Counter Logic Gaming had high expectations coming off a runner-up finish at the Mid-Season Invitational, but the summer split of the North American league Championship Series began with trouble.
For much of the split, CLG was in the bottom half of the standings but has since surged into a playoff spot and will attempt again to defend its spring championship and earn an automatic bid to the League of Legends World Championship.
Slingshot’s Vince Nairn talked to Jake “Xmithie” Puchero during Week 8 of the LCS about CLG’s surge, handling social media and being underrated.
Vince Nairn: Any overall thoughts on the games (during Week 8) and getting into the playoffs? After the way this split started, just to turn it back around and get it going in the right direction?
Jake “Xmithie Puchero: I still think that we have a lot of things to clean up, especially execution and rotations. It’s kind of difficult right now to figure out what the exact thing you have to do, so we’re still figuring that out.
VN: What has this split been like for you guys? Obviously, people from the outside might’ve been a little more worried or critical about what’d been going on. But it seemed like you guys had a general feel that you’d figure it out.
JP: We technically know how to play the game. But usually, more and more, if one person makes a mistake, there are teams, right now, that are really good at figuring out what the mistakes were and executing on it. That’s one of the reason we lose a lot of games: primarily on misplaying and then they take advantage on it. You can’t really come back from it because they make less mistakes than us.
VN: What has been the key for you guys turning it around in the middle of the split? As you’ve said, maybe executing better? How have you guys been able to get closer to the rhythm you were at toward the end of the last split and at MSI?
JP: Talks. Lots of talks. Meetings and trying to be more open to each other. Mainly, confronting each other. It’s really hard to critique each other because they’re the best in their role, so it’s really hard to critique other members of the team, and them not getting offended. Some people use memes, most of the time, to lighten that conversation. Like, “Oh, you did this play… blah blah blah…” and then meme so it’s not really hurtful. It causes friendly banter, but there’s actually meaning to it.
VN: I talked to Darshan a couple weeks ago, and he had mentioned he’d cut Reddit out from his routine. I heard Aphro something similar in another interview. Is that a team-wide thing, where you guys are trying to limit the outside noise and just focus on what you’re doing?
JP: It’s probably a person-to-person. Trevor (“Stixxay” Hayes), I’m pretty he’s still goes there a lot. (Jae-Hyun “HuHi” Choi) never used Reddit before, so he’s usually doesn’t go to it. Darshan literally downloaded a program to restrict — I think he restricted Twitter once, but he was like “I have to do promotional stuff for my brand. I have to do that. What am I supposed to do?” I don’t think I remember him being on Reddit, so maybe he did. (Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black) sometimes goes on it, but he really doesn’t go through a whole lot. For me, I don’t really care what the community thinks. I usually just browse Reddit to see what news is there. I don’t look at the comments and think about it that much.
VN: Is it difficult to tune it out? It’s kind of a fine line because you guys are so much closer to the community than I think it’s like in any other sport or any other activity, in terms of how close you guys are, when it comes to interacting with the fans. Is there a line between getting too close?
Xmithie Definitely. There is a line where you have to draw for your fans like you can communicate through stream, answer questions, but there’s that line where you have to be strict to yourself. Like “don’t do that!” You have to be mentally stable. For me, I feel like I’ve been playing this game and been pro for like a couple years. At the beginning, I was like, “Damn, these guys think that I suck.” Later on I realized, “Why do I care about them?” I’m here because of them, but it doesn’t really matter if they’re critiquing me or not. You just have to take it with a grain of salt and play with your team, and only care about what they think.
VN: You’re one of the older guys in the LCS. I think you might be…
JP: I’m the oldest in NA LCS. I don’t know about EU LCS, but Travis said before that I’m the oldest in NA LCS.
VN: So being the oldest guy in the LCS, you’ve obviously seen everything for longer than everybody else. How does that affect your mentality, when it comes to going through the ups and downs of a split, or dealing with the little stuff on a week-to-week?
JP: I wasn’t really mentally tough all these years. It’s mainly because help from coaches, we had previous coaches that were all great, but physical trainers and anything, I take what they say to heart. I want to improve as a person. There’s so many supporting players for me: my girlfriend is still really supportive of me. My family is too; they sometimes go here every week and I don’t even know that they’re here. They just kind of come here and cheer me on. That’s what’s giving me the drive to keep playing, and motivating myself to play at my best and not take this for granted.
VN: The last time we were here, we asked players we talked to a couple different questions. One of them was “most underrated player in the LCS” and four or five people said you.
JP: I’m pretty much just a meme now. I’m pretty sure it’s a meme.
VN: Yeah. Even still, does it speak anything to the progress you’ve been able to make? Now, going under the radar for a while and finally getting noticed, did that give you any satisfaction or pleasure?
JP: No. (Laughs) I prefer to be under the radar and trying to — not really hide — make myself humble so that I can keep doing what I do. Sometimes the limelight is pretty good, but it doesn’t really matter to me that much.
VN: So people acknowledging the fact that you’re underrated is ironic because you’d rather they didn’t…
JP: (Laughs) I feel bad because I don’t care. (Sighs).
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games.