Splyce entered the European LCS season with high expectations set upon it following the acquisitions of Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu, Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir, Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer and Raymond “kaSing” Tsang and the retention of Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup’s services, and they have been in the thick of the playoff race since Week One. With a 6W-6L record, the squad remains out of H2K Gaming and the Unicorns of Love’s reach for the time being, but it has gone through yet another 1W-1L week.
The team has struggled to grab a 2-0 week in six weeks of action, a matter that has become a running joke among its members despite their chagrin. Much as Xerxe has attested, the team has been taking it in strides, with a pinch of fun, following its victory against Schalke 04.
“Yesterday after the game against Unicorns of Love, we were actually joking; ‘Hey guys, we go 1-1 every week, so we have a 100% chance to win today!’” said Xerxe, with more than a hint of amusement. “But yeah, we try every week to 2-0, but it hasn't happened yet. We are working on it.”
Still, he was happy that the team had won, and relieved that he had escaped a close call against Schalke 04. Had he not timed his Smite properly, his team would have well been standing at a precarious 5W-7L record, leaving that predicament to its opponent of the day. For a moment, a smile appeared on his face, but much had changed since the last time he had done so in one of our interviews – back when he still wore pink UoL jerseys and still sported long hair.
Xerxe’s swap from the Unicorns of Love’s family-like atmosphere to Splyce’s more business-like approach to team building and teamplay had visibly left an impression, as his creed throughout our talk was “We are working on it.” Indeed, the team has been working on several fronts to turn its fortunes from alternating between wins and losses to winning.
Once the recipient of a flux of information provided by former teammates Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamas, Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert, Xerxe has become an avid provider as he sets up ganks, braces for teamfight initiations, and assists objective takedowns. Once a more silent player, Xerxe has seemingly come into his own.
“I think I'm more vocal now and I want to fit the role of the leader,” he said. “Last year was my first year. I was a rookie, and I didn't know much about the game, and I was just learning. With all the experience from last year, and with Peter Dun helping, I can help my team by being a shot caller and a leader as well. I'm learning every day more and more about how to help the team.”
Leadership is one thing; the transition from the familiar family-like environment that welcomed him to the European LCS to an equally competitive yet more straightforward Splyce is another. The transition does come with a bonus, however, as the meta no longer easily allows teams to casually ‘run it down mid.’ On top of that, Odoamne and kaSing’s experience comes in handy when it comes to strategizing on the rift.
Beyond that, the top laner has been particularly helpful to his fellow countryman’s growth, well before they joined forces. It isn’t hard to see why a then-rookie Xerxe would contact Odoamne for advice.
“Last year, I was really anxious on stage, and I asked him if he had this problem, and how to deal with it,” the jungler recalled. “My hands were shaking on stage, and I really couldn't focus. He gave me some advice at the time... It's kind of lame, but he told me I just needed more time to get used to it. I don't remember that much – it wasn't that useful!” And then, laughing ensued, before we resumed our chat.
Xerxe spoke about how he frequently talks to the other Andrei in the house, alternating between English and Romanian, relaying their points as perfectly as they can to one another, while contributing to the team’s overall progression. He also remarked about the top laner’s ability to seemingly track every movement on the rift during scrims and dish out criticism when necessary, as if playing and keeping tabs were a child’s play, and on how he is glad to have him around. Of course, there is more to Odoamne as a teammate, and it shows when mistakes occur, and when the team is staring at the prospect of losing games.
“Odo is more vocal when something goes wrong. He's going to tell me basically what to do, and he's going to tell the team as well,” he noted. “He keeps our feet on the ground, to not lose our patience, our focus while we are losing, because it's not lost yet. Back at home in scrims, he's just going to tell us what we should do, and what we should have done.”
As the two Andreis clicked, so did the rest of the team, although the process has taken a lengthy timeframe. The team initially played scaling compositions and heavily relied on reaching lategame – to Xerxe’s dismay, as he loathed that meta – to achieve any measure of success, but it gradually switched focus towards other phases as vulnerabilities arose. Take the team’s early-game for example: the transition between getting clobbered by Team Vitality (Week Four) and clobbering Giants Gaming (Week 5) in the early-game had taken them a single week.
The team has operated through the motions, wake-up call by wake-up call. In Week Four, the early-game vulnerability appeared only to be addressed from that point forward. Ditto for mid-to-lategame team fighting, which had taken them one week to address (between a loss to G2 on Week 3 and a decisive victory against H2K on Week Four).
Ditto, potentially, for some of the questionable mid-game decisions (such as poorly trading objectives, a matter that nearly cost them the game against Schalke 04 on Week Six) and their ability to synchronize in side lane skirmishes, a matter that would have helped them snowball games even faster. But as much as there is a sense of urgency, there is almost a sense of inevitability within the Splyce camp, that work pays off eventually and in a timely manner.
“One step at a time,” Xerxe said on the team’s progress. “I think it's the best way.”
It does not mean, however, that Splyce isn’t aware of its proximity to the top of the standings, but also to the bottom of it – a matter that makes it hard to properly gauge the teams’ power levels outside of Fnatic and G2 Esports.
“It's really hard to put the teams in an order. The teams are playing equally, or at the same level,” he chimed in. “The middle-of-the-table teams are playing more or less at the same level, but in the upcoming weeks we will have a better image of what the power rankings would be like.”
But at least, for now, the team has breathing room, as patch changes loom on the horizon, and as games can wildly impact its fortunes, but that is a story for another day.
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