"LCS teams, as much as they have a lot of respect from me, tend to leak strats."

Right before their Challenger playoffs third place decider match, we had a chat with Reason Gaming's manager Simon ''TheHiddenGFX'' Best. How does he rate the strength of the European Challenger scene, what does he think about patch 4.5 and what are his expectations of the playoffs?

ESL: You had issues in this split's first Challenger series, having to forfeit because of DDoS issues. What happened there?

The problem was that if you wanted to use a sub you had to announce that 24 hours in advance. Not just that you had one, but really switching him in. That wasn't convenient at all, since you don't know whether or not you're going to get DDoSed until the actual game. The ruling was strange because a sub is there for emergency purposes, which is what they are now - you use one when there's a case of a player suddenly not being able to get online. This is a lot better. We're at the playoffs now, so I think we have kind of proven that we would've been higher up in the seedings if we hadn't experienced the DDoS at the time, especially because the bracket we would've had would have been quite easy. 

ESL: You're about to go into the Challenger series playoffs - what are your expectations?

Ninjas in Pyjamas are definitely an LCS team and they'll probably win this series and end up being promoted to the LCS. Top five team there, guaranteed. I'm looking forward to our games against Denial because we have a good chance against them. We've been doing well in scrims and they didn't perform too well yesterday. Cloud 9 Eclipse dropped a game against them, but that had more to do with the way Cloud 9 played. They were a bit trolly and didn't really make plays.

"Cloud 9 Eclipse were a bit trolly and didn't really make plays"

ESL: So you're the manager, but do you cover more than that? Are you also a coach?

I do every role. I do analyst work. I'm not a high ELO player, but the knowledge I have from managing so long is that of a diamond player. I've had to do analysis and coaching for many teams, so I have quite a bit of experience. The coaching aspect comes into it when one of the players comes to me with an issue, like they haven't had enough time to practice, they don't wanna play League anymore or don't want to play with the team anymore. Then it's up to me to talk them out of that, try to play the motivational coach, if you will.

I also fill the managing role, obviously - at these events I try to make sure they wake up in time and all that. There aren't many managers who do take up every role like that, I think, because most of them have it split in LCS where they have a coach, an analyst, a manager. I prefer it that the team can get used to one person - it's a lot easier to get them to feel comfortable around one person.


ESL: Mauno ''beansu'' Tälli is 16 years old and Chres ''Sencux'' Laursen is 15. Players need to be at least 17 years old to participate in the LCS - are there replacements in sight?

So, ever since we picked them up we knew we would have to replace them if we made it into the LCS. We were looking to make a decision in this split's first Challenger series, but since we got DDoSed there was no point to switching them out right then. It would have been preferable to switch out players before the playoffs, obviously. We actually had a couple of ex-LCS players who were willing to come up but we decided that there wasn't really a need what with the playoffs coming up so soon after the second series' finals. We just wouldn't have enough time to adapt to a new player. There was no reason for us not to take the opportunity to go to Cologne and just chill with the guys from the other teams. We decided to keep the roster, but if we do get into the LCS, we'll have to decide to make two, perhaps three, roster changes.  

"If we do get into the LCS, we'll have to decide to make two, perhaps three, roster changes"

ESL: Three?

Yeah, due to Trashy. He has turned down several LCS team offers, I can't talk specifics, but four or five teams have asked him to join them, as did several Challenger teams, some of which are actually here today. He's focused on finishing school first and then move into the LCS, however. If we qualified for the LCS, he wouldn't be able to play for the first two or three weeks, so it wouldn't be a permanent roster change, we'd just need a temporary sub.

ESL: Would that be Riot-legal to have just two original players transition to the LCS?

Well, we saw what happened to Lemondogs. That was kind of... LCS rules transitioning into Challenger rules. They were playing off the Battle of the Atlantic rules, which weren't really solidified. There weren't really roster change rules, so they could play that. We're not sure how it'd work for us, but there'll always be a way for us to change out players - we know we'd have to change them, and we know that we'd have to sub them at least until they're 17. Especially Sencux, as he's been performing really, really well for his age. As soon as he comes of age, he'll be a real powerhouse in the EU scene, whether it's going to be with us or with another team. He's almost 16 now, so it's gonna take at least a year and a bit. 

