OPTA Palafox: "Scouting Grounds is what made me realize that I really wanted to go pro."

The 2018 NA LCS Scouting Grounds is coming to a close. The final broadcast day is fast approaching, and with it, an opportunity for the up and coming talent to prove themselves on the biggest stage of their respective careers.

Cristian “Palafox” Palafox is no stranger to this type of opportunity and the weight that it carries. The OpTic Gaming Academy Mid Laner was a  member of the 2017 Scouting Grounds class before being drafted and signed by the GreenWall.

Palafox sat down with Inven Global to discuss his experience at least year’s Scouting Grounds, give his thoughts on the changes in this year’s event, and reflect on the first year of his professional career.

We’re here with OpTic Gaming Academy Mid Laner Palafox to talk about Scouting Grounds. As a participant in 2017, what was Scouting Grounds helpful with in your experience and development as a player?

I definitely learned what the difference between competitive play and Solo Queue. Since I had never really played at an amateur level, I got an introduction to the competitive world of League of Legends to see I wanted to go pro. Scouting Grounds is what made me realize that I really wanted to go pro.

What was the hardest part about Scouting Grounds in your experience?

I guess I felt like the people I was playing against were a lot more experienced than me. Before I went to Scouting Grounds in 2017, I had never played in a competitive setting, so that was a whole new thing for me. Everyone else who played had been in the amateur scene for two to three years or so. It was kind of intimidating.

The hardest part for me was getting over those nerves and realizing that they were just other players.

Do you feel like Riot listened to the feedback from your year and made some positive changes?

I would say everything they changed was actually really good for Scouting Grounds. More games for the players gives them more time to o showcase how good they are, and less pressure because you have a larger sample size of games. You have real time to actually make up for your mistakes if you make any early on.

All 10 NA LCS organizations participating is obviously a lot better for the players too, you know? You get interact with a lot of professionals and staff. OpTic was a new organization in the NA LCS when I was on Team Ocean in last year’s Scouting Grounds, but I still really appreciated working with them. Every team going out of their way to help and interact with these rookies and other untested talents probably will help them grow as players.

I remember last year, Akaadian taught us so much in just a portion of a day. It was insane. I can’t imagine what three teams as one time could do for a player. As far as the removal of the draft, I think that’s in the best interest of players. The best way I can put it is that I don’t think it really helps out the players at all. It’s just something to do to say you did it, and it also puts pressure on organizations to sign players.

It seems like Riot took all the feedback really well and improved Scouting Grounds all along.

Is there enough time to make a case for yourself, though? A double RR and a final match?|

Yeah, six best-of-3’s should be plenty of time. I’m pretty sure teams can look at VoDs from scrims, and teams should easily be able to see how a player is doing throughout that many games. That’s definitely enough time.

Teams will be there with you in scrims. Organizations will see your mindset and how you approach the game and each different situation. It should be enough time to rectify mistakes and showcase yourself to teams, even if you don’t make the best-of-five Finals match at the end of the event.

Do you think the whole event should be streamed? It would give players much more screen time and exposure, but may also potentially be more stressful and make for less practice and review.

I think it’d be great for the players. That’s the pressure you’re going to be under every day as a pro, so I think it’s good practice for your career to have more exposure to broadcast. If it was streamed, you could even try out some casters or involve some popular streamers.

You could give the audience a real way to see these players, so that they still get something out of it even if they don’t find a team.

That feeds perfectly into my next question. Do you feel like you would’ve still benefited from Scouting Grounds even if you hadn’t ended up signing with OpTic Gaming?

I thought it was a really cool thing to have happen, you know? Not many people are able to say they were able to do something like this, but that’s kind of it. If I hadn’t gone pro then, I probably would have gone back to college and played League a lot less seriously.

Do you feel like Scouting Grounds is fulfilling the purpose it’s meant to fulfill? Or do you think it should be more than just ‘maybe a team will take you’?

The purpose is to showcase your ability, and if a team thinks you are good enough from interacting with you, watching your scrims, and watching you play the series’, the team will probably take you. If not, you will at least have talk about you around the scene about being a good player and a promising prospect.

