SK Gaming has had a rough start to the 2022 LEC Spring Split, and even in times of success, the catalyst of their wins has been rather one-dimensional. SK have essentially won games simply outlasting opponents that have been unable to close out against them cleanly through superior late game shotcalling.
However, in their most recent win against G2 Esports in week 6 of the Spring Split, SK boasted their best early game of the split, and while it took them a while to close out, their win against G2 marks yet another upset against a top team in the LEC.
Before the start of week 6 of the 2022 LEC Spring Split, SK Gaming support Erik "Treatz" Wessén spoke to Inven Global about SK Gaming's strengths and weaknesses, his roleswap to and from jungle, and his role in his team's communication.
A team's record in a best-of-one format isn't always indicative of the team's actual level. Where would you place SK Gaming in the LEC in terms of relative strength?
I've always despised best-of-ones, personally. I think that it doesn't really give insight on how good or bad a team is, it has mostly to do with drafting and consistency. A team like Rogue, for example, are pretty consistent and draft pretty well in best-of-ones, so they always pick up a lot of wins, whereas I think we've had trouble adapting to the meta and we just haven't been performing as well as other teams in bo1s.
Obviously, it sucks that the LEC format is not best-of-three, but you also have to adapt to your competition, which is a best-of-one. We are better than our record shows, but we've also had a lot of flaws that have shown in our losses.
You mentioned difficulty in adapting to the meta, and it seems many teams have had trouble with finding their identity in season 12. Is there anything specific about this meta that is stumping teams in comparison to early phases of previous seasons?
I think the meta is the most diverse it's been in maybe six or seven years. This is not only true in terms of the Smite top lane shenanigans, but in support, you have ranged supports which are really viable as well as the melee engage supports, which are also very viable. There are a ton of AD carries that are viable, and you can play like 20 different mid-jungle combinations.
In general, every role in the game has a lot of champions that are viable right now, so it makes the meta very hard to read and predict. You may scrim a lot and find an answer for your team, but then you go into a best-of-one match and the opposing team has three different counter-answers that you don't know about.
Sometimes, you kind of have to adapt on the spot. It's hard to adapt in a best-of-one because you can't change stuff from draft to draft. Instead, you have to adapt in game to figure out what the enemy team wants to do with their composition.
The last time the AD carry role wasthis prominent was in the Ardent Censer meta of 2017. Why is ADC so strong right now even in situations where enchanter supports aren't present in certain compositions?
I think Riot has been buffing enchanter supports for quite some time. Right now, the basis of League is top laners playing carries and supports playing tanks because of general champion strength. In the past, this used to be different — tanks top lane used to be the baseline of OP, but I think that's fallen to the support role, especially with all the carry junglers right now. It's kind of easy to just tell your support to go play Leona, so I think that's one of the reasons.
Outside of that, enchanters being buffed makes the matchups into melee engage supports more favorable. There is like a really fine line where if the ranged support plays really well in lane and can outplay the melee support opponent's kill pressure, the ranged support can outscale quickly. However, the melee support also has an advantage in the sense that he can kill the ranged support. It's a really fine balance where one small misstep can screw up the entire lane.
It's both fun to play and sometimes not very fun. Sometimes, if you get ganked once by the enemy jungler as a ranged support, you just can't play the game again. Similarly, if you're on the melee support side of the match up and you die once — sucks for you, you get outscaled. It's a fine line to tread.
It does feel like mistakes can be easily punished right now for supports, but regardless of your team's performance, you've continued to be praised for your individual play. How would you evaluate your current level of play relative to the other supports in the LEC?
I think I've performed worse in some of our games than I did in the 2021 LEC Spring Split. That split's meta was easier to predict in terms of bot lane; there were less combinations that people played. It was mostly two of Rell, Alistar, Rakan, and Thresh every game. Now, with more shakeup, I think our team was set back in some drafts that punished me. I also think I punished myself in some drafts with some bad picks, so it's been a bit of both.
I haven't performed as well as last spring. I wouldn't say I've performed poorly, but in terms of my own standards, I know I can play better. It's really hard for me to compare myself to other LEC supports. It's hard to say that you deserve to be a higher standing than your record, but I would say I'm in the upper half of the league, at least.
What's it been like adapting back to your primary role of support after jungling last summer? Team Liquid top laner Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau, who jungled for Fnatic last summer after a full career as a top laner, has re-adjusted to his original role very quickly.
