WIN.gg caught up with 100 Thieves LCS top laner Milan “Tenacity” Oleksij and talked about bouncing back from losses, coaching changes, and a high-stakes bet.
WIN.gg caught up with Tenacity after the team’s loss to FlyQuest in the opening round of the 2023 Spring Split Playoffs winner’s bracket. 100 Thieves had surged to a third-place finish after a shaky middle of the split following sudden coaching changes. After the 0-3 loss, the young top lane star spoke about what went wrong and what the team is hoping to accomplish as they enter the lower bracket.
WIN.gg: We last caught up with you after your first proper LCS game, and now we’re catching up after your first-ever LCS best-of-five playoffs series. How do you feel coming off of the series, and how is it different from Challenger and sister-league teams?
Tenacity: I think, honestly, today I felt pretty nervous. I think the past couple of weeks that hasn’t really been an issue. But today, for some reason, I felt extra pressure that didn’t allow me to perform on stage as well as I’d hoped to. It’s pretty cool, best-of-five, because you go backstage and see what adaptations you can do for the draft or how you played. It’s small little reviews to optimize the game and play better. These games it came down to, pretty much, they out-teamfought us pretty hard, to be honest. They countered our plays, they knew what we were going to do, and they just had better hands in most of the fights.
You mentioned the past couple weeks being good for your confidence, and 100 Thieves went on quite the tear at the end of the split. How did you recover from a shaky middle of the split, how do you bring that morale back, and do you think you can use that to rally back in playoffs after this loss to FlyQuest?
I think at the end [of the split], when we went on our seven-game win streak, we all just gelled together. We know how we wanted to play, what we were going to do to win the game, and I think this loss is only going to make us stronger. Peter [“Doublelift” Yilang] and Soren [“Bjergsen” Bjerg] were saying back in 2020 they had this lower bracket run. They got 3-0’d by [Can “Closer” Celik], the Golden Guardians team, and then they actually ended up winning the entire split from it. So I don’t think anybody is too depressed about this loss, but we’re just going to take what we learned from today’s games, and hopefully we still make it to the finals.
Another big change that happened for your team right before your win streak was a coaching change, with Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm joining as head coach. What’s it like having a former professional player who’s been through a lot coaching you? What changes did your team and he make in order to facilitate this late-split surge?
Without leaking too much, he just found out what we’re the best at as a team, and he’s very direct with his criticism. He makes it a lot easier as well, because we’re not going to have these 30-minute f—-ing discussions every single game. It’s just taking away what we can learn and not doing the most. He can also do micro coaching as well as macro because, obviously, he was a pro player before, so if he thinks you’re playing wrong or missing windows he’s going to point that out. I think that’s been really, really helpful so far. He just makes everything super simplistic, which can help us think about more stuff inside the game, because we’ve already drilled [macro play] into our heads.
When we last spoke, you talked about your desire to be a flexible player and do whatever the team requires of you. You said you’d be happy to pick some tanks and “s—- on people in lane.” You’ve been doing just that, playing lots of Sion and Gragas, even some Cho’Gath in today’s series. How have you found the process of adapting to these team-oriented tanky picks?
It’s been pretty interesting. I hadn’t touched any tank champions ever, to be honest. It’s a classic way to win LCS games, to be honest. Tank weak side top lane, control mage mid, fighting jungler, and then just a hyper-carry bot lane. It’s the easiest way to play front-to-back, has good scaling, and a lot of these tank champions can win lane. I feel like I’ve opened my eyes up a lot more to how to win the game. For example, say you’re winning lane yourself, and instead of going for plates top side when you force [the enemy top laner] to base, you just go to the objective. One plate on a tank isn’t going to win you the game, but securing a dragon for your team or getting your hyper-carries ahead is going to win the game. I think we showcased some of that today, which felt really good. But we weren’t really able to execute well enough in the fights, so we ended up losing. It’s just a different way to win the game. I like winning, and this works for us, so I’ll keep doing it.
You mentioned a hyper-carry-focused style working for the team. We’ve seen a lot of focus on getting gold on Doublelift this series, but you said FlyQuest outfought you guys in today’s games. What went wrong and how do you hope to address those issues heading into the lower bracket?
I think we had a lot of positional errors in this series, from everyone, just going too hype. For example, we were diving the bot tier three and our carries are getting f—ed on 2v2 by their tanks. We hadn’t really realized they could actually do that. So more being on the same page in the game, today wasn’t the best showing of it, but in previous weeks we’ve been really good on that. So we just have to get our form back together and win the entire split.
Looking forwards, your next match is going to be against Golden Guardians. How do you feel about that matchup and what are you hoping to showcase?
I think they’re going to be a good matchup for us. I feel like their best players are their Korean players, but I feel like if we attack the other sides of the map and keep playing our own game, I still think our teamfighting is one of the best in the league. I think we’ll just out-teamfight them and win the game.
Earlier on in the split, you were sitting with the LCS shoutcasters, and you made a bet. You said if you lost to FlyQuest in playoffs, you’d shave your head. You’ve just lost one series to them, but you’re not out of playoffs yet. Are the luscious locks going away now or are you waiting for the possible rematch in the finals before breaking out the clippers?
There’s going to be a round two coming, so we’re going to hold off on it for now. It’s not over until it’s over, right?