Giants Gaming qualified for the spring split of next year’s European League Championship Series (EU LCS) after a difficult five-game series against their Challenger Series rivals, Schalke 04. Following the set, mid laner Daniele “Jiizuké” di Mauro and Coach André Guilhoto spoke with Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about the stylistic clash with Schalke, the Galio pick, and leaving Challenger Series behind.
Kelsey Moser: I’ve been wanting to ask you guys about the Ekko all split. It’s an interesting pick and uncommon in the meta, but you’ve forced bans on it. Where do you pick it situationally?
Daniele “Jiizuké” di Mauro: Mainly it’s against Corki and Syndra, but for me, since I was kind of a one trick before, it’s always a comfortable pick in case they ban me out.
André Guilhoto: I mean, I think there’s also another reason Ekko, to be honest, is only not meta because it’s a bad tank killer, so since also Schalke, in this comp, picked the Jayce early, picked the Corki early, and the Jarvan —
DdM: Yeah, pretty much that.
AG: –we were completely fine.
DdM: Yes, it’s actually completely fine. The way they picked Jhin against us, we could pick Ekko because there were so many squishies.
AG: Nah, but Ekko was before Jhin.
AG: Yeah, it was before. We picked it because we saw the Jayce top. And the Corki, and it’s a really good matchup, and this guy is a god at this matchup, pretty much.
KM: Speaking of the Jayce and these other kinds of picks like Jax that Schalke were bringing today, they used this kind of strategy pretty consistently in the Monkeys set as well except for Game 5. Did that last game throw you off at all, or were you pretty confident they’d play these 1-4 or 1-3-1 comps again today?
AG: No, I wasn’t expecting them to play team fight because I know that SmittyJ disrespects Ruin a lot, so he would always want a matchup where he could pressure and punish. His own play style shows that when he TPs when the wave is around the middle instead of getting TP advantage, he really shows that he went into the series thinking “I’m going to 1-v-1.” So I always had the consideration that they will always want a split-pusher. The only time they didn’t want a split-pusher was the Gnar game, but that’s because they just wanted to take Gnar away from us.
KM: Other teams have said lane-focused matchup play might be the kind of thing that works really well in scrims but falls apart on stage. Is that your experience, or do you have insight into why that might be the case?
DdM: I mean, of course it’s based on snowball. They pick Jayce — last series, they picked Elise four times. So I guess you can pull it out, but if it doesn’t work, you just have to stick with team-fighting comp. They picked Galio, and they used like zero ults. I think they used once on the second tower bot where Gilius had the idea to dive them. I was like “Oh, they have Galio. OK.”
But, for example, our game — the first game with Galio, I used zero ults at 15 minutes. But then, going into the next game where I picked Galio again, I just said “I know we are onstage, but we need to make plays on Galio, otherwise we don’t use the potential.”
Actually I think this is the main reason they lost the game where they picked Galio. Because they didn’t work with it.
AG: If it’s scrim champs, I think it’s a bit more that because in scrims you are always willing to do a bit more to test your limits: to fight. Those champions are champions that really rely on skirmishes or laning phase. 2-v-2s. Pickoffs. 1-v-1 potential. Greediness. On stage, everyone is more focused, everyone is more controlled. No one wants to be the reason we lose the game with the risky play, so the champion loses power because, after laning phase, if the Jayce goes even with the Cho’Gath, Cho’Gath will not care. Since they weren’t proactive with that (with Jarvan – Jayce, they can only kill him pre-six — after that, if he has more than one or two stacks, Jayce becomes useless).
DdM: If someone is 1-v-9 in scrims, you’re just free-minded, open-minded, and you just do your plan. Then, onstage, it just gets “But can I do that?” and then you don’t do that.
AG: Can I get counter-jungled? If I get counter-jungled, we both die, so I will farm my camp.
KM: You also mentioned the Galio. Galio wasn’t something you pulled out really before this week. It felt a little bit like they didn’t expect you to play it. Was it something you prepared or hid for this week?
DdM: I played Galio since the start of the rework, but there was never the chance to pick it. Going into this series, we actually knew that they knew that we didn’t pick Galio. As much as the Morgana — they were two surprise picks they didn’t think we could pull off. Of course, they were surprising picks. I think no one was ready for AP Galio.
AG: We played Galio for a while, and we actually intended to bring it either against WAR or in the Promotion Tournament. I remember, against WAR, they didn’t want to do Galio because their champion pool was all good against Galio because they want to play scaling mids. And, against NiP, we knew that Orianna was a really high priority, so we focused more on Orianna.
It was kind of fortunate to us that we managed to hide Galio. It wasn’t intended like “Let’s never play Galio so we can play it in finals against Schalke,” but we know that, going into this week, they wouldn’t expect it.
