outspoken about a particular champion that is strong in the meta: Tryndamere. Since then, he’s showcased the strength of the champion on his stream for months as he climbed up the Korean solo queue ladder. His success with Tryndamere garnered much attention not only from the community but also from pro players like Kim "Doinb" Tae-sang, who were very excited to see him on the Worlds’ stage.
I had a chance to speak with the progenitor of mid Tryndamere again at the Gen.G headquarters, to hear about his life in Korea so far, his thoughts on Worlds, and get more information about the man with the strong right arm.
Now that you spent a couple of months here in Korea as a streamer for Gen.G, give us an update on your life.
My experience here so far has been much better than expected. I’ve done a lot of cool things, such as meeting some K-pop stars, doing various content with different artists, and being part of Jay Park’s music video. A lot of streaming, growth on my socials, playing solo queue: it’s all going well.
Out of all the content you do, do you have a favorite one?
I’d say getting rare opportunities like the DIVE Studio podcasts with a bunch of K-pop stars and again, being part of that Jay Park video is what intrigues me the most. Usually, I just sit in my room and am either streaming or on my PC, so those experiences are very cool.
"Tryndamere’s 100% OP. He’s definitely going to get nerfed once players start to play him in competitive."
One of the main content for your stream is LCK co-streams. Whenever I tuned to your Gen.G co-streams, I remember seeing you frustrated about their gameplay as the split went on. From your perspective, what were they doing wrong?
As a Gen.G streamer, I obviously care more about my organization doing well, so I think I tend to get more vocal about my frustrations. However, I get frustrated with every team. The thing that frustrates me about League is that it’s very stagnant. Every team is repetitive, the same type of errors and mistakes are being made every year. It feels like there’s no improvement. Watching that makes me very frustrated, because even if I point it out 500 times, it still happens.
While it’s too early to predict how any team will do, how do you think Gen.G will fare against the other international teams this year?
I personally hate predicting how a team will do at Worlds, because based on my experience at Worlds, a team can change from being a top contender to being at the bottom in a single week. If a team has it in them, then it’s possible. Fnatic has done it multiple times. I only try to look at the knockout stage matches of the tournament, but even then, it’s hard to say how well a team will do at Worlds.
I do, however, have a general idea of how well the teams are going to do, which is based on my observation throughout the split. My expectations for Gen.G... Hmm... I think they’re going to be somewhere in the middle of the pack; pretty bland, no flavor. I feel it’s just going to depend on which teams they’ll play, and how they and the opposing teams feel on game days. I don’t think they’re very creative or innovative, a team that just likes to play standard. They didn’t show the qualities that made them a championship-contending team but have all the generic qualities of being a mid-high tier team.
The LCK talent pool in the mid lane is considered to be the strongest in the tournament. As a mid laner yourself, how do you rate the four players (Bdd, Chovy, Faker, ShowMaker)?
I think Chovy’s the best mid laner in the world and I can’t see anyone being close to him. He's a robot. You can’t make any mistakes against him. I got dumpstered in most of the scrim games that I played against him. There are mid laners that are almost as good as him when it comes to the fundamentals of mid lane, but for him, getting perfect CS is a given. even when behind, he's very creative in finding ways to comeback, and he will always have more minions than his opponents.
It’s hard to rank the other three, because I feel they each play a different role within their team, so I think it’s unfair to rank them. They’re all fantastic players, and I think they’re at least the second-best player, if not best, on their team. I will say that the gap between Chovy and the other three mid laners isn’t that big, but Chovy’s still on another level.
When I asked some LCK pros about their thoughts on LEC/LCS, they weren’t that impressed. For example, Keria said that he just turns the stream off after the drafts because of how terrible the gameplay is. Where do the western teams rank among those from the East?
First, I do agree with Keria. Whenever I stream matches from both of those regions, there were some matches that I really didn’t want to stream [laughter]. I can relate to that.
A lot of people have this opinion where they think EU is amazing this year, but I actually think it’s worse than the years before. I think LEC has gotten lazier compared to previous years. What I mean by lazy is that I don’t think they show the same hunger and motivation; I don’t think they’re very innovative anymore.
