Disclaimer : The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.
When we remember the best competitors of all time, there is an almost unstoppable strength that permeates their actions and stories. To think that negative environments would stop the likes of Jordan, Karpov or Faker seems, at the very least, a ludicrous premise. If anything, it would only serve as fuel for their ambition to reign supreme.
However, even amongst the elite competitors, this ruthlessness still is a rare trait to find; the opposite is far more common. Crowd advantage is real for teams across every level of competition. Be it the support of people that want you to stay at your best, or the abuse shouted by those who want you to fail, the common competitor will unavoidably be affected by both.
H2K’s choking is so ingrained in the community’s opinion that it doesn’t even work as a meme anymore. For them, every relevant match is an away game, and the presence of the community only grows stronger with every looming defeat.
As soon as Jankos’ Nunu lost a Baron to G2’s Trick, they were out. From the outside, a few hopeful fans remained. When they decisively marched towards the next Nashor, as if the previous steal never happened, my hope remained. From the outside, they were still in a solid frame of mind that recognized their most likely win condition, and couldn’t care less about the public’s perception.
They were out.
Jankos would later comment on Facebook about how Trick outsmiting him made them lose their grip on the semifinals, “if I would secure the nash and not let Trick steal it, we could've won the entire series”.
The premise seems highly unlikely, and difficult to defend. Mistakes are bound happen in high intensity matches and, in the last two years of H2K’s playoff history, they have consistently preceded the phantom of choking.
From this perspective, it seems tempting to put a good deal of blame onto the community. Whether players pretend to ignore it or they are actually unaware of it, the crowd is eating at their mental state thorough the entire match. After such a mistake occurs, part of their brain leaves the game and starts to wonder, “Is everyone right about us?”.
This is the natural reaction for most humans. For as long as they keep any reasonable connection to a past iteration of H2K, the community will not forget. With only two players and the coach remaining from last year’s iteration, few believed in H2K performing come spring playoffs. H2K, as a team, always chokes.
Many would point towards Jankos and pr0lly being the main elements generating this mood. Missing a Smite Consume combo for a game losing Baron surely looks terrible, and pr0lly often fails to pull out a plan B. H2K’s insistence on playing immobile squishies against the skirmish heavy spring Fnatic or FORG1VEN’S infamous three games of Sivir against Samsung Galaxy have been popular targets for criticism of the coach. However, the premise becomes harder to prove as one looks deeper into the facts.
Few has to be said about Odoamne missing every ability just to flash after his death is certain. Even Feviben failed to live up to his all pro nomination and expected skill level, getting absolutely demolished in lane pressure and overall impact by G2’s Perkz. If Nuclear looked the closest to a pressure free performance, it was on the back of his usual mediocrity, as his Ashe arrows left a lot to be desired.
In truth, everyone in H2K had off looking plays in the few games where they faced G2. Chei’s “Yellowstar” play, where he flashed into no one to miss every Thresh ability while his mid tower was being taken by the Herald, happened even before Jankos missed his combo. Given how dependent H2K was on having good midlane control to win that game, the play speaks of overeagerness and lack of confidence to properly execute the win condition.
It could certainly be a coincidence but, once the context of the full mental breakdown is added, it certainly doesn’t look like one. These events are purely anecdotal, but work as a frame of reference for what seems to be a systemic problem for H2K, that only gets showcased in playoffs. H2K is terrible at bouncing back. Always.
Combining both spring and summer split, H2K has won a total of two series where they’ve lost at least one game. This happened both times they faced the weaker spring split Vitality, meaning that they won no series in summer in which they lost at least one game, and none in all of season 7 against a top 6 team in Europe.
Certainly, there is praise to give to the dominant way in which they can sweep series, but playing on the backfoot seems to be a problem for them the whole year around.
The real problem becomes identifying the source of the breakdown. Community has to be playing a role on players psyches, but public perceptions do not materialize out of thin air. For H2K to become the stereotypical choking team, they had to first disappoint a good number of times. Furthermore, there is barely any community pressure during the regular season, yet they are still performing poorly after they are stopped once by their opponents.
We can then conclude that there is a combination of elements in H2K that are fueling these breakdowns. We do not, however, have a way to properly identify them, or determine how much each one is contributing. The effect has shown itself to spread across the whole team in multiple occasions, making it look more like a chemistry based or structural problem than something sprung by a single member.
From the inside, things don’t seem to look that much clearer. Coach pr0lly, on his appearance on “Talk to Thorin”, revealed how the old H2K performed much better when they did not practice for their second week at worlds. Far from an isolated event, this was a known phenomenon for them. However, he was not able to give a satisfying explanation for this shift in team success.
Whatever the causes, pressure seems to be something the team can not deal with. This is a limitation that will keep H2K from reaching the top level of competition not only for the next season, but for seasons to come, if a change is not made.
Many could argue that a team can look to make profit and build a fanbase, and shouldn’t have to base its choices purely on looking to become the best rival they can possibly be.
As a gradually more and more detached H2K fan, this does not speak to my personal experience. It’s one thing to be a fan of a bad team, and a very different one to root for star stacked lineups that get steamrolled as soon as things get a bit real. It’s not about victory or defeat, but rather about the lingering feeling that they are never able to be a real competitor, that can overcome adversity and achieve something in the process.
This is what H2K’s management has on their hands. A lineup of expensive players and coach, that not only can never perform against true opposition, but also does not have a clear cause for the breakdown in execution. A predominantly negative perception by the community, and what can become a problem to make the fanbase long-lasting.
If they ever want to get rid of this situation, they have to do away with everyone. I’m not going to argue that this is the best H2K can do for their org, as there is a lot of personality value in the lineup and there might be hard for them to attract investors if they reset the team.
Nevertheless, the systemic problem will keep them from ever reaching anything of value as competitors. Contrary to a mechanical or knowledge based mistake, no one seems to know where this is springing from, or what to do to work it out in the long run. How this is not a big concern for a competitive organization is beyond my comprehension.
If they want to graduate from being a meme into being a real team, they need to wipe everyone out. Sign a new lineup that no one can in intellectual honestly accuse of carrying on problems from before. Get rid of the community issue and the fundamental psinergy problem in one move, and allow for the team to build a lasting fanbase.
H2K has to die.
(Photos by LoLesports)
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