Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with Counter Logic Gaming’s Zaqueri ‘Aphromoo” Black during Week 6 of the North American League of Legends Championship Series.
Andrew Kim: Where do you think CLG is in the LCS right now? We know that your record is tied up right now (and still is after Week 7), and a lot of teams are saying that they expect CLG to be part of the playoffs and do well. Do you share that optimistic look into the spring split?
Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black: I would say I’m optimistic anyways, and if you aren’t, it doesn’t really bode well going toward the end of the season if you think you’re done earlier on in the season. I do think it’s OK that we’re having all these rough patches and stuff like that. Usually we have a little trouble meta-wise; with changes, you gotta figure out what’s best, stuff like that. In order for us to even get to where we want to go, usually we have to go through these types of blunders.
AK: You’ve been part of CLG for a long time. You are the veteran of CLG and because you have such history, what is your favorite moment as part of CLG?
ZB: The happiest memory I have is probably 2015 summer when Doublelift (Yiliang Peng) and Pobelter (Eugene Park) were still on the team. The whole season leading up to us winning at Madison (Square Garden). After that, 2016 spring all the way up to MSI was probably my (next) happiest memories with the team and everybody who was around.
AK: Because you’re a veteran I’m sure you are aware of the risk of injury. You have some tape on your arm right now. If you have dealt with injury before, how bad has it gotten?
ZB: I played basketball when I was younger and I had injuries. Specifically on (my right hand) it was my wrist. Playing basketball, I went for a layup and fell on my arm or something like that and I stopped playing. It hasn’t really happened since until recently since I also play so much solo queue that I started tiring out my hand. It gets sore and inflamed inside of my hand. It’s not my wrist or anything like that, but my hand only, because of the high mechanical champions I like to play, and usually me spamming those puts so much stress on my hand. So now I have to practice less and be more wary of how much I play, what type of stretches I’m doing, making sure I do get tape, that sort of stuff.
AK: The decision to practice less, is that a decision you made or was it more of a doctor’s orders type thing?
ZB: Just my type of decision because I noticed that if I do play for super long hours, –so let’s say I scrim for, we scrim from six to eight hours a day, and if I play solo queue after that, literally, maybe like the second game in or even in the first game, I can feel my hand just weaker in general. So I can’t really make the movements that I normally make nowadays and it kinda sucks, but that’s only because I probably didn’t really take care of my hands at the beginning part. I just always played, played, played and never really thought about the repercussions of doing too much repetitiveness on my hand. So now every day I’m icing it. We have a physical therapist that makes me do stretches, massages my hand.
AK: Another thing I want your input in is about international tournaments in League of Legends. Right now we’re seeing teams declining invitations, but there are voices in the community at the same time saying that there isn’t enough international competition, that LoL needs more teams going up against different regions. What are your opinions on the current status of international competition?
ZB: The IEM, when we’re on break, isn’t really necessary for any team. It always depends on where it is and no one, I don’t think anybody really wants to travel 10 hours to go to Katowice where the tournament setup isn’t as good as Riot would set up an international tournament. So there’s no reason to go unless the big teams are gonna go there. Just depends on the lineup, what you’re doing if you want to travel out there. Usually it’s not worth it, especially like the prize pool, it’s not even like, yeah it’s not worth it.
AK: What would it take for entire teams to not straight out decline and consider going?
ZB: During the offseason the only thing that could improve that is obviously raise the salary of the tournament in general. That’s about it. And maybe the place that it’s at, because Katowice isn’t that great (in my opinion).
AK: When you prepare for games do you watch VODs of other regions as a team or individually?
ZB: Yeah. Our team in general watches almost every region, even EU LCS is on while we’re still practicing, they play before us, and then LCK is usually at 12 a.m. at night. We usually catch it, or in the morning we have specific VOD reviews,. “They did this. They did that.” We also watch other NA teams as well.
AK: When you watch these VODs, is there a particular player you pay attention to?
ZB: For me specifically, not really. All that matters is the bottom lane meta, and how teams are playing around whatever style they’re doing because that is so open right now, because everyone is picking just anything besides the top side of the map champions. In bottom lane I would play melee supports, trying to make that work out with (the Ancient Coin) in lane, and I do like to be ahead of the meta, having the counter ready, so, I’m just looking out for that type of stuff and then see how people play with the current meta champions.
AK: Alongside TSM, CLG is one of the historic teams in North America. When you’re with that historically significant team for as long as you have been, have you ever dealt with a kind of stress or pressure knowing that you are part of a big organization and fans constantly expect you guys to do well?
ZB: No. I think the only time that happens is when we’re doing really bad, and obviously then it becomes super apparent because everyone knows you’re playing bad, but we know especially. Most of the time I only feel stressed out is when we’re playing bad, and I only feel stressed for my teammates and whoever is in our group, coaches, managers, stuff like that, part of our League team. That’s the only time I really feel stressed whatsoever, but other than that I do still appreciate the fans, because it’s not like they’re always supposed to be positive. It’s OK to give criticism too, because if you’re a fan of something and you don’t like something, it’s fine to voice your opinion. But they want to feel part of the organization or their favorite team. They put in so much time and effort into supporting you, it’s OK that they point out the obvious, whatever they have a problem with. Or they also support you, so, pretty normal.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Slingshot