Xmithie: The Center of the Storm

October 05 2018

The center of a storm is usually quite calm compared to its surroundings. While the world around it seems to be moving quickly and chaotically it still remains mysteriously quiet by comparison. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero is similarly composed when he sits down to play League of Legends. It doesn’t matter what the atmosphere around him is like, he will remain the steady calming factor that his team needs to maintain their composure in the middle of a game. Instead of letting himself get carried away due to the many emotions that can come from making a hype play, like stealing Baron, or perhaps playing poorly and letting that influence the rest of his game, Xmithie remains in a neutral state. Why neutral?

“I discovered for myself that I just need to stay really neutral every game I play. I’m really used to it now and I prefer to be in a neutral state instead of being really excited or really scared or being really confident. Playing through emotions for me is not really optimal so I try to rely on logic or rely on whatever is happening in the game that I can control instead of acting on momentum or anything like that.”

The result is as you can see. Xmithie is one of the most successful North American players and when you combine his experience with that of his team's it is easy to understand why Team Liquid dominated the LCS this year. The playstyle Liquid employs is vastly different from Xmithie’s previous teams despite playing with everyone aside from Impact during his time on CLG and Immortals. Xmithie explained that when he came to TL he still had to learn everything from scratch with his new team despite being familiar with them as players.

The other major difference Xmithie said about Team Liquid was the amount of respect each player had for each other, the trust that they each knew their roles and were improving over time in it. Most importantly due to their respect of each other they are able to handle criticism in a way that strengthens the entire team.

“Usually we can criticize each other and then we all know that we are doing it in a positive way. We aren’t just arguing for the sake of arguing, we’re really doing it because we all want to get better and improve and we all know that.”

The mixture of personalities on Team Liquid also helps the team advance at a blistering pace. “If everyone had the same personality I don’t think that the team will grow at all or ever win anything really big. When personalities clash I think that’s best for a team environment as long as everyone is improving with each other.” He went on to reason that if a team has five players that are always calm and not willing to argue with each other because they try to understand each other, it can actually stifle their progress. If there is no one willing to speak up and question why their teammates did what they did, there will be no lessons to learn and the team will stagnate.

We saw that theory in motion as Team Liquid swept through the NA LCS but not without a few hiccups along the way. Each time TL stumbled they would learn from it and come back stronger, with a better plan and more determination than before. While Team Liquid proceeded to take the NA LCS by storm, they haven’t allowed that to make them arrogant or overconfident as they head to Worlds.

“I think whatever success we had locally doesn’t really affect me internationally anymore because people and teams in the international scene are very different. Playstyle-wise and just how much better they are is very obvious. The first place seeds are pretty much better than anyone from NA. We’re trying not to have that kind of confidence that we had when we were playing in NA, we’re trying to keep an open mind.”

When asked about what was different about the preparation for Worlds this year compared to the past Xmithie replied that it’s the small things that are different rather than any major changes. Some teams in the past have started off strong but became worse and worse as the tournament progressed because they failed to adapt. Xmithie sees that as one of the toughest challenges the team will face in Korea.

Another problem the team will be forced to address will be the stress and the nerves that come with playing on the biggest stage in League of Legends. The nerves may not be a big issue for anyone on Team Liquid given that they are all seasoned professionals, “We’ve all been playing internationally before so all the nerves and all the jitters are not as bad for anyone as it was years ago for us.”

Stress on the other hand is another story entirely.

“I think even though I’ve been playing all these years it’s still really stressful because, it’s a different split, and your standings matter a lot and if your goal is to try to win everything, yeah you’ll obviously get stressed.”

This is where the support staff from Team Liquid come in key. Jared, TL’s sports psychologist, makes sure the players remain as mentally ready as they can and that no outside influences will affect the way they play. What Xmithie had to say about Jared is that he is the most hands-on sports psychologist he’s ever worked with and the boost he gives to the team can not be understated.

Lastly Xmithie talked about how he feels as the team heads into Worlds and the expectations he has placed on himself and on the team in the coming weeks.

“There’s definitely a lot of room for growth from us. I don’t think we’re at the point where we can win Worlds yet but we’re still trying to win. Our first goal is just to get out of groups. After that I think the semi-finals and while ending there wouldn’t be good I think if we got to the semi-finals we’d feel really good and it would be a pretty good result for North America.”

While the team is of course aiming for the championship, their goals are focused on taking things one step at a time, a more measured and practical approach to a tournament that can seem larger than life. We expect that from Xmithie; he’ll take everything in stride and be the calm and collected voice that will help TL weather anything at Worlds.

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