The LFL champions LDLC OL reigned supreme in France and they’ve carried their form over to EU Masters Spring 2022, going 6-0 in a dominant, undefeated run to make it out of Group D as first seed. They won the EU Masters title in Spring 2020 and will be looking to win it again.
Leading the foxes is veteran mid laner Jérémy "Eika" Valdenaire, who played with LDLC in 2019 as he led them to top 8 finishes in Spring and Summer. Eika took time off and spoke about various topics in this long interview, from the EU Masters, to this iteration of LDLC and even a bit on his time in North America.
First and foremost, thank you so much for joining us for this interview on BLIX.GG. Congratulations on going 6-0 in your group! Let’s take it from the top, what did you think of LDLC’s performances with these six wins and were you satisfied with them?
Eika: First of all, thank you! I think as a group, we’re kind of satisfied with how all the games went and how our group went as well with us going 6-0. I think if the games were a bit closer, maybe we would not have been as confident. But I feel like we won in a convincing way and that's why we are happy going undefeated. We're happier with the way the games went and I feel like it was a convincing 6-0, and that’s what we're most proud of.
That's fair. Now that you're in the Knockout stage, we still don't know who is going to be drawn just yet. Are there any teams or players that you would really like to meet in the Knockouts?
Eika: Hmm…I wouldn't say I have any teams or players in mind right now. I would obviously like to play the good teams, right? Because it can produce interesting matches. I don't have a name in mind right now.
Alright, but if I had to guess, you would want an all-French EU Masters finals, right?
Eika: [laughs] Yeah, I mean, it'd be fun! Honestly, I don't know if they will make it, but if Team BDS Academy manages to qualify for the finals, it would be very much a repeat of the LFL 2022 Spring finals! It would be kind of funny if that happens, but there's a long way before that.
"...to summarise what I would say is different, it does feel like all the stars are aligning for us this Spring. We're all very happy and we’ll keep working towards winning EU Masters together. I feel LDLC currently is more like a family than a team and it shows outside of the games as well."
I know you mentioned this on broadcast, but I’d like to get your thoughts on this still. Who do you think are the strongest teams in this EU Masters and were there any surprises for you?
Eika: Yeah, as I mentioned previously, I think X7 Esports really surprised me. Because there are a lot of players that you know would play well in this tournament, but since we played X7 in scrims they didn't seem that strong compared to a team like Fnatic TQ, for example.
On that note, I also wasn’t expecting Fnatic to struggle so much in their group because I thought they were probably one of the top contenders for the EU Masters. At the same time, we haven’t seen that much from them as well. It was only three games. So I would like to see the matches that are coming to get an idea of their level. But yeah, X7 is for sure the biggest surprise for me.
And obviously, I think the French teams are really strong. I mean, I hope so at least. Vitality is doing well but BDS is kind of struggling as well. Maybe because their group is a bit harder than others, I would say. As for Karmine Corp, their group is gonna be a good test for them because they’re playing strong opponents as well.
If I were to look at all the teams outside of LFL, I would say X7 and Fnatic are probably the teams we need to be the most careful about.
When asked why this LDLC team functions so well, your teammate Thomas "Exakick" Foucou mentioned on broadcast something about the ‘power of friendship’. I know you've been with LDLC for some time, with your current stint starting from last year. What's the difference between this team and last year’s team?
Eika: Other than the players, which we changed a lot of between the two years, I think last year we were kind of struggling to find our identity and the way we wanted to play the game. But for last Summer, it was much easier for us to play for sure, because we were kind of working towards the same direction so it was easier for all of us to approach the game together.
For this year, I think we are all really good individually and it's so easy for us all to play the game. I don't think we have a leading shot caller, but the team listens to me on how we approach a lot of the plays so it's super easy to set up stuff because we're all working towards the same goal and the same approach on how we want to play the game. And yeah, it's just so easy because we can just talk openly to each other and if someone feels something is wrong, they can express it without any problems and we’ll fix it together. Our drafts are good and we have a good read on the meta too.
If I had to summarise what I would say is different, it does feel like all the stars are aligning for us this Spring. We're all very happy and we’ll keep working towards winning EU Masters together. I feel LDLC currently is more like a family than a team and it shows outside of the games as well.
I just wanted to clarify something you mentioned. I believe you said you don’t have a leading shot caller but they kind of listen to what you say. Would you say you are the leadership figure in this current team? I believe that you’re the oldest player as well.
Eika: Yeah. I think I would say for sure that I'm the leader in the team and in-game, and I often take a lot of decisions but in the early and mid game, the rest of the team also provides a lot of input. It's more like, I will have the last say on the plays that we want to make, for example. They trust me to make the right call, I suppose!
Speaking of being a leadership figure, you were also with LDLC in the EU Masters in 2019. I remember that year, LDLC were dominant in the LFL and won both seasons too, finishing top 8 in both the Spring and Summer editions of EU Masters. What's different from your time then and now?
