Alphari: “I Was More Open-Minded About Going to NA Than Ever Before”
Barney “Alphari” Morris built a reputation for himself in Europe as one of the region’s best top laners; he was even considered by many to be the one saving grace on a struggling Origen (now Astralis) for two years. After much deliberation, he joined Team Liquid for 2021 and will debut in North America’s League of Legends Championship Series.
Hotspawn: You have a pretty big season coming up, how’ve you been spending your offseason?
Alphari: Well, for the first month of the offseason, I went home to try to destress and recover from the season because it was a very stressful season, probably one of the hardest that I’ve had. Then I had to go back to Copenhagen for a couple weeks after that because they told us we had to. We didn’t really do anything there; they just told us we had to do content, but then we didn’t have anything to do. Then they said I could leave, so I left again. Free agency started kicking off and I started talking to a lot of teams for like two or three weeks and I decided to go with TL, so I flew over to their facility in Utrecht. I was there for about a month, then I came home a few days ago. When I was in Utrecht I was checking out the facilities, exploring the Netherlands a bit, and playing solo queue on nine ping. It was really nice. Now I’m back home; I’m here for the holidays, and to sort my visa out. I still play some solo queue to just prepare and wait for next year.
Hotspawn: How did you enjoy the Netherlands? Was anything even open?
Alphari: Not too much was open, I think. It took me a while to really leave the facility, so I didn’t explore too much. I’m not a good tourist [laughs], so I didn’t go check out most places, but it was a really pretty city [to visit], the buildings were really nice, everyone spoke English. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t really a tourist there.
I just saw both [NA and Europe] as equal opportunities.
Hotspawn: Well let’s jump right into things then: why did you decide to come to NA?
Alphari: So, going into this offseason I was more open-minded about going to NA than ever before in my career. I would say this is largely due to how the past three years have gone for me in Europe. I’ve become more skeptical of judging teams based on my rosters, which is what I’ve done in the past. That backfired heavily for me. I also think that Europe is much more unpredictable in regards to how teams will do compared to America. There always seems to be random rookies who end up being good and random veterans that end up being bad. This makes it even harder to correctly evaluate a roster. Those were just some of my thoughts going into free agency, but I was still very open-minded about playing in Europe, it’s not like I only wanted to go to NA or anything like that. I just saw both as equal opportunities. On that point, I suppose some people or players might say that going to NA, adjusting to the culture, having to play against all these new players and adjusting to a new region and team might be challenging or put me off, but actually this is something that I personally find to be exciting. Being able to travel and experience different countries is a really fun and good part of my career. So going to NA wasn’t a bad thing for me this offseason.
I think my highest chance to win a domestic title and make it to Worlds was with Team Liquid.
There were a few NA teams that were interested in me, but I knew already that if I was going to join an NA team it was going to be TL. I didn’t see any other roster being better, and this is also the best org from everything I’ve heard over my five years as a player. I didn’t really put much thought, if any at all, into any of the other NA offers. So it was TL and then maybe three or four European offers I was heavily considering. This increased skepticism towards European rosters was obviously one factor, but I think my highest chance to win a domestic title and make it to Worlds was with TL. The most important thing for me next year is to make it to Worlds, so these were things I was heavily considering when looking at rosters. I think I still would’ve had very high chances to make it to Worlds or win a split with a different roster if I chose a European team, because obviously there were good options for me in Europe still. I just thought that the highest likelihood was with TL. In the end it was really close to choosing between a European team and TL. At times it could’ve gone either way very easily. I was very close to joining a different team. I didn’t, but I figured that no matter what I’d be pretty happy with whatever I chose. I just wanted to make it to Worlds, I wanted to win a domestic title.
Playoffs came around and it started becoming more obvious that there were problems.
