Interviews

5fire Interview on Proving Grounds, No Org and Career

5fire feature

Few players in the League of Legends North American amateur scene can relate to amassing success as Aidan “5fire” Reckamp has.

A regular in the lower echelon of NA League for a handful of years, 5fire gradually ascended by the back of his diligence in honing his individual skill from joining grassroots teams to being within inches of the LCS in an academy team. But though he has yet to break the perpetual glass ceiling that encapsulates his debuting in the LCS, he spends his time inching closer towards that possibility by playing with “No Org”, a team that is currently taking the amateur scene by storm.

Despite sputtering with a quarterfinal exit in their debut appearance, No Org eventually found their footing by winning the next three tournaments they participated in quick succession, with 5fire serving as one of their catalysts in the mid lane.

Chief among No Org’s accomplishments was their triumph in the United Grand Prix that earned them a direct spot in the 2021 NA Proving Grounds, a new tournament devised by Riot Games that mix academy and amateur teams together and showcases its players’ talents who were customarily hidden or ignored during the Academy League era of yesteryears.

With less than a few weeks away from the start of Proving Grounds, 5fire sat down with Gamezo for an interview that covered No Org’s recent victory at the Grand Prix, his mentality heading into PG, his sobering reflection on a rather hectic career, and the import rule that had recently enveloped the LCS in heavy scrutiny.

Questions asked for the interview were written in bold font, whereas 5fire’s answers were written standardly.

Thank so much for taking time off from your hefty schedule by doing this interview, 5fire. To kick things off, how are you feeling today?

5fire: “I’m definitely feeling good, you know. The fact that we came out on top of the qualifying tournament feels really good–the fact that we got the highest possible seed as well. We were expected to qualify, so we’re not crazy or over the moon or anything but we’re feeling good and confident. And we’re ready to keep going forward and ultimately achieve our goal of doing well at Proving Grounds.”

5fire On Proving Grounds

Talk to me about how you and your team are feeling heading into Proving Grounds. Has the vibe been either relaxed or tense?

“At the moment, we’re still pretty relaxed. We still have a lot of time left to practice and to improve before the event, but we all definitely want to show up, perform really well, and beat out everyone’s expectations as an amateur team, so we’re looking forward to it. We’re going to do our best right now with practising but I’m sure things are going to get tense when we get closer [to PG].”

You mentioned that your team had bested a number of opponents in the qualifying tournament (United Grand Prix), some of which were the academy teams of well-known organizations like Counter Logic Gaming and Team SoloMid, and then went on to sweep the finals. Did defeating those teams serve as an indication of the kind of competition you’ll inevitably face in PG?

“Yeah, I think so. Those academy teams that we faced weren’t even the worst academy teams [around]. They were about middle of the pack [in the 2021 NA Academy League Spring Split], so the fact that we were able to beat them and qualify past them as well is a pretty big deal.

“We didn’t know what to expect going into it. We had only been playing amateur teams for the previous three months leading up to it. After we beat CLG Academy, we felt really good and then when we 2-1’d TSM and were like, ‘Alright, this is serious. We’re serious contenders. We can go really far.’ And so we’re excited to play the rest of the academy field and see how we match up.”

It was a very commendable feat that you guys did. You along with the rest of your teammates in “No Org” are surely on the up 

“Exactly.”

Surveying across the rest of the field now, how do you think your team will square up against them?

“For the rest of the field, it will be interesting to see. There’s a lot of good teams and also a lot of other teams that are a little better than those we’ve already beaten, so I think if we do really well with our practice in the next couple of weeks and show up on match day, we have a good chance of making a deep run. I think the teams at the top of the table are going to be a challenge, but it’s not one we’re going to shy away from and I’m hoping we can at least show up and have some good matches against them.”

Compared to previous years, the amateur scene has undergone a huge renovation as in teams reaching Proving Grounds by winning first and second-tier tournaments or garner points under the new point distribution system to qualify for those aforementioned events. What do you think about this new amateur system that Riot implemented for NA?

