After ending their season as it began—a loss to Clutch Gaming—I caught up with Golden Guardians’ rookie AD carry Matthew “Deftly” Chen. We spoke about weathering a rough season, points of improvement, and offseason bootcamping in Korea.
Miles Yim: I remember the last time you played Clutch Gaming, they frustrated you with an Orrn support. This time, you threw some curveball picks: Volibear and LeBlanc. What was the thought process behind today’s draft?
Deftly: Well, we played Volibear into Zac against Echo Fox. It’s really good into Zac in that you can cancel his jump every time he jumps in, so there’s no threat to your team. That was our counterpick there. LeBlanc is one of [Hai “Hai” Du Lam]’s comforts, and he really wanted to play it, so we let him play it and he did really well with it. All things considered, I think our team comp was really good. We should have won this game. They even gave me Xayah and Rakan. Was that disrespect from Clutch? No, I don’t think it was disrespect; they had a plan for it with Caitlyn-Thresh, a really strong laning combo if played correctly. They made a couple mistakes in lane, and we could have punished harder. Maybe we could have pulled out the win.
Clutch are going to playoffs, and you’re on the outside looking in. In your mind, what’s the difference between Golden Guardians and a team like that (wins aside)? What do they do that you don’t?
They are very consistent. They beat the teams they’re better than and lose to the teams they’re worse than. When it comes to us, we’re the exact opposite. We have really good games and sometimes beat the teams we’re worse than: Team Liquid, Echo Fox, 100 Thieves, almost Cloud9. But we’re not able to beat the teams we should beat. We think we’re better than OpTic, better than FlyQuest, but we’re 0-2 against these guys. Those are the losses that were playoffs for us. Those four wins would have put us into playoff contention for the last two weeks. That’s definitely something as a team we need to improve on. Consistency is really important, but also consistency in game, not just wins and losses. Making sure every game is smooth and solid, instead of having it really erratic and chaotic, I think would be a really good fix for next season.
After today, your first NA LCS split is behind you. What does accomplishing that feel like?
It definitely feels a bit unreal that I’ve now successfully finished an entire split of NA LCS. A year ago, I was in my room, going to school, never thinking I’d even make LCS. It’s crazy to think, but at the same time, it leaves a lot to be desired. I want to improve a lot more for myself and my team, and I never want to be in a scenario where I’m 10th place again.
Finishing 10th out of 10 teams means there’s a lot of room for improvement. What exactly are you looking to improve on over these two months off?
Personally for me, I really want to improve on aggressive teamfighting. Right now, my teamfighting is just average, but I think it can be a lot better. During this offseason, I’m going to work really hard and be one of the best AD carries coming into next season.
For more of a team goal for us, we as a team need to respect enemy windows. Times when they’re first to the fight, or times when they want to fight and we don’t. Once we get that down, we’re definitely going to be a contending team.
You started putting up impressive damage numbers in the second round robin, especially on Xayah. With performances like that, have you grown into a leadership role at all?
When the season started, I just let my teammates choose whatever we wanted to do. [Samson “Lourlo” Jackson] would call, “Hey, let’s go dive top! Hey, let’s go do that.” Now, I’m asking for favorable matchups, good scenarios. I’m calling for dives bot, like we did today. We did a four-man dive bot and got four kills for zero, which was really good, and we got the tower. I’m not going to say I called all of it, but me and [Matthew “Matt” Elento], I think we’ve improved a lot in terms of early game calling, calling for resources.
I think if you look at the past three weeks, [Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia] has gotten off a successful gank bottom almost every game. I’m really happy about that, because we had our analysts send us our jungle proximity percentages, and we were one of the lowest bot lane-to-jungle. We got no ganks, strict 2v2 (actually 2v3 since the enemy jungler would come to us). Now, it feels really good to be in control. My improvement and Matt’s improvement comes a lot from the team playing around us more. That’s something I’m looking forward to in the summer. The better our team gets, the better me and Matt can be.
In what ways have you and Matt improved as a duo over the split?
When the split started, we were kind of nervous on stage a bit. We didn’t really want to take trades, we didn’t want to 2v2, we didn’t want to fight them, let’s just farm it out. Now, I think we’ve grown out of our shells, we’ve become more whole as players. In today’s game, we burned Thresh’s Flash by ourselves in the 2v2, almost killed him if I had played it better. But that’s on me. If you look at the Echo Fox game, me and Matt killed their bot lane quite a few times. As the split has gone on, me and Matt have developed a really strong synergy. Hopefully people won’t look at us as the “Golden Garbage Cans” or something, you know?
[Laughs] It’s actually hella funny, because sometimes I watch LCK, and they’re like, “What, Deftly and Matt are playing now?” I don’t mind the meme at all, as long as we play well. That’s always something to be proud of, Deft and Mata are a really good bot lane.
Tell me more about your expectations for Summer Split.
