Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, the starting support for Dignitas, began his fourth split with the team on the right foot as he helped them go 2-1 in the first week of the 2021 LCS Summer Split. Thanks to his veteran leadership and crisp usage with Leona for the week’s three games, Dignitas defeated Evil Geniuses and FlyQuest to rise in the overall standings and enter a three-way tie for third place at 13-8.
Following Dignitas’ third game, in which they lost to 100 Thieves and their composition revolving around Karma for their mid-laner Abbedagge, Aphromoo spoke with Gamezo in a one-on-one interview to discuss the start of the summer split, how his team prepared for the second half of the year after surprising everyone in the spring, what he saw from his team so far, and who he thinks is the team to beat after the first hurdle.
Thoughts on Week 1
Nice to talk to you today, Aphromoo. What can you take away from the first week of the summer split?
Aphromoo: Well right now we’re on stage so it’s a different environment but it’s pretty fun. For the first day, everyone had jitters. You saw it on a lot of teams that didn’t perform well but that’s to be expected since we haven’t been here for over a year. Other than that, we did go 2-1. Last game versus 100 Thieves, it was really hard to play our comp since they had the better comp. But all in all, we got a lot of experience for the guys on the main stage.
You mentioned that difficult comp that you faced from 100T. Plenty of scrutinies has surfaced about them having Abbedagge play Karma. Since you just played them, what did you make of the strategy and was it very difficult for your team?
Aphromoo: Yeah of course. It was pretty hard to play against Karma…They were going to run us down and we had a poke comp into that. Eventually, when she had [those] two items, it was pretty much game since we didn’t have anything to counter [that]. And also because of the big early game lead with the champs they had, we had a couple of plays where it didn’t go our way.
The two champions that have made considerable noise in the LCS has obviously been Gwen and Viego. Since they’re greenlit by Riot to be played in competitions, what do you think of them and how will they affect the current meta?
Aphromoo: There’s a lot of flex picks going on right now. As you mentioned, Gwen and Viego are pretty flexible with good roles so they’re really really good and it’s important that everybody could play them. They do have their pop-off moments especially when they get fed, but overall, they’re great champions, I would say. They definitely help strats a lot. Having flexes are important if you’re going to be able to draft and those are two of the many champions that teams should be picking out.
One of the champions that were selected in this first week of play was Darius for the jungle. We haven’t seen him be in the jungle for a while. We’ve always seen him play in the top or occasionally mid. What was the rationale, if you can share, in that pick?
Aphromoo: We just saw it as a good pick. It was definitely a good fighter…who could use Stridebreaker, the new item. Stridebreaker is super broken on almost all bruisers. He’s definitely an early-game menace, that’s for sure, but in the end they just out comp’d us pretty much. I think we just have to fix ourselves comp wise and it’ll look a lot better.
Dignitas had a surprising turnaround in spring by finishing fifth in the regular season and Mid-Season Showdown. You already talked about mentally resetting for the summer in a previous interview, but for some of the other members of the team, they stepped into the LCS Studio with little to no experience under their belts. With that in mind, how did you try to help them weather through their initial nerves for the first week of play?
Aphromoo: For the first week of play, I think everybody had the first-game nerves for sure. Since I’ve been here a while, I didn’t really feel the same way, so it’s just important that they have somebody in-game where they can settle everybody down and have consistent comms who’s not too high or not too low. It was my role this week to keep everybody in the middle. We did go 2-1 but we have a lot ahead of us.
Emergence of Rookie Talent
The start of the season has been littered with the inclusion of NA-native talent finding their way to the starting lineups of big teams. We’ve seen TL’s Jenkins, EG’s Danny, GG’s Chime enter the fray. How much has the NA amateur scene grown compared to years past?
Aphromoo: There have obviously been a lot more orgs taking chances on developing rookies that’s for sure. It’s just a matter of them wanting to do it or not. Most of the time when you have your first split, they’re going to need experience in general. Most of the time, you don’t really hit the ground running and they just tank it instantly as a team. A lot of teams don’t really like that risk and they always swap back veterans and stuff like that, so they do need [something like] better scouting [in that department].
Obviously, for a little bit of 2020 and 2021, a lot more teams do have rookies coming in which is good to see because it’s definitely helping the ecosystem and it’s very important.
Do you expect to see more of those moves coming into the league in the future?
Aphromoo: For sure. It’s already been happening. There’s not a lot us left veteran-wise.
What was it like to see more of those younger people enter into the LCS while you’re transitioning from one of the newest players in the scene to an esteemed veteran?
Aphromoo: When you’re young, you just want to outplay with mechanics and stuff like that. You don’t really have [the] macro [game] down–I guess you could call it the “brains” I would say. You use more of your brain instead of going for the risky outplay most of the time and setting up the map. Especially as a support, that’s your job. But as a veteran, it’s just important to be a good foundation that your team can consistently rely on both during the game and out of the game. Being able to communicate and progress on all those aspects turns you into one of those veterans where you’re consistent, able to communicate properly, mediate, and all that jazz.
Looking Into the Rest of the Split
With three teams out of the way in this split, who of the remaining pack are you looking forward to facing and why?
Aphromoo: I think we’re looking forward to facing everybody. I think the most important thing is being able to get experience on stage. Everybody has been playing a lot differently. C9 came back from MSI and swapped their ADCs and stuff like that, so everybody has been having problems…We just have to get more stage [appearances] under our belt and just consistently perform and fix our drafts obviously. 100T came out with that Exodia [draft] on their side so we just do our best and focus on [improving from] that.
Since Cloud9 is returning from MSI and they’re currently faltering and other teams are performing well–such as Team SoloMid–who do you think is the team to beat in this split right now?
Aphromoo: I would say there’s anybody yet. I would most likely give it two or three weeks because everybody has been playing differently. In your first time back in the studio after over a year, everybody has jitters. Even analysts were predicting games and it’s all wrong so no one has any idea. I would give it two or three weeks [to give an answer].