Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir knows what it’s like to win. The Romanian “won it all” with Dark Passage in Turkey alongside regional superstar Berkay “Zeitnot” Aşıkuzun and reigning Mid-Season Invitational champion Rasmus “Caps” Winther.
Splyce has taken a different course. The Viper-adorned organization has always been successful in Europe. They have certainly never dropped to the level of Team ROCCAT or Giants Gaming. A Worlds berth in 2016 and two top-three finishes in the past four years mark them as one of the more successful teams in the League of Legends European Championship.
The organization has never won anything major, however. Xerxe has been in the same boat since coming to Europe. For someone driven by success, and chasing that feeling of winning it all, it’s a long wait. One the Romanian star said he hopes will end sooner rather than later.
“I first started in Turkey, and had that feeling of winning everything there was to win in a region, and since then I’ve been driven by that feeling,” Xerxe told Upcomer after keeping hold of Europe’s third spot for another week. “Since joining LEC I haven’t really won anything. I’ve come close with a top-two or top-three finish, but it’s not really what I’m looking for. Being that close gives me the motivation to keep going, knowing that I’m that close and knowing how sweet victory can be.”
It may not be the crowning glory that Xerxe is searching for, but Splyce’s upset win over first-placed Fnatic has certainly put him and his team in a strong position. It took Splyce 41:59 minutes to beat the World Runners-Up.
Now the team sits just a single win off the two-way tie at the top between their defeated opponents and G2 Esports.
Skill difference may have played a factor in the win. Xerxe’s 1/0/15 performance on Jarvan IV in the jungle certainly played a part. Keeping potential MVP of the split Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen silent in the game had a major role too.
According to Splyce’s jungler, however, it was a conversation the team had during the Rift Rivals break that set them on the path to success. A conversation that forced them to look at themselves in a new light, earlier than ever before.
“We sat down and spoke about what we want to achieve this split, to make sure that we’re all on the same page going forward,” Xerxe explained. “I think we’re heading in the right direction, but the problem that a lot of rosters have is they don’t look at what might be wrong with their game until they’re in playoffs.
“Once they’re at the end of the season, and it’s knockout games, they’re like ‘Oh my god, we need to step up our game,’ and by then it’s just too late. You have to step up your game from the very first week that you step on stage every split. That’s why I took the initiative this split to make sure we were talking about it far earlier than playoffs.”
While Xerxe admitted that he, of course, wants to see Splyce do well, there was another reason he wanted to make sure the roster was “on the right track” ahead of crunch time. A ‘curse’ lingering around the Romanian. Every time he marched into summer after doing well in the spring, he always fell short of his goals.
“I don’t want to see this happen again,” Xerxe said. “It’s kind of like a curse. Every time I do well in spring, then summer becomes worse and we miss Worlds. I don’t want to see that happen again, because if you want to go to Worlds, then summer results are the only ones that matter.”
Match notifications, latest esports news, and more. Get the Upcomer app now.
So, to avoid the summer curse, Xerxe sat down with his team. The Splyce environment makes it possible to do that, the jungler explained. He has old teammates, like ex-Unicorns of Love alumnus Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss, above him in the top lane, with long-term Splyce partner Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup in the bot lane.
“It makes me happy that the team can sit down and comfortably talk about problems and issues that we think we need to fix,” Xerxe said. “These guys are the reason why I stayed on the roster for LEC, we have such a good mixture of stable veterans, and exciting rookies.”
That blend of friendship, willingness to listen, and overall calmness for the roster created the perfect mix for righting any wrongs that may have arisen in the Splyce roster.
Between the comfort of a roster Xerxe considers the “best [he’s] been on,” and the mid-season talks, the Romanian star has faith this could be the year he tastes victory once again—whether it be European silverware, or Worlds qualification.
“We only recently had the talk, so we’re yet to see the full results of these discussions,” he said. “I don’t think doing this mid-split will automatically mean we just go 2-0 every weekend, of course, but it will show for us in our practice. As long as the commitment from the team, and focus on getting better is there, showing in scrims day after day, that is the most important part. If people are giving their best every time we get into a game, and communicating their best in and out, we can win for sure.”
And so, a win against first-placed Fnatic for Splyce? Check.
A showdown against one of the best teams in the world? Next.
“Fnatic was a good opportunity for us, and I’m looking forward to playing them again later in the split when they haven’t been practicing against NA teams,” Xerxe laughed. “Now we have G2, and they’re just insanely talented.
Despite G2’s immense talent, Xerxe said their ability is good for the LEC. They force every other team in the league to improve if they want to reach the top of the standings.
“G2 is a great team for Europe to have, because when you have someone at their level everyone has to rise to meet them,” Xerxe said. “If they don’t do that, the best team will just stomp. But if teams improve to meet them the whole region gets better. I’m looking forward to G2.”
Win or lose this weekend, Xerxe is happy in the knowledge Splyce is on the right track this summer. No one knows if the ‘curse’ of the second split will be lifted until the playoffs, at least. But the yellow-coated Vipers are ready for it if it appears again.
“There is a belief inside me that this is the year,” Xerxe said. “I believe we will finally make Worlds. I know that I want to, and I believe that this is the year that I can do it.”