In his sophomore LCS season, Golden Guardians mid laner Nick "Ablazeolive" Abbott has begun to solidify himself as one of the best North American talents in the scene. Ablazeolive has built upon his quietly strong rookie season in 2021, and if GG is experiencing success, there's a guarantee he's a large part of it.
Mere minutes after the best game of his LCS career, Ablazeolive sat down with Inven Global to discuss his incredible Ryze performance against Team Liquid, finally facing off against his old mentor Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, and his growth as a player since his LCS debut in 2021.
Ablazeolive, can you walk me through that insane 1v3 play near the dragon pit?
It's hard to remember now, but in the moment, my team was trying to think of what else to do. They were sad because the fight was "lost" but I definitely knew I could win it. That was pretty evident in that I Flashed sideways to keep fighting instead of flashing away. I thought I would win it. Ryze is really tanky right now, their bot lane wasn't that strong, and TF doesn't do a lot of damage.
I thought there was a good chance I could win it. It was fortunate in the way it played out in that I was able to kill TF and Caitlyn at the same time. It allowed me to kill the Lux after because she wasn't expecting that. It was a huge adrenaline rush. I don't even know what I was thinking, I was just really in the zone.
Where does this rank compared to your Zoe game last summer against C9?
The thing is it's kind of similar to the Zoe game because they were both regular season matches. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big in terms of being super important, but in terms of memorable plays, it's certainly up there.
The one way play that I always think about is when I was in the spring finals on TSM Academy in 2019. There was a play where I read that I was going to engaged on and I predictively used my Cassiopeia ultimate. I stunned their whole team and we instantly won the game.
When I look back at it now, it's kind of dumb that I even let that happen, but sometimes you just know when things are going to happen. I knew I was going to get ulted, but I knew I was going to kill their whole team by ulting. As far as LCS games, the play I made today is probably my biggest one yet, so that definitely feels good.
The other big moment is when the game-winning teamfight in that chokepoint on the blue side of your jungle where you were able to survive 1v4 for such a long time due to Ryze's tanky itemization. What was that fight like, especially given that you played a very different role in how this fight played out compared to your 1v3 earlier in the game?
We were definitely not prepared for it. I was confused that they thought they could kill me, but it was actually a lot closer than I thought. I thought they were just completely trolling at the beginning, but it was actually kind of close. I lived with like 800 health, though, which is kind of a lot, and I don't know how much my shield actually blocked. I took all the damage and then got my shield from Fimbulwinter after, so I'm not sure.
This is very common and it sounds very dumb, but I also knew that they didn't know I had QSS...because you just never check. I knew they wouldn't expect me to have QSS, so I once I built it, I knew I was unkillable. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have made that play if they knew I had QSS. I QSS'd the Gold Card, then they missed Lux Q and Everfrost, then Viego overextended to try to kill me when I had my shield up and he died instantly.
As soon as they fail to kill me instantly, the fight is immediately over. Even if they killed me, it was probably still lost for them, because I didn't do anything after that in the fight. I ran away, started to Recall, and then their whole team died. I don't think overextending to try and kill the Ryze is really the play with that composition.
GG usually has a bit more of a unique approach to draft like blind pick Yuumi or assassin junglers. Was there anything specific about TL that made you guys draft more conventionally than other games coming into the draft, or was it just based on how the draft ended up playing out?
I don't think we did anything particularly special for this game. I think it was just business as usual. We picked Ryze early and Ryze has really good roaming pressure in the early game. We had Jinx and Thresh, which is also a really strong fighting combination. Our bot lane has really been smurfing, so even though they were in a losing lane matchup, we knew they would still win.
We had a lot of early game pressure and Jinx has insane scaling right now. If she isn't behind, it's very hard for the enemy team to play. I think the biggest thing was trying to end the game cleanly, and there was a bit of a bad fight.
However, I think our macro game was much cleaner than it was in previous weeks and I think that showed. I mean, TL did make the game-losing play, but we were in a very favorable position and that forced them to do something. Our gameplay is not entirely absent from why TL had to make a game-losing play, but I don't think there was anything super special in terms of our strategy going into this game specifically.
What was it like to finally lane against Bjergsen in the LCS?
