Interview with Lattman: 'We were called in Thursday night every week'
Photo: Lol Esports
Less than two months ago James Lattman was somewhere in that crowded room of players working towards their LCS dream.
He was the starting AD carry for Frank Fang Gaming, a team that ended up disbanding after another loss in the qualifier tournament for the North American Challenger Series.
With preliminary thoughts of hanging up the keyboard and mouse for good, the 20-year-old marksman recieved a phone call that very night which reignited his dreams. The timing could not have been any better.
Known in the community just by his last name, Lattman lived a five-week dream on the North American LCS stage. The challenger marksman was one of three week one substitutes for Team Dragon Knights, a spring graduate from the NALCS. Visa issues kept two starting players out of the lineup for the first five weeks, paving a way for Lattman to start the first nine games of the summer split.
Unfortunately, the dream-filled opportunity wasn’t smooth sailing. The substitute-filled team, plagued by a lack of practice and preparation, went winless in nine games. This positioned the team in last place in the standings, making them the lead candidate to be automatically relegated out of the LCS at the end of the split.
We were granted the opportunity to sit down with Lattman to discuss his time with TDK, his LCS cameo and the after effects of his five week opportunity.
TDK might have been your first LCS experience, but you definitely aren’t new around the League of Legends scene. What was your situation supposed to be this summer before being contacted by TDK?
Well, before TDK contacted me I had just lost in the second NACS qualifier this season with my team Frank Fang Gaming (BrandonFtw, 14a [now Moon], Goldenglue and Baby) vs C9T and the team was planning on splitting up. Since it had been about a year and a half since I started going all-in on League, I was seriously considering quitting (especially because the next NACS qualifier wasn't until next year).
Fortunately, TDK contacted me the night of the match we lost before I could make any decision to quit.
Could you explain the process of joining TDK and about when were you added to the starting roster? About how long did you expect this arrangement to last?
Basically, they called for me while I was hanging out with some friends the night of our loss in the NACS qualifiers, got in contact with my manager Frank (I believe it was like 3 a.m. for him at the time, shout out to him for hooking me up), and set up sending me the paperwork online. I think this was all on Wednesday night. I was planning on moving into the house the next day, but we realized that me being a sub for Dignitas would interfere with me playing for TDK and resolving that took the entire evening (another shout out to Odee for helping me out through it all, timezones are a pain). We (Baby, Bischu and myself) got situated in the house that Friday to prepare for the weekend's games. Initially, I expected to be done after the first weekend.
How did the situation of not knowing when to expect Ninja and Emperor to return impact your practice schedule? Do you feel that you guys used your time optimally to prepare for matches?
TDK was expecting their starters to get back every week except the last one (which happened to be the week they actually did come back) due to their visa request being expedited, so we were called in like Thursday night every week (except one week we came into the house on Thursday, I don't remember which one this was though). Naturally, it was extremely difficult for the team to practice together under these conditions, especially because LCS teams tend to schedule their week's scrims at the beginning of the week. The last week, I stayed at the house to continue to scrim with the team until the starters arrived, but we ended up only scrimming on the first day since the team decided scrims with subs weren't efficient, so we instead had a practice schedule where each player was required to play at least 10-15 solo queue games every day. In retrospect, I believe it's pretty glaring that we never really used our time optimally to prepare for the matches. However, considering the situation the team was in and the mindsets of the staff and starting players due to how dire and hopeless the situation seemed toward the later weeks, I personally don't think it was possible for us to have been able to determine what kind of conditions and circumstances were necessary in order to optimally prepare for our matches besides actually preparing our pick ban phases (to be fair, playing with no bans is actually really tough, but we straight up bullshitted a game or two).
What was the relationship like between the substitute players and the original starting players in and out of game? And how was your chemistry with Smoothie?
Initially it was alright inside of game, but as the losses stacked on each other week after week it definitely became strained. Communications would die out whenever we fell behind and you could definitely feel players becoming exasperated whenever they saw a misplay during the game. It started to really wear out on me towards the end of the experience. Outside of game though our relationship was good at all times. Everyone was friendly throughout the experience and it was great being able to get to know everyone in person. As for my chemistry with Smoothie, I think we get along well but we're definitely hit or miss when it comes to chemistry. Some games it actually feels very smooth and fluent, and some games it's pretty bad.
You’ve talked highly of TDK and their handling of the visa situation. Even considering that, what do you feel the team could have done to better prepare the squad for each and every weekend.
