Down memory lane with Kubz: "That Fnatic Academy team, the atmosphere, the progression and everything — I miss it still."
Photo by: Riot Games

Down memory lane with Kubz: "That Fnatic Academy team, the atmosphere, the progression and everything — I miss it still."

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Giants Gaming are already out of playoffs contention, but they had a two-game winning streak heading into week 8, and they had slight odds of making it further. The happy-go-lucky squad’s head coach, Kublai “Kubz” Barlas, did not feel defeated after Fnatic’s victory against Giants as they still had a shot to qualify.

Kubz spoke about the old times with the Fnatic Academy Brotherhood, even older times (and growing pains) with Complexity Black, his parents’ contribution to his career, fun tidbits regarding Splyce mid laner Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer, and more.

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I noticed that you met one of your previous players in Fnatic Academy in Broxah. What did you tell him?
Words between old friends about the good old times, good game, and stuff that I'll keep between me and him.

Fair enough. That's not the only player that you've helped develop throughout your career. We're talking about Nisqy, Crazycaps (who is now managing Misfits Gaming)...
If, in my career, I have influenced anyone and helped them in a positive way, it's not really for me to give my own credit; it's for them if they believe I helped. Everywhere I've gone, I've done my best to give players the tools that they need to become better, and for us to obviously win. I've been around a long time, and I enjoy what I'm doing; it's fun, and it's really great to see guys like Broxah succeeding after starting his career with me and seeing his development, and for the players I've seen it happen. But whatever credit they give me, it's very humbling every single time.

I did make a lot of mistakes, mistakes that I have paid dearly for with my time

You've been in the League of Legends scene long enough to do some mistakes and develop from them yourself. I know that 2014 was not necessarily the best for you, but I'd still want to go back there, to those times with Complexity Black — your first experience coaching with PR0LLY and all those guys.
That first experience in season 4... Coaching was still pretty new, and I was 18. When you're a teenager and you're coaching, and you're supposed to be a leader, help them and shape them — it's a very difficult, nearly impossible thing to do. I was obviously extremely immature emotionally and as a person, so that experience helped me grow. I did make a lot of mistakes, mistakes that I have paid dearly for with my time, but it's made me a lot more self-aware of the person I want to be and who I strive to be. I want to be someone who: I come in, do my job to the best of my ability, try to be a positive influence. If I can impact people in a good way, I consider my job done. That's how I've been approaching coaching since that first split.

On Complexity Black, not knowing how to manage relationships with people, not knowing how to carry myself, talk to people, treat them, being too focused on being on camera, being stupid on social media: all that stuff you learn with growing up, make all those mistakes at the same time unfortunately, [nervous smirk] but you live and you learn.

Photo by: Riot Games
Photo by: Riot Games

You had to develop as a person before you could help people develop. We're talking about up-and-coming guys. I don't know if you were with Caps at all...
Yeah, I was the assistant coach to the [Fnatic] LCS team when NicoThePico was the head coach. I split my time between the academy and the LCS for the first half of [the 2017 spring split]. When Caps came into the league as a 17-year-old, he was incredibly talented, but I kind of saw similarities in how I was in my first time — a little inexperienced, and all he wants to do is play the game a lot. But taking care of yourself, going to the gym, [and] having a good schedule are extremely important. Then, I was making sure that, when there were problems on the team, I was able to help him. It's very scary for a 17-year-old kid to come into a team with 22, 23-year-olds, and having to try to resolve conflicts in-game; so, being there and being able to help that process was something I was very committed to, to help him feel at home.

Whatever credit players give me, it's very humbling every single time.

Speaking of home, you're from Canada from an immigrant Pakistani family, and all of a sudden you're like, "I'm going to coach in the NA LCS." That must have been pretty tough telling that to your family, if I had to imagine.
No. My parents have been extremely supportive of everything I ever wanted to do in life, and if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't still be doing this. They were the ones who told me to keep trying and to never give up, and if it wasn't for them, I don't think I would still be here. I'm so grateful to them that they pushed me to continue to do this because now I can help people, or at least attempt to. For me, that's everything; having the ability to impact players and help them in a positive way is everything I enjoy doing. If you [read] this: thank you, Mom and Dad. I miss you.

