TF Blade is currently one of the most dominant players on the NA server having three accounts in the top 10 of Challenger in Season 8. In this interview, we discuss everything from his life as a high-ELO player and Twitch streamer, to how he approaches learning matchups and deals with stress and toxicity.
Our Gamer Performance Index is designed to analyze a League of Legends player’s unique strengths and weaknesses. As a strong top laner, it’s no surprise that TF Blade’s best GPI skills include Aggression and Farming. His Duels score (in Fighting), indicates that he wins 70% of all his 1v1 engagements, which is insane.
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On his champion pool and how to learn champions
You’ve built a reputation for playing champions like Jax, Irelia, and Akali. Could you discuss what you like about each champion and your mentality toward having each pick in your champion pool?
Akali is one champion that I haven’t been playing as much because they really ruined her with her update in my opinion. It’s completely changed. Akali used to be a champion that had priority and wave clear, and some roaming ability. But now, you just can’t roam because you can’t push your wave, it takes too long. I really hope they revert her back because she’s just not my style right now. She just kills opponents who don’t know how her kit works, it’s something that’s really classic in low-ELO.
With Irelia and Jax, that’s what you can do. I like champions that can push waves, take jungle camps, or have a good amount of sustain being able to do things without losing too much HP. If you want to do Krugs as Fiora, you’re going to lose half your hp. But if you do it as Jax, you only lose about 10% which is really nice to have. So if you push your wave (as those champs) you have more options to play around. You can do things that your enemy laner wouldn’t think you could do. You can build leads even when you’re not killing your opponent.
How do you adapt when one of your core champions faces major changes, such as from a rework?
After seeing the Irelia rework, I just saw the full potential in it, her kit just became a lot more interesting. You have a stun, damage mitigation, and the same Q dash. Overall, Irelia became more like the old Akali and the new Akali became more like…I would say LeBlanc except with less wave clear.
So that type of play style with the Irelia rework was something I was already used to, but for players in general, I’d say to put your mind to it because it’s not really a champion that you can learn in 5-10 games, and that’s what I love about these champs. They take a lot of skill but have high rewards if you played properly, whereas champions like Poppy, it’s almost like…negative skill.
For people who are struggling with the new Irelia or other reworks in general, it’s not that they’re struggling with the rework’s mechanics. The thing that they struggle with, and I struggle with, will mostly be the matchups that you play against. You won’t understand the kit completely and that’s what will be really punishing as you’re relearning matchups.
If a player is watching me play Jax vs Irelia ten times in a row, they’ll likely know how to play that matchup. But if it’s an Irelia player learning how to play against Fiora next game, they’ll probably int so much harder because they just don’t know when to engage, when to not engage, you don’t know the limits.
How many games does it take for an average player to learn a high-skill champion like Irelia?
I would say it depends on the player. If they’re watching Youtube videos of players playing Irelia, and really looking to learn, I’d say they’d be decent around thirty to fifty games. If they want to get really good, it would probably take around one hundred. Super high skill champs should be more around there.
Should low-ELO players avoid learning difficult champions?
I wouldn’t say “never” if they’re okay with losing a lot of games. Jayce is a champion that I just can’t play. I don’t really want to learn him because it would take too long and from what I’ve seen, he can’t really carry every game 1v5. He’s really good at punishing in lane and doubling up leads but he just can’t finish a game so he’ll often die in team fights. He doesn’t have lifesteal or any sustain like that.
I would say that 100% of the time players flame other people to play easier champions because of tilt. They don’t want to focus on how to improve from their own mistakes and they would be blaming themselves.
How to learn wave control and champion matchups
Do you have any tips for wave control in the top lane?
I’m going to give you one of the simplest examples. In the Irelia versus Trynadamere matchup, at level 6, if you end up killing all the minions, he can all-in you and you end up dying. But the next time, at level 6, look to fight him when the waves are at the middle, 6 minions are up on each side, and they’re kind of low HP.
What happens is, you land everything, you make him use R, and he’s chasing you down. Now you can kite him by using the minions, you run back, you run forward, you run back. The guy can’t get any auto-attacks while his Undying Rage is up, so he gets no extra damage out of you and then right after the R is done, you end up killing him. That’s as simple as that matchup goes if you’re fighting Tryndamere and you’re even and he has his ult you will never win no matter how many abilities you hit.
