SK Gaming have gone against the majority of predictions before the spring split. In fact, some may think they did the unthinkable, when they captured their playoff quarterfinal spot on Week 9.
However, their level of play nearly led to their qualification being a foregone conclusion. After a relatively slow start, they rose as one of the strongest teams in the second half of the split and impressed onlookers and fans alike.
Following their qualification to the playoffs after their tiebreaker victory against Schalke 04, Inven Global spoke to the team's AD carry, Juš "Crownshot" Marušič. Below is the full transcription of the interview, with minor edits:
There was definitely some relief for you after making it to the playoffs. You played three games in the first and last week – dealing with all the craziness, how do you feel?
It's kind of stressful, for sure. But honestly, I wasn't feeling that nervous. My heart was pounding after the quadra kill, if I'm being honest; when we started Nashor, I was like: let me [take the] plant! But after we got Nashor, I knew it was pretty much won. So, relief. It feels good to show up, since a lot of people were counting us out. I'm not sure what to say!
A lot of people counted you out before the season began, not being sure that SK could communicate...
Yeah. A lot of people were questioning the pickups, saying [things like:] "They can only win with Selfmade carries," so it's good to prove people wrong, for sure.
In a way, the meta massively helped SK; although, even Pirean was playing things like LeBlanc to great effect. You could see the makings of a good season, at least as soon as 9.3 was out. All of a sudden, you could go hypercarries bot and all.
The thing with MAD Lions last year was that I was mainly playing Varus and Ezreal, and Caitlyn in the spring split. But I was playing those two mainly, but I think I can play anything. I think we just find an easier time winning games if I'm on hyper-carries, since I guess we're good on team fights – I'm not really sure. It's still kind of weird: I don't think we're that good as a team still. We're good enough for playoffs, but there's still a lot to improve on, for sure.
I mean, you have a young team that still has a lot to learn. But it's a young team that still made it to the playoffs – and not in a fluke-like way.
We went 3-0, and we definitely deserved this. We won everything we had to win. After winning against Rogue, I felt that there was no way we could make it to the playoffs like that; we almost lost, and I think we should have lost if they were more decisive at doing Nashor – it was free for sure. It feels good that we stepped up on the last day.
There have been a lot of changes, to be fair. Even Brokenshard coming in mid-season must have helped quite a bit.
The whole atmosphere changed after we did the coaching change, and it got much better. It got way more pleasant to play and scrim. It was way more enjoyable to go to scrims and to work everyday and to improve. Everybody started working better with each other.
What did you learn from that change? What would you rather work with atmosphere-wise? What made the whole thing fun?
It's just better if the mindset is positive, not quiet after losses and with awkward silences. I don't like that, [and] I can imagine most people don't. We just had way more jokes in-game, and in champion select, than before. Before, we weren't really allowed to [do that.] It was not encouraged. But now, we're way more relaxed, and it shows in our gameplay too.
Yeah. If you relax on-stage, you can kind of own the space instead of being like: "Oh no! We're on stage. We need to be super serious and change everything–" But at the very least, right now, you seem to be more confident with that change.
Exactly. You just realize that it's the same game you play for I don't know how many hours – 6000? It's all the same. If you execute stuff in scrims, you can execute it on stage. You just have to be confident in yourself and in the calls. That's the main thing: Confidence.
Confidence and some familiarity as well.
Of course, it's better if you play [compositions] that you know how to play, because that also leads into confidence. But yeah, [against Schalke 04,] just knowing: I'm good, we're in this. If we do this, this and this, we win for sure. Just siege, peel for me and Zoe – even after we got caught. We know we can push, and they can't really win fights. Just play from range.
Actually, how was it at MAD Lions as far as the stage environment was concerned? [E.N.: Werlyb, Selfmade and Crownshot played on MAD Lions in 2018]
We were pretty relaxed most of the time, since we played a lot on LANs in front of big crowds. We knew we had good players, especially in the spring split when we were so dominant. It was so easy in the LVP actually, so we didn't feel that much pressure. Overall, it was kind of the same [in the LEC], and the difference is that the players are better. So, we have to be a bit more alert. We can't make the same mistakes in EU Masters and the LVP; we get punished way more.
The joke [part on stage] is pretty much the same. We were joking a lot obviously, but it's a different kind of jokes now, with the Koreans here. Since Kanani [E.N.: one of SK's assistant coaches] was there, and since Werlyb and Oskar [Selfmade] were there... Oskar was always joking around a lot. It was kind of the same.
It showed in our games as well: We're always relaxed. We are rarely nervous.
So, the change early on might have made you think: "What's going on?" There was a different culture being set up.
The Koreans needed some time to adapt to the culture – Pirean, especially – but he's really comfortable with us now, with our jokes and the way we talk. It's really nice to see.
Speaking of him, you had to integrate him into the lineup inside and outside Summoners' Rift. I don't know how fluent he is in English, or if he has the same thing as Ryu – when he doesn't talk much outside of the LEC stage, but then pops off on stage.
He talks out of stage and on stage. He's a really good mid laner individually, especially in scrims – Top 3 for sure. On stage, we sometimes have communication problems, and they will be solved with time. But today [Week 9 day 2], it was good. He's slowly but quite steadily warming up to us, and being communicative and more demanding with his needs in-game. It's nice to see him [doing that]. I think we're finally clicking!
You said that you felt relieved at making the playoffs, rather than being happy.
It probably hasn't settled in – that we got into the playoffs on our first split. But I wasn't really sure what to expect from Week 9: scrims weren't going that well, if I'm being honest – 50/50. But I was confident in myself: if I play like I know I can, I will carry for sure. It was happening in scrims too. There were specific champions that we were playing, combos that I knew: I would carry with two or three items whatever happens.
I'm glad we executed it properly, and I'm glad I'm actually having carry performances in the LEC.
If you had to say one thing to sum up the whole season, what would you say?
It's kind of a rollercoaster! 0-2 weeks, 1-1 weeks, 2-0 weeks, 0-2 again, coaching change, meta changes, good scrims and bad scrims. But the journey is always really fun, and I think I'm improving as a player for sure. I'm just excited to see where we can go as a team, and [where I can] individually as well.
My dream is to go to Worlds and play against Teddy, Uzi, Ruler, Doublelift, whoever. I will keep chasing that goal until I reach it. If I reach it in my rookie year, excellent. My dream is to play against players I look up to and learn from them.
I would like to thank all of the fans, and I really appreciate all of the support – your messages before and after games. Even after we had bad weeks, it's really nice to see. I just hope that you keep supporting us, and I will keep working hard to make you proud.