Q&A: YamatoCannon on his coaching style and Splyce’s rise to the top of the EU LCS

Splyce was one of the biggest surprises of the summer split of the European League Championship Series.

Along with Giants Gaming, Splyce led the charge of two teams that competed in the relegation tournament last split making a charge to the opposite side of the standings. Splyce took second place, earning a first round bye and a matchup this weekend with H2K in the semifinals. Splyce is now very much a contender to earn a shot at worlds, and Slingshot’s Alexandre “DrPuppet” Weber had the chance to catch up with Splyce coach Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi during Week 9 of the LCS to talk about how this team became so strong.

Alexandre “DrPuppet” Weber: First Congratulations on securing the second place, Yamato. You are already with the team for two splits in a row now, but somehow you guys clicked this split and everything started working out. Taking a look back at this whole journey, how was it for you guys?

Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi: At the start of the spring split, I set the basics, my principles of how I like to work all the time. I only expect three things from my players: at all time they need to know that they are playing for something bigger than themselves. If they think they are something bigger than the team, then they don’t deserve a place on the team. The second principle is commitment, that they practice hard and always commit to 100 percent. And the third and last principle is respect: Respect for the teammates and opponents at all time. With those principles I built the foundation and as we went on it made more and more sense to the players. And finally I think that this split it made sense to them.

AW: Do you think that this foundation you built up last split was the key of success for this split?

JM: I think that the other teams not performing as well as last split is also a factor, but generally speaking the three principles I just presented are an important factor for an efficient practice environment. It is always important to strive for efficiency in practice because if you are efficient in practice, the final product will always look good. The results don’t matter at all. The only things that matter are how you apply experience and how you learn from practice and how efficient is your practice.

AW: Did you change anything in your coaching approach between both splits?

JM: I did not change anything at all. You know, with the words and the experience they had, the words made more and more sense. At this point there are other things that I tell them, but I don’t want to share my secrets (laughs). But that is more in terms of how we play the macro game, but I feel that at this point when comparing now with our first day together is that when we were having team discussion, I was the only one giving information about how to play the game. They wanted to learn but they didn’t know how to get involved in discussions because they were still inexperienced Challenger Series players. They showed me they wanted to work hard, and that’s what got them to this point. Nowadays I am the person that talks the least. They all applied how to think about the game, the principles and a lot of hard work. What got them here was a lot of hard work and a good work ethic.

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AW: How much did the environment in the team change between the splits? Since you mention that you barely talk now compared to before.

JM: I wouldn’t say I barely talk, it was just a comparison (laughs). Of course I don’t take a step back just because my players have gotten better, but it feels good to give your players responsibilities. I think what carried our team was our work ethic. I always reminded my players that results don’t matter, what matters is what you can take from the losses and learn from them. The results are just numbers. What matters is how you got to the result. Because that is how you play in game and in general how you practice, everything matters.

I could refer to this famous Al Pacino speech (in the movie Any Given Sunday) where he speaks “it is a game of inches” and what that really means is that every day, every minute matters and every hour matters and how you apply yourself. It is very easy to set goals for a year in one hour. Not something like “I want to go to worlds in one year.” That doesn’t make sense. Like I said before, results don’t matter. You have to be constantly aiming for something every hour.

AW: Are you planning to do a different kind of preparation now that you guys qualified for playoffs?

JM: I think right now every region — if not at least NA and EU — practice during the regular season for playoffs. Basically playing BO5 blocks and BO6 that prepares for the playoff setting. So I don’t think that this is going to change, but yeah you can prepare and train different and specific strategies for different kinds of situations. Since I think our current practice formula is working, why should we change it?

AW: What do you think about the new patch and lane swap changes?

JM: I think the old Level 1 system was very interesting since every strategy had its own counter, so it went around in a circle. The Level 1 was kind of a poker game, and it went on in a circle and a hand beats a hand. So it was interesting to study opponents and find a way to surprise and outplay them. I think Fnatic was the best team at reading and playing the Level 1, maybe it comes because Deilor was a poker player (laughs). I think that aspect of the game will disappear, and I think that is a bit of a disappointment. In my regard, I don’t care how the game looks like, I just take it and learn it. It is what it is, so I don’t have a better option.

AW: We’ve seen in the past couple of weeks a few protect the AD/Kog’Maw compositions being played. Do you think this trend will continue or will the teams drop it with the coming patch, which will favour standard lanes?

JM: I think since we are going to play on 6.15, I think he will disappear. I don’t think Kog’Maw is OP, but he has clear weaknesses and strengths. If you keep running into it without killing it, you are going to have a problem, but Kog’Maw is not mobile and has a very weak laning phase and in certain cases Tempo is more important than late game power. I’m not too big of a fan of Kog’Maw, but I understand why teams tend to play it. In EU most teams don’t execute strategies fast enough and games are about 35-40 minutes long and Kog’maw just delivers at this point in the game.

AW: do you have any shoutouts left?

JM: I would like to give a shoutout to Splyce for giving us everything we needed. Great organization. I would like to give a shoutout to our CEO, and to our sponsors because they also provided us with everything that we need. A big shoutout to our fans that rooted for us in our bad times and are now celebrating with us in the good times. Also this week my brother visited the LCS, so big shoutout to him. He is a big inspiration to and he is my biggest role model. His work ethic is beyond comparison, and that is where I take the energy from to apply to my own work. The last shoutout obviously goes to my players and manager. I’m super proud of you guys.

Photos courtesy of Riot Games.