Whereas Golden Guardians shocked fans with their opening match upset win over Cloud9 in the 2021 LCS Summer Split, there was a pair of roster switches that nearly preluded it. In a move that added stability to their top lane, GG moved veteran Colin “Solo” Earnest into their starting lineup for Niles, and for support, they moved LATAM import Leandro “Newbie” Marcos to their academy squad for Jonathan “Chime” Pomponio, the revamped NA amateur scene’s latest product who reached the region’s biggest stage.
And it was through Chime’s crucial engagements with Leona that charged GG to that surprising victory over the defending champions, throwing the league upside down and reshaping everyone’s thoughts as to who the new team to beat really is.
What are some takeaways that you can use to improve from the split’s first week?
Chime: Some good takeaways for us as a team is understanding our comps better because I think we’ve been playing kind of slow on stage in the past two games which were frustrating across the board. It felt like kind of a letdown, especially for the fans. By just playing at a faster pace and take higher risks, we’ll get a lot better.
How difficult was it initially to face TSM since they came into the match having beaten TL and EG?
Chime: I didn’t really think about that too much. I think they definitely did better in this split than it looked like [before], but I didn’t watch them as much from the last split. I was entering the team with the [roster] change…but they definitely played better as a team especially with support jungle, so that’s something I think we can take away.
In that match, you started ahead of TSM in the early game but then went away from you. From your perspective, what went wrong against TSM?
Chime: Everyone has a different take on it, but from our perspective, we were really strong after early skirmishes that went well for us. Especially after picking from mid-tower or even before that, we were like ‘Rumble’s spiked [and] Lucian’s 3-0. We’re ready to fight and I think we were willing to let them have control and scale on dragons, which is not how our comp should play, so that’s how I think things went wrong. We were fine just leading, basically, which was what it came down to. We really should’ve fought [more] because we were really strong.
Within the composition that TSM played against your team, they had Viego. How was it for you to face off against that champion seeing as it debuted into the LCS after months of being barred from the competition?
Chime: I think scrim Viego and on stage Viego are two different champs from our perspective. Scrim Viego goes full damage every time and it’s just looking to 1v9 and then on stage, he always goes tank for some reason and then we think ‘What if we didn’t attack the Viego?’ He’s not that strong.” Really, the onus is on us to make a mistake if they’re going to play tank Viego. They’re hoping that one of us messes up and [becomes] killable and he can get his resets off.
Of all the teams you played in scrims, which one has had the toughest Viego?
Chime: I don’t know. They kind of all blend together all in my head. It’s hard to say. Sorry that I can’t remember. There’s just been some 1v9 Viego games where he can accelerate especially in the jungle because there’s a lot more agency in that role. I don’t think we’ve seen Viego jungle in LCS but I’ve seen it.
Obviously, your team’s highlight for the week will be your Day 1 victory over Cloud9. How big of an impact did you provide for the team with your Leona?
Chime: We just needed a trigger to start fights especially for our first game. They were saying like just don’t be–what a lot of teams have an issue with is starting fights. Once the fight gets going, it becomes, like, muscle memory to a degree [and] everyone’s comfortable. But when you’re in a stalemate and standoffs where everyone’s looking at each other to start the fight, it can be really awkward and I think Leona helps with that.
I kind of just sent it in a few fights and I was a bit shaky at first, but as the game went on, I got a bit more comfortable. [Using Leona] is a good way to start fights that’s not full commitment because I can just throw her ults and see what happens and if it looks good, I can keep going.
At the end of that match, how did it feel for you to actually pull off the upset and take down C9, the defending champions at that?
Chime: It felt amazing. For my first game playing as a 10th place team versus the first-place team and pulling off that upset, it really did feel like a dream come true. I know that myself and Colin “Solo” Earnest kept joking that we’re 0-0 and that’s our team record [seperate from the team] so we were undefeated as the two of us and we beat C9. Now we have a lot of work to do as a team.
About the NA Amateur Scene
As you mentioned, this week marked your professional debut after originally standing in the LCS Studio in 2019 as a Scouting Grounds draft pick from Dignitas. What has it been like for you to be a player and stand in the LCS Studio?
Chime: Playing in the LCS Studio has been a lot different than I’m used to because, for my first split [with Supernova (amateur team)], I was playing remotely. I had visa issues so I was playing from Canada so I was really in my comfort zone and it was a lot easier. In the last academy split, I was actually in LA so it was a bit different but I got used to my setup and it was a bit comfortable. There were no fans or cameras or whatever.
And in this split, I guess I got pretty lucky since I was fully immersed in a more comfortable setting, so I’m pretty happy with it and have no complaints. As for getting on stage, it does feel a bit nerve-racking at first, especially with the first game, but I think those will go away and I just have to be more confident in how I’m playing and focus in the game and not what’s around me.
You are one of the latest product of the revamped amateur scene who managed to reach the LCS main stage after spending time with an amateur and academy team. What do you make of the current amateur ecosystem that exists in the region?
Chime: There’s still a lot of players coming up. Last year, I think it was a lot easier for LCS orgs to make amateur teams like the 100 Thieves Next program for example. No one was really looking at the amateur talent so they got to pick the best amateur talent that was available at the time and developed them into a team. That looks really good, especially for that organization to then come up as a bunch of prospects. Shane “Kenvi” Espinoza, Jouhan “Copy” Pathmanathan, Osama “Auto” Alkhalaileh, Philippe “Poome” Lavoie-Giguere, Hoangan “Nxi” Dinh, all of those guys. They all have good players.
With the format itself, Proving Grounds is really good. I loved playing in it. I think it’s really frustrating as an amateur player to never actually show what you can do against academy teams and I think it was unfair, so I really like the fact that they’ll mesh and play each other because it relieves a lot of tension between both sides. Academy teams were happy and felt that they were better than [amateur teams] and didn’t have to prove, but now you [have to prove it] and I think that’s good.
What kind of changes do you want to see for the academy scene/Proving Grounds format? Do you think any improvements should be made?
Chime: With changes that could be good, I like the format that we just had going into playoffs. Obviously, with Academy itself, qualifying for PG was frustrating because the academy season kind of fell to irrelevance. All the [other] teams reached PG and you just played a best-of-one round robin, so I think they changed it this split where everyone is playing Bo2’s which is better. I’m happy with that change.
With the player base itself, I’m happy with it. We definitely got an influx of players over the past year so that’s also been good. I still think there’s a lot of talent left and it’s important to keep an eye out because a player shouldn’t be denied chances just because they have NA residence stigma.