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Midbeast Interview: Lessons from High-ELO

Midbeast is a Team Liquid streamer and Youtube content creator on who has been a high-ELO Mid laner in three regions. In this interview, he gives us words of wisdom on things such as how to get the most from watching VODs, how he manages stress and tilt, and how he became a Challenger-level player. Enjoy!

How to get the most from studying VODs

You’re known for constantly analyzing VODs, assessing yourself and other players. What can you tell us about your methodology and your goals when you’re watching footage?

The biggest thing for me when watching a VOD is looking for small things that these players do differently to what I currently do. Maybe they make different decisions – let’s say they time their combo in a different order or they ward at a different time than me, I’ll usually see these discrepancies and understand that I do it in a different way, and ask which way is the best way?

A lot of times when I’m assessing players like Rookie, it’s usually a no-brainer that their play is going to be more efficient in most cases in comparison to mine. It’s just small things like that that I’ll pick up on and say, hey do I want to adopt that and put that into my play? Or do I want to leave it and keep doing what I’m doing? It’s always the small things and what they do differently to me and if I can copy and put it into my own gameplay.

What would your advice be for low ELO players regarding watching VODs? How can a Silver player learn from a pro when it’s much harder for them to recognize what a “good play” is, what mistakes look like, and so on?

When I was first starting out, and I wanted to improve, I think I was probably Gold or something and I was watching Bjergsen VODs of Syndra because I was a Syndra one-trick. Right now, I can recognize what’s good, what’s efficient, what’s the correct play, but back then, I had no idea. So honestly, I just completely copied how he played each matchup and I just slowly copied it and got better and better until I could make my own decisions on what to do.

I think that for lower ELO, copycatting runes, movements, ward placings, combo timings, it’s probably going to be the quickest way to improve. Just copying what Challenger players do, if you’re below Diamond, is probably your best bet.

When you’re studying two different high-ELO players, let’s say Bjergsen and another player, they’re both playing the same champion – how do you compare, contrast, and decide what’s optimal between their different choices?

It’s hard to decide which play is the better play. You watch Bjergsen now, he plays a little more passive, you might watch Rookie play he might play more aggressive. At the end of the day, it’s more about finding the style that suits you. If you’re a more aggressive player, you can choose that. It also depends on the specific scenario. If you’re against an aggressive jungler, you can play more passive.

What would your personal feeling be towards players who would rather fixate on their own teammates’ mistakes rather than watch their own replays?

I think like 90% of the player base refuses to recognize that they’re the constant in their ranked games everyone else is kind of irrelevant and they fixate on everyone else’s mistakes rather than fix their own. When I watch my own VODs, I get so triggered because I make the dumbest mistakes. Even in a game where you know, I might be doing well, and all my teammates feed, it’s kind of irrelevant, it’s about what I could’ve done to change the game. At the end of the day, if you play a thousand ranked games, it’s about how you personally play and perform.

What types of things would you recommend players to start with when they start watching replays? Should they start with high Challenger Korean games? Should they start with just the champion that they play?

It doesn’t have to be Faker or Rookie, it can be like any Challenger player on whatever server you’re playing on because obviously, they’ll be at a better skill point than you. Look at how they play their lane, The most important thing is looking at how to play different matchups. You’ll want to get 5-10 VODs of all the different matchups to slowly understand things like, in this matchup do I shove? Do I look for the level 2 rush in this matchup? Do I play passive and just farm from a distance? Do I need to avoid specific all-ins? It’s just like learning how to play each matchup and learning how to space and trade.

Midbeast’s Journey to High-ELO

How did you become Challenger for the first time?

My first climb, I think it was Season 4, I went from Plat to Challenger – I think I had to play about 1000 Syndra games. I took the one-trick mindset and I was pretty much only playing Syndra and maybe like a LeBlanc or Zed game here and there.  As I mentioned earlier, I copied Bjergsen’s VODs, learned all the matchups, and then I just slowly grinded games and games and games on one champion and then I eventually got high-ELO from that.

When I got to high-ELO, I started branching out to other champions and I dropped back down to Diamond. And then it was another slow gradual climb to find what champions worked for me. Climbing is all about being consistent. Like I think a lot of players are good but they’ll have a game where they have 20 kills but next game they’ll have 20 deaths. It’s better to just have the 10 kills low deaths every game than have a massive pop off followed by an inting game.

