For the first time since 2018, Juan "Contractz" Garcia is a bonafide LCS starter. Contractz enjoyed a stint on the main squad for 100 Thieves in the 2020 LCS Summer Split, but failed to find a LCS spot in 2021. However, after repeating his 100 Thieves arc on Evil Geniuses last summer, Contractz has begun 2022 as the starting jungler for a fully rebuilt Counter Logic Gaming.
After Counter Logic Gaming's first games in the 2022 LCS Lock In, Contractz joined Inven Global to discuss his growth on Evil Geniuses, why he joined CLG, and the dynamic between LCS players and LCS Academy players.
How are you feeling after your first day in the LCS in a CLG jersey?
Obviously, I have some mixed feelings. We played decently in the first game, but then the second game was kind of a bloodbath. We kind of just got owned by EG, but there are always things to be taken away from both wins and losses. I think we are on a good track to really make a name for ourselves this split.
Your first game over Immortals was an impressive win, especially from your bot lane duo. What are your first impressions of your new teammates on CLG?
So far I am really impressed with all of my teammates. I think they all have a lot of motivation to get better, and even right now, they are still at a pretty good level. I'm learning a lot from them, and I think that Poome and Luger will be a strong bot lane that I can play off of. Jenkins is always the rock, and I think Palafox brings a lot of aggressiveness to the mid lane, so I think we will gel pretty well in the weeks to come.
You have the most LCS experience of any starter on this roster. Are you aiming to take a leadership position on this team?
For the past couple of years, that's the role I've kind of slotted myself into, yeah. Whether it's been on EG, 100 Thieves, or CLG, that's always something that I try to strive for and something I think that I'm definitely capable of doing. I'm looking to spread knowledge, but also learn stuff from my teammates as well. We all have lots to learn and I definitely think I can improve on those qualities a lot more and get better.
I'm glad you brought up EG, because after you became the sub jungler in summer, you ended up starting all but one of the games in the post-season. Do you feel you improved rapidly to secure more starts, or did your style of play simply click with the rest of the Evil Geniuses starters?
I got along pretty well with Jiizuke. His philosophies matched what I thought pretty well and I thought we did a very good job of complimenting each other's playstyles.
It was pretty easy to work with him, and as I got more scrim time with EG, I got more comfortable with communicating and playing the game. I was able to find my own spot and my own role on the team after a certain amount of time instead of just being a plug-and-play.
Aside from your bot lane, none of the players on CLG have recent experience with each other. Are there new challenges to joining a team that is all new players as opposed to slotting into a team like you did on EG and even in your debut with Cloud9 in 2017?
Developing new synergy and making sure we are all on the same page is always going to be a challenge, but I think it's kind of refreshing in a sense. This is my first LCS starter job in two years, so being able to be the LCS starting jungler right from day 1 is something I'm very excited about.
After proving yourself to still be an LCS caliber player on Evil Geniuses, what was your approach to the off-season?
I was definitely looking to find myself an LCS spot. Whether it was on EG, CLG, or somewhere else, my main goal was just to get back to the LCS because I felt like I proved myself many times over. I felt like I definitely deserved a spot in this league, so overall, that was my main goal in searching for a team. CLG was my number one option in the off-season. I think a lot of their philosophies and goals really line up with how I see the game and how I want my future to look.
The last time we spoke, we talked about the parallels between your time on 100 Thieves and Evil Geniuses. Did you fear that you might be overlooked once again this off-season and have to start on an Academy team like you did last year?
I wasn't too scared about finding a spot. I thought I'd be able to find a spot on either EG or some other team. I was talking to multiple LCS teams throughout this process, and I definitely had a lot more conversations with teams this off-season than in the previous two off-seasons. I definitely felt less pressure finding a team this time around, but I'm just glad I was able to find CLG. I'm really excited.
CLG hasn't just changed their roster — almost every single staff member is new, too. After essentially rebuilding the whole org after a rough 2021, what about CLG's new regime appealed to you?
They weren't scared of getting more NA players. In the past, we've seen teams go for a lot of mid-tier imports or talent that rivals what North America has in Academy or elsewhere; young players that have potential but have not really gotten too much of a chance to show it.
Palafox has one season in the LCS, but he was on a team that was very dysfunctional and didn't really have its own identity on the LCS stage. Poome only played for half a split with me when I was on 100 Thieves in the summer of 2020, and Luger has more experience than the other players, but only in the TCL. Jenkins also had that stint last year starting for Team Liquid.
We all have had similar experiences, but CLG is really open to giving us a chance. I think we have a pretty talented young roster here, so that's something that really brought me to CLG.
Speaking of young talent, we're seeing a lot of Academy players in the LCS Lock In due to half the LCS teams not having their full intended starting rosters in Los Angeles yet. As someone who has played in both Academy and LCS extensively and recently, do you think the gap between the two levels is closing?
I think Academy's top half and LCS' bottom half are slightly similar, but the gap gets quite big when you're looking at the top 4 of LCS. I think that's a pretty big gap.
Overall, I think most Academy players can go toe-to-toe with LCS players mechanically, but I think macro knowledge is something Academy players lack. That's why they're in Academy though, right? They're all young players and they're learning, and no one is going to have that skillset right away. That's definitely something that separates LCS and Academy players.
Do you think a version of the Lock In that intentionally included Academy players, or even a different event entirely dedicated to Academy playing against LCS, would be something that would help the Academy system and its players grow even further?
Well, if you look at other regions like Demacia Cup in China, a lot of teams use their Academy players and their rookies as well. I don't really see Academy players used in Lock In as a bad thing. I think it's actually good for these players to get this experience in matches against some LCS players.
I think more teams should honestly integrate Academy players for the Lock In, but obviously, you have to think about synergy. The LCS Lock In is also a good way for LCS teams to get experience and to have their players grow with each other. Maybe another tournament can be fit into the circuit, but I'm not sure.
Best of luck in your next matches, Contractz, and thank you for the interview. Is there anything you'd like to say to the CLG faithful after your team's first day of competition in the 2022 LCS?
We're definitely going to have some banger games, so look forward to it.