When I look at LEC, I have a specific set of players that I really respect, because I can see that the things that they do are very different, which makes them special. There are a few, but they’re individual players scrambled throughout different teams. Some examples of those special players are Inspired and Bwipo. I think they’re both outstanding at what they do. There are more of these players, but when it comes to teams as a whole, there’s not a team that stands out like they do.
As for NA, I’m sorry, but I can’t take that region seriously, regardless of which team is at Worlds. There are too many problems they have as a region that prevents them from being close to winning Worlds, and even if one team makes quarters or semis, it won’t really matter much to me.
"I feel like a really smart pro player can balance the game five times better than them. I absolutely hate all the changes they make."
Are there any matchups that you’d like to see at Worlds?
I want to watch Hanwha Life Esports play when Chovy’s playing something he can carry on; champions like Yone. I want to see what Chovy can do when the team funnels resources into him against the teams where he’ll actually have an impact on the game. I want to see him smash some mid laners really hard. That’s what really excites me.
In terms of players, I’m curious to see how EDG’s mid laner, Scout, will perform. I feel like he doesn’t really get recognition or praise, and I think he’s very good, so I want to see how he’ll fare. There isn't any team that excites me from EU or NA.
Not even Fnatic?
No [laughter]. I’m not very hopeful.
Patch 11.18 was a huge patch that was meant to shake up the Worlds meta. With 11.19 being the ‘B-patch’ for Worlds, how are you liking the approach to the balance changes from Riot (e.g. their approach to Grievous Wounds)?
I absolutely hate it. I think about any other teams within Riot Games and I think they’re doing a great job. Not the balance team though. I’m a big hater. I feel like a really smart pro player can balance the game five times better than them. I absolutely hate all the changes they make, one of the reasons being that there are more nerfs than buffs. The balance changes are centered around casual players, which I hate. I hate their latest set of champions because they’re way too complicated. They all seem to be way too special. Champions like Gwen and Akshan’s kits are overloaded.
As for the patch itself, I feel that most of these changes won’t really have a huge impact on the game. Like for example, Lee Sin's problem isn’t his base AD [2 AD nerf]; his problem is that he has a stun on his ult. Lee Sin has become a very unskilled champion for me. If you think about this champion five years ago, it actually required people to have hands. Now, anyone can ward hop from 2K range away, three seconds on Q, and when he kicks you, you literally can’t do anything. Did I also mention that he never runs out of energy?
I think Lillia's changes are nice. I think Lillia’s OP, but because she’s not a popular champion, people don’t like playing her, and people don’t know how to play her well unless you’re someone like Inspired.
There’s also the Renekton nerfs [in patch 11.18]. You’ve been very outspoken about how bad that champion is. Will pro players still play Renekton?
He’s scheduled for a buff on 11.19, so I think he’ll still be picked.
The way that Riot balances the game is: They have a list of champions that they favor, so some champions will get special treatment. Renekton and Lee Sin are good examples, because they appear in the meta every year. And then there are the champions that don’t make the list, where they don’t get any changes. So even though there are over 150 champions in the game, in reality, there are only like 50+.
So how will the competitive meta look like after the Worlds patches?
For pro play, there’ll definitely be some changes. I think Predator is going to be picked a bit more. Even though I don’t think the item’s good, I can see people building Umbral Glaive a bit more. I can also see players playing a lot more Zoe because of the flat 4 seconds shaved off from her E cooldown.
What about these assassin junglers that Riot tried to enable with the balance changes?
I can definitely see them being picked. Not only are assassin junglers something that players are used to, but a lot of junglers got nerfed as well. I think there’s a decent chance that they can be played, but I don’t think they’ll be as strong in competitive as they are in solo queue.
You’ve been an adamant Tryndamere advocate for the longest time and you’ve successfully turned a lot of pro players into believers. First, why mid Tryndamere? Why not top Tryndamere?