Was it always your ultimate goal to become Challenger? Or did it happen of a byproduct of just wanting to improve?

I actually don’t know why, I guess you just have that competitiveness in you, you just want to hit that highest rank. Like I was doing college at the time and it was kind of like, I don’t know…gaming wasn’t really a thing that I told people about. I would go to college during the day, do my uni stuff, and come back and just grind games. I don’t know what it was I just wanted to hit the highest rank. Everyone has that competitive edge in them and I guess it was that. I just wanted to hit the top, see if I could actually do it and push myself.

Where did that edge come from for you? Did you play traditional sports?

I was doing a lot of swimming, a lot of soccer. I was pretty good at swimming when I was in high school but as I went to university I slowly stopped swimming and went more to gaming because it’s just more fun, to be honest. What would you pick, waking up 5 AM to swim or sleeping in and playing games?

How do you stay in good form to maintain high-ELO a skill level? Do you have a specific schedule each day doing things like CS drills?

Back when I was playing pro, definitely. I’d wake up to do CSing drills. Nowadays with the Practice Tool, honestly, you can utilize that so well. You can set up full builds or set up specific scenarios so you can practice combos or CS’ing. But back then, I’d just get into a game before a scrim set or something and just do CS practice.

Or, I’d get a mate and just practice a matchup over and over. It’s one of the best things – if you have friends and you’re struggling with a matchup just go, hey man and play the matchup like 10 times. Just to learn the first six levels of a lane. Obviously, not everyone has that which kind of sucks but yeah.

On the differences in solo queue between regions

You’re one of the few players in the world who has been high-ELO (OCE, NA, Korea) in three different regions. Could you talk about the key differences you noticed as well as how you adjusted to play at a high level?

I feel like in NA, the laning phase seemed really free. I could blind pick things like Twisted Fate and know that even if they picked a counter matchup, I’m not really under any threat of just getting absolutely annihilated. It felt really laid back and felt like even if I died once or twice, I’d still be in the game.

But when I was in Korea, even just going through Diamond 2 and 1, if I pick TF and they pick literally any counter matchup like Zed or Orianna, I’m gonna be having such a bad time. They’re gonna pressure me from level one, trade on every single CS, and just in the laning phase you just feel so pressured, you feel like you can’t do anything. If you die once or twice, pretty much everyone on the team just starts spamming “ff”, and the games are just straight over if you int a lane.

Oceania’s kind of like NA, most of the time you kind of get a free laning phase. It’s a really small server so there’s a sense of community and it can be really hard to be competitive when everyone’s kind of mates and friends and everyone’s memeing around in all chat. In Korea, no one really talks at all, if someone’s talking it’s most likely like saying “your mom boom” and just raging at you. I think every region has its upsides and downsides.

Did you have to adjust your champion pool to succeed at high-ELO in different regions?

I pretty much stuck to playing the same champions over and over. I didn’t branch out too much. Some champions, I didn’t feel that comfortable on, even with a hundred games. With LeBlanc and Twisted Fate, I have thousands. I felt sort of pincered into playing my champion pool because I knew 100% of the matchups, otherwise, I’d probably get hard-stomped.

I ended up playing more Leblanc than Twisted Fate in Korea because the meta is so shifted to early game that Leblanc seemed to work way better because you could get solo kills more often in lane and you had more mobility against jungle ganks. If you snowballed, the enemy team would just ff, so I definitely think being able to be aggressive early is the way to go in Korea. For NA and OCE, it’s probably more about map control mids like Galio, TF or scaling mages like Kassadin. I felt like I really couldn’t play Kass in Korea because by the time I’d come online, my team has already started the surrender vote and it’s already over.

Do you plan on trying out other regions?

Yeah man, I’m going to be heading over to EU in March to do a bootcamp over there and see if I can hit Challenger which would be pretty cool. It should be a nice test of my skills it’ll be sweet. Hopefully, I don’t get hard-stuck (laughs).

Who are you most looking forward to play against in EU if you could go against anybody? Who were your favorite players to go against in NA and Korea?

In EU, I want to rematch against Caps. I matched against him four or five times in Korea and each time he just got the upperhand so I’m looking to go against Caps I reckon. I want to go against Bjergsen I’ve never played against him, I always religiously studied his VODs so it’d be sweet to vs against him.

