A Summoner’s Tale: MaTa’s Dream – “I want to represent Korea in Season 3 World Championship.”
An interview with MaTa, the player who won The Champions just three months after his debut, to hear about his dreams and aspirations.
The support player for the champions of The Champions Spring Season, MaTa is here! MVP Ozone joined the ranks of the upper echelon of Korean League of Legends scene by defeating CJ Entus Blaze in last season’s finals. Sound team work, as well as their brilliant individual play, allowed for MVP Ozone to secure their spot in the round of eight with ease, and fans are curious to see if they can repeat their miraculous feat once more.
And in the midst of all this success is MaTa, the main shot caller for his team. Until last season, MaTa was just another support player who mained Zyra. However, he started to show his potential after joining MVP Ozone, much to the joy of MVP Ozone followers. We decided to check into the life of MaTa, who has been decimating enemy bottom lanes with his fearsome Thresh plays.
“First of all, how about a word for your fans?”
MaTa, dressed smartly in a short-sleeved shirt, was surprisingly coy with his response.
“I am MaTa, the 21 year old support player for MVP Ozone.”
Of course, MaTa, being born in 1994, was technically 20 years old, but since he went to school with other 21 year olds due to his date of birth, he requested to be recognized as a 21 year old. We expected him to have a glamorous celebrity-like schedule due to his meteoric rise to success, but his answer told a different story.
“My teammates have girlfriends, and have various media obligations to fulfill. However, I try not to get involved if I can help it. I like to give it my all to gaming (laughs). Of course, it’s nice to make a name for yourself by through media exposure, but I really want to prove my worth as a gamer. That is how I’d like to be recognized.”
Not only was he true to his beliefs, he was also frank with his words. MaTa claimed that he still didn’t feel like a professional yet. Perhaps it is because it is a title given to him less than a year ago?
“I just happened to win my first major tournament, that’s all. Of course, my results were excellent, but my track record isn’t proven yet, and everything still feels quite surreal.”
Even the members of MVP Ozone didn’t expect to win. Like they always mentioned, going all the way wasn’t even in their minds. In fact, their goal was to reach the round of eight. It was a fitting goal for a team that had always struggled against the big names in the scene.
“Even so, the round of four was something that was not completely out of reach. After a hard-fought group stage round, we found ourselves facing up against KT Rolster B. If we took them out, it was SK Telecom T1 #2 waiting for us in the round of four. I was confident of our chances against SK Telecom T1 #2, so after our victory against KT Rolster B, I knew we were going to reach the finals. I didn’t expect for us to lift the trophy, but after our first game against CJ Entus Blaze, the momentum shifted in our favour. There is a reason why people say that the first match of the series is the most important of them all. It really is true. Originally, I went into the finals thinking that we were going to learn from the experience, due to our team having such a bad track record against CJ Entus Blaze. Fortunately, it didn’t quite turn out that way that time round.”
The League of Legends scene in Korea may not have much tradition, but there are already fierce rivalries and interesting relationships between professional teams. MVP Ozone has always had SK Telecom T1’s number, while MVP Ozone fell prey to the might of CJ Entus Blaze numerous times. CJ Entus Blaze, meanwhile, has always fell flat on their faces whenever they played against KT Rolster Bullets.
“What is it with these mysterious one-sided relationships between certain teams?”
“Yeah, it’s true that our team struggled heavily versus CJ Entus Blaze in the past. They are a team that has built up a lot of chemistry, due to their long lasting rosters. Not only is their level of communication impeccable, they also have good individual skills, and great overall game management skills. We were vying for revenge after our crushing 0:2 defeat against them in the group stages. In the first game, we came out on top during the laning phase, but their overall game management after the mid-game dragon team-fight was superior to ours. From that point on, I always had that in mind whenever I played against them.”
“On the other hand, you come off looking like the stronger of the two whenever you face SK Telecom T1.”
“SK Telecom T1 has good individual skills. In other words, they are full of “solo-que superstars”. I too was an amateur player heavily involved in the world of solo-que, so it was easy for me to get into their minds. It also helps that I blend into my team colours better. All of our lanes are stronger than theirs. It is true for the bottom lane, and well, maybe not the mid-lane (laughs). The mid-lane is evenly matched, but the other lanes work in our favour.”
