North American League Championship Series newcomer NRG eSports lumbered unceremoniously into the playoffs their first split. They were promptly swept by Team Liquid in the quarterfinals. After entering the NA scene in 2016 with a fair amount of publicity, the team was shaky and had visible communication issues. Bearing the brunt of NRG criticism was rookie jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate, whose inactivity on the map had become a flash point of fan frustration with the team. Little did they know that the introspective jungler agreed.
“On NRG, I just wasn’t very good, especially at the beginning of the split,” Moon says. He laughs and shakes his head slightly. “Especially at the beginning of the split. I don’t think I really talked much, GBM did a lot of it.”
Lee “GBM” Chang-seok, one of the headlining NRG pickups at the time, also told Moon what to do when the then-rookie jungler didn’t know himself. “That’s never a good thing,” Moon says. “If someone else has to tell you what to do or where to be, you’re already too late. You have to learn what to do by yourself.”
A year has passed since Moon’s LCS debut. NRG is no longer an organization in the LCS and Moon has been given another chance on the big stage with another new, NBA-backed organization: FlyQuest.
“Being picked up by FlyQuest was really random actually,” he says. “I was sitting at home, I got some challenger offers but none of them were that great. Then FlyQuest had some problems with their old jungler, visa problems, and last-minute they were like, ‘Hey, the roster lock is today. Are you available?’” FlyQuest deliberated for about 12 hours before deciding on Moon after considering all of their available options.
On FlyQuest, Moon has found a new home. He still has a lot to prove to his doubters and himself, but he already looks more relaxed and happy than he ever did on the LCS stage last year. “I think FlyQuest is a really good fit for me because I have four veteran players around me. Already I can tell my nerves are a lot better, which is good.”
Nerves have been a public issue for Moon, whose performances have varied wildly on and offstage. Coupled with inexperience, Moon’s stage fright played a large part in his inactivity on the map. Moon became known as one of the most passive and ineffective junglers in the region. “On NRG I had only played one split prior to that on Team Imagine and we failed to qualify,” he says “That was my first team and then I went straight to NRG in LCS and played with Impact and GBM.” He laughs again, his voice incredulous. “It’s a pretty big jump. It’s been a year since then so I just think I’ve learned a lot.”
After an unsuccessful split with NRG, Moon spent last summer jungling for Team Liquid Academy. The more relaxed Challenger environment allowed him to focus, learn, and even take more of a leadership role. “On TLA, I talked a lot more. I think I improved a lot on Team Liquid Academy,” he says. “I think it helped to not be onstage for a split. Just playing at home comfortably in NACS helped.”
Now surrounded by veteran experience, Moon is quieter in comms again, but values the small moments he gets in game to evaluate his own performance. “I can just focus on myself a lot more,” Moon says. “Hai does a lot of the shotcalling and I feel like I talk a decent amount but if there’s ever a game where I’m like, ‘Oh, shit, I don’t know what to do.’ I can shut up for 15 seconds and just think. Just think to myself, ‘What am I doing? What are they doing?’ It’s really easy to do that when you’re not talking, but when you have to constantly talk and tell your team what to do it’s a lot harder so this is a really good fit for me.”
Moon also credits his stronger communication within FlyQuest to the fact that they’re a rare all-North American roster, the only one in the NA LCS. “I think there are a lot of teams that have hype, but I believe we’re the only full American team — although TSM is all-English as well,” he says. “A lot of teams have Koreans and imports and there’s always problems with that. It isn’t necessarily language barriers but there are always cultural differences, there’s just always problems with that and we won’t have that problem.” He reiterates that not only does FlyQuest lack the cultural and language barriers that come with a hybrid roster, but that he’s surrounded by veteran leadership and experience. “We have three players who have been to Worlds and then Altec who has always been a good AD carry,” he says. Despite the fanfare around another wave of imports and new hybrid rosters, Moon believes that the experience on FlyQuest and their ease of communication will prove successful.
With their first series under their belts, a win against Team EnVyUs, Moon and FlyQuest are taking things one game at a time. “I don’t think we did very well today,” he admits. “They had a sub, their mid laner was playing jungle. We had no idea, by the way. We found out by Alex Ich walking to makeup so it’s kind of random. I don’t think we played that well, especially second game — our team composition was just way better than theirs.”
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.