"Giants Gaming ended up with a mediocre team without synergy, none of those players is top tier at their positions nor could constantly show good to great performances the past split." - Inven Global.
"It's hard to see this team making waves, especially with the increased level of competition this year." - The Daily Mail
"Anything higher than eighth would be fine for this Frankenstein roster." - Dot Esports
"Ultimately, the lineup presents too many questions on paper to find a silver lining outside of individual play." - me, for ESPN
Boy, were we wrong about Giants Gaming.
From the outside, it was hard to see how they could have worked out; without people that had shined brightly in terms of communication and macro in the previous years, there were so many question marks left hanging on top of the roster – How it could gel? At what level would it play? Are the hires enough? - that the most important question was sidestepped: Why were such players underperforming in previous rosters?
Giants Gaming’s victory against the Unicorns of Love was met with sheer disbelief. But it was its close loss to Team Vitality that had set the tone for Week Two, as two convincing victories followed. With former Team Vitality players Charly “Djoko” Guillard and Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi, and with ex-ROCCAT Felix “Betsy” Edling sharing the burden of communication, the team soared through the rankings and is currently fighting for the lead, tied at 3W-1L.
For the former Team Vitality duo, the experience has been nothing short of refreshing. They came out of a rocky year, owing their non-relegation to their ability to rank better than the disastrous Origen in the 2017 LCS spring split and the conflicting Ninjas in Pyjamas in the summer split. Back then, Vitality was unable to translate strong early-games into team play, further altering the public perception spectators had on Steeelback and Djoko, among others.
Inven Global was able to talk to the two players on the Team Vitality days, on why Giants is performing well, and more. The transcript below has been translated from French.
Q. Considering Giants Gaming’s results, and Team Vitality’s performances in the 2017 season, why is it working out on Giants and not beforehand?
Charly “Djoko” Guillard: Back in Vitality, we were players that played for ourselves. We could not play as a team, as we were extremely focused on individual skill. That’s what was causing us problems, because even in team fights or in day-to-day life, we were extremely individualistic, even if we were friends outside of the game.
Q. What was causing that, in the end?
Djoko: I think it was a matter of personalities. Cabochard, Nukeduck, VandeR and Steeelback were players who required resources gold, jungle attention. In the end, we could not settle on which part of the map we would play around. Were we going to play around bot lane or top lane? In the end, problems and tensions emerged out of that. In Giants, we can play as a team, and if we say ‘let’s play around top,’ the players will accept the fact and play accordingly.
Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi: I think that it didn’t work out in Vitality also because, in the beginning, we had tried playing with Korean imports, and it went horribly. It put us against one another. We were not in a good mindset, and we failed to move forward and improve together. We were extremely individualistic, and that is something that I realize now that we have some synergy with Giants. From all the teams that I have been in, I could not find that synergy. Because of that, I realize that we have a good roster. It’s hard to know in advance when a roster is going to work out, but we succeeded in finding the right pieces. I am happy with our performance at the moment.
Q. Regarding the Korean imports not working out in Vitality, can you tell me what the difference is between Ruin and between Hachani and GBM?
Steeelback: Ruin is rather inconspicuous compared to Hachani. Hachani wanted to control the team, and he wanted to enforce his way of playing the game – which wasn’t bad, but it didn’t necessarily fit. Ruin is more flexible as he adapts to the team’s needs. He won’t always ask for resources. That’s the biggest difference. That’s why it’s working out with Ruin.
Djoko: With Vitality, we had an unpleasant experience with GBM and Hachani, as Steeelback said. They didn’t speak English well to begin with, and communication was problematic in-game and outside of the game. At the time, Hachani came from KT Rolster, a team that had won a split in the LCK at the time, and was ‘the best support in the world.’ So, when he came to Vitality, he had the biggest track record among us, and he wanted to enforce his vision of the game. He didn’t speak English well, so when he wanted to state simple matters, he was unable to do so. In the end, it was as if he was ‘flaming’ us. It’s hard to distinguish advice from flaming all the time, so you’d sometimes take a hit, even though he just wants to help you out.
Besides that unrelated, there was this permanent pressure, when if you had a bad game, you’d get kicked out. There were lots of 50/50 events that happened. There was this all-powerful tension looming, and players struggle to deal with that. There were internal conflicts from all sides, in-game or outside of it. That’s why it didn’t work out in the end. We had too many things going on, and we could not play together because of the issues we had.
Q. I understand, now, why everyone was focusing on themselves, as much when talking about resources (by trying to show what a player can do and shine) rather than contribute to the team.
Steeelback: Exactly. Everyone tried to shine. In the end, team players shine together. You cannot always make everyone shine at once individually. Sometimes, you have to give resources to another player, and that is a must. That’s team spirit. There wasn’t any of that in Vitality because of what Djoko laid out well. Because of that, everyone focused on themselves.
Q. So, it is fair to say that predictions regarding Giants lacked this wealth of information, hence why I was completely mistaken in mine. Speaking of which, how did you react to media predictions? (This question elicited a few smiles and laughs during the answer)
Djoko: As far as predictions are concerned, whether it is LoL Esports or other media, everyone thought that we would be dead last, and that made us laugh quite a bit. We cannot take predictions seriously anyway, since anything can happen. We could be at the top or at the bottom, we wouldn’t know. But in the end, we were amused, especially since people can realize ‘hey, they aren’t as bad as we thought – heck, they could be a playoff team.’ For now, I am really happy with our performance, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself and get cocky. It’s very early in the season, but it’s the beginning of what might become a great adventure.
