Interview with EmilZy - Peeling and Healing on a Competitive Stage

After his impressive performance in the Fall Split, Emil “EmilZy” Nielsen has risen with Obey as one of the top support players in the world. He’s consistently proven his prowess on both the traditional and off-meta supports, making sure his opponents can’t and won’t lay a finger on his carries. I was able to chat with the master of peeling and healing for a bit about his origins as a support and his feelings about the current state of his role.

So how did you come to play support in the first place?

“Well, I actually quite don't recall exactly how, since it was so long ago. But when I was around 12/13, I really started enjoying playing at a competitive level, but I wasn't really good enough to play in any of the carry roles. Support was, and probably still is, the least favored role… the reason for mentioning this is that when I played ranked I had a higher chance of shining in the support role.”

Did you have any inspirations or role models when you were learning?

I got to duo lane with Zapman back in cross-region. I would watch his stream while playing, and wait for him to say something about what I did wrong, etc. I also looked up to Trixtank since he was Danish and a support.”

Is there anyone you look up to right now?

“Dracomarino. The guy is a beast, his Khepri is like mmm. I really wish I could be as good as him.”

What do you like most about support?

I like setting my team up, peeling, and just being the playmaker. I like that the guardian role has so much outplay potential and so much relevance compared to other MOBAs. Also, it's probably the hardest role (tied with jungle, in my opinion) to play to perfection. I think supports don't need to have the sickest mechanics or perfect execution like other roles. At a high level, it's still really good, but more importantly, you need an overview of what is going on. You simply cannot be a good support without constantly looking at the bigger picture. When I played football, I was a defender as well. I would play the "sweeper" position, which basically backs up your other defenders and is a last man standing before the goalkeeper. Also, the sweeper usually builds up the play and is the cornerstone of the team. I believe you can draw lines between being a sweeper in football and playing support in Smite; you build up the engages but you're also there to back up your team at all costs.”

You’ve clearly been playing support for a long time, so what was your journey like? What happened between those ranked days and joining up with Obey?

“Well, I played a lot. I had been on challenger level teams before but didn't they really work out. My first team where I learned a lot was Team Spray, where I became such a better support. I played duo with Sprayarn and he kinda taught me an aggressive approach to Smite [when] I was very passive and afraid to make mistakes. I learned so much from this experience, even when the team disbanded. Yammyn was also on this team, so I had teamed with quite a few of the people in the SPL. After that, I kept grinding ranked as a support, and eventually, I got the offer. PrincessTomato from Worth Gaming, had to go on vacation for 2 weeks, so I was asked to sub in for the weekly qualifier and we actually ended up winning the first week, beating teams like TSM and C9. That was super hype. On Worth Gaming was Shaggyshenk (ADC), Korinyo (MID), NinjaBobat (Jungle), Variety (Solo), and of course, PrincessTomato (Support). Sadly, I did not become the main roster, but got offered a spot as a coach as a 13 year old. We went to the SPL kick-off lan in Europe and the boys managed to come second and we won 25k USD. This was my first LAN ever and it also really changed my parents' approach of how much time I could invest into Smite. We got picked up by Team Coast but did not qualify for worlds and disbanded. Then I took Shaggyshenk with me and created London Conspiracy with Suntouch which consisted of me (Support), Suntouch (Mid), R3DF00 (Jungle) and Snakeskin (Solo). After our first split, we changed Suntouch to Jungle and picked up Kero for mid. After the Summer Split, we kicked Suntouch and Snakeskin, and then Zashu and Cherryo joined. We also dropped LDNC and became Cringe Crew. We went to Super Regionals 2015, and lost the wildcard game to Fnatic, which was CaptainTwig, ManiaKK, Zyrhoes, Realzx and Badgah. We did beat out the old Titan roster in the quarterfinals. We learned a ton, but we also realized we needed improvements, so we benched Cherryo and picked up Repikas for the jungle role. Season 3 only consisted of two splits, and Zashu had been banned for a year in the first split. We played with Axioz for the rest of the first split, and then got Zyrhoes after. It's worth mentioning that our analyst, ASoggySandal, also stepped down from the team after the first split, but he was such a big help from the early days of Season 2. Deathiance became our coach in seasons 2 and 3. We barely didn't make it during the group play in NA, and therefore gave up our spot to the Obey boys. Back home in Europe, Zyrhoes’ internet went out because of a crazy storm in Sweden, and we did not qualify. So in Season 4 I had a few options. I decided with the team to disband Cringe Crew. Deathiance had the captain spot and created NGP, but they didn't qualify for the SPL. Shaggyshenk quit Smite and Zyrhoes left the team. I had tried to make plans with Zyrhoes, Arkkyl, Variety and QvoFred, but QvoFred did not want to join if Trixtank did not join the team as well. This, however, opened up the possibility to join the old Paradigm squad (what's now Eanix) or Obey. I contacted both Obey and old PDG. They both wanted me and I tried out for both teams. It did not take a while before I decided Obey was where I wanted to go. And yeah, I've never improved so much in any previous year than 2017. I am in some eyes the best support in the world on the best team in the world, which is such a big achievement. We have had a few bumps on the way, but I love the boys, Father Paul and Obey. I can see myself staying here for a long while. Now the eyes are obviously on winning worlds, which has been my goal from the day I left Cringe Crew. The fact we’re only one best of five from Worlds is crazy.”

