Nicholas “Ablazeolive” Abbott is one of the most well-known players in the class of rookies entering the League of Legends Championship Series 2021 season. Having studied under the likes of Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg for the first two years of his Academy career, and earning an Academy Championship title along the way, many people have waited for him to show the fruits of his training on the big stage.
After accepting an offer to join Golden Guardians’ LCS lineup as the starting mid laner, he’ll have that chance. We spoke with Ablazeolive to learn more about his journey to the LCS and give him a platform to share a bit about himself and his interests.
We're hoping to set the standard for what a reset and what a developmental team looks like
Introducing the GG Spring 2021 #LCS Roster:
— Golden Guardians (@GoldenGuardians) November 23, 2020
Hotspawn: You were part of that early Academy cohort that never really got a fair shot in the LCS. How does it feel for you to finally be there?
Ablazeolive: It feels great. I was worried for a long time that there was such prejudice against NA mids specifically that it was never gonna happen. But, thankfully, I worked my way to earning myself a spot here and I’m excited to show my potential. On top of that, I’m actually really glad that not only me, but a lot of other NA mids and NA residents that have been in Academy for a while are getting their shot as well. It’s a good look for the future of North America.
Hotspawn: For those that haven’t watched you in the past, how would you describe your playstyle?
Ablazeolive: I think my playstyle varies depending on what my team is and what the meta is at the moment. I learned a lot from Bjergsen when I played under him. Despite what some people think, Bjergsen was very willing to play every style that the team needed or thought was strong. I learned a lot from that and I learned from him about how to play all the different styles. I’d classify myself as someone who can play different styles depending on what the team dynamic is. In terms of what I’m specifically strong at, I’d say my strengths are playing more teamfight-style champions where you at some point teamfight and win because I have a lot of faith in my mechanics. That’s a small preference based on what the metas have been in the past, so I have more confidence in [that style], but I feel confident playing any type of meta that comes up.
Hotspawn: Did you feel ready for the LCS in past years or frustrated that teams weren’t looking your way? It seems like this has been a long time coming.
Ablazeolive: I think after 2019, I had a really good year where I performed really well. From what I had heard from other people, people thought that I should be in LCS in 2020 and I also thought that I was good enough to play in LCS when I just compared myself to the other mid laners. It was a bit of a disappointment that it didn’t happen, and I don’t know the exact reason for that, but it seems that there’s been a big shift after this year in terms of letting native talent try out. I’m glad to see that happen.
Hotspawn: Do you think it took so long to get to LCS because the old Academy system didn’t offer as many incentives or maybe some teams weren’t taking Academy development as seriously?
Ablazeolive: I’m not entirely sure how every team actually used Academy behind the scenes, but when I was playing on TSM they were much more focused on their LCS team. It’s kind of hard to fault them for that, not only because it makes sense, but also because TSM had been trying to perform at the international level for basically their entire existence. It’s not something that surprised me at all. I think the majority of teams subscribe to this line of thinking where their Academy team isn’t entirely unimportant, but it’s a lot less important than how successful your LCS team is. There wasn’t a very large priority on actually getting and fostering good talent and bringing them up. C9 was really the only team that had that happen where they had someone in Academy and they actually brought them up. With Robert “Blaber” Huang specifically, I don’t really remember another time where a player was brought up because they were fostered to do well rather than their team was doing badly so they swapped players. You can say that they were using the Academy system poorly, but I think they just had way more of a priority on LCS. Instead of trying to go slow, they wanted to move quickly, which is way more profitable I assume.
Hotspawn: Well now that you’re starting in the LCS, was there anything that particularly stood out to you about Golden Guardians over other orgs? Of course, you were already playing for them on Academy, but besides that?
Ablazeolive: To be honest, I didn’t really expect to get LCS this year because in 2020 I performed a lot worse than I did in 2019. I think the big draw for me with Golden Guardians was the presence of mind to realize that you don’t have to win every split. There’s a sense of understanding that having an immediately successful year may not be feasible in the short term or necessarily profitable in the long term if you take a slower approach. Naturally, it’s a risk bringing on lesser experienced players, but I think that this is the direction that not only orgs, but the LCS in general has to go towards in order to compete at the international level.
Hotspawn: And Golden Guardians’ roster this year really seems to emulate that. With three LCS rookies and two more experienced players filling in the other slots, there isn’t that much pressure to just go out and win anything. What are your thoughts on the roster and how’s it been coming together as a team and discussing goals, etc. if you’ve gotten a chance to do that at all?
Ablazeolive: We haven’t had that much talking about goals yet, but I’m very excited to play with my new teammates. Aiden “Niles” Tidwell and Ethan “Iconic” Wilkinson show a lot of potential. Yes, you can make an argument that they should’ve gone through Academy, but there’s no reason why that has to be the case. You improve a lot faster in LCS, and if Golden Guardians believes that they have the potential to grow into superstars, then you can’t really fault them for saying that they’re going to take a year to foster their talent and after that year they’ll see the fruits of their labor. Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and Leandro “Newbie” Marcos I’m also excited to play with. Some more veteran talent on the team makes it a good mix.
Hotspawn: On the topic of new talent, what about yourself? We’ve lost some older players in the LCS this year, and you’ve slotted in at the perfect time to make a name for yourself. Do you mind sharing a bit of your story?
Ablazeolive: I always knew that I’d go pro in video games; it sounds weird, but it’s true. I didn’t really know if it’d be profitable or if I could do it as a job when I was younger, but I knew that I wanted to get really really good at a game and be the best at it. League just happened to be the game that I decided to follow that goal with. I basically got really lucky when I got picked up in 2016 for Nova eSports and I got to play in the Challenger Series. The next year was a bit of a gap where I was planning on playing, but had some personal issues so I didn’t end up playing in the Challenger Series again. Then in 2018 Scouting Grounds, I got chosen by TSM so I played with TSM for a few years and I won a Championship with them. That was obviously the only trophy that I have in Academy, so it felt pretty good. Going into 2020, I was on Golden Guardians Academy. I didn’t have the best success, but clearly showed enough potential that Golden Guardians was willing to take a chance on me to put me in LCS and see how far I can go.
I want to write a book at some point
Hotspawn: But now, you’re here! You’re also one of the few players that’s more public about their personal hobbies. I saw that you’ve been playing a lot of chess and you have your blog, although I’m not sure when the last time you updated that was. Have those outlets been helpful for you as a player?
Ablazeolive: I think my interests in other areas have actually helped my League playing. So not only am I interested in them, but I also think they’re helpful as well. Chess specifically has been beneficial, from a mindset perspective, in helping with how to get better at League; there are a lot of parallels you can draw between chess and League. A lot of basic concepts that you can learn very quickly in chess aren’t learned quickly in League, but they would still apply. I think that has been very helpful for me in trying to improve at League whenever I feel like I don’t know how exactly to improve. There’s always something I can look at or just the experience of learning something I’m completely fresh at gives me ideas on the direction I can improve in League.
With my blog, that’s more of a side thing. I want to write a book at some point, and my dad said I need to start writing if I want to write a book, so I just started writing a blog and I update it sometimes. I try to keep it consistent, but that doesn’t happen. I don’t actually advertise that very much, I just have it in my bio; I just leave it there and people can sort of click it. I don’t expect anyone to read it.
grandmaster at solving puzzles LETS GO pic.twitter.com/l8rxRLeT05
— Ablazeolive (@Ablazeolive) December 19, 2020
Hotspawn: Well to close us out then, I want to hear your thoughts on the new LCS format, specifically the LCS Lock In tournament that’s kicking off the season.
Ablazeolive: I think it’s a great thing. As a pro, obviously I’d prefer having best-of-threes instead of best-of-ones for every game, but that’s not a thing. Having more games is always going to be a positive. With this tournament basically being you get to play “x” amount of games before the split starts, along with the fact that the split itself is shorter, so you play an extra game every week, you get to play a lot more games. Best-of-threes are ideal, but this is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of getting more games. As for the actual results of the tournament, personally, it doesn’t matter to me.
Especially when you take Golden Guardians’ concept of trying to develop over the course of the entire year. The first tournament isn’t really that important, and I believe it’s best-of-ones, so it’s not even best-of-fives or anything like that. I think it’s still a good idea because it’s gonna be pretty hype and there are more games, but I don’t think teams are going to break their back to try and perform in it. I think it’s just going to be a fun indicator of how strong [teams] are and a fun way of getting extra games in.
The newly formatted LCS 2021 season kicks off on January 15th with the LCS Lock In.