Slingshot’s Vince Nairn had the chance to catch up with Phoenix1’s Austin “Gate” Yu at the League of Legends World Championship grand final Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. They talked about what it’s like to watch worlds as a player, the factors holding back Western regions and what to expect from P1 next season.
Vince Nairn: What are your impressions watching worlds from a player’s perspective and seeing everything play out the way it has?
Austin “Gate” Yu: I guess so far it’s a pretty surprising final. I wasn’t anticipating this matchup in the final. I think everyone was thinking SKT/ROX, but just how the brackets worked out they ended up meeting in the semis. Overall, it’s been an interesting worlds. Group stages were super unpredictable, but after that it’s been pretty stable for most teams.
VN: Has anything surprised you to this point?
AY: I’d say the biggest upset, I guess, is TSM not making it out of groups. But I just thought they were a really strong team going into it, so it’s surprising, especially since this is the year worlds was hosted by NA. I guess it’s demoralizing for some fans even to think about that.
VN: As a player, what’s it like just to attend this? I imagine it’s gotta be a mixture of excitement but also agony about wanting to be able to play on this stage. What’s it like watching from this perspective?
AY: Personally, I haven’t been to a lot of live events like this. The last time I’d been to a live event, it was at Madison Square Garden, and I was playing in it. So just watching it, I wish I could be there. But at the same time, there are some inspirational stories. For example, Pirean played on the same team as Ruler about a year ago when they were both amateurs. And now he’s in the world finals. So really if you just work hard at you goals, you can get to the top.
VN: Does it allow you to step away from what you’re used to? Because during the season you’re so tunnel vision about playing. Does this let you watch the game from a different angle?
AY: The funny thing is, leading up to this, actually, after the semifinals, I know both teams SKT and Samsung had no scrim partners. Since Pirean knows Ruler and we have some relations, we ended up scrimming each other and helping each other practice. So we haven’t been completely off, not doing anything League related. We’re pretty unrehearsed when it comes to everything. Samsung destroyed us in scrims, but I hope they got something out of it in the end. But overall, it’s just fun to watch this in the end. And also going forward into next season, we’re hoping we’ll get something just from watching it.
VN: So much has been made of the regions and EU vs. NA, but on the other side, Korea is just continuing to show its dominance. How do you put into words just how far ahead Korea is from everyone else?
AY: I think the biggest thing that sets them apart is just discipline. Players don’t goof off. Their picks are always — they know exactly what their role is when they pick certain things. And they’re also the most inventive. For example, the support Miss Fortune. No one’s really going to think of that unless you really put the time into thinking of what does well in certain situations. Korea, overall as a region, they’re disciplined and they’re smart.
VN: What are the things you can learn as a player in this region just from watching the high-level of Korean League?
AY: The most interesting is just watching how patient they are with everything they do. They take steps as five, five players together. They never rush anything, and they really work hard to secure the win. They never have any fumbles.
VN: You said you guys haven’t been completely off. Have you done anything outside scrimming Samsung?
AY: The highlight I guess is scrimming Samsung, but we’re mostly, all of us are grinding hard every day. We love League of Legends, so we all play. We all just like to get together and talk about the games. We’re all in the house already as a team, and I know a lot of teams have some break off. I guess we’re one of the faster teams to start getting back into it.
VN: Is there a sense of calm for you, considering everything you went through with TiP? Knowing stuff like that is straightened out, you have an owner you can actually communicate with?
AY: I would say so. It’s been calming for me. Not to take anything for granted, but I think for the most part, Phoenix1 has proven themselves as a good org to the players. Moving forward, I’m pretty confident in our whole roster and support staff to do well next split.
VN: That makes it sound like you guys might be staying together then for next season. Is that accurate?
AY: Nothing is 100 percent certain, but mostly the roster and a lot of the people affiliated with the team will stay intact. At most, a few small changes.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games