Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with FlyQuest’s Hai “Hai” Du Lam during the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS). They talked about adding Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, why getting to worlds matters so much to him and Echo Fox’s stream team.
Andrew Kim: With the gap between spring and the summer split, you didn’t have to go to MSI, so what did you do during that time? Is there something you like to do during your time off?
Hai “Hai” Du Lam: We lost a lot of team practice because we just got a new player. We have WildTurtle and we didn’t get him until the week before the LCS. I’m not using that as an excuse as to why we’re not playing well right now. It’s just that we had a little amount of practice time, so it’s not like we spent that entire break practicing. We couldn’t. We didn’t have players. We were looking for someone new. We found late that Johnny (“Altec” Ru) isn’t going to be part of the team, so we were looking into things. Who’s going to be our AD Carry? We had to look around, so it took a bit of time for that. We’re still trying to learn how we want to play the game as a team. We’re switching to new systems of priority, who does what on the team, calls and things like that. It’s taking some time.
AK: So it’s just growing pains? New roster, new patches, stuff like that?
HDL: We might not be amazing after or anything like that, but we’re definitely going through those pains right now, with the new teammate, trying new systems, and working on what we can so we can be better years from now. We might not be super good this split but if we do what we’re doing now, continue at it, I think we can get there.
AK: It’s interesting to talk to players who are veterans like you because you have been to worlds multiple times before, and the goal as Moon (Galen Holgate) said before the game is to make it to worlds. When it comes to setting those goals, what are the things that you want to achieve at worlds that makes you thirsty each season?
HDL: We’ve been there before, but we’ve never been able to make it to semis or finals. We’ve been close to semis, the closest was 1-3 maybe. I thought the time when we were really close, maybe we made a poor decision in picks and bans or something and then things went bad for us, or we just played bad one game. I definitely felt like we’re strong enough to go farther than where we were. For this split, I obviously want to make it to worlds. But I don’t want to be just content with getting there. A lot of teams get there, but who really remembers all of them? I don’t remember half, 90 percent of the teams that have been to Seasons 4, 5, 6 worlds. I remember who won but other than that, no one remembers those people. I want us to be able to get there and then make a name for ourselves, so it’ll take a while.
AK: 2018 will have a lot of changes with franchising and no relegation, and it’s really a hot topic across regional lines. Some people are saying that relegation is good while other people are saying that it’s bad. What do you think of it?
HDL: I think relegation is bad from the point of view of a player and an organization. There’s a lot of risk to joining the LCS as a player or organization, if every four months you could lose your entire investment into it, your time, your money. It’s a risky investment, and I feel like a lot of people don’t want to do that as far as orgs and players, and even investors go. So it’s harder for the team to keep going after teams are getting kicked out. As a franchise system comes along, I think it’ll provide stability toward the players and the organization, and it’ll bring it more money for more players. Players with more money means people will be more dedicated to it.
On the flip side of things I can see why fans would be upset about that. Obviously no one wants a scenario of just a bottom feeder team, but I feel like that’s a silly notion. Every player in the LCS is there not because they just enjoy the ride, but because it’s competitive. No one likes to lose. No one’s going “I want to go to an 0-8 team.” If you want to go to an 0-8 team, you might make a $100K or something like that with the new minimum salary changes, but that’s not enough to live the rest of your life. You need to do more than that. You have to win. You have to make a lot more money because you’re giving up your college degree, you’re giving up your high school degree to do what, make $100,000 for two years? And you’re living in California so that’s nothing for the state. I don’t think people should be too concerned about the bottom feeder teams staying that way because the org won’t make money, the players won’t make money. They’re going to look to do things to change that, and no one wants to lose. So I think ultimately it will be a good thing for the scene.
AK: Another thing that changed was Echo Fox’s decision to only scrim their sister team. I understand that this was a very last minute decision, and then they signed a bunch of former professionals as part of their challenger team. I’m sure they won’t be scrimming the streamer team, they’ll be streaming their former Delta Fox team, but that strategy harkens back to the days of CJ Entus with Blaze and Frost. Do you think this will be effective for Echo Fox?
HDL: I think there’s not a big enough gap between the top teams of NA and, say, the Challenger teams that Echo Fox has. I don’t think their team is super amazing, Delta Fox, but I think they’re definitely strong enough for Echo Fox to learn things. I think at this point in time of the LCS, the teams that are the best are the ones that play the most structured, so to speak. You make a plan, and you go through the motions of that plan, and it’s similar to the way that SKT plays. They have a game plan, they execute the game plan and they go through it. Whereas a lot of other teams right now are making aggressive plays, risks, things like that and seeing if they can snowball.
It’s not necessarily that there’s a giant gap between the skills of teams, it’s just whoever plays better that day wins. I think Echo Fox can definitely benefit from this. As far of the stream team, I’m kind of jealous. That brings a lot of publicity towards them, I think their stream team is more popular than their main team by a good margin. It’s not even close, honestly. I think that’s a good thing for their brand. If they’re trying to grow their brand, get more sponsors and say “Hey, look at this. We have 100 million viewable hours on Twitch every month. We have so many followers, look at our numbers, we can get you guys content,” that’s a good thing for the org. I don’t think there’s going to be anything about their interactions with the main team. I doubt they scrim each other or anything like that. It’s just for publicity, it’s for fun, it’s cool and I think it’s good.
AK: Do you think it’s possible for a professional gamer to have a very strong streaming presence while being a professional?
HDL: I think for people that will stream and play League, it’s going to be hard for them to do that — not because it’s something you can’t do, but it’s like being in college. When you’re in college, you have to choose between sleeping, studying, and having fun. When you’re a pro player, you can’t choose practice, you have to practice. They have to choose between mandatory practice or extra practice after that, streaming, or having fun. You can’t do all of the above. Someone that’s a good example is Sneaky (Zachary Scuderi). He streams pretty regularly from Monday through Friday after scrims generally, and he has a consistent schedule. I think does that pretty well, but he doesn’t ever go out I believe. He doesn’t hang out with his friends or anything like that, but he definitely chose the stream and pro life style, and I think he does it pretty well. He stays consistent in streaming, he’s a consistent player, and he’s still good. He might not have leisure time to go out with friends or do whatever, but I don’t think he likes doing that in the first place, so I think that works out for him. I think it’s definitely doable. You also see people like Faker (Lee Sang-hyeok) stream more often too, so I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. You just need to have a good balance and disciplined.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/Slingshot illustration