Misfits was one of the last European League of Legends Championship Series teams to secure a spot in the summer playoffs. At the end of a 2-1 victory over Ninjas in Pyjamas in Week 9, top laner Barney “Alphari” Morris spoke with Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about playing to top side, ARAM style comps, and LCK top laners he respects.
Kelsey Moser: You guys tend to play a lot around top side, and you tend to send mid and jungle top to do these kinds of plays. Sometimes mid will even give up waves to make some plays top. Why do you guys value top side so much that you would give up mid waves?
Barney “Alphari” Morris: I think me and Maxlore already have this decent synergy built. He knows how to get me ahead, and I know how to communicate for him to know how to get me ahead. I think we just work well together at the moment.
Tristan (PowerOfEvil) is a selfless player most the time. Specifically during laning phase — I don’t even need to like ask him if he’ll give the wave — he’ll just tell me in advance that he can give up a wave, and he’s more than happy to do so. And he’ll do it for bot lane too. He just does it a lot, and he doesn’t care so much whether he like falls a little behind his enemy mid laner because he knows that we’ll — or at least we’ll try really hard — to use our side lane leads to pressure mid lane by like roaming and taking pink wards and making sure he can keep pushing and stay relevant.
KM: When you get a lead from plays like this, what do you think is your responsibility to do to make sure mid doesn’t get pushed in?
BM: Typically, when side lanes get ahead, it’s their job to use that lead to help the mid lane because then that lane can just always push and take over jungle. You can use that lane to help the other lane. So if I’m playing something like a Jarvan, which is really easy to gank mid lane for, and Tristan will play like a Taliyah, he might roam top lane so he can dive at six. After that, he’s going to lose 1-v-1 because it’s Taliyah vs most matchups, he’s going to start losing. But I’m Jarvan, so I can really easy push, and enemy mid has to respect me, otherwise I’ll just E-Q-Ulty him, so you just roam mid lane and look for plays, or you just take vision, and that’s enough. Especially in LCS games (might not be in scrims), but in LCS games if you just go and put a pink ward and clear a pink ward mid lane, then you go back top and push and recall, then enemy mid will be hugging his turret because otherwise he’ll die.
KM: I feel like NiP almost have sort of a similar top side focus. How do you set up to play against that? Do you prioritize having a stronger top-jungle 2-v-2 in draft, or?
BM: I don’t think we thought too much about NiP’s play style going into this week. We know they’re a pretty weak team (obviously we’re not very strong at the moment either), but we’re not as bad as them. We were more focused on ourselves than them.
I do think they play around top, kind of like we do a bit, and like Splyce. I think their mid laner favors these roaming champions like Taliyah and Galio. When he plays Orianna and Syndra, I feel like he’s going to get outclassed by PowerOfEvil in terms of these matchups and 1v1 and so on.
But I don’t think we prepared particularly much. We just knew that Profit is like really comfortable on split-pushers like Jayce. He played it vs us last time, and it was a little bit difficult because we weren’t so confident in forcing engages or so good at playing around Baron as we are now.
KM: In the first game, they drafted this well-rounded sort of team-fighting comp, but usually they just go for strong early lanes. Did you guys just feel confident you could overpower them in laning matchups then, or?
BM: In the Game 1 draft, we saw like a good opportunity to blind pick Gnar, and usually I’m not sure how I feel about blind picking Gnar, since I feel like it has some pretty good counters and some clear weaknesses. But I don’t really think that most top laners in Europe or most teams in Europe are good enough to punish them at the moment like they do in Korea — and I also didn’t think that Profit plays Camille, or if he does, he doesn’t play it well compared to his Jayce or his Rumble. He can play those to a decent level.
We saw a chance to blind pick Gnar, and I was expecting them to put the Maokai top lane at that point because the only reason you would put Maokai jungle in that situation was to dive top lane. So we banned Renekton to make sure they wouldn’t be able to — like to make it a lot harder. And then we just put Shen top lane, so they had this really weird comp where they got out-scaled, I think, first of all — like the Gnar vs the Shen will win really hard come mid game. I don’t think we had any losing lane (maybe one pushing lane in the bot lane because they first pick Caitlyn).
So they drafted a really weird comp that didn’t have any way to win the game because their comp wanted to teamfight, but they had no way to engage, and our four-man was strong enough to 4v5 defend Baron, so their Game 1 comp was pretty bad, I think.
KM: They played Kayn for the second two games. Usually I see this picked into two ganks or something. When you went in Game 3 for the Maokai, were you expecting them to go for Kayn again and then had the Rengar prepared or just something you think was a good setup in general?
BM: I didn’t like it in the situation they picked it since — at least my knowledge of Kayn jungle is that it wants to gank a lot, so it can get its stacks up, obviously. And it wants to gank top lane because that’s like the easiest lane to gank, so they picked it with a Gnar, and the Gnar sets up ganks pretty badly. But they did this weird cheese Level One, so they got a gank off anyway. I wasn’t expecting them to pick Kayn. We were actually considering it ourselves — picking it — we had some options.
