It’s been a fascinating spring split for Team Liquid, which is set to play NRG on Sunday in the spring playoffs of the North American League of Legends Championship Series. Liquid rearranged its roster in the offseason and then quickly punted on those changes and brought up two players from the Team Liquid Academy, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Matthew “Matt” Elento.
The rookies, while showing their youth at times, sparked Liquid and helped the team reach fourth place. Entering the playoffs, Liquid was playing as well as anybody in the NA LCS. Slingshot caught up with Matt from Week 9 of the LCS in which he talks about getting called up, adjusting to the LCS and how he remains composed in tense moments:
Vince Nairn: You and Dardoch both have excelled since coming from TLA. First of all, what was the academy like? And how did that kind of prep you for the LCS?
Matt “Matt” Elento: We moved up to the main team, and I’d say we didn’t exactly show our skill level right away. I’m still not sure we have shown our (full) skill level, but that’ll come in time, I guess.
VN: Did you have any idea (moving to the LCS) was gonna happen so quickly?
ME: No, I never had that realization. We were a 10-man roster, we were subject to playing in the LCS and playing in the (Challenger Series) the next week. There was never a real realization that I was an LCS player yet. But over time, I guess, it was very slow, but I felt like there was a transition.
VN: What’s been the biggest difference in making that jump?
ME: The biggest difference has been the amount of work you put in because I went from putting into a lot of hours to putting in a lot of hard work. The difference there is I could play solo queue for 20 hours, and it wouldn’t come close to how much I could learn when I have a proper structure and work hard for maybe four hours. I can learn more in four hours of working hard than 20 hours of just random work.
VN: Did you notice a difference in skill level right away when you got here?
ME: I’d say my skill level has improved steadily. I’m still not satisfied with my own play. I’m still not satisfied with how I’ve chosen to improve. The amount of hours I put in, as I said before, they weren’t smart hours most of the time. I’d say I’m disappointed in how much I’ve improved given the opportunities that I had. But I’m pretty hopeful for the future because although I probably didn’t work the hardest, I can say it was (only) spring split, so I still have more opportunities in the future.
VN: I didn’t even mean you, specifically, but the players you’re playing. What’s the difference, in general, in the LCS?
ME: I mean even when we were on TLA, we were scrimming a lot of LCS teams. It wasn’t like we were just scrimming Challenger teams then all of the sudden we’re against these big LCS guys.
VN: So it was kind of a taste of it already.
ME: Yeah. And I think the biggest thing is being able to play on stage. Before you play on stage as a player you’re kind of worried about it. Maybe I’ll fuck up. Maybe I’ll play bad. I’d always have really anxious thoughts. Especially if you’re an anxious person, It’s pretty stressful.
For me, I’m definitely an anxious person. But I was not anxious all that first day on the stage, so definitely a confident person on stage.
VN: With Dardoch, what’s that relationship been like? Right away, people have pointed to you two from TLA to come up and be “next.” What’s it been like doing this together with him?
ME: Me and Dardoch, we definitely…he’s more of a harder worker than me. He just doesn’t take bullshit or anything. I’m more laid back, just my personality. I definitely just try to copy Dardoch.
VN: What about Piglet? How’s the communication with him?
ME: We don’t have any problems language barrier wise. He definitely understands me when I say something, and I always understand him. It’s probably just rumors from Reddit for whatever, but there’s definitely no communication barrier between us.
VN: It’s funny you mention that because one thing that’s been interesting to me is for you guys as players, do you find it difficult to tune out Reddit, which is just the giant community everyone goes to. How do you approach that topic?
ME: I just, taking criticism is something you need to do to be a good player. It’s something you need to do. But you also need to filter out what’s good criticism and what’s mumbo jumbo. There’s a lot of people in the world who just like to hate people.
People are gonna hate you no matter how good you are. For people like that who aren’t used to that, (it’s tough). There’s a lot of pro players, especially rookies, who don’t know how to deal with criticism. I’m like the opposite. I don’t know why. I love people hating on me. I really appreciate people who take time out of their day to say a hateful comment to me. I jut love it.
VN: You seem to have a lot of composure for being only 18.
ME: I don’t think I ever had really high expectations as a player, so whenever someone gives me shit or calls me bad, I’ll just say “Well OK. I’ll keep getting better and you’ll see me on the world stage.”
VN: Where does that composure come from?
ME: I don’t know. I don’t think I get it from my parents. Even though I love my parents a lot, they didn’t give me the drive or motivation. I don’t have any figured I look up to, it’s just, I didn’t like school, so I didn’t finish school. I came out here to make it in esports, and there’s not really an option. There’s not a favorable option for me if I fail. I guess that’s where the real drive comes from.
VN: You’re from Hawaii, right? When did you come over here? What was the moment where you decided, “OK, I’m gonna do this?”
ME: I mean, I never really got that. The answer to that question is I didn’t have any motivation to get good until I went to Madison Square Garden for NA summer finals (last year). I was there as just a spectator and saw thousands of people cheering on these guys who were just playing video games. I thought, “I could be on that stage someday.” It’s not a farfetched thing.
It’d be farfetched for a sixth grader to say he could be as good as Michael Jordan at basketball. That’s farfetched. But for me, I could be on stage being cheered by thousands of people, hundreds of people. That wasn’t farfetched. That realization really drove me at that point.
VN: How much were you playing at that point?
ME: I was always playing. I think there’s a misconception as to how you get good at League of Legends. You can’t just play the game and expect to get better. That’s not how it works. So even though I put in, sometimes 48 hours straight of just playing League, that’s not gonna make me better — even though I was putting in a shit ton of hours, but I didn’t put in real hours.
VN: What do you think of the latest patch you’re playing on now? Anything you’d like to see changed?
ME: I usually just try to focus on my role. So I’d say a lot of other roles probably want a lot of things changed, but I’m pretty fine where I’m at. I think there’s definitely different options. There’s different play styles for it, different champions that can be strong.
I wouldn’t say there’s not changes to be made. But I’m not complaining.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games.