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Sheepy and Exileh on UoL’s early game composition against Splyce: “Champions that are early game are sometimes comfort for us.”

Sheepy and Exileh both talked about UOL's early game comfort picks.
Sheepy (Fabian Mallant) is aware of Unicorns of Love's comfort picks. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

Despite predictions to the contrary, Unicorns of Love 2-0’d Splyce in the second to the last week of the European League of Legends Championship Series regular season. Following the games, head coach Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant and mid laner Fabian “Exileh” Schubert sat down to talk to Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about the overlap between early game and comfort picks, how the team gets familiar with champions and compositions, and looking forward to the regular season finale against H2K Gaming.

Kelsey Moser: I wanted to talk to you guys about some of the criticisms you’ve been getting and your persistence. Some people will say “they keep playing these early game comps, and they’re not doing well or they’re out of meta,” but I think you guys showed today that you’ve had some improvements in this area. How was that process going? Did you feel discouraged at some point?

Fabian “Exileh” Schubert: Do you want to take this one?

Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant: I can do so — actually, you should start. Because I can give my follow up.

FS: I think that we’ve been practicing early game comps for quite some time now. Even last split we had some drafts where we consider much more the early game. It’s just that we always felt that late game suits us more because if you play an early game comp, then doing little mistakes is already really punishing. At one point, you just get out-scaled, and I think that we got discouraged a bit by picking early game champions on stage sometimes, and we couldn’t play out the comp. Then we just dropped the pick completely.

I think this happened multiple times with mid lane and with jungle as well. I can’t think about any other roles right now. Overall, I think that, even though we got discouraged a bit, the comfort picks that we have that are considered more for early game strengths — I think that we still do well on them, and we keep playing those. I think that we continue to still have an early game style comp if it is has our comfort picks.

FM: I really agree. I really think that he hit it on the nail. Champions that are early game are sometimes comfort for us. Comfort champions, and then they are early game. Not the other way.

KM: Regarding the Cho’Gath, I think you guys demonstrated, especially in Game 2, that there are ways to punish first pick Cho’Gath with the Maokai/Nidalee, for example. Why did you then feel confident to first pick the Maokai in Game 1 then?

FM: I think that Cho’Gath right now is really really strong for top lane, and they first picked it, so they gave up something for that. We were prepared to give Cho’Gath, and get — what did we get in return? I think it was like Kalista/Trundle something?

FS: Yeah, we got Kalista/Trundle first rotation, and followed it up with ummm…

FM: No, I think we got Xayah/Trundle in Game 2. No. What did we get?

FS: Yeah, we got Xayah/Trundle.

FM: Xayah/Trundle to peel off the Cho’Gath and kill him, and oh yeah — it turned into the early game comp.

Cho’Gath is a really strong pick now. It was fine for us because we kind of prepared to give it. And there were also some other scenarios where we were like — don’t last ban ADCs or whatnot and we can get like Kalista in return and stuff like this. And they also seemed to prioritize Xayah, so we took that away.

This champion is really strong. I think he didn’t play so well the Cho’Gath. I think he was keeping his ultimate all the time to try to kill. And we had the Nidalee, so unless Csacsi makes a huge blunder, he will not die in that lane, and I think Cho’Gath just fell behind, and Maokai was even out-scaling him. Props to Csaci there, and also our early game aggression was really good. Also Maokai out-scales Cho’Gath on sight because the E resets his passive. We are just fine playing early game comps against Cho’Gath and not let him breathe and outscale. Which is actually — only Maokai.

FS: (laughs)

FM: (We first picked it in Game 1) because Cho is pretty broken right now, so even if there’s styles against it, it’s just the most solid blind pick for top lane. At least right now there’s like some counter picks you can play. I’ve seen Gnar a lot of times. There have been other testings in scrims, and maybe we see them also on stage, but generally Cho’Gath is just doing extremely well. Even if he is like — slightly losing lane or whatever, just later on with Righteous Glory into like Q, Silence, Ultimate, it’s just really strong in team fights. So if we can get them, fine, but if we have to trade him off, we’re willing to do it in this case as well.

KM: Do you think it depends on what kind of jungle matchup you can get or anything?

FM: I mean in this case, it doesn’t matter much. Obviously we want to have a jungler — we don’t want Cho’Gath to die, basically. I don’t know what there is. Maybe if the enemy plays like Jayce/Elise or something disgusting, I don’t know, then it gets really hard. But whatever you play in top lane is really hard to play. I think it’s just Cho’Gath does everything right now pretty well. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see more of it being banned or first picked. I mean, in this case, we could shut him down because they were picking so weak early game.

KM: Exileh, I feel like a lot of the champions you’ve been succeeding on lately have been able to use escapes or be really high mobility. Is there a reason you are favoring these kinds of picks?

FS: I’m actually not too sure. We had the problem where I just died too much to jungle ganks, and died in general too much in the mid lane. This is kind of like — at one point, you just have a result where you go back and pick your comfort picks. On those high mobility picks, I feel really comfortable.

I’m not quite sure why though. I think I just need to mainly watch more wave management that I can’t get punished if I push out the wave correctly. Because I know that — back in the day — I was only focusing on wave management, and this is actually like the most important thing in mid lane overall. I feel like if you have correct wave management, you can’t really get punished with those immobile picks.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on other stuff like the game overall. I want mid lane to connect better with my teammates and to have the highest amount of pressure in the game. There’s a connection with mainly the jungler. That we did have as low downtime as possible. However, I’m not too sure like I think it’s just mainly the point that it got quite abused that I was over-extending with immobile picks, so therefore I pick mobile picks as a result.

I think that the mobile picks right now, though, like Talon and Leblanc, for instance. I think those picks are really strong in the current meta right now, especially against immobile picks, which tend to be at like the mid tower right now. I think it just favors my play style that I like to push out wave and roam a lot, so that’s why I usually go for those picks. Also, I know most of the matchups with those picks, so there’s little room for errors in the matchups.

KM: Is it helpful when you’re against a lot of top lanes or bot lanes that like to roam mid a lot when you play these mobile picks?

FS: I think right now with all the melee supports coming in, they roam a lot mid lane in general. Also, if we look at the meta compared to one year ago, then a lot more teams understand that it’s really important or really useful to just go mid when you have tempo on sides.

Most the time, if the enemy team doesn’t really have too much tempo, you can sneak the wave before they attend mid lane. Or yeah you can catch the wave off-guard and escape with one ward. I think this is really helpful as well, yeah, if you consider that people just tend to roam mid lane a lot.

KM: Last time we talked, you said you felt you really need to study matchups and also when to call your jungler. Is this something you feel you’ve made a lot of progress on?

FS: I think overall on the few picks that I play right now, I think I made progress with this definitely because it’s mainly matchup dependent. In some matchups, you just have to call your jungler. It depends on enemy jungler and opponent mid laner, of course. If they can gank you relative to how much jungler your jungler has on the enemy jungler.

Yeah, and I think we’ve done a really good job right now. Most the time, when I play 2v2 mid lane or when I call Xerxe around, then we get something out of it. I think in the series today as well in the series against Sejuani, when they tried to defend mid lane, they had to give up two entire waves. And this is just the result of a lot of training regarding to this.

KM: Since Sheepy’s here, if a player says he needs help with matchups or I’m working on this particular thing that’s very individually based, how do you work with him on that kind of stuff?

FM: I don’t work too much on matchups, but we are going over everything in scrims, so I think everybody understands every matchup in the game, so if I ask him about bot lane matchups or top lane matchups, he will be able to say as well what to expect. Honestly, if you understand — educating people about the game what’s going on is like my main job. So when Exileh goes into the game, and he just knows about his mid lane matchup, then you should go in — then you are a little bit afraid. Because you honestly don’t know what’s going on: when do people push, when do people rotate, what can they expect from this game.

