It was a tie party in the fourth week of the 2016 European League Championship Series. For the first time in LCS history, all the matchups ended in a draw. Teams with varying degrees of success this season have scored a point each, and that includes Team ROCCAT and the Unicorns of Love, two teams with different fortunes early this season.
Pierre "Steeelback" Medjaldi once wore UoL's colors, and following a stint in the North American Challenger Series, he was determined to return to the European LCS at any cost. "I tried out for some teams, and it went really well with the Unicorns, so I went there," he recalled.
But four weeks into the LCS spring split, visa issues plagued the team as Danil "Diamondprox" Reshetnikov, the squad's jungler, had to leave the team. Diamondprox had laid the foundations for UoL's early surge in the 2016 spring split, and morale was at an all-time high. "[Diamondprox] was really good in the jungle. He knows almost everything [there is to know]. He explained everything to us, always," noted Steeelback.
The ensuing situation in the jungle -- a revolving door of sorts -- caused motivation levels to drop despite the AD carry's efforts to revitalize the squad. "I tried to stay in the team," he said. "I tried to ask everyone to pool more effort, but we couldn't make it work. [UoL and I] then decided to part ways because I wasn't happy about the result. I don't think anyone was happy, but I didn't think that I could reach the World Championship with them."
His decision to join Team ROCCAT, a squad that ranked ninth in the 2016 LCS spring split, may have seemed illogical as some would perceive such a move as a downgrade based on the difference in rankings between it and the Unicorns of Love (sixth in the spring split). But Steeelback specifically chose to join the organization, despite receiving offers from other teams in the league.
"I really liked the players that remained -- Airwaks and Betsy. I thought they were really good," he pointed out.
In a way, Team ROCCAT and the Unicorns of Love had a lot in common, especially when it came to frequent swaps within the roster. But he wanted to build a powerhouse from scratch and settle down, and ROCCAT presented itself as his best option. "I changed teams often, and I would like to go to a squad and build something as YellOwStaR did in Fnatic, or stay in a squad and try to shoot for the top," he justified. "It's really hard to do, and you need to be a captain. That's what I'm trying to learn."
But, unlike the Unicorns of Love, Team ROCCAT stands within playoff contention -- and it has more to do with ROCCAT's recent acquisitions, and its ability to communicate as a team. Before week four, ROCCAT was one of the only two teams to secure a tie against G2 Esports, a squad that looks nearly unstoppable since the acquisition of Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez and Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen.
According to Steeelback, even though he and Airwaks contribute the most to the team's calls, he and his teammates all contribute to the overall shot-calling. That includes Raise, whose contribution contrasts with the minimalistic one of his shy top laner, Parang.
"Raise talks a lot," he added. "He isn't afraid to talk. He shot-calls even though his English isn't that good at the moment."
But so far, the squad's shot-calling has been hit-and-miss, and the primary issue seems to be its tendency to overcommit to calls. "For now, we throw games, and we struggle, but since we went 0-4 [in Week 3], I felt that we improved a whole lot," Steeelback said. "I felt we took bad fights. We didn't know when to back away. We always wanted, even when ahead, to be even farther ahead. So we ended up going too far and throwing the game."
The squad's head coach, Fabian "GrabbZ" Lohmann, is assisting his players in their effort to prevent themselves from overcommitting and to take a more patient approach: warding, farming and controlling the map. He also has helped them refine their in-game communication. Steeelback noted, as an example, "After the game, he goes to a player and tells him, 'You should have told them that you were recalling,' or, 'You should have told them that we were team-fighting.'"
Practice yields results, but it is a process. The 1-1 record against the Unicorns of Love stands as an example. A botched team fight in the first game allowed UoL to secure a landslide victory, and the AD carry indicated, "We took a fight when Airwaks was really low [health], but we didn't notice. So we still fought, and we all died."
"I'd like us to stay the course," the French AD carry concluded. "Even if we lose some games, that we don't feel down, and that we keep it up because, in the end, it's the playoffs that matter. We want to be in the top six."