Monday, April 21, 2014

An Interview with Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool

Interview and Foreword by Andy L. Bloodvayne

   The age old adage, "third time's a charm," definitely holds true for Dutch professional League of Legends pro, Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool. After flirting with the LCS on his previous teams, Mousesports and Samurai in Jeans, the charismatic top-laner finally acquired a roster that made it into the 2014 spring season of the EU LCS with the Copenhagen Wolves.  
   YoungBuck's team, PrideFC, was picked up by the Wolves with current teammates Unlimited and cowTard, as well as familiar EU LCS faces Shook and Rekkles. For the lack of a better word, their roster shred through the amateur scene, taking first in tournaments such as DreamHack, Gamescom, and the amateur tournament for IEM Cologne. When the team lost both Rekkles (to Fnatic) and Shook (to Alliance,) they acquired Amazing and FORG1VEN, two members who would later be considered breakout stars in the most recent season of the EU LCS.
   Though finishing with a 13-15 record at the end of the season, the standings were incredibly close - with first through sixth place being separated by just a handful of games. YoungBuck delivered an impressive performance during the Spring Playoffs, including an extremely tight series with both Alliance and Gambit, but ultimately the Wolves fell into the sixth place slot, becoming the final team to enter into the Summer Promotions (to be held later this week.)
   While his team's LCS slot is on the line, YoungBuck has tasted the big leagues, and he's determined to train harder than ever to preserve his seat and prove that his team is more than capable of taking on the EU LCS juggernauts.


Hi YoungBuck. I'd like to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to do this interview. Everyone at LCS Central is a big fan of yours. I want to start off by congratulating you on finishing up the Spring Split of the EU LCS. Regardless of how you finished, you and your team made it to the end and looked impressive against favorites like Alliance and Gambit Gaming.

Before entering the LCS, it's almost an understatement to say that you and your team dominated the amateur scene, taking first at DreamHack Summer, Gamescom, and IEM Cologne; how has the transition from the amateur circuit to the LCS been like? Did a part of you expect your dominating performances to transfer over against the professional teams?

- We did expect to be a top tier team and especially to be the best new team in LCS but we ended up being a mid-tier team, which wasn't bad but was far from what we expected. The transition wasn't easy and I think the biggest part was that playing tournaments in challenger scene allowed us to peak at the right moment whereas LCS is all about consistency, which we definitely lacked.

What's been the hardest thing to overcome (as a team/as an individual) in these past few months?

- We had a lot of problems with throwing games even though we had huge leads in the early game, it took us several weeks to plug the holes but even now they still happen from time to time.

How does your role as captain come into play and how does it affect you? I know you mentioned that you take care of things like scheduling, but is there more? Do you feel any extra pressure to be a guiding light for your team when morale is low? Do you play a part in shot calling?

- I'm just the guy who schedules scrims and has the final say in important decisions outside the game. I do a lot of champion select work but I don't do much shot calling inside the actual game, which is mostly done by Unlimited.

Considering that being a professional League of Legends player is stressful (with scrims, spamming solo queue, theory crafting, etc.), is there anything you like to do in your free time to unwind and relax? What makes Joey Steltenpool happy when Youngbuck has exhausted himself?

- Working out in the gym makes me happy and it's my number one way to clear my mind. It also helps that it's one of the rare moments in a week where I'm on my own just doing my thing and not having to put much thought into the game.

Let's get back to the LCS. While you could say that you were a “middle of the pack” team, as per usual, the final score between the teams was relatively close. Why do you think the adage, “Every team in the EU LCS can beat each other,” rings true? Do you think the margin of strength between teams was really that close or do you think inconsistency plagues the EU teams?

- For the first time in EU LCS history the LCS actually has the top 8 teams in it, that means that the level of play is a lot higher and that anyone has a chance to win any match at any given time.

In a recent episode of Summoning Insight, Montecristo mentioned that the top NA teams (C9, TSM, and CLG) are stronger than the top EU teams (without knowing for sure who they are exactly) because they seem to have a better grasp of the meta/strategy and EU's tendency for oddball picks (e.g. your Heimerdinger), do you agree?

- I think the top 3 teams of NA can compete with the top 6 in Europe but only C9 could break the top 3. Individual levels on EU teams are all around very solid whereas most teams, even CLG and TSM have individual weaknesses.

How has the 4.5 patch treated you? Did the various changes make a dent in the tanky top lane meta? Ryze has had a resurgence and Soaz's Lulu has seen better success, do you see any other possible AP champs that may pop up in competitive play?

- I like the new meta and the variety in picks for top lane a lot, the one champ we might see a comeback from is Vladimir, I love playing him and will play him every game in which the match-up is favorable.

Returning to the last few weeks, how were preparations going into the playoffs? You mentioned that you were all confident going into your match against Alliance (took the first game and had a sizeable lead in game two), what particularly were you confident about?

- We knew everything about them since they weren't hiding their picks or strategies and it showed off in the first map, we just allowed ourselves to make stupid mistakes in the heat of the moment that lost us the other two maps.

What about Gambit? Did you foresee them dropping into the 5th place match considering they normally place top 4 at online events? How was it preparing for them?

- It was very unexpected. We went through a lot of playoff scenarios to start scouting our opponents but not a single scenario had us facing Gambit in the 5th/6th place decider match. Being number five in Europe doesn't say that much since the top teams are just too close to each other in skill level to really call one team better than the other with the exception of Fnatic being the best.

The EU Spring season is now officially over and your team placed sixth, which means you will play in the Summer Promotion tournament against Denial eSports. Have you guys started thinking about that match yet? Any particular reason you picked Denial?

- They had a very weak performance on LAN which suggests that they are inexperienced and might crumble under the pressure. On top of that they also have individual weaknesses that we can exploit and lack the team-play that challenger teams like NiP and C9 do have.

In your opinion, what was the most important thing you learned after your first season in the LCS?

- The most important thing is to have a team that works as a unit especially outside of the game. If five people are on good terms then any problem can be solved easily. Individual skill levels are so close that they often aren't a deciding factor in wins. Teamwork and synergy is almost everything.

To close out this interview, do you have any advice to the aspiring amateur teams that are hoping to make it into the LCS?

- Train hard and consistently and be ready to make sacrifices because the LCS comes with a lot of them.

Again, I'd like to thank you for the interview and congratulate you on a job well done. I'm sure you'll prove to everyone that the Copenhagen Wolves deserve to keep their LCS spot in the upcoming Summer Season.

Victorious YoungBuck hugs ex-teammate Rekkles after a win against Fnatic.

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