Niels on going undefeated at Worlds, Hermit's coaching, and Origen's winning mentality
It seems almost too good to be true for European side Origen. Coming into the League of Legends World Championships the team was condemned by experts to flounder in what many considered the toughest group of the event, fighting with North America’s Team SoloMid at the bottom of the standings.
It was a fair assumption. Origen were drawn into a group with LGD Gaming, the number one team coming out of China, lining up with World Championship holder Seung-bin “Imp” Gu at AD carry, a team many thought could take the whole event. Then there was KT Rolster, a rising Korean team who looked like world beaters since adding support player Jong-Beom "Piccaboo" Lee to the lineup.
As it stands after four days of play, Origen sits undefeated atop the standings in Group D. It's an outcome almost nobody imagined, even Origen AD carry Jesper “Niels” Svenningsen.
“We didn’t expect anything coming into Worlds to be honest,” Svenningsen said. “We just knew we weren’t going to go down without giving good matches. I was not ready for 3-0 but I was confident we would put up a good fight in every game."
A good fight, apparently, was too much for their world-class foes.
Origen's shocking success in the opening week of tournament comes off the back of victories over LGD Gaming, TSM and KT Rolster. The biggest upset until their win over KT Rolster today was their agonizingly close game against LGD Gaming, which required a backdoor from top laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer to end the game. Svenningsen believes their 3-0 start is a combination of his team's improvement and other team's weakness.
“LGD are massively underperforming,” he said. “I think they played good in our game right up until they had to teamfight. Then in game two and three they had terrible drafts, giving up Mordekaiser and putting their jungler on Nunu because seemingly he’s not very good unless they get Lee Sin or Rek’Sai."
Origen is winning games off a combination of their individual talents and a better understanding on how to play the game right now. Part of that is likely the performance of their head coach Tadayoshi “Hermit” Littleton, who is now receiving lots of praise for Origen's solid preparation.
“As a coach he helps us with how to practice, he’s there watching the games with us saying what he thinks and what went wrong at different parts,” Svenningsen said. “He leads the discussion and asks the questions that let us find the answers. Our draft phase is something we do as a whole team, including Hermit."
Svenningsen himself cannot be overlooked, though. Few players play with his grace and panache, but he's a rookie playing in his first professional season. The AD carry has gone from an unknown amateur to dominating his opponents on the World stage in the span of a year. Svenningsen, though, has always believed in his ability to make it this far.
“I think I have always been pretty good; it was just that I couldn’t join the LCS due to the age restrictions," he explained. “I got a lot of offers from LCS teams when I finally became old enough to play but I decided to join Origen since I really liked what was happening there. I think one split in Challenger Series also helped me a lot to improve as a player in competitive matches as well.”
Through three games, Svenningsen's posted a superb 15/3/17 KDA line. He's controlled his lane in all three games and played mistake free; sometimes you won't notice him, but that's a good thing for an AD carry dealing damage from the back line.
Thanks in part to Svenningsen's play and Origen's preparation, the team has now almost secured their spot in the knockout stages of the tournament. One more victory will guarantee a quarterfinal match in London.
But Origen won't get ahead of themselves. Svenningsen himself said their goal was always to advance from the group, and they haven't accomplished it yet.
Yesterday Origen jungler Maurice “Amazing” Stuckenschneider spoke to the Daily Dot after their win over TSM, mentioning that the team and his personal success is due to the “40% rule”, where he gives himself a 40% chance to succeed. That means he can stay confident in his chances, but not complacent in his mastery. Svenningsen says the rest of his team share a similar mindset.
“We have never gone into any match thinking that it was a guaranteed win and that’s what makes sure we remain focused,” he explained. “We definitely don’t ever want to be overconfident before going into a match but you always have to be confident that you can win.”
That means the team will be focused on next week's decisive Saturday schedule, where Origen will face the three teams in their group a second time to determine who survives. But Svenningsen isn't afraid to talk about what might happen in a potential quarterfinal match, should Origen build off their 3-0 start.
“I would prefer not to play against SKT or EDG if we could avoid it. Before the tournament I thought that SKT, EDG, and LGD would be the favourites to win the whole thing,” he said. “Obviously LGD might not even get out of the groups now but SKT and EDG still look really strong so if we could avoid them early on that would be nice.”
Even with an outstanding 3-0 record, Origen's position is not guaranteed. While they remain close to qualification to London, they are still keeping their eyes on the prize. Group D draws to a close on Saturday Oct 10, when each team will face off one more time. LGD Gaming need a miracle, but a miracle could still get them through. Team SoloMid have hope after a victory today, but need to show improvement. KT Rolster will be scratching their heads after falling to Origen, but hold their own fate squarely in hand. Origen is in the driver's seat and now a heavy favorite to advance, but as we've seen so far this tournament, nothing plays out as you might expect.
That's okay for Svenningsen and Origen. They'll be ready.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr