The LEC's dominance over the LCS for the majority of Rift Rivals 2019: NA vs. EU was highlighted by the European teams' willingness to innovate. While G2 Esports is a team characterized by its oftentimes otherworldly flexibility, Origen showcased some flexibility of its own against TSM on day 1 of the event.
Rookie AD Carry Patrik "Patrik" Jírů took a mage to the Mid Lane, playing Neeko while Mid Laner Erlend "Nukeduck" Våtevik Holm took Yasuo to the Bot Lane with Support Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez. The pair showed that their synergy from 2013 on LemonDogs was still very much intact, as Origen snowballed the game through the Bot Lane on its way to a one-sided victory.
The last time Origen was this good, Mithy was also in the Bot Lane for the team, forming a fearsome pair with Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen. The duo started playing together for Origen at the start of 2015, a partnership that would extend to time on G2 Esports for half of 2016 and all of 2017. Zven and Mithy joined TSM together in 2018, but after TSM chose to pursue other options in the Support position, Mithy found himself as part of a rebuilt Origen, and like Zven with TSM, made Spring Finals.
Following Origen's victory over TSM at Rift Rivals 2019, Mithy joined Nick Geracie to discuss dynamics within his team, the social expectations the community has for former teammates, and his perspective on the differences between playing in the LCS and the LEC.
I'm joined by Mithy at Rift Rivals 2019: NA vs. EU after Origen's utter shellacking of TSM. To be honest, I expected the game to be a little closer than it was. Did you expect such a one-sided win?
I don't know, deep down I was pretty stressed about the game. I knew it was a "fun" game, but I wanted to showcase a good performance. It was for my own ego; that kind of thing. The way the game played out felt really good, to be honest. I couldn't dream of a better scenario.
I was going to ask if the game mattered to you more because it was against your former team in TSM. Despite this being a 'for fun' event, was that on your mind in wanting to secure the win?
Yeah, of course. I got kicked so TSM could make a better team, and I really struggled to get my confidence back afterwards because of the ****storm that happened during my time in America. I didn't showcase good performances, but there is a lot more depth to performance than what people see at face value. I went through a personal struggle at that time.
Since then, I feel like I have already proven myself. I have full trust in my teammates and my teammates have full trust in me, so it wasn't really about that. Beating TSM was more of a cherry on top — I was able to defeat the team that booted me and showcase that I am good...I did get carried, to be honest. *laughs* It's a team game after all, and my team played really well and set me and Nukeduck up.
It was a team effort, but it felt amazing. It was especially amazing to beat down on Zven because I was his laning partner for his entire career before this year.
You say you got carried, but you definitely made things happen on Pyke and helped to snowball the lane with Nukeduck. Was your knowledge of Zven's playstyle part of the reasoning behind Origen putting so much focus on the Bot Lane?
It had nothing to do with that. I just did my thing. Once I'm in game and on the rift, I just do the deed, you know? We punished their mistakes, and that was the end of it.
After the game, was there anything you said to Zven? I'm curious if you guys still keep in touch regularly.
Yeah, we've been keeping in touch quite a bit, and we've tried to hang out a little bit here. We'll probably hang out some more once the tournament is over.
I know how Zven is, and I know how I am as well after a loss. Regardless of who I'm playing, getting that hug on stage is not really for the players. It's mostly for the fans to see that the players are still friends if they used to play together. It's a really awkward thing that's for the cameras. I don't really enjoy it because I don't feel like it's real. In that moment, you don't really want that hug as a losing player.
I understand that it's the social norm, but I know how Zven feels about it, so I wasn't sure if I should go for the hug or not. I shook his hand and tapped his back a bit. There's no bad feelings between us, at least from my side. I don't think there are from his side either, it's just the way it is.
There's an expectation on the players. If you guys had just shook hands, people would have assumed that there was bad blood.
Exactly. That's why when I came up to Zven after the game I was like, 'F**k, what do I do?" you know? He was the one who had a bad game. I'm not going to say the entire loss was his fault, but we were snowballing the game thru Bot Lane, so he probably felt responsible for it. Because of this, the whole hug thing is...I don't know, it's crazy. *laughs*
Everyone should just handshake all the time. It would make things a lot easier, and if someone has something to say to another player, they can do so off-camera. I don't know, maybe I just have a problem with the whole social media interaction and expectation.
There's something to be said about the sometimes strange expectations for professional players, especially those who have played together before. In sports, you don't often see those types of interactions between former teammates in the heat of competition.
That's the thing. Now that I'm playing in Europe again, I'm hugging with literally half of the teams because I have played in Europe for such a long time and many different teams. Kim "Trick" is jungling for Schalke 04, Ki "Expect" Dae-han is playing Top Laner for Excel Esports, and we all played together on G2 Esports along with Luka "Perkz" Perković when he was still a Mid Laner.
In addition, I've always been the opposition to Fnatic over the years, so I'm pretty close with Martin "Rekkles" Larsson and have developed a relationship with the rest of the guys, too. I've also been friends with Oskar "Vander" Bogdan for a long time because we're both Support players, and he's currenly on Rogue. So I'm literally hugging half the teams in the LEC every time I'm playing. It's just really weird, you know? *laughs* Let's move on.
