Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An Interview with Darker

Former Gambit Gaming support player, Andrey "Darker" Plechistov, sat down with me to discuss what he's been doing since parting ways with the team, the past and current state of Gambit Gaming, and his outlook on the current state of the European scene.
Since departing from Gambit during the previous Summer Split, you went to University to finish your education. During that time, did you try looking for another team to join?

Yes, I was trying teams quite a lot.

Was there a particular reason none of those teams worked out?

Well, roster changes mostly. For example, I was playing with Brokenshard in a team before he went to NA and overall it looked quite promising. I think we could have made it to the LCS qualifications, but after he left, the team was basically not the same and we didn't manage to find a good replacement. Also, people didn't have motivation to continue so we had to part our ways. Another promising team I had recently with ForellenLord, and not being able to play with the same roster also was a huge factor there since we had to switch three junglers (two of them went to high challenger and LCS teams) two weeks before we went to Copenhagen Games tournament. We had to pick up a pretty good but inexperienced player and he just didn't have enough time to improve. We didn't put on a good show there, so I decided to not continue trying out new people again but focus on finishing my study which is going to give me more freedom and time to find a solid team later.

Alright, so lets go back to your time in Gambit. You mentioned in your Facebook post that there were several issues in the team that ultimately led to your decision to leave. Was there something that Edward brought to the team that allowed them to perform well for so long? He didn't exactly have the best showing during his time in Curse. Did something special happen when the roster consisted of the original five members?

It's hard to tell, but I personally feel like it's about Edward being with the original M5 roster since the beginning. They were getting used to each other while they also had the best individual skill on their positions. Genja was pretty much godlike during Season One and Two. In Season Three, Edward left the team because they had problems with communications and their results got worse. I can't agree that he didn't have the best performance in Curse though. I actually think that he did very well in his position there, but Curse didn't have the best players at that time and weren't a very good team overall.

That's a fair assessment. So why is it that you think those winning results couldn't be replicated with you or Voidle? Did internal issues become worse over time?

I think me or Voidle could have played there and performed well, but the attitude from other members and management should've been different. In short, I can say that for me a team can only do well when people are doing everything to achieve the same goal and have the will to work with each other, but when I was in Gambit it wasn't like that, sadly. Despite that, I really appreciated the opportunity to become a member of a world-class team and show that I can perform on a big scene against the best players. I'm looking forward to playing League on a high level again and I believe it will be an even better experience for me.

So let's fast forward to the present where Alex Ich has left the line-up for personal reasons. Do you think they can still be a world class team without him?

Everything is possible and I have no doubt that they have the individual skill and experience to be the team which is able to beat the Koreans again. But it will only happen if they change their mindset and attitude. Also, replacing Alex Ich is a huge thing considering how hard he was carrying them in the second part of the 2014 Spring Split and playoffs. Time will tell.

There has been some mention among the community that Alex Ich had fallen off this season. What's your opinion on his current skill level? Is it as good as it has always been?

Many people talk about player X from Gambit performing bad in 2014. I see it as sign of the team not performing well in general, not just some individual player. I think Alex Ich was carrying hard during his last games on the team and pretty much saved Gambit from relegation with his Ziggs (I think they still would've won vs. Denial, but it's another story.) Now he switched to top lane and initially he won't be playing as good as he was in mid lane, but I know him for a long time and I believe he adapts really well and is able to switch roles and be one of the better players in it.

Well then, lets move on to a Gambit member who receives a bit more criticism: Genja. He's frequently discussed about his particular playstyle and unorthodox build paths. Some of his peers still consider him one of the best AD carries and some think he's among the worst. How do you think he stacks up against other EU AD carries like Rekkles, Forg1ven, CandyPanda, etc.? And why is it that he dislikes solo queue?

I would say that Gambit's bot lane was in the bottom four during last split and compared to Fnatic, CPH, and SHC, they didn't look good. Regarding Genja, I can only say that he still has his strong side: he's still a very smart player with strong team fight  positioning. At the same time, I believe that players like Forg1ven, Rekkles, MrRalleZ and CandyPanda were better mechanically and decision making-wise. I don’t know his solo queue situation at the moment, so I can't answer.

