Following a difficult best-of-five series against Team SoloMid ending in an 3-0 loss for Unicorns of Love, Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás spoke to Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser. He discussed Unicorns of Love’s under performance, Gnar, and the team’s outlook for the rest of the split.
Kelsey Moser: This is the first time I think you’ve lost to TSM in a major series. Is it an eye-opening experience, or what is your immediate reaction?
Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás: My immediate reaction is the first two games, we were heavily underperforming. I noticed in the first game of the day, we usually have a tendency to play worse. I’m not entirely sure why is that. I felt the communication wasn’t on point. We were not aware of the map and where the enemy can be and such, which was not a problem in the days before. This is a lack of concentration that we had in Game 1. Game 2 we were a bit better, and Game 3 we were getting rolling, but it’s a bit late in a best-of-five where you lose to games and just try to climb back.
KM: I’ve noticed over the course of UoL’s existence that, if you try something new, and it doesn’t work out, you immediately react by going for ultra comfort. Why does this tend to be your reaction?
KT: I think we just lose a bit of confidence on champions that we lose with because we feel like we couldn’t contribute as much in the game, and if we would go into the next game with the same champion, we feel this way is just not going to work out. After a loss, we only stick to champions if we felt like we could be useful in the next game as well. I think we just feel like comfort picks are going to fit us at this point or like some engage champions — something like that. When we lose, we have this tendency to resort to older styles where we might catch the enemy off guard and not try to go for the perfect play, but just aggressiveness, and overwhelm them with that.
KM: A lot of effort does seem to be devoted on UoL side to being surprising. It at least comes off that way.
KT: The picks?
KM: Not just the picks, but the style in general. Is that something you actively think about when planning matches?
KT: No, we actually just — I think we have really good team fighting usually when it comes down to it (if we are not rushing it). This series, I think we were a bit more nervous or pressured. I am not entirely sure, but we were forcing way too hard the fights. That’s most of the times not the case. We usually try to pick fights that are a bit smarter for us as well. We don’t usually go for the surprise factor, but rather like — we want to survive the early game, and we believe we will team fight better than the enemy and win the game that way. Try to out-macro them and force a fight somewhere if we are ahead or not. We are sure to win that because when we are ahead or like even, I think we are really good at teamfighting.
KM: As this tournament went on, the compositions started to have similar identities. A lot of it seemed to be around getting a stronger matchup in top. How did this evolve in draft planning?
KT: We just had over the days where Gnar became a top priority top laner. Although I had picks into it, they were like AP-oriented champions, and we usually had a magic damage jungler. Combining these two is really bad against Gnar because he can just rush the Hexdrinker and even 1-v-2 us at one point. I thought maybe we should just get champions in top-jungle that have a really good synergy with each other in terms of damage distribution. Or we early rotated the Gragas already, which is like AP champ, then we have to put him either top or jungle, and that limited our options a lot after. So maybe we should have put less priority on the Gragas, and then we could pick other champions as well. It basically came down to Gnar for top lane and Gragas in this series. I think it was like three times that matchup.
KM: Speaking of Gnar, when he’s been popular before I’ve heard the comment that his engage isn’t as reliable as some other strong picks. When you’re picking Gnar a lot, is that something you take into consideration?
KT: Yeah, you constantly have to communicate with your team about the Mega Gnar because when you are in the Mega Gnar form, you actually provide way more than other top laners in team fights. While in Mini, you just can’t. So you have to play around that. If I just transform bot lane and am pushing as Mega Gnar, we have a limited time to fight or engage on the enemy. After that, we need to wait like 30 seconds so I can be capable of transforming again. Otherwise, we will just end up losing the fights. This can be played around definitely, but Gnar is usually the champion that gets ahead top lane, so we can pressure the opponent and be the proactive one. Even though enemy team can play around this, if you are the proactive one, if you are the one that decides to fight, then this is not a problem.
KM: When 7.13 came out, there was a lot of reaction to the Gnar changes, so I think people expected to see it a little bit more earlier on in the tournament. Was what you just mentioned one of the reasons people didn’t pick it up right away or something else?
