Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya is the top laner for Counter Logic Gaming, who finished third in the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split playoffs on Saturday after taking a dominant 3-0 series over Team Dignitas.
Darshan spoke to theScore esports after his games in Boston about his team's preparation for the playoffs and his own thoughts on the franchise model being introduced in the 2018 season of the NA LCS.
As you know, 2018 NA LCS is going into a franchise model where relegation is removed. Normally we don't really hear about the player perspective of this thing and the uncertainty that players have themselves, especially in the case of CLG, which have announced their investment from the Madison Square group so late.
I was curious as to whether you or any of your teammates felt pressured by the situation, where CLG may not make it into the NA LCS. Did that ever cross you or your teammates minds or feel stressed out by it? How do you feel about this whole process and the application process so far?
So for me, I guess I don't really have too much context into what's actually going on with franchising behind the scenes between the organizations, but I felt that CLG has always been one of the most premier organizations. And when you think of NA LCS, CLG is one of the first organizations that comes to mind for most people, so I didn't ever really question whether or not CLG would be part of the NA LCS, I always felt that it was a given.
I wasn't really worried about franchising, I was more so excited and I felt like I didn't have anything to worry about, I felt like it is just better for everybody.
Why were you excited?
Because I just feel that franchising gives more opportunities for the league, the players, everything. There's more sponsorship opportunities, I feel like there's more branding opportunities, there's just a lot more money coming in.
If you're in the NA LCS, this would be the worst time to retire because I feel like this is your chance to make the most out of your career, branding wise and financially.
There's a new academy system that's being introduced through franchising. CLG already have an academy team, which I assume if you make it will be slotted in very nicely into that spot.
How do you feel about the academy system? Do you think that there's enough talent in North America to sustain that kind of system? Or maybe do you think there's not enough talent and that you have to outsource from other players to get younger imports to develop?
I think there is definitely some talent, but I think North America has done a poor job of breeding a lot of North American talent. I think you'll see a few new NA LCS players every split, but I feel like with franchising, with the academy system, a lot of these players will be in an environment where that can really grow, because they have that financial stability.
Even being on the academy team is such a benefit to anybody, whereas the challenger scene, right now, doesn't have that much incentive for a player. But going forward, the academy team is such an amazing opportunity for any player looking to grow, because they have a salary, they're a sister team of an LCS team, they're going to be able to practice with an LCS team, work with LCS starters and they also have a chance to replace the LCS starters.
As what happened with CLG.
Yeah, so I feel like, there's going to be an amazing chance for a lot of talent to grow and I think the whole system has mostly benefits, at least from what I've heard from the scene. I'm pretty excited for the academy team.
I've even told CLG before, I want someone who can be the sixth man, who can replace me if he's better than me, who could make me want to get better. For me, I'm not really scared of another player, even an LCS player from another region, or even an LCK player coming and being a B-man player on my team, because if I had someone who was close to my skill level pushing me to get better, that would be the best way for me to improve.
So I'm even more excited for the fact that there's an academy team that can also give me a way to push myself to become a better player.
CLG defeated Dignitas convincingly Saturday, after a shakier series against Immortals the week prior. What changed between then and now? What kind of preparation did you guys and head coach Tony Gray [Zikz] do, to ensure you were more comfortable in this series and that your synergy with OmarGod translated onto the stage?
So I would say that there's two big factors that made a difference for today, I would say the first thing was preparation. I came out of the EnVy series and Immortals series feeling really bad about how we prepared for the playoffs match, but in the Dignitas match we did almost everything that we could do to prepare for the match and I felt like, maybe not almost everything but, we just did a lot of preparation to get ready for the game from the draft and also from how we wanted to play and wanted to execute.
We just came in a lot more prepared than Dignitas and I feel like a Major key to feeling confident in the match is feeling like you prepared more than the opponent and I definitely felt like that going into our Dignitas match.
Drafting against them and playing against them, they felt pretty unprepared. That's the kind of mantra and mindset I want to take into every match. I want to go onto that stage knowing that we're going to win because we worked harder before as a team and we deserve to win because of that.
And another factor is that Aphro did a good job of stepping up and making sure we did everything as a team and that's always what he's been the best at, moreso than any other NA LCS player, leading a team to work together. I feel like he did a really good job of that today, which made the game easier to play and I also want to give credit to everyone else. I think Omar stepped up a lot and I think everyone played really well today.
Are you worried that you've shown your hand too much ahead of the gauntlet?
I feel like we still have many more Champions and strategies to run, so I feel like we barely showed our hand. I feel like it's better to crush Dignitas in a 3-0 and show them that we came here to play and they should be scared of us now.
You and Khan from Longzhu are kind of unique in that you've found success on hardcore split push champions in a meta where everyone's more focused on tanks and bruisers. Why do you think you have been successful with it where others have struggled?
I'm a firm believer that you can make most champions work if you're good enough at the Champion or if you know what scenarios it works in and I feel like Khan does a good job of that in Longzhu, where they find a way to make Jayce work, they find a way to make Jax work and it's the same thing with me in playing Jax and Camille. I'm good at knowing when I can make it work and knowing when I can play around it.
That's what it takes to be able to play a split pusher, to be able to play different champions. It's much easier to insert Maokai, Cho'Gath, Shen, or Gnar; a tank or bruiser. That's a lot easier, you don't necessarily have to play around it.
Playing different Champions outside of the meta requires more finesse and understanding of the game, but since we put extra effort into understanding when we can pick those Champions, and they're also Champions that we're really good at, it's something that we can pull out. And I wouldn't really say it's exactly off meta, but it's definitely on the edge of the meta.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a news editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.