Everyone understands like all the interactions, and usually, matchup-wise, when we’re seeing a matchup that everyone has practiced, then we’ll give like a small tidbit to it and say “Yeah, it may be here, it may be there.” But people are very self-aware, and usually they are bringing the picks into the team — like, I don’t know, Trundle today. Then we work things out and see what is the interactions and how does it work. So far, I have not really been asked how the matchup is supposed to be played. I think that’s why people play so much solo queue. Mainly, it’s me, and getting understanding of this and teaching it to everybody else. I bring the knowledge to everyone so everyone can play.

KM: When I see UoL drafts or UoL comps, it feels like there are some clever thoughts to them, even if they are a bit unconventional. Do you think it helps you guys a lot that you play a lot of stuff that people don’t think about — like when you come up with answers. For example, Trundle in second game was really good into a lot of those picks. Do you think playing all sorts of different things helps in this regard?

FM: I think pick and ban right now is about so many of those small things, and there are so many interactions right now that are really really important. I think, for example, the picked Sejuani, Braum, and Cho’Gath. These are three melees, this is probably — if you have immobile team comp that needs to fight and go in (let’s say we pick an Alistar and stuff and just want to go in), it’s so important to have this kind of flexible draft.

So we were able, for example, to pick Nidalee in the end, and then play like an early game comp. Because if we go anything like a Gragas or a Kha’Zix or something and play for team fights, it will get so hard. So we went with an early mid game and invade jungle and play over sides. That’s why it’s so, so important. I think everyone is smart about their picks and what they play into and how they interact because that’s what we learn in scrims. We also take like two-three hours in pick and ban. These are the kind of things that are coming out.

It starts like very, very low, but because we are playing these games in scrims, our knowledge is really high, so we see a lot of these interactions that are really good. I think this is kind of the stuff that wins you a draft. Simple stuff like enemy picks Jarvan/Galio, and you have an immobile back line, you can just lose to this. So this is really, really exciting stuff as well for people. Cool that Hyli came up with Trundle, and it kind of worked out.

KM: Next week, people are talking most about G2-Fnatic, but maybe the H2K-UoL matchup is kind of underrated. I think maybe H2K have improved in some of the areas people have said make them a poor matchup against you, and you have also kind of improved in areas that they were effective playing against you. Do you agree, or do you think games will play out very similarly to how they have in the past?

FS: I’m not too sure, actually. When I see most games of H2K, I feel like they’re just a good team overall. I don’t feel like they’re — as Sheepy said in the interview earlier — they are doing anything too special or too good. I feel like, sometimes they are — like everyone is saying they have solid lanes, but most of the time when we play against them, I feel like they give up pressure too often when they shouldn’t.

I think we can just abuse this because usually when we get one free push, then we instantly try to transition this into an objective on sides. Like let’s say if we get free push mid lane. I feel like H2K isn’t really the fastest team when it comes to using waves in the early game, and I think that we can definitely capitalize on this. I also think that — we just win with team fighting against H2K. We haven’t scrimmed them too much in the past, like ever since we played them.

Whenever we watch LCS, this is like — there’s a lot of stuff to consider in the team fights, so it’s hard to tell unless you play against them. I’m not sure how strong their team fighting is, but I think that they have different weaknesses that we can exploit. Whenever we played against them, I never felt like they pressure too much in the early game.

FM: I don’t know so much about H2K. It’s like what I said earlier, they’re just kind of a strong team. And for Fnatic-G2, I think it’s really interesting game to see, honestly. I’m looking really forward to that. I think our series against H2K is going to be interesting because it’s also fight for first place. I think we are solid, good teams, and I think G2 and Fnatic are — I really want to see more of them  and actually them fighting against each other because sometimes I see Fnatic, and they don’t do the best stuff, and sometimes I see G2, and when they are grouping, and when they are doing stuff, I think Expect played a good Gnar and stuff, so they have good moments and good thing, but they also have weak moments. I think there’s like — I think there might be more rough edges that collide and can get spectacular.

I think us against H2K can also come down to team fights, and rotations, and pick and ban, and I think we’re very — more solid, if that makes sense. So that’s how I see the next games.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games