OpTic Gaming defeated FlyQuest to extend their win streak to five games last Saturday. Despite closing out Week 7 of the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split with a loss to Clutch Gaming, OpTic is in a tie for fourth place with FlyQuest and Cloud9. At 7-7, they’ve gone 5-1 in their past six games and currently sit in playoff contention.
Not so bad for a team that was in last place a mere three weeks ago.
A big part of OpTic’s success has come from Top Laner Niship “Dhokla” Doshi finding his footing. Making his NA LCS debut in spring as a substitute Top Laner from OpTic Academy, Dhokla’s transition into a starting role for OpTic’s NA LCS roster has seen him thrive on split push champions. Whether it be lithe tower diving on Camille or unrelenting, lumbering siege from Yorick, Dhokla’s improvements in side lane play have been instrumental in OpTic Gaming’s rise to relevance.
We sat down with Dhokla following his fifth win in a row to discuss his growth as a player, as well as OpTic’s improvements in all aspects.
We’re here with OpTic Gaming Top Laner Dhokla after your fifth win in a row. How are you feeling about your play right now?
I’m feeling good about getting the wins, but I think I could be playing a lot better individually. But I’ll take the wins and I’ll take the lessons that come with them.
I honestly expected you to be way more stoked on yourself! You had that epic Yorick backdoor last week, and you dazzled on Camille today in teamfights. What have you been trying to improve on and what do you think you need the most work on?
Since I’ve become a starter this summer, I’ve been working on my laning phase. This game it didn’t look very good and I got pressured a lot, but I think playing as a starter will help me become a more complete Top Laner. I want to eliminate the weaknesses in my champion pool and be a reliable constant for my team.
We saw you made your debut in spring when you subbed in for Zig for a few games, how has the team changed since then from your perspective?
When I was in academy, I tried watching LCS scrims between our games. I would add my opinion into the draft phase during practice, but aside from that, I don’t think I contributed the same amount that I am currently. I think I have much more of a voice now, and I’m more comfortable asking for things and having my own preferences. I’m vocal about what I want to play, what I want to avoid, etc.
While it was different, I think it made sense because I don’t think the academy team should have a ton of impact on what the starting LCS roster is doing strategically.
The reason I ask is because in an interview with The Shotcaller last week, you mentioned that you were scrimming OpTic Academy before every NA LCS match. I thought that may have been a strategic contribution from them.
Well, once we have the draft set, we’ll play a scrim and talk about the possibilities. There’s definitely a discussion between the ten of us, but when it comes to the draft phase, the LCS players know exactly what they want to work on. So we’ll draft our composition as well as the composition for OpTic Academy to play. Then we’ll play out the scenario and see if it makes sense and learn the strengths and weaknesses of the composition.
You mentioned the draft phase being a big part of your preparation, and today, you guys had your analyst, Croissant, join Zaboutine on stage for the first time today. Has this rule change made a difference for OpTic in the draft phase?
Two coaches honestly didn’t feel that different, but I feel that Croissant’s there primarily to watch for critical errors. For example, if we’re pretty set on a game plan and things go accordingly, there’s not much of a difference. But in the event that the enemy team surprises us and drafts something we don’t expect, Croissant’s there for those situations to help us adapt quickly.
Has there been anything different amongst the players in the recent weeks? You guys went from tied for last place to winning five games in a row, some of them against North America’s most prestigious organizations. Was there a turning point where something has clicked for you guys?
I think honestly our drafts have been 60% of our wins...okay, maybe not that much, but it’s been a big factor and helped us a lot. I think our draft meetings have gotten better over time. At the beginning of the split, I don’t think our draft meetings were as efficient. We would get stuck on points that don’t really matter, or tunnel vision on unlikely outliers.
Our meetings have improved a lot since we were in last place. We knew we needed a change, so we tried to approach that draft meeting with a different attitude and perspective. We’ve also been a lot more positive and chill during scrims. We’re still taking it seriously, but we’re not beating ourselves up or harping on each other as much for mistakes. We acknowledge our mistakes and move immediately towards fixing them. Because we’re not focusing on each individual mistake as much and trying to focus on what we can do better as a team, the conversations during our reviews have been more constructive.
Now that you guys have been growing, how would you define OpTic Gaming’s style when compared to other teams in the NA LCS?
I don’t want to give up too many secrets, but we have solid laning and we use our laning advantages to gain vision control. After that, we’re comfortable with playing the game slow and continuing to move up our vision line until we choke the enemy team out. We like closing the game out with a methodical pace and set ourselves up to make measured, well-thought-out decisions. We never rush anything, but we’re not afraid to all-in on something given the correct circumstances.
How does your team keep your flow of communication clear during intense moments?
It’s usually [Support] Terry [“Big” Chuong]. When things get intense, he resets us like, “Alright, everyone just calm down. I need to talk. We are all talking and no one knows what’s going on.” Something like that, you know? [Mid Laner] Tristan [“PowerOfEvil” Schrage] will do that as well, so we have good, experienced leaders on our team and that’s very helpful.
Big prides himself on being able to set a direction for his team and lead them to a strategic victory. Can you speak more to his leadership and what it brings to OpTic Gaming?
In game, he’s definitely been stepping up and putting his own voice into mid and late game shotcalling. PoE pitches in as well, but Big has a lot of strategic control. He has a good sense of the game on a holistic level.
Out of game, he watches a lot of anime. He’s really easy to get along with and joke around with, it’s a lot of fun.
Are there any players that you look up to in the NA LCS?
Yeah, right now it would be Ssumday. This guy is just insanely talented. He never loses lane, he always knows the right play to make. He just never loses the game for his team, he’s always solid. That’s the type of player I aspire to be.
I think Sword plays pretty well on Griffin. He has great synergy with his Jungler Tarzan. I haven’t seen Smeb and Cuvee play in a while, but overall, most of the LCK Top Laners are very solid. However, Sword stands out because he avoids ganks and pressure extremely well, and that’s a very important trait to have as a Top Laner.
Have you ever imagined yourself playing against any of these players?
Not so much imagined, but I often think about that there will be a time that I have to face them, and that I must bring my A-game if I want to win.
Last question for you, Dhokla. People consider you a rookie here in the NA LCS, but you’ve had past experience in the Oceanic Pro League. In your experience, how does NA LCS infrastructure differ from OPL infrastructure?
The environment in OPL is not as structured. It’s a lot looser, and there’s a lot of camaraderies. Everyone knows each other well, and teams live together in team houses. It’s a chill atmosphere and I enjoyed it.
In North America, a lot of teams are striking a work/life balance and separation. Teams like us, CLG, and Team Liquid have practice facilities and offices now, so that’s really different from the OPL where you’re used to shared bathrooms and all of that. *laughs*
Thanks so much for the interview, congratulations on your amazing win streak. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the OpTic Gaming fans?
Thanks for supporting us. I hope we make playoffs, and I hope I can perform well in the upcoming weeks and continue that into our playoff matches.
Nick Geracie is a freelance esports journalist currently located in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter here.