Alberto “Crumbz” Rengifo has played three roles during this year’s League of Legends season: Player, coach and analyst.
Crumbz started his season as a player for Renegades in the spring split and coached Apex’s Challenger team in the summer while also serving on the analyst desk for the North American League Championship.
He also went to worlds as part of the analyst desk, and Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with Crumbz at the quarterfinals in Chicago to talk about the games, regional rivalries and his transition to the desk.
Vince Nairn: What do you think about being at worlds from the perspective of an analyst after a long playing career?
Alberto “Crumbz” Rengifo: I think from the perspective of analysis, I think that the biggest thing for worlds is that this world has shown that the concept of perfect play is not one that the West should be pursuing. I think that’s what’s really been happening: Everyone wants to achieve the perfect play. You take the perfect opportunities and you look for that all the time, and you’re unwilling to a have a scrappy game. I think that’s holding North America back right now. There’s no willingness to actually be be aggressive and actually fight for an objective in a dirty manner, down in the dirty. I think that’s really a cool thing that the other regions have shown, particularly Albus NoX has hammered that idea down. It’s exciting for the future.
VN: What, if anything, has surprised you so far at this point in the tournament?
AR: Let’s see, I think the biggest surprise is just how good Korea still is. I mean, obviously we expect them to be incredible, but the fact that all three teams are still just being able to kick everyone’s ass so outstandingly, you just kinda feel like you were in the clouds all this time and you’re back down to earth once again.
VN: Does Korea performing this well internationally, does that reaffirm the idea of just how far ahead they are or is it difficult to make out what happens the few times they get to play internationally?
AR: I think it reaffirms how far ahead they are, but I just don’t think they’re over a mountain. They’re just a tricky one to climb. It’s not just brute force that gets you over. It’s not sheer amount of practice that’s going to get you over that hill and be able to actually compete with them. Because the teams are actually able to take games off them by random chance almost, but it’s not just a specific approach that teams have found out, but I do think that you see teams like TSM that’s able to have incredible early gold lead, they have some of the best stats in the group stages overall, so it does feel like they’re not quite that far away, but it is a little troubling for other players and teams because the amount of effort they put in to get to that point. That maybe some of them are apprehensive to practice that much.
VN: North America had the second best record in the group stages to Korea yet there’s still this dissonance about whether or not North America is a good region. Is that something that’s kind of difficult to overcome?
AR: No, they’re not a bad region by any means. Obviously we’re here, and the biggest vocal crowd is going to be the negative one, and that’s just the nature of the game right now. But they are able to show results to some point and the fact that they’re able to actually have games that are hopeful for them is a good thing. Even myself has been vocal about how bad it seems, but it’s not something that’s very factual. It’s exaggerated just by the disappointment that people have had, because it’s been a year of build up and every year that build up is just more and more and more, so now the downfall just hits you a little harder. You know the players personally don’t feel quite that disappointed in terms of “Oh the gap is not closing,” right? We hear Stixxay saying that “No, we think actually North America is the second region alongside with China,” which is fine but if you’re chasing the No. 1 region all the time, you’re obviously always going to feel disappointed.
VN: You played, and you ended your playing career in the spring split. I know you coached a little bit as well, and now you are on air talent. What has that transition been like for you? What’s it been like looking at and talking about the game from a different angle?
AR: So it’s been a completely seamless transition because when I was playing, I made sure every time that I was kind of working towards the future for whatever would happen after, right? I could recognize that my eyes aren’t going to give me 40 years of playing. I have to do something else. I played in 2012 worlds I did a little bit of 2013 worlds, I did analyst desk for 2014, 2015 and 2016 along side other events, and I try to do as many interviews as possible, so that I would be prepared for that moment. I use that growth in the summer split to kind of ensure that I would be able to continue as an analyst, so the transition was very easy because I love working on, like, the people that you work with, the environment, what you do, what you’re actually passionate about, the schedule, the fans, it’s all absolutely incredible. So i had no problem at all, and the second that I stopped playing I was like, “Yep, that’s what I’m doing. I’m totally doing this. Not doing anything else.”
VN: What are the little technical things that you have to learn when you’re making that transition?
AR: I think that for what I work on, personally, is keeping my sentences concise, because I have a lot to say. So I try to keep it short so that my point is carried across and I don’t overwhelm the desk with what I have to say and not give room to anybody else. But there are minor things like, alright, where do you place your hands, how do you use the camera, how do you dress? That’s one of them, or making sure when you speak you don’t have filler words, being as quick as possible, similar to how we write. You don’t want to write with a bunch of flowery words, you want to write with as very little words as possible and as quickly as possible because otherwise you’re missing out on an audience. You’re not sounding smarter, you’re just neglecting a part of the audience that’s not going to get what you’re saying.
VN: What has been your favorite moment at worlds so far?
AR: My favorite moments at worlds are moments that happen when we go out at night, so I can’t really discuss those, but I think for playing wise it has to Albus Nox vs. ROX Tigers. That was an awesome game that’s one of my favorite games of all time because it’s really enjoyable for me to separate watching League as an analyst, and watching it as a fan, and when I watching that game I was just able to just go, “You know what? This has reached the point where I don’t really want to do this as an analyst, I just want to watch it as a fan.” So I did that and the game was just wild. We were all in the green room watching, and when Albus won I literally jumped out my chair, the chair fell down and broke, just screaming and celebrating because it was hilarious. You see the wild card team being able to take down ROX and in convincing fashion. They didn’t cheese them, they didn’t do anything like that. They actually just won fair and square, and that’s awesome.
VN: What do you make of the crowd booing Samsung earlier? It seemed like it was a lot bigger of a deal than it actually was.
AR: I think that the reason why it got blown up is that people weren’t upset that Samsung got booed, they were upset that they got booed in the introduction. It’s fine when they’re playing and every time they make a play, boo, because you want to show that “Yeah, we want Cloud9 to win.” The fact that they’re being booed when they show up, I think that’s the one that upset people and I, personally, as somebody I’ve never been booed, I only played against TSM, which is like “Oh here’s TSM. Everybody chants.” That does give a lot of motivation, which I can relate to what Samsung was saying, that they felt like they would play better, play harder because of that. But I just see it from their point of view and that’s a part that kind of upsets me a little bit because if you’re a Korean player, half the Korean players have never even left the country. They’ve never gone away overseas, so you train in a gaming house for an entire year, for years on end without make it because Samsung wasn’t anything to years, finally make it to worlds, alright we do well, you make it here and then boo, and then the next leg, they’ll be playing against maybe H2K and they’re going to get booed again, and then the next leg, they’re going to play against SKT they’re going to get booed again. And then they only make it back home like “Yay,” right? I kind of felt bad for them in that sense.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games