At the end of Spring, we found ourselves in a tough position. After spending the entire Split building synergy, there had been some remarkable improvements, especially with our bot lane duo of Olleh and Cody Sun. It still wasn’t quite enough; we had spent the last few months slowly assembling a puzzle, only to find at the last moment that we didn’t have the final piece that fit.
Enter Jake “Xmithie” Puchero. Most fans would recognize him in the blue and black of CLG, especially after he won the 2015 Summer and 2016 Spring North American Championships. He had a familiar face by his side in 2015: our very own Pobelter, serving as CLG’s mid lane. Pobelter moved onto Immortals, and Counter Logic Gaming stuck together with the same lineup, through thick and thin, until we made an agreement for Summer 2017: they would take the mechanically gifted Dardoch, and we would take Xmithie.
After a 2-0 opening weekend in the Summer Split, the arrangement’s looking very good so far.
No Ego Involved
While the casters and players have talked at length about Xmithie’s leadership skills, he didn’t sign on as an Immortal with that in mind. “I said [to Noah] that I could be a leader if the team really needed it, but also a follower.” he says. “I’ve been on five, six different teams, and I’ve played different roles. I told them I could be flexible, and be whatever they wanted me to be.”
One big benefit of Xmithie’s long career is that the game doesn’t hold a lot of surprises for him. “I had been here for a long time – that’s a big benefit. I’ve been here for every meta in the League scene, and it’s a cycle between tanks, carries, assassins, poke… Every meta, I’ve been through.”
Xmithie offered Immortals the flexibility to be whatever the team needed, and that philosophy already paid off. In our first week, everyone expected Xmithie to lead the charge on a tank. Instead, he picked Elise and Lee Sin, and aggressively set up plays. Backstage, while the team was in good spirits, Xmithie kept everyone focused on the games ahead.
Xmithie may have been on five or six teams, but Counter Logic Gaming is the team he’s most strongly associated with. While he was always acknowledged as a crucial part of CLG – after all, the team did win two Splits, make second at MSI, and attend Worlds – he was considered the backbone of the team. Aphromoo, the support, was considered the captain and true leader.
Despite Xmithie’s flexibility and ability to fill many roles, he immediately found himself identifying problems on Immortals as he stepped in after the Spring Split. “The first week I’ve been here, the most obvious thing I noted was the language barrier.” he says. “It was kind of weird at first, not knowing everyone’s voices.” Dealing with a multicultural squad isn’t easy, and Flame and Olleh are still working hard on their English.
After a Spring Split of building synergy, Immortals was nearly bristling with energy. Many of our Spring games were defined by aimless aggression or failed plays. In our early Summer games, we started to put that energy to good use. The effort from Spring is finally paying off, with the proper puzzle piece put in place.
That’s not to say that it’s been a totally smooth journey so far. “We’re eliminating our communication issues and figuring out the best communication style for the team. That’s that we’re figuring out right now.”
Xmithie isn’t a complete newcomer to Immortals. He and the notorious P.O.B. played together to win a North American championship. “It’s nice to be playing with him again.” Xmithie says about his old pal. “The benefit of being with Eugene again is that he’s always reliable on any champion he picks. I always expect him to be even or go ahead and communicate pretty well on what he wants to do with the team.”
That old friendship starting up again on Immortals seems to have paid off for Pobelter; he picked up the most kills in week 1 of the NA LCS Split. Maybe that good attitude is infectious, since Flame rocked the highest KDA. Xmithie’s solid presence in the jungle is letting our solo laners shine.
While Xmithie’s hands are full with the starting roster, he’s also helping to develop Immortals’ next generation of talent, especially jungler Andy “AnDa” Hoang. “The subs are always with us – scrimming, playing, on our schedule. Right now, we want them to learn, so they’re soaking up all the knowledge we have to give and that the coaches have to give. The coaches are looking for specific perks they can bring to the team, after bringing them into scrims.”
AnDa and Stunt are both playing with the team, learning not just from Xmithie, but from the coaches and other players. “We keep the same schedule as the main players. If we’re not playing, we’re watching from behind or in the client, and learning from their gameplay.”
Getting the subs up to speed is a team effort, but Xmithie is being a leader in that aspect, especially with Anda. “For the most part, I’m learning from behind, and then I’ll ask him questions. Why did you do this, what should you have done, things like that. The best thing I’m learning from him is communication. I haven’t been scrimming for almost a year [due to visa issues], so I’ve only been playing solo queue, where you don’t communicate with anyone. I’ve been learning to communicate and picking up small things from Xmithie.”
Xmithie’s acting as a leader, but his flexibility means that the arrangement lasts as long as the team needs, and everyone else on the team is finding a stronger voice as well.
Summer and onwards
After winning our first best-of series against Team SoloMid, the team atmosphere is understandably optimistic. Part of the struggle over the Summer Split will be maintaining that level of performance. Despite the fact that the odds seem stacked against us, both Xmithie and head coach Ssong are focused on the end of the Split.
“My goal has always been to do well at Worlds.” says Xmithie. “That’s everyone’s goal right now too – do really well this split, get first place, or go through the Gauntlet.”
It’s one hell of a goal – but after our first week performance, it doesn’t seem too wild.
Immortals plays Team Envy on June 9th (later today) and FlyQuest on June 11th for our Week 2.