Interview with Challenger Garen Main, Riste



Fri 1st Nov 2019 - 10:46am

Riste is a high elo Challenger Garen main, peaking at 630 lp. He is known among the league community for his consistent optimism and positivity. Despite Garen being a rather one-dimensional champion, Riste found ways to manipulate his macro play and make Garen work even against the best players in NA. This interview is to focus on how he manages his economy in game, deciding which items to buy into which match-ups, as well as how he manages mental sanity and the tilt that League can often bring upon people.

I’d like to start out by asking how and why you decided to start streaming? 

Riste: I began streaming as a hobby in 2016 while I was in the middle of performing various jobs to make money. I began to slowly realize that I enjoyed being in front of a camera, so after trying to crawl out of a very painful period of my life, I streamed more and more. League has historically been an escapism for me and streaming dials that experience to 11.

I went under a different alias back then - ristiuMMask. Back then I was creating videos on how to obtain the Honor Ribbons from the old Honor System before it got reworked. I realized over the course of time that my name was so difficult to market, so I re-branded myself in 2017. I went full-time from there despite only two people in my family really supporting my endeavors. I realized as I streamed more that I had truly found my passion. I wanted to laugh, entertain, and be there for others. I do just that to this very day. 

Do you find your performance in League has increased or declined since you began streaming?

Riste: My performance dipped extremely, although I had many common mistakes that transitioned to offline play as well because of the environment I was in and how badly of a point I was in during those times. I love reading chat, and I LOVE answering questions in-depth, so unfortunately juggling that aspect on top of pumping out commentary really keep my mental checklist in disarray and my focus on improvement extremely minimal. I remember bouncing between low to mid Diamond for over a year and a half when I began my journey on Twitch. 

Fixing that was difficult, and as a streamer you try to juggle so many priorities. I have learned that it's simply best to encourage my audience to ask questions after the game. That format simply works the best for me.

Congratulations on making Challenger! What do you think was the largest factor in getting you to Challenger? (Mechanics, Macro, tilt-proof, grind, etc)

Riste: Gosh, this is a really difficult question! I think the best answer I can give you is a high regiment of discipline. I've been undisciplined in the majority of my life and I'm still practicing it to this day. To make things clear - what allowed me to enter Challenger I believe was improving my consistency. I entered Challenger 600lp with a 52% win rate - that means that I had to put up with 48% of my games as losses - many of them painful ones. I cranked up the amount of times I took courtesy breaks for myself, critically thought about what I could have done better in previous games, and took steps to make sure my experience as a Garen player was helping me progress instead of simply burning me out (trying new things and contrasting it with my familiar playstyles). I also dodged hundreds of games that involved situations where I was autofilled or I thought the game was simply unwinnable in champ select. Simply put - all of those actions required extreme discipline. 

One of my wristbands (part of the 13 that I wear on my arms) contains these words - "Discipline is the bridge between goals and success." I try to remind myself of that every day. *laughs*

Where would you place Garen on a tier list among top laners? Who would you say is the best top laner at the moment?

Riste: I'd personally say he's S tier right now and more so A-B tier in Challenger. You see - champion variety is much more saturated in lower MMR's which gives Garen okay to decent matchups. The meta right now in Challenger is absolutely horrible for Garen which is why he is sporting a 49% win rate on websites like Klepto mages, Tristana/Vayne tops, Gangplank, Vladimir, Kennen, Kayle...these champions outscale Garen and have complete dominance over him in the laning phase. Unfortunately I'm only able to ban one of them (Kayle currently) so any player trying to take Garen past Diamond is going to have a progressively difficult time with the abundance of counter-picks that fit in the meta. I have a saying that I tell my stream audience - Pick your Poison. 

You’ve dabbled in Garen mid, when do you think this is a viable pick? What makes it good? 

Riste: Garen mid I believe is better than Garen top right now. The reason? He gets slightly better matchups mid-lane than he does top-lane. Garen's silence is really effective vs ability based champions - aka some Mages and most Assassins. Ones that threaten Garen the most are those that outscale, use Klepto, or access Conqueror/True Damage really well. There's also the advantage of baiting out the top-lane counter pick towards your locked in Garen, then having your top-laner counter pick their top-laner. 

Anyone looking out to try Garen mid-lane - consider running Predator vs matchups that you may not be able to touch with Conqueror. Your roams will be better, and don't be afraid to use the rune to get back to lane quickly so you don't miss out on Cannon Minion waves! To put things in perspective - I queue up as mid-lane primary. It really is my preferred role. 