In retrospect, I think keeping the initial sub roster living in with the team starting from week one would have done a world of difference for our results throughout the rest of the sub weeks. When we did start trying to get a weekly scrim schedule, the atmosphere in the team was already too low for any losses to be productive, LCS or not. It's hard to tell now, but if we started scrimming from the get-go the atmosphere may have never gotten to that point and we probably could've even won a couple of our matches. From there, we would've just had the subs live in with the team and practice like that until the whenever the starters did arrive.
What are some of your takeaways from your nine game stint in the LCS? Was there any surprises?
A big takeaway for me from my LCS experience was being able to identify what my strengths and weaknesses are as a player; strengths being my skirmishing and laning and weaknesses being my confidence in game, timing and positioning on aggression in team fights, awareness on opportunities to rotate for objectives and my champ pool (at an LCS level). Playing in the LCS also played a huge part in me identifying what kind of conditions I need as an individual to play at my best and on the other hand, what kind of conditions make me play worse, especially in regards to in-game communications and team atmosphere. I absolutely plan to use all of this newfound knowledge about myself to make myself the best player I can be coming into my next showing in competitive League of Legends. As for any surprises, I was particularly surprised I was able to go roughly even in losing lane matchups and get ahead and get double kills in some of my games, especially considering the amount of practice I had at that level of play.
So you’ve had a taste of the LCS and went up against the best competition in North America. What kind of self-improvements do you feel like you need to make to try and get another chance at the LCS?
It's a long list, but basically I feel if I do a better job at replicating the circumstances I now know I need to perform optimally such as health and diet, practice schedule, and having motivated and friendly teammates, I'll be able to really alleviate my weaknesses such as my positioning, aggression timings, champion pool and rotation and objective control knowledge.
What’s your plan now for the rest of the summer split?
For now, my plan is to climb in solo queue while I'm not on a team and try to put myself out there. Despite my weaknesses as a player, I really think I'm one of the stronger AD players in the challenger scene at the moment based on a good amount of scrims I've played while subbing for challenger teams since I've started playing in the LCS. I think a lot of challenger players are still underrating me because my weaknesses looked glaring during some of our games or because we lost every game, but I really think considering the circumstances my individual performance was pretty good and the level I've been playing in the scrims I've played lately has definitely reflected that.. Whether or not I end up on a team immediately, I'm going to keep striving to become the best player I can be throughout this off season.
As much of a great opportunity it probably was for you, not knowing if you were going to play each week, the lack of scrimmaging and much more clearly had an impact on the team’s overall performance. Do you feel like being a part of TDK’s 0-9 run will curve perception of you negatively when you seek competitive opportunities in the future?
Unfortunately, I do believe that despite some solid early game performances, my overall performance and the gravity of the 0-9 run will probably make people that didn't think I was good before think I'm even worse now. However, I think the experience I gained may at least get me tryouts for teams when they're available, as last season I had an issue even being able to get tryouts for the top teams in challenger. Despite whatever negative perception of my play my peers in the NACS may have developed based on my whatever weaknesses they saw in my play, I hope they understand both the circumstances I was playing under and my ability to see the same weaknesses and work on them throughout this offseason.
Do you have any regrets or things you wish you might have done differently during your time with TDK?
My only real regret is that I was unable to play a more proactive role in making sure we prepared for each individual match more optimally. I really think we had a legitimate shot in winning some of our games, and if we did spend that extra 4-6 hours practicing and preparing as a team for some of them we might've had a better shot of winning and looked better individually, which could have had a chain effect on how the team started to feel and perform later on in the weeks.
Do you have anything else to address to the League scene?
First of all, I'm sorry to all the TDK fans that may read this who feel bitter about TDK's start this season. Despite all my talk about what the environment deteriorated into and how we didn't properly prepare for games, the fact of the matter is we, as subs, just weren't good enough to pull out wins in each game, regardless of the situation. For that I'm truly sorry. It feels awful to see the main roster in such a terrible position for the second half of the season and to know that I was unable to really do anything about it. For those of you who chose to support me through it and are eager to see what I become in the future, I really am extremely grateful. The support I received from the community helped immensely while I was playing with TDK, and I really will do my best to work on my weaknesses and become a stronger player the next time you guys see me in competitive play. I'd also like to once again thank TDK for the experience of a lifetime and for befriending me during my time as a sub; they were great guys and I truly wish the best for them. Finally, shout out to my former manager Frank Fang for being good to me, my wonderful girlfriend Sharon for the endless support, and my closest friends for being very cool dudes.