KT: I think people were generally slow to pick it up (myself included) because I didn’t feel like he provides as much in a team fight as other champions could, even though I felt like there is no counterpick to him anyway for top lane. I had a feeling that like even Rumble or Gragas could provide more in team fights if they don’t fall behind in the lane too much. I think you can have matchups that go even with Gnar at the early stage of the game, and after like mid game you get pushed in by the Gnar, but if you can provide a bit more in the early stages, then you might just win the game for your team. I was a bit slow to pick up Gnar, and so were the others, but then over the course of this tournament, I felt like it just developed to Gnar being the strongest pick, and everyone started early rotating him in the pick and ban phase.
KM: Looking forward for the Unicorns, what I’ve heard from other members of your team so far is that this tournament was good and kind of a wakeup call to an extent. As one of the veteran members, what becomes your responsibility when you realize the team has to make changes to the way you play?
KT: I think this tournament has to be a wakeup call for all of the European teams because we actually came into this tournament underperforming in the LCS already. We were losing games to NiP. We were falling behind against them. Even the week before, it was not convincing from us. I definitely expected Fnatic to dominate a bit more, be more consistent, so it actually surprised me that we came out as the best in Europe, kind of. It’s still really little compared to what TSM have in stocks. Or even P1, who was defeating us too. I think the gap was a bit big these days. It definitely comes down to consistency from the North American teams.
That is our main weakness right now. We are super inconsistent. One day, we can just beat anyone, and then the other, we can lose to anyone. This should be the main focus of our team to fix. If we fix this, we can start improving more. You can have a basis that is solid, and then you can build up on it. It’s hard to fix it. I think we just really need to talk it out like what is the problem, why are we falling behind, or how do we feel going into the games because definitely there were focus issues as well this time. I’m not entirely sure how to solve it yet. I think we just talk about it with the team and try something out.
KM: Maybe going in, the conception was that G2 may be struggling a bit, but the rest of Europe has caught up. Do you feel like G2 having difficulties has has an impact on the development of the other EU teams in summer? Or would these problems have existed for EU regardless?
KT: I think they’d exist regardless of how G2 is doing because I actually felt like this split is far more competitive than the Spring one. All the bottom teams are capable of beating top teams as well. I didn’t feel like Fnatic dropped their level compared to Spring, and furthermore I felt they were even stronger. For ourselves, I felt like (we) dropped down a bit, and same for G2, but it wasn’t that big to say we are bottom tier team now or like someone did really bad.
I think just in the past weeks, we started underperforming, and it’s been that way ever since. Even though in this tournament, we had our good moments as well when we were beating Cloud9 and even TSM. There is definitely prospective hope, but we first need to start from the bottom again.
KM: There seems to be a narrative that NA teams have really strong early games, and EU teams have maybe relied too much upon other teams making mistakes. Did it seem like NA teams were just really good at snowballing or that they were making fewer mistakes in the mid game?
KT: When it comes down to early game, it’s mostly about laning phase, and it’s not even about team rotations or anything because if a European team gets ahead in all three lanes, they would do the same as the NA teams. It’s more like we were just losing the lanes straight up in like 1-v-1s, 2-v-2s against NA teams, and they had way more options to do something. For example, in Game 1 — no, it was Game 2. They just dive our bot lane with a TP. This generally shouldn’t happen because we should be healthy enough, we should have summoners up, and this dive should just not work. But if they get an early game like this, it’s just really easy for them to snowball. I think the lanes were too weak from EU during this tournament, and we just fell behind too much. That’s why we generally lost the early game.
KM: Do you think it’s less focus on playing matchups or in the draft less focus on drafting strong lanes?
KT: I think many teams the European players had comfortable picks, so it was more like just being weaker individually, I’m not sure if it has anything to do with focus or not. It’s just weaker. Might be lack of knowledge on certain matchups, but I think in EU we have a wide variety of matchups as well, so we should be able to practice those. I think we just underperformed this tournament, I’m not exactly sure why.
KM: As a final question, do you have a pretty good outlook for Europe to get their act together before Worlds?
KT: I think worlds will still be pretty competitive because even though we are a top three team (in EU), we didn’t look that strong, and we are definitely not above teams like Splyce and such as well. It’s still a really tough road as well. H2K’s there, Splyce, even Vitality is catching up. In the other group, there strong teams as well. G2 or Fnatic will probably bounce back as well by the playoffs, so I expect a very competitive split. We would kind of need like first place to secure worlds spot because fighting in the gauntlet will be very hard, and we had that last split, and it’s very hard to qualify to worlds from it.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Raphie Rosen