The 2018 League of Legends season was one for the ages, and for one if its eldest paragons, it was a year of redemption.
Legendary Russian Jungler Danil "Diamondprox" Reshetnikov is one of the longest active professional League of Legends players. Diamondprox famously pioneered counter-jungling in 2012, and despite a myriad of setbacks in the past few years of his career, his influence and respect within the scene has remained.
Russia's LCL has never been stronger, and Diamondprox led Gambit Esports to championships in both spring and summer. Gambit's triumph in the 2018 LCL Spring Playoffs earned it a representative spot for the LCL at the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational, but it failed to qualify for the main stage. After winning the 2018 LCL Summer Playoffs, Gambit Esports made it to the final round of the 2018 World Championship Play-In Stage.
Despite falling short to Cloud9 in a 5-game series, Gambit Esports has wedged itself firmly into the international picture as the developing LCL's crown jewel. Diamondprox and Mid Laner Mykhailo "Kira" Harmash qualified for All-Star 2018 as LCL representatives due to their impressive performances on the international stage.
Diamondprox sat down with InvenGlobal at the end of Day 1 of the All-Star event to look back on Gambit's year and discuss the development within the LCL.
I'm here with Diamondprox at All-Star 2018 in Las Vegas. How has the event been for you?
The event is awesome. Between the event itself and Las Vegas, I don't know which is better! Both have been insane and Riot took a huge step in terms of improving the quality of the event for the players. It's so fun to be here because they make so many activities for us.
Can you talk about what Riot has changed that you specifically think has improved the event for participating players?
Specifically for this event, they wanted to hold talks and discussions about various aspects of the game. In addition, we have an activity that we can participate in every day. For example, today we played golf. It was fun learning it for the first time; I felt like it was going to be easier but it was way harder than I expected.
You're also getting the opportunity to hang out with players from other regions in a less competitive setting. Is there anyone you've gotten to know over the event?
Let's see...I think if I can call Europe a different "region", I've been hanging out with Broxah, Caps and Jiizuke a bit. It was fun to talk to them in person instead of solo queue and to get to know them a little better, but I don't talk to people that much. I'm a bit shy, so it's hard for me to make contact first with people. I don't start conversations on my own, but I like talking to people and getting to know them if they talk to me.
Well, I appreciate you sitting down and talking with me! This year has been awesome for long time fans of yours because with Gambit Esports, you have made a return to the international spotlight through Russia's LCL. What's it been like to be back in the international scene?
I like playing in international competitions. It's a little bit sad that I can only play internationally twice a year, and other than that I have to play in my region. However, the LCL is getting stronger. This summer it was pretty decent, but before then it was weak. There was no competition at all, but it's starting to get better.
Still, I like playing internationally more, because you play against teams who don't know how you play. They can see your replays, but they cannot feel you out. They don't know how to prepare for you. Personally, it helps me bring the element of surprise more consistently against my opponents.
Also, I like to travel and when you play in Russia all year, you don't travel very often.
What do you think has been the catalyst for the growth in the LCL, and do you think it will continue in the future?
I think it got better because Riot invested more money into teams than before, and so teams are able to sign better players. It was a more competitive region in part to that, but also, the scene itself has improved its talent pool. The EU LCS was always head and shoulders above all other European leagues, but the gap has closed so much in the past few years.
Outside of Fnatic, every other EULCS team this year was not definitively better than top Turkish teams, or even us. Because of that, domestic gaps in each league are closing too because everyone is trying to improve quicker than the other teams throughout the continent.
We're getting to a point where the top Wildcard region teams are proven to be World Class, and Gambit Esports proved that with a 5 game showdown against Cloud9 for a spot in the Main Stage at Worlds. How did you feel about your play in the Worlds Play-in Stage?
I was not that happy with how I played. I only thought my Taliyah was world class level. I'm sad I didn't get to play Xin Zhao because that's my favorite champion, and I'm a little bit sad that my Gragas games weren't good for my team or for myself. We either lost as a team before I could utilize my early game advantage, or I made poor mistakes in the early game. Overall, I think I played decently. I had some really good moments, but I would love to have done better.
We hope to see you back at the Worlds stage soon. As someone who has been playing for a long time, do you think the way the game is changing in Season 9 fits the aggressive playstyle you became popular for at the beginning of your career?
I think the meta isn't changing that much. It does change, not enough to bring back the old styles of play. Back when I was waiting in the Jungle all the time, it was only efficient for me because my opponents were unprepared. To make that aggressive playstyle work again, they need to make a lot more changes.
Still, I'm fine with the current meta. The game has improved so much. A few years ago, I hated playing this game. In Season 5, when every Mid was Azir/Viktor/Cassiopeia with Rylai's Crystal Scepter in every game...it was just beyond disgusting. You could only play Lee Sin or Olaf as a Jungler, and you had no viability past the early game. After about fifteen minutes, two and a half Lee Sins couldn't kill one Viktor if they tried.
I hated the game a lot back then, but the game has changed for the better. A Jungler scales to about eighty percent of a Mid Laner's scaling, and I think that's a lot better because you can actually apply pressure at multiple points of the game. I also like that vision has been reduced and you can actually play around wards. Those two changes made a big difference for me and I actually enjoy playing the game again.
If you don't enjoy the game and you are just forcing yourself to play because it's your job, you're going to be a worse player.
Thank you so much for all of the insight, Diamondprox. I appreciate your time and really enjoyed speaking with you. Do you have any goals or future plans set out?
I don't know about the long-term, but I have a one-year plan. We have roster changes in our team and I want to see how it works. I'm really excited about playing with new players because we've been playing with the same roster for one and a half years. It made the game a little bit boring, you know?
We added some new blood into the team, and with two old players and two young players, I'm interested in putting forth more effort and seeing what responsibilities I will need to take. I hope that we will first secure the #1 seed in our region. The competition in the LCL will be tougher than ever before, and you never know what can happen with roster changes. After that, I hope to return to the international stage and play better than before.