In general, it was easier than I expected in both swapping to jungle and then back to support. I think it's something I could do today. If I wanted to, I could play jungle in a LEC game today. I think it just comes from the base knowledge that I have as a player.
Bwipo and I are good examples of players who have played a lot of roles for multiple years and have a lot of solo queue practice in a lot of roles. To players like us, it kind of comes naturally, whereas, for example, I think if an AD carry main swapped after five years, he would kind of suck. For players like Bwipo and I, it's been an easy transition both ways.
Do you think the competitive similarities between support and jungle have benefitted you in this regard?
100%. I think support and jungle are a lot more similar than what fans and spectators think about the roles. The roles interact a lot throughout the entire game and the way they think about plays and the champions' styles are very similar most of the time.
From that perspective, I think it's really similar and it's why I also think it's really fun for support mains to play jungle as their off-role. A lot of supports like this because there is a lot of the same playmaking between the two roles, though I would say jungle has a bit more early game impact.
As a team, SK struggled with you in the jungle, but your individual play in the role was praised as the bright spot of the team. Would you say your previous experience as a support made you a better jungler last summer, and do you think your time as a jungler has made you a better support?
Yeah, I would definitely say that. In general, I think being a support has a lot of connection to the jungle and shares a lot of knowledge with the role. If a jungler knows support really well and vice-versa, there is a lot of synergy the two can perfect. It definitely brings a lot to the table as well in terms of my impact with Gilius and the way we think about the game as a duo. I think it's already helped, for sure, but it will bring us even better results in the long term.
How would you describe your current role in the SK Gaming communications?
I definitely would say I'm the person making all of the calls. I like to be the one in control of the game regardless of how my lane went, so I'd say I'm the one calling for objectives, what we should play for, and how we should think about fights 90% of the time.
The people around me are obviously inclined to say what they have going on in the game and what they want to think about, so it's always a balancing act, especially with rookies. You want to let them have their moment to shine, but you also want to create a good environment and direction within the game. It's something I'm good at and I would say it's one of my biggest strengths.
SK Gaming's wins often come in the late game. Would you attribute SK's late game strengths to your shotcalling, and what can your team do to shore up weaknesses in the other phases of the game?
That's definitely a discussion we've had a lot within our team. We often talk about just chilling in the early game to get past it so we can have a really high chance of winning. I think there is definitely some truth to what you said.
As for my personal point of view, I think, at least when I'm in the game, if we have a draft where I can see everyone's win conditions and potential impact within the game, I always see a way to win. I try to communicate this to my team. Obviously, it's a five-man game and getting everyone on the same page is not always super easy, but I think we have a pretty good track record of playing games past thirty minutes if we're not like 10,000 gold behind.
Everyone knows that I am confident in my shotcalling and everyone is confident in me in the same way, so I think that helps a lot. However, it also definitely makes our team's weaknesses pretty obvious. Our early games have just been really shaky both from a drafting perspective and a playing perspective, so that's something we heavily focused on before week 6 of the Spring Split and something we will continue to focus on in the coming weeks.
The past few years of competitive League of Legends have been defined by early game aggression, but it does feel like the current meta favors scaling more than what's been seen in quite some time. What do you think has led to this trend?
I think the way that the game plays out right now is that one draft usually has a bit more kill pressure in the early game while the other team has a bit more scaling. It's basically just a matter of if the early game composition snowballs well, they win, but if they make one misstep, the scaling side wins.
For example, a very common combo in EU right now is Ryze + Jayce. If their side gets at least one kill in the early game, they have a great snowball factor. However, if this gets shut down by an opposing jungler or support going mid, it can be really tricky.
The game right now favors scaling, but the scaling side has to be really good at defending and playing proactively in a defensive matter. It definitely requires a different skillset than in the previous seasons where I think you could just play Kalsta, Zoe, Jarvan IV, and an aggressive top to just run the game in, push all of the lanes, and win.
Right now, I think teams are a bit better than before at defending against those early game compositions, so we're seeing a bit more scaling. Teams like Rogue are fine just playing Jinx, Ornn and Viktor every game. It's definitely scaling vs early game, but I think the scaling side is very strong right now.
Thanks for all of your insights, Treatz. Is there anything you want to say to the SK Gaming fans?
First of all, thank you for the interview. In regards to the fans: Stay in there, guys! The early games have been rough, but it's something we are working on. You will see better results in summer, especially towards the end of the season.
All images by: SK Gaming