Despite making playoffs last split, Echo Fox have had a rough start to the summer, ending week three tied for last with only a single win. A rough early schedule combined with an increased level of play from other teams in the league has the squad on the verge of missing out on playoffs altogether.
For week three, AD Carry Apollo Price and mid laner Kim "Fenix" Jae-hun were brought back on board in place of Lawrence "Lost" Sze Yuy Hui and David "Yusui" Bloomquist, respectively, to no avail.
Following the team’s first game of the week we spoke with support Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent to go over reuniting with Apollo, the numerous support changes on Patch 9.12, and Echo Fox owner Rick Fox’s climb out of Iron.
Support Tahm Kench was nerfed pretty hard a couple patches ago, but we still see teams like Golden Guardians go toward it, and obviously today you guys picked it. Can you walk me through the thought process there?
Hakuho: Yeah, so Tahm Kench -- they gutted his ultimate at level one, so he’s a stronger laner now, but he’s not that good team utility until you’re level 11. Pretty much the idea is you just slowly take over. Especially with lanes like Ezreal and Varus, you just get mid prio and then you can play slow until you’re 11. You can always push out side lanes for free. It’s just a safe pick that’s pretty strong in lane. You pick Kench with Ezreal, Varus, Sivir -- anything that can push mid for free.
Today you guys played against Xayah-Rakan, one of the strongest laning duos in the game, but you were able to have a significant CS lead early. How were you able to accomplish that?
We were getting really good trades on them, just poking with Q. Pretty much our style versus Rakan is if they go Spellthief’s you just avoid giving them gold. He didn’t get wards until very late because we were just playing for Q poke. As long as you prioritize good TP bases -- we can TP back, and there was one time we burned Xayah Flash just 2v2 because they chose a poor base timing.
It was Apollo instead of Lost today, and you guys were one of the longest-standing bot lane duos in the LCS before this split. How does it feel playing with him again?
It feels nice playing with Apollo since we’ve been playing together so long, so we know each other’s styles. I think Apollo brings more shotcalling to the team, whereas with Lost and Yusui, they weren’t as used to stage play so they would focus on their own play instead of team play.
Other than the shotcalling, what other stylistic differences do you think experience when playing with Lost and not Apollo?
Aside from their champion pool, Lost likes to play really aggressive and sometimes he’ll overaggress, whereas Apollo is more like, he doesn’t really care about lane phase. He’ll just play to go even or get slightly ahead and then be strong later, so it’s mainly the stylistic choice of, “Do you want to try and hardstomp lane, or are you okay with just farming?”
So which one of those styles do you think suits you more?
I mean, I can play both since I’ve played with a lot of ADs in my career. I’m used to both, but I prefer the aggro style just because of the champs I like to play, like Zyra, Karma, and all that. They’re not meta right now, but when they come back I’m ready.
Speaking of Karma, she and Lulu both got buffed this patch. Do you think those will be enough to bring enchanters back into the meta?
I think definitely the Karma buffs are really good. I think her shield is super OP because it’s like 60 percent move speed for two seconds. You pretty much can’t get hit by skillshots at all, especially in teamfights. It’s pretty insane.
The Lulu buffs weren’t that big, but she might see some play if you’re counter picking.
What kind of matchups could you see someone picking Lulu into?
It’s hard to pick Lulu just because of the AD meta. Lulu’s only really useful if you’re playing hypercarries, so until that meta comes back I don’t think she’ll see that much play.
A lot of those hypercarry champions we normally think of are super focused toward crit, but even though that meta is back in because of the Rageblade nerf we haven’t really seen hypercarries. Why do you think that is?
I think playing hypercarry is just really hard because of the solo lane meta. Sylas, Akali, Irelia -- you’re not going to play a hypercarry into any of those because they’ll just dive you and kill you.
We have seen all of those nerfed recently, and Aatrox too. Will that affect the bot lane meta at all?
