NRG coach Hermit talks pick/bans and putting team together

NRG has not had a good start to the summer split of the North American League Championship Series. At 1-5 through three weeks, NRG is ahead of only Phoenix1 in the standings.

It’s been a split of change for NRG, which is still one of the newer organizations in the LCS. NRG returned only one of its five starters from the spring split and also made changes among its staff. Slingshot was able to briefly talk to coach Tadayoshi “Hermit” Littleton during Week 2 of the LCS, and he talked about pick/bans, his scrimming strategy and how the roster came together.

You got your first win of the split (in Week 2). What has it been like piecing this team together so far?

When you bring a new team together, you have to find an identity. We faced a lot of issues in terms of (Week 2) being a short week. It was just really hard to jell for the first week. It’s so good to have best-of-three series now. You have so much more work and so much more stage time to kind of draw inspiration from and experience from and move on. The first week a lot of our issues were really clear, and we could identify a few of them.

I really love doing pick/ban with this team. All of them have a really solid idea what they need from pick/ban to succeed. Whether that’s a champion pick from a teammate or consistency with practice throughout the week, whatever it is. So locking down those pick/ban goals after the first week really allowed us to set a direction going forward.

How does it work with picks/bans? Do you control that or do the players have any say?

Usually, if a player wants to play a pick we haven’t practiced all week, I don’t let that happen. I wanna play Veigar here or whatever. (In Week 2 against Immortals), ohq and Kiwi were discussing playing Vayne, and I said no we’re gonna play Twitch here. So after that happens, I go home and have a discussion with the players. “Why do you want to pick Vayne? What are the triggers for that? What are the comp needs? When can we pick it?” And get a really solid understanding as a team after that happens. The next time it happens, even if we haven’t practiced it, I’m willing to let them do that.

 

One thing that has really helped is being more consistent about champion picks throughout the week and defining roles for the players. Sitting them down and saying “These are the three champions you’re gonna pick.”

Right now there’s two, three, even four jungle bans, so you can’t just have four champions. But beyond that base pool, we kind of designate two or three champions that are fringe picks that we have that we want to pull out under certain circumstances. This is a counter pick. A good example of this is a lot of teams have identified they want to pick Anivia into Vlad, but in scrims you’re not always gonna play against Vlad. You might encounter that on stage, and you just need to trust your mid laner to play that matchup and trust your team.

How much of your hand do you wanna show in scrims? Do you try to conceal certain strategies?

Generally I don’t play against an opponent two weeks before a match, and patches come every two weeks, usually. For example, Week 1 was on 6.10, Week 2 was on 6.11. So some of the people we scrimmed (that) week, we scrimmed Immortals last week, but it didn’t really bother me playing them because they’re a good practice partner and it was a new patch.

How did the roster come together for this split? Specifically adding Kiwi, who said he was pretty close to retiring?

When last split ended, the ownership identified some things they wanted from the roster for next split, and I identified what I thought kind of were the problem areas and we came to a compromise, and whatever happened happened. Specifically for Kiwi, I believe he was the first player signed. When those negotiations started, his coach last split, Razz, is a really good friend of mine, and we’ve been watching China together for years, And he gave me Kiwi’s information, and I had a conversation with Kiwi and I talked about how I saw the direction for the team and what some of the other role players could be and how we thought Kiwi would fit into the rest of the team.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games.