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Aphromoo on Roster Swaps, Getting Back on Stage

Dan Smyth-Temple

The decision to bench Soligo and Dardoch for Yusui and Akaadian left many scratching their heads at Dignitas, especially after the mixed performance that followed. All hope is not lost, however, as Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black and Toàn “Neo” Tran continue to showcase the same potential that put the team in contention for first place last split. While doubtful they’ll reach those same peaks again, their playoff hopes are still very much alive.

Aphromoo DIG

Aphromoo's veteran leadership has kept Dignitas afloat through Soligo's benching and Dardoch's departure. (Photo via Riot Games.)

We spoke with Aphromoo after the game to discuss the win against FlyQuest, the morale boost when playing non-monster champions, and Dignitas’ recent roadblocks.

Hotspawn: Welcome, Aphromoo! Thanks for joining me. How’re you feeling after that breezy win against FlyQuest?

Aphromoo: Oh, the FlyQuest game? We’re chilling, bro. Playing Braum for my 69th game. Nothing new. Stand behind me, pop some stuns. Braum is pretty broken, especially if you can pick it in this meta right now.

Hotspawn: I’m glad you brought up the Braum pick, because that’s something I want to pick your brain about. When do you think Braum is the right pick versus, say, other defensive champions? Taric, Kench, or even other enchanters. 

Aphromoo: Enchanter matchup is the hardest for Braum. You don’t really want to pick it into that, and if you do, the team has to focus around bottom or you’re gonna get outscaled pretty fast by the enchanter. But most of the meta right now is just melee supports, and Braum is excellent into all of them. He’s actually probably the best, I would say. The only time he’s really good is if people can proc your stun, so especially in the bruiser meta, it’s really easy for him to get his stuns off, since all the bruisers are jumping in and autoing. Lee Sin, Viego, stuff like that. 

Hotspawn: Getting even more into the meat of this—  do you like playing Braum? 

Aphromoo: Do I like playing Braum? [Laughs] Yeah I do. I think for my last bajillion games I’ve been on Leona, so thank god they banned it, cause oh my god. The dawn has arrived every game. So at least I’m on Braum for once. I think it’s always different for every team I play on. 100 Thieves, I’m always on Braum. Usually, I’m always on the engage supports. It’s very easy for people to follow.

Hotspawn: What would you be playing if it weren’t a matter of team? If it were completely up to you. 

Aphromoo: If it was completely up to me I’d be playing enchanter supports. Just force my team to come bot, and I’m gonna shit on this guy. Honestly, this is how I look at it: for me as a gamer, let’s say I’m in an MMO, I gotta play a female character. I’m sorry. Right now, all the melees are just big fucking monsters, big ass fat dudes, you know. Nautilus? Man. But if I’m playing enchanters, I’m playing Nami, Sona, Zyra, that would be awesome. [Laughs] but you can’t do that right now.

Hotspawn: Does playing those champions put you in a better mental headspace? 

Aphromoo: Of course, man! When I’m walking around to ward, going to lane, my character is looking good. That’s all that matters. Confidence boost, plus five to strength or something, I’m telling you. But when I’m on fucking Tahm Kench, resident sleeper. I can’t focus. 

DIG Aphromoo and Neo

Aphromoo and Neo have been a bright spot for Dignitas through difficult weeks. (Photo via Riot Games.)

Hotspawn: You mentioned the confidence boost in-game, and I’m gonna use that as a slick segue into my next question. Dignitas has been going through a couple of roster swaps recently, but it seems like you’ve been able to hold your footing. How do you maintain confidence and momentum in moments like this?

Aphromoo: Me personally as a veteran, obviously I’ve been through a lot of obstacles, adversity, things like that. I’m pretty used to roster swaps and all that stuff. I think it’s more taxing for the new guys, so what is most important is at least you keep the same foundation. In particular, me and Neo have been playing the same for bottom lane. At least we have that stable foundation. Unlike the 100 Thieves game where we didn’t really fight—  that was a mistake, we’ll get ’em next time.

But that’s what’s most important, keeping the same foundation and communication. Me, Neo, and FakeGod have all been playing together. Our sidelanes are pretty active in fighting, I would say. I think definitely a confidence boost especially as lanes are calling “we can kill this guy, let’s make this play here.” Even in the 100 Thieves game we got three kills early in both solo lanes. It’s important to snowball on top of that. If you’re a jungler, we swapped in Akaadian, it’s pretty easy to just play around the lanes. 

Hotspawn: I spoke to FakeGod in the second week of Spring Split, and he said he hoped by the end of this year that he would be able to come into his own as a player and a leader—  how do you feel like your newer teammates are doing in that regard?

Aphromoo: They’re doing really great. They put a lot of stress on themselves to do their best, to overperform. There’s a lot of overcommunication, but it just shows that they’re putting in a lot of effort. What’s most important is sharpening the stone, you know? Making sure it’s perfect. Eventually, they’ll get there, but right now all of our rookies are performing excellent in practice and on stage. Once you do get on stage, atmosphere, comms, all that changes. More stress comes with that, so just learning how to deal with that and become the player you wanna be. I think they’ll be pretty good by the end of the split here. Definitely making playoffs, so that’ll be fun. 

Hotspawn: What was it like getting back on stage? You’ve been there a hundred times before, but introducing your teammates to the added pressure that comes with that. 

Aphromoo: It’s fun. Once you get back on stage people act way different [laughs], especially if it’s your first time. Usually people over-communicate. Once we did get back on stage, that was one of our faults. All of a sudden everybody is talking so much, but in practice, we’re not saying any of this [laughs]. Just getting used to that. 

Hotspawn: Do you have any go-to tactics when it comes to moments like that? In terms of helping your teammates get through that.

Aphromoo: From my position, just making sure I talk calmly the whole time. Almost always during LCS I talk with the same tone, make sure it’s calm, be confident in the calls, “do this, do that,” instead of… I don’t know what to call it, beta comms? “I think we can do this, uhh guys, can we do this?” Asking too many questions, where the seconds you lose doing that you’ll probably miss the opportunity. For me, just keeping that stable enables helps calm people down. Stuff like that. 

Hotspawn: I’ve asked you a lot about your teammates, but let’s shift gears a little towards you. You’ve been competitively for almost ten years now—  what keeps you motivated after all this time? 

Aphromoo: What’s most important for me is having fun. If I’m not having fun playing the game, then yeah, it’s hella boring. But I’ve been having a lot of fun this split and last split with all the guys I’ve been playing with. Especially being able to play with an AD Carry like Neo, who’s always looking to fight, making it spicy. There’s a lot of variables that come with that. I enjoy that.

Hotspawn: You feel like you guys were on the same page going in, in terms of that hard-to-place duo synergy?

Aphromoo: Oh yeah, we’d been playing a lot together already. I would say the first time a duo plays together it’s a little rough, cause you gotta get through it, but I take pride in me being able to play with whoever is my AD Carry. Being able to sync up pretty fast. Usually, by the second split we perform a lot better. 

Hotspawn: Awesome, thank you! You have any parting words for the Dig fans out there to close us out?

Aphromoo: Oh, Dig fans? Sup boys, see you next game [laughs].