He has now decided that if we do make it in, he'll join a local Danish team because he'd prefer to just stay close at home. We've been practicing so hard since we got DDoSed in the first split - we've been scrimming all day, every day, and they haven't really had time for school work. Trashy is behind at least a couple of weeks, for example.

"As soon as he comes of age, Sencux'll be a real powerhouse in the EU scene"

ESL: How do the parents think of their children's competitive enterprise?

beansu's parents in particular aren't too happy with him traveling around. After we finish here, we have about one day to fly  to the Copenhagen Games for a boot camp and then we play the tournament there. It'd mean missing two weeks of school for most of the guys. BarneyD is fine because he doesn't actually go to school at all currently. The other four will be missing out, though, so beansu won't be coming to the Copenhagen Games because his parents want him to focus on school, which is understandable. She's happy for him to come here because he's living his dream, but school comes first.

ESL: What is the team planning to do if they don't qualify?

We'll just continue to play in the Challenger scene. We looked at the players and teams that are coming into the next split and there aren't really any good teams. This split really had a bunch of powerhouses - NiP, C9, Departed, SK Prime and ourselves. So there are a lot of powerhouses currently, but three of the four teams will be going to promos and we won't see them back for the most part. We're expecting Cloud 9 to win their promotion game if they go through, and we're definitely expecting NiP to make it into the LCS, so we won't see them either. As it'd be the summer split, we'd be able to make a lot of roster changes, if needed. We're looking forward to it. we're definitely not going to disband if we don't make it - there is no point in throwing talent away.

"We're definitely not going to disband if we don't make it"

ESL: Would you say that the four teams here - Ninjas in Pyjamas, Denial eSports, Reason Gaming and Cloud 9 Eclipse - are the best the Challenger scene has to offer? Are there perhaps teams that could've been here but ended up falling through for some reason?

I think, looking over this spring season, that these are definitely the top four teams. We saw MYM, now mousesports, doing okay in the first split. People praised them highly for getting third. However, if we were able to qualify for it, I'm quite sure we'd have beaten them quite badly like we ended up doing in the second split. We don't think that there are many teams that fell through, just because the teams that are here are the best of the best. They have beaten everyone else countless times and they're the ones winning scrims against LCS teams. Like you said before, people beating LCS teams in scrims - you never know which LCS teams exactly. It could be Millenium, it could be Alliance, SK or even Fnatic. 

If it's Fnatic then good on you, because they practice very hard and they're a really good team. So you can praise them for that, but if it's a Millenium or a Copenhagen Wolves, it's different - they really go on and off and even if you won against them it doesn't really matter unless you can do it at a tournament because tournament games are the ones that matter. Tournaments have the games where people play the absolute best they can. 

ESL: How did the recent meta affect the research you did on individual teams?

I'm pretty sure that none of the teams here knew what anyone was going to pick for these games. Everything is coming out. Kayle support came out from Departed. We expected Kayle against C9 but we didn't expect it as support. Then they played Twitch three games in a row - we didn't expect that either. We saw that Twitch jungle has made a really strong showing in solo queue but we didn't expect him to be played as an AD carry.

We didn't really like that Riot forced 4.5 upon us - it was less than two weeks to adapt to changes, and that's what it's all about. I think we saw a few tweets, also from LCS players, saying that it's all about luck now in the playoffs. Not even the Challenger playoffs, but the LCS playoffs. It's all about who has adapted the fastest and who has the luck of the draw on picks. You could ban out everything that you think this team has been playing and then they end up playing something completely unprecedented.


ESL: So how'd you approach the new patch?

After the split two finals, we decided to take three days off to solo queue all day, every day. No scrims, no tournaments, nothing, just so players can get used to playstyles that have come out, because solo queue is where new champions and new strategies are born. It's only logical to throw them in there, because what's the point of scrimming? You're not gonna get anything from scrimming without solo queuing a bit. So we just solo queued for three days straight and then went into scrims and tried out new strats and new ways of pushing towers, new rotations. Some of them would work really well against good teams, so we're hopeful that our strats will pay off. 

