For the last couple of years, Astralis has been treated as the team that is hanging on to the league by a thread due to their bad performances and worse placements. Their current roster is determined to change course and challenge the top teams for a seat at the summit. The jungler of the team, Doğukan “113” Balcı, sets the aim of the team as top four in the League of Legends European Championship.
We spoke with the young Turkish player about their win against Team Vitality, their expectations coming into this last week, the expectations set on them and how they are getting along with their new mid-laner Adam “LIDER” Ilyasov.
Aykut Sapaz, BLIX.GG: You guys are doing pretty well recently and you just had a win against Vitality. How does it feel to come out with a win from that game?
Doğukan “113” Balcı: Honestly, it feels good. We had a three-loss streak after we won the first two games. Losing three games in a row, the mood and mentality of the team was starting to collapse a bit. I don’t know if it was starting to collapse but with the two wins at the beginning of the season, our expectations became very high, so me and my teammates... even if we play well, even if we lose, we don’t feel... Like, yesterday we played well. We could have won the game, we were really ahead but when we lost, we can’t be like “Oh we were good but we lost anyway, it’s okay.” I guess you could say that everyone is hungry for success. Everyone wants to win.
BLIX: Yeah, everyone is very eager.
113: Yes, I mean I am happy. This game gave me some flashbacks of yesterday. The enemy Gwen got a quadra kill in the top lane while we were far ahead. At that moment, I started to sweat, but in the end, we won. So, yeah, I’m happy.
BLIX: Yeah, overall, you were pretty ahead the whole game. There was a setback somewhere though, in the fight before the last one, in the jungle. Did you guys think you were going to lose the game there? How were the comms there?
113: We did not think that we would lose but, you know, we were very far ahead yesterday as well and lost the game because we trolled some fights. So, you know, you get traumatized, you get PTSD and you think: “Is it the same all over again?” At least I thought that a little. I think it should not be happening during the game though. But as far as I’ve heard from them, my teammates were also having similar thoughts, even for a split second. We were able to refocus on the game and win with the next fight in mid-lane.
“We have to, at least, make the top four”
BLIX: Yeah, you guys ultimately won the game and now you stand in the middle of the scoreboard with the score of 3-3 in the 6th place. You are doing pretty well compared to the last split. How does it feel to be in this position, with two-thirds of the season completed?
113: I could say I was feeling better last season because I think we’re under more pressure this time around. We started last season with a score of 0-5. So, the pressure was very low because we were to be eliminated if we were to lose one or two more games but no one was expecting anything from us. Everyone’s expectations were low. With that, it’s not that you don’t care, but the pressure gets pretty low. That’s why both me and my teammates played better and got into the top-eight from 0-5 and later top-six and all that, you know.
But this season, we have a chance to go straight into the top four so as I’ve said before, my teammates and I, we want to win too. And the top-six is not good enough for me anymore. Like, even though Astralis is not incredibly successful as an organization, I know my limit and my teammates’ limit. That’s why our goal is not to be in the top six or top eight. I think we should at least make it to the top four.
BLIX: Those are big expectations, especially coming from Astralis. I remember our talk with you last season, when you guys were 0-5, you believed that you guys would come back from it but now you are in a more interesting situation. Right now, you think you will make it to the top-four then, is that how the team feels?
133: Yes. I don’t think anybody would appreciate a result in, like, top-six or top-eight. I also don’t think the season matches are that important, you know, in the case of their standings, because Vitality finished last season in the top two and then they were 6th or 5th. They couldn’t make it to the Playoffs in the top four. So, we are a new team, our mid-laner just joined and we only had one week to practice. We have to move forward every week, improve, and go into the Playoffs ready, I think. So, none of us aim for the top eight or top six, we have to, at least, make the top four.
New teammate and opponents
BLIX: We’ll hopefully see Astralis on their way to the top four. I’m sure your fans are also excited. As you mentioned, LIDER recently joined the team, it was Dajor before and LIDER came with great hype since he had already played in the league and is a player known by many. How is your synergy with him, both yours and as a team?
113: I can talk to him about anything and he gives me feedback, I give him feedback. I like his work ethic and our game standpoints are quite similar. Like, in League of Legends, if your team pays attention to a call, even if it’s a wrong call, you can take it to the right place. And since we share the same mentality with him as mid and jungle, let’s say that I make a super troll play and I go in, he is a player who would also go in without thinking twice. So, our game views are very much alike and I’m happy as of now.
BLIX: Seeing the harmony between the players is great. It was a fun game to watch. And what are your expectations from upcoming games? You have three opponents remaining, what do you think your hardest game will be?
113: I don’t think there is going to be such a thing as “the hardest game.” Our schedule was very strange, because I think the first six matches were like the top six teams of LS, and the last three remaining teams are the bottom tier teams, in my opinion. We’ll play against Heretics, Excel, and fnatic. They are straight bottom-tier teams, so we were thinking that if this week went okay, next week would have to be an easy one. I personally think that we have to get at least two wins. Yeah, I don’t think we are going to struggle against one of those teams, I don’t think they are good based on practice and their performances so far.
BLIX: Let me find a less brutal way to say this when I write that. Yeah, next week seems like it will be a bit easier compared to this week. Do you have anything to say to your fans while we wait for the next week? Because you have many supporters both from Turkey and other places rooting for you now.
113: Keep supporting me. Closer had this thing where he said “One day I’ll win LCS” on stream, I can say something similar. I am going to win LEC one day, if not this year, next year. And if not next year, the year after that. I am not here to watch, I am here to win, that I can say. Keep supporting.
BLIX: Alright, that’s amazing. Even now, I am excited, here in my seat. Thank you for your time and for being here.
113: You’re welcome. Thanks.