If you could give some tips about maximizing your macro play, what would they be? 

Riste:  Macro is extremely complicated stuff. The best way I can inject words into explaining this is to focus on your champion's own objectives first. To understand what your champion does best and to abuse that advantage to its maximum potential - then at that time does Macro begin to emerge beyond your champion (micro). Tryndamere's macro is going to be most likely splitting. Garen's Macro has in the past been focused on frontline and focusing the Villain. There are similarities in Macro between players no matter what champion you're playing - obviously prioritizing Baron if the enemy team is dead and you have no minion waves for example. 

Focus critically on your team's win condition. If you can't see it right away - it may develop over the course of time in the game. From there, there are simple things that always enforce good macro sense - objectives over kills, focusing on Tower Plates to push an early lead, and to run a different formations such as 1-3-1 if your two solo lanes are extremely strong but bot lane may be extremely lacking. 

Macro is one of the most complex things in this game. The more you are open to acknowledging that your macro could use work - the more you'll be willing and open to improving at it. Play solo queue with the intention to learn rather than perform.

You won Twitch Rivals last year, how was that experience for you? Do you think that sparked your drive to get to Challenger?

Riste: Twitch Rivals was an unforgettable experience for me. Surprisingly and thankfully enough, the money wasn't the biggest thing I gained from the event - it was the experience and friends and followers I made. Getting hosted by Riot/Twitch Rivals/Toast/Tyler1 made me peak 50k viewers at one point during the day. I made 10,000 followers over the course of that month which has audience members that very frequently watch my stream. I also made friends with LilyPichu during which I am extremely grateful for. Her content inspires mine and it's a pleasure being able to call her my friend. 

During the event, I was a nervous throughout many games. I think what allowed me to win the event was how much I was focusing on being a team player. I really boosted the morale of my team. I cracked jokes, I screamed Demacia multiple times. I wanted to win but made sure that my teammates were enjoying themselves too. In my heart of hearts - that's how I want to enjoy this game. 

I gained the support from many people, which helped me reach Challenger a few months after. This year - I shattered my imposter syndrome and now I understand the true scope of what I can accomplish. To anyone struggling with the same - you can accomplish great things too. But before anyone else believes in that - *you* have to believe in that. 

You've become well known for being extremely positive. Life obviously has its ups and downs and so does League, what do you do to remain calm even during the hard times?

Riste: I try to mention this as much as I can - but my audience helps me stay calm. They are a wonderful group of supporting individuals that encourage me to try, try again, mixed in with the hope that next time will be better. I've gone through many emotional journeys in this game, and I realize now that having a support network of individuals that enjoy League in the ways that you do really help. I feel empowered by my audience and it helps me keep my kindness towards others instead of losing it. Perhaps I haven't always done the best job at staying calm, but I must remind myself that I'll never be perfect.  

Anyone looking to be a bit more calm, a bit more positive, or a bit more focused with their time with League should keep a friends list of individuals wanting the same - a good time that is free of pettiness and toxicity. If you encounter anyone who is goal oriented, forgiving, and can laugh off mistakes - add them, say hello, and hold onto them dearly. Encourage them and they may just encourage you back. It's easier to accomplish your goals when you have others there for you with their belief that you can do it. 

Finally - I really think having a zen music playlist can really help establish a mood where you can keep more positive vibes than negative ones. I really recommend lo-fi, chillstep, classical, and acoustic. I have some people telling me that death metal calms them... but hey, if it floats the boat - you keep on rowing it.

Do you think this calm mindset is vital to climbing solo queue?

Riste: I personally believe that being calm can be one way to forge a mindset to climb, but it is not the only one. All mindsets to win and dominate the ladder in this game possess one singular thing in common - the absolute drive to improve that takes priority over all else. The motivation that we draw from moments of despair, frustration, and sadness is something we all experience no matter how calm or aggressive we are as individuals. 

I do believe that calmer individuals tilt less. However, calm individuals will rely on distractions more heavily I believe to soothe the burn of potential frustration. I know I do that a lot myself. Individuals who become very angry from time to time face it head on with acknowledgement, and if that individual is able to control it to some extent, I think it can be channeled into potential good play. 

The fuel for motivation comes in many shapes and forms. My best advice is to be yourself in this game - but remained motivated to improve, find what creates that motivation, and never stop searching for it.

