Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with Team Liquid’s Matthew “Matt” Elento during the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS). They talked about Liquid’s difficulties and how Matt handles losses and the criticism that comes with them.
Andrew Kim: You have an interesting track record when it comes to working with various different AD Carries. In Team Liquid alone, you played a number of them, which meant you had to adapt and change your play style in accordance to what was happening. Were there any difficulties when it comes to rearranging yourself so that the bot lane can do well?
Matthew “Matt” Elento: It’s not just for having a different AD Carry. When I’m on a new team, there’s a set of responsibilities that everyone has to have, and of course that will change between teams that change rosters or just have different players through each iteration. That’s whatever. Every player’s experienced new iterations, new things that they have to pick up or focus on. In the most recent iteration, which is already something that we’ve had, it (started as) the same as the starting spring split roster. It’s pretty clear that we haven’t been able to live up to any set expectations that we have so far. There’s just a lot of missing components and for bot lane specifically, I don’t really worry too much about bot lane because Piglet (Choi Gwang-jin) and I will not struggle in losing matchups, even matchups, or winning matchups. It’s just really down to how we focus on team play, and I do not see us living up to our expectations yet for our team play.
AK: Team play seems to be something you’re focused on, not only you but for the team as a whole. Was that a topic of discussion following the previous split?
ME: We always had a multitude of problems we had to work on as a team, and the broadest one is team play, but there’s a lot of small, medium, large problems that, like any other team, they have problems that they’ll have to solve over the season. Our problems were just not able to go away when we were playing as a five. I think as time goes on, we’ll be trying to fix our problems without trying to make any more problems arise.
I can say personally it sucks. There’s no feel good moment when you’re losing because even if you have the worst mentality, which is “I’m really good and my teammates all blow, I don’t deserve to lose.” If you have that mentality, you’re not getting anywhere on this team. If you have the best mentality, which is “I will work the best I can on myself and work the best that I can for the teammates,” that still doesn’t feel good when you’re losing. Personally is just sucks.
AK: It’s very easy to have emotions run high, and not only on an individual level, but as a team, where players can have their frustrations more on their sleeves as opposed to keeping it under check. When you find yourself at the height of your frustration, what are some things you turn to in order to prevent that frustrations from leaking onto your performance or teammates?
ME: I don’t have any problem. I think that if you have a really weak mental game, you’re a lot more susceptible to having any sort of residual anger emotions. That’s something I used to have a whole lot during my rookie year, but that’s actually really normal for a rookie with no experience, that sort of residual emotion. I don’t attribute any of my in-game decisions or mistakes off of emotional error, emotional tilt. Honestly not even like one of our biggest issues as our team. It’s not like our team is getting tilted every game. We go into the game with a level of optimism. I think a lot of times before last year, if I was playing a certain champion, playing a certain matchup, I felt like I already won the game. I don’t feel like that anymore.
AK: Do you think that shift in confidence has been a positive or a negative influence?
ME: Very negative. I wouldn’t, for example — this is a legit example from spring split — if I picked a Bard-Alistar matchup, in my head I already thought I won the game. I’m pretty sure I have an extremely high win-rate. I’ve never looked back and seen whether I’ve lost on Bard versus Alistar, but that was a matchup back in spring split and to my knowledge, I think I won all of those games. Maybe I lost one or two. That was a sort of matchup where I would load in the game thinking “Nice, I can just carry the game by myself,” or “I can carry this game with my teammates, and we’re going to win this game because we have such a big advantage.” But now I don’t feel that way at all. I don’t have that sort of mentality toward any of my matchups or any of my game situations. It’s just like “I really hope we don’t lose. I really hope we win.”
AK: Is that mentality more coming from the lack of confidence within yourself or in your teammates?
ME: No. Personally, I never blame my teammates, even (in my head). That’s honestly one of the biggest detriments I had as a pro player. I would self-blame the most, and it’s something that I had to honestly seek help for because I would get so self-deprecating inside my own head that I attribute all of our failures as a team just on me. Which honestly, no matter how many games that I played well, or maybe played decent, throughout my whole career, if I have a bad mindset, which was really constant last split, I would just think “I’m the reason why we’re losing. 100 percent.” And that’s been detrimental. I’ve been working on it. I’m trying not to blame (myself) as much as I used to.
AK: I think it’s fair to say that kind of self-deprecation and the willingness to take on responsibility come from an innate want to ultimately be victorious. Where does your sense of competition come from? Is it something innate or something you find and tap into?
ME: That’s something I’ve thought about before because there’s honestly just areas of where my competition or my will to play competitive League of Legends came from. My first rookie split, my desire to play on stage came from just wanting to perform and wanting to show everyone who’s watching me that I could accomplish something, that I could become an accomplished player, and that I could succeed as one. I wanted to show the world that. Later on as my mentality changed a bit, my team was changed leading to the summer split of 2016, I dropped a lot less of that mentality. I no longer wanted to be some sort of superstar player. I wanted to play for my team. I felt like my team needed players that could service them, and not trying to get up on the highlight reel. So that mentality led to this year, and it got really emotional for me because if I had this kind of serviceable attitude, there’s nothing I gain by losing. When I lose, I lose my team’s goal. I lose all my personal goals. When I go up on stage and I lose, there’s nothing for me to gain. That’s why it was so hard for me last split, because that was honestly my reason to live at that point, just to service the team, be a good team player, and since in my mind I couldn’t do that, and I couldn’t win, it was really frustrating.
AK: When it comes to team feedback and looking on previous games good or bad, what is the most important thing when it comes to having a good feedback session?
ME: I used to think the most important thing was understanding the person trying to convey the message’s thought process, but the most important thing in feedback is the skill of tactfully telling someone an honest truth. If you think that they’re playing bad because they’re not understanding something, they have to tactfully tell them that they’re wrong. Don’t tell them they don’t know what they’re doing.
AK: So you mean that maybe someone doesn’t want to be as blunt as they mean to be.
ME: Yeah, it’s definitely a skill to know how to tell a person exactly what they’re doing wrong without them becoming emotionally invested.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/Slingshot illustration