A lot of mid lane champions are weak in the mid lane and Tryndamere just outstats them. His HP regen is insane, one of the runes that you take on him, Second Wind, goes so well with Doran’s Shield that it gives him so much sustain in lane, which allows him to level up really easily. He can outtrade practically anyone because he can just gain all the HP back from his Q + Second Wind and Doran’s Shield. The lane’s shorter too, so it’s easier for him to find base timings as well. He’s also very good at skirmishing at all stages of the game.
According to the solo queue data, it seems that Goredrinker-Essence Reaver seems to be the go-to build for Tryndamere. However, you like to build Galeforce for that extra stickiness onto the enemy carries. Are those both viable builds? Or are people doing things wrong?
Goredrinker is the ultimate noob build for Tryndamere. It’s the easy way of playing because it gives you extra AD, CDR, and all these stats, so you feel very tanky and harder to kill. It feels better in solo queue.
However, at extremely high levels of gameplay, the best build is centered around Kraken Slayer or Galeforce. I think this build is much harder, so we’re probably going to see players build Goredrinker at Worlds. It can be argued that Tryndamere’s really strong at one item, because most solo queue games end very early, especially in Korea. That’s why Goredrinker makes more sense in solo queue and I understand why people build it, but I personally think they’re doing it wrong.
It feels like Goredrinker is too overtuned, especially when you see assassin champions like Talon build it and become this broken bruiser champion that still one-shots carries.
I don’t want to rant about Goredrinker, I’d rather rant about the shop. The shop is designed for the most casual players. There’s no item diversity. When you load into a game, you usually already know what you’re building, especially when it comes to the first three items. It’s not just the casual players, even pro players make mistakes in itemization.
For example, there was a time when every top laner bought Stridebreaker. Then it was Divine Sunderer. There’s that one item that’s much stronger than the others, and everyone just builds it because they’re the strongest. Riot then decided to nerf both Stridebreaker and Divine Sunderer. Guess which item everyone’s building now? Goredrinker.
Now, everyone buys a simple item that heals you to full with a press of a button. The balance team takes the approach that appeals to the casual player base, and right now, that approach is Goredrinker.
What’s your verdict on how strong Tryndamere is in the meta? OP? Balanced?
Tryndamere’s 100% OP. He’s definitely going to get nerfed once players start to play him in competitive. The funny thing is, I don’t think that pro players are going to even play him properly, yet he’s still going to do well in competitive play.
This is already happening, but when pros start picking him, Tryndamere’s going to appear more frequently in solo queue. People will realize just how frustrating it is to play against him because he can just run you down with his various mobility options. I expect the nerfs to him will be very harsh, so by putting him on the map in solo queue, I basically just doomed him and sent him to the grave [laughter].
Do you think we’ll also see the other mid lane picks that you made "famous" in solo queue? Champions like Graves and Kayle?
There’s obviously a chance that off-meta picks can be picked in the mid lane. We might even see things like Jarvan IV mid, for example. Unless there’s something that I’ve never thought of and yet to see in solo queue, I don’t think there will be much of a surprise, even with the so-called "surprise picks" in the mid lane.
It’s going to be a very repetitive meta. Just like how Renekton and Gnar appeared all the time, this year’s Worlds is just going to be a variation. As the tournament progresses, some picks will change due to feeling. Pro players naturally don’t like playing the same champions; the longer they play a certain champion, the more they feel that the champion’s getting worse, even if the actual strength level of a champion might be the same.
As it is every year, we might see a slight change in the meta, but on the grand scale of things, it’s repetitive and boring. For me, at least.
Do you have a favorite mid lane meta?
I don’t have a favorite meta, but I like when you can be creative and unique. I like it when there are champions that specific players can make it work, but other players can’t. I’d love to see a world where a player picks Aurelion Sol as their secret weapon.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and our readers?
A lot of people are curious about what I’m going to do next year. As of right now, all I can say is that I’m thinking about it every single day. Nothing’s been decided yet; I have options, but it’s very hard to decide. I’m in a very tough position to make a solid decision just yet, so if anyone’s curious where I’m going to end up in my journey next year, they’re just going to have to wait and see. It’s been an amazing year so far, so here’s to more great times.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports