Barney ‘Alphari’ Morris is arguably the UK’s greatest League of Legends esports player right now. The top-laner has just enjoyed a year with Team Liquid in the North American LCS, but now he’s back on European home soil and ready to tear up the rift as part of the new Team Vitality LEC ‘superteam’ in 2022.
Dom Sacco interviews the Welshman live on Esports News UK’s Twitch channel about his goals with Vitality, that time he stomped the UK scene and his reaction to LS’ view that Vitality will ‘implode’. You can watch the full interview powered by MSI above or read on below.
Happy new year Alphari – it must be nice to have had a break over Christmas after all the hard work scrimming and playing.
Yeah definitely. Having a break is always really appreciated, especially having gone to Worlds, when the year is that much longer compared to previous years. So it was nice to see my family for a bit and take a break from League. I think burnout and motivation are the biggest issues that prevent players from having a long career, so it’s really important to take time off, and it was nice.
How does it feel to be with an LEC team once again?
It’s really exciting, honestly. I feel very fortunate to have the teammates I have now, and for Vitality to have put this project together – and to be back in Europe, in a more competitive region. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Obviously right now it hasn’t entirely started, we’re just getting into practice and we haven’t played on stage or anything like this, so I expect it will only get more fun, then maybe playoffs will be more like they used to be before covid. You know, with fans, that would be fantastic.
There were reports that Fnatic expressed interest in signing you. Was your head turned? What was it about Vitality that convinced you to move, was it purely other players on the roster or was there more to it than that?
In the off-season, there were three ideas in my head as to what I could do. I really believed I wanted to come back to Europe after my time in America. I don’t regret it at all, it was a tough new experience, I got to play in a new region, live in a new continent and just experience a totally new culture. So while it was hard, it was a good experience, but I feel that Europe is better for me – and that was my idea going into the off-season.
And then, for me, having the most competitive roster is the most important thing. There were offers and options. I thought Fnatic will be a very strong team, but there were some other things in the process with Vitality [that interested me].
Neo [Team Vitality co-founder Fabien Devide] had a ton of enthusiasm. I think he’s really passionate… obviously he’s running a business but I got the impression he’s doing this with a real desire to win and for the love of League of Legends and esports.
And then I’ve always wanted to play with Perkz, because he’s beaten me three times in the finals, and he seemed to keep beating me. And so I figured I want to win a finals myself – maybe I should play with Perkz. So here we are.
It seems Vitality are striving to be more competitive, not only in League but other games they play in too, it seems there’s been a shift in their strategy.
Yeah, for sure. I think every owner or person I talk to, when they’re pitching they always present themselves as great because that’s what they do, but I really thought Neo stood out and I know Vitality have been successful in other esports. Rocket League… they have a strong CSGO roster… they’ve just kind of sucked at League of Legends until now!
Vitality is going to be insane, it’s going to be dominant. So they really care about winning, and I do too, so it’s perfect.
You’re in a very different roster now to what you were with Origen in the LEC, finishing bottom of the league before the org rebranded to Astralis. You said there were “player limitations and conflicts” in that team. It must be exciting to be on this kind of roster with Vitality now, how far do you think you guys can go?
It sounds kind of like a meme when players in the West say they can win Worlds, but I think we can win Worlds. I think this is true. There’s no reason why the West shouldn’t win Worlds at some point.
With the calibre of players we have [in Europe] – obviously not in every team – but I think there are players good enough to compete. I believe I’m good enough to compete and I believe my teammates are as well. So winning Worlds is the dream, performing well and at our best at Worlds is the dream. How long it will take to get there, I don’t know.
What are your personal goals this year?
I want to win a split in the LEC. I’ve yet to win a split so I still have the same goal there. I know guys on my team like Carzzy and Perkz probably don’t care that much about winning a split at this point, but for me it’d be really nice.
Obviously it’s not easy and it takes a lot. Even though you have a strong roster and a good setup and coaching staff, it all depends on preparation and meta, these little variables. So we have to take it one step at a time and don’t take anything for granted.
LS said he thinks Vitality will “implode” and finish third, fourth or fifth this split, and that it’s nothing to do with individual player skill, but will be an example of “not stacking the deck, personality-wise”. What’s your reaction to that? Have you and your teammates seen this and discussed it?
Yeah, it’s hilarious. I think it’s so funny to speculate about players’ personalities when all you hear is what orgs put out.
Obviously, players are not going to talk that much shit or say exactly what is going on behind the scenes, because contractually, they’re not allowed to – most of the time. So you hear one side of the story a lot.
I think it’s very insincere to judge players’ personalities based on rumours before having worked with them or spoken to them yourself in-depth. From experience, I think it’s really hard to know how a person is to work with on a team until playoffs.
I think all of spring split is mostly the honeymoon phase and the stress isn’t building up that hard, but when playoffs come and the matches have stakes, preparation is really important and stress is setting in… then I think you can start to judge people’s personalities and how well they perform under pressure and they work. I am thinking everyone on this team can do that. Carzzy is strong, he can win, Perkz is the same.
