Cain & Dodo Play to Win

October 02 2018

They fought their way through MSI. Then Rift Rivals. Then they dominated the NA LCS Summer Split. Now, Head Coach Nuri “Cain” Jang and Assistant Coach Jun-hyeok “Dodo” Kang have a completely different challenge ahead of them: Preparing our LoL team for Worlds.

While regular season tournaments are important, said Cain, this is the dream stage. This is the end. This is the tournament everyone wants to win.

“The result of worlds,” he said, “means all the work you’ve done the whole year has paid off. This is the place where you want to show off everything you worked for all year.”

But for the Team Liquid coaches, the tournament is about more than proving what we can do. It’s about showing the world what North America can do.

Last year, Samsung won their second championship, defeating three-time world champion SK Telecom T1 3-0. In fact, since 2012, Asia has had Worlds on lock, with North America barely on the radar.

We had an impressive showing in NA, but do we have what it takes to take on these League titans? And how will we go about competing with our toughest rivals yet?

Cain and Dodo have a feeling this year might have a different outcome. After an LCS NA final that was “easier than we thought,” it’s time for Team Liquid to show Europe and Asia that NA is here to win it all.

How do you feel about Team Liquid representing North America at Worlds?

Cain - We are excited to represent North America. But at the same time, there is pressure, because we are number one seed. We want to show everyone how strong the region is.

Worlds is notorious for deviating from the everyday solo queue meta, and it changes throughout the tournament. How are you helping prepare the team for Worlds?

Cain - Right now, with all the different regions scrimming with different metas, we are focusing the hardest on making sure we are adapting to the best metas. We want to go into Worlds with the strongest meta.

Has seeing the other regions’ metas affected the team’s current playstyle?

Dodo - I think we are still in the process of figuring out the meta. We scrimmed Europe the first week. Then we faced the Chinese teams. They all have different styles. And we are testing out our own as well. We’re still in a stage of figuring out what’s the strongest. For now, we’re sticking to what we’re good at and seeing how it plays out against other teams in the region.

What differences have you noticed while scrimming against these teams?

Dodo - During any match, we always study our opponents and figure out what’s the strongest counter. Korea or China had priority on picking the playstyle and it’s different. China is more hectic. They are chaotic. A lot of fighting. Super fast-paced. Where as Korea is macro based. A slow game. They win out by out macroing opponents. We just need to prepare for those.

Is there anything you’d like to see from the Worlds meta?

Dodo - Even in MSI, the meta actually changed three-four times throughout one week. All the teams were studying each other. Figuring out answers to certain picks. The meta shifts a lot during the weeks. We are just hoping for a meta that fits our team playstyle the best - standard tank top, control mage mid, and hyper carry bottom. That kind of meta works for us the best. It was proven in NA that we played that meta the strongest.

Cain, you have competed in Worlds with Najin Sword and Najin Fire. In what ways is going to Worlds as a coach different from competing as a player?

Cain - Going to Worlds as player, I felt a little too excited. A little too hyped. It was the early stages of esports and we were all very confident in ourselves and our team. But going in as a coach, there’s a lot more to think about. I can’t just be confident. I need to think about what we need to be practicing. What we need to be focusing on. I feel a lot more pressure as a coach going into Worlds.

What was your experience like at Worlds?

Cain - Season 2 was my first time going to Worlds, and the whole memory was just fun. It was more like a trip. We were all having fun. I was just thinking about playing. Right now, when we say we’re going to Worlds, all the other teams are very serious. It’s way more competitive. In Season 3, we lost to SKT in semis. That still has an impact on me now. When I think about it, it hurts a little. Every time.

Dodo - It’s not the prettiest memory. Week 2 was so devastating… I’m here to erase that memory. To overlap it with good memories.

What did you learn from your previous experiences at Worlds?

Dodo - I was at Worlds last year with IMT. The biggest thing is making sure the players focus on their own strengths. Instead of us getting dragged around by the best teams around the world, we need to go into the tournament focusing on what we are strong at. That’s the biggest part we are working on. Instead of trying to mimic and follow strong regions like Korean and China, we need to focus on what we were strong at and test our strength against them.

What do you feel Team Liquid’s strengths are going into Worlds?

Dodo - We are very good at communication as a team. All five players trust each other a lot. We play as a team. That’s what we have been working on all year - team synergy. Just being on the same page. That is our strength.

As a coach, how do you use that to your advantage?

Dodo - All the best teams in the world are always on the same page, so that isn’t enough. For coaching - me and Cain - we can have an edge against other teams by preparing a lot. STudying pick and bans - 50% of the game. We feel we give players strong coms they need to play against these best teams. We just prepare a lot harder.

TL started off the season a bit rocky. How were you feeling at the start of the season?

Cain - It was hard. The struggles were there. The first few weeks were great, but we had a slump. We weren’t meshing well. There was a lot of pressure from organization. ‘What the fuck’s going on?’ We obviously felt the pressure.

Dodo - Me personally, I felt it was inevitable. There’s a lot of growing pains when teams get together for the first time. I had to make sure to fix everything. I had one on one meetings with the players. But in the later weeks we started to feel good. Everything got hashed out. Bond was stronger.

What were the things you focused on the most when you were trying to get the team out of that slump?

Cain - The biggest thing we focused on is just figuring out the problem in our plays and communications… Just needed to find the answers. All these players are capable of fixing problems. Fixing relationships. Plays. It was possible.

Do you feel you grew as a coach during the season as well?

Cain - I definitely improved a lot throughout the season. I learned a lot about being the leader. Being in the center of everything. Obviously, I have a lot of regrets. But as a whole, I learned a lot as a coach. Instead of just game knowledge, there’s other things that need to be learned to be a good coach.

What are some of the things that make a good coach?

Cain - There are two things. The first is the relationship and how you treat the players. All five players have different personalities and there needs to be a different style of coaching for each of them. Even for the same message, there is a different tone or style I need to use for each player. Making sure I realize what these players want and need. Then, secondly, last year I was focusing a lot on winning matches - shortsighted. This year I wanted to look further on improving the team over the split. Not just the match in front of me. That was a part I learned and improved a lot on - seeing the bigger picture.

Do you feel you have learned a lot from each other?

Cain - He helped me a lot. Dodo helped me by giving me a lot of ideas. He sacrificed his own time to help me manage the team.

Dodo - We both benefit each other a lot. I learned so much about the game from him. He thinks about the game a lot. I try to help out with the structure and talking to the guys, but I have learned so much about the game and making sure those messages are getting through to the players.

What are you most excited about, going into Worlds?

Cain - Winning the whole thing!

I feel like I already know Cain’s answer, but what is the team’s goal going into Worlds?

Cain - I want to focus on winning every game.

Dodo - Just making sure we show everyone what we got.

What is your goal at Worlds, as a coach?

Cain - I want to reach semis. But besides results-based goals, as a coach you just want to make sure your coaching style works at Worlds. I’ve been focusing on these five players throughout the year. There are things I wanted to improve on. If we win, that proves my coaching worked. It would give me a good sense of achievement as a coach.

Dodo - We want to show our strength to everyone. We don’t want to play scared. We want to play to win, instead of playing not to lose.

Cain - North America as a region didn’t have a good showing in the past Worlds. This is my first time going into Worlds as a coach, and I just want to have a good showing as the best NA team going into Worlds. I want to show how strong we are as a team, and as a region. I want to finish strong.

Writer // Olivia Richman