Defying all expectations, aside from possibly their own, CIS team Albus NoX Luna shocked the League of Legends professional scene on Thursday by becoming the first International Wildcard team to qualify for the bracket stage at a major event. Their 4-2 run through Group A at the 2016 League of Legends World Championship included a win against Korean first seed ROX Tigers.
After their qualification, theScore esports chatted with Albus NoX Luna jungler Alexander “PvPStejos” Glaskov on his team's qualification and what it means for him, Wildcard teams, and the CIS region.
How does it feel to become the first Wildcard team to make it out of groups?
I feel comfortable because, well, I didn’t lose. The last two games we did lose but we decided to test some Jayce/Kennen stuff and some cheese at level two. I feel pretty sad that we didn’t win all of the games but sometimes you just lose.
Your tiebreaker game against the ROX Tigers was a lot more difficult than your first game against them today. How do you think they approached you differently the third time?
I think after [the Tigers] Level 2, I started to lose jungle a lot and after that dive on our bot lane and my lack of success in the jungle we couldn’t really compete with them. Ezreal and PraY, this mechanical monster by size and by place, he’s a really hardcore AD carry. If he gets fed, you won’t win a game.
How did it feel to win against a team that most believed were one of the best in the world? What does this mean for your team and your region?
I don’t think that it’s actually that we are much better than they are. Just sometimes, in this one game, we played better than them, that’s all. They were still really good. They lost early really hard but they took two Barons, they were taking Elder Drake. I think that my part in this game was actually really hard. My impact on the early game, abusing KurO, abusing a bit of his mistakes. There was an expression that Koreans catch my spears as well as other teams, I mean, wow. Seriously. I just thought that that I’d pick Nidalee — I can’t play her in solo queue because she’s always banned, I can’t play it in scrims because, on the blue side, people ban her and on the red side I have to ban Nidalee because I respect the junglers I play against. A good jungler on Nidalee can do just wonders. It was really strange when you win against the best players in the world and can compete with them just coming from LCL. Before this tournament, everyone in European solo queue was like, ‘Aha, Russian I don’t respect you a lot.’ People who come from Russia are not really respected by the EU West community at the highest level. After this, I think that people will respect our region much more.
You previously mentioned that Albus NoX Luna had difficulty finding scrims. Has that changed?
I think that other teams respect us and they now don’t mind scrimming us because it’s always interesting for them. We show them some interesting stuff, some different plays. All the people today ran Karma or Nami, some Jayce/Kennen stuff, it can get a little bit boring, but we bring them something new, something they maybe forgot. It’s always good to train yourself and we give them a good warmup.
What do you think your chances are at advancing from the quarterfinals?
It depends on the teams that we’re going to get. Even with a good, optimistic mood, I can’t say that we can definitely beat a top Korean team in a best-of-five because SKT and ROX Tigers are best-of-five monsters. Against other regions, I think that we have chances.
What does this accomplishment mean for you as a player?
I have been playing League of Legends since the first season on different names and different accounts, different positions, for four or five years — this says that my work, my interest, my time wasn’t spent for some useless thing. It’s a very big achievement for our team and our region, like Moscow 5, who can go to the big stage who can play even or even win.
Your team is familiar with long best-of-fives from your LCL Finals and the IWCQ Finals, yet preparation for a best-of-one group stage and a best-of-five is a lot different. How does your team approach preparing for a best-of-five?
We always think, ‘Okay guys, we go 3-0 and relax,’” he laughs. “But we understand that we can’t do it in the three games, we probably need to play five, and that’s pretty unlucky but our best thing in the team is that we have full-metal nerves. We are calm. We had only one game with nerves in this tournament, the first game against the ROX Tigers. After that game we were like, ‘Okay, no pressure at all.’ For myself, I can say that I feel pretty comfortable on the chair on the stage and nothing can interrupt our play.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.