The Mysterious Monkeys have begun to separate themselves from other bottom tier teams in the European League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS). The inclusion of Fnatic Academy players Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek and Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider has given the Monkeys a stronger jungle-top identity. Following the Monkeys’ win against Team ROCCAT, Kikis spoke with Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about Gnar counters, the value of veteran players, and the respect he receives from his teammates on Monkeys.
Kelsey Moser: It sounds like, going into this series, you expected Phaxi’s Gnar, and you had some counters prepared for that. Could you talk a little bit about the thought process behind picks in Games 1 and 2?
Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek: Yeah, I expected that Phaxi’s gonna spam Gnar a lot because he’s a Gnar player, and Gnar even got buffed this patch, so I was ready for whatever bans they’re going to throw at me. They banned Yasuo, which is a Gnar counter, but it’s kind of hard to pull off Yasuo onstage, so I wasn’t even sure if we’d even go for it because we didn’t practice it much. But yeah, I had Akali prepared because it’s just a good matchup. I’m going to lose a few CS in the early game, and then out-scale him really hard on split-push. Even if they ban that after some games, there’s other things that are fine into Gnar like Jayce and Renekton.
KM: I remember in Game 1 when you were playing Jayce, there was the swap that you guys initiated, and then you TP’d bot soon after. Could you talk about the decision-making in that process?
MS: When that play happened, I made the call to go for the top, go for the turret, and then go for Herald after. We knew bottom is slow-pushing to them, so I just decided to TP there to not lose some farm. Because with slow-push, I’m going to lose like maybe even 12 CS. It’s like two or three waves. When I go there — because the other option is just staying and helping my team for Herald — but they punish me for that, so it was actually a bad call for me to go for it. I thought it was more beneficial for me to get the farm and slow the game down a bit, but I should have stayed top, and I should have made sure my team doesn’t get in trouble, and we can actually get the Herald ourselves. We lost Herald, and they used it.
KM: There is a lot of emphasis from Mysterious Monkeys on top-jungle play. It seemed like ROCCAT was trying to make trades in mid and bot. Some teams I’ve spoken with have said they might move away from highly prioritizing top lane counter-picks. What do Monkeys value about it?
MS: With how the meta is — or, at least, how I perceive it for my play style — a lot of counter picks to most (if not all) of the champions — with me and Maurice having synergy for playing like in Fnatic Academy before and we are good friends, and we just get along really well. And it’s in game. We are most of the time on the same page, and it actually works because it’s kind of hard. I don’t think anyone can (beat) us 2-v-2 (top-jungle synergy). Pridestalker tried to makes plays on the other side of the map, but in some games — like second game, we didn’t even play much to top. I was mostly just farming, so it was mostly 1-v-1, but I think this strategy is good now to snowball top because you can get turret, you can get Herald, and with how tanks are weak itemization-wise, and how they get — they lose lane, and they even lose mid game. Like they out-scale some picks maybe at three or four items. So I think that’s good strat.
KM: Is it sometimes difficult to play split-pushing tops with all of the champions that can engage mid instead like top lane Jarvan IV and others?
MS: Split-push was never easy to execute because you need to be really patient as a team. Really good coordination and have good discipline. In the Jayce game, I was calling my team to just not fight, to just back off and let me get the turrets. It’s kind of hard in the heat of the game. They just run for the team fight. We could have gotten more out of split-push, but we weren’t coordinated enough. I think with how much engage is there, it just really depends on team comps, because Jayce doesn’t need to split-push, for example, only. He can group with the team. And he’s fine in team fights. With champions like Fiora and a really fast-paced game like Unicorns of Love, for example, have, it’s actually hard to execute the split-push, and it can be punished if not done properly.
KM: You mentioned you and Amazing’s dynamic. A lot of the narrative for Monkeys has kind of focused on the two of you coming in. As a duo you have a leadership presence and help define how the team is playing. How much of that narrative do you think matches what’s going on, and how would you characterize the dynamic itself?
MS: I think people undervalue how much veterans bring to the team. Me and Maurice, since we played the game for so long, and Monkeys didn’t really have a player who was really experienced or who could take the lead, I think both of us knew a lot inside the game and outside the game. Outside the game, we try to help the guys out with how to contain tilt and not get frustrated and how to improve and how to be more of a team player instead of a solo queue player.
Inside the game, we make clear calls and try to get the team on the same page. It depends on the game. Sometimes I am not speaking much in game, I am just doing my own, but some games I know exactly what to do, I just tell the team. Like in the last game when I was playing Renekton, I was just shot-calling, making sure everything is clean and everyone is on the same page. So yeah, I think us as a duo brings a lot to the team, and usually I think the best team structure is 2-3 veterans and 2-3 rookies.
KM: I know Cozq and Yuuki have been in the scene a long time, is there a huge difference then for LCS level experience?
MS: I think it’s much, much different. Let’s say a person plays for five years in Challenger Series compared to two years of LCS. The LCS player will still have more experience because it grows you not only as a player, but as a person to be more mature, be more calm, and just be a better individual. All the things that are really needed at the top level of the game, you can only really get from LCS because in CS it’s both that the scene is — less serious, I guess, and they don’t take everything as seriously as LCS players and LCS organizations do. If someone never played LCS, he still needs to learn. It doesn’t matter age or maturity or anything, really.
KM: We’ve seen other teams replace rookies for veterans. What are a few things that come to your mind that you think would really be helpful for rookies to know in their first split of LCS, for example?
MS: I think it’s mostly growing as a person. Most of them — when I started as well, when everyone starts — usually they’re a young age that didn’t really wear boots outside to the real world, let’s say. Taking care of stuff themselves and really communicating. I think one of the biggest things is how you communicate and how you present yourself when there’s stuff that you’re frustrated about or you need and think someone should do because a lot of rookie players tend to say something in an aggressive way. “Why didn’t you gank mid?” instead of “I think you should have come around and ganked mid.” I think there’s a huge difference in stuff like this that other people can get frustrated about.
Other than that, I think it’s learning that it’s a team game, and you need to make sacrifices because there’s a lot of tendency that people take from solo queue. They’re used to thinking every farm is for themselves. A good example is jungle makes play top side, so bottom should just even lose a few CS if they’re getting pressured. Just don’t die, but they just want to make a play and kill an enemy. So they just do that and will get punished. Not always, but overall people get punished for that. It’s mostly thinking how to sacrifice a wave, how to sacrifice farm, how to be a better team player overall.
KM: As a last question, what is the biggest difference from your perspective between G2 Kikis and Mysterious Monkeys Kikis?
MS: More trust and confidence boost, in a way. More trust and more respect from teammates. On G2, me being a tank player was really big meme. Towards the end, I was playing like Irelia for games. It was mostly that they didn’t really believe in me as a player — that I could both play carries and face off against like Korean top laners. That I just didn’t have it in me. Here, I have more respect. People listen to me. They know if they play around me, I’m going to get ahead because I’m a good player both tank-wise and just all-around carry player.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/Slingshot illustration