Hotspawn: You’ve mentioned a few times that you lost a bit of confidence in EU orgs and you’ve become more skeptical of judging rosters by their lineups. That was kind of the story with Origen, no? You guys were supposed to be stacked on paper and at least qualify for Worlds, but it never worked out. Do you mind talking a bit about what happened there? It must’ve been conflicting being considered one of the best in your role while playing for a losing team.
Alphari: Yeah, sure. I guess I’ll start by saying that the team didn’t perform as I hoped or expected by far. We massively underperformed. I could’ve done some things better, for sure. At the end of the Spring towards Summer I got very stressed and I ended up having to use all my energy to keep myself motivated and able to keep going. I couldn’t use my energy to help my teammates; this was my main fault. Even though the year was a failure, I don’t want to harp on my teammates or flame them or bash them or anything like that. I’ll just talk about my experience.
It was very draining and I was very stressed in Summer. I was very optimistic in Spring; I thought we had good chances, then playoffs came around and it started becoming more obvious that there were problems. People were getting very argumentative and it was clear that there were some underlying issues with players that were very hard to change either with their personality or playstyle. I think on top of this, Astralis dropped the ball in regards to staff, coaching staff in particular. After Spring, we only had André “Guilhoto” Guilhoto as the head coach. We let go of the strategic coach Jack “Kayys” Charles who was very helpful and we never really got a good replacement for him. On top of that, I think that there just weren’t enough people to help our team. We needed people to do one-on-one’s with, we needed more people to help with draft, we needed more discipline in general I would say. It depends on the team, whether more discipline is a good thing or a bad thing, but I think with our team it would’ve definitely been a good thing. I think maybe some players, definitely even myself at times, abused the freedom that we were given in maybe everything, to be honest. We were given a lot of freedom in what champions we played in practice and what champions we played on stage. Also in regards to discussing what our problems were; that freedom was abused. Obviously everyone had good intentions, but they didn’t practice or pick champions or have the correct ideas– I mean everyone is biased so it was just a mess basically.
Things didn’t really improve in Summer at all
Going into Summer, I realized there was a much lower chance of us actually winning a split than I had initially hoped after Spring. In between Spring and Summer, there was an attempted roster move so the team atmosphere, while there were already more arguments happening in playoffs, didn’t really improve. Things didn’t really improve in Summer at all, and I think we played even worse in Summer than we did in Spring. The individual issues were even more obvious and they became even more exploitable. While Guilhoto tried, and did a good job to help us fix our issues, there just weren’t enough people to help us. I think that we were given too much freedom in regards to our champions and what we thought the issues with the team were rather than being direct or being realistic with ourselves.
It became really difficult for me to stay motivated and happy as Summer came to an end. I was still tryharding and trying to fix the team’s issues for most of it, but we were most of the time tunneling on things that weren’t actually why we were losing or being bad. This was especially frustrating for me and made me lose hope, especially around week eight it felt like it didn’t matter what I did. We show up on the day and maybe my team plays well or my team plays bad, but it felt like I had no agency over whether we win or lose. This is just how it felt and it felt absolutely terrible for me. That was my experience with Origen in Summer, and I realized that I needed to work on looking out for myself more after this year. So I’m trying to take these lessons into next year to keep my stress levels down so that even if things are going tough, I can not only look after myself, like I did in Origen, but also still try to pay attention to my teammates which is what I wish I could’ve done more.
Hotspawn: Thanks for sharing, I’m glad you were able to identify Team Liquid as the place that can help you achieve those things. To wrap us up, do you have anything to say to your old EU fans and new NA fans?
Alphari: [Laughs] I suppose for the European fans, try to keep supporting me even though I went to NA. And to the NA fans, I hope you’ll begin supporting me now that I’m here. Hopefully we’ll be able to achieve great things with TL in the upcoming years. I actually think that NA is not that bad as a whole– I know it gets memed on Reddit and Twitter and Twitch and all those social media sites. Maybe I’m wrong, but hopefully I can prove that NA can be a decent region too.
The newly formatted LCS 2021 season kicks off on January 15th with the LCS Lock In.