To the disappointment of the Virtus.pro's hordes of fans, the bears won't make it to the League of Legends World Championship this year, following a semi final elimination to M19 in the CIS LCL league. But wisdom is to be found in their squad regardless. With Worlds not two weeks ahead, we caught up with VP's coach Dmitry “moo” Sukhanov and asked him about VP's post-MSI roster changes, as well as his predictions and desires about the meta at Worlds.
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You had some trouble back in May during the Mid Season Invitational. But you made some roster changes after that, and have been looking a lot stronger in the following splits and playoffs. What did you work with in order to improve like that?
The teams we played at MSI were way stronger than our regular season opponents. We slightly rebuilt our in-game communication and priorities.
What effect has p1noy had on the roster and how you play, compared to Blasting? Did you decide to bring in another Dane because Doxy would make the adjustment easier than if it had been a new nationality?
P1noy is a confident player. He understands the mechanics of his lane really well and is highly independent of his support -- he can dictate the pace of the lane or make calls for the support to follow. And yes, of course Doxy really wanted to play with P1noy, and it was one of the reasons we chose him.
Even though they are both Danes, Doxy spent all his career in CIS, while p1noy has been playing for western EU teams. Is there a difference in how they think about the game because of that?
Perhaps, but the difference in in-game mentality mostly develops independently of the player's region. P1noy is more calculated; Doxy likes to take risks. But that doesn't mean that all players from Europe aren't ready to take risks, or that all CIS players always are.
Kalista first pick on the blue side isn't a set in stone rule.
In the Summer split, aside from Gambit Esports, only Vaevictis eSports and Natus Vincere have taken games off you. Why, aside from Gambit who beat everyone, do you think it was the lower tier teams that caused you the most trouble?
We played against Na'Vi and Vaevictis during the first week, and we didn't pick up the pace yet, so these games aren't really worth mentioning. In the last week of the Split, we lost our second game to Vaevictis due to underestimating them and not viewing them as serious opponents, which lead to series of significant blunders.
What was the team’s mentality like going into the M19 games in the playoffs? They’d proven to be a problem to face before, did you feel you had a better grasp on how to tackle them?
Morale was quite good. M19 remain a dangerous opponent -- compared to the Spring Split, their game even improved in some ways. But their weak sides remain the same. We understood how to tackle them but still didn't execute our game plan perfectly.
In your quarter-final games against M19, in game one, you banned Kalista despite playing blue side. Normally, we see her as a red-side ban, where you either force them to ban her, or you first pick it. What made her a priority to ban on blue?
Kalista first pick on the blue side isn't a set in stone rule. There are many examples of teams choosing not to do that. Personally, we didn't want to play Kalista, and we wanted to check what M19 had besides Kalista. Thus, we decided not to ban her at first.
You were behind 2-0 going into the third game. You’d been banning Kalista in your first pinch phase, every time. So why did you suddenly let M19 have her, going into game three? They predictably first picked her, but you picked Tristana into her? Kalista is considered a bit of a hard counter to Tristana. What was the plan here?
Kalista isn't and wasn't ever considered a "hard counter" to Tristana. Quite the contrary. We managed to draft the Tristana/Alistar lane, which is probably the best answer to Kalista. That was our plan there.
Underestimating Jayce is dangerous.
In your last game vs M19, you ran Kog’Maw for tank shredding, and you last picked Braum to protect. They had blind picked an Alistar, who’s quite bad vs ranged supports, but really strong vs melee support. Why did you pick a melee into him?
Kalista/Alistar is a powerful and versatile composition against any support. Braum is slightly better against them due to his ability to counter part of their engage.
You were picking Rek’Sai quite a few times in the semis. We don’t see her a lot in the other regions at the moment, what makes this a priority pick for you and how does she fit in the LCL meta?
We picked Rek'Sai twice. She made quite a few appearances in playoffs in China and NA LCS. She's less popular than Jarvan/Gragas, so when their bans don't come through, there's no need to pick her. Rek'Sai is one of Kreox's comfort picks, and she is quite versatile in the current meta: she is innately tanky, but also has the ability to snowball early, which is much harder with, for example, Sejuani.
While most of Europe and NA is digging in with the tank meta, you’re running Jayce, like the Chinese are. Why do you think you’re reading it differently, and do you think the carry top is the better take on the current meta, than just running blind tanks?
Jayce is one of Doxy's main champions. He easily snowballs against tanky enemies, so underestimating him is dangerous. Picking tanks blindly is countered by Trundle and Sivir.
How do you feel about the current tri-tank meta? And how does it fit your playstyle as a team? You seem to be doing ok with it in the Split.
A good team has to adapt to any meta. The tank meta isn't anything new. In the current meta, stronger teams can't lose easily, while weaker teams have a harder time winning.
China has shown us Ezreal and Lulu in the Jungle. We've even seen a Vel’Koz support. Do you think we will see a change in dominant picks, come Worlds? Do you have any champions you think will step up, now that the meta has been stable for a while?
Traditionally, during the World Championship, everyone reverts to the classic picks, but some teams may prepare their own strategies, of course. I think we'll see Twisted Fate, Hecarim. Ezreal will most likely make a comeback, while Ardent Censer supports will fade away.
I think we'll see Twisted Fate and Hecarim, come Worlds. Ezreal will most likely make a comeback.
What overall changes would you like to see in the game going into the new season / worlds. What are some balance flaws in the game that need patching?
I'd like to see more opportunities for aggressive teams to play their own style. Ability to see first three dragons in the pick phase may be of assistance -- teams would have the capacity to prepare accordingly either by snowballing early through aggressive composition centered around Drakes or preparing for late with more tankier setups.
We’ve been seeing Kayne pop up here and there all over the world, in the finals. What’s your take on the champion? Is he worth the risk?
Kayne is a powerful champion, but he's gated behind scaling. The ability to pick Kayne is most likely based on lanes' understanding of his mechanics and gameplay. If Kayne doesn't have the time to scale, he's quite useless. If Jarvan and Gragas are banned, and a composition needs damage and vision Kayne becomes a good option, compared to CC that Sejuani brings to the table.