MaTa has only been with the team for three months, but it looks like he has things pretty much figured out. But what led him to this unusual career path?
“It wasn’t really a do-or-die situation, I just really liked to play videogames. Originally, I wanted to be a professional Starcraft Brood War player, but my skills weren’t high enough to reach that level. After I finished my college entrance examination, I had a lot of free time to play videogames with my friends. I tried out playing League of Legends on the North American server. I mainly stuck to playing normal games casually with my friends. After the Korean server became available, I tried my luck with ranked games, but even after fifty games or so, my ELO was stuck around 1600 points.”
A surprising number of professional players tested the waters with normal games, rather than diving straight into ranked games. They enjoyed the game with their friends by playing normal games, before finding out their hidden talents by playing ranked games. It was true for MaTa. Well, after a brief period where he strayed from the game to play Diablo 3.
“I started League of Legends again, but I sucked so much that I eventually decided to troll people in ranked games (laughs). Luckily for me, I met an acquaintance before I was able to do so. I had no choice but to try my best, and I told myself that I’ll troll in the following game. However, he ended up in my team again. One thing led to another, and after six days, my ELO skyrocketed to 2000 points. It was a score that I couldn’t even reach back it the days when I tried hard. Everything started to click, and after about 400 ranked games, my ELO was somewhere around 2500 points. Even as an amateur player, I started turn heads.
As luck would have it, I started to meet various players I still keep in touch with. Inven hosted a tournament that paid cash for any teams that were able to win in succession, and players like GoDyungi convinced me to join their team as a support.
Then I was approached by another player who was process of building up a team to compete in the professional scene. The players on that team were famous amateur players such as GoDyungi, and Bengi (currently on SK Telecom T1). We made it all the way to the offline qualifying stages, but lost 2:3 against MVP White. Then in the NLB, we ended up losing to MVP Blue. It wasn’t all roses for me (laughs). Fortunately, Homme recommended me to his team, and I ended up donning the MVP Ozone shirt.
Not surprisingly, my parents were perplexed. They wanted me to do something that was more stable in terms of financial viability. However, living the life of a professional gamer was something I wanted to do, so went with my original choice. My parents are happy with my career choice now. It really did turn out for the best (laughs).
Not so long ago, MaTa was able to reach the coveted number one spot in the Challenger League. The throne now has been passed onto MaRin, the practice partner for SK Telecom T1. His tales of solo-que adventure seemed to mirror his tumultuous career so far.
“I was playing Karthus, and Deft was playing Blitzcrank for the opposing team. He was partnering imp, and the longer the game went on, the harder the game went for me. Imp made it basically impossible for our team to win the game. However, in the final battle, Deft missed his skillshots, and I was able to draw a free flash with my wall of pain, then Beelzehan, the jungler for our team, was able to get a great initiate with his Xin Zhao, and we won the game off that one final team fight (laughs).
To be honest, it is difficult for support players to reach the number one spot just by playing support champions. Well, it’s true that Lustboy and Muse got close even though they stuck to their positions. If you are playing by yourself, your impact on the game is heavily limited by the abilities of your AD carry and jungler. I tend to play the other positions a lot when I’m playing ranked games.”
While his main ID ranks second in the Korean Challenger League as of now, his smurf ID was made in tribute to the Chelsea football player Juan Mata, and also resides among the top in the Challenger League. MaTa mentioned that he was heavily influenced by Locodoco, who gamed with MaTa a lot before he joined MVP Ozone.
“I learned a lot of fundamental stuff from him. He had just returned from Counter Logic Gaming, so he had a lot of wisdom to offer in terms of the basics. Honestly, it’s not that interesting to hear, but it is helpful to know. For example, for Sona, after you stack your passive twice, if you auto-attack-Q-auto-attack, your Q fires faster.
Back then, I was only an amateur player, so I didn’t pay much attention to the details, and had a lot to learn.”
It was only after hours of hard work and dedication that MaTa managed to reach where he is today, and he still manages to learn new things every day from other players. Players such as Mafa from KT Rolster Bullets, or Cain from Najin Black Sword, stand out even more in the eyes of MaTa, because they display attributes not yet mastered by him.
