Unicorns of Love had a rough start in their World Championship Play-in stage journey. The team ended up with a 0-2 record after the first game day, Shrinking their chances of advancing further in the tournament. However, they can still make it as they have two games left to play.
UOL coach Fabian "Sheepy" Mallant sat down with Jaxon to discuss the team performance, his first impression of the group, the team environment and the Worlds meta.
First of all congratulations on qualifying for your 3rd Worlds competition in a row. Could you describe to me how does it feel and what does it mean to you?
It means everything to me. There are three big priorities in my life overall. One is my family. The second is my relationship with my friends and the third one is my career. Honestly speaking, my career has been taking so much of my time, I think it's one of the things where I'm identifying myself with a lot, and I'm not somebody who's unbelievably self-confident. When I started out at the beginning, I was lacking all of that.
Basically, when Unicorns of Love qualified for the EU LCS, it was through amazing people, amazing players that I was looking up to, and was just so happy to coach like Hylissang, Vizicsacsi, PowerOfEvil. So yeah, when that all worked out, and we made it, I learned so much.
For me, just going to the finals and then proving myself was important. It doesn't matter where you are, it matters that you can do your best which is the motto from Unicorns of Love. It doesn't matter how you're called or who you're exactly. You can be Unicorns of Love playing against Beyond Gaming or C9 or some brandable name. It's all about the heart you putting in and the work you're putting in. It's awesome, and I'm extremely happy and grateful that I'm able to do all of this.
When I first saw the group, my first impression of Group B was that teams are really close, but how do you see it as someone who has to compete in it? What was your preparation like?
My first initial thought was that we're gonna win probably against Galatasaray if we get this group because we won against the team from Turkey before, and we generally have some confidence in all of this. But then I watched the games: then, they crushed the region, they played extremely strong. So I'm like: "Goddammit, that's not gonna be easy."
So, I watched Beyond Gaming and they won 3-2 against PSG, then they go into the final and they lose 2-3. So, I'm like Beyond Gaming is really strong. Then I watch Cloud 9 and I'm like: "okay, they are the third-placed team from LCS so there's some hope, but they keep steadily improving." I think Fudge is now starting to get some public performances as well and yeah, that's scary too.
So I was like, Goddammit... this group looked doable in the beginning like to be won either first place or to reach the fourth place and obviously, my positivity always leads towards the first place. But yeah, all of them are very, very strong teams who have been doing well domestically so yeah, it's gonna be extremely competitive. Sadly we started out 0-2, yeah, we have to have come back tomorrow or the day after.
It was a thought start for you obviously. Even though you showed great promise, you didn't win and you are starting 0-2 in the group. What are your takes from today's games? What did you learn?
During Game 1, we realized that we're still a solid team if we are getting the right picks. We got Lee Sin comfort for AHaHaCiK; Orianna for Normanz; top lane, we've got Jayce; [and] we got a comfortable bot lane duo. Everybody was kind of happy. Then I think we had a really competitive game that we could have won as well.
I think we are struggling maybe against some of the newer champions, champions like Talon, LeBlanc who have a lot of mobility. Some of our champions are better against people engaging on us, and then having a steady kiting, so I think there's a lot of improvement to be done overall. But at least we had a competitive game where we could have maybe played a little bit more Unicorns-like, which is more aggressive, more chaos, more fighting; so, we'll talk about that a bit.
And yeah, I think the second game showed us that some games are just extremely tough, and there are some lessons to be learned, especially before the game is starting. We'll do better prep for tomorrow. If we know that it's do or die, I think maybe, for everybody, the fight instinct will kick in. Then we just gonna take the game and then the game afterwards as well, qualify for groups, and then win it all, you know.
Since MSI, you brought in Argonavt, who's completely new to the team. How did the team change with him on board?
It didn't change that much, because Argo is more of a person that takes himself back and plays for the team. He can also play aggressively if he wants to. He has one or two champions that he feels very comfortable with. But yeah, that's kind of our goal. He would like to do his best for the team, and he is really open to learn.
[Argonavt] also plays with four veterans, so going in. He has four people that play for three and a half years, four years together. A big shout out to him. He's an extremely nice guy. I think he's such a pleasant person to be around as well, and I think he has a good mentality to learn. Certainly, we don't have the most amount of time., but that's the name of the game for Unicorns this year. It's just that we had three different ad carries. He is the fourth Ad carry, so it's a lot of changes, and everybody had to adapt, and I think Argo is doing extremely well.
