Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer may have lost his starting spot on Team Liquid at the end of February to Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin, but he didn't let that deter him from continuing his competitive career.
He decided to travel to Korea, play solo queue, and generally work on his own game. He left in mid-March, and only just recently returned.
While there, he stayed in a hotel with Challengers Korea team Ever8 Winners, faced off against Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok in a solo queue game and found confidence from his performance on the Korean ladder.
We sat down with Goldenglue to look back at the Spring Split, ask him all about his adventure in LoL's strongest region, and talk about the road ahead.
Looking back at the Spring Split, what was your biggest challenge as a player?
I think my biggest challenge came from dealing with the pressure of all the losses that we accumulated. And knowing how good of a roster we had, and the kind of organization we were playing under, how it's not really acceptable to lose that much. So I definitely had a lot of problems dealing with that, and I think my confidence kind of took a hit, and my play decreased over the split as we kept getting more losses.
Did it weigh on you that you sort of became a scapegoat for the team, when people were pointing to you as the issue?
It definitely made me want to practice harder, to make sure that people couldn't say that about me. But in the end, I think it's always a team game. And the community usually just points fingers at people, but in reality it's the whole team's fault if you're losing, it's not one person more than anyone else.
So it weighed on me some, but not that much.
Do you feel like your actual level of play overall decreased as a result of the pressure, or was it just translating your skills to the stage?
I think I got a lot better at translating my practice results to the stage, but we just were not very good as a team. We had a lot of issues as a team. So even if I could translate my practice skills better to the stage, we still had too many team problems for me to really do well.
So by the time you had made improvements, it was just too late to turn the team completely around?
Yeah, it was kind of like ... I mean, I wasn't doing too well myself, at some times. And as my play got worse, everything just started to [become] a shamble. But at the beginning I thought I was pretty good at translating my practice to stage. Eventually though, as the season came along, there might have been a little bit more of a disconnect. I think most of it stemmed from all the losses we had.
When was the first time you thought about going to Korea?
Right after the reality set in that Piglet was going to mid and I was going to be subbed out, I basically just had to spend a lot of time thinking. I was really depressed, and I had to think, "do I want to keep doing this? Do I want to keep playing competitive, do I want to keep playing League? Or do I want to do something else with my life?"
And I decided, obviously, that I wanted to keep playing League. And then I just thought about everything that I could possibly do: what's the best possible thing that I could do to improve myself as a player? Because that's what matters the most.
And I came to the conclusion that, going to Korea [was that thing] ... and it happened like right after I got benched, basically.
If you had decided not to continue with League, what would have been your first choice?
I still don't know. It's rough, between .... I would like to do streaming, but I don't think I'm in a place where I could viably consider that a career path right now. And I don't know what I would go to school for.
There aren't too many great choices.
So when did you lock in the decision that you would actually go to Korea?
Well, the hardest part was getting all the pieces in place. I wanted to find someone to go with, I wanted to have a friend who wanted to go to Korea and practice as well, so I could split the costs and have another English speaker, and all that stuff.
So I spent a few weeks trying to get other people, and trying to figure out where I would stay, how everything's going to work.
I would say it got locked in about two weeks, maybe two and a half weeks or so after I got replaced.
And you didn't end up finding anyone?
No, I didn't.
How did the discussion with your parents go?
I can't really remember. They're pretty understanding and supportive, and they let me do whatever I want. So they were kind of like, "alright, good luck."
What were your living arrangements like in Korea?
I had pretty nice living arrangements. Thankfully, Reignover got me in touch with a manager over there, and I stayed at this Ever8 hotel. So I slept in the Ever8 room, and they — Ever8 Winners, an LCK Challenger team — had like a conference room in the hotel, basically. I would go in there, and I had a computer, and I would just play with the Koreans in there. It was pretty nice.
So when you say hotel, it was members of the Challenger team who had rooms at an actual Ever8 hotel?
Yeah, they're sponsored by them.
Were you in a room with other guys all the time, then, or did you have your own space?
At first it was just one big room, but I had my own space, I had my own desk. I definitely had enough space. A little over halfway through, they ended up switching conference rooms to where it was an even bigger room, and I had my own room that I shared with some of the other people who were there, but weren't on the team. Like I was with Flame (Lee "Flame" Ho-Jong), he was there for some of the trip. That's pretty much how it was.
How was communication? Do you speak any Korean, or did they speak enough English for you guys to converse?
Most of the players spoke very limited English. I could sometimes still talk to them a little bit, but very brief and small things. There was one guy who was there, his name was Hoon and he could speak very good English, so I talked to him a lot. He wasn't a player but he was there with the team, practicing.