“You can just sense how dependable and solid they are. If I am to classify myself, I would group myself with players such as MadLife from CJ Entus Frost, although I would argue that I’m even more proactive with my plays. I feel like I have the most aggressive play-style out of any support players. Mafa, Cain, and Lustboy tend to be more defensive in their play-style.”
“You mentioned that you wish to be on friendly terms with Lustboy last time the two of you met in the finals. I take it you still want to be friends with him?”
“I used to be a Blaze fanboy, so it’s no surprise that I want to be friends with him. I guess there’s still a fanboy inside me (laughs).”
Although it looks to be the easiest, there’s no doubt that the support position is in some ways the most demanding position of all. MaTa classified the support players by their play-style, and picked his top five players for the position.
“Cain, Mafa, MadLife, and Lustboy. With one spot being left, it would be odd to count myself out.”
MaTa already mentioned that he had the most aggressive play-style out of the five, but it wasn’t always so.
“Imp is such an aggressive player that I had to change my play-style in order to adapt to his idiosyncrasies. I think it would have been different had I been paired up with another AD carry. I would probably be more at home being paired up with someone like Cpt Jack from CJ Entus Blaze. Imp knows when he can all-in for a kill, and as a result, I have to know also. On the flip side, there are players who prefer to farm instead of taking calculated risks. I personally prefer the latter. Safe players tend to have the ability to carry in the late-game, so draw attention from enemy junglers or mid-laners.
I personally believe that the bottom lane should always play safe while top, and mid-laners make plays in order to carry the team. That is how CJ Entus Blaze plays.”
The most important thing to keep track of whilst playing support is the number of wards, and their placements on the map. It is because the placement of wards heavily influences the way all the lanes play out.
“The number of wards if important, as are their placements. If you are starting on the purple side, if you place wards on the tri-bush, you lose vision of the river. The less vision you have, the more tentative your play-style becomes. However, if you have vision in three-way intersection in the river, you won’t get ganked unless they have a pink ward, and if you place an extra ward on the left side of the mid-lane, your mid-laner also becomes less susceptible to ganks. Champions such as Elise, or Lee Sin can jump over walls, so it becomes harder to predict their ganking routes, but once you place wards like that, you only have to worry about side-bush ganks. Different champions have different ganking routes, and the placement of the wards become so important.”
Recently in tournaments, Thresh and Nami happen to be the most contested support champions by some distance. Whilst on the subject of the current trends in the professional League of Legends scene, MaTa was not the one to dismiss the champions in vogue. He didn’t hesitate in rating Thresh and Nami as first-tier support champions.
“Thresh and Nami are the best as of now, while Sona is still a good pick. However, with the advancement of micromanagement, it is becoming harder and harder to aim your Crescendos just right. Sona’s ultimate is the hardest master. Other champions have other skills to fall back on, but your ultimate is all you have as Sona, you’re basically screwed if you miss.
Fiddlesticks ranks just below that. If I’m in a generous mood, perhaps it could be rated as being in tier 1.5. However it is going out of fashion. Zyra is probably somewhere between tier 2.5 and tier 3. It is becoming harder and harder to get your Grasping Roots on target with all these assassins becoming popular.”
MaTa’s favourite champion happens to be Blitzcrank. Despite his love for this champion, his tournament performances on it have been subpar, which in turn has wounded his pride. He is unsure whether he can ever bring it out in a tournament setting.
“I really like Blitzcrank, but it is such a flawed champion. I’m not going to use it in tournaments if I can help it. I’d rather pick Thresh. Even if Thresh, and Nami are banned, I don’t think I’ll be able to bring it out. I lost all confidence (laughs). Only a couple of days ago I tried it out in solo-que, but I couldn’t get a single grab right. I used to think that I had mastered it, but started lose faith in myself after doing poorly in team games. Even so, it’s a champion that I care for deeply.”
While his Blitzcrank pick is put on hold, MaTa has been quick to adapt to the team game, and rates his chemistry with imp as 90% complete.
