Hello Toni! Would you mind introducing yourself to, apparently, the very few that still don’t know you?
Hello, I'm Toni "Sacre" Sabalić. I'm 21 years old and I play LoL professionally. Currently I'm playing top lane for team KlikTech. I've been playing league of legends for over 7 years and I'm hoping to play in LCS one day.
What is your first "memory" with the game and what made you stick to it?
My first memory of the game revolves around playing call of Duty 2 and 4 with my 4 of my friends. One day, one of them suggested playing League of Legends. To be honest, the game was pretty garbage back in the day (early 2011) but we stuck to it because it was extremely fun to play as 5 people. I probably wouldn't have played league for so long if my friends weren't to make it much more interesting.
Do you still play with these friends till today? My guess is that one of them is your midlaner, Milica. Correct?
Unfortunately no, Most of my friends stopped playing league in late 2013 where I already realized that I’m talented for the game and I wanted to focus more on playing competitive league of legends. I'd play some casual tournaments with friends for riot points. Once they stopped, I still wanted to keep pushing and getting better at the game. My contact with Milica came shortly after season 4. I was actually pretty well known back in the day on EUNE server. Milica was one of the guys who used to look up to me and we got connected through some people while playing ARAM's. Throughout season 5 and 6 Milica improved a lot and became a really good player. Our ambitions matched, and he and Nikola invited me to the team in October of 2016.
That's actually a pretty interesting story! Which team were you playing for back then?
I used to play for the team called XTX - extremely xtravagant. We were an uprising team who'd fight the titans "Guru Gaming" - who were by far the best team in our region back in the day. After my first LAN debut in EXPerience Lan in Zagreb, I got picked up by Guru Gaming, who at the start of 2014 renamed to Lege Gaming. Shortly after, I won my first title at BigBang 2014 in Arena Zagreb. The XTX team wasn't anything spectacular but a lot of people thought of me as that very talented kid who's carrying his team. Something similar what Milica was in Season 1 of LGC.
“[we] realized that we have a certain kind of bond that wasn't present in other team environments”
So, you mentioned LGC. During seasons 1 & 2 you were playing as Instinct eSports for LGC and under a different banner for Fortuna. Why was this?
Unfortunately, Instinct management wasn't very good at finding sponsorships even though we were pretty successful back then, so we took any opportunity we were given in order to have some income for playing LoL. That's why we took the SBB deal to help us with salaries. Instinct was working on many deals but they never delivered anything unfortunately.
Fast forward some months and you guys left Instinct, there were some roster shuffling and in July some of you guys got picked up by Kliktech. How would you describe these past 6 months?
Things before KlikTech were pretty complicated. Everyone tried their own luck but soon realized that we have a certain kind of bond that wasn't present in other team environments. When the initial roster was announced I was hoping that we'd be playing as the same 5 people who won LGC 1. In that regard I was disappointed for losing Stefan because he improved a lot in the meantime. The whole process was a roller-coaster because we were waiting for Milica to come back from Russia, for Nikola to come back from France and I was looking to sign a deal in Germany, if Nikola/Milica wouldn't play etc. Even though the road was pretty bumpy, in the end I was pretty happy to play with Nikola and Milica in the same team, even though we couldn't have Stefan. Overall, the klikTech org has been pretty enjoyable for us so far and everything is going really well.
“I think the skill level of the region doubled ever since the VAL got announced”
That's both a sad and a happy story at the same time. Except for this astonishing roster, you also got your coach from Instinct, Ilias and now you also have an analyst by your side, Izabella. Do you believe these two additions helped you? If yes, in what way?
For sure, even though they can be busy chasing some other things in their life, they have been a great addition to our team. We're very comfortable working with both of them and they really do a lot of stuff for us like scouting enemies, reviewing scrims, watching Professional games, analyzing meta/patches etc. They're basically our 6th member.
Do you think you'd still have the same success even if you didn't have them?
We've come to the point where we feel like we need a coach / analyst in order to be successful in Professional LoL. So, definitely, it wouldn't be the same without the 2 of them. They'd probably be replaceable by someone else but we don't have the budget to fill in such talented people like Ilias and Izabella. They're not getting a lot from helping us, but they're still doing their best to help us win.
Let's change the subject a tiny bit. You were one of the teams that got invited straight to VAL's group stage. Some of the best Adriatic teams also competed, including your... "twins", Bontech. What do you believe about the level of competition at Vip Adria League and in general within the region.
I think the skill level of the region doubled ever since the VAL got announced. It was a great addition to regional leagues like Fortuna/LGC for teams to try even harder. If the frequency of leagues happening within the region stays the same, or even increase, the teams will continue to practice harder and harder in order to have a shot at the prize money, which are now comparable to the other national leagues in Europe which is awesome.
“Βontech proved to be the biggest competitor by far but I’m expecting teams like ASUS and X25 to bounce back stronger than ever for the next season.”
That's true indeed. Increasing the prizepool and having constant leagues being carried out is something that definitely increases the level of the teams. Coming into VAL's LAN what were your expectations both as a team and of course from the organization. Were they met?
We're a team that is focusing on expanding to Europe and eventually (hopefully - it's really hard) to qualify to the EU LCS someday. Thus, our only goal for the Balkan region is to be a champion of everything. Our expectations are always to win the championship. Anything other than that is a failure for us. We were pretty satisfied with the result dropping only 1 game in the whole league. Next step is winning EBL and reclaiming the LGC title if possible.
Even though optimistic, I can't say that chances aren't in your favor. Who do you consider your biggest competitor in Adria?
This season, Βontech proved to be the biggest competitor by far but I’m expecting teams like ASUS and X25 to bounce back stronger than ever for the next season. I'm also hoping to see some new faces that would perform well just like Bontech did.
What do you think made Bontech perform so well this season? In your opinion what made them "shine"?
Bontech is an interesting team because they're not that highly ranked soloQ players, but the solo lanes are pretty stable on their own; the adc, Pitar, doesn't shine in lane but he's very dominant in teamfights. Finally, I think what really makes them a good team is the communication provided by the jungler and the support that make them a very cohesive unit on the rift.
Since the scene in Adria is evolving, what do you think is the biggest danger the teams have to face?
I feel like the biggest danger to the teams would be new organisations trying to get into the esports scene, use players in order to get some profit and then bailing out. Players and teams need to make sure they understand what contract they're signing and for how much time. Esport contracts shouldn't be too long because you opportunities can arise every now and then.
But then again if the contracts aren't binding for a decent period of time, how can you expect of a team to invest in you? When they know that one day or another they might lose you.
I feel like the initial contract should be a short one and then after some time (let’s say 3 or 6 months) see if both parties are satisfied with the deal. This is obviously only important if an organisation that wants to sign the players isn't very well known. Even though that's the case in Balkans, Ι feel like the organisation shouldn't depend on players to build their sponsorships. They should persist through roster changes.
That's a point to view it. Even though I'd really like to ask you more stuff and keep this on, we must close this here because time is pressing. Thank you for your time Toni and wish you best of luck in LGC and EBL! Is there anything you'd like to say as a closing note?
I'd just like to thank KlikTech for taking good care of the team so far and all the fans that follow and cheer for us. It really means a lot to us. I'm also very grateful to be given this opportunity for the interview to express my thoughts.
We thank you!