The Golden Guardians are looking for redemption. After placing 10th in its inaugural split of the North America League of Legends Championship Series, or NA LCS, the team has spent the offseason gearing up for a fresh start.
The Golden State Warriors, owners of the Guardians, were recently crowned the 2018 NBA champions. Although the achievements of the Warriors dwarf those of their League of Legends counterpart, Samson “Lourlo” Jackson, top laner for the guardians, isn’t fazed.
“I think for some players, organizational pressure is definitely there. But all I want is to set a high standard for myself and live through my own motivation, so I don’t have to rely on anyone else to push me,” Jackson said. “Maybe I’ll fall short, but my mindset is that I’ll push until I can’t push anymore.”
The team has been hard at work since March, fine-tuning everything from quality of practice time to communication among players. The latter has been particularly important in the mid lane, where Son “Mickey” Young-min, a new addition to the roster, is making himself comfortable.
The original Golden Guardians roster featured Hai “Hai” Du Lam, an outspoken veteran mid laner of the NA LCS who was renowned for his shotcalling skills. The decision to replace him with Young-min, announced in April, was a controversial one. Still, it seems that the change has been mostly positive for the Guardians.
“Mickey has been really good for the team — his individual play is really strong,” Jackson said. “The thing we’re looking to improve on is the best way to get information from him to us. He has a lot of knowledge to share — the question is how can he relate that to us?”
Lam’s departure also left a much-discussed leadership void. Many fans wondered who would command the new roster, with its relatively reserved members, in game.
“When Hai was on the team, everyone was still contributing a lot in terms of communication, but when he left (we all) had to step up a little more to fill that role,” Jackson said. “We have the general approach down — it’s just fine-tuning and finding what works for us.”
In their first matchup, against OpTic Gaming on June 16, the Guardians couldn’t come up with a win. OpTic concentrated pressure on the mid lane and Young-min was completely shut down despite picking Lulu, typically a safe laner.
The team’s second game, however, seemed to reflect the months of offseason training. Up against Team Liquid — winner of the Spring Split and the former team of Jackson, Young-min and Matt “Matt” Elento, support player for the Guardians — the Guardians secured their first victory in a 22-minute upset.
Though early wins don’t necessarily predict future performance, a win over the current NA LCS Champions is sure to give the Guardians a little confidence. For a team that won its first match in week four of the Spring Split, a 1-1 finish in week one of the Summer Split is a welcome change.
With much to prove, the Guardians are determined to start the Summer Split strong and carry that strength into the coming weeks of competition.
“I want to impress not only the people who are underestimating us but also the team within,” Jackson said. “I want to make sure that our morale is good and have a really good showing from the start, and make a run for playoffs.”