LGD Gaming have had a difficult 2016 so far. Following a 2-4 run at the 2015 World Championship Group Stage, the team signed Jang "MaRin" Gyeong-Hwan and Xie "Eimy" Dan and began the LPL season with high hopes.
Despite renewed vigor, LGD lost most of their initial series, only defeating Energy Pacemaker All in Round 1. Since their 2-0 win against Vici Gaming, however, LGD Gaming have been on a six series win streak, including a swift 2-0 of the QG Reapers, Group A's first place team.
Team Captain Chen "pyl" Bo took a moment to chat with theScore esports about LGD's turnaround this split, their stylistic changes, and improvements in communication.
LGD's style since 2014 focuses a lot on pushing out side waves. How and why did you develop this style of play?
The strategy of constantly pushing out side waves wasn't something we deliberately learned, but it came naturally as a result of our team playing together at that time. Individually, we may have not have been as strong as other teams, but pushing out waves gave us the ability to put a lot of pressure on the other team and force fights and win this way.
I read other interviews going into this split where you said that you felt like you didn't have the best mental state. Was this still as a result of some of your international performances or was there another source?
I don't think it's because of those performances so much as my own personal style differing from LGD's style right now. My style doesn't seem to suit the team as well this season.
Could you expand and explain how you would describe your own style and how the team's style works now?
I feel I am naturally the kind of support who likes to communicate a lot with my jungler. Right now, the way we play, we are more focused on sending our jungler top side. Since top is on the opposite side of the map, I am forced to play much more defensively and I don't roam as much. I think I'm not able to make as many plays or express my impact until team fights.
What about the current meta or your style makes it hard for you to roam?
I don't think it's the meta so much as how our team has decided to play. It's really important to emphasize that it's particular to LGD.
Then as a team, you are moving to a style that requires the bottom lane to be more self-sufficient and rely on the rest of the team to control the early game?
Yes, that's what we're doing right now. Unless we have a really good matchup in the bottom lane and can really pressure the other team or if MaRin plays a tank, we can play more to bottom side, but otherwise we won't.
Within this style, do you think it's possible to begin incorporating more of the way in which you are comfortable playing and roam more?
No, I think it's probably not possible this season for me to play my own style.
Speaking of lanes and LGD's style, there has been international criticism of lane swaps in the LPL. As LGD have improved, you've lane swapped more often. Could you discuss how your team thinks about lane swaps and perhaps why you think other LPL teams might not execute them consistently?
I think that the main reason we have been doing lane swaps better is because our coach Heart will watch LCK matches and then get the team together and tell us why LCK teams make decisions like this at every minute in a lane swap. So what we do after that is that we try to replicate it in our scrims. As long as we don't make individual mistakes, I think our lane swaps can compare with top teams in the LCK.
As for the other Chinese teams, I haven't been paying as much attention to what they do in lane swaps, so I can't comment.
Beginning to lane swap has been a recent development, and this sort of strategy is very communication-dependent. Has there been an improvement to LGD's communication?
I think that our improved communication is a factor in why we've been winning recently. I also think that because we've been practicing lane swaps a lot in scrims, it has helped our communication. It's a two-way street. Because we practice lane swaps, it forces us to communicate more, and communicating more improves our lane swaps.
Earlier you mentioned Heart. Could you tell us a little bit about how you would characterize his coaching style and strengths and weaknesses as a coach?
Heart is very responsible and serious about coaching. I don't have that much experience with coaches overall, so this is a hard question. Heart is mature and used to be a pro player, so I think he is used to taking on the older brother mentor role. He looks at a lot of games in other regions and does a lot of analysis, but he's also good at taking care of each individual member of the team. After scrims are done at night, he will go to the individual players and say we need to talk. He'll talk about the player's mentality or matchups. So I think he's a pretty good coach.
When MaRin joined the team, there was a lot of speculation in the west that his experience as a top laner who communicates a lot would change your communication style. I know you've always been a primary voice in team communication, so can you discuss how that dynamic has worked since MaRin joined?
Actually, because MaRin is the type of top laner who has the team focus on him during play, it was really hard to communicate initially because MaRin's Chinese wasn't very good when he first arrived. So it was very hard for MaRin to communicate with our jungler and coordinate ganks to get MaRin ahead early. It was also very hard for him to communicate with the rest of the team during team fights.
At the moment, as a result of your in-game improvements, a lot of press has been more optimistic about LGD Gaming. What are your team's goals for the rest of the split?
We hope to make Top 3 or 4 this season. I haven't thought far enough ahead to consider other goals.
Do you have anything else you would like to say to fans in the west who like to watch LGD games?
I'm really grateful there are still people in the west who watch my games because LGD didn't do well last year and we haven't been performing much lately. So I hope everyone watching will look forward to our performances in the future.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.