Ties’ Takes – The Early Season Role-Swap Report Card

Reece Perry grades the four OPL stars who have swapped into different roles in Split 2.

This Split in the OPL began with something I can’t recall having seen in my time watching esports. Four players, or 10% of the starting slots, have gone to players who have swapped from the roles they made their competitive debuts on.

So far we’ve seen some good, some not so good, and some downright concerning from these four players. So I want to check in on the progress of each of them in a format we should all be familiar with: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Remember we’re only three weeks in, so this isn’t meant as a judgment of their ceilings in their new homes, because I don’t think we’ve seen any of them yet.

The Good

Jackson “Pabu” Pavone, Jungle, Pentanet.GG

We’ll start with the top of the class in Pentanet.GG’s new jungler.

Pabu has had a memorable start and finish to his first three weeks in the jungle, bookending some just okay performances. Overall though, he’s still my pick of the pack among these four.

What I’ve been most impressed with from Pabu is his decisiveness. It’s been the defining feature of his play – he has taken every chance offered to be proactive. It was a key part of their win against the Chiefs, and his ultimate engage into five-man Facebreaker cleared the path for Jarod “Getback” Tucker’s pentakill to take the win over Gravitas.

His proactive approach has been his downfall at times as well, as he has been aggressive perhaps to a fault. Most of that Gravitas game was spent getting punished for his aggressive moves, and his game against Order was another example of this.

Having said that, I don’t mind that from Pabu. As Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, “he will learn patience” and having the stuffing kicked out of him a time or two will give him an excellent crash course in tempering his aggression.

To quote Jeff Marek: “I’d rather try to tame a tiger than paint stripes on a kitty-cat.”

Dragon “Dragku” Guo, Support, The Chiefs

I didn’t have high hopes for Dragku as a support. Mind you, this largely comes from not having high hopes for him in the OPL. But I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by Dragku.

It was an inauspicious start for Dragku, as they took a Senna/Maokai “reverse” lane into Pentanet.GG and veteran support Jake “Rogue” Sharwood hooked him on his signature Thresh for first blood then spent most of the laning phase taking Dragku to school.

But there was something which started in this game that as the season has progressed continues to impress me about him. Starved as he was for resources from the disastrous lane phase, he was a central part of the Chiefs’ way back into that contest. 

He seemed to take it upon himself to be the one who wanted to take responsibility for bringing them back in the game as he had to accept responsibility for putting them in the hole.

And he did so with what has become a regular within his support play – with quite impressive teamfighting. Some might say that it’s easy to stand with your team and press R and then E on Karma, but there’s more to Dragku than that. Further, he’s started to branch out his champ pool a bit too with a really excellent Sett game against the Dire Wolves.

Dragku needs to continue this development to bring him above Pabu in this particular list, but for the first time I feel good about his future in the OPL. 

From what i’ve seen from him this split, the worst case is that he goes back to the top lane having learned a lot that he can transition to his original home. Best case is that he becomes a promising regular support for the future.

The Bad

Tristan “Lived” Fulcher, Top Lane, Mammoth

Honestly, it was a coinflip for who got The Bad and who got The Ugly here.

Lived didn’t do himself any favours when early in the split he made comments about how top lane was an easier role than mid and so he expected to handle the transition comfortably.

Tristan “Lived” Fulcher
Tristan “Lived” Fulcher

Now, I’m not saying he’s wrong or right in his comparison of the solo lanes. Nor am I putting overly much stock in a video that was clearly intended as entertainment. But I can’t let the comment pass unchecked when he leads the league in deaths through three weeks.

Lived has two main problems that I see. The first is that aforementioned statistic. If there’s one thing I can’t stand in top laners, it’s dying a lot. And Lived gives up deaths in bunches. It’s a complaint I’ve had about top lane players going back through the likes of Bwipo, Ceres, and OG-era sOAZ. It’s become hard to win the game by yourself from the top lane as time has progressed – but it’s still possible to lose it by yourself from the top lane.

The second is that while top lane may or may not be “easier” than mid lane. It is nonetheless very different to playing in the mid lane. I feel like Lived is playing top like a mid laner, even when on traditional top lane picks like Maokai, Sett or Ornn. Help is often far away, or never coming, and he exposes himself to danger far too often.

I think he has ability, and I have a little more hope for him to improve as the split goes on, so he occupies this spot in the report. I think he can really learn a lot from the number Order did on him in their last game, and I also think watching Swip3rR VODs, and not just the ones he carries on, will be good for him.

The Ugly

David “Beats” Nguyen, Support, Gravitas

As I said above, it was super close for which of Beats and Lived occupied which slot in this list – you can swap them and it’d be hard to find fault with it. And if i’m being honest I sympathize with Beats more than Lived, because I feel like he didn’t lose his mid lane job so much as Siuman took it with his own excellent play. Beats was playing competently (for the most part) before Siuman took over.

But despite Gravitas’ win over Avant and better on-paper numbers than Lived, I put Beats in this spot over Lived by virtue of my eye test. Because that’s the word that comes to mind at times: ugly.

I don’t like to write it, but this is what I see. He looks better against worse opposition – as you would come to expect – but he has been given a pasting by Isles and even aforementioned Dragku, and his most common pick so far in Thresh is… oh, boy. It’s not good.

David “Beats” Nguyen
David “Beats” Nguyen

Beats looks lost as a support. It’s tragic because I think he’s been utterly miscast. He doesn’t look comfortable operating in a duo lane and he doesn’t seem to understand his role as the game goes on.

If Gravitas won’t bring Kpop back as the regular starter, then I think they need to lean into his mid lane background a bit and look to diversify his champion pool and use it to catch teams off-guard. 

G2 did it to an extent with Perkz – I’m not saying Beats is as good as that, but if we can put him on a mage in the support role then at least he’ll have some familiarity with his champion as he learns a new role. 

It feels like he isn’t handling learning new champions in a competitive environment and a new role in a competitive environment. At least not at the same time.

As I said at the beginning, this is just an early progress report. I am excited to see each of these players develop in their new roles.


Follow Reece “Ties” Perry on Twitter.

PhotographyRiot Games
ProducerJosh Swift
Reece Perry
Reece Perry
One of Snowball's founders and neck tie aficionado, Reece "Ties" Perry has been in the Oceanic esports scene for years and is passionate about bringing insightful, well-written and engaging content to the masses.

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