Despite landing outside the playoffs in both splits of the European League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS), Team ROCCAT managed to defeat G2 Esports twice this season, earning the reputation of “Kingslayers.” Following its closing defeat of G2 on Thursday, Top laner Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren spoke with Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about ROCCAT’s split, his champion pool, and the win over G2.
Kelsey Moser: The start of your season was really rough getting things together with the jungle change. What were some of the biggest factors that you guys had to deal with to get into a groove again?
Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren: So last season when we had Maxlore as our jungler, he was a big voice in our team. So he was basically talking a lot. He was really shot-calling. You could even say he was micromanaging us sometimes when we had to play for tempo. So the main thing that Pridestalker had to learn at the start of the split, and still has to learn really good, is to play on tempo and play around one side of the map so we don’t run confused because usually he will just randomly farm some golems, and enemy team already got a first turret, and we got super behind. So we just try to change that.
KM: It seemed like, in especially the last game, your team was kind of working with Pridestalker and keeping track of Trick was a really big aspect of your win. Was that something that you guys had in mind for this set. I know you’ve said you didn’t prepare really hard, but was it something you were thinking about?
AH: So for this week’s games? We didn’t really scrim for the whole week this week. These games don’t affect our standings anymore, so we just said we won’t scrim. And we just play for fun, I guess, and see what happens, so we just win like that.
KM: You went for the Irelia into Gnar. It’s a common counter, but also a little risky. Was it a YOLO pick that you just really wanted to play today?
AH: Yeah, I wanted to play this matchup for a long time. I know it from solo queue days, and I played it a lot. When Irelia was really meta, it was pretty good into Gnar, so I thought I can pull it off. We don’t have anything to lose anyway, so I just tried, and as a champ, I think it actually works.
KM: Especially, I think in the second game, you had some difficulty keeping track of the jungler. Some players will say they play in the long lane, and they get excited to go for a trade or a kill. Is that a problem you’ve had?
AH: Mmm. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think I can play really safe, but I really tried to play the matchup how it’s supposed to be and win it 1-v-1. So I actually don’t know if I can win it because I’m not experienced in this matchup a lot. Usually I — I don’t know if I over-extend. I think it’s just a problem with our synergy on our team and tracking the jungler.
KM: Something interesting was that you guys in the first game picked the Morgana into the Alistar. I’ve heard some mixed opinions on this. Some say this is kind of a trick and Morgana doesn’t always work that well into Alistar. What is your team’s thoughts about this?
AH: I think we feel really comfortable with Morgana. Wadid and Hjarnan always said that Morgana is really good now into Alistar, and it’s good with Ardent Censer too, so it’s a good fit in the meta, I think. I think we just feel really comfortable with that pick. I don’t think it’s bad or anything.
KM: You said you didn’t really scrim. Did you practice solo queue or what kind of things did you do for this week?
AH: This week I played solo queue one day. I went through a few games. I played one Irelia game and a few Gnar games. That’s all I did for this week. I don’t really — we didn’t really have to prepare for them because G2 is kind of — if you look at them, they have pretty obvious play style. When they do a play, they always commit on one side. If you see mithy on bot side, for example, you know for sure that they would all be around bot side and play full for bot side. You just trade on the other side of the map. I think that’s why it was actually not that hard to play against them because they’re really obvious sometimes. They’re really normal macro, nothing special.
KM: I’ve heard before that as a team, ROCCAT feels like they can identify weaknesses of other teams well. Do you think preparing for that kind of thing is why ROCCAT has been kind of effective against some of the top teams in EU LCS?
AH: I don’t know. I think we’re just all pretty good players, but we’re just really inconsistent. We’re not a good team. So I guess, some games we make really good calls, we have really good synergy, but we’re just inconsistent. It means we’re kind of bad because of that. I really don’t know the reason why we can beat top teams.
