Origen top laner Paul "sOAZ" Boyer is no stranger to the big stage. In 2011, sOAZ competed in the League of Legends Season 1 World Championship finals in Jönköping, Sweden. He's been to IEM's around the world, one of the biggest esports events out there. And split after split, you seemingly see sOAZ going for an EU LCS championship; with an unexpected victory over H2k Gaming last weekend, sOAZ will compete in his sixth final (out of the seven that have occurred).
Now, five years since that Season 1 World Championship in Sweden, he's one of the few pros from the original era that's still playing at the top level of League of Legends.
"I feel good about [my accomplishments]," sOAZ told ESPN in an interview. "But it doesn't matter so much about what I have accomplished in the past, I just need to keep on improving myself."
Of the remaining players to play at the Season 1 World Championship in 2011, sOAZ is the only one still competing full-time in Europe. The remaining three-Bora "YellowStar" Kim, Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, and Alex "Xpecial" Chu-all play in North America. sOAZ has made quite the legacy for himself.
"I have learned a lot [since then] about what is a "team game," how to interact with teammates and everything like that," he says. "What changed during the years is probably mainly my motivation, but my goals are still the same. I have never really dreamed about winning Worlds or anything, I just want to be a really good player in a really good team."
Luckily for sOAZ, he's a staple player on a team which is now competing for the title in Europe for the second split in a row. But throughout the regular season, Origen struggled to find its footing. The team didn't get to practice much in the offseason, and with a meta change in the game and an internet outage at its gaming house in Berlin, the team started the season 0-2.
"Before LCS, we didn't adapt well at all to the meta and kept playing this same Worlds  style," he says. "But this split impacted us a lot because we knew we could do better and we were frustrated about that, so we had a really bad atmosphere and couldn't communicate with each other. During most of the split it didn't felt like [we were] playing as a team."
That atmosphere made sOAZ express one common meme in our interview: "FeelsBadMan."
Two weeks before the end of the regular season, Origen turned things around, taking four games in a row over Unicorns of Love, ROCCAT, Giants Gaming, and Fnatic. That confidence boost led it into some good preparation before its first playoff match against the Unicorns.
Nonetheless, sOAZ wasn't happy with his team's performance against the Unicorns, despite getting the victory. He saw obvious improvements the team could make.
"I think we played quite poorly against the Unicorns," he says. "I was kinda disappointed even though we won 3-0. Even before watching the games, everyone knew what we did bad: setup Baron too early, push more our advantage by forcing plays, etc."
sOAZ's direct opponent in that match was Tamás "Vizicsacsi" Kiss-a top laner who has made quite the name for himself since joining the LCS in 2015. In fact, Vizicsasci is one of three top laners-including H2k's Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu and Vitality's Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet-who entered the LCS for the first time in 2015 and have been stars on their teams since. sOAZ is the most experienced top laner in the series, but he has a lot of respect for some of his new opponents.
"I still think the best tops are the same as last season: Odoamne, Cabochard, and I," he says. "The game is just different right now and not so much around top [if in a 1v1 scenario] but bottom, jungle, and mid sometimes."
Still, sOAZ already took down Odoamne.
Coming into this past weekend's series, H2k was favored by most fans and the entire Riot Games broadcast desk comprised of host Eefje "Sjokz" Depoortere, Unicorns of Love coach Fabian "Sheepy" Mallant, and casters Martin "Deficio" Lynge and James "Stress" O'Leary. And while sOAZ was confident in his team's ability, he also says he wasn't exactly positive they could pull off the upset.
"I thought it would be a close series," sOAZ says. "And I knew that we could possibly [beat them], but I wasn't fully sure."
sOAZ was right, while others predicted wrong. The series was extremely close, with Origen taking the win over H2k 3-2. A key factor to Origen's success was substituting in mid laner Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez, who is the owner of the team and a part-time player for the squad.
"We didn't play with both [xPeke and PowerofEvil] until quite late in the split so Power couldn't learn much from what Peke was doing in the team," sOAZ says. "But it's really good now."
The major difference between the players is experience and their strengths. Starting mid laner Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage is one of Europe's most mechanically skilled mid laners, but prior to this season, he's not played on a team who has strong organized teamfighting. xPeke, however, has played professionally for six years, so his strength lies in knowledge.
"Power is probably better at laning and Peke at communicating with what he can do and make calls," sOAZ says.
Next on sOAZ's list is G2 Esports. That team has found surprising success this season, its first completing at the professional level. Led by star young-gun mid laner Luka "PerkZ" Perković and jungler Kim "Trick" Gang-yun, the team has been the best in the EU league throughout the entire season. No one expected a rookie team to perform so well.
It took down legendary team Fnatic in the other semifinal-meaning Fnatic, sOAZ and xPeke's old team, won't make it to the EU final for the first time ever. G2 Esports looked extremely good against Fnatic and it will be a tall mountain to climb for Origen. But that doesn't make it impossible for them.
For sOAZ, he's confident his team can pull the upset at the Rotterdam Ahoy in the Netherlands on Sunday.
"I think it's gonna be pretty much the same as against H2k," he says. They had a better season than us, understood the patch earlier, and we have to prepare well against them."