It was pretty boring, honestly. I think part of that is the matchup, but also, I think Bjerg has lost the killer instinct he had before he took a break. It seems like he's very defensive in lane and not punishing you on making small, subtle mistakes. He's much more reserved and seems focused on making sure he's not making any big errors.
I think that tends to turn a lane matchup like the one in this game into a farmfest. He never contested the wave after I got Mercury's Treads and he kind of just afk'd mid, which isn't really what you want to do as a TF. We did have a misplay in the top side fight, but he didn't even ult to it, he was just there already, so it could have been any champion. In this game, there wasn't a lot of skill expression from other side, so, maybe next time.
Do you think Bjergsen's change in playstyle is due to his role in Team Liquid, or do you think he just hasn't gotten back to full form after taking a year off from playing competitively?
I think it's the way that he approaches practice and improvement. He's a very structured guy and I think that he is very sequential in how he wants to improve. He is not one to make risky players that won't always work out, he always wants to be solid and make sure things are perfect. This is something that he has said he maybe does too much recently, but I think that's why he hasn't been super aggressive.
I assume he just doesn't have good knowledge or the confidence to play aggressively. I'm not sure what it is, I'm just speculating, but it doesn't seem like he is putting his ability into making aggressive plays he could make, and that some other mids might make to contest. He's kind of playing for more safe options. This is the only spring, so he has a lot of time to hopefully get more confident.
Did you think there was a chance Bjergsen would come out of retirement, or was this a surprise to you when it was announced?
I don't remember...I think, at the time of his retirement, I didn't think he was going to come back. However, I remember that I wasn't too surprised when I heard the announcement that he was coming back.
Maybe it was just because TSM didn't get to Worlds 2021, and since they didn't have a successful year, I thought he might start playing against instead of continuing to coach. When Bjergsen retired, I thought he was just going to move on. I knew him very well and I feel like I have a good understanding of his mindset. He's a guy who is very focused on self-improvement, so I felt like he was taking the next step into his life.
I'm sure he was a great coach, but maybe he really wanted to compete more for himself. I was definitely disappointed that I couldn't face Bjergsen in the LCS last year, but I got to play some very good players, so it wasn't like I was too upset. There were a lot of very good players last year.
How would you compare the 2022 LCS mid lane pool to last season?
I think it's definitely weaker, but it's hard to tell because I'm always comparing to myself. I'm getting better, so it's hard to tell how much the overall level has gone down and how much it is just me becoming better as a player. It's also only week 4 of spring right now, and my last competitive matches were in the 2021 LCS Summer Playoffs. No matter who it is, everyone will be playing better by the end of a season than the beginning of a season.
I'm sure there is some bias here, but I'm relatively confident in saying that the mid lane pool is a lot weaker this year.
In a scrum earlier this split, you said you believed you were in the conversation for top 3 mid laners in the LCS. What do you think you've improved on as a player from last year, and who else would you put in that top 3 conversation with you this year?
There have been a lot of things. Improvement is all subtle, incremental progress on different aspects of your gameplay. My laning is undeniably better, my macro understanding of the game is much better, my perspective on what is good, my team play and my conduct as a teammate are all much better. There's not a super nice answer, I think it's just a lot of small things.
In addition, some things that were very difficult for me in the past are now a lot easier for me, and that's something that was conscious — stuff like map awareness and consciously thinking about what we should be doing instead of just playing my own game individually. I'm thinking critically about what my teammates are saying instead of simply listening to them.
Everyone on the team has information that the others don't, but you can't just listen to what everyone else says. You have to actually think about it for yourself and either agree with the call or suggest a different call.
In terms of who I think are the top mid laners this year...I don't know. It's hard for me to tell. I'd say toucouille is performing the best. In terms of who I think is actually the best, it's really hard to tell because if they just had a bad day when I scrimmed or played them, I'm going to have a skewed perspective. I will say that toucouille has done really well in the LCS so far and he has performed well in scrims too, and then either Abbedagge or Bjerg...it's probably Abbedagge.
I appreciate all of your insights, as always. Is there anything you want to say to the GG fans?
Thank you so much for supporting the Golden Guardians. I'm glad we could get a victory against the top dog TL.