There has been a lot of discussion about the Team Infernal Jungler, Kenji “Srkenji” Luke Kaneko, making it here but playing in an off-role as a Support main. Do you have thoughts about that situation and do you feel like he has a chance to actually prove himself?

I mean, that’s ultimately up to him, I guess. I’m not aware of what he is thinking; I don’t know if he wants to play Support specifically on the LCS stage or not, but the fact that he’s signed up as a Jungler makes me think he wouldn’t mind playing jungle for an LCS or Academy team. If he does well enough, I think it’s fine, there should be nothing wrong with it.

I don’t think there’s much of an argument about him taking away the opportunity from another player. If the other player isn’t here, it’s because they don’t deserve it.

Do you think Scouting Grounds is now the only place teams are looking for signing and developing talent? Is there still a chance to get a contract outside of Scouting Grounds?

I’ve never really liked ‘social climbing’ but I feel it’s  necessary to get on a team. You get to know people around the scene. Streaming helps builds up your brand; tweeting a lot does too. Build a following on social media and let people know who you are. If you’re consistently high ranking, and people like you, you can make it if you meet the right people.

A lot of esports is connections. It’s not necessarily about being the very best player in a certain role. What I’ve learned recently is that networking is SO big! It’s actually crazy to me how important it is, and I never really did anything about it before.

That held me back in the past in terms of finding a team; in solo queue I wasn’t the nicest person *laughs* and I didn’t really go out of my way to make friends with anybody. It’s something I learned since looking for a team in the franchising era, and I was like, ‘Damn. I’m really late to the game. Everyone knows everyone, and I’ve just been playing League.’

Turns out making friends is pretty important.

You played on OpTic Gaming Academy this year. What was your biggest area growth from playing in the NA Acadamy League?

I feel like what I’m going to say has more to do with summer. I got a lot out of the second split because we scrimmed against the main roster a lot, so I played against PowerOfEvil a lot. I wouldn’t have been able to do that unless I was in the Academy League, and after scrimming against him, it became clear to me that no one in the Academy League is anywhere near his level of talent.

There are a lot of aspects of my game that I need to work on — warding, roaming, and even the simple things like hiding slightly out of vision that I need to take more advantage of. There are a lot of little things that make a good player. It’s not just one big thing.

▲ (Photo Credit: LoLesports Flikr)

OpTic Gaming’s main roster credited its growth this year to the close relationship with the players on the Academy team. Did the Academy roster benefit from this dynamic as well?

Oh yeah, for sure. Playing against the main team was insanely helpful because it really helped us see he areas in which we were lacking. I’m not really going to go into specifics, but it definitely helped with laning. OpTic Gaming Academy’s picks were a lot more eccentric, because there wasn’t as much on the line, so there were a lot of weird picks we would share with each other.

It made it so we could test out strategies safely. If you want to hide a strategy, the best place to see if it would work is your academy team, and I’m pretty sure we weren’t completely horrible. We were pretty good practice for them to try out various comps and strats.

PowerOfEvil had a great year individually, especially in summer. What specifically did you learn from him this season?

I learned a lot of very niche things. I’d say he’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve met in terms of playing League of Legends. He has an excel sheet to write out notes about every matchup. He would give me notes after matches and help me improve on things. I don’t think any other LCS Mid Laner did that for their academy mid.

He definitely helped me out, and was probably the best mentor I could have had. The biggest thing was that he is definitely the best laner I have played against. His mechanics were a lot better than everyone else’s, and he knew that if he was going to take a trade, he would win it.

I needed to make sure that my trades against him weren’t horrible, and I learned how to use my spells at the right time on a whole new level. A Syndra Q on the minion wave at the wrong time could give him lane pressure for the next two minutes. I played against some other LCS Mid Laners, and I didn’t feel that amount of pressure from anyone else.

Thanks so much for the interview, Palafox. Is there any one you want to shout out?

I would like to shout out PowerOfEvil; he’s probably the best mentor I could have had. I know I already said it, but I can’t thank him enough for everything he did for me this past split.

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