[NASG 2019] Artemis: "We didn't show our true peak, that's my only regret at Worlds."

Connor "Artemis" Doyle shares his Scouting Grounds opinions and reflects on Worlds with Inven Global. The young and talented coach is most praised for his ability to read his players and inspire them, but also offers a lot from a game knowledge perspective as well.

This past month has been especially huge for Artemis, attending both Worlds and Scouting Grounds for the first time, as well as having a more critical role in his first off-season working on an LCS team. From Scouting Grounds, to talent development, to Worlds and his coaching duo, Artemis has a lot to say about NA, his career, and the future.

Scouting Grounds and Talent Development

This is your first Scouting Grounds, have you learned anything new here about how to be a coach talking with these younger inexperienced guys? What's your experience been?

It's less challenging coaching at Scouting Grounds vs coaching for LCS. So I think just naturally when you're not being challenged, you're not going to learn as much as you would when you are being challenged. So I wouldn't say I'm learning a lot while I'm here, at least about being a coach.

I guess getting positive reinforcement that the strategies and style that I use is working is nice. But for the most part I'm just applying what I did with Dignitas this past year to these Scouting Grounds guys, and it's working well. 

Great! I'm always curious about working with the kids. 

Yeah, it's fun to work with guys who are hungry; it's my favorite part of coaching. Working with people who are super tryhard in scrims with high energy, and then after the scrim they're giving you their full attention, with eye contact, active listening, asking questions. It's rewarding to coach people who care. And all five guys on our team [Team Mountain] care a lot, so it's been fun. 

Image Source: Riot Games

Based on what you've seen this week, do you have any newfound thoughts on talent and talent development in NA? 

I want to preface this by saying, "I hate this question."

Oh let's skip it! 

No, we should answer it! But I just... I reject the whole narrative that... Look, for me I just don't understand why there are expectations on NA in the first place. We have never done well internationally. And our server is shrinking - not growing. And we have the highest ping out of any major region. We are really working against ourselves here.

I think the only advantage we have globally against any major region market is money, and organizations don't use their money correctly. They don't hire the right coaches and they make strange roster decisions as well.

So yeah, I don't think there is something intrinsically wrong with the players here. I do think there are certain cultural things that make it difficult for players to achieve greatness in a team environment - I don't think there is a culture of excellence in the LCS as much as there should be.

And yeah the little things I mentioned definitely matter, but as far as NA talent development... I think think the guys we are working with here at this Scouting Grounds have much more game knowledge than I would expect players with their experience to have.

Like even compared to two or three years ago, they know more about the game from a macro standpoint than they would a few years ago. They understand what mid priority is, for example. They understand the big picture a lot of the time, like what they want to do, they're just missing the steps in between, how to get from A to B. They don't know how to do it, but they understand the goal.

That was really surprising to me and nice to see. So I do think we are making progress with these guys in the way that they're thinking about the game, like I said. But I haven't been particularly impressed mechanically by any of the players here.

Image Source: Riot Games

I know for me, even when I was working in EU two or three years ago doing Challenger level work for a regional team in EU, watching high elo solo queue EUW - like 1000 LP solo queue - it seems like everyone in those games is more mechanically talented than anyone we have here at Scouting Grounds. I don't mean that to flame any of these guys, but it's just what I've observed.

You could almost throw a dart at a dart board of 800+ LP players in EUW and they're all going to have better mechanics than what we have here. And likely a big reason for that is the ping and the environment they have for their solo queue.

I was talking to an LCS jungler just last night and he was saying how frustrated he was with NA solo queue because he was just getting back in his grind to prepare for next season. He was playing Lee Sin into Gragas and the way you win that 1v1 is to land your Q1, then if Gragas E's, you ward hop to dodge the E and then hit your Q2. But he said he literally couldn't ward hop the Gragas E on 70 ping.

And that was frustrating to him because he can't play the game the way it's supposed to be played at a high level. I think ping is a reason why we are not progressing mechanically the same way other regions are. 

Hopefully the TR scrimming will help a bit with that. 

It won't, it really won't. It will help our pro players, but it's just a band-aid solution. If you remove the pro players from NA solo queue, what's going to happen? The quality of the games are going to go down drastically. And also then these guys won't have anyone to learn from, they're not going to be beaten in new ways, they're not going to be challenged in lane phase, they're not going to be pressured, and our solo queue is not going to improve.

I don't know, it's crazy. You're just taking the top off a competitive system and hoping the bottom is going to somehow get better. It's backwards. It's a total band-aid solution, and maybe we'll see increases in performance in the short term, but in the long term, especially with the decline in population of our server, it's not good for the longevity of our region, that's for sure. 

