North American Challenger Series team Winterfox are set to unveil a new-look roster that will feature some Challenger prospects as well as one high-profile addition.
Coming into the team will be Lyonel “Arcsecond” Pfaender, as well as substitute players Ryan “ShorterACE” Nget and Kenneth “ExecutionerKen” Tang. The biggest name, however, is easily Kristoffer “P1noy” Pedersen from Gambit Gaming. While Pedersen is still under contract with Gambit Gaming, the European organization has already replaced the player and an agreement is close to being made.
These players will replace a series of high-profile departures, including Eugene “Pobelter” Park who has moved to Counter Logic Gaming, Dong-jin “Helios” Shin who is taking a break from competitive play, and Johnny “Altec” Ru who has joined Gravity Gaming. Given that the team’s offseason had been a continuation of the wretchedness that had seen them get relegated, the news of these additions will be a welcome change of pace.
In a statement to the Daily Dot, Winterfox team coach Tristan “Elderpeko” Young emphasized the squad’s LCS experience. “I think that even given the losses that our roster incurred during the off-season, we have a talented core of players to work with” he said.
“Nearly all of our team has LCS experience, and from the conversations I’ve had with them, they seem eager to work hard and learn hard; they have positive outlooks and high energy. ShorterACE was a sparkplug of energy when he subbed for Winterfox, and will only contribute positively to both our play and atmosphere. Despite his team having a poor record in the NACS, Arcsecond was a very strong player for TSM Darkness, and will bring us strategic strength in the mid lane. P1noy will be starting alongside ExecutionerKen in order to bring experience and aggression to the team. I believe that he and Ken will pair well together, and hopefully bring our bot lane above and beyond Challenger Series standards.”
He also addressed some of the criticism surrounding Korean top-laner Deongyheon “Avalon” Shin, brother of the team’s on-hiatus jungler, who had been singled out for some poor performances over the course of the season.
“Despite what people think about Avalon, he has proven to me that he has what it takes to compete at a high level. He’s always looked for ways to improve, but simply didn’t have the environment to fuel his drive before I joined Winterfox. This season will see change.”
The stand-out acquisition is the new European import. Provided the deal goes ahead, Pedersen will be leaving his native Denmark for an American adventure in the next few days. While he says he’s “excited” to have the opportunity, he’s under no illusions: It represents a backward step for a career that was yielding some promise.
After Gambit ended 2014 with a win over Counter Logic Gaming in the finals of the Intel Extreme Masters Cologne, many felt the team could be the surprise package of the European LCS season. Kristoffer’s performance in lane against the legendary Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng was enough to earn him some serious plaudits. That wasn’t to last once the split began, however. The team couldn’t buy a win in those first few weeks.
“We had a quite lackluster performance in the beginning and the morale was quite down,” he recalls. “Understandable, I guess, considering the 0-5 start. With my own performance I think I had a strong individual showing also considering what was given and the role I played in the team. I think there might have been three games where I underperformed.”
He pauses and then adds: “And then there was play-off which was a disaster for me.”
He cites mitigating circumstances. There were Internet problems that meant the top floor of the apartment, where he was located with his support Edward “Edward” Abgaryan, was being hit with packet loss. On top of that, relationships were starting to become a bit frayed between the coach and the players creating what he describes as a “negative atmosphere.”
“I asked if it was possible to go home to Denmark which only takes like two hours and practice from there but was denied,” he says. “It felt like we weren’t having efficient practice at all.”
That lack of practice led to a 3-1 mauling at the hands of Unicorns of Love with their AD Carry coming in for a lot of criticism. At this point it seemed inevitable he would be the player put on the chopping block as the team looked to strengthen for the next season.
“I can see the argument for letting me go,” he says. “But I can also see some benefits for keeping me. I definitely saw a change had to happen before going into the Summer split though. I felt comfortable during the off-season as indirectly the manager said that I would stay and play after the playoff series but it’s alright.”
Coming into Gambit is the statistically strongest AD Carry in the European regular season, Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou. The high-profile player requested a transfer from SK Gaming following a series of internal issues and many felt his next move could be to North America. When that wasn’t possible, Gambit swooped in and filled Pedersen’s shoes with a player with pretty big feet. Even the person he’s replacing has to admit it’s an exciting prospect.
“I think it can be a really good replacement for the team, even though it’s hard to judge how they will do with him. I don’t think the current patches are about raw individual performances, but I wish them the best of luck with him and I hope they show me why they decided to go with him over me.”
Following in the footsteps of other European players who have made their way to the North American Challenger Series after falling from grace (think Jesse “Jesiz” Le, Matthew “Impaler” Taylor and Jonas “Trashy” Andersen) with the sounds of derision in their ears, he still hasn’t lost confidence. He hasn’t taken the transition from exceptional to expendable too hard.
“It’s always like that,” he laughs. “People always look at your latest performances and judge and I say may God be with all of the fans whatever they say. I know what I’m capable of doing and I’m self critical, so what they say negatively doesn’t have any affect on me.”
Speaking about the new lineup, the potential star AD carry says he has faith in the players around him and that he expects good things for the upcoming season.
“I’m still confident to be back in LCS come the Spring Split of 2016. I have a lot of faith in this roster and I’m super excited about how we’ll do. I think we will be in the upper end of the NACS and hopefully put up a great performance. It will be a tough road. But I believe.”
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr