After the Golden Guardians’ loss to Cloud9, I caught up with support Matthew “Matt” Elento to talk about Taric, staying motivated through losses, and how the Golden State Warriors are just like us.
Miles Yim: Another tough loss today for the Golden Guardians, this time against Cloud9. You only had a short time to prepare for them since you last took the stage. What was that process like?
Matt: It was pretty good prep that we had. I feel like, in comparison to yesterday, I think that draft was not as good at all compared to the one we got today. It felt like we had a lot of options, a lot of ways to win. It came down to the fact that we got to watch C9’s game [against Counter Logic Gaming]. C9 was playing against the same side that we were going to play against them, so we used a lot of strategy that we had already watched, and then implemented it. Our draft was pretty good.
MY: Speaking of that draft, you got Zoe this game for [Hai “Hai” Du Lam]. How does that pick change what you do as a team, and what priority you place on getting it?
M: I think Zoe’s pretty broken, a pretty OP champion. Getting it today, it really…We put an emphasis on getting Hai ahead, and Hai got really ahead. I think what it came down to was fundamentally we weren’t on the same page, or at least I wasn’t on the same page with what we needed to do to really break open the game. A lot of execution flaws. I’m sure I probably could have peeled better and made sure my backline didn’t die as much. I think having Zoe really freed up a lot of the map and gave us a lot of success today.
MY: You personally got Taric for the second day in a row, a champion that you had not played on stage over the past two seasons. Why shift to the Taric pick now?
M: I don’t really think it’s a shift. I mean, the meta has Taric and melee supports. Generally how draft has been going when I’m on stage, is that they pick their support early and then they ban out the rest of the supports, so I end up just getting put on Taric. It’s just how its been… I wouldn’t call myself a Taric player by any means. But I watch a little bit, try to pick up some stuff whenever I watch. I play him a decent amount in soloqueue. I don’t think I’m terrible at learning new champions or anything. I probably could have played better last game, but yeah, it’s just Taric so far.
MY: Let’s talk about your new lane mate [Matthew “Deftly” Chen]. How has communicating with a new AD carry been so far, especially since you both share the same name?
M: Well, it’s really easy between the both of us, we just call each other Matt. But for the rest of my team, we usually go by Matthew and Matt. I’m Matt, he’s Matthew…I don’t think it’s that confusing, especially in game since we’re kind of one voice anyway. I think we both have an idea of what we’re trying to communicate to the team as a lane. Outside of lane, we just use Matthew and Matt, it’s not too hard.
MY: As a veteran, how have you helped Deftly along so far to acclimate in his first LCS?
M: I talk a decent amount with him when we’re practicing, when we’re duoing. I think he’s just learned a lot on his own too. He’s really progressing. I love his play right now. He’s really good at knowing how to play his role, getting really farmed and getting really fed. I like his teamplay too, but just like any player, we have to improve we have to look at what we can do better. I think we can get better in laning, I think we can get better in teamfighting, I think we can get better at communication. We’re in it for the long run and trying to get better.
MY: When you scrim at the house together, and then when you watch the VODs after, what’s the biggest aspect—Bullet One—that you feel as a team you can get better at?
M: I think right now, what we want to focus on generally is team cohesion. What it really comes down to is getting to know what each player needs, each player wants, and then executing on that. If I’m bot lane and I need a certain amount of resources, a certain amount of tasks to be done, I gotta communicate that. And some games, if we’re not communicating well, we’re on different pages. I think right now, we’re all trying to get on the same page.
MY: And how does that work in practice, getting on the same page?
M: Getting on the same page in practice means, after the game we look at what we did wrong, why we didn’t communicate stuff, and make sure next time we communicate.
MY: Looking at the league more broadly, there were a few unexpected results this weekend. I don’t think anyone had both Team SoloMid and CLG going winless. What’s your take on the league so far? Is there anyone who looks particularly good or has impressed you?
M: Well, ever since I started playing, the first week usually doesn’t say much at all. Especially back in my rookie split, there were times where we were beating top teams at the latter half of the split, but early we were losing. We ended up being a top-four team by the end of the split. If you judge everyone by Week 1, you’re gonna have a bad time in the power rankings.
MY: This offseason you reunited with two former members of Team Liquid [Samson “Lourlo” Jackson and Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop]. What do you feel both parties, you and Locodoco, have learned in the time spent apart that you can bring to the table now?
M: I think me and Loco and Sam all learned a lot. None of us were on winning rosters, so I think it really…I think as a player, when you lose a lot, your morale gets really down, a lot of people retire. There’s not many people, at least from my point of view, I don’t see many losing players as me still stick around. I’m here everyday trying to work hard and improve. Sam’s the same way. Even for Loco as a coach, he wants to improve and make sure we get good drafts, that we’re focusing on the right things. Going forward, I think even though we haven’t shown any results, we gotta keep doing what we’re doing in practice, improve as much as we can, and eventually we’ll reach a point where we can disprove all the doubters.
