History was made Thursday at the League of Legends World Championships. Wild-card qualifier Albus Nox Luna from the CIS region prevailed in Group A to finish second-place to South Korea's champion the ROX Tigers to become the first club from a wild-card region to advance into the bracket stage of the League of Legends World Championship.
We spoke to the team's star support Kirill "Likkrit" Malofeev following the monumental achievement.
"It's really cool, we've dreamt about it," he started when asked how it felt to make it through the group stage as the ultimate underdog. "At the same time, it's really confusing because we came here as nothing, and no one expected [anything from us]. We were the 16th team in everyone's Power Rankings -- except for [Riot Games'] Jatt, so thanks for 15th place -- and no one believed in us but ourselves and our fans. I still don't understand how we completed our goal. Ask me tomorrow, maybe I'll be more prepared."
If there has been a main character of the tournament so far, it hasn't been two-time world champion and the game's greatest Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, but Likkrit, who has enchanted fans with not only his play, but honest interviews afterwards. His story will continue onto Chicago where ANX will have another shot of turning the esports world on its head.
"Well, I'm considered one of the most toxic players in EU West [server]," he said, laughing at his new position as the poster boy of the World Championships after years of being his region's outspoken 'bad boy.' "For me, it's an opportunity for a fresh start because it's not a good thing to be looked at as toxic and angry. I'm not [really] like this. I'm a very passionate player [in solo queue and can rage]. But in front of the crowd [talking] I don't have to think much about the game, so I can actually think [over] the stuff I say, and the things I say are coming from my heart. I don't know why people like me so much -- I'm not special, everyone can do it."
When asked what the toughest game of the group stages was for him, he incredulously responded, "Do you really need to ask question when you already know the answer?"
Of course the game he was speaking of was the 66-minute marathon victory against the ROX Tigers that secured ANX's spot in the final eight of the tournament. After going through a war of attrition in one the longest games in World's history, the CIS champion was able to come out the victor through stellar map play and macro from the entire team.
"The game against ROX, I consider it to be one of the five hardest games in my life," he said. "[That says a lot] because I've had some hard solo queue games."
Likkrit says when the team made it to the quarterfinals, the words coming out of his mouth were quite colorful. "I was happy. I was like, 'Hey guys, I'm the last one standing, so I'll just leave and let my buddies [the minions] do the job for me.'"
On the topic of which team he would like to avoid in the bracket stage, the first answer was the team he had just played against in the ROX Tigers. Likkrit was thrilled he wouldn't need to see them again until at least the finals if both clubs made it that far. The other team is the defending champion SK Telecom T1. "No one wants to face SKT! They always come to the tournament with people saying they're not as good as they used to be and --" Likkrit starts clapping his hands furiously. "[They] clap your face. I don't want to be that guy that gets clapped."
That said, Likkrit wouldn't mind facing fellow support Luan "Jockster" Cardoso from INTZ. "We're from different countries in wild card, but we've become bros. So if not quarterfinals, sometime later [in the tournament]."
Likkrit's long locks of hair and harmonious, inspiring words after game interviews has afforded him the nickname "League Jesus" by Riot caster Aidan "Zirene" Moon. All the kind words in the world won't win you a League of Legends match, though. But no matter what the quarterfinals hold for ANX, the sportsmanship displayed by Likkrit will solidify the wildcard's legacy as one of the most humble teams in League history.