Despite being the only team in the tournament to lose both games on the first day of Rift Rivals, Unicorns of Love rebounded in the group stage. Following their final group stage game against Phoenix1, mid laner Fabian “Exileh” Schubert talked to Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about turning the team’s circumstances, his plans to improve his laning phase, and jungle-mid synergy.
Kelsey Moser: This tournament started out pretty rough for you personally. But yesterday you actually had a pretty good showing. How do you turn yourself around so quickly?
Fabian “Exileh” Schubert: When I look at the games that I had where I performed really bad, I usually look into them and I think what went wrong, and what my ideas were in the game. Usually it happens to be that I’m not over-thinking matchups too much. I don’t go too much in depth. I think I lost mid lane most of the time due to this. Or that I disrespect the jungle in terms of just ganking.
I’m just going to put a lot more thought process into these decisions. Like what to do before going into the laning phase so that I know exactly what to do. I think I used to do this, but at one point I just did it less and less because I felt like I was doing this pretty well. Therefore it just went a bit downhill, so I’m going to start doing this a lot more so I can develop as a player because I feel like right now most of the struggles we have are due to mid lane laning phase and general early game. But as soon as we fix those, I think that we’ll be an insanely strong team.
KM: It got to the point yesterday and the first match today where it seems like some of these teams are blinding mid lane picks, and you look for a counter pick that’s very much in your champion pool. Do you think that this type of strategy will make it difficult for you guys to play a best-of-five?
FS: I don’t necessarily think this is a disadvantage in a longer series. I think that we have fine blind picks right now for mid lane, but most likely we are looking for counter picks just so I know that in this role I can provide more. Also right now I feel just more comfortable on certain picks than on others. That’s why we are looking for these picks. Also we noticed that NA teams actually have an insanely high priority on their mid lane picks. They pick them in their early rotations. We can see this with Leblanc for Cloud9, for instance, or Corki for P1. Syndra for TSM. I personally don’t think that those picks are like — I don’t think the priority on those picks fits the team too much. That’s usually where I look for counter picks in those positions.
KM: You said also that you think one of your struggles is thinking about the laning phase beforehand and how you will play a matchup. To learn about laning matchups and to work on that aspect, is there some sort of method that you usually take personally to prepare?
FS: Usually I just try to imagine the matchup — how it’s going, like basically the mid lane matchup and the jungler matchup. And what route our jungler will take and what route the enemy jungler will take. Things you should consider are mostly if you should push mid lane, if you can push mid lane, what the rotation of your jungler is and the tempo of your jungler. The assets that affect those decisions. I think that overall I’ve been missing out on those steps in the past because I felt like I was doing this well, and yeah, I put more thought into different things.
But yeah I don’t really have an exactly step-by-step setup. I just try to imagine the matchup. It kind of comes naturally after a while. I feel like I’m still doing well imagining those things before the match in the loading screen or in the first minute. Then I know how to play the first 5-10 minutes, and I know exactly when my jungler needs to come mid lane. I think this is also a big aspect that I didn’t really use in the past. I just didn’t call my jungler when I should to come around mid lane and help me for certain pushes or when I know that enemy jungler has to come mid.
KM: I think something the NA teams are maybe doing a bit better is exactly what you’re talking about: working with the jungler and the mid together. Was this particular tournament eye-opening, or was it something that you were thinking about before Rift Rivals?
FS: I was thinking about it before Rift Rivals. Like most scrims we were actually playing a lot of strong early game picks for mid lane and jungle as well. We were trying to snowball off this because we felt like those picks right now do really well (I don’t want to go into certain picks, just in general early game). I think that when we get early game picks, and we get ahead in mid lane and jungle, we can snowball the game at an insane level. I think we did it in the Splyce series where we lost, actually. The Galio game. We had Galio Rek’Sai into Gragas Malzahar. I think we snowballed really well in the early game, just made mistakes in the mid game, and they kind of took the game from us. But in this series we noticed that our early game can be really strong, and a lot of teams actually miss a lot of steps on how to snowball correctly over mid lane in the early game. In fact, we can do this better than most teams, but we realize that our mid game and late game is a lot superior than most teams. That’s why we don’t go for an early draft, we just try to pick mid and end game oriented stuff.
KM: I talked to Xerxe too, and he thinks that maybe how you might do in the mid lane affects what jungle he picks. Do you think these things go hand-in-hand? If you pick stronger early game, it will open up Xerxe’s pool a bit more, or…
FS: I mean this doesn’t necessarily have to be a strong early game pick, just if you have a pushing matchup in the mid lane, then you can pick early game stuff. I think that Xerxe mostly orients on just that we don’t have too much scaling in jungle and mid. Or too much scaling relative to the enemy team comp. I feel like Xerxe has a lot of counter picks in jungle. Xerxe is always looking for those. We never really have a problem in jungle pool. He’s always willing to pick like — to always notice the rotations when to pick jungle because he just has a huge pool, and he considers most matchups really fine. I think this is a big advantage for us. He also orientates his pool with junglers that sometimes will take blue buff from mid lane, which is — I’m fine with this, then.
KM: I’m interested in how the jungle-mid dynamic changed for you guys since you went from Move to Xerxe. I feel like Move was criticized a lot for always being around mid, so that was a big difference. What would you say is the major difference between now and with Move?
FS: I think Move was playing really supportive style in the jungle. He was mostly picking Rek’Sai and focusing on setting vision. I think that Move was a really good macro player. He was shot-calling actually almost the entire time that we played with him. Like shot-calling, but not like everything, though. I think that Move wasn’t mechanically that strong though compared to Xerxe. Although Move also had some problems in communication in English and that’s why we struggled communicating with him. I was just calling him when I need help around mid lane or when I want to play aggressive. I think that Xerxe — also back then, as a mid laner, I was focused on the mid lane matchup itself. So I didn’t really focus on our jungler rotation or enemy jungler rotation.
I didn’t really shot-call certain objectives that we can go for. I think I was just more focused on my lane, that’s why I didn’t really see too many mistakes that Move did or stuff that he did. Overall, the past split especially I learned a lot more about jungle because also we were teaching Xerxe a lot of macro aspects when he came into the team. Which are necessary. Which I caught up as well so I understood them. I think right now we are working quite well together. I think we can improve this a lot though over the next weeks. I just like — the main difference I think is that I know exactly what Xerxe wants to do when he plays a certain matchup, and I think I can fit well into this right now.
KM: Looking forward a little bit, what do you think is a key thing to focus on for both P1 and TSM that was difficult for you guys in group stage?
FS: I think P1’s strength is maybe their jungler. He’s playing a lot of mechanical heavy stuff which he can carry with. I think though that’s also his weakness. I’m really hoping that we play against TSM because I feel like TSM is struggling a lot more in lane. I feel like our mid and late game is better than theirs, our laning as well. I think we can have a big edge on every part of the game. I also feel like our draft understanding is better than TSM’s. Even though I’m quite impressed by their Galio play. I think they utilize Galio really well in mid lane. Overall I’m not too afraid of TSM. I think I would be really looking forward to play against TSM in the finals. However, if it’s P1, I think that — their draft is really like foreseeable. We exactly knew what their priorities were. I think this a strength. I think we can prepare for this. I think we can make a really good plan in best of five where we can shut down those assets. Right now, we know exactly their priorities for every role, and we can prepare a bit well for this. I think this is the biggest advantage that we would have against P1 if we face them.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games