When Eugene "Pobelter" Park signed with FlyQuest ahead of the 2019 LCS Spring Split, he wasn't just looking for a new home. He was looking for a chance to re-define himself.
After a disappointing exit from the 2018 World Championship, Pobelter was shouldered with most of a large portion of the blame in the eyes of the community. Pobelter's contract expired, and while Team Liquid mulled its options in the Mid Lane, Pobelter used that as an opportunity to explore his.
TL eventually decided on Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen for the Mid Lane, and Pobelter joined FlyQuest.
Despite being perceived as a bottom 3 team, FlyQuest began the LCS with a strong 2-0 start. The sample size is small, but it may be indicative of FlyQuest being much stronger than expected. "I think Golden Guardians and FlyQuest are pegged as bad, but they're both really good," said Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng in a recent interview with Inven Global. "There are a lot of good teams in NA right now."
Team Liquid's AD Carry has respect for his former Mid Laner's squad, and based on FlyQuest's week 1, there is good reason for it. Pobelter sat down with Inven Global after his team's opening day match against Golden Guardians to discuss the victory, FlyQuest's relative strengths, and his rollercoaster of an off-season.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Pobelter. FlyQuest was able to defeat Golden Guardians convincingly, despite GGS being favored to win. Can you tell me about your game plan coming into this match?
We've been pretty confident heading into this split. The fans see FlyQuest and think, 'That team sucks, they're going to be a bottom team.' We ourselves have a different perspective on that, so we were confident in our ability to take down Golden Guardians, as well as other teams in the LCS.
We're going to keep trying to perform well; of course, this is only the start. I think our new Top Laner, Viper, has a lot of room to grow. He will need some time to do so because he is a rookie, but I think we have the right veteran leadership in Santorin, WildTurtle, and myself to help him realize his full potential. JayJ isn't a rookie, but he only played for part of last year; he's still in the learning phase as well.
FlyQuest has a good balance of veterans and rookies. Honestly, after I saw what C9 did last year, I thought, 'That seems like a good idea.'
Viper was also a teammate of yours on TL as the Top Laner for Team Liquid Academy. Did you have any part in him joining FlyQuest, and how has he grown so far since TLA?
We practiced next to each other pretty much the whole season, and he was our substitute at the 2018 World Championship, as well. I know him well, and he's definitely improved a lot.
Rookies are like sponges. They learn pretty quickly in my experience. Last year, on TL, we had a lot of veterans. It's probably a difference in mindset, but usually, other veteran players will be hard-headed and stubborn in their own opinion. At least, that was the case last year. It would be kind of hard to try and get on the same page and agree on a point, but it feels a lot easier with newer players.
Is there anything new you can learn about yourself as a player on FlyQuest?
The past few months have been a lot of soul-searching, growing up, and thinking about who am as a person outside of my career. I did a lot of thinking about who I am besides a pro gamer.
In the off-season, I was on the cusp of re-signing with Team Liquid, and then suddenly, something happened. I needed to find a new home, and I had a lot of different options, but in the end, FlyQuest seemed like a really great team to join. I'm familiar with a lot of the management staff who are from Immortals.
I know a lot of people rate FlyQuest very low, but people forget that FlyQuest was one of the leading teams in the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split. FlyQuest was one game away from clinching 2nd place heading into playoffs. With my understanding of the game and of the players on the team, I have a lot of respect for Santorin and I know Turtle very well from playing with him on Immortals. I didn't know JayJ very well coming into the team, honestly, but he's proven to be really good.
With the potential of Viper moving along with me, I felt that this was something I could make work and help the team succeed in a way that gets me out of the shadows. I don't know how to explain it, but on TL, I felt kind of overlooked. When I performed well, people didn't really care, they were just like, "Doublelift! Doublelift! Doublelift! Yeah!" and then when we performed poorly, it felt like I was taking the brunt of the blame for our poor performance.
