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Rising Challengers: Nathan “Firetheft” Harris

“The only way to be the player I want to be is to continue to put myself in these difficult games against difficult opponents. Not only do I want to prove that I can be better than I was before, I want to prove that I can compete against these players, and more than compete: just win.”

I’m Just a Kid, but Don’t Sleep on Me

Nathan “Firetheft” Harris had a bit of a late start to League of Legends, coming in during Season 4 (2014) at the ripe old age of 12. With little-to-no direction on where to start or what champion to play, Firetheft started his League career as a jungler, maining champions like Nidalee and Graves until late Season 6. Thanks to the coaching and support from an influential friend from his Minecraft days, Firetheft started on the path of the top laner and settled into the role in Season 7.

“[My friend] had been Diamond 5 for several seasons, so I idolized him and thought he was so cool,” he mentioned. “He would duo with me on smurfs and 1v1 me and give me pointers. I feel like it was really influential to have him as a friend at the time, because you definitely need some factor to get over that ‘being average’ hump of the game. Unless you put in a lot of time into the game or have some special factor like that, it’s hard to get past the gold-platinum range.”

Following this developing talent, Firetheft began playing in team environments whenever he could. He quickly rose from a Gangplank one-trick to a well-rounded, bruiser-focused top laner, using his champion pool for strong counterpick potential and utilizing team resources to be the carry of the team. Setting the tempo of the game and being in a position of control is where he thrives.

From left: Firetheft, Nesua, Masklink, Cpt Jax Sparrow, Crono

Traveling for out-of-state tournaments and events became a big part of being on a team. Being only 15 years old, and in between being a freshman and a sophomore in high school, one would think the age factor would be a hindrance. Luckily for Firetheft, his parents were more than supportive – a rarity for gamers.

“For the first few local events in Kansas City, I didn’t really need to convince them; my parents didn’t even feel the need to come with me after the first or second one I went to,” Firetheft said. “After that point, the first one I really traveled for, which was Tokyo in Tulsa [Oklahoma], my dad drove me. They’re really supportive of me competing. Even though they didn’t necessarily understand [League], they tried to understand me and why I cared and supported that, which was awesome. I got really lucky.”

I’m the Underdog, and You Can Keep Thinking That

From left: Firetheft, Julien, Nove

Firetheft continued to compete on various teams and local LANs until he found himself as a player for AZIO White, SuperNova Sentinels and eventually Monarchs, a rather stacked “underdog” team, where he lost to Radiance for a disappointing Scouting Grounds run. Playing at a highly competitive level led to some burnout, but after a few months’ break, Firetheft again found himself given another opportunity to compete in the Scouting Grounds circuit; this time, for SuperNova Dark Matter (SNDM).

“Basically, due to burnout, I didn’t play on any teams until SuperNova Dark Matter’s coach messaged me in late May and I hopped aboard,” Firetheft aid. “I felt I was ready, I had worked on myself individually… I was really picky this time around because I had problems last year where I wasn’t as confident in myself as I needed to be to get to play how I wanted to play. That really weighed on me, so this time around, I wanted a team that was really supportive and was going in a direction where I could shine and I could do my thing. 

“They have a really positive attitude, every player is willing to do whatever they need to do in order to win. I feel like I can throw out new ideas and try new things and push myself. It works well.”

Joining the SNDM family was a perfect fit, but once again, Firetheft found himself on a team considered to be the underdogs and rated low on the tier lists throughout the community, dead set on proving himself and improving. Though, the label really hasn’t held them back: SNDM’s track record of success against top-tier teams speaks for itself, and Firetheft is nearing his final form.

“A lot of the time, people look at our players and generalize… everyone in amateur is practiced at generalizing players… and are horrible at looking at the bigger picture of a player, because it’s way easier to compartmentalize them into being worse than you for your own ego,” he said. “That’s kind of fine with me, because by getting to play with these players and picking up wins, not only have I seen that [SNDM] is more than that, we are also proving to other people… we care more; we’re working harder. That’s a big part of why we’re able to get these wins. We have more to prove. These put-downs and generalizations that people have about us are good for our success and a big motivating factor. I don’t want us to slow down at any point. SNDM is dead set on making Top 8. It’ll happen.”

The North American Amateur Scene Is Showing Promise and Growth: Time to Improve

Being a part of the amateur scene for the past few years has had its fair share of difficulties and experiences. There has been a constant growing interest in the amateur scene since the “dead zone,” when Challenger Series was disbanded and only diamond-and-under tournaments existed. But there is still room for improvement for players and the community, specifically through supporting the amateur scene and building it up through social media and streams.

“[Amateur] is in the best state it has ever been since I’ve been a player… but, I think that there are still a lot of problems, especially tied to how Academy teams operate,” he said. “So many players work hard in amateur and are at the top of their role in every way and are still not making their way onto teams. It’s not the fault of amateur; it’s tied to the way NA is set up. Something better has to be set up to enable the passionate players I see around me.”

Riot Games’ involvement with the scene has been a step in the right direction, as well as the attention popular League of Legends streamers and personalities have funneled into the topic. Leveraging the small world of amateur scene, the storylines and its history is one way to generate more hype and get the League community at large to buy in. The amateur scene this season has been the most competitive of any other, which makes now a great time to pay attention more than ever.

“Every team can beat or can lose to just about every team this season,” Firetheft said. “My team has proved that, beating [Maryville] who has taken sets off of every top team… I think that every team and every viewer needs to watch out for every set because chances are every set will be interesting and things won’t pan out as expected.”

Low Elo Players… Just Hop In

The amateur scene is small, and growth is always needed to keep it alive. Working on individual gameplay by watching VODs, practicing and getting team experience are some important tips for low elo players looking to take the next step in competitive play.

“Just hop on a team,” Firetheft suggested. “I didn’t know how far I’d be able to go or how good I would be able to get, I just wanted to be able to play on a team and hopped in. It’s a lot more fun than just grinding solo queue until you think you’re good enough.”

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