As of Sunday, October 20, all three representative teams from North America have been knocked out of the 2019 League of Legends World Championship in the Group Stage. Clutch Gaming was the only team to go completely winless, but given their stacked group containing tournament favorites SK Telecom T1, Royal Never Give Up and Fnatic, the result was considered admirable by many.
Following their final match of the day against Fnatic on October 19, Nick Ray from Hotspawn sat down with Clutch’s coach Thomas “Thinkcard” Slotkin to talk break down the team’s journey throughout Worlds and aspirations for next year.
Nick: Coming into Group C and going from ninth place to Worlds, even though you didn’t take a game, you did actually push most of those teams pretty close. What do you think about how the team performed overall?
Thinkcard: For the journey, I’m just really proud of the players for all the effort they put in. It takes a lot of guts to just come in freshly. Two new coaches, they have to trust the system from the start and they all put in a ton of effort to even get here. In terms of our performance in groups, we didn’t really play to our full potential and we saw kinda signs of life in us from game to game so it sucks that we didn’t get that one win. But everyone was pretty happy that they got some Worlds experience under their belt. Especially for the new players.
I actually had the opportunity to talk to [Tanner] Damonte one-on-one last week. The entire time and even om stage you could see that he was thrilled to be there and thrilled to get the experience. Was there anybody you think really stood out and stepped up?
I think a lot of the players went through a lot of tough times this entire year and Worlds practice was also really stressful for the team. From the outside you can’t really tell how much stress these players go through and I think that they all really shined in terms of moving through the stress, moving through the frustrations, and putting it all aside because we all have one common goal of coming together and winning and I’m just really proud of the players for that.
Do you think it was difficult at any point to maintain a positive mindset of taking things one step at a time throughout the entire tournament? You guys have been here for a month and a half almost.
Yes. So we actually played our eighth game that would’ve been if we lost our season was over. And that was the first game of the day today, so that’s a position that we’re used to and obviously we were really stressed out, but we weren’t too out of our comfort zone. After that game, it was kinda hard to go back on stage and just keep competing and keep playing when the games don’t mean much to you. So we just gotta take to the stage, have fun, savor the moment, and next time they’re back they really remember the feeling of being at Worlds.
I know Misfits was hosting you which kind of made your Worlds prep easier. Was there anything that you guys learned over there scrimming in their facility and with other teams that you think you’re going to take back with you into 2020?
I think overall the org learned a lot of things we did right and things we didn’t do correctly coming into Worlds in terms of schedule and stuff like that. I’m really grateful for Misfits for giving us their facility because we didn’t really have to worry about getting food and all that stuff, we had the Misfits chef as well. That definitely helped us a lot in terms of relieving stress for the players. It was a learning process for everyone. The players have a lot to learn from this Worlds and the org and coaching staff also have things to take away.
Having RNG, FNC and SKT in your group, was there anything that you and your coaching staff took away from prepping against them? How was that process like for you having to out-think these strong teams?
I would say we kind of knew what to expect from FNC and same with RNG. I’d say SKT definitely had some pretty smart drafts against us and it’s definitely something that as a coach you remember forever. The different minute changes you can make in champion select going into the next game or the next year. Throughout your career, you always have things like that where there are things to take away. SKT definitely did some smart things in draft that I can take away.
Going into 2020 what can we expect from [Dignitas]? What are your goals for next year?
Definitely to get back here. The players are really hungry to come back here. As an org we made a run, we did a lot of changes and we ended up making it to Worlds. It wasn’t an easy run, but hopefully moving forward we definitely know the type of structure we need to come back here. So that’s definitely the goal to return and then hopefully have a better showing.
You guys have so many fans at home especially since that run in summer. You even have a dedicated fan podcast. Have all the fans been driving you guys and pushing you up until this point? Do you have anything to say for them?
Yeah, it means the world to the players when they do something well — and even when they don’t do something well– to get a lot of support from fans. It’s really hard for a player if they make mistakes or they miss a play and then they get messages or they didn’t get support from fans. They feel kinda left out and they feel like they’re kind of not succeeding as a player. All the support really just pushed us so much, especially in our run through Gauntlet and our run to make playoffs. Both times people were coming to support us with Dig jerseys in the crowd and cheering for us. It definitely helped the players, so thank you so much.