Hey guys, Sacre recently gave a huge interview to the biggest Croatian website index.hr, confirming he's going to play in the LEC next year, alongside talking about his experiences in EU Masters with Kliktech and SK Gaming Prime, his relationship with Perkz and his experiences in the LEC.
Big props to
Luka on the amazing interview.
Reposting it because the previous version had quite a few typos as I rushed it.
The World Championship in League of Legends is ongoing in full force. G2 Esports and Luka "Perkz" Perković secured their placement in the top 8 best teams, but they also suffered two heavy defeats from the Korean team Griffin. As League is the main story in the world of esports, we took this opportunity to talk with Toni "Sacre" Sabalić, the second Croatian in the LEC. Sacre has been a dominant force in the region for years, and then through Spain and Germany he finally managed to achieve his goal of playing in the highest tier of European LoL Esports. From playing with his friends to online tournaments and national leagues and regional leagues "A1 Adria League" and "Esports Balkan League" and all the way to the LEC, the 23 year old from Požega overcame many challenges in his journey.
"I met Luka back in 2013. and 2014. when there were these tournaments in Zagreb that my parents took me to from Požega, but soon after that I took a break. I finished school, enrolled into college and only played with friends. I played on the EUNE server and almost nobody knew about me. The was a lot of pressure from my parents and insecurity of whether or not I can succeed in playing League. I didn't have any cover when it came to playing in the LEC. I finished my first year of college without problems, and decided to pause the second year. I came back to League, it's what I love and I would feel bad if I didn't give myself a chance, if I didn't try to succeed in it, and I had a feeling that I could compete with the best", says Sacre at the start of our conversation in Zagreb.
His SK Gaming didn't manage to qualify for Worlds, so now he has a bit of free time before the new season starts.
Interviewer: How did it even come to you playing seriously for a team and for you to start playing these tournaments in the wider region?
Sacre: I started dedicating more time to League in 2016, and it was around that time that I met the Serbian players Milica, Nikola, Tasteless and Stefan, who already competed in Serbia. In Croatia League kind of stopped, there weren't any tournaments, but in Serbia things started moving. Still, at that time, college was my number one priority.
They were making a team to compete in the Greek league and Yoppa signed for some Spanish team at the time, if I'm not mistaken, and they asked me if I wanted to play top or jungle with them. I said top.
Interviewer: You were a mid player at the time. How come you decided to change your role that easily? Usually players don't accept such big changes that easily.
Sacre: Milica was already playing mid. I had a feeling that we were equal, maybe that he was even a bit better than me because of my long break. They were the best players on Balkan that I knew and I got the opportunity to play with them. I used it, took top lane and adapted throughout the next several months, maybe even longer, but it worked out.
Interviewer: Perkz role swapped from mid to bot in the LEC, the highest tier of competition in Europe. You went through something similar at the start of your career, how hard is it?
Sacre: For LEC, it's very hard. The good thing is that in a team you have support, team mates, the org that will help you in that process, but the bad thing is that it creates huge pressure. You only have a few weeks, and the season is over. You decided to change the role and you need to succeed, otherwise it's your fault.
It's a big risk. What if it doesn't work out? You already have Caps in your team, do you send him to bot lane? Do you go back to mid? Do you continue playing bot lane in order to get better? But, he knew that if he wanted to win Worlds he needs to change something, and in that case you need to take risks.
Luka is very talented, probably the most successful player from the West, so you expect him to succeed. He was also certainly helped a lot by such a talented support player like Miky.
Interviewer: You won everything in the region that could be won, in different teams and under different names. The Greek league, the Fortuna Championship Series, local tournaments and later on the A1 Adria League and the Esports Balkan League when those leagues got formed. Under KlikTech you achieved your greatest success at the time. You qualified to EU Masters by winning the second season of EBL, and you surprised everyone there.
Sacre: Yes, that was the first time that a Balkan team appeared in such a competition. It was also the first EU Masters after the Challenger Series got shut down. I remember that Origen got players just before the tournament started, but they got terrifying names like Froggen and Forgiven. We managed to get playoffs and quarterfinals after we beat Misfits Academy, but we lost 2:0 to MAD Lions. We were a big surprise of the tournament.
Interviewer: Later that year you signed for G2 Esports as a sub. G2 Esports was one of the strongest European teams at the time, how did you manage to become their sub?
