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Q&A: Darshan talks about opening worlds, practice regimen and Aphromoo’s health

Counter Logic Gaming opened the League of Legends World Championship with a decisive win against G2 in the first match of Group A.

Afterward, Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya to talk about the opening match, practice strategies and getting to worlds for the second time.

Vince Nairn: What if anything is different this time making it to worlds?

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya: I would say a lot is different. I went through a year of trials and tribulations and I learned a lot from the crushing defeat we had at last worlds and I learned a lot from our most recent crushing defeat at NA summer playoffs against TSM and against Immortals. So we’ve definitely done a lot of losing, but then again, I also learned a lot from the highs: MSI, winning the spring split. So it’s been a long ride since last year and there’s been so much that I learned.

VN: What’s maybe the biggest thing you’ve taken away from last year?

DU: I feel like the biggest thing is when it gets down to it, when it comes to competition and it comes to the world stage, I would say that the only thing that matters is that game. We’ve had so many bad practice sessions. Our practice, in terms of results, has been probably worse than any team. But I feel like the worse our results are in practice, the better we play on stage. I feel like the biggest thing I’ve learned is that it all comes down to what happens on that stage, and what you commit to as a team. Anybody can win. Anything can happen. And as long as you’re as prepared for that match as possible, you’re definitely a contender.

VN: How did it feel to go out and get that first win against G2, a team you’re gonna be battling to get out of the group?

DU: It felt pretty good. Honestly I thought G2 would be a lot better, and I feel like they didn’t show the potential they have. They could have had a low more pressure bottom side. I feel like Perkz could’ve had more pressure mid. I feel like they could have just played together as a team. I feel like they were kind of disjointed, so it felt very easy to beat them. But I feel like next time we play them they’re gonna show a lot more and be better than that. I’m not gonna underestimate them at all, but it was definitely a pretty clean win.

VN: What was the prep like leading up to the tournament and try to piece it all together when you got back here?

DU: So Korea wasn’t too much focused on G2 or one specific team. It was just the 15-hour days of just grinding basically. For me, I wake up, I do what I need to do. I meditate. I try to exercise. I didn’t exercise as much as I’d like to, but I was just focused on playing the game, thinking about the game, thinking about all the matchups and everything. So that was just getting as good as we possibly could, and after we got all those games out, all that practice out, we came here, and that’s when we focus intently. The bootcamp starts with a lot of practice, and when you come here is when you start with focusing on a specific team and tailoring a particular strategy.

VN: With you guys going to best of threes in the LCS — and I know you had MSI and last year’s worlds — but was there any adjustment you had to make mentally to kind of jolt yourself back into best of one mode?

DU: I feel like there wasn’t too much a mental shift from best of threes to best of ones. I feel like we actually play a lot better in best of ones, though, so that’s pretty interesting. I’m not too sure if playing in the best of three format made it better for us for worlds. I feel like more games wasn’t really the ideal way to have the format. But I still think best of ones are pretty good.

VN: I know you guys have been locked in preparing for this tournament, but what is your reaction to the rush of NBA and other investors coming into the LCS?

DU: As a player, I think I would say the most obvious answer is it’s always a good thing to have more investors, more big names getting into the scene. Obviously, who doesn’t love more money, right? I don’t know too much about the specifics of what’s actually going to change, so I can’t say too much. But I guess I would say I’m always excited for change, so it’ll be interesting to see how things turn out.

VN: Do you ever reflect on how this scene was like when you first saw worlds to where it is now?

DU: Yeah. Definitely. You can just look at anything. You can look at the size of the stadiums. Back in Season 1, they were playing in Phreak’s basement or something like that. That’s what the size of the tournament looked at. You look at the size of the tournaments we’re selling out now: Staples, Madison Square Garden, all these huge tournaments. The ACC in Canada. There are so many prestigious venues being sold out, and there’s so much more fan interest. You look at the Twitter followers, you look at the money coming in. It’s only getting bigger and better, and there’s obviously no telling what’s gonna happen, whether it’s gonna continue getting bigger or if it’s going to drop down. But things are honestly looking pretty good.

VN: What’s practice like when you’re here for an event? Obviously at the LCS you’re at your house. But what’s it like on the road?

I think when you’re at the event, things get a lot more focused, a lot more serious on who your opponent is. So it’s very very specific and I would say it’s very zoned in, as opposed to when you’re scrimming back at the home, the season is about to start or you’re in the middle of the season. It might be just general practice. When you’re there at the stadium, everything feels more real. The thing for us is people are sick right now. Aphromoo is really sick. So it kind of sucks for us when our main shot-caller can’t even really focus that well. So practice has been kind of rough for us, especially with that. I feel like we still have a lot of things we need to figure out, but I’m really glad with how the first day went so far.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games