Nick “Inero” Smith, coach of Immortals’ LCS team, chats with sat down with Immortals coach Nick "Inero" Smith to chat about everything from the specifics of why lane swaps are still around to what he wants to see from Arcane season three.

After a quick 0-2 loss to NRG at the beginning of the first super week of LCS Summer 2024, Inero took the time to lend his thoughts on everything from meta to lore. A veteran of the NA scene, Inero shares his insights into the future of native talent, why season one European LoL is finally going the way of the dinosaur, and why he's so upset about Immortals' record.

IMT Inero Interview How are you feeling after your series against NRG, and how are you feeling about the split more generally?

Nick "Inero" Smith: "Coming out of the series, not feeling amazing, I’ll be honest with you. I already, I know it popped up on the screen, I had my share of “this is f---ing bullshit” going around. I don’t feel great, ultimately, at the end of the day, a f---ing loss is going to happen, and I hate that it happens here. But…f—, it’s just fuel for me knowing we messed up so many things in these games that we’ve talked about, and, you know, you don’t get punished as much for in practice. But sometimes it takes getting f---ed to realize ‘Hey, man, this is serious’ and if you don’t take this part seriously, you’re going to lose games because of it. It’s hopefully a wakeup call, a loss is a loss, and it doesn’t matter if you win later."

What are the patterns you mention that aren't translating to stage from scrims? Is it confidence, is it certain heuristics, what isn't matching?

"For a lot of teams, if the game is going poorly, there’s kind of a poor practice culture that’s been going on for a long time in esports where, if you’re losing, a team more likely to let the loss happen. You don’t have to work as hard for it and you can kind of get away with skipping steps of doing things. If a team losing they’re more likely to just show up and just lose rather than try to trade, try to concede something more. You look at the second or third dragon fight when we concede it and we teleport to top. A lot of games teams will show up to that when it’s losing like ‘just go’, they’ll just force a fight, that team will get wiped and the game is obviously over. You get that quick gold juicer, you don’t have a game like ours where it’s 2-3 at 30 minutes, you know?

"So those small battles of getting vision, getting pressure on this time, having this information, knowing what’s going on over there. It can be ‘oh your itemization matters because you missed something in this’, or ‘Oh you don’t have it now we have to build an item because you didn’t itemize correctly.’ Those things really start mattering, and those are things you have to, kind of, talk about in theory, in concept, rather than in actuality because it doesn’t feel as present, you don’t get punished as much, it’s not as impactful."

Inero dives deep on lane swapping

We've talked with several pro players about why lane swaps first emerged again, and why they're still around. Many of them cite lane swaps as a way to turn a volatile possible gold loss of a bad matchup into a more predictable and controllable loss of gold. We saw a later lane swap from IMT, how do you view this strategy and do you think we're entering a new age for the way LoL is played, breaking from old-school European styles?

"Honestly, the current swap isn’t necessarily about [controlling gold loss]. This current swap existing, and there’s a purpose to us doing it at this point in the lane, that’s for first Grubs. A lot of teams understand that if you get the first three Grubs, at second Grubs what can the enemy do to you if you don’t go to Grubs? You’re hitting the turret. Let’s say they shift their bot lane up to do Grubs, to mid to contest it, right? I have three grubs hitting your turret, you have zero. Who wins, if both turrets are full HP? The three Grubs team does, right? It’s a guaranteed winning play. If the other team comes to defend bot, you dive them if you have numbers advantage. If you don’t have numbers advantage, well, okay, they’re here to defend with multiple people, you shift up and now you have six grubs. Cool, you’re winning.

"You just have a guaranteed winning play set up, which is where I like Renekton and stuff like that, that’s started popping into the meta more. At level six, he’s basically securing grubs, and he’s going to be hitting level six at the time that the grubs are coming up, unless you swap around to f— with that gamestate. So, that’s something that’s existed a lot in scrims. People trying to swap when these people are just about to hit level six. You don’t want Renekton to get six? Cool, show up a little bit beforehand, when he’s not going to hit six and now he doesn’t hit it, he doesn’t have six for Grubs, he needs to figure out what to do.  If he plays it incorrectly, he gets dove. He’s not happy if he gets dove. He’s missing out on the CS, he’s not six for the Grubs fight. Grubs are ours and Renekton’s useless because the champion’s outscaled.