Sacre: Luka and I know each other and we talk whenever we meet. So at the end of 2017. we were talking at Reboot Infogamer. He asked me what my plans were, and where do I see myself in the future, and then he asked me if I wanted to be a sub for G2 Esports. There was no reason for me to not accept, considering I only physically had to be with the team during playoffs and big tournaments.
Interviewer: You had the opportunity to work with one of the best European teams at the time, and today one of the best in the world. How did that look, how much did you learn in that period?
Sacre: I had a good idea how it all looked like before I joined the team in the playoffs in Copenhagen where they lost 3-0 to Fnatic. I got a better picture of what the team and the players go through, how passionate they are to what they do and how they work. To see a full arena and the whole show was a great experience, but the most I got out of it was watching the players themselves. I was in similar situations myself, so it's good to have a different perspective about it.
In that period i signed for Dragons, it was a disaster of a season, but also a good chance for a new experience after KlikTech broke up. I tried out for Movistar, one of the best Spanish teams, but they chose Finn and Xyrz. The result with Dragons was bad, but the experience was very valuable.
Interviewer: That season in Spain ended very fast for you, so you travelled with G2 Esports to Rift Rivals and then to the World Championship in Korea last year.
Sacre: Rift Rivals is more of a trip, it's more of a show. I was with them for a few days in Berlin, then the USA and I also had to go back to Croatia due to visa problems. Not long after that, the season ended and G2 Esports lost to Misfits in playoffs. They qualified to Worlds through the gauntlet, and for me it meant that I could finally be with them for a longer time in South Korea and play on the Korean server. Without that, my G2 story would probably have been very different.
Interviewer: G2 Esports went through a lot at that Worlds. Play-ins, then they barely went out of groups and surprised the entire world. How was it to watch that journey as a part of the team and be with them through it?
Sacre: We traveled through four cities in Korea, because G2 Esports played from play-ins to semis. We were in hotels, which was quite luxurious as you have your own room and a special practice room. You wake up in the morning, go to the 15th floor and you play from morning, then scrims, then discussions, you're there the whole day, listen to them, you get to sit behind Wunder and watch him play. It's a special thing that most players will never get to experience.
Interviewer: Unfortunately, after the amazing victory versus the Chinese Royal Never Give Up, who nobody thought that G2 would be able to beat, they ran into Invictus Gaming and got defeated 3:0. How did you experience that defeat?
Sacre: The emotions and the whole story was special because it was built up from the very beginning. From the play-ins to the group stage, where they also had to kind of pull themselves out. The expectations grew with every step and placements to the next phase of the tournament, with every victory, but it exploded after they beat RNG. This was it, they believed that they could win Worlds.
They prepared really hard for IG. They knew that they were up against TheShy and Rookie, two of the best solo laners in the world at the time. They went through all the possbiel drafts, heroes but there, you always get surprised by something in the end. They lost the first game, they were surprised by the Jayce. Then, do you play vs Jayce or change your tactic? You lose the second game, and it's hard to come back.
Interviewer: How did it look like after the defeat?
Sacre: The mood and emotions change very quickly. You know like, we're between the four best teams, we can beat them and similar things, but after the defeat that's all gone. You play to win and defeats are hard. You think to stay a few days more, maybe take a look around the city, play on the Korean server, but after semis everyone goes to book their plane tickets, and the very next day they go back home.
Interviewer: This year you signed for SK Gaming Prime, the second team of SK Gaming, and you managed to achieve what you weren't able to with KlikTech, you got to the finals of EU Masters. How much did the experience from the previous EU Masters with KlikTech help you? How much did it mean to you that you already played the tournament once unlike many other players?
Sacre: I was a lot less nervous than the first time. We didn't have huge expectations from that EU Masters. When I got to SK Gaming Prime, we were already very close to qualify to EU Masters due to the German system of tournaments and these smaller tournaments, where you can win points. It was just the question of whether we qualify as top seed or not, and due to us playing the Berlin tournament badly we had to go through play-ins.
Interviewer: Still, many players say that the play-ins helped them get a good result in the tournament. Perkz said teh same thing, and we saw it at worlds where two of the best teams were teams from the play-ins, G2 Esports and Cloud 9. Did they help you too?
Sacre: I think that in tournaments like that, every team from play-ins goes far. You have more experience playing on that patch, you only play one game versus every team and every victory county, every draft. You don't get that when you scrim vs other teams.
Interviewer: You got to the finals of EU Masters, and you were one of the best players, but in the end you lost to Misfits. What happened?
