Unicorns of Love head coach Sheepy sat with Gamelevate to discuss his reactions after Day 1 of the Play-In stage at the 2021 LoL Worlds Championships, assassin meta and representing the LCL at Worlds.
After a 0-2 start for the LCL’s Unicorns of Love, the team finds itself at the bottom of the standings in Group B. For head coach Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant, he remains optimistic about the team heading into the remainder of the tournament. Being the head coach of UOL since 2019, having returned to the organization after coaching with SK Gaming, this marks Sheepy’s third Worlds appearance.
Gamelevate got to talk to Sheepy after their loss to Galatasaray Esports on Day 1 of the Play-In stage at the 2021 World Championships
I know it’s been a very difficult day for you, but I do want to get your first thoughts on how you think the day went.
Ohm didn’t go well that’s for sure. At least for the first game we kind of got our comfort champions. Nomanz played Orianna, in top lane we got Jayce, Lee Sin for AHaHaCiK, so everybody was happy. Bot lane we also did get our two together. So I think everybody kind of went in there thinking that if we had the draft a little bit different, we could have performed a bit better.
But obviously it’s devastating to get a 0-2 especially against DFM and Galatasaray, right? Because one win feels so much better going into the next day instead of a 0-2. So yeah, it’s kind of a disaster but honestly speaking we had difficulties over over the splits and I think that if we have something proper and we have the preparation against Cloud9, maybe we can squeeze out a win.
I want to ask you about the Summer Split because I was talking to a colleague who’s an expert on the LCL, and I heard the name CrowCrowd constantly and I know that it was a rather difficult split for you guys. All of that said, you guys were able pick up the victory. So, I want to ask within the end of the playoff run when you had to play those five games against CrowCrowd: what was it like being able to take away with the victory and take such a difficult split and and bring it into Worlds?
Yeah, I mean, what a jump, from the one spectrum of feelings to the other. I mean, it was really an ecstatic feeling because we went 0-2 down and then we turned it around all the way just like before. And then, it’s just beautiful that we managed to do it and go 3-2 and just win the finals like this. It’s really great.
So yeah, we had two really tough best of fives and we managed to win them. And before that, we also lost against CrowCrowd in the round before when we went through the loser’s bracket. So that one, we actually won and it means you go to Worlds so it’s like such a big step between staying over Russia, and nobody just wants to be second place at regionals and don’t go to the international stage, especially for me.
It’s always my dream to be at the international stage. So yeah, going forward meant a lot so I’m super happy that we’ve managed to squeeze out the win at least there.
Now, coming in, Unicorns of Love are no stranger to the world stage and each year you still seem to surprise. And obviously like we said today was a difficult day. But I want to know from a coaching perspective, when you have such a diverse team with different strengths and you go into a such as very difficult group, what is your mindset as a coach and how do you ultimately prepare for these tough games?
So generally speaking, Game One is really important to go in comfortable. You’re picking champions that are strong and just setting up a draft that’s maybe not too wild. Even though maybe now that this is the meta — countermeta, which is picking something extremely wild in your first game and to go out guns blazing right from the start.
But yeah, generally speaking, we try to get a lot of comfort picks especially for players that are new to the stage like Argonavt, this is his first international event and yeah, it was rough for him. But Game one, at least he got to farm up, good priority and early game. But then later on, you just get to watch him getting one-shot left or right.
It’s really important to go into a tournament like this, understand your strength: like what champions can we not play at all? What champions are we extremely good at? And in what scenarios can we actually draft team comps that highlight our champions that we would actually be good at. I think that’s always been the road to success for Unicorns of Love.
This year has been a little bit more difficult. But in general, that’s the plan going in every time. Understand your team identity. Understand every player as good as you can. Understand how we connect together and then set up a really good game plan against like weaknesses from the enemy and get the strongest team possible.
I want to ask about the Talon jungle. It seems like you’re seeing a lot more of these assassin jungle picks. This is the new meta, but the Talon you guys took twice today. Obviously without giving anything away with your strategies of prep, I want to ask about picks like that. Was it something you were preparing for? Or is this as a completely new thing that took you by surprise?
I mean Qiyana and Talon is nothing new, like all of the assassins coming in (even Neeko got a buff in jungle). Yeah, you have a lot of different assassin type junglers, but obviously the first three are the most popular ones. I can’t reveal too much, so I can’t answer that as well as I would like to; maybe I can do that in two days.
If I do at this point, at this point, for sure, they are strong champions, and especially I think right now, the level of teams are already pretty high. But I think if Asian teams like picking them up, especially LPL teams who are very good at playing aggressive and playing on the edge, I think we see even higher strengths on that. Then, some ideas where we’re playing against it like picking up Sejuani, you know, just scale up and so on.
I think it’s a plan, but I think if you have a very high-skill jungler, he could just take over the game because he will just avoid the 1v1 against the Sejuani and then just start picking apart your team from other sides. So yeah, I think they’re definitely strong champions.
I want to ask about Group B, which has been dubbed the hardest group, even with Hanwha Life and LNG Esports in Group A. As a coach, how do you help your players get into that mentality that this is a challenge, but we can do this?
I think mainly focusing on what we’re good at, and what we did in scrims. And as for asking what are the strengths of our team? The best preparation is just understanding what you’re good at and getting positive reinforcements for the stuff that we’re doing well, trying to do away from the ideas or team compositions that we’re not familiar with.
After that, it’s just hitting the point all the time that we can win this game. If you’re making the right play, if you’re the one whose more aggressive, if you’re the one finding the opportunity that the enemy doesn’t, then you will always succeed. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. And even if they are mechanically very gifted, a good plan just beats skilled chaos. So I think that’s kind of the plan of the idea. And I think then at this point, any region can surprise and we see it as well. I mean, Galatasaray is playing extremely strong, and I think nobody expected them to do that.
This is your first bout at Worlds, but there’s still a lot of pressure on Unicorns to perform well. As a coach, what does it mean to return back to the world stage? And how can you assure fans that the Unicorns will make their region proud?
That’s a really good question. So, the first thing is that Unicorns of Love is like an umbrella organization for the people working in it. I started out with my family and me going into Unicorns of Love and into the EU LCS back in the day (now the LEC) and the thought process was always to just try your hardest.
It doesn’t matter what you’re called, if you’re called the Unicorns of Love and you play against “Beyond Gaming”, or “Try Hard Gaming” or “Devotion Gaming” or whatever names you have. I think we have this cross to carry in that regard that we have this kind of name. We want to have the profitability and professionalism that is associated with Unicorns of Love.
So, yeah, I will do my utmost always to just, you know, break my back to have that name associated with me and have that kind of idea associated with the Unicorns of Love. As long as I’m there, I will always do whatever is necessary and work as hard as I can to make my region proud to make my team proud.
Final question: is there anything you’d like to say to fans of Unicorns of Love across the world?
Well, thanks to our Russian fans, Привет (Hello!) Спасибо (Thank you!). and thanks to everybody else, as well. I mean, so many people have been supporting us as well. We are still celebrated in Europe, which I think is amazing. So thank you as well!
And to everybody who has been following my career too. I’ve been traveling around so much, and it’s really nice that my family is getting support, my players are getting support and my staff is getting support so immensely! Thank you and keep moving up! Have a lot of fun! You know, even if it doesn’t look good, life is about enjoying it. So yeah, let’s enjoy together!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.