You had moments of doubt, and it must've been tough to go through them. Sometimes, people don't want to talk about those moments, but I look at those as milestones for growth. Things must have been pretty rough as far as Fnatic Academy [was concerned]: finding yourself without a job even though you did everything correctly. There must've been other moments that caused growth.
Yeah. Learning over the years, then going to Fnatic and doing everything — for lack of a better word — correctly, making the LCS, and having what I consider the most fun I ever had in esports on that team... We all still talk every day to each other; we created a very close bond. To lose that because people had a vision with something they purchased... Obviously, I understand the business side, and they're able and they should do what they believe is best. But I think it was an extremely uneducated and, quite frankly, stupid decision to replace a team that had just made the LCS with a team that was completely fresh in the summer season. As you've seen even with Giants [this year], we made one roster change, and it was a lot of weeks to even become a comparably competitive team.

Photo by: Riot Games
Photo by: Riot Games

That definitely hurt; to do things correctly for the first time in my life, then to have it taken away. But what I took away was: life's unfair, and we know everyone knows [that]. That was one of the worst experiences ever, and I took away that you have to keep going. All you can do is your best; whatever happens after that, you can't control.

At the very least, you got to the LCS with Giants. Your old battle cry with Fnatic Academy was "Brotherhood." What is it with Giants?
[laughs] I don't know if we have one with Giants. We're just a good group of friends who enjoy each other's company and we play, but our battle cry can be a lot of different things. Things that come to mind: "Do your job, we'll talk after the game," and there are some other ones that I can't think of.

He solo-killed Caps three times in the first game. We were just like, "Yeah, we can work with that!"

The closeness of Fnatic Academy with the Brotherhood was something that doesn't happen anymore in esports and will never happen again. We were that connected to each other, and we believed in ourselves so much that players who had offers to go [elsewhere] chose not to if we didn't all go, even though we were encouraging them to go without us. Yes, it's career suicide, and people look at it and say, "You're stupid, you'll lose your LCS job" but I don't think people when they're that close take under account the human aspect sometimes.

Brotherhood is something that will never be recreated, but I definitely tried to emulate that closeness, camaraderie, and team atmosphere and it's gone pretty well in Giants. No issues so far.

I've noticed. You guys seem to be having a ball, and so do you when the players sometimes "troll" you. Things happen, and I spoke about it with Djoko and Steeelback. Can you tell me your side? [Kubz was laughing as his team was getting decimated in a game, especially as team comms added to the ridicule of the situation — Ed.]
The Fnatic game, the first time around where Caps was chain-killing nukes on respawn timer... I think people were definitely upset because, from the outside, I'm laughing on camera. When people see that, they think [I don't] take it seriously, and I understand the image it gave off, but that's how I react with shock. I was so shocked, I could not believe what was happening, that I didn't have another reaction. I understand that people will look at that and not like it, and I'm aware that it is something I shouldn't have done. When a game is that out of hand, it was absolute "what-the-beep is going on?" You live and you learn; another learning experience! [laughs]

Photo by: Riot Games
Photo by: Riot Games

I mean, the guys must've been trolling in comms at that time, when they noticed: "minute 9, this is donezo!"
[laughs] When that game is done at 10 minutes, and [they're] hitting your inhibitor, it's pretty stupid to think, "We're going to come back and win, we're only six levels down across the board!" I don't think it was trolling, it was just one of those things where the guys were like, "What can we do? We're stuck." That was a game where, legitimately, if we walked out of our base, we'd die. So, the game was going to end, and there wasn't a comeback mechanic for us except running as 5 and praying to god we'd get some miracle fight. [amused] So, unlucky, but it happens. It's part of the game, what can you do?

Nothing, outside of waiting it out. But speaking of talent development and the Brotherhood, did you have to convince someone to join the team and go beyond trying to convince the person? Maybe you had to reach out to their family for that...
Back in 2015, I did that in North America. There was a pro player whose parents didn't want to continue supporting him playing League of Legends, and I had to talk to them and help him convince his parents to let him keep playing because I thought he had the ability to go somewhere. He's playing in the NA LCS now [locally], and I'd like to think that, in some way, what I did helped. Whether it did or did not, I have no idea, but that definitely was the crazy one.