And I don't speak any Korean besides hello ... and all the slurs I picked up from Korean solo queue. That's pretty much my limit.
So you fired back a bit in the solo queue chat?
Sometimes, sometimes. I will say one of the best things, though, is that you can't read chat. If people are flaming you, or flaming each other, you can't read it. It's so nice. I can't understand it.
I saw you matched up against Faker once in solo queue; you were playing Kassadin and Faker picked Zed. What was that like? How did you feel, knowing that you were about to play against him?
I was pretty excited, because I get to play against the famous Faker on one of his famous champions, Zed. So I was pretty excited, but I was also really nervous because I blind-picked Kassadin, which is something that I have not done since that game (laughs). But yeah, I blind-picked Kassadin, which is not a very good matchup into Zed, and he counter-picked me.
Going into the game, I was basically just like, let's see how this goes. I'm in a bad matchup, I'll just do my best.
The game ended up turning into a ... I didn't know it would turn into a big YouTube thing, but it's really whatever. I don't really care.
How exactly do you think that playing Korean solo queue has prepared you for a return to the LCS?
I think a lot of people are saying it's like an anime saga, he's going to the Korean hyperbolic time chamber, or whatever. I just mainly saw it as, this is the place where I can get the best practice.
I feel really prepared to start practicing as a team. I feel like I've got a lot of individual champion practice, and I'm ready to start practicing as a team again. I've built my confidence back up, I think that was a big thing, and one of the biggest things going into Korea.
I think that's the biggest way it's prepared me to go for the next LCS split.
You mentioned in an AMA that you were consulting a sports psychologist. When did that start and how has that process been for you as a player?
I've worked with a sports psychologist before, on Team Liquid and on Ember. But this was kind of an individual thing, I got in contact with him from a mutual friend. We started talking about right before I left for Korea. We would basically do phone calls every day, every other day, for an hour or two.
It helped me think more about macro, and be more self-aware of the decisions I'm making and their long-term effects. And at the same time, it also helped me more on the micro aspect of it as well. Today, if I'm super tired or I'm super burned out, I can just take a rest, take a little break and go back at it again. I don't have to play 24/7.
So he helped me a lot with the decision making I had to do. It's mainly outside the game, like preparing and having my mentality ready. He doesn't really know too much about inside the game. He knows the basics, but yeah.
There are all these pre-conceived notions about what a trip to Korea means: about the solo queue environment, the country itself, and its status as an esports mecca. What was the biggest surprise of your trip?
Honestly, the biggest surprise from my trip to Korea was how nice all of the Korean Challenger players were, all those guys. I felt like part of the team. They started inviting me to meals, I went out to the bar with them. I would do 1v1s with their mid laner, and we would talk very briefly about some matchups, and good picks versus other picks.
I was just super surprised with how kind they all were. And it made the trip a lot better. I didn't really feel lonely at all, even though I went alone.
You said in the AMA that there's a chance you could return to Team Liquid. Can you clarify that? Would you be trying out for Team Liquid?
It's basically like, I have a chance to try out with them, not guaranteed yet. It [depends] on a lot of things.
But yeah, there definitely is a chance. I don't really what more I can say about that, because I don't even really ... it's kind of in limbo right now, I'm waiting on decisions to be made.
There is a chance, though.
You also said that Liquid was your number one choice. Given all that you've gone through with this team, and the fact that you lost your starting spot, why is Team Liquid your first choice?
I really like a lot of the management, and the people inside the organization, and the infrastructure.
I think they have very similar goals with me, and they're really good about taking care of their players. They always make sure all their players are taken care of. Not to mention, I think Reignover being on the team, I think he's one of the best junglers and I'd love to get to play with him again.
And it's just a really good organization, in my opinion. One of the best.
Is there anything else that you think people should know about your trip to Korea?
I would say the only other impressive thing about my trip to Korea was, I didn't even realize until afterwards, but I played more games in that five weeks in Korea — more solo queue games — than I had on all three of my North American accounts since the season started.
So I played a lot. To be fair, the reason that I don't have so many NA games is that I played scrims, which don't get recorded. But still, I played over 400 games in about 4.5 weeks. I played over 13 games a day, so I put in a lot of work.
I think it'll show.
I like that last comment, because it sounds that you're confident in how this experience has changed you as a player.
Yeah. Even just the journey of going by myself, it definitely created a lot of confidence in myself. I was determined enough to do something like this, and if I just keep practicing, keep getting more experience, and keep working hard, eventually things will go well.
Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.