Interview with CG LoL Head Coach Thinkcard
Thu 21st Nov 2019 - 8:31pm
Thomas "Thinkcard" Slotkin joined Clutch Gaming during the 2019 Summer Split. Contributing in no small part to their miracle run through to Worlds, it's fair to say that his time with CG so far has been nothing short of exhilarating. We had a chance to ask him about the season that was and some of his thoughts throughout this turbulent time!
As a coach with a fairly extensive portfolio, what does it mean to you to be representing Dignitas coming into next season?
Thinkcard: I have felt so much support from Dignitas over the last few months during our playoff run, gauntlet run, and time at Worlds, and it is very exciting to be able to go into next year and build our culture from the start of the season. I have gone to Worlds 2 out of my 4 years as a coach, and hopefully 2020 will be my 3rd time. To be honest, I just want LCS to start already so that we can continue to cement ourselves as one of the top teams in the LCS.
You’ve said in previous interviews that you need to “make practice productive” in order to see the best results. What are some ways that players can do this to improve their game?
Thinkcard: Players need to make sure they have specific things to focus on. A lot of players think that if they play 8 hours of solo queue then they are practicing hard, but there is a big difference between just going through the motions and actually optimizing your improvement. Try to make sure that you are critical of yourself and take responsibility for your mistakes before blaming your teammates, and then you will start to see real improvement from your solo queue games besides mechanics. Writing down mistakes is a great way to get a list of things you can work on during solo queue (e.g. Did not respect jungle timing 5:35, died to gank).
Let’s talk about Clutch Gaming’s final season. If you could describe the past 6 months in 3 words, what would they be and why?
Thinkcard: “Don’t give up.” These 6 months have been such a roller coaster for everyone involved. When I accepted the offer to join Clutch, we had a meeting about how the goal was to rally the team to make the playoffs. There were so many amazing moments during our run, but there were also countless low moments that knocked us off our feet. The week 8 loss to CLG, the Game 5 loss to TL, and the reverse sweep by CLG in Detroit were all such heavy experiences where tears were shed, and we all needed to learn from those defeats in order to move forward. There were literally a total of 8 games during our run where we loaded into champ select knowing that if we lose, then our season would be over. The odds were definitely not in our favor to make it to Worlds, but we somehow overcame every obstacle to make it. It takes a special group of people to be able to rally and win that many times with our backs against the wall, and the whole run is something that I definitely will cherish and never forget.
In an interview I had with Damonte before The Gauntlet, he said that the energy that Prindi (Michael Prindiville), Artemis, and yourself brought to the team changed everything entirely for him. What was the turning point in the season for you?
Thinkcard: There are two moments that stand out to me. The first was our loss vs CLG in week 8. We played a calculated game for the first 25 minutes where we were clearly the better team and were showing signs of being a top contender in NA, and then we made one mistake which lost us the game. After the match the players were frustrated and upset with themselves, and the team had an emotional moment together. The team was starting to believe that we were capable of doing something special. The other moment happened after our Game 5 loss to Team Liquid. In our eyes, we could have won that series, and it was heartbreaking to lose. We definitely felt like contenders to go to Worlds after that series.
Alright, let’s dive into Worlds. What was it like for you as a coach coming into the Play-In stage of the tournament and what were your expectations for the team?
Thinkcard: The Play-In stage is a very stressful couple of weeks. We are expected by the community to win and pass easily, yet teams rarely ever smoothly navigate through the Play-Ins. I expected to drop a game or two, but to ultimately make it through as the first seed. Many players want to show off their mechanical skill on the World’s stage, which is understandable, but it is more reliable to outbrain our opponents instead of outplay them through risky decisions, and it took us a few games to calm down and start using our brains that got us to worlds. We ended up getting 1st seed, but we definitely stumbled along the way.
CG’s group with Russia’s Unicorns of Love and Australia’s Mammoth Gaming in the Play-Ins ended with each team picking up 2 wins and 2 losses; did you think the group would be this closely contested?
Thinkcard: The group was closer than I anticipated. Unicorns of Love proved to be a strong team with unconventional champion pools, and they almost beat Splyce in their best of 5 to make to the group stage. I think they shocked the world with their cohesive gameplay, but ultimately, I do think that we were the better team. It just took us a few games to adjust our strategy to beat their champion pools and playstyle.
Now, we know Huni was eager to dive into a “group of death” with Fnatic and SKT, but run me through your thoughts when Clutch Gaming found themselves in that exact position?
Thinkcard: Honestly, we were not too focused about what group we were going to be drawn into. We leaped over so many obstacles during our run to the World Championship, and we were confident that we could upset most of the teams at Worlds if we played well.I felt the magic in the air, and I think we all believed that there was chance we could keep our run alive.
CG ended up having a pretty tough 6 games on the main stage in Berlin, but what are some of the things that you have taken away from that experience?
Thinkcard: It was saddening to not win a single game at the group stage. We definitely had a few games where we were in the driver’s seat, but we did not perform to our usual capabilities and were unable to close out the games. There are countless valuable takeaways from Worlds and so many things that can always be improved. I think all the teams at Worlds showed flaws, and the teams that succeed at Worlds are not always comprised of the best players. All players have strengths and weaknesses, and the most successful teams have a style that works for them, and players who can cover each other’s weaknesses through communication, teamplay, and strategy.
Regardless of the final scores, I think it’s pretty safe to say that you and the team gave Clutch Gaming a very positive send-off in Worlds 2019. With this in mind, what can we look forward to next year from Dignitas in the North American LCS?
Thinkcard: You can look forward to our explosive team compositions and our high pressure style of play. If you want to follow a team that can upset anyone, then follow us. Last split was our first split in LCS, how can you not be excited to see what comes next?
Thank you so much for your time, is there anyone you’d like to give a shoutout to or any final comments you’d like to make before we say goodbye?
Thinkcard: I’d like to give a shoutout to all the players and staff members who made the last few months possible, as well as to our old and new fans. It really was an incredible journey, and even though there might be some different faces on Dignitas next year, I hope that you still support us as we continue our adventure. Thanks!
I'd like to thank Thinkcard for his time; make sure you check him out @lolThinkcard on Twitter and we hope that you'll all continue to cheer for the team in the future!