Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with FlyQuest coach Thomas “Thinkcard” Slotkin after his team’s split came to an end in Sunday’s loss to Team SoloMid in the semifinals of the North American League of Legends Championship Series.
Andrew Kim: One of the central themes for FlyQuest this split has been a journey. A lot of people didn’t expect you guys to do well, almost expecting you guys to do a lot worse than fighting for third in the NA LCS. What was your mentality working through heavy amounts of criticism that kept peaking and valley-ing as the split went?
Thomas “Thinkcard” Slotkin: We think of ourselves as kind of a wild card. When we play well, we can beat anyone, and when we’re on our game and everything is working in-sync, we think we’re the best team in the league. But we also make a lot of mistakes. That being said, we can also lose to most teams in the league. So what we tried really hard to work on was consistency and honestly, everyone, people doubting us, that doesn’t really get to us. We’re veteran players, we have people with experience who can calm everyone down, and be like “let’s just focus.” It’s not like anyone was psyched-out because of it, but we just really have to work on consistency, and we’re still working on that but we transitioned from Hai (Hai Du Lam) doing all the shot-calling to a more in-sync team where everyone’s on the same page and everyone has an understanding of the game. I think we’re a little bit more consistent right now, but we still need to get everyone on the same page, and obviously it’s super easy if Hai’s making all the calls and have everyone follow up on it perfectly. But that’s not a reliable thing that can happen every game, like if Hai gets behind or something. We just need to work on consistency, get everyone talking and be on the same page.
AK: When a lot of people can easily see the benefits of having veteran players on the squad. From a coaching standpoint, what are some drawbacks that come with having veterans?
TS: So, drawbacks of people who have been playing for a really long time is, it’s hard to take every single game seriously (in scrims) when you’ve been doing it for so long. Our team tries hard most of the time, but there are some games where we just don’t get that effort that you need in scrims and that focus, and drive to not make the mistake because you don’t want to mess it up for your team, and that’s the best play to make, so you don’t take unnecessary risks and it doesn’t work. That’s sort of something that I think happens more with veteran players than new players, because new players are always trying to perform their best and always trying to do everything right in scrims, and sometimes that brings the productivity on practice. I think it’s mostly that. Besides that, our veterans I think are very good to have on a team. They’re very talkative, they’re vocal, and they help direct everyone during analytical sessions and they’re good to have.
AK: You mentioned that it’s sometimes that it’s difficult to get 100 percent from the team consistently during scrims or even on stage perhaps. Do you think there are slight, say, motivational issues with the veterans as they might get tired out when they’re forced to sit down, play a game, and then have to do individual practice? Do you find yourself having to tell them to do solo queue or practice more individually?
TS: Once again, Altec (Johnny Ru) and Moon (Galen Holgate) usually play a lot of solo queue, and I think lately the rest of the team has been, too. It’s mostly, everyone’s usually putting in the right amount of effort during the week and during everything. People sacrifice their (personal) lives just to play the game, and I think everyone does that well. It’s mostly just staying focused in scrims is the main, I would say, drawback from having super veteran players, just because you do it so much that it’s like, keeping that level of focus for so long, it’s taxing and it’s hard. Not everyone can do it. Bjergsen (Søren Bjerg) can do it really well, but that’s why a lot of people retire and can’t keep it up because you want to stop sacrificing, and you want to do other things in life.
AK: Were there some things you wanted to prepare for or do differently going up against Team SoloMid? FlyQuest has been kind of cheese-pick team of the NA LCS, so I’m curious if you had anything up your sleeves that you didn’t get to show today.
TS: I don’t really want to answer that specifically because we might, and we’re still playing Phoenix1 in Vancouver, but I’d like to say that we changed our drafting style a little bit, and I think our drafts this series were pretty good. I think we made a lot of team errors in game. We drafted more towards (Crowd Control) and Johnny and Ash were very good against CLG, and it wasn’t as good vs. TSM. But sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Being criticized, things like that, but again the series vs. CLG, he did really well on it. I wouldn’t blame anyone for picks like that.
AK: Looking at how far FlyQuest has come. I’m sure your expectations evolved over the course of the split. Could you give us an idea on how your expectation shifted, if they shifted at all?
TS: Yeah, for sure. At the very beginning of the split, we did think we were a top five team, and then after we were beating everyone, before our games against Cloud9 and TSM, we thought that we were probably the best team in the league. And then we played C9 and we thought we played better than them but we lost 2-1, and it was a really close series. We were like “Damn, we really think we’re the best team in the league still,” and then we played TSM, and we barely lost to them. So we still thought that, and then we started falter, and that was when we were like, “We have so many team mistakes we have to fix,” and it took so much time to fix them. Once we fixed them again, we thought we were a top team, but it was definitely a rollercoaster where we had high egos, low egos, and we had to find a good balance. We’re still working on that.
AK: My last question is about looking into the future for the summer split. What is something that you really look forward to when it comes to transitioning from one split to the other?
TS: I love when the meta changes and it’s a race to figure it out because we’re usually on top of that and we’re usually the first ones to do it. Quite frankly, in the beginning of the split most teams are sloppy until they get back into the groove, and that’s why we jumped out so far in the beginning of the split, because every team was making some mistakes and we had the meta figured out really early, so we were just able to capitalize on it. Whenever the meta changes, I feel like we always have a really good read on it. One thing I’m looking for the summer split is just changes. Riot released there are gonna be changes after MSI for the mid season, and I’m just really excited to see what they are so we could just start thinking about the game again, start theorizing and figuring out faster than any other team.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Slingshot