There is only one day of play left in the 2022 LCS Spring Split, but the post-season picture is still far from coming into focus. Just like the start of week 8, only three teams have qualified for the 2022 LCS Spring Playoffs, and after a crucial win over Evil Geniuses, Golden Guardians is in a three-way tie with EG and FlyQuest for 4th place at a record of 8-9.
Golden Guardians mid laner Nick "Ablazeolive" Abbott spoke to Inven Global after the win about how his team was able to dismantle Evil Geniuses, the mad dash to the 2022 LCS Spring Playoffs, and leading the league amongst LCS mid laners in two very different statistics.
I'm here with Ablazeolive after Golden Guardians' very convincing win against Evil Geniuses, who was the victor last time you played them. Was this a matter of this game having more favorable advantages for you right from draft, or has your team improved significantly since last playing EG?
In our last game against EG I know I played really poorly and got outclassed, and I think other people on my team also made individual mistakes that led to the game being very hard to play. I think our composition in that game was an early-game focused composition where we needed to get a lead to win.
Once we didn't get a lead, it was kind of unplayable. We just made mistakes individually and I think they all kind of happened at the same time, so, naturally, we got owned and it looked terrible. In this game, our draft was much more focused on scaling. I haven't had a chance to rewatch it, but I'm pretty sure Pridestalker completely smurfed by not getting killed like a thousand times.
EG had permanent mid priority in the early game and we knew that going in, but we also knew that if we got to around 15 minutes and the game was still even, it would be unplayable for them. Their composition just doesn't work against our champions. We had two insane late game power-scaling carries that do really well when they have a lot of people to hit, and they were playing a full-dive composition.
We had a really solid comp and Pridestalker played really well to not get destroyed in the early game. I would say the game was relatively smooth.
Golden Guardians has had great early games but has had trouble closing out wins afterwards, but in this game, you played the early game slowly and took over afterwards. Is this something your team is focusing on more generally, or was this a specific strategy against Evil Geniuses?
It's not necessarily something we specifically chose for Evil Geniuses. Actually, in terms of this draft, I didn't have a ton of input. I gave my two cents on how strong I thought Ryze was and EG made Hecarim a very powerful pick by banning a lot of junglers, so we prioritized it. We also banned Viego for the Hecarim pick.
I don't think the draft was something specific for EG, it was just a draft we thought was good for us to play. I think it was more suited to what we wanted to do than it was something that was bad for our opponent.
When EG beat you last time, their mid laner Joseph "jojopyun" Joon Pyun was pretty vocal about how he felt like he dumpstered the mid lane matchup. Did you feel like you wanted to prove something individually this game because of that?
I definitely wanted to play better. I wanted to get a matchup where I could actually show prowess in lane, but when he picked Ryze and I picked Viktor into it to go fully into scaling, I knew that I couldn't do anything. I was happy that I had zero deaths at 10 minutes, though I died like a thousand times afterwards.
I was just happy that Ryze didn't take over the early game and it wasn't gg from the early game. I definitely wanted to do more, but that's just not how the draft played out this game.
It reminded me of when you played against Bjergsen earlier this split and I asked you about the laning phase, but because it was your Ryze vs his Twisted Fate, not much really happened in the lane.
Well from the Ryze side, you can do stuff against Viktor. However, from the Viktor side, especially with the rune setup I chose — First Strike keystone and full scaling with Absolute Focus and Gathering Storm secondary — that's not something designed to get a good lane advantage and it's not good to make the lane volatile because that only hurts me.
I wanted nothing to happen and I knew I'd be very happy if we didn't hit each other at all in the first 10 minutes. If it was the same matchup but reversed I would have tried to do more, but that wasn't the case this game.
You're currently leading all LCS mid laners in solo kills, but also in deaths. Is this merely incidental, or do you think you play more aggressively and take more risks than other LCS mids?
I didn't know about the solo kill stat. I don't usually look at stats after the first two weeks of the season because I once I screw up one of my games it makes me feel really bad. I'm not surprised I have the most deaths. All statistics have to be taken with context and I know that when I'm losing a game, I'm not just going to avoid death, even though it's very easy to just play to not die a lot when you're losing.
I know I die like ten times more than I need to in certain games that we are losing because if there's an iota of a chance that something good might happen, I'll risk the int. I think that's something that needs to be considered and I know I do that a lot, but I also think I don't tend to care too much about my deaths.
It's probably something I should try to do less, but I think this game is a good example of what I'm talking about — I didn't need to die as many times as I did, but if you look at any individual times I died except for the one time I got caught, I think it was fine. I need to take another look at this game, but the fights were always winning fights for us even when I died. So yeah, it's a death, but the enemy killed me and died for it, so is it really bad?
It's bad to die, but, I don't know...I can focus on it more. I didn't know about the solo kill stat and I don't think I have a necessarily more aggressive playstyle than others, but I do think my deaths are probably very inflated during times we are losing.
I noticed you painted your nails black ahead of this week's matches. Is this some superstitious competitor mojo during a post-season qualification race?
No, it's actually because I bite my cuticle, so I painted my nails so I would notice it and not do it. That's the only reason. I tried a lot of things to stop doing this and nothing has really worked. It's not to look good or anything, it's just to try not to destroy my finger...It's pretty bad, so I was really desperate! *laughs*
Obviously it's one game at a time for you guys to try and qualify for the LCS Spring Playoffs, but how focused are you of the surrounding factors outside of your team that could affect your post-season chances?
I try not to look at the math, but the problem is that the coaches on my team always talk about the math. I always eventually end up knowing which ways we will be in or out, but I actually think I have a pretty unique perspectives on playoffs in general.
In any do-or-die match or week, I usually feel a lot less stressed than I do today — I don't know why, but I was really stressed today — because I know that I won't be worried again. If the week is over and we made playoffs; great. If we didn't make playoffs and my split is over, I don't have to worry now because I'm done. It's kind of a weird way to think about it, and I know it always comes up, but it's basically like, 'This week is either the last week, or I'm happy.'