After two and-a-half years and five NA LCS splits with Counter Logic Gaming, Jake “Xmithie” Puchero is on the move, breaking up the region’s formerly longest-standing starting lineup as he joins Immortals and swaps teams with Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett.
Looking solely at the numbers, Spring Split 2017 was certainly not Xmithie’s strongest. It’s possible that the jungler’s more supportive style didn’t mesh with the team’s approach, but Xmithie said that while the criticism of his play might have some merit, the team’s struggles aren’t confined to a single player.
“I agree to the point where, I didn’t really show what I can do. For us, as a team, we didn’t really feel like it was any individual performance, it was mainly like how we understood the meta and how we approached it,” he said. “Yeah, I think it was just that everyone had different ideas on how to carry the game, and then not everyone was wanting to be on the same page.”
And if Xmithie’s playstyle on CLG could be reasonably referred to as “niche,” as Dardoch called it in a previous interview with theScore esports, then Xmithie says that it’s a product of the strong CLG roster with which he has spent so much of his career.
The reason, he said, is that anyone on that roster could carry games.
“If everyone can carry, then they’re just going to have their own playstyle and they’re not going to help each other. Which is really detrimental to the team,” he explained. “And there’s always at least two people that have to sacrifice every game, to make the game easy or make the game faster, so that you can win the game.”
According to Xmithie, he was one of the people making those sacrifices, and did so willingly. In his view, the easiest and most effective route to victory is something to be embraced, not opposed for the sake of ego.
Now, as part of Immortals, he won’t count out the possibility that he will need to step up and become the carry “if the meta calls for it.” But with three of his new Immortals teammates fresh off their first NA LCS splits, he thinks that his role will probably remain supportive, since the team already had a carry-type jungler last split in Dardoch, and he notes that it didn’t seem to work out.
“I think what this team really needs is a leader to be having the team rally behind them, not really to carry, just to listen and be a mentor, I guess.”
Still, this doesn’t mean that Xmithie won’t be making any changes, even if his in-game playstyle isn’t guaranteed to shift. One thing he’s adapting to is the way that the team communicates.
“I think the biggest thing is just the language differential, since our top laner, support, and even mid actually can speak Korean. And sometimes if it’s really hectic, one person might speak in Korean really fast so that the other teammates can talk as fast, and react as fast,” he said. “So just that language block is kind of a detriment, but at the same time they’re really good mechanically-wise, like pretty much everyone on this team. I think this squad is much better mechanically than when I was on CLG. I’ve also been learning a lot from them.”
Joining Immortals has also allowed him to reunite with mid laner Eugene "Pobelter" Park, with whom he played briefly on CLG in Summer 2015. The two remained friends, and though Xmithie says his friend's presence on Immortals didn't really factor into his decision — "I always just look at what is the most effective way to win, and that's it" — it's nice to have him around.
“It feels pretty good, since I was always good friends with him, we always message each other, sometimes during the offseason or if we want to go get something to eat,” Xmithie said. “Eugene is always pretty good to be around, and it’s pretty normal for us to just keep hanging out.”
With the Summer Split looming, Xmithie’s path ahead offers some interesting potential paths. He turned 26 earlier this month, nearing that age when he word “retirement” begins to be whispered in League in Legends.
But Xmithie is now playing for Immortals, and their CEO Noah Whinston has been vocal in past interviews that he believes player careers can last longer if the right support is offered to players. Now Xmithie is in a place where Whinston can ensure he gets it.
“You have not seen the retirement of a pro in LCS since the influx of new investors into the scene, and there’s a reason for that,” Whinston said in April on theScore esports podcast. “I think what happened was, people decided that sacrificing 14 hours a day and living in a team house wasn’t worth $25,000 a year.”
He even name-dropped Xmithie in that interview as one of the current veterans whose mechanics were still LCS level, but brought a lot more to his team in the form of game knowledge and leadership potential. That assertion will be tested when Immortals return to the Rift this summer.
But it now seems clear is that Xmithie isn’t looking to completely change his game: he’s looking to arm his new teammates with knowledge accumulated over his more than five years of competitive play. And the playstyle that saw him sometimes fly under the radar near the end of his time with CLG could, for the untested roster of Immortals, be an incalculable boon.
Josh “Gauntlet” Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.
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