Is there anything you learned during your time on TSM in the 2018 NA LCS? In addition, did you specifically want to return to Europe because of the differences between EU and NA?
It's hard to put into words, but there are some things that I learned about myself in regards to how a team functions under high pressure. There are certain fundamentals about how a team should be, and I was not okay with the way TSM was running. I wanted something different for myself so that I could feel comfortable and free.
Professional play is a job, and you have to perform, but even with those things in mind, there needs to be a bit of room for error. You need to be able to be yourself, let go, and take risks so you can improve yourself by pushing yourself to the limits. That was something that was really hard to find for me in TSM. There were other things, too, but it's hard to put into words.
Generally speaking, I had a good idea of what didn't really work for me, and I wanted to make sure that when I joined a new team, things would be set in stone from the get-go. I wanted those things to be written before the team even started saying 'hi' to each other. That's the approach that not just me, but everyone in Origen try to take. We try to build our ideal team atmosphere from the beginning, and that's why it feels better for me.
Regarding the other question, I was signed to TSM for two years. I was committed and wasn't planning on leaving. I understood that things were rough, and I wanted to win, but I didn't feel like we were a winning team. We were a good team, but I didn't feel like we were a winning team who could challenge Team Liquid. I voiced my opinion, and then **** hit the fan. It's just the way it is.
Signing to Origen was just luck. There were other teams in Europe that I wanted to join over Origen because I was really skeptical due to my past tenure with the organization. I wasn't really sure, but the other teams didn't have me as a main priority. It kind of fell into place, and honestly, I feel like it was luck that everything just clicked for us.
I was lucky to join Origen, and I was lucky to have the opportunity to regain my confidence. I wouldn't say I was in a slump, because I've always felt that slumps don't really exist.
Luck is involved, but you shouldn't sell yourself short. Because of your past experience and familiarity with Origen, were you able to come to the opening discussions with all of your preferences laid out?
xPeke is part of Origen, but he's not necessarily part of the performance side in the current iteration of the organization. He's a brand ambassador, and he does a lot for the organization and helps us out whenever he can, but he was not the main reason I joined Origen for 2019. The main reason was was the performance model the org laid out for us. We were in a room for two days straight with a performance coach who specialized in sports psychology. He used to be in the Special Forces. |
The perfromance coach sat us down and had us make a plan. We discussed what our goals were, how we wanted to approach them, team structure, professional identity, how the players wanted to see and feel for each other, etc. We wanted to get a solid base to strengthen any momentum we gain for the long-term, so we had long conversations and had a lot of things out.
Players said what they felt didn't work in their previous teams, what their ideal team would look like, and how they wanted things to be in our team. Step by step, we tried to accommodate everyone. I couldn't dream of a better scenario.
So far, you guys have done a great job building upon your beginnings. You made it to the 2019 LEC Spring Finals by beating Fnatic in the Semifinals, despite not being favored to win that series. With that decisive 3-1 win over Fnatic, did Origen exceed its original expectations for its first split?
Yeah, definitely. I think it's also true that Fnatic's expectations were tempered in spring. Caps had a huge influence in Fnatic, and it was hard for them at the start of spring to adjust to playing without him. Fnatic is a great team, and on a different day, we may have lost that Semifinal. It just happened to be that we were better on the day.
Still, we definitely exceeded my expectations. I expected us to fight for at least a top 3 spot. That was my idea to try for that because I felt like we could do it. I feel like we were good enough in all positions to attempt to win the whole thing. It was a little rough when we first started working together, but then we started sharpening our edges and things started working faster and more effectively.
The way we speak to each other on Origen makes it pretty easy to talk through mistakes and through new things that we can try in regards to understanding the game. I did exceed the expectations I had for myself when my confidence was low after leaving TSM, but once we start playing during the split, you feel that you can challenge everyone.
I can now say, if anything, we exceeded our own true expectations slightly when defeating Fnatic in the Semifinals. We expected that to be a close match, and in some ways, it was. Either way, I think we ended up where we deserved, which is definitively top 3 in the LEC.
Origen has four veteran players and a young talented marksman in Patrik. What's interesting is that the he last time Origen was an elite team was in 2015, it wasfour talented veterans including yourself built around a young talented marksmen in Zven, who was named Niels at the time. Are there any parallels that you've noticed in your dynamic with Patrik in comparison to initially developing your synergy with Zven/Niels?
I'm a very controlling person. Obviously League of Legends is dynamic and it's a team game, but I like to have a plan in my head of how I'd like things to play out. It's much easier to get that when the relationship is kind of a one-way street. I can say, "I need things to be this way or I can't play." *laughs* That's been the easy thing about working with Patrik. We're slowly turning out relationship into a two-way street.
I think an important thing for Patrik's development was gaining the trust of all us. He now has the freedom to be himself and do whatever he wants, so he can have fun playing the game instead of just seeing it as a job. I think that's where he is right now, and what he's trying to work on even further.
