Hello Benny, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen you last compete. What have you been up to?
Hi, I have mainly been relaxing for the last two months because our team was unable to practice due to everybody having to take care of their own real life responsibilities. Despite all of this leisure time, I have been playing solo queue to make sure I do not lose my mechanics. I have also been watching streams of the challenger scene tournaments in both North America and Europe as well as a bit of OGN to make sure I do not fall behind the current meta.
Last time we saw you compete was at Season 3 worlds. Although you were unable to get out of group stages what were you able to take away after 8 games in groups? Was this a good learning experience?
Playing in the group stages was definitely a great learning experience for myself and the team. It was an honor to play against the international teams that I enjoy watching and respect so much. It is hard to pinpoint a single “thing” that I took away from being able to play in group stages because the entire experience was amazing. Sure we were unable to advance into the semi finals, but just being there competing with everybody else and dominating the early-mid games against the world’s top teams is something we can be proud of. Our biggest obstacle is still learning how to end games and not get too carried away with our leads.
Some say NA had a disappointing run at worlds. What do you think needs to be done so that NA can take games off the top teams in other regions? Are we on track to do it in season 4?
I do not think that NA had the most disappointing run at worlds. Not to sound cocky, but I think that despite our throws, we had the best showing out of the three North American teams that went to worlds. Like I said earlier, our early-mid game proved to be ridiculously strong when we are playing our best. C9 may have gotten absolutely crushed in the two games that they lost to Fanatic, but they looked really strong in the game that they won. TSM also did not go down without a fight in their group either. With all of this being said, overall I would say that NA has to learn to play consistently at their “A game” just as the top teams from the other regions have done.
Since Worlds the meta has seen a drastic shift with the induction of patch 3.14. Based on your experiences with the patch, what are your thoughts on it?
Although my teammates are not too happy about the current patch, I’m okay with it. Why? Well for starters, the popular top lane champions are now all tanks, which is a role that I am very comfortable playing. People are scared of supports being super strong now, but since I am going to be primarily playing tanks, I could care less. Come at be, bros.
With the addition to the trinket system in patch 3.14 many top laners have been undecided on which trinket to take. Some will take the warding totem while others will take the sweeper. What is your personal preference and what circumstances is one more optimal over the other?
With my playstyle, I would much rather buy the warding totem over the sweeper. I play with more of a safe and defensive style, so any added vision is great for me. However, when the game progresses and you want to roam more, switching the warding totem out for a sweeper would not be a bad idea at all.
Lately in OGN and the NA/EU Challenger Scene the most popular top lane champions have been Shyvanna, Rengar, Renekton, Olaf and Dr. Mundo. What are your thoughts on these champions and what makes them strong in your mind?
What makes these champions strong at the moment is the changes to the mastery tree. For example, last patch people would build Renekton with either a 21/9/0 or a 9/21/0 setup, or a mixture between the two. Now it will almost always be 9/21 because the defense tree is so much better for a tankier champion. In the old tree, you could get away with 9 points into the defense tree and you’d still get armor/magic resistance and health. With this new tree, you will be much squishier if you were to invest 21 points into offense because the first 9 pts in the defense tree does not offer you nearly as much as it did before.
Are there any other top lane champions that you believe to be strong that hasn’t seen much play lately? Why?
Although I have not tested him out yet, I believe Cho’Gath is really strong right now. Just based off of theorycrafting, I think everything that Cho’s kit is perfect for the current meta.
Last season Shen was one of your most played champions but lately he hasn’t seen much action in competitive play. What are your thoughts on the current state of Shen? What do you think needs to happen for us to see Shen come back to competitive play?
To be honest, even though Shen was one of my most played champions, I never really liked the champion. I only learned him because he was arguably the strongest top laner in the game when played correctly. However, I still believe that he is viable right now and can compete with the other popular picks. I think people are just more focused on trying out different tops due to the new masteries and seeing what works well.
The NA challenger scene has drastically improved over the last few months. What are your thoughts on this? Does an improved challenger scene help the LCS?
The progress that the NA challenger scene has made in these recent months is definitely a good thing for the region as a whole for a variety of reasons. LCS teams who scrim challenger teams can improve more simply because their practice partners are getting better. It also promotes more competition going into the relegation matches. If a challenger scene knocks out a current LCS team, not only do they deserve to be there, but it also brings more competition into the LCS as well.
Has there been any teams or players that has impressed you so far? Why?
Out of all of the teams, I would say that I am impressed by Gambit Gaming the most, but to say this would be more of an insult to them. They are a team that I have respected since their debut as Moscow 5 and I am always excited to watch them play because they play as a single cohesive unit.
At the Battle of the Atlantic you will be facing a familiar foe in Gambit Gaming. Last time the two of you met was during the group stages at Season 3 Worlds where they managed to 2-0 you. They are also coming off an impressive performance at IEM Cologne where they didn’t drop a game. What are thoughts on the match up between the two of you? How do you think you will fare against them this time?
I do not want to sound pessimistic, but I would say that this matchup leans a bit more towards their favor. They have been practicing and competing while we have been on break. Nonetheless, I look forward to these games and we promise to make these games exciting for the fans.
How do you think the other NA teams stack up? Do you have any predictions?
I do not want to count any of the teams out, but I think that the overall score will either be 3:2 or 2:3. It is hard to predict the outcomes because it has been a while since we have last seen these teams play.
In the past XDG has struggled closing out games. Is this due to a lack communication, poor decision making or is it something else? Do you believe that you have fixed the problem?
The main reason for us throwing games was not because of a lack of communication, but it was poor decision making. This stems mostly from us not having a designated shotcaller. That has always been one of our bigger problems, so what we would do instead is have collective shotcalling where each member contributes in whatever what they can. This may not be the most efficient method, but it has worked for us in the past. I cannot say that we have fixed the problem yet because we have barely started practicing again, so we will see once LCS starts up.
What are your own personal goals for Season 4 and what are your goals for XDG?
Out of the rest of the top laners in the NA LCS, I feel like my csing is subpar, so racking up really high cs while still doing my job on Summoner’s Rift would be my main goal. Another goal that I have would be to stay on top of the KDA ladder like I did in the previous split. As a team, we plan to take the #1 spot and go to worlds again.
Thank you for the interview, is there anything you would like to say to your fans and sponsors?
First off, huge shoutout to all of the fans out there whether you are recent XDG fans or if you have been following us since we were Vulcun in the first split. Your support has helped bring our team to where it is today. Not only that, but you are also the reason why esports is where it is today. I would also like to give a shoutout to my amazing girlfriend, Sarah, to my very supportive family, and then to Marshall, Julian, Ken, Christina and the rest of the XDG Staff. Thanks to all of our sponsors as well (if they are reading this!) for all that they have done – Techbargains, Razer, iBUYPOWER, and LoL-Class.