ESL: Do you have any top competitor teams to explore this new meta with? In Korea, teams have their sister teams with whom they can try the craziest stuff without it ever getting leaked. How does it work in the Challenger scene?

So with Cloud 9, they exclusively scrim against LCS teams unless they can't get one. They plan their scrims quite a bit ahead of time, so they prefer not to scrim Challenger teams because they just want to throw themselves in the mix of LCS teams. For us, we have good relations with one LCS team who we know will never leak strats because they are good friends with our players and they always try as hard as they can to win. It's just about finding that one team that you can trust.

With Cloud 9, I'm not sure if they can trust anyone. LCS teams, as much as they have a lot of respect from me, tend to leak strats. So we're happy with our current scrim partners - we're definitely learning a lot from them recently because they are also adapting to the changes, as all LCS teams are. It's interesting to see what they pull out, seen as their playoffs will be all or nothing as well. 

"I'm not sure if Cloud 9 can trust anyone"

ESL: So how do you like the new meta?

Well, we've seen that champion pools have remained largely the same, with pretty much everyone running Heal. So you can have a Nidalee mid lane with Heal, or a Draven bot lane with Heal. I think in one game we had both the supports and ADs running Heal. They always get away. They would never ever get caught and it's a bit annoying to play against because you're forced to take Heal now. Very few people will not run Heal in scrims or tournaments. You see very few games without Heal. It just offers too much and it's just too powerful. Tower dives become a lot more difficult to calculate. I preferred the last meta - I would've liked them to make the rune changes first and then do the champion changes, but that's not how it went.  

"You're forced to take Heal now"

ESL: How about the top lane? We've seen new stuff come out recently - Jax and Irelia come to mind. 

Top lane is actually relatively similar. We've seen the same Ryze and Irelia - Renekton hasn't been picked as much but he's still banned. It's mostly the Ryzes and Irelias and Jaxes. Jax is new, but Irelia was always going to come up as a counter to Ryze. Even in the previous patch, whenever anyone would pick Ryze we'd just pick Irelia. It's maybe one or two champions added to the pool, but there's nothing game-changing. You'll see oddball picks because people want to try it, but I don't think we'll see it in tournaments unless it's a composition that a team has worked out for weeks and weeks. 

I think the amount of action in games has stagnated a lot - you see a lot less kills happening. I think that, leading up to the playoffs, all of the Challenger teams were quite annoyed by the decision by Riot to run 4.5. We've seen the attack speed junglers come out now, I'd say that's where champion pools have increased a lot. We've seen Nocturne and Xin Zhao, for example, as well as Master Yi. Realistically, I don't think they're good changes because they've just got overpowered now with the Feral Flare, getting Barons so early. We prefer not to play it, but we're forced to. 

"All of the Challenger teams were quite annoyed by the decision by Riot to run 4.5"

ESL: What about Master Yi? We've seen him being pulled out a couple of times, without too much success.

We prefer banning him 100%. We don't play him in scrims or tournaments, we just think it's a silly pick, a cheese pick, Yi being Yi - he gets so far ahead early and he farms up so quickly, I think he's unbalanced. We won't see him, we'll ban it against any team. As you saw yesterday, he was a pretty overpowered pick. Despite having a low win rate, he got picked a lot and had a strong impact in the early game. The teams playing him just didn't execute him well enough, that was the problem.

ESL: How long do you think it'll take for the meta to settle?

I don't think it'll settle. Just because of the changes, the meta won't settle until people are happy with not banning out the jungle every game. I think people'll rather wait for the next patch to balance out things. I'm expecting it to come out before the promotion tournament, but whether it's going to be used is something we'll have to see. 

Reason Gaming went on to lose to Denial eSports 0-3. They will participate in the Copenhagen Games, starting from Thursday. There, they are set to play against the likes of Cloud 9 Eclipse, mousesports, SK Prime and Forellenlord's new Roughnex team. 


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