The Unicorns of Love could not be happier after their 2-0 showing on Week 4's second day. The team signaled its arrival in style following a tie against Vitality by edging out H2k-Gaming on the second day. But there was more at stake.
"We said it three weeks ago: We need to win 2-0 on a Friday to go watch Warcraft," said the purple-haired manager of UOL Romain Bigeard, who finally sees his squad's hard work come to fruition. "We had a couple of difficult weeks, so now I'm really happy having this 2-0 result before the movie is out of cinemas."
When I asked him about the unorthodox ways he cheers for his team, the manager said there is more to come. Previously, he, head coach Fabian "Sheepy" Mallant and the players dyed their hair purple for week one.
"If you enjoy your job, you're going to be efficient at your job," he said. "My job is to make sure the five guys enjoy the job, and sometimes they have to be a bit ashamed of me. As long as you guys are laughing, my job is done."
"It's completely fine," Kiss "Vizicsacsi" Tamas said when asked what he thought of the situation. "Romain is the best manager ever."
Getting to this point was a slow and tedious process, but neither Vizicsacsi nor Bigeard felt discouraged. Following the exits of Pierre "Steeelback" Medjaldi and Hampus "Fox" Myhre, the Unicorns of Love needed to rebuild around their cornerstones, Vizicsacsi and Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov.
"We took our time to select carefully a mid laner, a jungler, an ADC fitting with Hylissang, so Hylissang had a big role to say about the ADC," Bigeard said of the rebuilding process. As Vizicsacsi's duo queue sessions with Fabian "Exileh" Schubert proved conclusive, and as Kim "Veritas" Kyoung-min meshed well with Hylissang, the squad was able to bring Kang "Move" Min-su into the jungle.
On paper, Veritas's bilingual proficiency in English and Korean was set to help Move follow up on calls. But practice outdid theory, as Move's simplistic yet concise communication abilities in English helped the squad greatly. "It's actually the dream communication you can reach as a player -- that you can communicate through very basic words and [convey] valuable information," Vizicsacsi said. "That's something we're all trying to pick up."
With communication being a nonissue, all that was left for the squad to do was to win. Therein lay the hardest challenge, as the squad piled up losses, but the team's will hadn't wavered. Besides some of the players' onstage inexperience, the squad needed to solve some of the jitters that plagued it in its first few weeks. Vizicsacsi said the Unicorns need to learn to get comfortable with one another. At first, there was trouble in scrims: 1-on-1 duels lost, dying to simple ganks, losing vision of the enemy jungler. It was bad enough that getting to mid game was proving to be a challenge.
As the team stuck together throughout the process of adapting to the rigors of the LCS and to the practice demands, despite the initial losses, Bigeard started enjoying the squad's newfound stability, a matter that hadn't happened since Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek's departure from the squad in the 2015 LCS summer split.
"I think it's easier to work with everyone when you have the same players from one week to another," he said. "It's the nicest five guys we have, and it's so valuable. We know it even more because last year we saw: At one point, living together, a little problem can turn into a massive one and damage your in-game performance. But we have guys who are so nice this time, even if we were losing that much, I wasn't really scared."
Fan support hadn't wavered through it all, which added extra motivation to a squad that had enough to begin with. Bigeard said that even during losses, the crowd always had their back. In times such as those, he said, it makes you want to push forward. It's encouraging to want to win not only for yourself but also for your fans.
Win they did. The squad found a rhythm on Week 3 with two momentous ties: one against Vitality (which they are tied with) and the other with G2 Esports (who led the LCS until Friday). But Vizicsacsi informed me that they could have won those series had they had a smoother time at closing out games.
"That's what we tried to work on a lot during this week by picking engage compositions, always having a champion that can initiate fights," he said. "So when we get vision control, we can get ahead. And when the enemy tries to contest objectives, we can force the fights, and these are advantageous situations for us, so we can win by that."
A botched draft in the second game against ROCCAT stood as the lone game in which the squad relinquished control and opted to forego picking an engage-centric champion. Suddenly, a squad that had totaled three points going into Week 4 more than doubled its tally to tie with ROCCAT, Origen and Vitality. For Bigeard, the Unicorns of Love's performance is a precursor for things to come, as the squad's arduous practice regimen has started paying off.
"Now we really know why we're winning, how to win. We are following a proper schedule and a proper plan -- going from A to B to C, and at the end of the day you win," he said. "That's what happened yesterday, that's what happened today, and most likely, that's what's going to happen next week if we keep practicing like this."
What's next for UoL? More winning, according to him.
"There is no luck in this game," he said. "If we were winning yesterday and today, it's not by luck. It's because we worked for it. And we're going to win this week because we're going to work for it."