If a lower-ELO player wanted to learn more about wave management, what would you recommend they do to start?
You have to understand your opponent’s limits and what they want to do. If your opponent can kill you in a 1v1 early game, if you push your lane, you’re going to get poked to half HP when trying to get minions. But if you let your wave push to you, you have gank potential now with your jungler, and you can safely farm.
So it all depends on how much you can understand it the matchup because everything regarding wave management relies on the matchup. It’s super necessary to know when you can have priority and when you can’t have priority. Knowing when you can tell your jungler to play top side or not play top side.
For example, when playing Sion against Riven, you really don’t want to be asking for ganks. You just want to be pushing waves and looking to roam, and helping your jungler invade. All you want to be doing is basically fast-pushing waves or letting the wave push to you. If your jungler and mid laner don’t want to really play top side and be the sacrifice that game.
If you ask for a gank, Riven can escape it every time and you’re just wasting your jungler’s time. So what you want to do is just sacrifice your lane for your late game because as Sion, your late game teamfighting is what he’s designed for. Riven can teamfight but is more towards being a snowballing carry. So you have to understand your champ and the champ you’re playing against to start understanding how to control the waves. Often times, you learn this by making mistakes and learning from them.
How do you adjust your play when you’re facing a bad matchup or fall behind with an early death during laning phase?
You shouldn’t be distracted by that death, you should be thinking about what you’ll be doing afterward and around it because you’ve already died. Let’s say, worst case scenario, you die to a Riven, they freeze a big wave, they back for new items, and the wave is still frozen. When you get back and try to farm, you just get poked down to half health immediately. So you can’t get a single minion without taking a big hit.
At this point, since they have their wave close to their tower, you want to just either roam with your jungler into the enemy jungle to see if you can force Riven to push the wave by showing elsewhere. Even if you just show mid, the Riven will panic and she’ll probably start to push the wave fast and you’ll be able to farm.
Another option you have is to sit and soak experience unless your jungler is trying to set up a gank since you want to prevent your opponent from snowballing. Trading your health or life for minions is a very desperate last resort. Personally, I like to roam mid, especially as Irelia because she has a dash and a good ultimate. If the mid is hard to gank, like a Leblanc, you can do the bot roam by backing and immediately pathing bot lane and looking for bot tower. If all those don’t work, then you can look to do jungle camps.
Do you study VODs or replays to learn a matchup?
In terms of replays, I barely ever do watch them. If I do watch them, it’s not to improve because I already really look to point out my mistakes and understand what I do wrong while I’m playing in game. If I miss that cannon minion it’s not because of me playing bad but more so that I could have gotten that cannon if I was more focused. So if I’m watching a replay, it’s to check on my attitude and see why I’m complaining or why I may have been playing bad.
Maybe it was a rough day or my attitude wasn’t the best at that time or I couldn’t focus. But for other players, if you’re checking replays, learn from your mistakes mentally. Don’t worry about the game, you would play a lot better if you were more focused. Everyone has the capabilities from their own brains to just play perfect – maybe not perfect, but I mean play at their best, which is 10x better than how they would play if they weren’t focused.
On being a consistent high-ELO player
What’s the key to your success in high-ELO? Do you have any rituals or practice regiments to help you stay on top?
No, I really don’t have any special routines for being this ELO, what I have is just dedication. I basically try to push myself to the limit if I set a goal. It’s stressful being in high-ELO because you always have this 10-day decay and you always have to be checking over the leaderboards to see if anything happens, especially if you’re going for ranks 1, 2, and 3, at the same time. You’re constantly checking to see how people have been playing and choosing when to play on each account based off decay games.
Speaking of stress, how do you keep a strong mentality throughout a Season?
That’s something I’m always working on. In my opinion, if you’re playing and you’re streaming League of Legends for 10 games or so, you shouldn’t even be counting how many games you win or how many games you lose, you shouldn’t check your profile, or LP, or anything like that. The only thing that does is basically give you distractions, like from sorrow from losing a previous game or stuff like that and you won’t focus on the current game you’re about to play.