Eika: [laughs] This is kind of a difficult question. Everything is different now. The entire environment is different, the players are different. We were playing in a gaming house before but now we have our own apartments and we even have an office as well. Depending on the players, some prefer apartments and some people prefer gaming houses. This might have been a factor too.
But yeah, maybe we are just getting along much better right now than we were used to compared with my teammates in 2019. It feels like everything is just smoother and we have less worries about what our issues are. We fix them so much faster than in previous teams. It's so easy to identify them and to talk about it and so easy for us to move forward. I think that's one of our biggest strengths right now.
"...right now my goal is winning the EU Masters. That’s my short term goal. If I get the chance to join the LEC again, I would like to experience it but I don't want to join a roster that I know is not going to be very competitive. I'm not a rookie anymore so I don't have the chance to just go there and hope that my team is going to be good."
Last year I recall you guys were working with Paul "sOAZ" Boyer as your head coach. How was it like working with him as a coach, considering you worked with Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim as a coach before as well.
Eika: Yeah it was kind of funny, because I came back from Immortals in NA and we played together there. So I was playing with my old top laner as my coach! It was for sure a bit of a weird experience.
It was his first time as a coach and I'm not sure, but I don't think he really liked it. Because as a coach, you don't really have control of the game and I think as a former player being a coach, it can maybe be frustrating sometimes because you cannot directly help your players in-game. It was really fun overall and he had really good ideas on drafting.
However, he was kind of alone at the beginning of last year, and he was struggling a bit because it's really hard to do everything alone. We later decided to recruit Quentin "Zeph" Viguié as an assistant coach and when he arrived, we started doing amazingly. We certainly showed it in some aspects, for example, our team’s level of play was rising very quickly and we had a lot of good drafts as well.
I do miss sOAZ, I was with him for two years after all.
I hope he reads this interview. Speaking of sOAZ and NA, as far as I know and from what I remember, you had quite a difficult time in your year with Immortals. Talk to me a little bit about your time in NA and how was it for you personally? Were there any valuable lessons you brought back home?
Eika: Every year is an opportunity to grow as a player so no matter what the experience is, whether it's really good or really bad, you’ll always have something to take or learn from it. Obviously, I think this was one of my worst years of experience in esports. Just because I was really far from my family, it's really hard to get support from people that I talk to every day and then there’s suddenly a nine hour time zone difference. For sure, it was not easy.
Looking back now, I'm kind of glad I took this opportunity. I don't regret anything. It was just…I felt some injustice, I guess, towards me in the year I played there. But now it's like whatever, you know? People like scapegoats and if they want to target me, that’s just how it is. I will just keep doing what I want to do and towards the Summer, I felt like I was playing quite good. I think our team was…there’s no way of sugarcoating it, we were just bad. We had no chemistry at all and it was just a doomed environment for us, honestly.
There were decisions made within the organisation as well and I don't want to say too much about it but yeah, overall it was a bad experience for me, but I also had really good memories from it too. It was ultimately a learning experience.
I appreciate the honesty. Moving on from that, you’ve been around the scene for some time, what would you say are your long term goals as a player?
Eika: That's an interesting question. As a player, I always want to win in whichever competition I’m in, so right now my goal is winning the EU Masters. That’s my short term goal. If I get the chance to join the LEC again, I would like to experience it but I don't want to join a roster that I know is not going to be very competitive. I'm not a rookie anymore so I don't have the chance to just go there and hope that my team is going to be good.
I need to know things like which players I’m gonna play with, is the coaching staff able to understand how the team environment is gonna be and stuff like this. I want to be with an organisation that I can vibe with and feel a part of, I guess. That is what’s most important for me.
But honestly right now, I just want to win the EU Masters. You never know what the future is going to hold so if an opportunity arises, I will always look into it. My goal is to always play at the highest level so yeah, I'm just gonna see what happens in the future.
I do wish you luck with that. Before we end, I’m going to ask you a bit of an odd question. I feel that this has been popping up in the LoL esports news recently [Jensen talking about nearly roleswapping to bot lane]. Have you ever considered role swapping in your career and if you were to, which role would it be?
Eika: Hmmm…I mean, I've thought about it before, but I didn't because I like mid lane too much [laughs]. I would just miss mid lane too much where I can play so many different champions. Now, what role would I play… I think maybe it would be in the bot lane, and I would be a support or bot laner.
For top lane, we've played lane swaps in my other teams before and it's a really boring lane honestly. I don't know how people can play this lane in competitive! For jungler, I could play it but I would rather be a bot laner because I like doing damage and I like auto-attacking champions. Support would be because I feel like I have a good map sense.
So if I were to roleswap right now or tomorrow for example, I would probably play as bot laner. But if I were to take more time to think about it and try it, I would probably play support.
Interesting thoughts, thank you! We've come to the end of the interview. Is there anything else you'd like to add or any shoutouts you'd like to give?
Eika: Thank you to everyone for supporting us. I will not disappoint you in the quarterfinals and I hope we will keep winning.
Thank you Eika and best of luck. The EU Masters Knockouts begins on April 28th and you can catch it on the EU Masters Twitch channel.