I played Dopa once but he was playing bot lane and not mid lane so I didn’t get to lane against him, that’s definitely someone I’d like to play against in the mid lane. I’ve had the chance of vs’ing Rookie which was really cool last year in Korea. He was just continuously pressuring my lane it was really nice to see. I ended up getting a solo kill on him.

He’s the type of player who, it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t have summoners, he’s just gonna hard-commit in solo queue. Like same with Caps, a lot of these pro players in solo queue, they don’t take it as if they’re in a serious match. All they kind of do is like, test their limits. If you go to Caps’s solo queue profile, he’ll have games where he just has like 20 deaths he just ints because he tries to push champions to their limits. That’s kind of what Rookie felt like he was doing.

Do you feel that it’s worth it in the long term it to test your limits like that?

In the short run, it’s probably not that great because you’re going to int on your main account. If you have a smurf account it might be smart to do. These pro players don’t care as much about their rank so that’s why they can do it but…I don’t know honestly. Most players who play ranked casually, they play on the weekends and grind when they’re not working, it’s probably not the best for them to just test their limits as hard as they can. They’ll probably just keep inting and develop a “too aggressive play style”, which I think is pretty bad for ranked.

Did you see the recent quote from Dopa where he says that there’s no such thing as “aggressive” or “defensive” players, it’s just good or bad players? What do you think of that?

I did. I agree with some aspects of it, I definitely think that if you’re confident, you’re always going to have an aggressive lane. But that’s not to say that if you’re missing all your summoner spells and the enemy jungler is like a Camille, you’re not going to have an aggro lane, you’re going to have a passive lane.

Or if you have, let’s say a scaling comp, you’re not going to have a completely aggressive lane. If you’re confident in yourself and think you’re better than your opponent, you won’t be overextending and constantly trading – that’s not really an aggressive lane. It’s more like putting pressure on them when they’re CS’ing, or when they’re looking to ward you’re looking to contest, like those types of things are definitely big.

I see where he’s coming from when he’s like if you’re confident in yourself you’re always going to have an aggro lane but it comes down to how you interpret what an aggro lane is I guess. I think some people think an aggro lane is just constantly trading but that’s not it.

On motivation, burn out, and toxicity

You said you’ve been Challenger since Season 4, how do you stay motivated to stay at the top? How do you avoid burnout and stay focused?

Honestly, I’m not always motivated, I’ll go through phases. It depends on what I’m doing at the time. There was a time where I took a break of maybe three or four months off League, I think that was maybe Season 6 when I just took a bit of a break. I was just grinded out and just didn’t feel like playing.

When you start getting frustrated in game, like toxic and stuff, I think you always need a little bit of a break. I don’t know, at the end of the day, I always wanted to be a pro, or streamer, or a Youtuber, so I knew I had to be Challenger to have the respect of the viewer and the respect to be a streamer.

Would you recommend the everyday player, let’s say Bronze to Plat, or even low Diamond, to take that long of a break if they feel burned out? Or, are there other things you can do day-to-day to reset and manage tilt?

If you start getting frustrated with your teammates and you start typing or things like that…if you exercise, definitely take a break to do that. I feel like exercising before your gaming session, at least for me, I find myself more relaxed and focused. As opposed to if I just wake up and start playing, I don’t know what it is, but I always get really tilted in game and start fixating on other people.

If you get your exercise out of the way and you’re eating right, I think it’s honestly a really big factor related to burning out and being toxic in game. I  feel like as the big pro organizations have realized it helps, a lot of players have more of a social life and time to go to the gym. A lot of pro players go to the gym more nowadays. But yeah going back, you don’t have to exercise necessarily. Just go outside and take a walk, you know. Watch a motivational Youtube video, it sounds pretty cringe but it actually definitely helps.

What do you think of listening to music while playing?

On stream, I’ll just listen to entertaining music but if I’m grinding, like when I was in Korea, I’d listen to stuff like low classical music or piano in the background. It just gets you into kind of a zen mode.

Thanks for the interview! Did you have anything you want to say to our readers and your viewers?

Shoutout to all my viewers who help support me and allowing me to do something I love full time.

Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed this interview with Midbeast. To follow Midbeast, check him out on his Twitch , his Youtube channel, or his Summoner Profile match history.