So checking the leaderboard consistently, is not a good option either – you should probably use that time to focus on what you’re going to be doing within the next game. Usually, I want to think about the games I played before, my attitude, not my playstyle. I basically put myself through a test, say if someone comes and wants to ruin my game, I want to not say anything to players because the moment you do, you’ve already opened up flaming and all these other things that won’t do you any good.
How do you handle facing toxicity?
It’s just hard because they hurt you and you want to hurt them back, it’s human nature. By inting, they’re basically doing the worst thing because you can’t really ignore it. It’s not like being you can just mute it and go on with your life. When people int your lane, they completely ruin the matchup and everything there is in it.
That’s the worst type you can be hurt from but I would say the hard part would be just to focus on how you can be better or how you can just focus on your own gameplay rather than what your teammates are doing to it. Even if they’re giving double buffs to your lane opponent, you want to think about how you can play around that double buff and what you can do now. It’s something I’ve still been working on so I can’t really give a perfect answer. You have to consistently think about the situation that you’re given.
You face a lot of one-trick in high-ELO. Does the way you play certain matchups change depend on who you playing? For example, do you play against Adrian’s Riven differently than when you play against Revenge’s?
That’s one mistake people make – they play against the player and not the champion, you should never do that. You don’t want any fears or emotions towards a player, you just need to understand the champ, what they can do, and play around what you think is right. You’re basically playing against yourself. If you get outplayed, it’s because you outplayed yourself, that’s how my mentality is. It’s not the opponent outplaying me, it’s just myself messing up.
Someday there will be another player, maybe younger, that challenges your solo queue throne. How do you feel about that?
I’ve been waiting for someone to do that. I’ll give my best to compete, I love those types of things. Thinking about it or doubting yourself, it would just make you play worse instead of focusing on confidence. There’s a big difference in confidence and pride that people tend to not understand. Pride makes you toxic, confidence makes you good. If you really want to understand the difference, it’s probably going to take a long time. But yeah, I’m confident that I’ll improve just like that upcoming player.
His thoughts on playing in other regions
Have you thought about going to other regions to climb their servers? Similar to how Midbeast has climbed in NA, OCE, and Korea.
That’s definitely the plan, I’ve been wanting to do that for so long now. Once my citizenship process is done, I want to get rank 1 in every major region.
When that time comes, are you looking forward to facing any players in particular?
If you asked me this last year I would have said Khan and Faker, players like that. If you ask me now, the fear of playing against those players, or…the excitement, it just went away if that makes sense. After realizing that those emotions don’t help you at all, and then reaching ranks 1, 2, and 3, getting the highest rank there is, and doing 83% win rate in Challenger, I guess it helps your confidence.
But at the same time, you know you’re going to be playing champions that you’re super confident on and it’s just another solo queue game. Everyone makes mistakes, they’re human too. I would say that the objective of League of Legends comes down to who makes the least amount of mistakes in order to win their lane. Throughout the game, everyone will make a number of mistakes, every time. With wave management, everything there is. So that fear just slowly went away after I realized what’s really happening. If you play with fear against someone, you’re kind of expecting yourself to lose against them and that’s just not going to help you out at all.
Do you look up to any players now? Maybe Apdo?
It used to be Khan last year, but recently I haven’t really looked up to anyone except the game itself. Just the champions and using my own brain to understand what I can do, because if you can understand the game it’s a lot better than memorizing it – that’s always the case. I don’t really want to see what other people do and play like them. It’s about making my own mistakes and learning from them.
How do you feel about NA as a server? It has a reputation for being a “for fun” server that isn’t as competitive compared to other regions, do you agree with that?
When I went to EUW, I saw how, let’s just say, their mental isn’t as strong as NA players. They ragequit, they flame each other, and they just can’t focus on their own play. If they play bad, they would rather immediately quit the game so they wouldn’t lose confidence because they’re too scared of doubting and blaming themselves and the next game they’ll play and maybe do well.
The difference with that for NA players is that NA players will play the game, play bad, and then they doubt themselves a lot and play badly in future games. They usually don’t ruin that one game for their own teammates for selfish reasons but other regions do that a lot more, like Korea and EU West.