Selfmade has been in finals many times, played at Worlds and is an insane player too, I like to think I’m not bad, and Labrov is a very talented player, he’s played for a while – we have five guys who aren’t afraid to talk to each other.
We have the experience and intelligence to work through problems, so while there might be Twitter analysts or people on Reddit going, “Well! I read about this from this comment that Alphari or Selfmade are so toxic because they said this or that, and and you can’t say that because speaking your mind is so fucking bad,” well, they don’t know anything.
We’re not going to implode, we’re going to be great. If I were to impersonate a Twitter analyst, then I would say C9 are going to implode. They have LS and they have Malice. Obviously I’m not gonna be a Twitter analyst and make a crazy statement like this without knowing the inner depths of their team environment or their player personalities, but realistically, C9… come on! (raises hands)
It seems that you guys have a good camaraderie. I feel like a lot of problems in League/esports come from players not communicating effectively with one another.
Yeah. It’s easy to think of it just in terms of winning, and of course winning is the ultimate goal, right? And it’s a job. But it’s really, really, really important to get on with the people you work with and to enjoy the process. It demands so much time, and people naturally get emotional because everyone is invested and the stakes are high.
Then it’s important to be friends with each other, so you can talk to each other when difficult situations are arising. And it’s important not to take things personally either, because everybody is committed and working towards a common goal. So it’s important to be able to enjoy the process – the process is underrated.
Many people regard Vitality as a ‘superteam’ and have placed a lot of expectations on how this team will perform. What are your thoughts on that and on superteams in LoL such as the old 2019 G2 team? (question from Megalodontus)
I think our team is a superteam, I think we have a lot of strong players that a lot of teams would want to have, so I think it’s fair to say this.
I think most superteams, when they’re built, they work. Though I’ve experienced a little bit of a superteam – obviously not as good as this team – in Origen. But there were a lot of weird issues going on there, so sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. It’s important not to get ahead of yourself, regardless. It’s about working well together, putting in the effort, being able to talk, adapt to metas… all this stuff regardless of roster.
When it does work, you see it work spectacularly like G2 in 2019. They were the best Western team of all time – until this year! So that’s gonna change.
What are your thoughts on the other LEC teams? (question from Megalodontus)
Fnatic are the first team that come to mind. I think they have a really insane bot lane, and I think the top side is also really good too. I have a lot of respect for Razork and Humanoid and Wunder. When I was in Europe I always appreciated playing against him the most – I learnt the most from him.
I’m not sure how he was in the year just gone as I wasn’t playing [in the LEC], but if he plays at the level he was playing when I was in Europe, then I expect him to be the best competition as well for me. I think they will be an exciting opponent to face, and I think G2 will be a strong team too, or at least an exciting team.
I think the solo laners in Broken Blade and Caps have the potential to be really strong, and they’re really flippy. So I think they will either int or kill, I think they’ll be an explosive team.
Rogue might be good, but they lost Inspired so I’m sceptical. Usually in Europe there’s a team or two that nobody expects to be that insane and they are, because there’s usually a rookie or two that are really fucking good, and people don’t know til they start smurfing. Carzzy, Kaisa, Larssen, Humanoid, Inspired etc. So I wouldn’t be surprised if a different team like maybe Excel or Rogue could be really strong. We’ll have to see.
Do you have any regrets in your career? (question from Ellibear live on stream)
I’m not sure. If I could go back in time I’d do some things differently for sure, but I’ve always done what I think is right and maybe not to the best but at least close to the best of my abilities. So in that sense I don’t have any regrets, it’s just a matter of learning as I go along and trying to be better in the next circumstance that comes to me.
So each year, even if I haven’t won, there’s been something significant to me in other ways. For example I’ve learnt from it, met new people, experienced different countries and esports in general. So I’m grateful for that and I don’t have any real regrets.
Alphari in late 2020 you joined Team Liquid. How would you reflect on your time in the LCS over the past year? I get the impression you grew as a person.
Yeah, I did. I think that, in terms of player growth, I think that we got really insane at playing around top, at least in NA. Or maybe we’re not that insane at playing around top – maybe it’s just that NA is that bad! But I think I was already quite talkative, but I got better at talking in the early game.
I think I went through some tough periods last year, for sure, and it made me think about what is important, I suppose. Winning has always been important to me, but there were ups and downs. Last year there were some unforeseen ones, but I knew going to NA would challenge me. But I didn’t see that as a reason to not go, I saw it as a reason to go. I thought it would be fun and exciting, I didn’t think about it being hard, and sometimes things are going to be rubbish, or shit. But it doesn’t last like that, right. It’s a period of time and you do your best to go through it.
The year was good overall. Obviously I would’ve really liked to have won an LCS split or made it out of groups [at Worlds], or go further with the team, but I think the team really started to come together in the summer when I started playing again and we went through some challenges together and came off stronger. We began to trust and appreciate each other more.
Chik-fil-A for sure, Chipotle is really good too. And always in the spur of the moment, never planned, do it straight whenever you want.
