As the 2023 League of Legends World Championship unfolds, NRG Esports stands tall, representing not just North America, but the entire Western hemisphere in the Knockout Stage. Their stellar performance during the Swiss Stage, with impressive victories against teams like MAD Lions and G2 Esports, has caught the attention of fans and pundits alike. To delve deeper into the secrets behind NRG's success, Inven Global interviewed their head coach, Thomas "Thinkcard" Slotkin.
Discussing the team's mindset, Thinkcard revealed, "Many teams might grapple with confidence issues, but what sets our team apart is our inherent belief that we can win against any team." This unparalleled confidence, though an asset, brings its challenges. He added, "It's essential we don't skip steps in-game due to overconfidence. When we rush or feel overly assured, that's when we tend to falter and make mistakes."
When it came to their game against G2 Esports, NRG took an innovative approach. Understanding G2's prowess, they decided that their regular strategies wouldn't be sufficient. To throw off G2, they prepared unfamiliar drafts, aiming to deploy unseen compositions that would offer them a strategic edge. Thinkcard hinted at this strategy, emphasizing the need to constantly adapt and surprise opponents, especially ones as seasoned as G2.
Laying out NRG's battle plan for success, Thinkcard highlighted their commitment to nurturing talent. "We laid out a blueprint for team building. We started with five academy players who we believed had talent. There were struggles, but we provided resources and identified the main building blocks. Then, we added necessary pieces. The key is having young talent on your team; without it, you're not setting yourself up for success."
Thinkcard also delved into the team's coaching framework. NRG boasts a robust coaching ensemble, allowing them to focus on broader macro strategies. With a plethora of coaches, individual aspects of gameplay, from mechanics to scrim techniques, can be fine-tuned. "These players have always had a knack for fighting and skirmishing," he shared, attributing some of their growth to their coaching structure. "Refining those skills with our coaches has molded them into the top-tier team fighters they are today."
Addressing concerns over their scrim performance, Thinkcard was candid. "They started off poorly, but we saw improvement over the last week," he said. "We always step up on stage. While I wish our scrim results were better, the real magic happens when we face our opponents on stage."
One of the key factors for NRG is the strong bond shared among the players. "Something cool about our team is all the players like each other," Thinkcard proudly stated. In an industry where team dynamics can be complex, NRG's camaraderie is a breath of fresh air. "Sure, we have our fights, but at the end of the day, we enjoy hanging out together. It's easier to play the game with people you like."
Reflecting on NRG's journey, Thinkcard highlighted the transformative narrative they offer. "Just a year and a half ago, we were at the bottom, ranked 10th in the LCS," he reminisced. But in a remarkably short span, they climbed the ranks, emerging as LCS champions and now making a mark in the World's quarterfinals. This meteoric rise is testament to their growth potential and their ability to match the best on the global stage.
However, Thinkcard was quick to acknowledge that there have been moments of shortcomings. In one particular game against Weibo Gaming, the coaching staff felt their preparation wasn't optimal. "While players may not have played perfectly, we, as coaches, didn't fulfill our role well enough," he admitted. Such setbacks, though, serve as wake-up calls and learning opportunities for the team.
With the Knockout Stage on the horizon, NRG's journey is far from over. Their dedication, evolving strategies, and exceptional team dynamics make them a formidable contender. While the outcome remains uncertain, one thing is clear: NRG Esports has etched its mark on the 2023 World Championship, and their legacy is only beginning.
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