“I think it has its fair share of issues but it’s an improvement over previous years. I think for several years now the amateur teams have been equal to or better than the bottom academy [teams], so letting them showcase their play and skill in these tournaments alongside their counterparts is a huge step forward. It will also allow a lot more players to get the limelight that they deserve.

“I think in the end we’ll see what changes Riot makes to it after this first split, but so far it has gone well. I think it has been achieving what it’s supposed to achieve which is to get more eyes on the academy and amateur scene and letting more players show if they’re good or not and not just have the hope of getting in an academy team.”

You even had famous casters covering your games especially during the grand finals of the Grand Prix. What did you think about that?

“Honestly, it was really awesome. I’m someone who watches and enjoys League too so I see these casters & analysts casting LCS and I think in the back of my mind, ‘Dang, it’d be really cool if I reached the LCS and got casted by someone like Clayton ‘CaptainFlowers’ Raines.’

“But then, since we were playing really well and made it to the grand finals of Grand Prix, we get the opportunity to be casted by these huge names and they also bring in a huge audience so they get to watch me play against Sébastien ‘Tuesday’ Thery, a former academy player, and do well, you know? So it’s definitely a huge deal because the exposure means a lot. Branding means a lot in esports, so any opportunity to put yourself in front of more eyes and with cool people like CaptainFlowers and Nick ‘LS’ De Cesare is a huge one to take.”

Do you sometimes catch yourself rewatching those VODs and hear them cover your play?

“Yeah, I obviously rewatched them. I mostly do it for review and learning purposes and see what I could have done better. But there is also a part of me that, you know, will rewatch a couple of my cool plays a few times because the chat’s popping off and CaptainFlowers is yelling that I’m a ‘chad’ or whatever so I definitely appreciate those moments. [laughs] Those are the moments that get you hyped and make you want to keep playing so they are definitely good sources for motivation.”

[laughs] ]They definitely make you feel like a professional right there.

“Yeah, exactly.”

Retracing by a few questions, you mentioned about Riot making adjustments for the future seasons of Proving Grounds. Exactly what do you have in mind for them to change?

“Some balancing between the schedules for the academy and amateur [teams]. Basically, the academy [teams] got to play nine games in the regular season and if you were Top 6 that was all because you automatically qualified to PG. They haven’t played for like a month already and they still don’t get to play for like another month so they had a long break which is not ideal. You want to have at least some mixture of practice and stage experience.

“And then on the other end, for the amateur teams, we literally all had to play nonstop for two and a half months straight with zero breaks. Our team is one of those that played more than a decent amount of games because we went deep in every playoff [phase we entered] and played around 60-70 games or something like that.

“It’s just absolutely crazy. Like, literally, one tournament would end and the next one would start the next day with no breaks. We didn’t get a lot of chances to practice even though we got a lot of stage experience, so Riot needs to try to find some way to balance that out so that academy players aren’t just bored sitting there for months on end and the amateur players aren’t sleep deprived because they have to play every single day.”

Looking Back on 5fire’s Career

Moving on to you personally, you’ve been through a very, let’s just say, eventful career so far in the amateur scene. You’ve been through numerous teams such as Dawn Esports, AZIO–I don’t know if I’m pronouncing them correctly.

“They’re close enough.”

[laughs] What can you make of the start of your career?

“Oh, like way back?”

Yeah.

“I mean, way back, I was just doing it because I thought it was fun, you know? I got high elo one season and I’ve been watching LCS since its first season so it was something that I was interested in doing. So when I found a team that I thought was pretty good, I started playing with them. And then along the way, I’ve had the great opportunity to play with a bunch of good players. I think I’ve always showcased myself as one of the top players in amateur so good players would then want to play with me.