Image Source: Riot Games


Dignitas at Worlds

There was this notion during Worlds, especially when TL dropped out of Groups, that Clutch Gaming/Dignitas was the most impressive NA representative, based on the Group Draw and how you played out those games. But I wanted to get your opinion on that and see the other side of the story. 

I think the major difference for me and my perspective is the difference in expectations that I had of myself, my team, and my players vs the expectations for us from the community. I think when everybody saw our Group Draw they just counted us out, and their expectations for us were 0-6 probably. I don't think anyone was necessarily surprised that we went 0-6 in that group. 

But for me, from the inside I got to see the improvement from when I came on in Week 5 or Week 6 till Playoffs. I got to see the improvement through Playoffs, I got to see the improvement through Gauntlet, I got to see us improve through the Play-In Stage. And from the inside, the only people who knew how strong we really were were those seven people in the room during scrims. 

But we could go 50-50 with Damwon in scrims, like by the end when we were matching up against them, we were pretty evenly matched. But scrims don't really tell the story for stage games, but it gives you a small perspective I guess - though it doesn't say much at all. But at least that felt good that we could compete with them, go toe to toe, and take games off them pretty consistently. 

And I think they definitely respected us. They shouted us out publicly, saying we were the strongest North American team. And I think when fans and people read that, they thought, "They're crazy," or, "They're just saying that because they're friends with Huni," or something.

But no I think genuinely we were very, very strong. We kept growing through the whole year, and we were even still growing at Worlds. For us, at the very end, I was just disappointed that we weren't able to do more. Like you said, I think three or four of those games were super winnable. I saw my guys making mistakes that I wouldn't expect them to make. I saw them not punishing as hard as I would normally expect them to punish. I saw them not being as aggressive as they could be, a little less decisive. 

Image Source: Riot Games

For me it was actually interesting, I didn't really feel that much more pressure at Worlds compared to Gauntlet or Playoffs. For me, most of what I try to do with the team is lower that outside pressure and focus on the intrinsic motivation. Right? Like this is just another game, and we're here to win for each other and just for the sake of winning. This is the same way we approach every other match.

I think that we kept that mentality in NA, and I guess when you go to worlds, the gravitas of the tournament can kind of pull you out of that and you'll start to feel the outside pressure. From my perspective, it feels like we didn't perform our best. And if we were playing our best League of Legends, we should've gone 3-3 in that group.

And I think that's totally doable, but at the same time, I'm not necessarily disappointed in any of my players. I think that what they did was admirable, and I think they should be proud of what they did. And yeah, I think that NA should be proud of us as well. So I'm really happy, and I'm really thankful for the fans and their support.

I'm glad that they saw what we were doing and saw that we were showing off our style, but at the same time, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth because I feel like we had more to give and we had more to show. We didn't show our true peak and that would be my only regret for this Worlds tournament.

Tanner "Damonte" Damonte told me there was no way he could play against Faker and not improve tenfold, but what about you? You had to coach against some of the best coaches, and more specifically, three of the best, most proven franchises of all time. What did that do for you as a coach?

I think Tanner 100% has the right idea and that's exactly how you have to approach these international competitions. If you're just viewing it as an opportunity rather than this situation with all this pressure, first off, you're going to perform better and you're going to learn more too. So that's the right idea and that's the approach I had too. 

I'd say our first scrims against talented drafters were definitely humbling. Like you can coast by North America for an entire split and not really be challenged in draft phase. I think for us the only time we felt really challenged for draft was against Team Liquid in our best of five against them.

We could definitely feel Jang "Cain" Nu-ri's skill and expertise during draft, but for the most part when you're drafting in NA you're not really getting challenged. It seems like teams kind of have a pre-prepared gameplan that they come in with, and they don't adapt well, and the skill of drafting doesn't really show much in NA.

Image Source: Riot Games

But the first time we're scrimming against Damwon and we get through the draft phase, we're like, "Okay, this coach knows what he is doing. This is an actually good draft." And we had to go back and rethink certain priorities and certain rules that we held to be true previously. So from a draft perspective it was really valuable for me. Getting challenged, and actually losing drafts and making mistakes, that's how you learn and that's how you grow. So it was an invaluable experience for me to get to draft, with Thomas "Thinkcard" Slotkin of course.

But also just from a process standpoint, coaching at Worlds was just the most challenging environment I've ever had to coach in. The amount of pressure that these players put on themselves in addition to the pressure from the outside is enormous. The pressure from the fans and the tournament should be enough, but these guys just add it to themselves. 

Like, "I might never get here again, this is my one shot, I have to prove myself!" And they just put all this pressure on themselves and that makes it challenging, right? They get more emotional and they're more of a hair-trigger. Like you have to do more active group maintenance. You have to control the room much more carefully, and just from a team environment standpoint, it's just much more challenging being at Worlds.

