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Xpecial: “I think this was very rushed and because of that, we don’t have as much as we had hoped from the 76ers, but the biggest thing is obviously like courtside tickets, these things are like $20,000 a pop.”

Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with Dignitas’ Alex “Xpecial” Chu during Week 7 of the North American League of Legends Championship Series.

Andrew Kim: You guy seem to be hitting a stride as the seasons reaches the end. How do you feel about making a bit of a turnaround?

Alex “Xpecial” Chu: It’s a huge relief. Obviously we can’t stop and be like, “Hey season’s over, our job’s done here.” We need to keep improving, and we have a long way to the top. Our goal is to obviously make it to Vancouver, do really well at regionals, and what happens in the regular season doesn’t matter as much, so we have to keep improving and that’s our goal.

AK: It seems that you guys are much more communicative than before. When we look at the voice comms in games, it seems like Chaser (Lee Sang-hyeon) is much more vocal in games.How is that progression in terms of communication?

AC: It’s been very gradual, and I attribute this 100 percent to how hard they’ve been working on their English. Almost every day after scrims, they have an English teacher come over, and they just do three, four hours of English lessons straight up. And when I see that as a player, how can I not be motivated? They’re working hard on the game, on their English, Everyone else is working hard on improving the game, just working well with them as well.

AK: One thing I did hear from another player is that solo queue in NA is kind a weird when it comes to matchmaking where lower tier players would be mixed in with Challenger players on a regular basis. He also mentioned that teams might be looking into scrim blocks more to have practice. What are your thoughts?

AC: I do agree that solo queue isn’t as good, but my argument is even if it’s only 10 percent effective, is it better than zero? The answer is yes. I see solo queue not as a way to improve team play or your macro, but I use it as a way to improve my laning, my mechanics, and that’s all I use it for, upkeep on my mechanics. Because of that, I play a ton of solo queue. I play every single day, and even as an LCS player I still play a ton, and even though I don’t enjoy solo queue as much as I used to, I still see it as a way for me to get better, or at least stay the same to the point where, if you’re not playing solo queue and I am, I will be better than you for sure.

AK: I know you guys (went to the 76ers game against the Lakers) and it’s gotta be good to go watch a game after going 2-0 for the week. On that topic, with Dignitas being backed by the 76ers, there has to be some perks outside of tickets. Do you feel the impact of the backing on a day-to-day basis? It doesn’t have to be direct at all.

AC: I think because everything happened so suddenly, they didn’t have that much time to prepare a nutritionist or anything (like that). I think from next split it can be a thing and they’ve been talking about it a lot. I think this was very rushed and because of that, we don’t have as much as we had hoped from the 76ers, but the biggest thing is obviously like courtside tickets, these things are like $20,000 a pop, and stuff like that is super nice and really helps morale. It makes us feel like “Oh, that’s us! We’re a team!” and it feels nice to have that kind of backing. But at the same time we know they can do more and they want to do more, and we’re just waiting for it.

AK: When it comes to practicing with language barriers spending a lot of time studying English, do you ever wonder their lessons are cutting in too much to their potential practice time?

AK: What’s something that not a lot of people really know because fans watch from the outside in, and they don’t get the full story or the full context behind the scenes?

AC: I think morale is a huge thing and is often undervalued because teams play on stage, they play, you have 9, 12, 18 series a split, and they see those games. But what you don’t see is all the hard work and how many hours you put in afterwards, and because of that, because so little of it is shown on stage, there’s so many other issues. Just the fact that if you’re losing every single game – scrims, LCS – then your morale is really low and it’s really hard to bounce back. Especially when you have language barriers, it’s often very hard to be like, for example, say someone’s feeding or not doing so hot, often times they become ostracized. It becomes like, “Oh, this guy sucks. We don’t want to talk to him,” especially because there’s a language barrier. I’m not saying that’s the case for our team. I think our team has, honestly, I’m going to say this, Ssumday (Kim Chan ho) and Chaser are some of the nicest Korean players I’ve ever played with. They’re very nice, they’re always funny and I’ve never heard a bad word from them straight up. They’re just super nice guys. Because of that, our team, despite having some morale issues over the course of the split, we’ve been able to keep it going, and especially Michael Slan, who used to be the owner of APEX. He’s been extremely helpful in getting us back on our feet, and it’s really hard to underestimate how valuable someone like Michael, even Regi (Andy Dinh) from TSM is. Able to help the team bounce back from not doing so hot.

AK: You said there still some things to be kicked into the team but it’s steadily growing, so what do you think, given all the proper support, is going to be chances for Dignitas making it to worlds after the summer split?

AC: Just a cool 100 percent.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games