It was a sink-or-swim weekend for NA League of Legends Championship Series team Immortals, and at least for now, the team has stayed afloat -- two match victories in a row returned it to .500 after a tumultuous first half of the season. The first three weeks of the season were anything but consistent for the organization that last year won the regular-season title in its rookie split; through those three weeks, Immortals lost more games (10) than it had the entirety of last season with a different roster.
In Week 4, though, the team stabilized, taking four straight games to exit the weekend with some momentum behind its backs. The real tests will come in the upcoming weeks as the Immortals look to climb even higher in the rankings and secure a third straight playoff appearance.
Following Immortals' victory against Team Dignitas during the weekend, ESPN sat down with the team's new South Korean support Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung on his club's massive recent improvements and his goals for the 2017 spring split as an individual.
"Starting from the FlyQuest game [last week,] my mentality was really bad," Olleh said about his slow start to the season. "Outside the game there was something [else I was] focusing on my brain, and I couldn't focus in the game, honestly, so I [apologize] to my teammates because I couldn't focus [fully] on the game. And after we lost, my team didn't blame me, they just told me, 'We play as a team, we practice as a team.' So we decided to play as a team.
"For this week we actually practiced really hard, and every game we just make a plan on what we're going to do. I think our practice this week was really, really good," Olleh said.
It hadn't been only Olleh that had restrained the growth of the team in the early goings of the split. In the games where Olleh did show up, playing impressively on his skillshot champions of preference like Morgana or Thresh, there would be another member of the team or two who would make damaging mistakes at other positions. The only positive constant, Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett, even had his fair share of troubles, sometimes going for the home run play and causing a major blunder when a simpler play would have sufficed.
Olleh mentioned that he focused on only real life and practicing throughout this past week, shutting off the allure of the internet, SMS and other distractions. It paid off in spades, Olleh having probably his best week in North America, winning lanes with his AD carry partner Cody Sun multiple times and getting his marksmen fed early and often. Immortals, while not the juggernaut it was last year, was finally a team that appeared to be settling into its potential. If aforementioned rookie Cody progresses at a good rate, it could reach the same highs as last year's starting lineup.
"It's too big," laughed Olleh on his first impression of the United States and Los Angeles, talking about the differences between living in South Korea, Brazil and Taiwan. "[But] in Taiwan, sometimes I couldn't understand what they were talking [about], but now I can understand. If I don't understand [a word or phrase] I just ask a teammate and they'll tell me. Communication is much better than other regions. I also love the air."
One positive that Immortals had through its rough stretch in the first few weeks was the team's cohesion outside of the game, even when it wasn't apparent on the Summoner's Rift. No team member looked down on another, especially top laner Lee "Flame" Ho-jong, who still trusted in his team even after a tough loss in Week 3, expecting his teammates and himself to pick up their play as the postseason nears.
"After a loss, we don't blame each other. We say 'okay, next time we're going to better,'" Olleh said.
When asked which support in NA he looks up to or sees as a rival, he brought up Counter Logic Gaming's Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black, stating he watches how he shotcalls for his team and tries to emulate it somewhat in his play, trying to predict what moves Aphromoo would make in a situation. At the same time, however, Olleh laughs when mentioning how Aphromoo is also a bane to his own existence; the ambitious Immortals player wants to make it to All Stars as the support for North America, but he knows beating out the CLG captain will be an almost impossible task in his first season in the United States.
If this were Brazil, however, he would win the race in a landslide. Olleh gained ultimate popularity during his time in Brazil for playing on the "Team SoloMid of Brazil" in Pain Gaming and helping it be one of the best teams in the region. The Brazilian flocked to Olleh's upbeat personality and willingness to learn Portuguese, still following him to this day after playing in Taiwan and now North America. Wherever Olleh goes, so will the green and yellow of Brazil, whether he is the best support in his region or not.
"Every region I've played in [after South] Korea, I've [made it] to No. 1 support, even in solo queue, even on stage, I've been first. But last year [in Taiwan], I failed, I didn't play very well. I [could] blame my team or other situations, but I don't want to blame other people, because I just want to get back [to where I was]. I don't know if I can just get No. 1 support in NA this year, but I at least want to prove I'm getting better every moment."