What makes Garen interesting to you?

Riste: Garen is a very hopeful champion, and thematically I like him. He has the Johnny Bravo dance which reminds of one of my favorite cartoon characters in League of Legends. And for the longest time, he was off-meta and very unviable in high elo. I took the challenge of trying to climb with him almost two years ago, and it has been quite the emotional journey. I'm glad I've stuck with him. He is a champion that has taught me many lessons in patience. His passive after all literally teaches you to wait. I also find his itemization to be a high avenue of skill expression. I don't particularly mind that he isn't too flashy. I like how reliable all of his abilities are and how timing them properly really allows me to get an edge on a play. 

Is there anything you would change about him if you could?/Do you think his new changes are good for him?

Riste: So a little fun-fact! I assisted Riot Axes with the current iteration of Garen out in live. He didn't replicate every single one of my requests, but he did visibly take into account most of my feedback. I think Garen being a stronger early game champion was a wonderful direction for the rework because many Juggernauts dominate early and Garen has been left out to bond with Nasus (haha). I'm partially satisfied with the rework. Garen lost a large portion of in-kit power for Conqueror access though, so it will be concerning when the rune gets changed in pre-season. I'm not the biggest fan of his passive being really weak late game as I believe the cooldown is too high and the heal amount is a touch too low. However, with his win rate right now in solo queue, it's hard to justify even buffing that department. Overall, I think the rework has breathed new life into the champion. He now can punish the champion classes that Juggernauts are designed to punish, and I feel more consistent with him overall. 

I don't want to downplay the old Garen because I enjoyed him as well. But that Garen had a lot of sacrifices to make it work. In high elo, he virtually had zero winning matchups besides assassins, he would be really bad to pick on AP heavy team comps because of his ultimate being magic damage to four out of five targets (not good with the abundance of spell shields). 

With worlds coming up, a lot of people will be watching the pros and trying to play similarly to them. Do you think pro play mannerisms translate well into solo queue?

Riste: So Garen right now is being played exclusively bottom at Worlds, with solo queue Garen being housed in solo lanes. What's even more diverse is that the pros aren't playing with reworked Garen and we are, so the contrast is very, very visible. I'm very curious to see where Garen will lie in competitive play during Season 10, but even I can't predict when he'll be seen next. I think solo queue will be pioneering the new Garen first because right now the pro's are too preoccupied with old Garen. 

Is there anything else that I didn't ask that you think may help people in top-lane?

Riste: Top-lane is extremely controversial and a lot of people complain about it. Honestly, there are a lot of top-lane games that I don't enjoy. It feels like an island, and even players like Apdo/Dopa calling it the "bus lane" (playing for 15 minutes and finding out which team has the extreme advantage) can burn you out of frustrate you extremely heavily. In order to have ANY impact in the lane, your map awareness has to be clean and thriving, whether it's avoiding ganks or making the correct teleport play.

If you are unsure if your top-lane champion is better off splitting or grouping, then seek the help of other players who play that champion to help you identify that. I like and admire individuals like Foggedftw2 because he knows his champion so well that he can hard-carry top-lane (Tryndamere). Players like him and TFBlade remind me that you can impact games, but you have to clear the stigma of top-lane in your head and play with extreme precision. 

Thank you for all your time and for the great answers! Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Riste: I am going to be speaking about this a lot more in the future - but I often mention on my stream the reasons why I smurf so much. I alternate constantly between two different zones to maximize my potential in League - the learning and the performance zone. Eduardo Briceño made an exceptionally good TED talk that you can find online explaining this concept and incorporating it into my play has benefitted my play a lot. I never feel stressed out on my smurf and I can always focus on enjoyment or improvement.

Did I lose a 40 minute game on my smurf? No biggie - it's just my smurf! Also, I can tell myself that I learned x, y, and z. I try out new builds and optimizations all the time, and it allows me to wind down too without risking a not-so-good performance on my main. When I feel 100% ready to dominate - I switch to my main and put myself in the performance zone. I play 1-3 games and immediately break. I have to thank my audience for being so patient with games on my main account because they happen so infrequently. When you try climbing on your main account I think burnout is extremely common which can lead to tilt and a spiral of despair. Not everyone acknowledges it or tries to cover it up. I avoid it as much as possible with being extremely picky as to when I want to play on the main, and honestly, it's been working wonders for me. 

For those of you would like to catch Riste at his stream:

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