Fnatic suffered a setback in its League of Legends Worlds 2022 campaign after coming undone at the hand of reigning world champion EDward Gaming. A level one play gone-awry set Fnatic on the backfoot, and the LPL side continued to press the advantage despite stern resistance from the LEC third seed.
It was certainly a different outcome from the last time the two teams played – a Worlds 2018 Quarterfinals tie which saw Fnatic come out on top with a strong 3-1 performance. However, as Zdravets ‘Hylissang’ Galabov now has four new teammates around him on Fnatic, so too do EDG’s Lee ‘Scout’ Ye-chan and Tian ‘Meiko’ Ye.
Despite the defeat, Hylissang remains confident that Fnatic is on the right track, and tells The Loadout as part of a post-match interview that the more the team sticks to its stylistic guns, the better the results will be – as evidenced by its surprise victory over LCK powerhouse T1.
During the interview below, Hylissang also speaks on the surprise EDG Pyke ban, who has the best Thresh at the tournament, his time in New York so far after a COVID-marred start to Worlds, and much more.
The Loadout: Hylissang, very good to speak to you again, how are you doing?
Hylissang: I’m a bit tired, a bit sad about the game, but other than that I’m fine.
It was certainly a difficult one – you had that rough level one and spent a lot of time trying to recover. What was it like trying to play from that position?
For me personally it was very hard to play the game. I think they had really good champions into Renata, except if I’m ahead I think then I can support the Kalista, and I can play with my Azir and my Poppy. But, sadly, the game went very wrong early, so my champion became incredibly useless because I was far behind against EDG’s comp – they outrange us and have more mobility so it’s hard for me to do much. I was trying to not be a burden on my team, and tried to let them scale and carry, but sadly we couldn’t win.
Before the game, during the pick and ban phase, we saw the Pyke ban come in. Is Pyke something that perhaps could have thrown a spanner into the works of their draft, or was it just a respect ban?
I think there’s a lot of respect towards me when it comes to playing Pyke. It’s kind of known that I play this champion a lot, and I’ve played it at almost every Worlds, so I think it’s just a respect ban.
And you are a very good Pyke if I do say so myself! Today you got to lane against Meiko again for the first time since 2018, how was that experience for you?
I don’t remember much [about] who I’ve played against, but I think he is very smart. I watched his game yesterday when he played Thresh and I was quite surprised how well he played, but today I don’t think I can really judge much since he played Yuumi and had a very good start. So I don’t think I can say much about how well he played or comment on his playstyle, but I think he did a good job on the Yuumi.
You mentioned Thresh – a champion you’re also known for your proficiency with. So far at Worlds you’ve played against arguably the two best Thresh players in Ryu ‘Keria’ Min-seok and Meiko, so who would you say has the best Thresh at Worlds right now?
It’s hard for me to rate Thresh since I haven’t seen much except Keria’s that he played against us. That was a very hard matchup for them I think, as the same thing happened [as in Fnatic versus EDG] where they fell behind in the early game and it was really hard for them to play.
Meiko for sure played out of his mind in that Thresh game against Cloud9, so I’d probably put Meiko first, though it’s hard for me to judge Keria as he had the same hiccup as us. I’m not sure where I’ll put the rest.
Thinking back to 2018 – your first Worlds appearance – and comparing it to now, where do you feel the biggest points of growth have been for you both personally and professionally?
That’s a good question. I’m not really sure what to pinpoint, but being comfortable on stage is something that I have worked on throughout the years. And I think, even without practice, I’m ready to play champions, which comes with confidence and experience. So I think this is the biggest advantage that I’ve developed throughout the years of playing on the big stage.
It’s helped me a lot for sure since we didn’t manage to practice and our scrims were delayed as well due to the corona we had in our team – it’s quite nice that we’re playing the tournament we are right now with the practice we’ve had and the tough conditions we were in – so I think if I was not as experienced, we would probably have a lot worse results.
More generally, how are you finding New York? Because I assume you didn’t really get to experience much of Mexico – you were sort of flung out there after your COVID bout…
It’s for sure much better since I think the stage in Mexico was quite small, and it didn’t feel like Worlds. But here at the theatre it feels like everything is quite professional, and it feels way better to play and it’s much more enjoyable.
I haven’t seen much of New York – I think I’ve only gone to a restaurant once, [though] I liked the food. They give you big meals which is a good thing, but other than that I can’t say much about New York.
As long as you got a good meal down you that’s the most important thing! Thinking about getting prepped and stage ready in other ways, how’s it been having Ruben ‘Rhuckz’ Barbosa around after his triumphant Play-Ins stint?
He’s [Rhuckz] a good addition to the team. He’s always making jokes and cheering, and I’ve also been asking him about some matchups which has been helpful for sure.
I have one last thing I’d like to ask, and that’s for your reflections on the Group Stage so far now you’ve come to the end of the first round-robin.
I think the team has played very well. I think we have insane drafts every single game, and I’m very pleasantly surprised. I think I’m probably the one that’s underperforming the most honestly, since this Renata game was not something that I expected.
We were probably not as confident that we could beat our opponents with a standard game when we came into the group, but I think with more and more games it feels like the more standard we play – the more we play as Fnatic – the more chance we have of beating our opponents.
I think we need to be more confident in ourselves even though there’s big names in our group. They’re for sure beatable, and with the amount of skill we have in our team it feels like everyone is ahead if we just play normally, and we don’t need to use these strategies that they may be well-prepared against and won’t work as well.
You’ll be able to catch Hylissang and Fnatic in action again when they kick off the Worlds 2022 Group Stage second round-robin against Cloud9 on October 13.