<
>

Immortals' low-key training style is key to its success

Immortals' Jason "WildTurtle" Tran, Adrian "Adrian" Ma and Seong "Huni" Hoon Heo celebrate with fans after defeating TSM and pushing the team's record in the NA LCS Spring Split to 17-1. Riot Games

Wake up. Practice. Scrim. Eat for 30 minutes. Back to practice. More scrimmages. Solo queue at night. Sleep.

Wake up. Repeat. This is the nose-to-the-grindstone approach that has earned a number of South Korean teams a wide spectrum of successes in the world of League of Legends.

While a regimented schedule is seen as the optimal way to practice, due to the results it can produce, North America's regular-season champions Immortals -- at a record of 17-1 -- aren't buying in. While other teams are doing everything possible to be as serious as they can be, Immortals live by a mantra of playing loose, possessing a free-flowing style, and -- most importantly -- having fun while doing it.

"[Dylan, our head coach] doesn't really push the players," said Immortals' AD carry, Jason "WildTurtle" Tran, during the final weekend of the regular split. "He's really not strict on the players. ...He's really laid back, and he's really good at bringing up stuff we need to work on. He's not really strict on what we have to do, he just expects the players to know what they have to do. And he's really good on pick/ban, too."

As a rookie head coach coming from the ranks of a highly sought-after analyst, Dylan Falcao can certainly be considered a player's coach. He has a sharp mind for the game when it comes to strategy, and he seemingly doesn't force the issue with an all-star cast of players under his watch. The players respect him for his intellect, and he respects the players enough to trust they'll accomplish what needs to be done. Instead of trying to be a dictator, or change the personalities of the carefree Immortals, he has embraced the team's quirks and used them to his (and their) advantage.

"[TSM] has good players. … They just don't know what to do at every stage of the game," said WildTurtle, about his former longtime team and their struggles in the regular season, as they finished a disappointing 9-9 and limped into the postseason. "They just don't feel in sync, as we are. They're just out of sync, and I think they can be a lot better if they're always on the same page."

WildTurtle knows too well about having a lack of coordination with TSM. His final months with the team last year were nowhere near his best, and the team's quick exit from the 2015 World Championships ended his storied run with the team he broke into the NA LCS with. After trying out for various teams, including a rumored pairing with NRG Esports, the gunslinger found his new residence with Immortals to start 2016.

"I don't think my mentality has changed that much," he told me, replaying the events from the offseason and if his mindset had changed from the end of 2015 to now. "After I was off on TSM, I was looking for new opportunities everywhere. My mindset was pretty good on the teams I was trying to get on. Immortals just decided to choose me, and I think it's working out pretty well for both sides."

Immortals? They were 17-1, earning a regular-season title and a first-round bye in their inaugural season.

WildTurtle? Most kills in the NA LCS Spring Split (by almost 20), a KDA of 7, and the second-most damage per minute (674) in the league.

Yeah, you could say it's working out pretty well for both sides.

With its semifinal opponent still in the air, and a few weeks before the team takes the stage in Las Vegas, the last remaining talking point for Immortals was the award for most valuable player. On a team with the best winning percentage in a single season in the history of the NA LCS, the likelihood of the accolade going to an Immortal was high.

"Well, if it's not one of us I'll be surprised," said WildTurtle.

"So who would you give MVP of the regular season to?" he was asked.

"For me personally, I think [Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin] deserves it," he replied. "He's really been the backbone of our team, and he really does the carrying on our team. He creates a lot of breathing space for all of our carries. … I really respect him as a player."

How about rookie of the split?

"[Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett] has impressed me multiple times, so I'd say Dardoch."

WildTurtle nailed the winner on both fronts, and Immortals dominated in several other categories. Falco won Best Coach, while Huni, Reignover, WildTurtle and Adrian were all named first-team All-Pros; Eugene "Pobelter" Park was named a second-team All-Pro.

With the Vegas Strip now squarely in their crosshairs, Immortals has two matches to go to wrap up the (nearly) flawless first season. It was a team with a good amount of hype thrown around about it in the preseason, and they've exceeded all expectations. Immortals entered the league as a fast-paced, devil-may-care squad of jokers, and they're entering the playoffs as a fast-paced, devil-may-care squad of jokers who believe this team has one of the best starting fives on the planet.

WildTurtle recalls his favorite moment with the team through the first three months. "When we were moving to our new house and didn't have any Internet, we went to a PC Bang and just played WarCraft 3 for like seven hours. We just played custom maps for seven hours, it was amazing."

Playing games together. Hanging out together. Being around each other. The strength of Immortals lies in the chemistry the five starters have found being around each other. They don't adhere to all the norms you'd expect from a team that believes they're world-class caliber, yet it works for them.

Have a laugh. Have fun. Win the game. And what better place and time for some serious fun than a weekend in Las Vegas with some of your best friends?