In addition, Patrik is learning the macro part of the game with a real team that has a good understanding of high level League of Legends while being able to express himself and all of the talent that he has without fear. That's the balance we're trying to find with all of the talks that we have through time. I feel like Patrik is getting there, and he's immensely talented. He's in a place where we all trust him and believe in his talent.
For example, today, he made the call that he could go to the Mid Lane with Neeko. We don't question those things or second guess them, we let things be. If things don't work out, we try to be supportive because we don't want to mentally hurt himself for trying things. It's really freeing to have an environment where we can test a lot of things, and if you facilitate that environment for a rookie, he can excel without restraining himself.
Zven is a great player in his own right, and he actually plays a great Yasuo, too, by the way. He has like 200 games on Yasuo. He just spams the **** out of him, it's crazy. Last season, when the meta in Bot Lane was more focused on mages like Vladimir and Swain, he was the best mage Bot Laner in NA by far. He was already a veteran at that point, so he was more certain in trying things out than his younger years.
Patrik wants to try everything regardless of his experience, so that's the difference I can feel between them after playing with Zven for so long. I think the meta also lends itself to that creativity and flexibility now more than it did when Zven first started playing. Patrik went Mid Lane today and played a mage, it's not like he was playing a marksmen in a different lane.
With Patrik going to the Mid Lane, Nukeduck played Yasuo and laned with you in Bot. Do you feel that your LemonDogs synergy from 2013 is still intact?
I feel like that might be the case, yeah. It was really easy to play the lane with Nukeduck, we just have some type of innate synergy. Obviously, we've practiced this swap before pulling it out on stage for the first time, but it's always been successful in scrims. We're usually just playing and laughing at other Bot Lanes in the 2v2.
North America has gotten more comfortable swapping solo lanes, but LEC seems to be willing to put their laners anywhere this week. For example, if a Yasuo gets flexed, LCS seems to just lose the game immediately. Do you think G2 has set a regional trend for flexibility?
I do think it's G2 setting a trend, but it's not like they came and set it up out of nowhere. An increase in compositional flexibility has been built up over the past year. For example, at Rift Rivals 2018: NA vs. EU, Fnatic subbed out Rekless and put Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau in the Bot Lane while keeping Paul "sOAZ" Boyer in the Top Lane. In addition since Perkz was a Mid Laner before this season, there are more frequent swaps between Bot Laners and Mid Laners than before.
Things have slowly built to what they are now, and I think that it's really useful for improvement. In any sport, if you want to be a great player, you want to be able to understand every other position. If you're just stuck on your own position, it's very difficult to think outside of the box and understand what your opponent is capable of in those scenarios. If you understand the depths of the game, then you can create new ideas and add on to pre-conceived notions.
People swapping around is a step in the right direction. Everyone is becoming good, well-rounded players. Now that there arewith more dynamic perspectives on the game, a lot more creative ideas can be shared with their respe more players ctive teammates. This helps the team work better as a unit and be more familiar with all matchups and scenarios as a whole.
Europe was expected to come to Rift Rivals 2019: NA vs. EU as the superior region, but no one expected this wide of a gap between EU and NA. From your perspective of having experience playing in both regions, do you think the approach you just explained is the main factor in LEC's superiority to LCS?
I mean, maybe the gap is not that large and it could just be a fluke. However, in NA, it felt to me that the boundaries of League of Legends were not pushed as much. I was stuck playing Tahm Kench and Braum every game, because it felt like that was the only way we could win a game.
I can't speak for all of NA and its teams, but an example from my experience is when I played Rakan for TSM. When I was in NA, my Rakan was not great. But instead of someone saying something to me like, "I think your Rakan f*****g sucks. This guy on this team is doing better than you. The champion isn't the problem, it's the player." It would be more along the lines of, "Okay, well I think Rakan is not working for us as a team, so let's try something else."
So it was less direct and straightforward in terms of feedback?
It is that, yes, but also, if I'm not being told that it's my fault, how am I supposed to fix things to make it work? The things I said about positions earlier can be applied to playing specific champions as well, and learning the ins and outs of what a champion can do at the highest level. It's important to be open with each other in terms of feedback and criticism.
Earlier in this interview, you mentioned that in 2018, TSM was a good team, but not a winning team. From your perspective, what is the difference between the two?
A winning team is a team that really knows they can win. That's the biggest difference. Once you know there's a possibility that you can beat anyone, then you're a winning team. You go into the game thinking that you can beat anyone, and to find that certainty takes a lot of work and time. There's a million factors that go into it, but if you don't have that certainty, you're never going to be a winning team.
Is the straightforwardness in giving feedback to your teammates that you highlighted earlier an integral step in becoming a winning team?
Every team has their own way. I can't really speak for everyone, I just know what works for me. That's how I like things to be, because the hightened interaction feels more natural and pushes me toward becoming better. By talking to each other, you become aware of your teammates' weaknesses, and in that, you see that everyone's human. That's my way, but there are other ways to get there.
Bottom line: You have to know you can win against anyone.