The OPL Split 1 gauntlet is about to start as Avant Garde take on Sin Gaming in the first match of the gauntlet. We spoke to Avant Garde’s superstar mid/jungle duo of Triple and Sybol on how they stack up against their opposition in the gauntlet, their performances in the regular split and more!

Note: This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

So Triple, you’ve been considered the star player of AV and so a lot of pressure from enemy teams has come your way. How have you dealt with the pressure, both from the enemy team and pressure on you to perform?

Triple: Most of the time I don’t feel any pressure to perform from any factors other than myself and the nerves tend to fade more and more as the weeks go on. The spotlight of being a star player of the team and champions such as Syndra banned against me helps in providing me with the confidence to not succumb to pressure.

Having said that, the one ‘pressure to perform’ moment that stands out is my first ever OPL game which had me shaking during loading screen and feeding first blood on Zed…

You’re facing up against very tough mid lane competition in the gauntlet. How do you think you match up to them?

Triple: The mid lane talent in the gauntlet is extremely daunting, but as long as I play at 100% on game day, I believe I can at least match or outclass them. I’m especially excited for the Sin series to prove who the best mid in Sydney is.

The mid meta has slowly shifted and opened up a lot more variety. Which champion picks do you think will be the biggest picks in the gauntlet?

Triple: The recent surge in the popularity of Taliyah, Talon, and Ahri will be interesting to look out for. Other than that, standard picks such as Syndra, Orianna and Vladimir should be the other highly contested picks.

You’re not one to shy away from some off-the-wall mid lane picks. Your Jhin, in particular, has raised eyebrows. What do you think is the key to playing off meta picks and succeeding?

Triple: Champions are considered meta for a reason and the key to successfully running an ‘off meta’ champion is to know the purpose of picking it in the composition. Do not force the pick as the opportunity will present itself. As for me, Jhin has been one of my favourite and most comfortable champions for a while, and I picked it to complement the Rumble composition against Legacy.

Now Sybol, you came into the team in the middle of the split. How did you go about connecting with the team? Was it a matter of integrating into their system or building a new one with you on the team?

Sybol: I was pretty nervous about joining AV honestly. I had been with Dire Wolves for two years around the same group of guys and was just kinda scared for such a new environment so quick but joining AV could not have been smoother. Everyone was extremely friendly, and I felt very comfortable from the very start. My focus when joining was to put myself in an environment that I could continue to improve in and at the same time, give AV the best chance of winning the split. Joining was very sudden and was mid split so just by the nature of it, I wasn’t looking to shake things up.

You’ve replaced Chelby as the experienced head in a very inexperienced roster. Have you been giving the rookies some tips on heading into high-pressure bo5s?

Sybol: It’s a pretty different feeling than being on Dire Wolves yeah. Here I feel like I am quite experienced and can help the guys and be a bit of a leader and I’m enjoying that a lot. I feel myself improving more because I have responsibilities, but the difference is that it comes with no pressure. Jayke is really knowledgeable and is quite experienced himself so I’m not alone and it’s been great to work with him so far.

Outside of Graves and Rengar, there isn’t a real tier list for jungle picks anymore and it’s all about how a jungle pick fits into a composition. Do you think jungle is still as impactful of a role as it was earlier in the season and if not, how has it changed?

Sybol: I’m pretty grateful that I chose to main jungle many years ago because I really enjoy the dynamic of how impactful a jungler can be, especially in comparison to some of the other roles. I really feel like the responsibility of a jungler goes much much deeper than what people think. I’ve always attributed my improvement to the fact that no matter what the situation, I could have always done something better or at least considered more.

The jungle pool makes sense right now, but I think it could be better. I just want to see standardization across all of the junglers so that there isn’t such a disparity between Elise, Lee, and Kha’zix and champions like Jarvan IV or Xin Zhao. At least the champions that are good are very enjoyable.

You’re coming up against Juves, who loves to play an aggressive, early game style. How do you ensure you can contain his early game impact?

Sybol: Styles of play don’t worry me if anything it gives me an indication as to how they are likely to play but going in with any expectations is bad. I respect Juves for his play during this season, so I’m definitely not going to underestimate him.

You guys had a strong start and then struggled in the middle of the season before bringing it back towards the end. What do you think contributed to your mid-season slump?

Triple: The mid-season slump was the combination of facing the top three teams in those weeks and our stagnating practice due to unproductivity and having no specific structure when it came

to reviewing games. Our performance coach Matt helped patch up these flaws recently, and our preparation leading into the gauntlet has taught me more than I’ve learned in the past few weeks.

How much confidence did beating Sin give you heading into the gauntlet?

Triple: Going into the Sin series, we all knew that it meant nothing in terms of gauntlet seeding besides side selection and it was more to just send a message before playoffs. It would’ve been nice to win 2-0 and then 3-0 the next week, but it cleared any doubts in our minds nonetheless.

Sybol: It gave us confidence in the sense that we managed to be on the verge of being 2-0’d and then come back strong to win it after such long and tight games. I feel more comfortable about going into the best of 5 yeah, but we need to be getting our confidence from our practice not from our results.

What do you guys think it’ll take for you to run the gauntlet and secure a spot for the Mid-Season Invitational?

Triple:  If all of our players can show up at their 100% best on the three days of gauntlet before the grand final, we could have an extra week of invaluable productive preparation that has only been happening for less than a week. Regardless of the outcome, the ultimate goal for us as a team is just to make progress towards the ultimate goal of split 2 and potentially Worlds and going to MSI would be a great bonus experience to have!

Sybol: Chiefs look clean and confident after their boot camp, and Dire Wolves are honestly playing very scary League of Legends for Oceanic standards. For us to come out of the gauntlet and into MSI would take a lot. It’s going to take everything we’ve got and maybe more but that’s the reality, and that’s what we’re preparing for.

Avant Garde takes on Sin Gaming in the opening game of the OPL Gauntlet on Friday at 5 PM (AEST). You can catch all of the action here!