Exileh: “Getting a lot of criticism grows your character. Every player needs to get through this phase at some point.”

Photograph taken by: Michal Konkol / Riot Games

After going 3-3 during the group stage, the Unicorns of Love have qualified for the Rift Rivals finals against TSM. We got to talk to their Midlaner Exileh about his struggle during Rift Rivals, how to take criticism as a player and the importance of the Unicorns of Love fans.

Congratulations on finishing the group in first place. How do you feel right now?

Even though we just lost to P1, I feel pretty good. The past weeks were pretty horrible in terms of my personal play, but I think I improved over the past days. The first day of Rift Rivals was really bad but I realized what I did wrong. I think that I’ll be able to fix the majority of the mistakes I did over the next few weeks.

Even though I went something like 0-3 most of the games, our mid to late game is really solid. It’s a quality all of us have noticed and we’re really happy with it. It’s the early game that we, that I need to fix. I’m confident we’ll be able to improve a lot.

What was your problem specifically, especially in the first two games?

I didn’t think enough about all the specific matchups. Most of my solo deaths were due to this, even though I can’t remember all of them, there were quite a few (laughs). In the second game on the first day I just went “mental boom”, I was constantly thinking about the first game. I guess mentally I’m not the strongest player. But I’m certain I’ll be able to fix this in the future. My map awareness also needs to improve and I need to have more respect of the enemy Jungler.

When I got to talk to Vizicsacsi yesterday, he also mentioned that there are too many viable Midlaners and therefore too many matchups to perfectly memorize. Has that been an issue as well?

Yeah, it’s been difficult for me. Back when we still had the old Pick & Ban system, there essentially were four viable Midlane champions: Orianna, Cassiopeia, Syndra and Ryze. The last two were essentially permabanned, and even before that there were only a handful picks available. So I just had a formula what to do in each matchup, to the point that every mouseclick was with purpose. I memorized these formulas by heart and that’s why I won my lane quite a lot back in the Summer Split 2016. But lots of things have changed since then.

You received a lot of criticism both on reddit and twitter, especially after the first day of Rift Rivals. Is that something you ignore as a player or do you take a peek at it anyway?

I don’t know whether other players to do, but I look at most of the stuff that is written about me. I don’t mind really. The only thing that was annoying was when I turned on the Korean Rift Rivals stream and I see Twitch chat making memes and jokes about me dying all the time. That was a bit annoying because I wasn’t expecting it.

I’m already used to getting a lot of criticism anyway: Back in Summer Split 2016 I really didn’t perform and this happened then as well. People have their opinions and that’s fine. I always like to compare this to a football (soccer) fan standing in front of a TV, shouting at the players (laughs). I don’t have a problem with it.

Viewers probably can’t imagine what it’s like to receive that sheer amount of criticism, it must be tough.

Well it’s quite a lot, but I just learned to deal with it. I also think that going through such a phase really grows your character. Every player needs to at some point, it was important for me growing as a player as well.

Your team has your back, right?

Yes, for sure. When I have a problem, every player, Sheepy, Romain, Vivien, Jos, they’re all  trying to help. I don’t really know whether this is the case at other teams as well, but in this team everyone is helping each other out all the team. Whether it’s criticism or just cheering up each other. I’m very grateful for that.

On other teams, players frequently are getting subbed out when they don’t perform. Is this way of thinking something unique to the Unicorns?

People like to bring me up as an example: When you look at my performance at the beginning of the 2016 Summer Split vs at the end, you saw a player vastly improve due to really good coaching. I don’t think that there are bad professional players, there simply are good players and bad players when it comes to mechanics. A player that is really good mechanically can be coached into being a really good player overall. I think there’s a lot of talent out there that is being overlooked because organisations and coaches are not willing to give them a chance. A lot of organisations are wasting potentially great players.

Anything you’d like to say to the UoL fans?

I’m very grateful for all the fans that support me, even when I’m playing like this at the moment. That’s when you know they’re true fans, they support you when you play well, they support you when you play bad. It’s a very nice feeling to have that kind of trust from the fans.

Thank you very much for your time!

Darius Matuschak
Darius is an esports journalist trying to nurture esports culture whenever possible. He got into esports while finishing his Bachelor in Journalism, and has been a regular EU LCS attendee since January 2017.