Sitting in last place at 2-6 after four weeks of play, OpTic Gaming has gone on a tear, defeating TSM, Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming before taking down the Golden State Warriors affiliate to close out Week 6 of the NA LCS.
The epic 55-minute showdown finally came to an end around the Baron Pit. Golden Guardians, looking to close out a game it mostly had possessed the lead in, was desperate to secure the Nashor before OpTic’s side lane pressure overtook them. OpTic saw their opportunity and seized, throwing themselves into the pit to buy as much time as possible for Niship “Dhokla” Doshi to backdoor the Nexus on Yorick.
Wild, hour long games and strange champion picks are nothing new for the #GreenWall, and a big part of that is their man in the mid lane, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage. I sat down with PoE to discuss OpTic’s win streak, his experience as an NA LCS Mid Laner, and OpTic Academy’s role in their success.
※ This interview was conducted after Week 6 of the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split.
I’m sitting here with Optic Gaming Mid Laner PowerOfEvil, following a very exciting win over the Golden Guardians. You’ve now won your last four games in a row, what’s changed for you guys these past few weeks?
It’s a historic moment for every esports fan out there: OpTic has never had a 2-0 week, and now we’ve had two in a row! That’s pretty impressive *laughs* and I think we surprised ourselves as well. Something clicked after we beat TSM at the beginning of week 4. Everyone was trusting each other again, and we had a lot more confidence in ourselves as a team. So we played way better, and basic mistakes just stopped happening. The chemistry’s been there after that victory and it hasn’t left.
That’s awesome, it definitely looks that way. You guys have two new players hitting the rift with OpTic this summer with Dhokla coming into a full-time Top Lane role, and Big joining as the starting Support. What have they brought to the table for OpTic that you were missing last summer?
Dhokla is really strong mechanically. He has a wide champion pool and he likes to play split-push and carry champions. I think the only thing he is lacking is game knowledge and side lane management, but as a team, we’re trying to help him out with that. We’re trying to help him understand lane management; how to control the waves, when to go for vision, stuff like this. I think he’s doing a way better job every week, and the results are showing the same.
Big was a surprise to me personally. I didn’t think he was going to be that good, but I think he’s doing a great job with Arrow in the Bot Lane. He’s talking a lot, and he’s always positive in-game. He’s a good support player, and he always has a lot of creative ideas for our game plan as a whole. Big is a little different from supports I’ve played with in the past. He’s not much of a playmaking engage support, but he likes sitting back on stuff like Braum and Tahm Kench and protecting his teammates. He’s got big-picture vision, whereas my supports in the past have been all about engaging on picks like Rakan and Leona.
That’s quite an adjustment for you then, having played with playmakers in the Support role for the entirety of your career. Something else that’s been consistent in your career is your ability to play Viktor whenever you want, and today was no exception. Is this a classic PoE special, or has the wide open meta given him more viability?
I think he’s pretty viable. He wins most of the standard laning matchups right now, but it’s pretty dependent on player comfort. In this game, for example, Leblanc should beat Viktor early on, but I got great trades and survived the early laning phase much better than I expected. I managed to get ahead in experience and CS when I actually expected to fall behind a lot.
However, you can see the weakness of Viktor in the mid-game, especially when the opponents draft around him intentionally. With Shen support and an Assassin mid, it was really tough for me to get in a side lane because I would get picked off, but I didn’t have a choice because Varus has to stay mid for the poke and wave clear. It was touch and go, but we managed to mitigate our losses and defend our base until I was able to scale up.
Yeah, you guys have been late-game mavens all season long. Regardless of the result, you guys have these long, hard-fought games that often go past the 50-minute mark. Is that something stylistically intentional for OpTic?