For Fnatic Academy, the only one that was hard to line up was Nisqy. We were trying out mids, and we weren't really sure who to take. Nisqy was playing in France at the time, and he showed up to this tryout and solo-killed Caps three times in the first game. We were just like, "Yeah, we can work with that!"

We suck. But we're getting better. It might be a little late in the season, but we're making progress.

The first time we talked to him, he was like, "I'm not sure if I want to leave, I like where I am" before the scrim block. During the scrim block, he told me, "I feel so useless! Can I do something?" I looked at him and told him on TeamSpeak: "Nisqy, when you clear the next wave, just walk into the bush on [the way to] bottom, don't move, then go back to your mid wave. When you think you can run bottom and get kills, do it!" That was the day Nisqy learned how to leave mid lane. After that game, he signed! [laughs] So, that was the first time I was like, "Maybe I did something really good, and there is visible proof!" [laughs] One game, Nisqy's in. Without Nisqy, that team is not as awesome as it was, so I'm really glad it was Nisqy who came through in the end.

I mean, you've watched him during his Team EnVy days, and I'm thinking you must've watched him on Splyce. He's been doing crazy!
He still can only play one champ at a time. You take the Zoe out, and... "Nisqy, buddy, come on!" [laughs] We teased him about it too in the Fnatic Academy chat; we still tease him all the time: "You can only play one champ!" The first time Nisqy locked in Kassadin in the LCS, we had this huge meme: Nisqy locked in Kassadin in scrims [once], and he went 0-12. It was the funniest thing. Nisqy Kassadin was the meme, so the first time he locked it in the LCS, he won, carried the game, and he comes to our chat, [laughs] and there were 55 messages of: "Nisqy, what are you doing?! You're griefing!" and he was like, "Oh, come on guys!'

That team, the whole atmosphere, the progression and everything — I miss it still, admittedly. I would love a world where we could have continued with Broxah in the jungle. No disrespect to [Amazing], but Broxah was the original. Integrating Maurice made it awkward with the different [play] styles, different experience. But the original roster we had... If there was a way to go back in time and keep that together, go to the LCS with those guys, it would have been the best for us all at that time, because we had clicked so well in and out of the game.

Now, MrRalleZ is Elo-helled in North America, and Klaj is playing National Leagues — which is okay, but it is not the LCS. I would've liked to get all those guys there, and I would've loved to do it together, but it's not a fairy tale, I guess.

Photo by: Riot Games
Photo by: Riot Games

Alas. I even saw something about you guys [the FNA Brotherhood] playing basketball [in another interview]. There's another team in the LCS that was talking about their 3v3 basketball skills being somewhere. Do you have anything to say about that, knowing that you must have faced them?
[Schalke 04] are okay. We're a bunch of video game guys playing sports; it's not going to be pretty, we're not professionals. But we had fun, everyone did their best, and it's fun! That's the cool thing about esports: yes, it's a competition. It doesn't feel like a family anymore like it used to, but there's still [that sentiment that] we're all in this together in the end. So, it's fun to do activities with other teams once in a while. If it's every weekend — no, but if it's once in a while, why not? We don't hate them. [laughs] We're all pro players!

Whatever credit [players] give me, it's very humbling every single time.

Then let's talk about something regarding stickers, post-it notes and branding. I kept that for last. [side glance]
I'm the Late Game King! It's never been in question. The game goes past 45 minutes, you know where I am. I've been pretty fortunate with the blue turtle shell, and let's see what happens next time. Splyce took it last time; the late-game gods didn't deem me worthy. But if you guys want a shirt, a coffee mug or a sticker, you know what to do: just tweet at me and I'll help you up. God bless, and see you in the late game!

I'm going to give you props for playing late-game in 8.11... 
Nah, we just sucked. That wasn't a strategy, we were very bad! Only bad teams have to go late-game in season 8, so it's nice to have the buff when we need it, but we're getting 6k ahead and going 45, 50 minutes; like, we suck. But we're getting better. It might be a little late in the season, but we're making progress. We'll have to see if we'll be making playoffs, it's going to be a crazy last three games.

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Although Giants have since been knocked out of the playoff race, they have two more games to play — against G2 Esports and Splyce — and they can impact the playoff picture. They (and other European teams) will be playing in the European LCS summer split’s final regular season week starting Aug. 17 at 18:00 CET / 9 a.m. PT!

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