In a year, Counter Logic Gaming’s Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes went from a relatively unknown Challenger player to the MVP of the championship series in the North American League of Legends Championship Series spring finals. The rookie, one of two in CLG’s starting roster, helped the team to a thrilling 3-2 win against Team SoloMid in Sunday’s final at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Stixxay was clutch throughout the series, especially when a late team fight sealed the championship for CLG in the decisive fifth game. CLG will now get another test at international play by qualifying for next month’s Mid-Season Invitational, where it will look to improve from a disappointing showing at IEM Katowice in March.
Slingshot caught up with Stixxay after the match Sunday to talk about his LCS learning curve, approaching team fights and how CLG’s bottom lane matches up with others in the region.
Vince Nairn: A year ago you were a Challenger, and now here you are the MVP of the championship series of the NA LCS spring split. How would you describe the last year?
Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes: I think this split is a really big learning experience for me. This split was my first time playing on stage. You never know how you’re gonna do under pressure, and it even changes when you go to semifinals. You don’t know how you’re gonna do under that much pressure, and the finals even more pressure. So you hope for the best, and experience is probably the most important thing. So I think this win was really good for us.
When you get on stage you find new mistakes you never even saw before. For example, in Game 2, I was (staying pretty far back). I had never done that before. I was like, “Wow. I guess I’m pretty nervous.” You just do things you don’t normally do under pressure, but this split has just been a learning experience for me.
VN: Yeah, what have been the things you tried to pick up every week? As you said, every time out there is another experience.
TH: For me, at the beginning of the split, it was a lot of small things that I hadn’t even thought of before that mainly Aphro showed me. The rest is like laning. I used to be really nervous in lane during the split, and I slowly got comfortable with it. The last thing for me was team fighting. Late-game team fighting can be pretty scary when you’re under a lot of pressure. Sometimes it’s a conscious thing, “Oh, we’re about to fight.” And then it’s really bad thing to do. But it happens to me a lot, where we’re engaging on a fight, and in my mind I’m thinking, “We’re going to fight now.” I’m over-thinking the fight, and it causes me to do things I normally wouldn’t, just because I’m under a lot of pressure you’re not normally in when in practice.
VN: Even take it a step further, that team fight happened in the 42nd minute of Game 5. What was going through your mind when that started?
TH: Uhh, after Game 2, I was able to focus myself, and the rest of the games I was really confident in my play. Especially Game 5, I wasn’t nervous at all. I didn’t have that conscious thought before the fight. It felt natural, just kind of flows. You shouldn’t have to think about it. It should feel natural. Game 5, that’s how it was for me. I was able to show how good my team fighting is when I’m able to focus on it. But yeah, sometimes you just have that conscious thought, and it messes me up for sure.
VN: There was no shortage of storylines going into this game. How did you guys try to block that out and focus on the actual game?
TH: For me, I’ll say I have a pretty strong mentality. I don’t really care too much about it. So I think that’s the biggest thing, especially for a rookie, that’s a really good thing to have. I mean, people have retired because of the comments they hear or read or whatever. It’s mainly just knowing your self worth and knowing how good you are, and just being confident enough to show it on stage.
TH: So with Tristana, the reason she wasn’t really being played anymore is because she has a weak mid game, and when you go the Guinsoo’s Rageblade build, it basically negates that mid game. Because Guinsoo’s alone is actually the most efficient item when it’s stacked. So when it’s at 8 stacks it’s the most efficient item in the game. So even though, Tristana’s AP scaling isn’t super good, just having the eight stacks, if you get to fight with that, it’s super good. So basically with the build, it negates her really weak mid game, and then you can always just sell it later. Like, that game I sold it for a fire cannon at six items.
CN: Playing on that stage with the larger Las Vegas crowd in there, there was actually a quick snippet put up on the Riot broadcast of you guys on CLG saying you couldn’t hear each other. Was that something that affected you throughout the series when the audience got loud?
TH: That’s something that definitely affects you. Even when you play in Santa Monica, in the LCS, vs. TSM, they have the most fans, so every time a play happens, it’s super loud. TSM’s honestly the most annoying to play against because of that factor, so yeah. Whenever TSM was on the up and up in the game, it was so loud you could barely hear. My ears are actually ringing really bad right now.
CN: Do you think that can affect your play negatively in any way? Just with communication?
TH: Yeah, it can. We changed the mics, the outbound and inbound a ton of times throughout the series. That was changed a lot, but it’s mainly, a CLG we meditate before the games. So basically, you just have to be able to focus while having that crowd in the background to be able to ignore it.
VN: So the last time CLG was on the international stage, it didn’t go so well. What are the things you guys have to do for a better showing this time around at MSI?
TH: I think No. 1 for us is to be get better at practice. For some reason, ever since we got back from Katowice, our practice isn’t as good as it used to be. It’s hard to say, but we lose a lot of scrims, but then we always perform on stage. So it’s hard to tell how we’re gonna do that week. The week went badly? Oh, we go on stage and do well. Next week it goes badly, but oh, we do well on stage again. It’s hard to tell. It’s been like that since Katowice. It’s hard for us to tell if we’re actually getting too good — if we’re good — we don’t know. So I think we just need to get better practice.
Joe Cannavino: Do you experiment a lot in your scrims?
TH: Well, the only time we experiment is at the beginning of the week because obviously by the end of the week you want to finalize what you’re going to play in the LCS. We only experiment the first one or two days that week.
JC: Did you show the Trist in the scrims leading up to this week?
TH: Yeah. I actually played, it was just one day spamming Tristana against TSM. And then TSM played it the next day vs. Team Liquid in a scrim, so Team Liquid just banned it the whole series because they realized that (TSM) got it from us.
JC: What were your thoughts about the series and TSM as a whole? How do you match up with Doublelift?
TH: I think Doublelift is definitely a good player I used to look up to a ton.JC: What about your bot lane?
TH: I think me and Aphro are pretty high up there in terms of laning. I think we’re one of the better bot lanes. I wouldn’t say we’re the best because there’s still a lot of things we do wrong, but I think we’re definitely up there, and people underrate us for some reason.
JC: Who do you think is the best?
TH: Probably Piglet and Matt, in NA at least. I think they punish lanes really well, and they always play really aggressive.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games.