5fire team infernal na sg 2019
5fire (middle) as a member of Team Infernal during 2019 NA Scouting Grounds. (Courtesy of Riot Games)

“Even so, [my career] has been pretty crazy though. It’s been year after year of playing amateur and I’ve usually won. But as you said, it’s always been eventful. I haven’t won everything but I always appeared in the finals of whatever amateur season. So yeah, it’s been pretty insane.”

And then you were selected in the 2019 NA Scouting Grounds draft by CLG. You didn’t do anything there per se but then you eventually got a shot with Evil Geniuses Academy and that must have been a massive boost for your career.

“Yeah. Even though it was only a temporary thing with EG, the fact that I was able to go and play with so many talented players there–I mean Matthew ‘Deftly’ Chen is now playing in LCS, Matthew ‘Matt’ Elento is now a coach…these players were able to teach me a lot even in the short time I was at EG, which was a huge boost. And really, there is always this gap between academy and amateur because the academy teams scrim against each other all the time so they get better as a result whereas amateur [sides] get left to the wayside.

“But that is something that was changed for just this year. Our team has scrimmed with a bunch of academy teams both recently and in the past few months, so that’s one thing that has been really cool. But when I got the first taste of academy on EG, it was a huge deal because you have to practice and play so much better in order to keep up with all the pro players and also getting to learn from these super experienced players on the main roster like Danielle ‘Jiizuke’ di Mauro who had gone to Worlds.

5fire evil geniuses
5fire as a member of Evil Geniuses Academy during LCS Academy League Spring 2020
(Photo by Parkes Ousley of Inven Global)

“Getting to learn from him was super important to me. So yeah, it definitely left a huge impact on me. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t stay for long but I’m super grateful for the time that I did have there and I’m thankful to them for letting me show up and play some games.”

Have you ever felt discouraged when you see people that you’ve played with ascend to the LCS, academy, and etc.?

“Always to a certain extent, right? A part of me is obviously very happy for my teammates when they go up. I only play with them because I think they’re good and I think they’re smart about the game so seeing their talents get recognized is really nice. 

“It’s unfortunate that maybe I feel like my talents and my knowledge aren’t being recognized as much as it should be, but I honestly can’t complain that much because every single year I’ve gotten to play with a great roster of teammates.

“This year might be the best I ever played, so it’s hard for me to complain. Obviously, I want to be in the academy. I want to be able to show my stuff on a professional level, but being at the top of amateur is not too shabby either.”

At the very least, you’ve had fans clamor for you when you left EG in the middle of that split, so you had that going for you.

“Yeah, I know and I’m super thankful to everyone who supports me and keeps rooting for me to get back into the pro league/stage. It helps keep me going when sometimes I feel like maybe I’m not good enough or maybe I’m too old or washed up. I get everyone behind my back rooting for me so I keep doing it for all of them.”

5fire’s Current Time With No Org

Eventually, you moved on from there to meeting the players that comprise what is now “No Org”. How did you connect with them and form the team?

“I mostly have to give props to management. Our manager and coaches were all super passionate about amateur and they wanted to make sure they could get all the best players together. It was a couple of guys that I worked with in previous years, so when they contacted me and said, ‘These are the people we’re looking at. You think this guy is good?’ I think everybody just had this mutual agreement that went, ‘Yeah, if we all played together, we could be pretty darn good.’

Joining ANEW Esports in January 2021

“Again, huge props to management but also big props to people like Omran ‘Viper’ Shoura and Andy ‘AnDa’ Hoang for taking a chance and playing at amateur with some lesser-known people like Ross ‘Value’ Luppino and trusting that we could be a good squad and showing that we are actually good and that we can smash teams.

“It was tough for me in the offseason because I was expecting an academy offer off winning amateur [events] again last year and finishing very high on the [solo queue] ladder. When I didn’t get any meaningful offers, in the end, I was pretty sad and distraught. But formerly ANEW [Esports] now No Org gave me a really good offer. They gave me a really good roster and it kind of saved me there, so definitely huge thanks to them.”