KM: One of the big story points around you this split was obviously that Fnatic game where you had 11 deaths and then came back. I’m not trying to meme you or anything, but I’m wondering — when you get into that kind of situation, what makes you feel like “OK, I’ve had this really bad game, but I can still have the confidence to make these kinds of plays”?
AH: I’m always, from the start — I’m really trying to be the best team player possible, at all times. I listen to everything, I always try to win game. I never try to tilt. Even in solo queue, I always try to not tilt, so I just trust my team. I trust Hjarnan to carry if he has a good matchup, and (if) he’s ahead, I’m going to die for him. I’m going to sacrifice. That’s just my mindset for the game. I don’t really care about my KDA. If my team can carry, I do something useful.
KM: You were really gravitating towards some of the Blade of the Ruined King tops last split. Was there difficulty adapting to the meta tops this split or anything like that for you personally?
AH: No, I think I can play all these top champs. The only champ I don’t really play and don’t like is Rumble. I never like to play Rumble because I think — that champ can be good, but I don’t think it can work in this EU environment when you can never play like Korea when they always force and do like insane plays and aggressive plays with Rumbles. We just never did that as a team, and I just dropped Rumble. I think that this champion gets out-scaled 1-v-1 in lane really hard too after first base, so I don’t think it’s really effective.
KM: So it’s just an issue of Rumble being difficult to consistently execute?
AH: Yeah, I think so, yeah. I think it’s really hard to play, and teams think it’s really easy, but the thing with Rumble is — yeah, you’re really strong early game. The first base you can always push the lane. If you get a lead, you’re pretty strong, but you still get hard out-scaled, and right now there are so many champions that are so good in team fight like Galio. Galio is a good champ, but has really bad laning phase against most champs. But against Rumble, you actually have free lane. You’re more effective than Rumble. A lot more effective in team fights, so I just don’t like Rumble because of that. I just lose 1-v-1. I just don’t like that.
KM: Do you think then it’s better to get these scaling tanks? Were you just able to set up the Irelia 1-4 comps because you had so much disengage?
AH: I think that teamfight comps are really good right now. In solo lanes, champs that are good in team fights and can split-push are really, really effective. So, for example, Gnar is really good in team fights, and he’s also a really good split-pusher, so that’s like a top pick right now.
KM: Also, you have gained kind of a reputation for Gnar.
AH: For Gnar, yeah? That’s because I played Gnar when no one played it for some reason just because I thought it was really good in team fights and really good split-push, and you always outscale your enemies. People were picking Rumble every game, so I just picked Gnar. It’s a really free matchup.
KM: Is it a champion you like to play in particular, or just something you thought was really good at the time?
AH: I actually didn’t play it much last season, not even in solo queue. Just at some point, I thought this champion is really good against Rumble, and everyone is picking Rumble, so I just started playing it in LCS and improved on the champ, and…
KM: Of course, obviously, ROCCAT — even though you pulled off a lot of upsets, you failed to make it to the playoffs again. Is this something that makes you feel really down on your team or something that really motivates you for next year?
AH: I think it motivates me more than being down. I’m never down, even when we were 0-7 last split, I didn’t even think of relegations or anything like that. I was just trying to win, and then we win. I just try to keep a positive mindset and be a team player. That’s my mindset right now. I’m pretty motivated.
KM: Do you think that kind of attitude is what allows you guys to make these kinds of split comebacks even when you have terrible starts?
AH: Yeah, I think we have an OK mindset right now. Last split was a little better because we were having a really good win streak, but I think we’re still really good friends. Even when we lose, we’re still really good friends in the team, so that’s why we’re winning, I think, these games.
KM: I feel like, even though ROCCAT didn’t do that well, you guys gained a lot of fans just by virtue of trying to take down G2 and these top teams.
AH: *laughs* Yeah, I guess that’s really good for us.
KM: Do you have any kind of message you would want to give these fans or anything like that?
AH: I just want to thank our loyal fans for staying with us even though we’re really inconsistent and doing really bad (some) games and sometimes good. So I would like to thank those fans for staying with us and supporting us.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games