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Aphelion eSports CEO Matthew O’Toole talks Northern Arena Clash Championship, roster swap, team building

The Northern Arena Clash Championship is currently well underway. 18 teams are competing in a round-robin-style tournament for their chance to take home a portion of the $10,000 prize pool.

One of those teams competing in the Clash Championship is Aphelion eSports, an organization that first came on the scene in 2019. This week, the organization announced that it would be replacing its current roster competing in the Clash Championship. As Aphelion eSports moves forward in the Clash Championship, the team would be represented by Shoya, Choco, SIO, Kazuma, Barsan, and Garakuta.

In the throws of the tournament, I sat down with the CEO of Aphelion eSports Matthew O’Toole to discuss the team’s progress so far. I wanted to ask O’Toole about what went into the decision to swap rosters, and the organization’s outlook moving forward.

Steve: Can you tell us a bit about the team competing in the Northern Arena Clash Championship?

O’Toole: The roster we did have ultimately fell apart. Players weren’t happy with the results. Some players wanted to retire or take a break. Basically, we’re pulling in another roster that’s at least equally as strong, if not stronger.

From there, we’ll be able to go on and possibly push up to the standard we originally had, which was pushing into the upper end of the bracket.

For a tournament such as the Northern Arena Clash Championship, how does the team go about practicing and honing their skill ahead of each game?

With both rosters – the past one and our present one – there is to some extent a regimen in Clash of Clans. It’s not like a sport where you’re running drills and kicking a ball a certain way. It’s more about keeping up with the meta and understanding players’ relationship with the current meta.

On the back end, we are trying to collect data on competitors to have a better way to go into each match, and have some idea of what they might be thinking. What kind of bases will trip them up? What will they bring against us? It’s rather difficult to do because you can never really know until you queue for a pre-match. You can then adjust on the fly. Ultimately, [what we do is] preparing for the different standards and adjusting. It is pretty typical of all teams.

Image credit: Aphelion eSports

Do you think that practice also helps with team morale?

I think that’s more a person-to-person thing. In terms of team morale, it’s more of having the staff and team communicating, and making sure they’re feeling alright and in a good headspace.

Although the tournament is being held online, has the pandemic affected the team at all?

It’s pretty hard to say that all of this in the last year and a half hasn’t affected all of us. We see teams falling out because of the internet at certain events. There are no real LAN events until Worlds. Unfortunately, that doesn’t allow teams to have the opportunity to practice for the real energy that comes from a LAN event. Playing, the pressure, and everything that comes from those events: it’s a whole different beast.

Luckily in this game, there isn’t a lag issue unless you straight up disconnect. But the lack of the ability to prepare and be more comfortable under pressure can affect you. Overall, [the pandemic’s impact] is not as massive as it is on other games.

How is the team feeling about their current placement in the standings? I suppose the decision to switch rosters plays into that.

It’s good timing for us. It’s not that this team has had a bad run in any way. In these situations, you have to make decisions that are going to best benefit the team. The team that we are pulling in is actually in the second division and is doing well. We feel that with this [new roster], we can close out.

We have a few strong matchups coming up, but the team will be prepared. We feel that we can still push back up into the upper side of the bracket again.

Was there a previous match that influenced the decision to swap rosters? A tipping point, if you will?

Ultimately, that was more down to certain players. There had been some discussion for a while, from people wanting different opportunities. A couple of players wanted to take a break from the game.

The decision was reached to do a straight swap, as opposed to  rebuilding a roster in the same way. In this game, the people who play together as a unit end up doing a lot better overall than a bunch of [strangers] slapped together on a roster. It was more or less a decision that made itself.

What are the best ways for fans to keep up with the team in the future?

We have a page on Twitter for our Clash of Clans team, @AphelionCOC. It is solely focused on our Clash of Clans content, including Bases and other things of that nature. That would be the best spot for people who are specifically looking for that content.

[This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.]

We would like to thank Matthew O’Toole for taking the time to chat with us. To keep up with Aphelion eSports and the rest of the Northern Arena Clash Championship, you can tune in to GINX Esports TV Canada, the Northern Arena Twitch channel, or by checking out one of the official streams.

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Steve Vegvari

Steve is based in Toronto, Ontario. His adoration for everything gaming began very early on in the SNES-era. He’s gone on to write honest content around the web. While not writing about games, Steve is often looking for the next big narrative-driven title. Something with an impactful story, regardless of genre or platform. Bonus points if it has an appealing achievement/trophy list!
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