How would you say you’ve grown as a player and as a person? You played at Worlds, had to deal with being benched at Liquid, finished runner up in both LCS seasons. For me you’ve definitely matured but you still have that sharp and sarcastic sense of humour
Someone who speaks highly of you is Fabian Broich, the former performance coach at Excel Esports who worked with you at Origen, who launched his own Achieve Minds agency a few months ago. He told me when you first met, that you said you ‘don’t care about anything outside of the game’. But one day, you said you were ‘going all in’. What made you go from not caring about things outside of the game to going all-in with the health side of things and working out?
I’m not entirely sure. I think when I do something I want to do it to a good level, and I think that I don’t know I have an addictive personality, but I can get invested in things quite easily. So these two things, and it was just fun. Everyone was doing it together, Fabian was showing us what to do and I was living with [coach] Kold at the time. And he was also doing stuff like this.
I didn’t buy into all the out-of-game details that Fabian was telling me at all. When he was preaching it at the start at all. I was like: “No, bullshit, if you’re not playing League 24/7 how are you supposed to get better?”
But now I’m a believer. I think it’s most important for longevity and staying sane throughout the season. The biggest stresses as a pro player are dealing with the year because it’s so long, and you don’t have much time for anything else, so it’s important to look after yourself. I didn’t really understand this, I thought if I put in more games I’d be a better player and win, and that’s what I want. This mindset works, but it’s not sustainable and you can’t do it for a super long period of time, unless you’re a machine.
So it’s about choosing your timings and looking after yourself, and still being at a good enough level to compete for the rest of the year. This is what I learnt, among other things, from him.
With teleport nerfs, I think they always seem bigger than they actually are, in my seven or eight years of playing League. In competitive play this summoner spell is so strong, because if you don’t have it, you can’t ever play the full map mid or late game without threat of losing Nash or Dragon or some other objective that’s more important.
So it will have consequences, I think you could see more Ignite users, but I’m also sceptical of this – it might be niche cases. I think we’ll see Quinn more, where you don’t need teleport as you run around so fast and take Cleanse or Ignite or something and you’re fun.
For the most part I think TP will still be in the meta, I’ll be very surprised if it’s not. It’ll just make diving bot lane harder, because you can teleport to defend but can’t teleport proactively. So it should make top lane more important to be strong in lane and good at 1v1s, as you can’t just teleport away and dive bot lane, you have to play your lane and having push will be more important.
I’m not worried [about the change], I think it will be a fine change. If anything, it puts more emphasis on being better topside, because it’s harder to dive bot. So instead of diving bot, you get bot prio, play for herald and dive top lane. So it should be good for me – I’m not worried.
What memories do you have from your early days in the UK LoL scene back in 2015 with Team Infused?
I remember it really well, I remember it fondly. The first few years when everything was a lot less professional, we had to travel around in buses on the weekend off from school to compete in these little UK LANs. I remember Maxlore being my tutor in a sense, teaching me about macro, whereas before I was a toxic solo queue laner, which I mean I still was but at least I learnt a little bit from him!
The UK scene was really fun, in the first few years of my career I didn’t really know what to expect but I enjoyed it. Playing in LANs, the audiences, meeting people, it was good.
Do you remember what you told me in a post-match interview after winning the ESL UK Premiership by beating FM Esports 3-0 and going undefeated with your team?
I remember saying something about Arphan being a smurf. I remember he didn’t do too much, but I said we went unbeaten due to him!
That’s right! You also said your opponents were ‘a bit easier than anticipated’. You were like 15/16 years old back then, so to have gone straight into pro League of Legends, that must have been quite the experience.
Definitely. It was not exactly what I expected or what most people would expect, you know, being a pro gamer. You have to actually play all the time, be professional and not get emotional – well sometimes you have to get emotional – but it’s hard.
Managing it is really important in a team environment, and all these little details: content, photoshoots, social media, all these other details like draft and strategy that you don’t really think about, or I didn’t back then, so it came as a surprise. But it’s all part of the experience – it’s been a journey.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to my fans who have been supporting me throughout my career. I appreciate all your messages and hopefully Vitality will win. I’m pretty optimistic, keep supporting us and happy new year.
Alphari: Player stats
- Name: Barney ‘Alphari’ Morris
- Age: 22
- Game: League of Legends
- Favourite champion to play: Gangplank
- Preferred Screen resolution: 1920x1080p
- Mouse DPI setting: 1,800 DPI
- Mechanics: 80
- Reflexes: 80
- Positioning: 80
- Aggression: 80
- Communication: 80
- Mental fortitude: 100
- Interview powered by MSI: https://msi.gm/ENUK-GG
- Thanks to our guest Alphari: https://twitter.com/alphari?lang=en
- Hosted by Dom Sacco: https://twitter.com/Dom_Sacco
- Follow Team Vitality: https://twitter.com/TeamVitality
- Production by Jakub ‘Atroix’ Szmyt: https://twitter.com/atroooix
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.