“There’s certainly aspects that haven’t been ironed out yet. I think we have to learn how to play from behind properly. It’s not that we’re bad at decision making when in that situation, but we tend not to follow those correct decisions. Imp hates being bored, so he always plays aggressively regardless of the situation. With all that risk taking, it’s a matter of time before all hell breaks loose. Of course, as the main shot caller for the team, I have a lot of say in what imp does, but in the end, it’s imp who makes up his mind on what he ultimately ends up doing. If he learns to think like I do, I am certain we’ll become even stronger.”
So that’s why MaTa wants to be paired with other AD carries such as Cpt Jack or PraY. They have qualities unseen in imp.
“I feel like there’ll always be a future with Cpt Jack regardless of what the current situation is. Laning with imp feels like being on a car with no breaks. PraY is a versatile player with good balance, so there’s much to learn from that also.”
MaTa said that he would like to play as the jungler if he were to switch position. When we chased after the reasoning behind it, MaTa joked that it was because DanDy wasn’t a good jungler.
“If I were to jungle, I’m sure I could be at least as good as DanDy.”
Then who is? We proceeded to question him on his thoughts on who are currently the best players for each of position.
“Well, to start off with. For the top position, it would be Flame from CJ Entus Blaze, and Expession from Najin Black Sword. However, they have different play-styles. Helios tends to focus heavily on the top lane. It’s probably because it is to prevent Flame from being caught out by the enemy jungler. In comparison, Expession is often left alone to fend for himself. He’s the kind of player who does fine on his own.
As for junglers, I guess DanDy improved a lot (laughs). To be honest, it’s not that he improved a lot, but more of his performance in televised games becoming more and more comparable to his performances during practice. Lately, I’ve noticed how good Watch is. It’s surprising how good he is in solo-que.
There’s no question that Ambition still reigns supreme as the ultimate mid-laner. Faker’s good, but there’s still flaws in his game. I think could make him so good if I joined his team (laughs). If I helped him iron out his rough spots, he’ll become even better.
As far AD carries, PraY and imp are doing the best right now. SK Telecom T1’s Piglet has caught my eye recently, and if he were to be partnered with me, he could become even better (laughs).
Support players are pretty much all the same. Cain, Mafa, MaTa, Lustboy, and MadLife are all around the same level.
When laning against opposing bottom lanes, MaTa was most taken aback by the strength of Najin Black Sword’s bottom lane. He was so impressed by Cain’s Sona, that he carefully checked over every single detail of Cain’s runes and masteries in order to comprehend just how he managed to do so much damage after the games were finished.
“His runes and masteries were no different from mine. It’s so strange. I get the feeling that Cain’s Sona is stronger or something. If you manage to interview Cain next, please don’t forget to ask him if he has any trade secrets (laughs). He’ll probably say there isn’t any. But why does it hurt so much?”
MaTa is eying for the top spot once again this season, but says nothing can be said for sure until the brackets for the round of eight is finalized.
“We have to be wary of who we will meet in the round of four even if we get a favourable opposition for the round of eight. It will be tough if we’re forced to play against the likes of CJ Entus Blaze. Despite getting the best of them last time round, it doesn’t change how tough of an opponent they are. Things change. Even if the metagame remains the same, circumstances that led us to victory last time round might turn against us.”
In this interview that was carried out before the unexpected failure of Najin Black Sword, MaTa predicted the following four teams to reach the round of four this season: Najin Black Sword, KT Rolster Bullets, CJ Entus Blaze, and MVP Ozone.
“SK Telecom T1 could reach the round of four again if they are lucky. I think CJ Entus Blaze and Najin Black Sword will make it out of group B, and something tells me that CJ Entus Frost will meet their sister team once again in the round of eight.”
Finally, we asked MaTa what his goals were as a professional gamer. The answer was more specific and simple than we expected.
“I want to make a name for myself. I would like to become well connected and try out coaching and managing. I’ll probably need to win the World Championship in order to do that (laughs). Don’t you think it’ll be possible for me to achieve that if I win the World Championship?”
He was ever-concerned for his bottom lane partner, imp.
“I wish imp would take care of his health a little more. From my point of view, he is not in a healthy state at all. I would love to do well with him for a long, long time. I may not be able to do that, but regardless of my performance, I hope people will know that my heart is in the right place. I’ll keep on trying my best to show good quality games.”