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Echo Fox Hard: “There’s kind of a panic we have when the game gets closer to the end.”

Echo Fox is struggling again at the start of the North American League Championship Series. The team is only in its second split of existence and maneuvered through visa issues in the spring to finish in seventh place, just avoiding the relegation tournament.

The organization is backed by ex-NBA player Rick Fox and is widely regarded for its structure — mainly because of Fox — though nothing has translated to results just yet on the Rift. Slingshot had the chance to talk to jungler Anthony “Hard” Barkhovtsev after Week 2 of the LCS about all those topics:

How do you feel right now being in only the second split as an organization?

As an organization, Echo Fox has provided us with everything. It really is just on the players to perform because we have all the resources to get good at the game and beat everybody. We just have to keep improving.

What was your takeaways from the games so far this split?

There’s kind of a panic we have when the game gets closer to the end. Early on I’m pretty sure we got an early lead in all the games we played (in Week 2). The closer it got to the end, it became progressively more difficult to find ways to end the game. I think that is our biggest takeaway so far. Just improving finding ways to end the game.

The organization is very young and it seems like they are taking the long road to improve progressively as a unit. How do you feel about that and do you feel that there is more pressure or less pressure looking into the future.

I don’t think that many of us feel super pressured. We want to do anything we can to get to worlds. I don’t think that the organization is being easy or anything. I think the pressure comes from the players rather than the higher ups people.

Visa issues plagued your team last split a lot. How do you feel the synergy is coming together this split since you don’t have those problems?

I guess we missed out on half of spring split, which sucked because we probably would have made playoffs back then. But I don’t think we missed out on chemistry since we played a lot with our team. We probably missed out on stage time we needed, but right now everyone is pretty comfortable. I think overall it didn’t impact us too much aside from the standings.

How much has best of three impacted you guys?

I think that the best-of-three impacted us negatively. We are better in best-of-ones. After the first game it feels like we lose focus compared to how much we are into it for the first game. I think that the best of three format is overall better. For our team, though, we just tend to lose focus and the second game just feels worse.

With the scheduling format changes, how does that change things for you guys?

I think that having a game on Friday is actually a huge disadvantage. You end up showing your picks on Friday, and then the team you have to play next might not have to play any games and can just use that day to watch your games and just pick up on what you did, like if you tried something special. So it’s a pretty big disadvantage for teams playing on Friday. Outside of that, having games on Friday aren’t that big of a deal.

Is there anything you would try to do to conceal your picks and bans if that is the case? Is there anything like that to combat teams from knowing what you’re doing?

The first game you can consider it like a best-of-one if a team doesn’t know anything about the other team. They’re just going to pick what they are comfortable with, if they don’t prepare too much. Maybe they will prepare a little and say, hey this team can’t play vs. these certain champions and they pick them. The second game, I can see teams throwing off the other team. Like against NRG they kept picking Maokai. To combat that we picked Maokai to see if he could play other champions, and they ended up counter picking us with Illaoi. That threw us off.

Anything specific in terms of playing on Fridays and preventing teams from watching you?

Well the only solution would to be not to try hard on Friday, which is not a good strategy [laughs]

Do you still watch a lot of the other regions like Korea?

For sure, we watch some of the LCK games. We don’t watch all of the LCK games, but we watched some of them and had discussion and would see what they played.

How much practice time is devoted to watching and research instead of actually playing the game?

For scrims most teams do two blocks of three hours. After that it varies from team to team. So let’s say you wake up at 10, you start scrimming from 12 to 3 then take a break then scrim from 4 to 7. After that most teams are usually done after that. Maybe an hour after that they discuss things. Leading up to the LCS games, Wednesday, Thursday, Fridays, teams usually do way more discussion. If your game is Saturday, Sunday then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, maybe even Thursday for some teams, is more play than discussion. For us, this week I think it was more discussion overall.

Do you guys have a designated day off?

This week we didn’t have one but normally we have have Mondays off. Most teams have Mondays off.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games.