Golden Guardians’ LCS run ended rather abruptly after Cloud9 swept through them in their lower bracket bout. It wasn’t the way Nicholas ‘Ablazeolive’ Abbott wanted to go out, but he’s holding his head high — somewhat — after a breakout debut year.
The transformation of the Golden Guardians from a barely-afloat last-place team to a playoffs contender was something to behold in the LCS.
It was the cream of a prevailing storyline of LCS 2021, as rookie talent rose up to show NA fans that there is a future for a region that has been the butt of all jokes for so long.
However, Ablazeolive wouldn’t be direct in telling you that though.
The ever-critical rookie, who finally got his chance after five years in Academy, was “disappointed” after bowing out to Cloud9 in the LCS Championship. They were swept convincingly, with the Spring champions flexing their muscles in the lower bracket.
It left a sour taste in Ablazeolive’s mouth when ultimately reflecting on his year as a whole.
“It would have been nice to at least make it a series and get a game up there, but you know, we played poorly, and that’s what happens. They played better than us,” he told Dexerto.
— LCS (@LCSOfficial) August 13, 2021
Obviously, any sort of result against Cloud9 would have been a tall order for a team that barely scraped into playoffs. Not only that, but Golden Guardians doesn’t boast the same level of experience.
But Ablazeolive doesn’t believe in theories like that. They fought to the playoffs, and so they should have been able to stand their ground. On the day though, they couldn’t.
“There’s a lot of aspects we could improve on to have a better performance, experience being one of them,” he explained.
“That doesn’t settle with me too well because there’s a lot of examples of these inexperienced teams beating top teams, so I definitely think it’s more nuanced than that. It’d help if that was the case, but on the day we didn’t show up.”
Pleasing the harshest critic, himself
With Golden Guardians’ run in the LCS over, it’s given Ablazeolive a bit of time to reflect on his year as a whole. After living in Bjergsen’s shadow at TSM Academy, he finally spread his wings on stage — and they took everyone by surprise.
The first step in making a name for yourself is earning a nickname, and ‘Ablolive’ did just that.
With his insane carry performances on champs like Zoe and Lucian, he quickly became the focal point of a roster that lacked structure.
It’s hard to look good on a team that constantly gets beaten, but he did just that. Without the results coming in though, it’s hard to validate that opinion — after all, League is a team game.
“I’d definitely not say I’m happy, but I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed either. I have really high expectations for myself, and I haven’t necessarily reached the goals I wanted, but I didn’t perform particularly poorly,” Ablazeolive said.
“There was a lot of growth throughout the year, and I’m glad we pulled it together and made it to playoffs. I’m not happy with how it ended, but there’s definitely things I can take away from this year.”
The jump to Academy was bigger than even he expected. After being thrown into the cauldron, Ablazeolive learned very quickly that “you have to make sure every aspect of your gameplay is up to snuff or you’re going to get exposed.”
The stakes were also much higher.
“Academy is not as serious, it’s the second-tier. LCS is serious though, because it’s the top league, and if we win LCS, we go to Worlds, and there’s nothing more serious than that. That was a new experience,” he explained.
Ablazeolive was duly rewarded for his efforts on Golden Guardians, though. He was runner-up for Rookie of the Year to fast-finishing Evil Geniuses AD carry Kyle ‘Danny’ Sakamaki. However, what he’s more proud of is how far his team came from the start of 2021 to the very end.
“I don’t care for those awards, they’re not very important to me. I focus on my individual performance and how I perceive it most of all,” he said.
“If I feel like I had a bad game, but everyone else thinks I had a good game, that doesn’t really matter to me. It won’t change the way I feel about it. Nobody can convince me that I played well.
“My standard for success is how I feel about something, as well as including my teammates in that discussion. I want to make sure that I’m being a good teammate, helping them out, make sure they feel like I’m trying to help everyone be their best — you don’t want to be too individually focused. It’s a team goal.
“If you’re going to look bad, but the team is going to perform better, that’s more important. That’s at the top of the priority list.”
After talking to Ablazeolive for a while, you get an air that he’s very harsh on himself. It’s always about looking for every small mistake and ironing it out to get the most pristine game possible. He has that innate competitive drive, but it can chew you up inside.
He says “it’s something you have to keep in check,” but mistakes are all he can see when he watches back his VODs.
“The way that I think about competition is it’s not about who’s the best, it’s about who can learn the fastest because whoever learns the fastest will be the best by the end, and that’s what really matters — your end goal success.
“I think it’s important to be critical on yourself, but I do recognize that maybe I’m being too harsh, and I need to recognize when things are good enough, but I think it’s hard to genuinely believe that.
“When you stop looking for those small things, that’s when you’re not going to be playing your absolute best.”
Ablazeolive’s bright future in the LCS
Despite all that, Ablazeolive is confident that he’s at least earned himself a slot in the LCS for the future. After all, even if he can spot the million mistakes in his gameplay and isn’t satisfied, he realizes that “perception does matter.”
“It makes me optimistic. As stupid as it sounds, perception does matter to the people who make decisions. I’m not particularly satisfied with my performance this year, but everyone else is so that’s great,” he said.
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“As for next year, I hope that just means I keep playing — that’s always the goal — and that should be the case. Hopefully, we take this year as a learning experience and perform better.”
GG C9 Was a tough series and they played better than us in the end. Not the performance we wanted but at least we got to play. Next year is the year of the olive #GGWIN
— Ablazeolive (@Ablazeolive) August 14, 2021
So, across this long off-season, he’s going to zone out and do the things that mean the most to him.
Returning home to Canada and spending time with family is one thing. Catching up on all the ‘luxuries’ he gave up during the season is another.
“I usually try to do nothing — I’m not a big traveler, not a big vacation guy, so I’m going to take a break from League for a bit and play some other games that I’ve been holding off and do all the things I couldn’t do while I’m playing in-season.”
His game of choice? The visual novel series Danganronpa.
“I was playing it on stream, and I played the first two in like November, and since I was only playing it on stream — these games are like 40 hours long, and it’s a lot of reading, so it’s very hard to play on stream to be honest, but I kind of have to now.
“That’s the only game I’m going to put time into because doing that during the split, it’s like eight hours, at least for the first chapter, straight of streaming. When do I have eight hours to stream not League during the split? That’s never happening, so that’s number one on the list.”