Image - Riot Games/Colin Young-Wolff
Image - Riot Games/Colin Young-Wolff

"I think a lot of [lane swapping] is more about that, and what’s going on at Grubs than anything else. A couple of teams have experimented with level one lane swaps as well, versus the heavy pressure bot lanes with, like, a Zyra. Imagine, if, today NRG had Kalista + Ashe bottom lane and they have a Zyra jungle that shows up bottom lane at three minutes, as our bot lane, what do you do? You die. You’re gonna get dove if your jungler isn’t there to cover, and he’s going to be losing his camps if he’s not a tempo jungler.  Guaranteed bad and losing situations. Some people are lane swapping like that and yeah, you’ll take the gold loss, but ultimately I feel like that type of play is pretty flawed, because it’s a guaranteed loss of gold unless the enemy team screws up.

"I don’t think there’s a way to really fix this outright, it’s just something that exists. If I’m top lane at five minutes and I’m hitting [the tower], Fortification doesn’t exist anymore, so it’s just an even trade on map. I’m happy, the enemy lane probably isn’t happy they don’t get to punish in lane but I don’t know what they can do beyond making Fortification last past first Grubs of the game, maybe then it will matter. "

We've heard some of your thoughts on Arcane Season 2 chatting with David Szajnuk, so we're asking about Season 3. If you could choose which region Fortiche/Riot visit next, which one do you want, and what champion from that region do you want to see?

Hmm….season three. I think it would be interesting to see the Shadow Isles stuff, personally. Actually, no, Shurima. I want to know more about Shurima and what exists there, I think. That’d be kinda chill. I imagine it’s not something they’re going to do. I imagine they’d pivot to Noxus. They’re going to pivot to that in some way since they’ve introduced some characters from there in the previous season. But, yeah. Shurima would be cool. It’d be interesting to see more about Renekton, Nasus, that kind of thing.  I don’t think it’s that fleshed, really, is it? 

The road to pro less traveled

As somebody who's been a part of developing a lot of native NA talent, how do you feel the LoL Americas changes upcoming in 2025 will affect prospective NA talent in years to come?

It’s less teams, which always means less space for these native NA players to get in. So, it’s always going to be hard. So, without some system for people to get in, which I recognize they’re trying to do in some way. But, without ever having that in it’s always going to be rough for these people to get chances. I honestly think the scene is in a pretty rough state for that right now. I don’t really see [the LoL Americas] changes helping in any way. If anything, I think it incentivizes teams in the NACL to make bad decisions and try to force their way in to winning. And to try to buy the slot. 

It’s just going to turn into the problem that has existed at the LCS level, it will help the people who are already in get better because they’re going to be playing against better players. But, if it’s not contributing back into the ecosystem for these native NA players, it’s not going to help them out. They’re not going to be getting practice against it. Most of the imports that come over, everything I get is they don’t like playing solo queue. And usually, when they do, they just kind of play it for fun. A lot will play it seriously, but a lot will also just play it for fun, and that’s not really helping anyone. You’re not really getting good practice outside of scrims, which means the players who haven’t made it in aren’t getting that practice.

It’s one of those situations where I don’t really know how they solve it, without having a better tier-two system. But tier two isn’t sustainable in its current way. It’s kinda doomed, I think. I don’t know what to say to help that out. 

Any message for IMT fans looking ahead to the rest of the split?

Sorry about today, guys. It really sucks, I’ll take the L on this one. But I appreciate the support from people, I already got a couple of DMs from people saying “we believe in you, it’s all good, man.” Yeah, I appreciate the support and keep supporting the players.