I was curious about the communications within the team because from what I've heard, you don't know Russian. How do you communicate with the team?
That is a really tough one. So in the beginning, I went to the team, and honestly speaking, everybody of them was lacking a lot of game understanding and playing together as a team. So that was when we first initially went into the Russian league with Unicorns of Love. So I just came there, brought Innaxe with me, who was afterwards playing for Schalke and so on. We were speaking English, everybody was respectful, especially because they had a lot to learn. So it was very useful.
It was normal to speak in English and had the reviews like that. But as time passed on, I think it became a bit different, we could understand how to play the game macro wise but people were more willing to take responsibility for themselves. So, the communication had be changed to Russian when we had Gadget, everybody was speaking Russian. It was difficult for me to communicate, but Gadget's English was perfect. And since they were functioning well, we always had [a] very clear cut draft and everything before reviews. Just talking, in general was all in English, and then the in-game stuff we discussed in Russian. Then we even tried to experiment with English, but Russian just kept working and was very good.
After that we changed up from Gadget over to Frappii, communication was in English. Then to Lodik, communication was back to Russian, then to Argo again back to Russian. So yeah, then we tried out to speak a lot more Russian, even before the game was starting, in reviews as well, which is kind of sad because in that case, I couldn't include myself that much. For me, it was maybe not the most comfortable way of working out, but I think overall speaking, it was a really interesting experience just to see how the team is evolving.
There were some positive side effects as well: people had a very good mood and were communicating a lot more even out of the game, just because of the Russian. So I do think it's a different beast, being an English-speaking coach in the Russian team. But yeah, I think there was a lot of learning process for this year, and it was not easy. It's what I can say. I learned only bad Russian words. (laughs)
And do you think it would have been way different if, for example, your whole team knew English or if you knew Russian, like results-wise, or just like in general?
Yeah, for sure. I think so. You can say that there are many different points that can be a massive change towards the team. But I feel like, because of the language barrier, it was difficult for me to have as much influence as I would have loved to, and I'm a very passionate person.
I want to be the best, and I would love to sacrifice everything for that. Just work myself to the bone, and then when you have two or three months off you can just chill really hard, and then you can work extremely hard again. I'm that kind of intensity person, I think it would have been very different.
But overall we always decided on what we thought was best in the situation together with the team. That's where we're at right now and I think props to that we qualified for Worlds. I mean, even though we started now 0-2, we still have everything on the cards to get it to groups.
The last patch that most teams played competitively was 11.15. Now you play on 11.19. What is your take on the current meta and are we going to see many different compositions in comparison to the last time when teams played competitively?
I think it's really region-dependent. Some picks are just overall very strong, and I think that all the teams are respecting it. It's like Ryze, Sylas and Lucian bot lane, Xin Zhao, Lee sin, which I think are very stable picks right now. Amumu is being picked up, Miss Fortune being strong right now so that's just some champions that I like that show-up.
Afterward, I think it's about what you have a personal preference for, and I think that is very region-dependent. It matters who you're scrimming against. I guess if you play against Fnatic a lot, you will think that Twisted Fate is very strong, maybe they still play Xayah-Rakan, but for sure they play ''something'' and Rakan.
Then, you have other teams that are playing more aggressive champions like Leona, just jumping in. Alistair has been a huge pick for teams from our group as well. So, you have that kind of engage champions. And I know you have the LPL and LCK using Gragas mid lane and this kind of stuff. Sejuani is being tried out in jungle as well, so I think it's a very very diverse League of Legends right now, and it's a very characterized League of Legends for the team and for the region.
I think that's awesome to have because everyone evolves differently. I think it will be similar to the last MSI or even last Worlds where, in the end, the strongest meta survives. The teams are going to compete over champions that are kind of similar and have proven themselves to be the strongest over the tournament. I think that's always really interesting, has always been like this right?
One of the most famous sentences was that the reason why Faker was winning so much in one of the championships was that he was the only one picking up Ryze and understanding how op he was. Nobody else was doing it. I'm sure we will have picks like that as well for this Worlds. For example, I think TF is extremely strong, and Fnatic have shown that they can win so much with him. I think there will be picks like that.