On the second day of the 2023 NA LCS Summer Split Playoffs, NRG (3) took on Team Liquid Honda (4) in the first round. Despite being fairly close in the rankings with NRG having 12 wins and Liquid having 10, the second match of the first round seemed like a one-sided war. Despite going to four games, NRG looked like they could potentially run the whole bracket by the sheer dominance of their gameplay. Taking the series 3 to 1, NRG gave us a glimpse of what we could see in the NA LCS Summer finals.
So what were some of the key moments during the round 1 playoff matches? In the first game, Contratz JG Rell’s pressure was felt throughout the map. At the 22 min mark, a big team-fight win by NRG allows them to destroy the mid turret. With only TL’s APA up, NRG went for Baron; while NRG was doing Baron, APA considered going in to try and take out some of NRG but decided to let them take it and try to pick off anyone who was low.
At 29 mins, NRG went for another Baron but Team Liquid’s Jungler was able to steal it away; however, despite stealing the Baron away, Team Liquid overstayed and lost their top and jungle. Despite being down their jungler, Liquid still went to rush the dragon as NRG had to recall; Core JJ was barely able to secure it. APA attempts to back but NRG IgNar caught him over the wall. After a good back and forth, NRG won game 1 in 45 minutes.
In game 2, Team Liquid had the lead and control of the match for the first 33 minutes but after multiple bad team fights, NRG was able to take the lead. At 35 mins as both teams prepared for Elder Dragon, Team Liquid starts to get poked down and scattered. With the team low, NRG’s top laner teleported mid to take down the middle inhibitor while his teammates chased down the low members of Team Liquid. FBI and Dhokla march down mid and take down Liquid’s Nexus turrets.
Game 3 was NRG’s to win, but impatience got the best of them. TL’s top laner Summit was able to open up NRGs base and due to team fighting, Liquid was able to break it down and take game 3. In game 4, the match seemed very back and forth however, Palafox’s lead and the team’s gold lead made it so he was able to burst people down with Tristana.
After the series, we had the chance to talk with one of NRG’s coaches and substitute player Apollo Price aka NRG Apollo.
NRG Apollo (Apollo Price) Interview
After winning the series, how do you guys feel?
NRG Apollo – Good, I mean it was obviously pretty stressful leading up to it and just throughout the series but I think even after game one we knew the progression of the series itself. So even though there was a little bit of sloppiness in game 3, we are feeling pretty good; it was relatively clean overall.
From the coaching perspective, you mentioned sloppiness in game 3, as a former player, how do you convey what you observed and coach around that?
NRG Apollo – I think a lot of it had to deal with calming each other down a bit. We felt like we needed to cut corners a bit. In my mind, we were the better team and had the better players so there was no reason for us to try and over-force things or overplay our cards. In terms of conveying it to the players, it’s just about calming people down and saying don’t think too much of it. Saying we did fumble a bit but going into the next game, we are still better than them.
With scrims before the playoffs, was there anything you saw come out that you weren’t expecting or anything you were expecting not show up?
NRG Apollo – Since the Playoffs are on a new patch, of course, there is going to be a bit more testing. All teams are going to try and figure out the meta and it will slowly evolve over time in the playoffs. I don’t think anything really surprised us in terms of today, in terms of the draft.
What led you into being a coach?
NRG Apollo – Part of it was just being a player for so long, I think A. I got worse over time so now naturally I can’t be a player anymore and B. Just being a player for so long, made me kind of want to; I feel like I have a pretty good personality for it. I didn’t have a great coaching staff when I was a player and I think that would have me a lot. I kind of try to think of that and try to apply that to whatever player I’m working with. My hands were falling off as I turned 25.
Using Faker and his wrist injury as an example, how do you and your organization manage/deal with physical fatigue?
NRG Apollo – It depends on the players. When you are playing it is really hard to think about it. I think you are so invested in to the game that your actual health comes second to League of Legends, maybe even third. So it’s more about being preemptive and most teams now have more support staff to help with health and mental health; I think that helps a lot.
Even just doing stretches every day for wrists and stuff like that is going to help a lot. I’m sure you can ask players and throughout each player’s career they most likely had some kind of wrist pain and that will kind of just be like a shock or wake-up call; maybe I should be taking care of myself. I think a lot of the organizations have been doing a good job at actually getting support staff for that now because before you were on your own.
What were your thoughts on the Challenger series strike? Should there be a secondary league?
NRG Apollo – Having a secondary League or an Academy League is going to be beneficial; it will always be beneficial. With it being made non-mandatory by Riot, a lot of the teams cut their Academy team; it is a huge part of bringing in new blood. We had Dhokla and Palafox who were both in Academy and eventually moved up. If we do not have a support staff for them, then we will just not get new players. I think it is important and wish things were a little bit different.
Champs and Hobbies
Who are some of your favorite champions and what got you into the game?
NRG Apollo – I like Ezreal and Varus; they are probably my top two, maybe Kogmaw. Kogmaw is up there for sure. As to what got me into the game? I played D.O.T.A. for years since I was in 4th grade. I started very young by playing D.O.T.A. and Warcraft 3. I started playing league because my brother wanted to play in some tournaments, LAN tournaments, and they needed a 5th player. So I played it and then I’ve been hooked ever since.
Did your brother ever go pro?
NRG Apollo – No, unfortunately, but he’s a huge inspiration.
That actually leads us to the next question. Who are some of your inspirations both in coaching and professional play?
NRG Apollo – When I first started playing, I watched OGN Pros. I watched Deft the most, maybe Piglet, Bang, and Arrow. Like that era of players. I watched the LCS Pros as well but I didn’t feel like/it was pretty clear by the time I was playing that we weren’t as good as the other regions. They were definitely the biggest inspirations and having supportive family members helped a lot.
At one point, Piglet said I wasn’t very good.
What are some of your go-to hobbies when not playing League?
NRG Apollo – Playing League is one. I mainly play video games and stay inside. I played Tennis a little bit this year but not very much. I’ve been playing TFT. The 2 v 2 mode (Arena) is pretty cool. I haven’t played too much but it’s pretty cool.
With TFT is there any team comp that you like over another?
NRG Apollo – I kind of one tricked Challengers/Ionian Challengers.
What are some of the games you like to play?
NRG Apollo – Outside of League? I did play a lot of W.o.W. It’s kind of like an on-and-off thing. Honestly, I just stick with those three or even two if anything. I know it’s kind of bland. Shooters are pretty prominent/popular.
With playing in the Valorant studio, does it feel like a different atmosphere for the players or coaches? Is it difficult to get used to or is it just an arena?
NRG Apollo – It’s all the same. They did change the setup for the players on stage so that they are now facing each other. They did give a brief intro. Players said it felt weird at first but got used to it quickly. It is pretty cool; I do like their setup.
Favorite Anime or Movie?
NRG Apollo – I don’t really watch anime so I don’t think I can firmly say I have a favorite one. In terms of my favorite movie, The Dark Knight or The Prestige. Shout out to Christopher Nolan.
NRG Apollo – Sushi, Burgers, and Burritos
Favorite music genre and artists?
NRG Apollo – I kind of just listen to pop and pretty basic stuff. I have a wide variety of music that I enjoy. I don’t think I could really list all of them.
Was there one player when you were playing that you considered a rival?
NRG Apollo – I don’t think I really had a rival. You mentioned Piglet earlier and like I said before he really didn’t have the greatest thing to say about me in his interview. It sparked a rivalry at the time. Outside of that, I played against Doublelift and Sneaky a lot; so playing against them, there was an elevated performance at that time.