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DFG’s Damonte on Challenger path: “I don’t think the typical path of teenagers nowadays was something for me.”

Tanner “Damonte” Damonte has been in the North American Challenger scene for about a year but has already hopped among a handful of teams.

His most recent club, Destined For Glory, is led by Ainslie “Maplestreet” Wyllie and Oleksii “RF Legendary” Kuziuta, two former League of Legends Championship Series players, most recently with Renegades.

The team eventually settled on the name “Destined For Glory” and will play Cloud 9’s Challenger team at 9 p.m. ET tonight for a spot in the North American Challenger Series in the upcoming summer split.

Slingshot had the chance to catch up with Damonte to talk about the matchup, his career and how DFG came to be.

Vince Nairn: How are things going, and how are you adapting to the new team?

interTanner “Damonte” Damonte: It’s definitely a different experience for me because this is my first real team full of players who are all at a high enough level to play in the LCS or CS, whereas my past teams not as much so. I definitely have to adapt to a new role on my team. Rather than being the all star player on lower tier teams, now I have to be a consistent player, trying to make sure my team does consistently well rather than having to be like the god of the team, which is a big relief for me. It’s something different. It’s a lot more fun as well.

VN: What’s your journey been like to this point? I know the mid-to-low realm of the Challenger scene can be kind of difficult and mentally taxing as well.

TD: Basically, I first got high elo probably two years ago. And two years ago, my first ever team, we were called Monster Kitten. It was a pretty troll name. But it was actually pretty good. Akaadian was my top laner. It was pretty long ago. With that team, we actually beat Enemy in a random best of three. That was when everything started and people first saw me. And then, keep in mind I was a sophomore in high school as well, so I wasn’t that serious in it yet. And then from there I actually jungled for another team, Team Noble. From there, I joined Serpentis after that. I played there for like five months or so. After that five months, we did the last qualifiers, which did not go very well. I think we lost in the second round, which was a surprise. From there, I was on Avalanche. I got scouted by this team and they picked me up a couple days before the qualifiers started. It’s been pretty good so far.

VN: How do you handle the constant state of flux you’ve been in? Five months is probably the longest you’ve been on one team. How common is that?

It’s just a learning experience. I think the fact that everyone plays on so many teams is kind of good because learning, it just depends on how much you can pull out of it. Some players you’ll see get stuck or stay on some of the lower tier teams because they’re maybe not good enough for NA CS. They kind of just stay there. I just used those teams to push my limits and see what I could do.

VN: It’s gotta get mentally taxing at some point, right? You probably see the hill you want to climb, but it’s a long road.

I think there’s a lot less stress before being in the LCS or NA CS. Basically, all you have to do is really focus on solo queue. Before you’re in the NA CS or a high-tier Challenger team, you should just be focusing on solo queue, which is not too stressful. Once you actually get to NA CS/LCS team, that’s when it does get stressful. Like now, playing with The Monkeys — well, now were named Destined For Glory, DFG — the scrims now, every scrim is super competitive. Whereas before, playing with these lower tier teams, it’s usually a 20-minute smash, one way or the other. I actually think it’s a lot more stress playing with the better teams rather than having to jump around all the Challenger  teams.

VN: So how did this opportunity come about?

People just saw me playing on Avalanche, and I just think my play on Avalanche, people saw it in the Serpentis League tournament, too. I was just better than the other mid laners there. So this team was getting thrown together. We have ex-LCS players and experienced rookies in that have been around a while. I think I was their No. 1 option, and they were a really good opportunity for me, so I took it.


VN: What’s it like being around a veteran guy like RF and seeing how he operates?

RF’s a super cool guy. He’s super chill with everyone but he knows when to not be chill and make us learn. He’s still friends with all of us, and forcing us to learn is a lot on the coaches. But RF is a super cool guy. He brings a lot to the team just knowing the game. The other people like me, Papa Chau and Grigne don’t have the experience. It’s Maple and RF.

VN: When you guys were going through and seeing the Reddit responses to the name inquiry, what was going through your minds at that point, and how did you settle on the name you have now?

The No. 1 name on it, I completely forget what it was, but it was something Riot would never let us do. Same with the Monkeys. They wouldn’t let us be Monkeys, either. So as soon as we saw Destined For Glory we went with that just because the DFG meme. If we get completely destroyed it’s going to be RIP DFG. If we end up winning, it will be TY DFG. It’s for the meme factor.

VN: So for you, when did League first become something you realized you wanted to do as more than just a hobby?

Probably six or seven months ago when I was playing with Serpentis. I realized I had the chance to actually do something with this. I was doing consistently well against some of the lower tier players. At that time, I was also getting scouted by a couple NA CS teams, but I couldn’t really do anything because I was still really young and in my junior year of high school. From there, I was just told to keep playing. “You have a good thing going.” So I’m basically just riding that as far as I can and playing, practicing every single day.

VN: Seeing people your age or younger making an impact at this game, i that something that motivated you, to realize you could do that too?

Yeah, it definitely helps. It’s not the main factor. I think the main factor for me is just the competition. I really like winning. With that, it just motivates me to play. Every time I go to play, I just want to win. That’s basically what drives me.

Also, I don’t think the typical path of teenagers nowadays was something for me. Go to 12 years of school and then four years of college and then go work at a job. That’s not something I wanted to do right away. And since I have this opportunity to do something I love, I’m gonna try to pursue this for as long as I can.

VN: You mentioned you guys are already playing and scrimming. What are you trying to get most out of those?

Yeah, we actually play the final (for the NA CS qualifier tonight). We play against Cloud 9’s B team. If we win, we’re in NA CS, and if we’re not, then tough luck.

VN: How have you gotten to a point that you’re comfortable and confident going into this match?

It’s just a lot of practice, basically. Our team formed a month ago, probably. So it’s been a grind. We’ve been playing a lot and balancing that with school has not been an easy thing. Go to school for eight hours then come home and scrim for six, seven hours. Super packed day. But I’m feeling pretty confident. Cloud 9 is not gonna be easy, though. I think the biggest thing is going to be the mid lane match. It’s me against Hai in the mid lane.

I think Hai is notoriously a weak laner, whereas his shot-calling is really great. I think that’s going to be a big point in the match. The other point is if they’re using Rush or not. And we’re not going to know if they’re using Rush or not until (the game).

VN: It’s gotta be crazy thinking you’re going against Hai, right?

I’m just gonna treat it like he’s anyone else I play against, but I’m definitely excited. I want to show that I’m an up and coming talent. I know I have it, I just have to be able to perform when it matters. Because I can do it all the time in scrims, but it doesn’t matter if I can’t do it when the real game is here.

Photos courtesy of Riot Games.