Seriously! Since we’re on the topic of the split, how do you think it went? What are some of the biggest areas of improvement you guys need to work on in the weeks before Super Regionals?

“When I got the message that ManiakK was leaving for NRG, I actually thought it was a troll. When I realized it wasn't, I got SUPER sad. I did not really believe we could win worlds anymore, as I could see no good alternatives. We decided after a series of tryouts that we wanted Xaliea. I was really nervous with how this was going to play out, but after our first few games and victory over Rival, I was confident in our ability to win worlds again. Everything has gone super smoothly this season, and I think our ability to quickly adapt to the meta and finding the playstyle that fits us as a team has been superb. Our drafts have also been very on point, and I felt like that was what we had been missing out on, at least at Dreamhack Valencia. I, myself, am not the biggest draft genius, but Xaliea definitely brings something ManiakK did not. While the rest of the team are superb drafters, Hayzer has also put in a ton of work as well to make sure we can succeed and honestly plays such a big role. We obviously had a bump on the road against Elevate in game 1 which really exposed a weakness we had not seen in scrims at all. Taking this loss was probably the biggest win of the season, as we actually learned so much from losing that one game. I am very sure we are a better team now. Again, you learn a lot more from losing. When it comes to the points of improvement, I think we have a few things to work on as a team, such as staying a bit more calm under pressure, trusting each other even more (at least for me) and not making stupid plays. We all have our flaws, and we're constantly working to try and play perfect. This will never happen, but we can do our best to get really, really close.”

You guys are definitely going to kill it. So let’s talk more about support as a role. What kinds of players make the best supports? Or perhaps if you had to boil the role down to a few words, what would they be?

“As said previously, I think the best support players are the ones who have that "overview" that you can't really practice. You just have it or you don't. A good support needs to be willing to sacrifice himself/herself for the greater good. This is when it comes to farming, objectives, fights, etc. A good support player is able to both peel and initiate fights. The best supports are the ones who make sure they have just enough farm to stay relevant, not too much and also not too little. This is one thing I personally need to get better at.”

What’s the most common mistake you see supports doing in ranked and/or competitive and what’s a good way for them to fix it?

“Uh, there's a lot. I think people tend to build wrong. A classic is building Breastplate of Valor first item to get more cooldown reduction. CDR is nice, but auras are better than CDR. A way to fix this is to watch a pro support streamer for like 2-3 hours, and then you’d get a general idea about builds in different situations on different gods. Watching Youtube or Twitch vods is also good.”

You sort of just answered my next question, but what are the best ways to learn as a support player?

“Yeah, just watching pros and even watching back your own games are good ways to improve.”

Speaking of watching pros, make sure to check EmilZy out on Twitter, Youtube, and Twitch! He streams almost daily and occasionally uploads to Youtube with content like tierlists, ranked vods, theorycrafting, and more!

Written by Lermy