FOX Apollo: "I 100% trust that Rush, over time, can become the best Jungler in the LCS."

Echo Fox came into the 2019 LCS Spring Split with low expectations. An underwhelming response to the roster unveiling was followed by bottom team expectations, but Echo Fox has shown far more fight. Despite losing all three Saturday games in the first three weeks, the team has gone undefeated on Sundays to currently sit tied for 3rd place at 3-3.

Batting .500 is far from ideal for any LCS team looking to become elite, but Echo Fox has actually outperformed its record, losing out on a few crucial moments with missed Smites by Lee "Rush" Yoon-jae. Echo Fox Bot Laner Apollo "Apollo" Price sat down with Inven Global to discuss his team's bizarre start to the LCS, his long-time partnership with Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent, and the strategic approach of Head Coach Kim "Ssong" Sang-soo. 

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I'm here with Apollo after an exciting victory for Echo Fox against FlyQuest. Echo Fox is currently 0-3 on Saturdays, and 3-0 on Sundays. Can you explain this trend?

I don't really know what it is. Rush has some secret thing where he never goes 0-2 or something.

This was a close game up until the very end, and then it was just over very quickly. Can you take us through the final moments of the game for Echo Fox?

I think the main thing is that we had a good understanding of what we needed to do. FlyQuest's composition was super one dimensional: very easy to execute engage going towards side lane plays. We made a mistake at dragon when they flanked us from multiple sides and I got one-shotted and didn't even press Stopwatch, because I'm bad. From there, they had really good control and Santorin's Nocturne was able to control side lanes.

At that point, they had a really good chance of winning the game. Obviously, that didn't mean we couldn't come back, but they definitely had control. Then they teleported and flanked us again, we lost Solo, but then they went to baron, and that's when they lost the game. I was basically there for fun while Fenix 1v5'd them on Swain. It was nice being the Robin to his Batman. I was just there cleaning up, and then we got Baron.

Nocturne is the type of champion that can't really do anything if the entire team stays bunched together, so we went Bot Lane as a group to limit their potential flank points and pick opportunities. We knew what we were trying to do, and as soon as we saw Kennen Teleport or a possible Lissandra angle, we would back up or mark its location. Once we had that position in Bot Lane, we knew we could end the game. We didn't have to get triple inhibitors; wait for Elder Dragon; etc. 

We knew if we kept poking and marked their engage, once they flopped their ultimates, they couldn't do anything. Their team composition wasn't bad, but it was one dimensional.

You guys did a great job of understand the strengths and weaknesses of their composition. Do you think having three members on the roster who played together last year is a benefit for Echo Fox?

It's mainly about experience. All of our players have played for a long time, so that's not necessarily synergy as much as it is shared understanding of the game. We knew that going Bot was the best play, and no one was trying to argue against it. We're all on the same page.

It's nice that in some way, we've all played together before. Solo, Hakuho, and myself on Clutch Gaming; Rush and myself on Team Impulse; and Solo and Fenix on Gold Coin United — we all have familiarity with each other in some way, but at the end of the day it's mostly about understanding the game and knowing how to play.

We made a mistake in the dragon fight earlier in the game because our positioning was bad, and we were punished for it. Even though we are veterans, we did that poorly, so that's what we're going to keep working on.

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Is Rush any different than when you last played with him on Team Impulse?

I think both of us have grown equally as players. Rush maybe hasn't performed up to his standards yet on stage, but he can play so much better. Based on scrims, his ceiling is really high, and I have full confidence in his ability to play. Sometimes, it's just a bad game or a mistake here or there, but overall, he's a really good player.

I 100% trust that Rush, over time, can become the best Jungler in the LCS. However, that also is dependent on team synergy. He needs to be confident in himself, but also confident that his team is going to back him up. I'm not too worried about Rush, I think he's a really good jungler.

Synergy isn't built in a day, but how are communications forming in Echo Fox?

