Their coach shared how, at 3-1 down, they came back from the dead to be crowned world champions.
Inside the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang World Championship (M1) player booths, you can barely hear the roar of the crowd. Although esports doesn’t involve as much perspiration as traditional sports, it still requires individual mechanical skill, a tactical approach, teamwork and intense focus and concentration to succeed at the highest level.
Less than two weeks ago, EVOS Legends, the reigning MPL-ID champion, stepped into their booth and exited it US$80,000 richer, claiming the inaugural M1 title in the process. We caught up with Bjorn “Zeys” Ong, the coach of EVOS Legends to pick his brain on the mental state of the team in this hotly-contested grand final.
Just 40 minutes after they defeated Todak 3-1 in the lower bracket final, EVOS Legends’ grand final opponents, Rex Regum Qeon (RRQ) were back on stage for a gruelling best-of-7 series. The odds seemed to be in the MPL-ID champions’ favour since they defeated RRQ 3-0 in the upper bracket final a day prior.
Despite Oura speaking earlier about having a slight mental advantage over RRQ, Bjorn admitted the players were still nervous as they walked into the booth.
I believe that if there are no nerves when approaching something, then it matters less to you.
Bjorn “Zeys” Ong, EVOS Legends’ coach.
Perhaps that got the better of EVOS Legends in the first four games of the series. They lost Game 1 after a surprising draft with a last-pick of Zhask. They tied the series at 1-1 with a dominant performance but proceeded to lose the subsequent two games in an uncharacteristically tame fashion.
Few imagined they would be on the brink of defeat. Zeys was reluctant to disclose the thought process behind their picks or bans in their disappointing performances during Games 1, 3 and 4.
“RRQ were playing well. It was a mixture of mistakes on our end that cost us those games. The stakes were high and we operated differently,” Zeys explained diplomatically. In terms of RRQ’s strategy, they refused to give both Selena and Claude to EVOS Legends in the grand final, banning the assassin-mage in all seven games, and the highly-mobile marksman in the first six games, eventually picking him for themselves in the decider. Zeys did share that the pick rate for the two heroes were significantly lower across other MPL teams when compared to EVOS. “Selena and Claude are considered EVOS specials.”
On hindsight, Zeys revealed that he didn’t expect the series to go down the wire and be a full best-of-7. “I knew it would be a tough match, but it wasn’t our plan to play all seven games.”
“We’ve faced RRQ several times and that’s why they are one of the hardest opponents for us to challenge due to how accustomed they are to our playstyles and strengths.” Both teams have arguably been the most popular teams in Indonesia and have been archrivals since the competitive MLBB scene truly kicked off with the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Southeast Asia Cup in 2017.
After four games, EVOS Legends were 3-1 down in the series and one game away from finishing second. These are the moments when players must dig deep and find the mental fortitude and composure to mount a comeback. In Zeys’ words, the stress made the grand final “a rollercoaster of emotions.”
“We had flashbacks to our training, where we spent months practising, and we dreaded ending the season in such a fashion. No doubt, morale was low in the booth and there were heated arguments.”
Nevertheless, months of intense training and a carefully conditioned mentality proved the catalyst in the 180-degree shift in EVOS’ performance after Game 4.
“We have experienced this before. These kinds of situations were why we practised to replicate the exact environment, and our training prepared us mentally. From Games 5-7, the team went back to fully trusting how I drafted and regained full faith in each other.”
“For me, that was how we turned the series around. Our mindset was to regard this as a typical day for us – it was a scrim back at our lovely gaming house with cats crawling on us.”
Lifting off the pressure by transporting them back to normal “training conditions” worked well for a team that emphasised enjoying themselves in every game. It placed them back on familiar ground and restored their confidence. Another unique EVOS Legends quality is how close-knit they are, not just between the players but across the organisation. A core component of Zeys’ coaching philosophy is for everyone to not only treat each other as colleagues, but more like family.
This group of players, many of them young (the average age of EVOS Legends at M1 was 22 years old), focus their energy on the same ambition. They live in a gaming house and rarely have the chance to visit their families due to a tight training regimen.
“This is why I believe the atmosphere a coach sets is crucial because it takes more than sheer hard work and clocking-in hours to build a winning time. People tend to overlook empathy which will get you through the toughest of times,” he said, explaining the need to build strong relationships within the team.
“My takeaway from M1 would be that unity won’t crumble even in the toughest of times. The majority of people only speak with words. But here at EVOS, we do it with our actions.”
As Zeys looked back on the feat they accomplished, he gushed with pride when praising the performance of his players during the grand final. “From the players to the coaching staff, managers, bosses, family and fans, I would like to say thank you to everyone for achieving this together. Do continue to support EVOS Esports in MPL S5!”
EVOS Legends have come far in the 2019 MLBB esports calendar. In MPL-ID Season 3, they finished at a disappointing 7-8th place, consequently missing out on June’s MSC in Manila. However, they managed to put the failures of the first half of 2019 to bed with a strong end to the calendar year. They are now deservedly the strongest MLBB team in the world and have a ravenous appetite to continue winning and sealing their name in the annals of esports history.
The MPL-Indonesia Season 5 Regular Season is tentatively scheduled to run from Feb 7 – March 29, with the Playoffs planned for Apr 11 and 12. The dates are subject to change, so stay tuned for updates!