That was something I struggled with a lot after Worlds. I was pretty f*****g sad and depressed and honestly just hating myself. It felt like sh*t.
I feel like I sacrificed a lot of my individuality and a lot of my own personal strengths on Team Liquid. I played the exact way the team and coaches wanted me to play.
We had some disputes in spring and the beginning of summer where I wanted to try and play a lot more aggressively. I wanted to be more greedy and take more risks, but it really was not meshing well with our overall plan as a team, so I took more of a backseat role and focused on facilitating the team macro. I played for 5v5, rather than myself, and it was fine. It led to a lot of success; we had back to back LCS Championships with sweeps in the Finals.
I thought I performed great in all of those games, but when it came to international events, I was the one being blamed for our team failures. Honestly, our team just f*****g collapsed mentally, psychologically, and interpersonally for both of those events, so for me to receive all of the blame as an individual didn't feel very fair.
It kind of sucked coming to terms with it, but that's life. People only see one part of the picture and I'm glad I didn't come out and get emotional about it and make a tweet that I would regret or something like that. That stuff is kind of hard to handle, honestly.
Can you talk about the circumstances in which you found out you were being replaced on TL's starting roster?
Steve wanted to re-sign me immediately after Worlds, and he had been chasing me for a few weeks. There was a long period until free agency actually started, and it was a really strange scenario. He kept saying, "We really want you, Pobelter, but we also really want this one player from another region. We would take him over you, but those chances are slim."
He was being completely honest with me, which I appreciated a lot. That player is really an excellent player; one of the best in his region. I thanked Steve for being honest with me and told him I should probably see what was on the table for me, as well.
There was a team who wanted to bring over Peanut from LCK, and I viewed that as a really great opportunity to play with someone who had played with two of the best Mid Laners in the World in Faker and BDD. That was insane to me because I could learn so much playing with him and improve so much as a player. I was holding out for a while to hear back, and in the end, that offer didn't pan out. Steve was forced to make a decision, TL went with Jensen, and I had to find a new place.
I wasn't too bummed out about it. I didn't really view it as getting replaced by a better player because I performed poorly. Other people may not see it that way, but that's just how sh*t panned out. I didn't feel blamed by the team, my coaches, or my teammates, but from the community and the fans, I definitely felt blamed. Overall, I felt it was our team atmosphere collapsing that led to our performance at international events.
You've played with Xmithie for longer than any other Jungler in your career. What's it been like developing synergy with Santorin and finding a balance between team play and individual focus?
Xmithie is a really calm, controlled, macro-heavy player who will focus around objectives. Santorin will kind of go crazy with me 2v2, and it'll get to a point to where I'm like, 'Dude, we're being so f*****g stupid right now. We gotta cut this sh*t out.' Xmithie was drawing me back in and focused on the plan in TL, but now, Santorin and I have to keep each other in check and hold each other accountable.
If FlyQuest is better than everyone thinks, what is it about your team that people are underestimating?
I know a lot of people have us rated low, but we're trying not to pay it too much mind. We're just focusing on playing our game and performing well. We're definitely going to have stumbles here and there, as this is only the Spring Split. We are a new team with players newer to the LCS, but I feel pretty good. Practice is going well; I think that's what every team is saying, though. Playing video games is pretty cool.
You mentioned FlyQuest is a chance for you to step out of the shadow of other players and define yourself as an individual. Who is Pobelter as a Mid Laner in 2019?
After MSI, I really realized that you can't be a ***** as a Mid Laner. You have to go all-in; you have to be aggressive. You have to play like Caps or Rookie and play more confidently and aggressively than I felt I was able to play on Team Liquid for the variety of reasons I mentioned earlier.
I also don't really like playing Malzahar every game. I was a really aggressive player back in the day on IMT, and even in my CLG, Winterfox, and Evil Geniuses days. I like to outplay people, so hopefully I can do some more of that this split.