Milo "Pridestalker" Wehnes’s road to the LCS is an uncommon one, to say the least. The Dutch jungler made his major league debut in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split with FC Schalke 04 Esports and spent time in the European regional scene next year before taking an 18-month break from competitive play. And though he established himself as one of the best ERL junglers throughout 2021, nothing could have prepared him for how his negotiations with Golden Guardians began.
“I was in the Prime League Winter Cup finals, and I think it was during the second game that I got randomly added to a call by my agent with the Golden Guardians coaching staff,” Pridestalker recalled. “It came as quite a surprise since I was in the middle of a best-of-5, and I don't think they were aware of it because it's really weird for games to be going on that close to when contracts end.”
The finals of the 2021 Prime League Winter Cup took place on Nov. 14, one day before the esports contract window opens and the off-season shuffle kicks off. Knowing he had other business to attend to (and not a lot of time to do it), Pridestalker led the charge from the MOUZ vanguard to a 3-1 finals victory.
There was no time to waste, but between his strong performance in the PLWC finals and his communication in tryout VoDs that his agent had sent to Golden Guardians, the LCS org were already impressed, which meant an unexpected flight across the Atlantic — and a chance to get out of his home, which had kept him inside all season because of COVID.
“I remember being pretty nervous about it because I honestly didn't expect to get any offers from NA. I thought I was going to either be in the LEC or a top-tier ERL team,” Pridestalker admitted.
Overseas, Pridestalker found himself the only European in a diverse roster of talent on a team that needed a drastic turnaround in results, having stumbled around at the bottom of the standings for all of last year. And while the new Golden Guardians still have trouble closing out games, Pridestalker found an early-game ally in mid laner Nick “Ablazeolive” Abbott, who’s now established himself as one of the upper-tier mid laners in the LCS.
The duo turned a lot of heads for their early game power spikes and a shining element of that was Pridestalker’s champion pool. Given draft leeway and freedom of expression, the Dutch debuted in the LCS on Qiyana and played his signature Zed — the champion that won him the PLWC Finals — on a couple of occasions as well.
Most teams would not prioritize assassins in the jungle that way, but Golden Guardians have had little reservations so far. That’s part-Pridestalker’s wheelhouse, and part-company culture, AD carry Lawrence “Lost” Hui said.
“They've really been facilitating around concerns like understanding the emotions of one another, being nice, and for the most part just giving a lot of freedom to the players in terms of how we want to play and practice. [...] We have a really unique playstyle too — first pick Yuumi, crazy junglers for Pride — we've definitely got a lot going on here.”
But every player and their quirks sooner or later become victim of the meta — the unwritten standard rules for “correct” League of Legends play at any point of time — and Pridestalker was no exception. In his case, this was onset by the strength of the bot lane, which turns Pridestalker’s niche picks from definite strength to exploitable weakness.
“I think that playing junglers like Zed and Qiyana is extra hard right now. Before, we weren't too sure on how both of those champions fit into the meta, and we knew I was good on both Zed and Qiyana, so I just played them whenever I felt like it. As the season is going on, we have a better read on the meta now based on scrims and I think bot lane is just too strong,” Pridestalker explained.
“Hopefully, once bot lane is toned down a bit, I can start playing these champions again, but for now, it's probably pretty rare that you see me play them, even though there is a possibility that there will be situations where I can pull them out.”
Three matches before the end of the split, Pridestalker was confident that the team is better than the stage results have shown, despite current 7-8 record, and praised the coaching staff’s approach to improvement throughout the Spring Split.
“We always have a clear idea in mind in what we're focusing on in practice. Our coaches decide on something and we kind of grow step-by-step, so even in scrims where there are a lot of things possibly going wrong, we will focus only on a few things that we decided to focus on for that week. In that way, we don't overload people with information and we will slowly get better,” the GG jungler explained.
“I do think we have been getting better, but it hasn't shown in our previous stage games. That's unfortunate because it does give you some negative momentum when you're losing like that — it just makes everything feel a bit worse. Still, we're working on it.”
Right at the cut-off point for playoffs, Golden Guardians is in the thick of the post-season race and heads into the final week of the 2022 LCS Spring Split in a three-way tie for 5th place with Dignitas QNTMPAY and Evil Geniuses. GG will face EG in the middle of the final week of the Spring Split, which begins for them with a match against Team Liquid and ends with a match against last place Immortals.