A big talk among the community now is that acquiring an analyst is a necessity in any team. A few experts have suggested that if Gambit picked up an analyst then they could possibly perform at a more optimal level. Later, Alex Ich mentioned that they attempted to pick one up but that no one took his suggestions to heart when it mattered. It seems to be common knowledge that the Gambit members are stubborn when it comes to getting input about their own position. From your time on the team, do you think the players have the capability of listening to an outside source's suggestions?

Yes, I think so. I believe that being open-minded is a huge part of success, especially in League when the game is changing so fast constantly and part of what you considered to be good before can no longer work in the next patch.

Let's move onto the current state of the European scene. During the off-season, it seems that NA has attempted to make strides in improving by importing players to bolster its talent pool. Also, Fnatic's performance at the 2014 All-Stars was very lackluster considering they were expected to do well as a team coming off their third consecutive LCS Championship win. Would you say that EU is currently behind the other regions right now?

Yes, I think EU is pretty weak in its current state. I see two core problems there:

First one is that organizations just don't feel like they should pay if they pick up a non-LCS team. From my experience, most organizations don’t feel like giving you a contract with a salary in it. They don’t want to risk their money and they don’t get respect or loyalty of players because of that, but it's very important to make professional relationships work for both sides. That’s my very own personal point but I really want organizations to start actually paying for representing their name and working with them. Then they can ask from their players and expect them to show progress and make results. When an organization offers nothing, people lose motivation and teams can easily disband when some of their players get better offers or players just go to another region if they see an opportunity. Many talented players move to NA because money is there and I really want EU organizations to step up their game.

Second problem is that 'coaching thing' is in very poor state in Europe; many LCS teams don’t have a good coach or analyst. I'm not even talking about challenger teams. Players who don't open their mind and listen to outside opinions while people who are trying to be coaches are usually pretty bad at what they are doing. So the picture we have is good mechanically but often cocky or arrogant players who don’t listen to outside words (my coach is bad and I’m a good player - why would I listen to this guy?) mixed with inexperienced or bad coaches. If players pay more attention to what other people say and try to work with an analyst and focus on getting one and actually listening to what he's saying, they can improve their game understanding and communication skills. I believe EU can be top region again.

So if organizations were willing to pay analysts and coaches a realistic salary, do you think more people would go for the job? Is there a sufficient amount of experienced people who are capable of being coaches or analysts? Or do you think EU should try to look abroad (NA, KR, etc.)?

First of all, I think players should get contracts with a salary in it. Analysts and coaches should get paid as well since it's serious business and should be treated like it. In terms of looking for proper coaching and analysts, I think EU organizations should look towards other regions, but that just comes from my experience. Maybe there are some very skilled coaches who can actually help teams even in EU.

What about the player talent pool? Does EU have all the necessary talent to compete with the Eastern regions?

Can't say much because there are not so many international events. If we look at All-Stars, we can say that Fnatic got pretty much outplayed on a mechanical level, so it's hard to say about the whole EU as "best mechanical" region from this state. Talent needs work, it's not enough to win against Koreans just by having players like Rekkles in your team. EU teams need to step up in many aspects - training regime, mindset, attitude etc. Also from my perspective and team-searching process, I feel like many players here in Europe are pretty lazy and rely on outplaying people who play worse without trying hard on improving, expanding their champion pool etc. If a player doesn't play a certain champion but it's clearly good, that player can just say "Nah, I don’t feel like playing it" and won't learn it. Obviously this is bad and changes must happen in order for Europe to become competitive again.

So with how things currently are, do you think Europe can make a good showing at Season Four Worlds? Do you see any of the issues being addressed in the upcoming weeks?

We have to see how teams will perform. There's still enough time to improve and fix issues, everything is in hands of players and team management and they just need to be smart and work effectively to solve problems. There are bright sides of EU as a region: SK's improving during the split as an example of that.

So since no new teams entered the EU LCS, how do you predict the standings to look like for the Summer Split?

Too many changes and too much time to predict anything, but I believe that SK and Alliance will do fine.
Alright then, any shout-outs or people you want to thank?

Shout-out to my friends and people who support me. Thank you for making this interview with me and good luck in your games and life tasks to everybody reading this.

And thank you for the interview as well as graduating from university. That's a very impressive accomplishment. Best of luck finding a new team. We're all hoping to see you back in the competitive scene.

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