MY: How do you stay motivated through all the subpar results?
M: Well, if I was from a third-party perspective, a lot of people would say money. But as a person, I’m not really attracted to money. I need money to live, but aside from that I’m not trying to buy Lambos. I do treat myself, I like to buy some fancy shoes. I don’t own any Yeezys, but I do own some Addias. But I’m not here for just the money, to collect checks. I’m here to try to be a good League of Legends player. I think a lot of people will just not care about that, and not take me seriously because of my results. This whole offseason I’ve been trying really hard.
I think a lot of the deal with my past, not showing up on stage, a lot of that came from having a really bad personal life, as in physical diet, physical life. I didn’t go to the gym as often as I should have, I didn’t eat very well in past years. But during this offseason, I took a real lifestyle change. Just dieting, making sure I’m eating the right food, making sure I go to bed at the right time, making sure I’m healthy and at the gym. I go to the gym almost every day. I haven’t drank caffeine in over a year. I used to abuse caffeine, drink three Monster drinks a day, or three Red Bulls a day, a liter of coffee (café americano). It was crazy. My personal life really suffered since I developed anxiety and a lot of mental issues. It was really hard to sort that out when every week I had to show up on stage and play. Eventually I was just getting ridiculed for how bad I was playing, and I had to make the decision to change my life because this is my career. I gotta change my life to attain the goals that I want in my career.
MY: Let’s talk about those goals, for you and your team. What would be a success this year for the Golden Guardians?
M: Success for me and my team…I see a lot of potential in my teammates and how they work, their work ethic. I think with these five teammates, if we make playoffs, if we go to the finals event, that would be a real success. I think being a top-four team this split would be a real success. That’s the real marker. But baby steps, man. We gotta get started and win our first game first. I haven’t given much thought to what our end goal is, it’s pretty arbitrary, at least for me. As a team we’re trying to make playoffs, but as an individual, I don’t set goals like that, at least not anymore. I just want to be better than I was yesterday.
MY: Golden Guardians are backed by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA. What interactions have you had with that side of the organization, and how has that impacted you?
M: Golden State Warriors, and the people behind the scenes, Kirk Lacob and everyone on the esports side, have had a really good message for us: We want to support you. We don’t necessarily understand your world, but we support you and what you to do your best. And I think that’s really good that we’re backed by them. I’m sure this is like a dream that every young esports person of yesteryear really wanted. We’ve got everything we need. I think the same sort of philosophy that helped the Golden State Warriors become so successful as a franchise is now being put into the Golden Guardians. And even though it took some time for the Golden State Warriors to become a championship-level team, I think it’ll be the same for the Golden Guardians. It’s gonna take a while to develop some players, develop some talent, and develop the structure. It’s just to say that whatever faults we have now, it’s to be expected.
MY: Deftly told me yesterday that when you guys visited the Warriors in San Francisco, you got to watch them practice, and seeing that influenced the way you carried your own practices. Would you agree with that?
M: Yeah, I think when we were there, I was personally caught a little off-guard. It was nowhere near as professional as I thought it was. [Laughs] Basketball players are just like us, dude. They’re human. When I was watching them do their review—which is basically our version of VOD review—they’re really bored. The players have like no attention spans too. One of them was just flicking a switch, another guy was playing with his hands like you’d expect a kindergartner to do. It was really surreal to see they’re literally just like us. They have it layered out in a structured way, but it’s not like they’re better people than us. We can achieve the same sort of results if we implement good structure. We’ll get there.
MY: Were you able to connect with the players at all, be it through a shared interest in video games or basketball?
M: I don’t watch basketball that much, so when I was talking to [Kevin Durant] and Steph Curry…KD doesn’t like any video games, he’s not into video games at all. But Steph Curry likes Call of Duty, some Halo, but he’s not a MOBA player. He said he was pretty interested in LCS. I think he said next time he’s around LA and has some free time, he’s gonna come by LCS. So I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these weeks Steph Curry pops up and gets a lot of attention. Maybe by then we’ll be a good team and can pull out some wins for him. I don’t want him to come down and see his team losing.
MY: Alright, bottom line it for me. Going into next week, what do you want to bring into the next set of games that you didn’t have this weekend?
M: Right now, for me, one thing I have to work on is focusing more on my role in the team. Making sure everyone gets taken care of in this meta. Being a melee support, especially Taric, I’ve got to peel a lot. Support right now, the role is a lot of peeling back and fixing mistakes. If you’re Tahm Kench, you just want to eat people if they get caught out. I think the same thing can be applied to the rest of my team; if we’re all playing our role, to the highest level that we can, we’ll start having that success.