With the League of Legends Pacific Rift Rivals just around the corner, teams from all over Australasia are converging on Sydney to compete for the title of Pacific Champions. This year, we have teams from three regions, South-East Asia (Garena Premier League), Japan (LoL Japan League) and Oceania (Oceanic Pro League) bringing up the rear with home-court advantage. One of the teams representing Oceania this year is Adelaide Crows-owned Legacy Esports, and I recently caught up with their veteran midlaner Brandon ‘Claire’ Nguyen to talk about representing Oceania for the second time in the upcoming Rift Rivals.

So with Rift Rivals coming to Australia for the first time, how does it feel compared to previous tournaments being able to prepare in the comforts of home?

It’s actually a pretty similar feel to last year’s Rift Rivals. Because of how we relocate to a hotel and have a practice room there, it doesn’t really feel like you’re training at home doing what you normally would do for OPL.I think the big difference in my eyes it the fact that you can play solo queue on your main account that you normally use at home, but yeah the preparation definitely feels like an international tournament.

Speaking of training, has there been any specific work done collectively or communication amongst the Oceanic teams to prep for Rift Rivals?

Not yet, I think the collaboration factor is a bigger deal between our seed 1 and 2 teams because they actually play the same opponents, but for the seed 3 teams, we only play against the other regions’ seed 3 teams. We can watch their games and provide feedback, but they’re also pro players who know how to review their own game so for the most part it’s just very minor things we can try to help them with and vice versa. The most i’ve seen so for for collective work is small exchanges regarding differing gameplay or minor mistakes on stage

So with an influx of competition not normally seen in Oceania, are there any players from either SEA or Japan that you are looking forward to playing against and why?

If we make it to finals then i’ll have a chance to play against the seed 1 and seed 2 players, but because of how the tournament works I’m only guaranteed to vs seed 3 players and from what i’ve seen, none of the mid laners have really impressed me. However I think it would be really nice to be able to get some scrims in with the good teams to get some more experience and practice for OPL. I’d like to play against Ramune and Ceros, they seem like solid top mid laners from Japan and I have respect for them always coming to the international stage

We saw both Ramune and Ceros play last night, with Ramune playing two Zoe games and Ceros on the Irelia when DFM played the Chiefs, have you found anything in their playstyles that Oceania could use in their matchups?

I don’t think there’s much to abuse in laning phase from watching their individual players. I think this is something that most international and top teams from each region have in common, you couldn’t look at a specific player and pinpoint his mistakes and say we can form a gameplan around this fault in their playstyle to win off of. When I watch the laning phases between all the RR mid laners, it’s usually not very volatile and it’s just a standard laning phase. Something I could mention is that Ceros has a very unconventional champion pool (frequently playing Heimerdinger, Vel’Koz and Ziggs), and that’s something that should be watched out for or potentially taken advantage of.

Coming into the tournament, which individual teams do you see as threats to Oceania and is there anything the OPL teams can do to deal with it?

I actually think out of all the regions we have the strongest individual players, but when it comes to teamplay it gets a lot closer. I think the Japanese teams are much more threatening than the Southeast Asian teams because they actually scrim against Korean teams and play Korean solo queue. However that said, I do think Chiefs and Dire Wolves are stronger than Detonation and Pentagram. I think we should play how we do in OPL, without stage fright or international jitters and we’ll be fine in the matchup against Japan.

The Rift Rivals: Pacific Rift 2018 Trophy – Credit: Riot Games

With that, we’ve seen countless times before where Oceania have almost made their mark, do you believe Rift Rivals 2018 is where they can finally hold their head high?

I definitely do believe that, but I don’t know if it’s something to hold our heads high over because the Pacific Rift can be seen as the weakest Rift Rivals tournament. I think the OCE community will be happy and proud of the victory, but everyone just wants to make it out of the Play-In Stage at MSI or Worlds.

Speaking of that, what do you believe Oceania needs to do for its’ teams to be able to compete on the world stage, for example at MSI or Worlds?

Not be located in Australia where we’re secluded from the rest of the world, unable to practice against better teams. The problem with OCE is that we’re stagnated, practicing against ourselves over and over and over and only really improving when we watch VODs of other regions and attempting to simulate higher levels of gameplay, which is extremely hard. Let’s say Dire Wolves is the top team in Oceania, they have to scrim against weaker teams than them for the entire year, you improve from practicing like that but you don’t learn from it. I think if we had coaches from international teams, they could contribute a lot to our teams and teach them how to play the game better, we have good mechanics but our competitive gameplay is where we falter.

With your team relatively fresh-faced when it comes to international experience, have you done in anything in particular to prepare for Rift Rivals and the international jitters that come with it?

Nah, we haven’t really done anything like that. and to be honest, I don’t think there’s much you can really do to prepare the players for how they’ll feel when they get on stage and in-game. Everyone is really excited and eager to prove themselves so I think that’s enough. we have Carbon and Soulstrikes who have been through this before able to offer their assistance to the new players and i think it also helps that we’re playing in Australia.

At the start of the year, the Legacy roster was completely overturned, how was it adjusting to a completely new team around you over the past few months?

It was a fresh experience, it was fun and the atmosphere was good but there definitely have been a lot of hardships. I think a lot of our scrim review results in us having to say things like, ‘They just out micro’d us’ which is something that is hard to review and improve on. It’s hard for me to lead the team in-game because i’m so focused on my own lane counterpart and I haven’t historically been a very vocal player. at the end of the day it’s had its ups and downs but i can’t say i regret anything. It’s been fun.

How long do you see yourself playing League competitively, whether it be on Legacy or elsewhere?

For as long as I possibly can, until I’m forced to retire, I’d like to change the perception on esports that you have to be young and in your prime and that you have to retire in your late 20s. I started competitive when I was very young, around 15 and I want to be one of the first ones to show that you can compete even when you’re older.

League of Legends Rift Rivals will take place July 2–5 at the State Theatre. Tickets are available from here