They would rather not doubt themselves but hurt other people so I would say NA is a better region to be in terms of attitude, but in terms of mechanics and understanding the game, it would take more time because the doubting process will slow down your learning of the game because you can’t focus as well. Overall NA does have hope in my eyes, as long as we play without complete fear and doubts.
His thoughts on life as a streamer and pro gamer
What do you like about being a League streamer?
What I really like about League is that Riot is always checking feedback from players and looking to help them out. Like they announced Scouting Grounds 2-3 years ago and now they’re doing Twitch Rivals. They do everything they can to promote their game. Other games like PUBG don’t really update their game. Riot tries to understand what their players want and they go based off feedback.
I would still go back and choose League of Legends if I had the choice. When I first started playing League, I didn’t know that I would go pro or stream or anything like that. The excuse I gave myself for playing so many games was that it would help my attitude. If I don’t rage in League, I don’t think I would rage in real life, because this game does bring out the worst in you. So if you can control your anger, you can control it for almost anything. That was basically my challenge.
Would you try to play and stream a different game if League died? Assuming you still maintained your skills as a gamer.
Right now, I think I would 100% go for another game and work on my IRL stream and stuff like that but I’m still waiting for my citizenship process to get finished but until around age 22, 23, I will be playing games and creating content. Afterward, though, I think my passion has changed from computer engineering to acting in theatres. That’s something I might change toward. So yeah, I guess my answer would be that I would go to a different game.
How did your family handle the news that you would be pursuing streaming and gaming as a career?
It sounded scary to them. At the beginning, it probably took two years of explaining to them why I was going to do this. Before my high school ended since like, the first semester I was telling them that I was going to take the year off and they said no, don’t even think about it. But after being persistent for 7-8 months, they saw my passion.
When I was around grade 12, there was Scouting Grounds and I sacrificed a lot of my time for it. What ended up happening was I had some VISA issues so I couldn’t even go, and then my marks were lower than what they should have been, so I had to quickly get my marks back up but then I was still set on taking that year off. I was super stubborn and persistent on it so I think within time, they came to understand.
How do they feel now that you’ve succeeded and you’re basically a household name in the LoL community?
They watched Twitch Rivals actually, so, at this point, they understand that things are completely changing, sports are becoming esports and people are investing a lot more time into this. So after seeing that this has become a real job and it’s really competitive, they are trying to understand it, doing a little research about it, watching the stream sometimes too.
Did you play a lot of other games growing up?
Let’s put it this way… would call myself the person who would find something in a system, like a bug finder from when I was a kid until now. I played Counterstrike 1.6 from when I was age 6 until 12 or 13, and my goal was to just go on any server on any server I could go on and get on the leaderboard’s rank 1 and tried to keep it in multiple servers.
I would do this by understanding the system and trying to play around it. There was a server where if you change your name to an admin, you would actually become the admin. What I ended up doing was when the admin was offline, I’d change my name immediately, I’d IP address admin myself, un-mod the other admins, and anyone who killed me would just get kicked. There’s just so many bugs and things you can find but I don’t know if bug is the correct word for it, you can just play around the system, always.
What would you say is the source of your competitiveness? Is that something you were raised with?
Yeah, I was raised with competition in Iran, I did swimming, my dad was just obsessed with making me compete in swimming classes and stuff like that. In school there, you have exams since grade 1, not grade 9, and the math you learn in school in Iran, you basically learn adding and subtracting from grade one, whereas here you’d learn it in later grades. We would also do lots of these competition tests where it’s throughout the country and everyone’s participating in it.
I got a 19.95 out of 20 in grade 5 final mark, everyone else got 20 and my mom was super angry at me for not getting 100% in all the courses. The system was designed so if you really studied, you’d know everything, with dumb mistakes you wouldn’t get 20, but my point is they would be angry at you for not getting what you were expected to get so I was born with competition but when I play games, it’s not really the game I play for, I basically play it for the competition – to just be rank 1. So when people check the leaderboard, they see that someone’s already taken over that.
Awesome. Lastly, did you have any words for our readers and your followers?
Thank you for your time, also I really appreciate everyone for all the support you’ve given me and making this possible for me.
Thanks for reading and a big thanks to TF Blade for the interview. If you’d like to see more from TF Blade, check him out at his Twitch channel.