Team Vitality's 2018 season was one of the most exciting storylines of the year. The young, aggressive European side played the game on a knife's edge, skirmishing aggressively and frequently long before it was the ideal way to play the game. This do-or-die style, backed with Vitality's notorious confidence, led to some of the most exciting performances of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship.
In the driver's seat of Team Vitality's joyride is Daniele "Jiizuke" di Mauro. The rookie Mid Laner was a relative unkown from Italy before completely mopping the floor with the rest of Europe for the first half of spring. Team Vitality has only one speed — full throttle, and the team is at its best when Jiizuke is dazzling onlookers through impressive displays of individual mechanical prowess.
Jiizuke has had one of the finest rookie seasons in recent memory and earned himself a spot at All-Star 2018 in Las Vegas. In the middle of the event, the Italian Stallion sat down with Inven Global to reflect upon his year and look ahead towards finishing what he started in 2018.
I'm at All-Star 2018 with Jiizuke. Congratulations on a phenomenal rookie season. How do you feel about representing Europe at All-Stars?
It's definitely an honor that in my first year I managed to go to All-Stars. When I was asked to come as the 3rd EU player, I couldn't believe it. I'm really grateful to Riot Games for the opportunity and I hope I'm giving a good show to the fans that voted for me.
What I like about this event is that it gives players a chance to relax in an international setting. How does the atmosphere differ at All-Star 2018 when compared to the 2018 World Championship?
Worlds is super serious. Everyone wants to just go forward and win every game, so you scrim daily and practice a lot. For All-Stars, everything is more fun. No one is really practicing during the day or learning the meta. On the day of 1v1 or 2v2 matches, obviously players are thinking about what to do, but it's still not the same mindset as the World Championship.
I've been talking to a lot of pro players, which is kind of awesome. You don't get to do this at all at Worlds, or even during EU LCS. Here, I get to talk to all the players from every region and it's kind of fun to get updated on everyone's situation.
Are there specific players that you've gotten to know better?
I've talked to Peanut a lot. I've talked to a lot of people and been pretty much everywhere! *laughs*
This event has been a lot of fun, but I want to talk about Worlds. Team Vitality proved that confidence can pay off, but unfortunately it ended up not going your way in the end. What was your personal demeanor before your first World Championship?
Whenever I go into a competitive match, my goal is always to perform and give it my best, so I leave the game without any regrets. I played really aggressive in every game and left no regrets on the World stage. In the end, I think we just played badly as a team. Both Cloud9 games were in our hands, but we couldn't do it.
We deserved to be stuck in groups. We would have had a chance to get out of groups if Gen.G had beaten RNG, but at that point, I was hoping for RNG to win. I wanted to get out on our own merit!
I'm proud of my individual performance at Worlds. I was targeted a lot by Gen.G in our second game against them, and I couldn't really do much and played pretty poorly. The other five games, however, I gave one of my best performances. I watched the replays afterwards and was like, "Is this me?!"
That's a well-balanced perspective to have, especially after your first year of competitive play at the highest level. Do you have any personal goals for 2019?
I want to finally go to the Finals in a domestic split. This past year, we were in the 3rd place match in both EULCS playoffs. We finished in 4th and then 3rd, but both times it felt like more of a "warm-up" before the Finals. When you go to the Finals, the stadium is filled with people. In the third place match, if the stadium is only a thirty or forty percent...it's kind of a bad feeling.
If we keep following last year's trend as a team, we will get 2nd in the 2019 LEC Spring Split, and then we will win the 2019 LEC Summer Split *laughs* I hope to win the 2019 LEC Spring Finals and go to MSI, and of course, Worlds again. I want to give my team the ability to have the confidence that we can make it.
Team Vitality recently signed Mowgli to be your starting Jungler. Have you had the chance to see him or play with him yet?
I was in South Korea for the past month, so I've duo queue'd with Mowgli many times. Also, when we bootcamped in Korea this past May, we got to visit the Afreeca Freecs house and got to know each other. We got to talk to the Afreeca players and later, we were duoing a bit.
At Worlds, I stayed for a bit after we were eliminated, and we got to talking. He's a really good Jungler, and I'm really excited to play competitive matches with him.
Team Vitality has always marched to the beat of its own drum. Is there any specific team you're looking out for in the 2019 LEC?
What we learned last year is 'names are not everything' so I'm not looking to play against any specific team. Even the weakest-looking team with no names and rookies could be the best team next season. For example, last year I was rated the worst Mid Laner in EU LCS before anybody saw me playing. They thought that we weren't a playoff team and that we were going to lose every game.
Then we surprised everyone and after a few weeks, everyone was saying "Oh, these guys are top 3." Prejudice and opinions before the season starts are useless. You actually have to see people play on stage to know what they are capable of.
Thanks so much for the interview Jiizuke, I hope you enjoy the rest of your time at All-Star 2018. Is there anything you'd like to say to wrap up your first competitive season?
I want to thank all my fans, especially for voting for me in All-Stars. It's amazing to be here and an insane experience that I'm very grateful for, so, thank you.