Most of the OP solo laners are still pretty good. Maybe Akali is worse now, but I think it’s the same just because it’s the solo meta and the jungle meta is Jarvan, Skarner. It’s so annoying having to buy a QSS as a hypercarry because you really need your powerspikes.
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Going back to shifting between Apollo and Lost, is that something you guys were just trying for this week?
We’ve been playing with a 10-man roster in scrims, so we’re still sharing time and all that. We’re just seeing which one works for us.
Is the hope then that eventually the entire 10-man roster will be used on stage?
It’s just building up both rosters. We’re sharing info and playstyles to try and make both teams better.
How does the relationship between Academy and LCS work for you guys? I know in the past some pros have been vocal about not liking having someone behind them who could potentially take their spot.
I think the competitive aspect of swapping between Academy is good. I think you should have that pressure on you, that you need to keep improving and performing or else somebody will replace you. For an LCS team I think it’s really good to have an Academy team that’s at least close to their skill level.
Obviously you guys haven’t had the best start to the season, but you’ve also had a difficult schedule. How much would you say your record reflects that as opposed to you guys playing poorly?
I think most of our record is just us not playing our style properly. In scrims we had really good results and on stage we just didn’t pull through. Even though we were playing against probably the top three teams, and then Golden Guardians -- who are maybe good this split, we’ll have to wait and see -- I think it’s mostly us making mistakes and not being proactive enough to win games.
Why would you say you guys have had translating scrim results to stage?
I’m not really sure. We usually are a lot more active in scrims and willing to take risks to make plays, whereas on stage we’re just scared to or we’re just not used to playing on stage again. I’m not really sure specifically what’s causing it.
Now that we’re a third into the season, how do you think you guys match up with the rest of the league?
I think right now we’re not bad, but we’re not good enough to beat the top teams. We need to work on bringing our scrim results to stage and then be able to compete.
Do you think that there is a clear top three like in spring?
I think toward the end of the split it’s going to be the same, like C9, TSM, Liquid will probably be in the top three. Most of the games TSM and Liquid dropped were just draft mistakes honestly. TSM shouldn’t have lost the one game where they randomly picked Pyke top and TL was making dumb mistakes. Even versus us they had a pretty good lead and then they threw one fight and we just ended. I think towards playoffs those teams will probably be solidified as top three.
So teams like OpTic, who are now 4-1 -- near the end of the split, do you think they’ll still be near the top of the standings?
It depends. If they keep improving, even though they might have had an easy first two weeks of play, they’ll definitely make playoffs. Getting far in playoffs is really hard just because the teams that are more used to that, they’re ready for best of fives, they already know how to handle that kind of high-stress situation. For a newer team if might be harder, even if they make it to playoffs, to actually go further.
It seems like this split and last split it’s much closer in terms of level of power between teams, whereas in the past there was a pretty clear divide between the top teams and the bottom ones. Do you think NA as a region is getting better?
I think NA has been getting better as a region just because, after we got destroyed last year, we realized we had to improve. A lot of teams are actually focusing on changing their rosters if things are wrong and fixing problems, whereas maybe before they were just okay with going to playoffs.
Other than swapping between Academy and LCS, you guys kept the same roster from spring. Do you guys think you can make a deep run in playoffs even without all those roster changes we see other teams making?
Yeah. I think we can still make playoffs pretty easily. We already played against most of the top teams and our scrim results are still good. We just need to focus on improving that and bringing that to stage. Most likely we’ll play in gauntlet no matter what, so we’re going to have a long season ahead probably.
Talking about NA improving then, EU is coming over soon for Rift Rivals. How do you think the two regions compare in terms of overall strength?
I think the top EU teams are a lot better than NA teams right now. G2 just like trolls all their games and still win, so I’m looking forward to seeing them play. I think the mid to lower-tier teams, it’s about even.
As a last thing, RIck Fox has been documenting his climb from Iron on Twitter. Do you guys ever give him any tips or try to help him out?
We gave tips, but it doesn’t really help because the playstyle there is so different. Yeah, unfortunately for Rick, I think he’s going back to Iron IV.