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Golden Guardians’ Niles on Playing in the LCS: “It’s a blessing”

Dan Smyth-Temple

It’s been a tough split for the Golden Guardians, whose flash of success in the LCS Lock In tournament shocked fans and gave everyone a taste of the young team’s scrappy style. Unfortunately, they were unable to push their success into the regular season, ending the split with a lackluster 3-15 record and missing out on this years revamped Mid-Season Showdown playoffs. 


It's been a hard split for Niles and the Golden Guardians, but he has high hopes for Summer split. (Photo via Niles.)

We caught up with Golden Guardians’ rookie toplaner Aiden “Niles” Tidwell for the second time this year to reflect on the disappointing results, maintaining a positive outlook despite them, and looking towards the future. 

Hotspawn: Thanks for joining me, Niles. I was happy to see your tweet after the loss to TSM, looking at your first experience in the LCS on a positive note despite the setbacks you’ve faced. How’re you feeling, now that it’s all said and done?

Niles: Feels kinda sad, just because I feel like there were a lot of games this split that we could’ve won, and had a better record going into summer. Sad about that. I’m also sad because I didn’t play as well as I could’ve. I have some regrets. But on the positive note, I think that I at least have gotten better. The things I have been improving on, they’re not very visible to people who are just watching the LCS, but they’re visible to me and my teammates. Those are the two on the negative side, the regrets, but also on the positive side you have things to take away too. 

Hotspawn: What are some of the things you’ve been improving on that might not be apparent to those of us just watching the stage games? 

Niles: I would say especially around teleport usage, it’s been a big focus this split for me. Just making sure that if I’m getting counterpicked that I’m always even in TP, and if I’m in an advantaged matchup that I’m using my TP proactively to help botlane or midlane or to set up invades. Stuff like that is one thing I’ve gotten much better at. It’s really important being a pro toplaner, TP usage. Teleport is a really important part of toplane. Especially around that I’ve gotten a ton better, but it’s not very easy to see. 

Hotspawn: What helped you along the way in terms of weathering a rough split, and maintaining that positive outlook? Is it just inherent to your personality? Having teammates to rely on? 

Niles: Definitely we support each other as teammates, in terms of giving each other confidence and believing in each other. That’s important. Another thing that has helped me keep my confidence is… I know that I’m a good player, and when I play versus all these toplaners I usually play my 1v1’s pretty well. Especially in scrims I do very well toplane, you know? I know just playing against them, you know from playing against them over and over again how you stack up, you know? So that gives me confidence, because I know I can stack up to them. We give each other confidence within our team, and I stay off of. I just have Twitter. I avoid Reddit like the plague [laughs]. 

Hotspawn: How do you filter through the unhelpful criticism and find the things that are actually worth taking note of? Whose opinion do you actually value in situations like this? 

Niles: The only thing that matters to me is my coaches, and they only care that I’m improving and working on the things that we’ve talked about in practice this week. For this week, it was making sure that if we’re taking control of a [game], then we need to be ready to fight and pull the trigger if they try and mess with us. In our game versus CLG we did a really good job of that. Whatever we’re working on, if my coaches are happy with me, then that’s the only thing that matters to me because we’re working on things step-by-step, you know? No one else matters to me.

Hotspawn: Have you enjoyed playing in the LCS? I know that’s a bit of a loaded question, but has it been a rewarding experience on the whole?

Niles: It’s super rewarding, because it’s something that everyone wants to do. It’s a blessing in so many ways, just because it’s such a unique experience. That helps me keep a positive attitude. It’s a blessing and very few people ever get to do it, and you can’t be too down on yourself if you know that you have this amazing opportunity.

Hotspawn: Would Niles from one year ago have expected to be here today?

Niles: No, I wouldn’t of expected that. I definitely expected Academy. The jump is huge. Academy is way, way different from LCS. It’s a crazy transition.


Niles and Iconic played for Maryville University before making the jump to the LCS.

Hotspawn: Do you feel like skipping that stepping stone has affected you at all? Jumping straight to the big stage from collegiate. 

Niles: It definitely affected me, but it’s overall been positive. You definitely get your butt whooped, you know? The first few weeks coming in, getting punished for things. They’re world-class toplaners that you’re playing against, and they punish you for things you didn’t even know you had to work on. You’re just playing against so much better players. Skipping Academy, you’re just playing versus great players, and you have to learn how to adapt and improve very quickly. That’s the big difference between LCS and Academy.

Hotspawn: Stepping away from the difficult parts of the transition, what’s something from your play this split that you’re proud of? I know you mentioned holding your own in those 1v1 situations earlier. 

Niles: I think that one thing I’m really happy about is whenever I’m on a matchup that I’m comfortable with toplane—like I’ve played the matchup dozens of times—then I’m able to execute it well on stage. Whenever I get matchups like that, when I’m comfortable, I get CS leads, XP leads, TP advantage, stuff like that. That’s one thing I’m happy about. Usually when I struggle it’s when I’m in matchups that I haven’t played very much, and I’m having to first time them on stage. I remember I played versus Licorice, and I was Gragas versus Shen. I had literally never played that matchup ever, and I got solokilled because of it. Yeah, one thing that I’m proud of is whenever I know a matchup on stage I’m able to execute well on it. 

Hotspawn: Now that playoffs are here you have a bit of a break. What’re some of the things you’re looking forward to, in terms of goals for summer?

Niles: I’m just gonna be looking forward to playing solo queue and improving on the things that I know I have to improve on. You can work on those things in solo queue, so I’m looking forward to that.

Hotspawn: What’ll you be focusing on, in terms of improvement?

Niles: Just playing around the enemy jungler. Not going aggressive on times when I can’t, keeping my deaths low, my CS high, stuff like that. Especially in solo queue, it’s easy to kamikaze and just fight perma, you know? Play like there’s no jungler there. That’s the main thing that I’m trying to improve on. If I get better at that, it’ll be really good. 

Hotspawn: I think that’s all I have time for! Thanks again, Niles. Do you have any last thoughts for the Golden Guardians fans out there to close us out?

Niles: I’m really looking forward to Summer Split. Just keep cheering for us, and hopefully, the success we’ve been having in scrims and stuff can start translating to stage, and we can pick up some more wins for the fans. 

Niles and Golden Guardians will return for the LCS 2021 Summer split. Keep up to date on all the League of Legends news at Hotspawn, and look out for details of the summer season on the lolesports website.