So that was the best thing for me to go to a tournament like that and have successes and also have failures that I could learn from and grow from, and that is something I wouldn't change. I wouldn't change anything about this Worlds, despite being disappointed that we couldn't show our best, and maybe we made some mistakes at the same time. I think that that's how we grow as people. And for me as a young coach, I think it's a much more valuable experience to taste failure at Worlds than to experience success. 

Yeah. You'll be back!

Yeah! I'll be back, I'll be back.

Image Source: Riot Games


The Thinkcard + Artemis Dynamic

I want to touch on how you and Thinkcard work together. From the outside perspective and what we've seen in content, it seems like Thinkcard is the big brain, researching, drafting, etc. and that you are the one who is much better at articulating everything, controlling the room, managing emotions, etc. But I know it's never quite that simple and you obviously seem to know a lot about the game as well. So tell me about your dynamic. 

I think that that perception is too binary. The reason why I enjoy working with Thomas so much is because he is talented. That was kind of a new experience for me. Previously in my career, I hadn't really met too many coaches that I was actually impressed by, I was always sort of indifferent. 

But Thomas is impressive. I think that from a game knowledge perspective... Working with Thomas, I was able to learn and reinforce things that I wouldn't have been able to get working with another coach. I really, really respect his game knowledge. I think he is the smartest coach in the LCS, and I'll say that hands down. 

As far as how the division of labor goes, I do think that one of the best things we did as a staff is identify our strengths. And we did that with our players as well, identify their strengths and delegate responsibilities accordingly. So I think the things you referenced about myself, my ability to create direction, team environment, and culture, inspire people, and just be an authentic leader, I think those are certainly my strengths and I think are unmatched currently in the LCS. 

And for Thomas, I think his strength is his game knowledge. I think his ability is to see through the early game, understand how to transition to mid, and understand how to play the map, and understand the important parts of the game and what to focus on. I think he is unmatched in that. 

And I think our head analyst Naser, the way he preps for other teams, the way he does the scouting reports, the way he helps the staff prepare for draft, I think he is unmatched in that. So we definitely figured out our strengths and delegated our responsibilities accordingly, but it would be incorrect to say Thomas doesn't do any inspiring or anything with team environment and team culture. I think Thomas is talented at that as well.

And I think it would also be incorrect to say that I don't do anything in draft or anything for strategy. Of course I'm very active in review, and I'm very active in determining draft. I'm active on stage during draft and contributing to that. We really do run a two coach system and there's so much overlap between me and Thomas.

And like I said, we have so much mutual respect for each other, we really want to empower the other person to take control at the moments where they feel like they have something to offer. And we are very quick to just hand it off to the other.

Like for me and team environment and stuff, if Thomas is feeling himself and doing a good job, take it away. And for me, if I'm feeling myself during review, if I'm seeing the game better than Thomas, and I'm feeling myself, he'll hand it off to me and we'll just go. 

So as far as working relationships goes, there's nobody I'd rather work with in the LCS than Thomas.

I love how you've created that dynamic, but what about your long term? You probably won't be a duo forever, you'll likely be butting heads someday. So do you have any aspirations for yourself specifically? 

Of course I do. Working with Thomas isn't really a traditional assistant coach role, it's more of a two coach system, we empower each other so well, I have no trouble working with him. But for me, for future goals, they're mostly achievement goals, and they're not really out of ego. 

My title doesn't really mean anything to me; whether I'm head coach or assistant coach, I just want to give everything I can to my players and my organization. I don't really worry about what people think of me on the outside. I don't read reddit comments. It doesn't bother me what people say about me, so that's not really a motivator for me. 

Image Source: Riot Games

But as far as goals for myself, the most important thing for me is to keep getting better. I don't want to stagnate in any aspect of coaching. Whether it's tactics, or the technical aspects of the game, or the art of coaching and skill of coaching. I just want to keep growing and keep being challenged and I think if I ever find myself in a position where I'm not being challenged and I don't feel like I'm growing, then that's when I'm gonna try my best to get out as fast as I can and put myself in a situation where I can fail, make mistakes, and keep learning.

But for achievement goals, winning an LCS title is at the top of my list right now. I think that we need a new breed of team, and I'm excited to create a culture of excellence and compete with the top teams in the league and hopefully bring a title to someone other than Team Liquid, they've had that trophy for too long.

So take the trophy from TL is my first goal, then make it to Worlds 2020 is the next step. But for long term goals, like I said, I'm not too focused on my legacy or anything like that. Those things don't really motivate me, at least at this point in my career. It's just to keep getting better.

I want to be able to look back each year and say I've grown and I'm a better coach than last year. And I think as long as I can say that at the end of every year, I'll always be happy with what I did. 

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