Nicholas "Ablazeolive" Abbott is starting a new chapter of his career in the 2020 LCS Spring Split. The 2017 NA Scouting Grounds hopeful was drafted by TSM and started in the mid lane for TSM Academy for the first two season of the LCS Academy League. TSM has signed 2019 NA Scouting Grounds phenom Jackson "Evolved" Dohan, and Ablazeolive moved to start the third season of his career as the starting mid laner for Golden Guardians Academy.
Ablazeolive sat down with Inven Global's Nick Geracie at Golden Guardians' media day ahead of the 2020 LCS season to discuss what he learned from TSM Mid Laner Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, how he came to join Golden Guardians, and signed off with a vote of confidence for Golden Guardians starting LCS mid laner Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer.
How did you end up joining Golden Guardians?
My contract was set to expire this off-season, so I needed to figure out what I was going to do for the upcoming season. I asked around, and people were pretty confident in me and my skill level. I thought I had a pretty good year in 2019, so I was trying to potentially field offers from LCS teams. That’s mainly where my off-season focus was, but it became clear during the off-season that the LCS opportunities weren’t really going to be there.
Thus, I decided the next best thing would be to put myself in a position to prove myself as LCS ready, or fight for a spot on an LCS team. Golden Guardians was one of the teams I talked to during that time, and it seemed like not only did they have the understanding that their LCS roster spots aren’t locked forever, but also that they were willing to swap players between the LCS and Academy rosters.
That was one thing I really liked about GG, because I think that’s the right way to approach things. It proves to me and my teammates that the people who start will be those who deserve to be there...not that I have anything against Greyson! I love Goldenglue; I think he’s really good, but there’s only a certain amount of people that can be in LCS, so obviously I’m going to fight for my opportunity, but also, for both of us to prove ourselves and make Golden Guardians the best team we can be. I’m going to see where that takes me.
Another thing that I liked about Golden Guardians was their infrastructural approach. I thought it would be very helpful to me as a player. Some organizations don’t focus on their Academy rosters very much, and while that is understandable, I want to have more help since I’m on an Academy team. This is where my off-season landed me and how I got here and I’m really happy.
I’m sure you learned plenty on TSM during your tenure on TSM Academy, but there was never a thought that you would get a start over Bjergsen no matter how well you performed. Was that an influence in your desire to find an Academy team with a potential chance at LCS starts once you realized there weren’t any main roster spots available across the league?
It was something I thought about, but the way I see it is that most often when players move from the Academy level to the LCS level, it's not going to be during a split. It's also not going to happen once a current player on the organization's main roster leaves. More often than not, the scenario is that you get traded to another team. From the way it feels to me, that's how it happens most of the time.
It's not something I focus on a lot; in my opinion, there are lot of pros to having someone like Bjergsen as your organization's main LCS mid laner. Despite the fact that there's no way you're going to go up and start, there are a lot of benefits and I think they heavily outweigh the one con of not replacing Bjergsen. It is possible that type of progression could happen on a different team, but it wasn't really something I was focused on during my time with TSM.
What are some of those benefits you mentioned in practicing with Bjergsen?
There were so many things, it's innumerable. Having Bjergsen as a mentor was so helpful. Having someone I could talk to, however, was the biggest thing. Something a lot of people don't know about Bjergsen personally is how nice he is. He's always willing to help. When I first started with TSM Academy, I was really scared like, "Oooh....BJERGSEN!!" But he actually reached out to me first, and he suggested we talk about stuff, and he would try and help me.
After a few months, I melded to knowing when I could go to him and know he was going to help me out. He always gave me extremely detailed answers to every question that I had for him. Whenever I presented him with a hypothetical scenario, he would always take the time to make sure he would address things properly in his answer. Then, if he had questions, he would ask me things about how I felt.
There was a huge progression in my skill level between my first and second seasons on TSM Academy, so in 2018, our conversations were mostly me asking Bjergsen for guidance on how to get up to speed on things competitively to understand the game better. Transition into 2019, however, it felt like there was a lot more back in forth in our dialogue. We would discuss what champions we should pick; which situations call for each champion; etc.
Something people don't realize that while Bjergsen is so good at every factor that goes into in-game communication, but he also helped me outside of the game on things like how to think about life or what I'm supposed to do when I'm stressed.
I used to have a huge issue where I would play really badly in games on stage. I would play like ten times worse than I did during practice, so I asked Bjergsen about it and he helped me with that as well. The list goes on and on about things Bjergsen has helped me with, but the most improvement that happened that people probably wouldn't expect is outside-of-game, life-centric skills.
Are you and Bjergsen able to keep in touch now that you are on different teams?
Yeah, we keep in touch. We still talk about Mid Lane in general. I'm not super close with him personally, and the season hasn't started yet, so we haven't had much time recently.
For the 2020 LCS Academy League Spring Split, several more games will be on stage than previous splits. As someone whose conquered the stage nerves demon for yourself, do you think having more stage games per split for Academy teams will help players acclimate to the competitive atmosphere better in a trial-by-fire type of way?
From a player's perspective, it's definitely a good thing. I don't think that was ever the question, I think it was just a matter of logistics in streaming more Academy games in terms of cost and viewership interest. The way it affects players will vary: some players will only see a minute increase in the difference of comfort level, but for some players, it will be everything. They won't be used to it; the lights...I think it's important for the type of players who need it the most. I think it's a very good change.
Is there anything in 2019 that you learned that you couldn't have learned in previous seasons of your career?
The biggest thing that I realized is that everybody is different, and what works for one person won't necessarily work for everyone else. That's something that's very common and well-known, but specifically when it comes to how people compete, how people practice, and how people perform, there were some players that I did not have the greatest impression of initially. I didn't know them very well, and from the few games I had watched of them, I wasn't super impressed.
Then, I met them, and I realized how wrong I was about the way that they think and how they approach practice and push to improve themselves. It made me realize that as a person, I have my own values, fundamental goals, and beliefs of how things are, and that when other people have different values, it's not about one person's being right or wrong. It's just that I have my way of thinking, and they have their way of thinking.
I think it's a pretty important lesson, and going into 2020, it's something that's narrowed my focus on exploiting the knowledge from that experience. I can know how I want things to work, and it's either going to work for me, or not. I'm going to try to my best to use that knowledge well.
It sounds like you've learned a lot about yourself as you've grown through your time on TSM Academy. We will look forward to seeing this next chapter of your career, but until then, is there anything you'd like to say to your fans or the Golden Guardians fanbase?
Thank you guys so much for supporting us. I want to say one thing:
A lot of people are doubting Goldenglue; I think that he's going to do amazing. I think he's a really good player, and people have a very bad perception of him because of his previous LCS experience on Team Liquid, but in the Academy games I've played against him, and in the times I've practiced against him, he was always undoubtedly the best or at the very least, top 2 in the league. There is no one who deserves a start in LCS more than Goldenglue. I think he's going to do very well.
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