I think Arrow and I really shine in teamfights, but I think strengths vary from player to player. Some AD Carries are teamfighters, while some want to play the 2v2 with mechanical dominance. Some Mid Laners want to be in the side lanes, or smash mid lane and have the kingdom. For Arrow and I, we’re really good at positioning ourselves and protecting each other when we need to re-position. I think that’s crucial and often overlooked because peel falls to the non-damage-dealing roles quite often. But you need to communicate when you’re on immobile carries, especially because you have to cover and zone for each other in certain situations so you don’t just get blown up. You have to have synergy between your damage dealers to assess threats and switch focus in the blink of an eye.
Obviously, we also have Dhokla, Akaadian and Big helping to protect us in these teamfights, and they’ve been doing a great job. We’ve been utilizing our strengths more efficiently to play as a team and help each other out, and that’s been the difference maker.
Based on your experience in OpTic Gaming thus far, have there been any major differences you’ve noticed between being on an NA LCS when compared to your past EU LCS teams?
For me personally, I’ve really enjoyed playing in NA LCS because I’m not facing the same guys I’ve been playing against my entire career. I played in the EU LCS for 3 years, and after a certain point, it felt like “another week against Perkz and Betsy” at times. It’s exciting, and motivating in a way, that I get to face players every week that I don’t know as well. And they don’t know me either, so it’s fun playing the 1v1 and trying to figure each other out when we don’t have the experience and familiarity that I had with some of the other Mid Laners in the EU LCS.
I believe that the NA atmosphere amongst players is a lot more friendly. Players are more open to taking criticism and accepting of their mistakes, but I also think that the rate of growth and learning is slower when compared to EU.
I think we’re really fortunate on OpTic though because we have our academy team with us at all times in the same office. So compared to other NA LCS teams, we always have a really great atmosphere among the ten players in the office together. OpTic Academy is invested in giving us a good challenge, so there’s a very productive culture where everyone’s trying to improve and work towards the same goal. It’s a very harmonious atmosphere. We do a lot of scrims in-house, but also 1v1s. I play vs. Palafox and give him feedback and vice-versa. They’re all really open to feedback and open to improving, and I’m certain that our academy players will become LCS players one day. You can tell by someone’s attitude and their motivation whether they’re going to make it, so shout out to them.
Are you going to teach Palafox anything out of your magic bag of tricks? Is it time for your AP Kog’maw to have a successor, perhaps?
*Laughs* I think Palafox enjoys my playstyle, and if you saw any of his play at the 2017 NA Scouting Grounds, he was the best Mid Laner for sure. He’s getting solo kills against most of the Mid Laners in the North American Academy League, but I’m trying to help him out because I think he needs to be more demanding in some regards. He likes my champion picks and often tries to adapt and pick them up as well. That’s really fun because if someone plays the same champion as you, there are different views on the same champion and you can learn things from each other that you haven’t learned yourself.
Is there a certain pick in this meta that you want to bring to the big stage that we haven’t seen before? You’ve always been known to push the envelope and innovate.
Honestly, in this meta, everything is viable. If you can make a good comp around a champion and execute on your plan, you can make most picks work. This season has been the season where I’ve played the most champions in my entire career.
I’ve played at least one new champion every week, whereas last year my only new pick was AP Ezreal into Orianna. Apologies to my solo queue teammates from back then, because I lost about ten games in a row before I got comfortable *laughs but when you’re working on theory-crafting and finding the right item build and masteries, it takes a lot of tweaking. I really felt like it might be a good matchup, and when I finally figured out the right setup, we were able to pull it out in the EU LCS to success.
You saw the same thing happen today when Dhokla pulled out Yorick. There’s a lot of weird champions that haven’t been able to be played before, so don’t worry, I’m going to keep playing the weird stuff.
Well, it definitely is playing to your strengths and your team’s strength. Is there anything you’d like to say to the #GreenWall as you guys make a run for playoffs?
I’m really grateful for all of the support, and I hope that all of you keep supporting us. We are feeling really confident in ourselves, and I’m sure we’re going to make playoffs this split.
Photo credit: LoL Esports Flickr
Nick Geracie is a freelance esports journalist currently located in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter here.