With Immortals, Eugene "Pobelter" Park has seen seasons that run the full spectrum of success. The team had dominant regular season performances in 2016, but started 2017 with a whimper.
Now, with the addition of jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero and coach Kim "SSONG" Sang-soo, the team is once again in strong form, sitting atop the NA LCS rankings with a 9-3 record in a first-place tie with Counter Logic Gaming and Team SoloMid.
Pobelter sat down with theScore esports to talk about NA dominance, how he stacks up against other NA mids, and which champion his support Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung most resembles.
How much easier does it make it when it's a friend [in Xmithie] joining your team instead of just someone you've worked with?
It's just comfortable, I guess, because I know what it's like to work with him already. And I know we've had success before, so that gives me a lot of confidence, to be able to have confidence in each other.
I feel like Olleh has stolen the show from a lot of the league's supports, this has been a pretty big split for him. What is it like to play with him, and what kind of teammate is he?
Olleh is a really light-hearted guy. If I had to compare him to one character in the game he's actually kind of like Bard. A lot of the time, he's very wild — not saying that in a bad way. He's very aggressive in his plays and his calls. He kind of does his own thing sometimes, to the detriment of the team, so we kind of give him crap about that.
Just jokingly, like, "What are you doing? We said not to go in there, and you walked in there and died to like five people!" And he's just like "Oh sorry, sorry, sorry, my bad, my bad, my bad."
You guys are facing off against CLG and HuHi, the guy who literally took your job on CLG. What do you expect from the matchup against him?
I think we just try and play the team game and do whatever will help our team succeed. I feel like our team is stronger right now, so I think that we'll win. We'll just play for our team, I guess.
Do you ever think about being able to show people who might have made decisions about you [versus HuHi] that you are the better mid laner in a matchup like this?
Not really. I try not to pay attention to things like that, and I'm pretty over the decision that they made years ago. Anyways, they just did what they thought was right.
We saw NA destroy EU at Rift Rivals, and it feels like even a lot of NA players didn't expect the level of stomp that we saw. What did you think before the tournament, and what did you take away from it? Are you at all surprised by the result?
I thought it would be more even-sided, honestly, because NA and EU have been kind of similar in the past, it feels like. But yeah, this time NA stomped EU pretty hard. I think the main reason is that NA pressures a lot harder throughout most stages of the game, and I don't think European teams were ready to handle that.
You guys have had serious success this split. How real is the threat of becoming overconfident at this point in the season?
I don't think there is any threat of that. We've been at the bottom before. Last split, we were a really bad team. We're all pretty seasoned players, for the most part, so we know that even if we have success there's always stuff to be working on, stuff to be improving on. So I don't think we're going to get overconfident or anything like that.
Given what happened to Immortals in 2016 — where we saw very strong regular season performances but not as much playoff success — how do you feel about the upcoming postseason? Have you learned anything from those playoffs that you plan to keep in mind?
Playoffs are kind of like just do or die, I guess. In the regular season, you can make mistakes and lose a set here and there, and it won't have a huge bearing when it comes down to it.
Playoff games tend to play a bit more slowly than games during the regular season, because there's a lot on the line.
How do you see yourself stacking up against the rest of NA as a mid?
I think everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, honestly. You can say that Jensen is really, really dominant in lane. Really good, really safe, a bit aggressive.
Or there are other players who roam a lot for their team, but aren't as good in lane, things like that. In terms of where I stack up, I don't really beat myself up in my head about, "Oh, am I better or am I worse than this guy," things like that. I think I'm definitely one of the better mids in the region but I don't really focus too much on [whether] I'm the best, I'm the second best, am I the third best, how I compare.
Who would be the midlaner in EU LCS that you most want to face off against?
I guess it would be fun to play against Perkz, because he's had a lot of success in Europe for the past couple years.
The most recent patch has earned a lot of criticism on social media and there have been some serious balance swings this season. With a patch looming, does it make it harder for you to practice?
Not really, I mean in scrims we're just preparing for the weekend on the patch that we're playing, which is on the tournament server, which is the same patch that we'll be playing in LCS.
Yeah, in solo queue there will be some differences, and it will be a different patch to what we play in LCS, but usually there's only like one week of overlap where we have to deal with that. And you can still generally practice most of the things that haven't been changed from patch to patch on the tournament server. So it doesn't really affect me.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity
Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.