Going into Summer Split, I of course want to finish Top 3, playoffs, definitely playoffs. But personally, I want to aspire to a Top 3 finish. In order to do that, we’re going to have to work really hard as a team. Sure, we can say we’re growth-oriented, but things have to change from each individual player on the team, from each individual coaching staffer. Because if the split just goes on, sure we’ve improved, sure we’ve improved this split, but it has to be a big enough growth so that we’re not at 10th again. I think there’s a lot that needs to be changed.
Speaking of the coaching staff, how have you adjusted and grown with [Head Coach] Tyler Perron?
At first, I was kind of hesitant with Tyler. I really liked [Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop] as a coach, he really helped me develop a lot individually since he used to play AD carry. He taught me about the micro stuff I need to fix, a lot of the macro stuff I need to fix, what champions I should be playing. I was a really incomplete player at the start of the season, and he really whipped me into shape. Luckily, I had those couple weeks with Loco, so I improved a lot. Once Tyler came in, it’s more of an equal relationship I’d say. We share our thoughts and find what’s best together. No one’s higher than the other, and that’s how he keeps his relationship with all the players, and that’s a lot of the reason why our atmosphere’s so positive.
What do you think makes this combination of guys so happy and positive, able to weather the losses?
It starts with the players and moves on to the coaching staff. Each individual player isn’t toxic; you could say I’m the most toxic on the team, because sometimes I get a bit upset. But everyone else hates conflict. Contractz hates getting into arguments, hates getting into fights, and he just wants everyone to be happy. Same with Sam, he’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met. Matt, he’s from Hawaii, so he’s happy. And Hai’s Hai, so you can’t get really upset at him. It really starts with the players, and on top of that we have a really great coaching staff that supports us no matter what, even when we’re 4-and-whatever. It’s a really supportive atmosphere.
What does your offseason schedule look like? It’s mid-March, and we won’t see you back on stage until June.
For my team, I think we’re just going on vacation pretty much. I know a lot of the players are just going to play a lot of soloqueue since they were really unhappy with the result of the season. But personally, I’m going to Korea, and bootcamping there myself since my team doesn’t want to. I’m going to be working really hard. Hopefully I’ll come back a lot stronger.
Why is it important for you to bootcamp in Korea?
I’ve gone once before, two months before this season started. The winter vacation was really long since I played Challenger, so I got to watch all of Worlds from Korea. I wasn’t there, but it was cool to be in the same time zone so you don’t have to stay up really late. It’s really neat, because putting yourself in a foreign environment, where no one speaks English, it really makes you figure out who you are. So not only was I able to develop as a player by just playing soloqueue, I was able to grow as an adult. I stayed there for about a month or so. That was the first time I was living alone. It was definitely a learning experience.
What was your setup in Korea?
On eUnited, I played with [Lee “GBM” Chang-seok], and he lives in Korea. He rented out a small apartment for me, him and [Eric “Licorice” Ritchie] to share. It was ridiculously small, the size of a bathroom or a little more. We all had our computers there and we just slept on the ground. We’d wake up, play soloqueue for 10-12 hours, go eat one meal, and that was our day. Now that I look back on it, it was really rough, but at the same time, I’m glad I did it. I would definitely go through that sacrifice again.
In what ways has your life changed since getting the call up last winter to NA LCS?
It’s been very rocky, emotionally. Taking a lot of losses is hard for me, because I have a really competitive nature and hate losing. That’s just how I’ve been since I was a kid. I played a lot of sports and man, losing sucked. I’d rather not play than lose. But on this team, I’ve learned to endure the losses, and savor the losses in a way, because losers improve in a way. But outside of that, I’m really happy with the team atmosphere, it’s something I’ve never experienced before. If you look at any of the other bottom-tier teams along with us, I’m sure their environment’s not as good as ours, nowhere close. All five of us are happy, cheery, and we don’t give up on each other. Even after this last game, no one gave up on each other. We all played as a five-man unit, and that’s something to be proud of.
When you look back on this split, what are you going to remember from it?
Our wins. We don’t have many wins, so I can remember all of them. 100 Thieves, Echo Fox, CLG and Team Liquid I think were our four. Especially the 100 Thieves one. Emotionally for us, that let us know hey, we can play the game too. In that moment, we were in so much, what’s the word…we were clawing for a victory. We were 0-6 at that point, that was our first win against one of the top teams. We were just, “Wow guys, we can fucking do this.” That completely turned around the team atmosphere, it really brightened the mood.
Finally, do you have a message for Golden Guardians fans?
Thank you guys, however many of you there are, for supporting us this season. It’s been a really rough season. I’m happy you’ve supported us through the ups and downs, and I’m going to make sure that next season that our team will be a playoff contending team.
LOSE IS IMPROVE, I WILL 1V9 NEXT SPLIT #GGSFIGHTING
— matthew (@deftlylol) March 18, 2018
This transcript has been edited for clarity.