Sacre: In the play-ins you play versus teams that are second in strong leagues, while a spot in groups is given to the first seeds from smaller leagues, like Baltic. So we knew that when we went through play-ins, that we'll get out of groups as first. However, instead of an easier opponent we got LDLC, who lost to MAD Lions, another team from play-ins. LDLC was always a hard opponent for us, their style just doesn't suit our style of play, they play very fast, but it looks like they choked as usual, which we could've seen at the second EU Masters this year. They didn't play their best.
For Fnatic we were quite ready, we knew them from scrims and we were confident and we showed it with a 3-0 victory. We knew that Misfits would win vs MAD Lions, and we were convinced of a victory in the finals due to same reason as versus Fnatic, but it looked like we got a bit too cocky and it cost us.
Interviewer: After a great EU masters performance, you got called up to the LEC and the first team of SK Gaming. You achieved your dreams, but not without problems. What happened?
Sacre: Even before the Spring playoffs, the players thought that I should be the one playing with them instead of Werlyb, but the coach and manager of the team weren't exactly for it. They didn't want to change the team at that moment. They had hard scrims vs Origen, G2 and Fnatic and tensions grew. There were also some conflicts, especially between Selfmade and Werlyb, which put me in a tough position, but this wasn't the way I wanted my spot in the team.
Werlyb had private problems, health issues in his family, so he was also very emotional alongside everything. It could've been done a lot better. In a team meeting I said if Werlyb thinks he can play, then he should play, he should have priority. I knew that I would get my chance, and win it If an opportunity presents itself.
Interviewer: Very quickly that ended up happening.
Sacre: After dropping out of playoffs and the break, they called the both of us up for tryouts. We split time with the team, and they chose me. He didn't take it very well, but he decided to stay in the second team as it was still his best opportunity to make LEC.
Interviewer: You had an interesting season in the LEC, finishing seventh but it didn't look that bad. You were very close to the 6th, playoff spot at the end of the split. How do you view your first season in the LEC?
Sacre: In the period before Rift Rivals it got quite tense. The results and atmosphere were bad, and we needed to play vs Origen, Fnatic and G2 Esports next. We didn't know the way in which we wanted to play the game. You can't do it like that versus these teams. The expectations for playoffs kind of slowly started to dissappear, and that was when the German Jenax got his opportunity instead of Pirean. The communication, especially with Selfmade, got much better and so did the results.
Pirean speaks English, but Koreans usually express themselves differently, they don't talk much, they aren't expressive, so Jenax fit us better as a team. We had the chance to make playoffs versus Rogue, but we failed. It was heavy on the team because we were so close. As we had troubles throughout the season and we managed to fight for a playoffs spot in the end and fixed our results and atmosphere, overall it ended in a positive tone.
Interviewer: You had the opportunity to play vs G2 Esports, one of the best teams in the world. How was it to be on the other side versus those players?
Sacre: You prepare for them, just like you do for any other team. However, even from the draft they're in an advantage due to them being more flexible than other teams, and you have to adjust and then outperform them in the game. Of course, you play to win every game and you give it your best.
We showed that when we played against them. It started off good, but then in like five minutes they just run you over. They have the best mid game in the world. Everyone that plays vs G2, know that it's gonna be a tough game.
G2 Esports know very well that they can relax sometimes, get too cocky and it can rarely bit them back, but that's maybe what makes them even more relaxed. To compare it with us, we always thought that we would easily win versus Splyce. They're easy to prep for, tehy play slow and you know what they like to play. We're all confident going into that match and lose. Look them at Worlds now. This is what happens to all teams to a certain level.
Interviewer: It's been confirmed that you'll play for SK next year too. Does this mean we get to watch you in the LEC?
Sacre: Yes, that's right.
Interviewer: Of course, Worlds has kicked off and I'm sure you're watching it as well. Who are the main favorites according to you?
Sacre: G2 Esports and SKT T1. Mainly G2 Esports.
Interviewer: Is that the finals you would want to see?
Sacre: I don't know how the tournament is gonna play out yet and who can meet who, but I would love to see G2 and IG in the finals. Maybe IG isn't the best this season, but both teams have terrifying individual players. TheShy and Wunder in the top lane, I'd watch that on Proview, and all five games too. I'd pay to see that. Rookie and Caps in the mid lane. JackeyLove, who has been playing very good this season, versus Perkz. Only Jankos in the jungle is very much better than his opponent.
