The 2018 NA LCS Summer Playoff bracket has been set. A full day of tiebreakers followed the conclusion of the regular split, with Echo Fox taking the 4th seed. Echo Fox will play 5th seed TSM on Saturday, while 3rd seed 100Thieves will face 6th seed FlyQuest on Sunday.
On paper, Echo Fox has the most potential of any roster in the NA LCS. However, with only a month of play between the five players, the results have left a lot to be desired.
No one knows Echo Fox needs to improve more than Andy “Smoothie” Ta. The star Support joined Echo Fox after requesting a trade from Cloud9 in the middle of the split, forming a brand new Bot Lane with Lawrence “Lost” Hui.
In Smoothie, star carry duo Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett finally have a dependable counterweight to balance them out on the other side of the map. All of the pieces are there for Echo Fox, but it’s up to them to put it together in time for their match this weekend.
I sat down with Smoothie following a full day of NA LCS tiebreakers to discuss his move to Echo Fox and look ahead towards the playoffs.
Smoothie, we now have the playoff seeding all figured out. Echo Fox will be playing against TSM as the 4th seed vs. 5th seed. What are your thoughts on TSM’s recent form, and how are you feeling about the playoff match ahead?
I think that TSM as a team right now has been struggling a lot. We kind of smashed them in our tiebreaker today. In my opinion, they didn’t win very cleanly in their second game against FlyQuest. I’m not really too worried about TSM.
Honestly, I think the top six teams are not that far apart. There are definitely teams that are easier to beat, but overall I think all of the teams are pretty close. Last split, Team Liquid came into the playoffs with a pretty big advantage over the other teams, but I don’t feel like that’s the case this split. I’m really hopeful for what we can bring to playoffs.
Do you think the increased parity in the NA LCS is due to teams developing more synergy as weeks pass?
Yeah, I think all of the recent changes to the meta this summer really tested teams’ ability to adapt and expand their champion pools to adjust. The teams who figured out the meta first are the teams who you see at the top of the table.
A really good example is C9’s Zilean adaptation. Playing Zilean got them 5 or 6 free wins with that champion, and they made it to second place. C9 is pretty unpredictable and have a lot of creative minds. They have picks that people didn’t see coming, and their adaptation is why they’re towards the top of the standings.
Team Liquid has a lot of veterans. They know which matchups are good, and they know which champions work against the newer champions in the meta too, so they’ve also adapted pretty well.
That puts you guys in a unique situation because Echo Fox has arguably the most talented roster in the entire league on paper. However, you have only had about a month to gel, which is much shorter compared to other rosters. Has that changed your team’s approach?
Joining a new team in the middle of a split was definitely a big concern of mine. I really wanted to see how I would do in a new environment when I moved from Cloud9 to Echo Fox, but obviously, I was worried about the results given the timeline.
I had been on the same team for a long time. My synergy with Jensen and Sneaky was practically ingrained in our playstyle, so playing with a new team and new players was kind of scary.
Fortunately, it ended up working really well for us on Echo Fox. Our practice has been going really well, and I think we’ve been performing for the most part. We’ve been a bit inconsistent, but that’s honestly how this team runs. This team likes to take a lot of risks, and if they pan out, the game is usually won. On the other hand, if the game gets bad and someone’s mentality is affected negatively, I try to be the person who stays calm.
I think one of the biggest things right now for us is the number of voices we have on the team. I’ve always been a very vocal player, and so have Dardoch and Huni throughout their respective careers. We all like to yell in game, especially on stage, so that’s something I’ve been trying very hard to step back from individually.
I’m trying to be the voice of reason who stays calm. It’s something I’m working on, and it’s not perfect yet, but it’ll get there.
You were a big voice on Cloud9, and Cloud9 wasn’t decisive enough. Now you’re on Echo Fox, and you have shotcallers, and the team is extremely decisive and aggressive. Has that been an adjustment for you?
Yeah, Huni and Dardoch are very decisive players, especially when it comes to their individual matchups. They want to play a certain way all of the time, and that usually nets them a pretty big advantage because they’re both very individually talented.
When I was on Cloud9 at the beginning of this split, we had a lot of trouble being decisive when it came to closing out games. That was attributed a lot to me because I was pretty indecisive with the meta. All of these mages and bruisers were coming out in the Bot Lane, and I’m really unfamiliar with those champions. It took a while for me to adjust, and now that the game is returning to a more standardized meta, it’s a lot easier for me to grasp situational play.
My voice as a shotcaller has returned in the past couple of weeks. I think playing on Cloud9 Academy before my trade gave me a lot of confidence, even though I didn’t want to play academy. The quality of practice was understandably not as good as LCS, so it was helpful for me to regain my confidence and push myself to my limits. That gave me the ability to be a lot more decisive in situations I previously wasn’t, and I think that’s one of my biggest strengths.
Do you think that you’ve returned to your top-level individually despite not playing all of the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split?
I think individually I’m playing pretty well. Lost and I have been performing very well in lane during scrims, but that hasn’t always translated to our stage play. For example, in our last game against Team Liquid, I feel like we played a lot more cautiously than necessary. The process of smoothing out the consistency of that translation takes a while because we have a lot of new players on our team.
Personally, I’m trying to instill a lot of confidence in Lost. I think he has a lot of mechanical prowess, so we’re able to win lane off of our individual talents. It’s been going pretty well recently.
Right, with the OPL experience, he has experience on stage at the professional level already which certainly helps with the adjustment. When you joined Echo Fox, the coaching staff was in flux as well. Did that change your approach to joining the team?
I didn’t look too much into the coaching staff upon joining the team. Obviously, it crossed my mind, but I didn’t think about it too much because the individual players were very talented. The knowledge I bring from playing at Worlds twice can be transferred over smoothly because the players already know how to play macro.
It wasn’t much of a drastic adjustment, but these guys are pretty wild in scrims, so we gotta tone that back a bit (laughs).
If Echo Fox were to reach the NA LCS Summer Finals and the 2018 World Championship, it would be the first finals as well as the first Worlds appearances for Dardoch, Damonte, and Lost. Is that something on your mind as a team?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve been to finals twice, and it’s a feeling of euphoria when you stand on that stage. Playing a final in Toronto was really special for me as a Canadian. Getting them there would be a pretty good feeling, and as long as we put in the work we can definitely make it.
I think our team is really talented, and even though the results haven’t shown that recently, I’m really confident in this team to draft in best of 5 situations. Our players have very broad champion pools, so it will be a good set of matches.
Even though it’s taken longer to build your synergy than compared to initial expectations, one could argue that Echo Fox has the most potential of any North American team at an international event. Do you think there’s validity to that argument?
Huni and I have played on an international stage before, so we’re pretty used to it. Dardoch played in Rift Rivals 2018: NA vs. EU, but that was here at the NA LCS studio.
Our team has a lot of potential. We can play a multitude of styles, and we’ve had really good scrim records. Obviously, scrim records don’t mean everything, but good practice is indicative of something, you know? I truly believe this team can beat all of the other teams in NA.
First steps first, of course. We’ve got to win NA before world domination.
Smoothie, thank you so much for your time. It’s been great to see you back in a starting position in the NA LCS. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans after your wild adventure of a summer split?
Echo Fox has not been performing to the level of Cloud9, but we’ve been together for only a month and we’ve been practicing really hard. We’ve been doing triple scrim blocks every night we can. We’re trying our absolute hardest to win, and hopefully, our fans will keep supporting us.
I want to thank my fans for sticking with me, and I hope we make you guys proud.
Nick Geracie is a freelance esports journalist currently located in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter here.