We didn’t want to go for an early game jungler. We saw the Maokai flex, but we were pretty confident they were putting it top lane and just taking an early game jungler because that works pretty well with Maokai because Maokai can accelerate the jungler’s speed by throwing saplings, and the early game jungler can compensate for an otherwise weak laning phase by ganking for the point-and-click CC laner (which is really easy to do).
So the Kayn pick in Game 3 was unexpected, but the Kayn pick in Game 2 was fine, I think, by them.
KM: Also, in Game 3, I noticed that you guys did the lane swap to bring bot to top. A lot of times when we see these swaps, it’s with push on top lane, but in this game, you had push on bot and top. So what were some of the factors in this case?
BM: First, we had Tristana, which was going to be a lot more useful in a lane swap situation than a Caitlyn, and Herald is alive at this point, and it’s past eight minutes, so if you can get a swap, it’s usually good to swap. At least they get a tower, and the dragon’s still alive, or they gonna get a tower and maybe tempo because they reset faster. Or we get a tower and vision prepared for the Herald or the Herald and the tower. Either way it’s a win for us, right?
It was mainly their decision, not mine. They had push, and they saw the opportunity, and they just went for it. It’s not as much my decision as it is theirs.
KM: You mentioned you watched the Korean games in relation to the Gnar, and I’d talked to you briefly before, and you said that you liked to watch MaRin. What is it about MaRin that you think stands out to you that makes you respect his play?
BM: I like MaRin because he nearly always plays for himself or makes his team play for himself. I don’t think it’s necessarily the best thing to do or always the best thing to do. I think it’s good a lot of the time. I think it shows how confident he is. And you also have to be very skilled to use this play style of playing for yourself to just carry your team then and snowball the lead even further, which MaRin can do really well.
He’s just been a good top laner for a long time now, in my opinion. I don’t know if he’s the best. There’s like CuVee and Smeb. I think CuVee’s like really good. CuVee is also an excellent top laner I think is really good, so I just like that MaRin is selfish a lot of the time, but it’s not a bad thing for his team. He’s good enough to be selfish and for it to be worth it because he’ll carry anyway.
KM: Is that a kind of play style you want to emulate?
BM: I don’t think — I would like to be able to do the play style and be successful with it, but I don’t want to limit myself to one play style. I don’t think that any good player should limit themselves to a play style or to a certain champion pool or something like this. I just try to do what I think is best in the game. If we have like Renekton-Elise, of course I’m going to be more greedy for my jungler to come top side, but if I’m going to be playing Maokai with a Gragas — in this case, they’re both scaling, and there’s not so much to do and Gragas has to cover bot lane or something.
KM: You also commented on your strong synergy with Maxlore and that this is something that your team relies upon a lot. What’s something that makes you a really strong duo, but also some things that you’re working on?
BM: Most the time we play matchups we know both of us want to do. I know what he will want to do on his jungler, and he’ll know what I want to do on my top laner. When he can gank top or if he doesn’t want to gank top and plays for bot side instead.
Stuff that we can improve on: sometimes there will be mechanical errors. Obviously, it happens to everyone. Sometimes there will be miscommunications — like I remember in one game in a scrim a few days ago — I was playing against Cho’Gath, and I heard Maxlore say ‘Go here, just go here.’ And I died to Cho top side. I think communication improved a little bit. We’re not perfect. I think we’re good for European standards for top-jungle duos, but we still have a lot to improve on.
KM: You guys have been really embracing the all go mid team fight kind of thing. Do you find it hard to get side lane control? What are some ways you can make sure side lanes don’t overrun you in these comps?
BM: In previous weeks, we were putting really high priority on champions with hard engage (like the Jarvan, for example, we really highly prioritized this — even though, if we picked it, we would nearly always have a losing side lane matchup mid-late game). Because at this point, we just weren’t confident enough to play other styles, I think. It’s a problem we have at the moment. We’re working on fixing it. We’ve identified it’s a problem that we have difficulty playing slower games.
I think one of our biggest issues is being patient — or being impatient, rather. If I’m playing like a side laner, we might just force a fight too hard or if we have Baron, and the last chance for enemies is to make a pick in a certain lane — even though we know that they have to do that, we’re still going to play disrespectful towards them. And they’re still going to make that pick.
This is something that we’re trying to fix, at least for playoffs. I think it’s like the main factor for us: wanting these ARAM group team comps. Honestly, any team can play them. It’s really easy. All you do is not int during laning phase, and then you just go mid and force a fight. If you lose, you lose. If you win, you win. It worked for a while, and then we played against good teams, and we tried it, and we lost every game with it.
KM: Now that you guys are secured for playoffs, I think someone on the desk said you think you can do well against Splyce. Theoretically, if you could pick a Group B team to play against, which would you prefer?
BM: I think that H2K are for sure the strongest team in the Group B at the moment. I think UoL and Splyce are both pretty close. Personally, I would prefer to play against UoL because I think — I think Splyce played better in the early game. UoL — I don’t even know if they played better in the mid-late game. I think they had the ARAM style like us, but they played better. I think Splyce will be the harder opponent. I think UoL have a weaker early game, and a narrower style of the game, and smaller champion pools, generally.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games