And since then, you guys have not looked back. Regardless, what has the process been like for you in forming a cohesive unit with No Org?

“It was difficult at first because we didn’t get a lot of time to practice as I said. Initially, we were definitely not a cohesive unit. We were just five players playing together, you know? We had a decent amount of teamwork because we have a lot of experience in players like Viper and Terry ‘Big’ Chuong, but it took us getting knocked out of the first tournament early (Risen Champions League Winter 2021 Playoffs) to get into shape.

“When we lost in quarters, we took a step back, looked at everything, adjusted, and thought about what we needed to do to right the ship going into the rest of the season. And our coaches definitely stepped up huge during that time.

Tweet made after No Org swept SolaFide Esports in three games in the grand finals of the United Grand Prix.

“Huge shoutout to William ‘Stunt’ Chen. He did a lot of work in thinking about our drafts and what we could do to better position ourselves to win in the future. And really, those couple of weeks of practice that we got from getting knocked out early were a huge help because we all knew we could win so we focused up and we worked on reaching the level we knew we could be at.”

How have you been able to improve yourself as a player from taking in the knowledge that your teammates give off while practicing and competing?

“I mean, everybody plays the game a little bit differently, right? I did get to play with AnDa last year so we had a little bit of an established synergy there, but learning that Viper loves to play these hyper-aggressive picks top lane and being able to facilitate him and learn to play around him was different.

“And being able to help Value, who’s less experienced, and trying to teach him about the game has also been good while still relying on that synergy that I had with AnDa from last year. So in the end, it’s just trying to learn a little bit of extra from everyone’s styles, learning from our coaches Derek ‘zig’ Zhao and Stunt, and trying to take everything in and move forward because we want to be better than all of the academy teams and reach that higher level.”

5fire On Import Rule Controversy

It’s not a surprise if I talk about the controversy surrounding the Import Rule that is currently affecting the LCS. How has that affected in any way the current amateur scene in NA?

“It’s interesting because I think it has affected a lot of people in different ways. For right now, because nothing has actually happened, there’s mostly been a lot of discussions. You know, a lot of talking about what if’s and ‘well if this happens then what will happen with amateur [players and teams]’ and things like that.

“For some people, it’s definitely given them a lot of motivation to be better and to show that we don’t need imports in NA and there’s a lot of fresh homegrown talent that is ready to play and deserve a chance. Players like Viper, AnDa, these guys who are able to smash these academy teams–why aren’t they given a chance?

“And then, on the other end, you have some people who say ‘oh, you know, it doesn’t really matter all that much. NA has mostly been an import region for a long time now and that it’s inevitable the rule would get lifted.’ For me, because nothing has happened, I’m not too worried about it. If it does end up happening then it gets harder for me to find a job and I’ll have to think about that. But for now, it’s just all speculation so it’s hard to say anything concrete.”

5fire commenting on TSM CEO and owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh’s response about the possibility of the LCS import rule ceasing to exist.

Does the attention revolving around the rule galvanize additional interest into the upcoming amateur events in NA? Some might see it that way, me included, but what about you?

“I think it has definitely garnered some interest. Unfortunately, the majority of League’s viewership is in LCS so most people, even if they hear about the import rule controversy, never actually watch academy or amateur [games], but there has to at least be some people like yourself who heard and thought about it and then heard that this whole PG thing was going on and took a look into it.

“And I hope for the people that did take the chance to watch some PG games, they do see that there are some good players and they do see that there are players with a lot of potential and that NA has room to grow still and we don’t have to pull the plug so to say and allow a full team of imports. So yeah, shout out to all the people who took the time and watch us and cheer for us and hopefully we can keep moving up.”

The first edition of Proving Grounds is set to begin on March 29 and will continue until April 25. It will pit 16 teams, including No Org, against each other to decide who’s the best second-tier squad in NA. We wish him and the rest of No Org the best of luck in the ensuing competition.

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