By all measures of success, Schalke’s placing at the EU LCS Spring Split did not live up to expectations. With a good deal of talent and strong staff around, they were automatically included in playoffs by most predictions before the start of the split, with a good chance to have a great run. A long time coming shot at success that legendary EU players like Tamás "Vizicsacsi" Kiss and Erlend "Nukeduck" Våtevik Holm were still owed by the God of Esports.
We all know how that ended. Schalke was edged out at the finish line. In classic Nukeduck roster fashion, they were highly regarded by other teams for their scrim performances but deemed too passive in the stage, failing to convert their practice into success.
Last week, it was revealed on a Reddit comment that Milo "Pride" Wehnes (formerly Pridestalker) would not continue as the jungler for S04. On the surface, I can see the issue. Pride is often at his best when he gets to play aggressive champions that enable his mechanics to shine. However, in a team philosophy were scaling seems to be king, it seems like a more “utility oriented” jungler that will just want to stall the game and be low econ could work better.
Without knowing the inner workings of the team, it’s impossible to conclude whether this line of development is right or wrong. Instead we will ask ourselves “With the information that can be gathered from watching the games, does this choice look reasonable from the outside?”
Yes, Schalke has a jungle problem, and not a small one. Despite often getting unexpected lane advantages or straight up just playing advantageous matchups, S04 is notoriously poor at capitalizing on neutrals and understanding what setup of jungle control suits different drafts or game states.
On their second game against GIA of the regular split, S04 was able to get the first blood on the enemy botlane, and gained double priority back combined with that of Nuckeduck’s Azir. Since the item advantage would destroy both lanes should the opponent not back, this will open a very efficient window to gain jungle control, since their opponents have to still shove the wave back before backing themselves.
S04 has a lot of things going for them right now. The jungle route is known, they have double pink ward and tempo advantage on their support, so setup should go as follows. Ward Krugs, explode blastcone and pink the inside of the dragon pit and the pixel brush. Ward behind the pit and, if possible, control enemy tribush. Shove mid and botlane as fast as possible.
The situation already looks extremely dire for Giants since their chances to defend the valuable Infernal look, at the very least, low. They have no way of telling when they should come in and smite or try to spot for it. Azir’s Emperor’s Divide and the nature of his kit make it extremely award for Giants to engage, and can easily work as a Vladimir zoning tool.
Furthermore, the combination of Caitlyn’s Yordle Snap Trap and Morgana’s Dark Binding, already powerful in lane, provide S04 with enormous pick potential on any member of the enemy team, making access to the pit extremely awkward.
Topping it all off, is the fact that Giants’ players still have to respond to the shoven waves or risk falling behind in experience against already punishing lanes. It should be apparent that, whether by minion denial, extremely high chance of getting a drake or winning fight/getting a pick if the enemy tries to contest, this is a setup that would very likely result in an advantage for Schalke.
This is as close as a team can get to a safe early game advantage without the enemy team going afk. However, if the memory of the game is still fresh in your mind you might already know how this pans out.
Schalke will never set up for this drake. Pride will go back to farming and the whole window of opportunity will banish, leaving behind a trail of now nearly useless vision.
We can see how Schalke might feel like aggressive junglers are not working for them. Even when such a profitable and low risk opportunity arises, the squad looks like they’d rather just play PVE.
This obviously hinders the possible success of aggressive junglers. Usually you would think of an aggressive jungler as someone who ganks a lot or steals camps, but these sort of objective set-ups are easier to create with very good duelists. If you choose to ignore them, it’s pointless to draft strong early game junglers at the highest level.
However, this yet isn’t the whole picture regarding Schalke’s preference for strong late game junglers. Scaling and tank junglers, most at least, also have strong engage tools.
Schalke has showcased a poor use of sidelane priority as a way to transition it into control over the game, shifting from priority oriented toplaners into heavy engagers that make them predictable and flat in style as the season went on.
This is usually bad for every team, but especially so for Schalke. Vizicsacsi is an incredibly skilled duelist that can draw a lot of resources from the enemy team due to the pressure he exerts with his splitpush. If he is relegated to Maokai duty, the best qualities he can bring into a team are mostly wasted.
Sure, having your jungler on champions that can engage is a way to address this problem, but it’s more of a symptomatic treatment than a real one. To truly be good at sidelaning, a player has to understand not only how to very effectively trade and when to all-in, but also how to set up waves to properly punish his opponent with roams as well.
On their game against Vitality, Schalke was on a position to scale against an opponent that had exposed themselves as very bad at baron setups at this point in time. When in control of the bottom lane wave, Csacsi would rather attempt to teleport flank as Cho’gath than force the enemy out with of the pit with a numbers advantage to secure control, despite the enemy being to react to the shoved wave or risk falling behind. They would end up losing the game after a bad flank resulted on a lost teamfight near the Baron pit.
At this point in time, Vizicsacsi attempting to flank the enemy team has become a bit of a meme. Schalke heavily depends on their toplaner being able to create engages, so much so that they currently hold a 5-3 record on those Maokai/Ornn/Camille most of which were played in the later weeks when this issue became more apparent. However, they sit at a disappointing 2-8 when he is on the Cho’gath, Gnar or any other toplaner that will struggle to get a good flank, even those who can in theory, if he is not properly abusing the waves.
Again, playing primary initiator in the jungle could be a solution to the issue, but this is closer to a band aid fix than a real solution. Ultimately, the goal of a team should be to get the most out of the players it has, and lack of understanding of game concepts is something you need to ultimately address if you don’t want the issue to persist.
If these are the motivations for removing Pride I have to seriously question them, as it is apparent from the outside that it is the fundamentals and not the players who are to blame. On the other hand, if he was having communication issues that kept the team from developing into these concepts, I must praise the choice from the Schalke organization. I, for one, am eager to find out which one it was.
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Disclaimer : The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.