Interviewer: How do you comment G2's preformance in groups? They scured playoffs very early, but then they lost two games to Griffin for the first spot in the group. Griffin really outplayed them
Sacre: I got used to G2 being a bit "shaky" in their victories, and that they usually aren't clean victories, but I didn't know that it would have such an effect in the games vs Griffin in the second part of groups. Griffin played almost perfectly, and the draft that had teh early game always prevailed. So both games spiraled out of control very fast.
I think that those defeats will wake up G2. That means that G2 are probably gonna get a harder opponent in playoffs, but I think that they will be more than ready for that.
Interviewer: If you were to build a team out of all the players at worlds, how would it look like?
Sacre: I don't know how the players communicate with each other, what are theyir relationships, so it's hard to say, but if I really have to – Wunder in the top lane, he's excellent, definitely one of the best in the world, I consider him to be something of a mentor to me, he's creative, excellent and, of course, European. Due to jungle synergy I'd put Jankos. Mid lane Faker. Bot lane Perkz and Mikyx, you can't separate the two.
Interviewer: Will we have two Croatians next year at worlds, and one of which who will defend the title?
Sacre: I hope so. I wished Luka good luck and I think he'll win it. This is the best opportunity they have.
Interviewer: Alongside two Croatians, three Slovenians are also playing in the LEC. How important are connections in this career if you want to make it to the top?
Sacre: I think you need to have someone to compare yourself to and compete. To me those people were my cousin and friends, and then the players at tournmanets. I saw Perkz in a tournament and now he made it to the LEC, and that was a sign that I could do it too. Now I'm watching Wunder and I want to beat him.
Look at the Slovenians. Crownshot and Nemesis won EU Masters together, today one is in Fnatic and the other is in SK Gaming. From what Crownshot told me, Slovenians don't have a strong league or anything like that, it's just those three players.
Interviewer: Does this mean you'll help Milica get into LEC? He had a great EU Masters performance.
Sacre: Depends on what you mean by help. SK Gaming aren't currently looking for a mid laner, and if they did, I would definitely suggest Milica. He's very close to LEC and he can feel it, he knows it's just a matter of time and it'll probably soon happen.
Interviewer: Perkz singled out LiMiT as a player who we could soon see in the LEC, what is your opinion?
Sacre: LiMiT is an excellent player, he recently signed for Ad Hoc Gaming, one of the best german teams, which is much better than the Italian league. If he continues to play like he did, he will keep climbing up and we could see him in the LEC, especially because he's a support player, which the league really needs-
Interviewer: So the supports are missing. Would you recommend that role to the players that want to make it to the LEC at any cost?
Sacre: Mid is the most crowded role. Everyone wants mid, everyone talks about mid lane players. It's probably easiest to get into LEC as a bot lane player or support. Those are very small differences. You need to get to the top first, all of this effects things amybe a few percent.
Interviewer: Are there any other players you know of from the region and that we don't that could soon be very good?
Sacre: Hardly. The known players from the region are either gonna go to national leagues or go to Russia or Turkey, so they need to prove themselves there. As the new season started in League and they added the grandmaster tier, Riot ruined the MMR. Now players that were Diamond 5 are playing in masters and such, so maybe some player from the region who probably wouldn't usually get to that level could get a chance to play in a team. It's still a double edged sword though.
Interviewer: You now have the experience of playing other European leagues too. How would you compare them to the Esports Balkan League?
Sacre: Balkan has a much smaller number of people, but the players are very good. We from the Balkan always choose the players between ourselves. To play in Spain, you only need to be living in Spain, it doesn't matter where you're from. In France and Germany you need to have three homegrown players, but the other two you could bring them from anywhere. The other thing is money. Much more money is being invested and the orgs are more serious, you have a scrim space, a gaming house.
This doesn't exist in the Balkan. In two or three years in Balkan you get two or three new players that in EU Masters wouldn't get through play-ins.
Interviewer: Compared to many other players, you don't stream nor are you too loud on social networks. How come?
Sacre: That's a good question. I understand how it all works and that it's all very important. This season i just got to play LEC and it wasn't a very good season so the mood wasn't very good. Now that I achieved a certain level, i got into LEC and the next step is Worlds so I can dedicate more time to stuff like that.
I'm not the type of guy to be like" "Hey guys! Welcome to my new video!" I like to edit and design much more, which is a bit atypical for a pro player. Even before I got into LEC I thought I wasn't good enough for people to watch my stream and learn something. I thought about doing something different, maybe in Croatian, we'll see.
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