Steeelback: Predictions have never been in my favor, even when I joined Fnatic. We were a new team with Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “ReignOver” Yeu-jin, and people were saying that we would be seventh or eighth, but we ended up winning the split. But yeah, I can’t blame them for making predictions because they couldn’t have known, and they didn’t have the knowledge that we have. In the end, it’s alright. We focus on ourselves, on our performance. You learn not to be swayed by outside opinion.
Q. As a result, Giants is a liberating experience, especially given what happened in Vitality, and regarding predictions. Perhaps, you went into the season with even less pressure than if you were expected to perform...
Steeelback: Exactly. There is less pressure especially for Targamas and Ruin, who are new to the LCS. It might even help them to think that there are no expectations. As far as Djoko, Betsy and I are concerned, we’ve been here for a while, and we can put things into perspective. It’s always good to demonstrate that we’re here to stay and that we play well. Then again, it’s hilarious, given our results, to think that everyone thought we would rank at the bottom. I remember going on ESPN and seeing that we were the last team worldwide, behind everyone else. We laughed for a week because we couldn’t believe it! But everyone can be mistaken once in a while.
Djoko: Absolutely. There was an enormous pressure in Vitality regarding our ability to maintain our spots. In Giants, the atmosphere is absolutely different. It feels like a family; if we need a drawbar, a pillow, or a bed, Giants are ready to assist us in our day-to-day life, and give us the utmost care. That’s what allows us, in the end, to play without pressure – and even more relaxed – since even they didn’t expect us at this level when they hired us. They thought they would have a C-caliber team, not an A or B-rated team, just fight for playoffs. They’re all pleasantly surprised because nobody outside of the team thought we would play at this level. We can play without pressure.
Q. How did you build your play style especially regarding communication? I had seen Steeelback take on a prominent role in communication in the past, but I hadn’t necessarily seen that from Djoko in the Unicorns of Love and in Vitality.
Djoko: It was quite simple: we just played together. Now here’s a funny story: Giants tried us out against their previous team, and we won a lot of games. From there, we felt confident. They had been playing together for a year, and we’ve been playing together for three days, and we’re beating them already. We saw that each one of us had carry potential and shot-called, and there was no domineering personality within the team. I think we’re all in the same mindset: just play clean, play as a team, and don’t ask for too many resources.
In order to build a good playstyle, something permanent that doesn’t lend itself to inconsistency, you need to set good bases between players, where there’s no pressure when you don’t think “if I make a mistake, I’ll get flamed, or we’ll lose.” Even if we’re behind in the early-game, we know that we have a better comp, better team fighting, or a better synergy in the mid-game and late game. We don’t stretch ourselves too thin, and we peel for our back line.
Steeelback: It really depends on the players, and how they get along. When I heard what lineup Giants was outlining in tryouts, I was already best friends with Djoko from Vitality, and I already knew we’d do well together. I also knew Betsy from ROCCAT, and I was best friends with him there. I knew from the get-go that I could rely on and trust two people, and that was very important. I knew Ruin was good, but I didn’t know him as a person. Targamas was a newcomer in the French community, and that was perfect – we speak the same language, he is very young, and he wants to learn all there is to learn.
It was really hard to know whether we would all get along, but everything was on our side on that regard. We had chemistry as soon as we played a game together. I remember when we played against Giants’s former team, now on Vitality. There was this synergy that I felt was there when I was on Fnatic, but wasn’t necessarily there on the other teams in which I played. I can feel a bit of that chemistry when there’s a team fight when we rotate around the map. Even when behind, we manage to come back. When we’re ahead, we manage to play the map well. It’s really interesting to see this budding chemistry, I really missed that. I’m really happy that it’s working, and I hope that it will go on like this.
Q. Anything to add regarding the topics discussed, or anything that you want to say?
Djoko: In order to play well as a team, you need a good atmosphere – not just in-game, but outside as well. Players need to be friends, and they need to get along well with one another. Otherwise, there might be conflicts. When there is a really good atmosphere and when everyone is friendly, you perform at your best. Otherwise, you’re running straight into a wall if, every time you have a bad game, there are fights, and it keeps piling up. The LCS is a marathon, and you need everyone on the same wavelength, and to foster this positive atmosphere.
Steeelback: I absolutely agree with Djoko. A good feel and the ability to get along are very, very important. It’s really what matters the most, as once we’re all happy, we have more self-confidence. Players want to play more, help one another. That’s something teams tend to forget. Even when you put the five best players on the same team, it’s not guaranteed to succeed because you need to have chemistry in a team. One mustn’t forget that League of Legends is a team game, but people tend to forget that.
I would like to thank everyone that is supporting us. To those who send us messages: you’re making our day. I hope we’ll be able to show you a good Giants this split.
Djoko: Better smite wins the game. (laughs)
(Photo Credit: lolesports Flickr)
Disclaimer: The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.