If you were to ask Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg and Nicholas "Ablazeolive" Abbott who the better Mid Laner is, both would point toward the former. However, if we were able to ask Azir, the answer might be different.
Ablazeolive led TSM Academy two a 2-0 week 1 in the 2019 NA Academy League Summer Split with two strong Azir games despite the trend of the current meta leaning towards aggression. In TSM's first LCS game, Team Liquid steamrolled the main roster before Bjergsen had a chance to do much of anything on Azir. TSM Academy won the 2019 NA Academy Spring Split championship, and one week into summer are retaining their dominance after the break between splits.
TSM Academy played against Team Liquid Academy on stage in the very first Academy showcase match. The Academy showcase match features a match of the week from the NA Academy League on the LCS stage, as well as the primary Riot Games Twitch channel following the LCS broadcast.
TSMA exacted revenge for its LCS comrades, dispatching of TLA in a one-sided victory. Ablazeolive joined Nick Geracie after defeating TLA to share his thoughts on the Mid Lane meta, playing with a non-cardboard version of Support Erik "Treatz" Wessén on stage, and forming Mid/Jungle synergy with Mingyi "Spica" Lu since Jonathan "Grig" Armao re-joined TSM's LCS roster.
I'm joined by TSM Academy Mid Laner Ablazeolive after week 1 of the 2019 NA Academy League Summer Split. You just played the first regular season on-stage game in the history of the Academy League. Obviously you guys have played on the stage in playoffs, but was playing a regular season game on stage a different dynamic?
It definitely changes the dynamic a little bit. For the most part, I think it makes the game feel a lot more controlled. Sometimes, when you're playing from home, you kind of lose sight of a single game in the season being super important. When you come to the stage, it's really obvious that this is a different environment, and we're playing a really important game.
For me, it was a lot easier to calm my nerves and focus on playing properly and consistently. I think it's really awesome, and I'm glad we started things off with a pair of wins.
You had a pretty good performance on Azir. Did you learn anything from watching TSM's main roster play Azir against Team Liquid yesterday when they failed to harness the champion's strengths?
Azir is not the most confusing champion. He's been out for so long that I think everyone understands how things play out. The differences between our game and TSM's loss were not Azir-related. I don't think it's something I did that Bjergsen didn't do, but as a team, we managed to consolidate when we got behind early and managed to stay in the game.
Once I got to my powerspike, the game wasn't already over for us like it was for TSM against TL. By the time Bjergsen got a few items on Azir, the game was pretty much already lost. There wasn't too much for me to take from that game, because Azir was kind of invisible. It's not his role to create the advantage.
Still, does this mean you can give Bjergsen some Azir tips?
*laughs* Yeah, I don't know. Bjergsen is obviously really good. I learn a lot more from him than he does from me, but it was pretty funny that I won both of my Azir games this weekend and he lost his Azir game, so maybe I'll let him know.
Jokes aside, I was interested in the Azir pick because most teams have prioritized more aggressive mid lane champions who can roam and follow up with the Jungler early on in the game. Is there a specific best way to play the Mid Lane in this current meta?
Mid Lane is probably in one of the best spots it's ever been. You can play virtually every type of champion. Taking the Aftershock keystone and going for tankier builds was good a few patches ago, which wasn't that fun. Now that those are virtually all gone, I think the Mid Lane meta is in a really good spot.
Assassins, playmakers, and control mages are what's in the meta, and I think that allows for a lot of skill expression in the Mid Lane. You can play to your style. Henrik "Froggen" Hansen played Anivia for Golden Guardians today today, and Lee "Crown" Min-ho played AP Twisted Fate yesterday in OpTic Gaming's first win. I think it's great that you can pull off these picks in Mid Lane and be successful, and I can't wait to pull out some of my own.
Definitely looking forward to some signature Ablazeolive picks. Today's game was your first on-stage game with Treatz now that his VISA issues have been solved. Was he nervous at all given that he's played remotely in all your previous stage matches up until now?
Treatz was pretty excited to play on stage for the first time. He's not the type of person to falter under pressure, so I think he was definitely up for the challenge. If anything, he thought it was really funny that we played with a cardboard cutout of him on stage last split. This split, he's grateful that all the VISA issues are resolved and he got to play on stage a lot earlier than expected. That's definitely something he's happy about.
I wasn't even aware about the game of the week Academy showcase until today. What was your reaction to finding out you would get more opportunities to play on stage, and in what ways is that helpful for your development as a professional player?
I think it's really awesome that we get this opportunity. The past few splits of academy has been on-and-off in terms of broadcasting, so it definitely helps the players a lot more in the Academy League when there are official Riot broadcasts that people can watch, instead of the teams only streaming games themselves. It's obviously a good thing teams are able to do that, but having that brand value of Riot Games showcasing academy talent is really important.
To go one step further and allow us to play on stage like the LCS pros do is an excellent experience. It was great being back on stage again and I can't wait to come back.
Someone else joining your team on stage is your new Jungler, Spica. Spica and yourself were part of the 2017 NA Scouting Grounds class, what has it been like to play with him so far?
Spica is the sort of player that you expect to get from Solo Queue. He's really good mechanically and is very confident in them, he just needs to understand the game better and use his brain a little bit more. Last split, we swapped our Junglers around, and inadvertently, that helped us get better in speeding up our Jungler's process in terms of synergizing with the team because we didn't have consistent weeks of practice with the same Jungler.
We got better at helping our Jungler catch up to where we were, and since all four of our other players are the same, we've focused a lot on making sure Spica gets properly integrated into our system. After that, we can start to improve on our championship form from last split. I think we're doing a pretty good job and actually getting pretty close to our level of performance from last split. We still have a lot more weeks of this split left, so I can't wait to see where things are going.
As a Mid Laner, how does a stylistic change in the Jungle affect how you play? Grig is very experienced and methodical, while Spica is still new to this level of competition but has great mechanics.
There are definitely things that Grig did on this roster that Spica does not. However, I don't think that means Spica is a detriment in any way. Grig is easily an LCS caliber player, and probably one of the better LCS Junglers in my opinion. However, that doesn't take anything away Spica, because I'm pretty happy with our growth and how far we've come. We've had to speed run our Mid/Jungle synergy.
There are things I'm not used to from playing with Grig, but I think we will form a new dynamic rather than keeping the same one I had with Grig. I think thats really important. We don't need to compare how I play with Spica and how I play with Grig. They're two completely different Junglers and play the game differently.
Obviously, they're going to have the same vision with the rest of the team on how we execute our game plan, and that comes down more to coaching than it does Mid/Jungle synergy. Every Mid/JG duo works differently.There isn't really one perfect way of doing it - some are comfortable with one player leading the other, while others prefer more of a back and forth. We're going to figure out what makes us comfortable.
Are there any specific goals you're setting for your team or yourself outside of defending your Academy League championship from last split?
A goal for me specifically is to try and create very strong Mid/Jungle synergy with Spica. Separate from the Academy League itself, it's important that I can demonstrate the ability to create strong synergy with a new Jungler on the fly and showcase a good performance with him. The only thing we didn't do last split was get 1st place during the regular split, so that's my goal on our way to winning another title...this time with no losses.
Congrats again on the win and thank you so much for the interview. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Thank you so much for supporting me and TSM. We'll win the whole split.