On stage, a lot of it is Solo, Rush, and Fenix talking. I talk a lot during the early game, but that's also dependent on the composition. If Hakuho and I are playing Ezreal/Braum, like today, we're really not saying too much. I'm simply calling for what I need. However, if I'm the carry of the game, and we're the lane who has a lot of pressure, I need to be calling a lot more things in game. Everyone is putting in as much as they need to, it just depends on the situation and the composition.

You and Hakuho have now been on three teams together. Do you even need to say anything to each other at this point?

Yeah, we don't have to talk as much as a duo. We need to talk about our laning phase in advance and how we're going to play it out, but it's mostly about thinking about how the lane should play out ideally.

For example, FlyQuest had a lot of control with the Lucian/Ornn lane, and they have all the options in the 2v2 compared to our Ezreal/Braum. That's a good example of when I have to communicate more, actually. When Lucian Teleported to the top side of the map, I was ready to call for it because I knew they had the control of the lane.

Hakuho and I have been working together for a while now. Obviously, we're not the perfect duo or anything, but I think we're in a pretty solid spot right now and we're doing well.

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You two are the stabilizer of this Echo Fox lineup. Does that put pressure on you?

Sometimes it just comes down to draft. I've had plenty of games where I've had the opportunity to be aggressive, and my team trusts me to do so.

How does Coach Ssong compare to previous coaches of yours?

Coach Ssong is really great. We were looking for Ssong to coach us back on Team NV, so I've been wanting him to coach me for some time. Instead, he went to Immortals that split, and then they did super well and qualified for Worlds. Now that he is our coach, I'm really happy.

Ssong is different from coaches I've worked with in the past. He's really smart about the game, and I think what's really important is that he never feels like he is attacking our ability to play the game mechanically. He always trusts us, and makes his sole focus how we're going to play as a team and what we need to do to make things happen communication-wise, mindset-wise, and draft-wise. He is constantly thinking, evaluating, and critiquing us in those aspects.

His feed back is never, "You could have landed this skillshot here." or anything small like the things that plenty of my past coaches got hung up on. Of course, they just want the player to get better, but it's annoying. At the end of the day, if I made a mistake that blatant, I'm probably already aware of it. I'm a professional player; I've been playing this game for way too long; I think I'd know when I make a micro mistake.

However, macro mistakes are harder for me to recognize . If the team knows I made that mistake, then we can talk about it and decide what was right and wrong about our execution. I think Ssong focuses a lot more on the big picture.

Do you think that his level of trust for your fundamentals makes the team more receptive to his macro understanding?

Yeah, I think that's very true.

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Despite a 3-3 record, Echo Fox has succeeded initial expectations in the 2019 LCS Spring Split. Do you think Echo Fox has a chance at a playoff run this spring?

Oh, for sure. I think we're even better than we've shown on the scoreboard. I think we should have won yesterday, and I think we probably should have beaten TSM earlier in the split as well.

I think we're a much better team than our record actually shows. We have a lot to work on, but I think we can make playoffs easily. As far as our playoffs run, we'll see as it goes. Team Liquid looks really strong, and there are a lot of other strong teams right now. There are also a lot of weak teams, so I think we'll be fine as long as we take it one or two games at a time.

A missed smite here or individual mistake here has made unfortunate differences for Echo Fox early on in the split. Do those types of mistakes still bother you as a veteran with a ton of experience?

I'm definitely still bothered when I don't play well, even in this game that we won. It's great that we won, and it feels great, but it sucks when I make a mistake. When a teammate makes a small mistake, I really don't care, because it happens. But it still sucks for me if I feel like I played poorly, and win or lose, it will affect me. It lasts maybe a good hour, but I'll get over it. 

I'm not trying to sound depressed or anything. It still sucks to feel like you played poorly regardless of the game's outcome, but it happens. I'll get over it, and that's just how it is. I've been playing for a long time, and so are my teammates. You have to adjust to that and get used to it.

So far, you guys are off to a pretty good start and are in contention for a playoff spot. Thanks for the interview, Apollo. Is there anything you'd like to say to the Echo Fox fanbase?

Thank you for supporting us. I know not many people had belief in our ability for going 3-3...for some reason, but I'm glad we exceed those insanely high expectations.

▲ Image Source: Riot Games

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