Golden Guardians were the first team to be eliminated from the 2022 LCS Spring Playoffs. As the sixth seed, GG entered the post-season in the lower bracket and found themselves promptly swept by Cloud9, which resulted in their elimination. Golden Guardians top laner Eric "Licorice" Ritchie spoke to Inven Global about his team's elimination at the hands of Cloud9, GG's improvements since he joined the team last summer, and his 0-10 career record against C9.
It felt like Golden Guardians had a pretty clear gameplan against Cloud9. Can you tell me about that gameplan and where you think it went wrong?
Honestly, I think our drafting was pretty good. We just wanted to have solid 5v5 compositions — we had a frontliner every time and strong front-to-back teamfighting with maybe one flanker. We drafted comps we were comfortable on in terms of fighting around objectives because that's usually the playoffs meta. That's what we went for, but I think we just f****d up the fights around the objectives. That's kind of it.
Can you tell me more about 5v5 teamfight compositions being the cornerstone of the playoffs meta?
I think that in playoffs everyone kind of defaults to it for the most part. There are usually a few exceptions, but most people default to the 5v5 comps where you play with the team and make team plays the whole game.
We saw Cloud9 top laner Park "Summit" Woo-tae heavily exposed by 100 Thieves last week, while it seemed you guys took more of a neutralization approach in this matchup. What was that adjustment like for you, especially given that your drafts in the Spring Split were focused more on trying to match Summit?
I don't know, I mean...honestly, the way I would have wanted to go into the series would have been to give Summit all of his picks and just try to beat them. For example, if he picks Jayce, I pick Irelia and just f*****g send it.
However, after the 100 Thieves series and how weak C9 looked, we felt what happened might just be a super good strategy against them, so we practiced that way. I think it was a totally fine decision, it's just more boring for me.
It's hard to understand what the meta is when you look at other teams because most other leagues aren't banning four top laners every game, so when you do, it does change the way the meta works and which picks are good and not good. That was a little weird, but overall, I think the approach was fine.
So if you had a chance to play this series again, you'd just give Summit all his champions and try to take it to him personally?
Oh yeah. That is very much my preference.
Unlike last year, you were able to play a full split on Golden Guardians this spring. How do you feel about your own play and growth in 2022, and do you think staying in the same environment benefitted you?
As a player, most of my struggles have been on the mental side of competing as opposed to the actual game itself. Since I joined Golden Guardians, there has been a lot more structure and things have felt a lot more clear, which I think is a huge reason I immediately started playing better. I like Golden Guardians as an org and I'm happy here.
I do think what I've been mainly working on is my mentality and things like that. I think some of that showed today — I wasn't doing the best job of making plays from behind even when I had the options. For example, I was a little slow on a couple of Teleports. That kind of stuff is what I've always focused on because honestly, the laning phase usually comes pretty naturally to me. Today, Summit was the better top laner. His laning phase is also insane, so things don't always work out in that way.
What would you say is different from the 2022 Golden Guardians squad compared to last year?
I think this squad just has more power and a higher ceiling. Honestly, the biggest thing is that we're just better in the laning phase than last year. I think that's a huge thing because when you play top teams, whether it be internationally or domestically, the laning phase has like a bar of 'you must be this tall to ride' and if you can't meet that, you just lose the game in 20 minutes. That's kind of what it felt like against C9 in the 2021 LCS Summer Playoffs.
This time, it felt totally different even though the scoreline result was the same. It felt like we were contesting them and that we could have won any of the games. We were actively fighting them in the games and had opportunities to win, we just didn't execute on them properly.
Golden Guardians heavily indexed into Nocturne jungle for the entire series. What gave you the confidence to continue picking this champion against Lee Sin, even after two losses in the series?
You'll have to ask Pridestalker about that. *laughs* He likes Nocturne a lot and wanted to pick it. He thought it was a really strong answer into Lee Sin. It's not always one person just deciding things, it's usually one player plus the coach or coaching staff, and sometimes the other players have input, too. We thought the pick was strong, and I still think it is. It seemed fine, but...I don't know. I have to watch the games back.
What's the plan for the offseason before summer? Are you taking some time off before returning to a practice regimen, and what areas do you think the team needs to improve in to get better results come summer?
What I usually like to do is detox from League. I won't play for a long time — at least a week or two — and try to live a normal life where I wake up in the morning, have a cup of tea, enjoy the sunshine, go for a walk...*laughs* things that don't happen when you're a pro player.
I'll probably take at least a couple weeks off, and I don't know if I'm going to go and watch these games back immediately or if I'm going to take a while. I kind of just go with feeling on that in terms of when it feels like it's going to be productive. Like I said earlier, I think the mental game is a big factor for me, so I'll probably just be reading a lot of books and trying some things to see if anything sticks.
As far as the team's improvement goes, it's very hard to pinpoint. I would say it would be good if we could play more flexibly or something, but I think our approach to the game is generally pretty good. We just weren't the better team today, so we lost. I don't know. You might have to ask one of the coaches about that.
I appreciate your insights after a tough loss. Is there anything you want to say to the Golden Guardians fans or your own supporters?
I'm still here; I'm still fighting. I'm not gonna quit. One day, I will take a game off of C9. It was not this day, but I swear to God...Even if I have to play until I'm 50, I am not going to quit until I beat C9. At least once.
Thanks for cheering for me everyone. I know my career has been a bit a bit rollercoaster-y *laughs* but hopefully it's just the dip before the climb.