KM: Speaking of the AP Galio, that’s a bit of an unconventional thing. What was the reasoning for AP Galio in this series?
DdM: I would say it’s a lot of good into Corki because he can’t burst you down in lane after your first TP, so it gives you more pressure, and he can’t just free farm like he would with the tank Galio, no? To be honest, at the start of the season, me and Magifelix were always playing Galio AP: rushing Haunting Guise, Liandry’s, and then either full tank or try to get RoA as well. Something like that.
We had Maokai, Alistar, Gragas, and I felt like we had no damage. I just said “I go AP Galio,” just like that. And I knew it was good into Corki too.
KM: When Ryu was here for Rift Rivals, he said he encountered someone in EUW solo queue playing AP Galio.
DdM: Yeah, probably me or Magifelix.
KM: One more question about the Galio. There was an interesting exchange of TP. In the second game, Caedrel used the Teleport to get back into lane earlier and ended up punishing you, then you did the same thing in the third game. Could you talk about the importance of TP in the Corki and Galio matchup?
DdM: Backs for Galio are either 350 or 750 for Dark Seal or Dark Seal Doran. Corki instead wants kind of full item (or Long Sword and Magic Mantel, that’s what he ended up doing). I think we faked so many times that we will go in fog and TP lane, but we kind of wanted our backs, so we stayed in the lane and just farm.
For example, I think I got Dark Seal Doran, and he had Null-Magic Mantel Refillable or Null-Magic Mantel Long Sword, I don’t remember. But, for that back, my back was better, so my TP worked better than his. He really wanted to get a Sheen or Hexdrinker, but it’s always like that. Early, whoever has more pressure in lane gets the better back. If he managed to pressure me, and I don’t get 350, my lane is over already. But if I managed to get him at a bad back (of course, I’m Galio), he will have four minutes that he doesn’t have a good back, so he will lose CS in mid.
KM: One interesting dynamic between you guys and Schalke that you’ve already highlighted a little bit is that they are much more likely to put pressure top. Your team is much more likely to prioritize dragon fights and get pressure bottom. Is this something that is good for the meta or good for your team more generally?
AG: I think it’s a style good for the meta, and we see it generally. I saw all the teams here [in Promotion] speaking about 2-v-2 top and all that, but I think it’s more because Shook was always a jungler known to camp top. Kikis and Amazing came together from Fnatic Academy. SmittyJ and Memento are really close friends, like he said in the interview, so top — I don’t think it’s the meta. All tanks will end up scaling all carries, in my opinion, except Camille. I think Camille is the only last good survivor.
The fact that you can prepare for bot where you can put your support roaming way more, putting on fog — something we did the last game, putting Thresh on fog, giving a side for mid laner to play. Then just getting the bot turret early — or as early as we can so we can, after that, rotate to Herald and get Herald priority. I think it’s a better way to go in this current meta than just top, top, top because they will get out-scaled. I mean, maybe that can work at this level.
If we see Korea, it’s 100 percent mid priority and bot side (because they only play tanks), but maybe, in these low tier teams (LCS, CS), that can work because teams just don’t know how to play against split-push. It doesn’t mean that meta is the best. In my opinion, it isn’t, so the team will play a bit more bot side oriented.
DdM: Of course Jayce top, if he dies once, then the game is over, so the jungler has to play on top side all the time. For our case, as he said, mid lane needs a side. So I guess you can contest top vision, but that’s not a certainty that you get that vision because maybe they have better jungler matchup. Get bot, and bot and mid play aggro. I don’t know if it’s right for the meta, but it works.
We are usually at their tower anyway in bot.
AG: Yeah, Upset got wrecked.
KM: There were some interesting tweets going into this series. I believe you called this the “real game rematch.” You suggested you weren’t in top form for the Giants vs Schalke series in CS regular season. Would you want to talk about this a little bit?
AG: Oh yes, I do.
DdM: I will go first. For me, it was the week before Schalke. We said to ourselves we have an advantage. We have one more week before anyone because we have Rank 1 secured. The only thing we could play for was the perfect split, but we didn’t really care. We cared, but not that much. We just practice one more week for what we should play in playoffs. We didn’t prepare against Schalke at all, and for me, back when I played, I wasn’t feeling nervous or anything. It was like playing solo queue or — I don’t know how to — you know there is like something you feel in your stomach when you are nervous that you play — you know it is a serious game, let’s say it. But that day, I hadn’t. So I felt like yeah, I played for nothing.
Every pro player should play every game 100 percent. I agree on that, like Memento said. But that day, we were playing for nothing. Meanwhile, today we were playing for LCS. So we gave our best.
AG: I mean, I don’t agree with Memento. If he says that, if a team doesn’t take all games series, we can call them unprofessional, then we can call every team in LCS on last week almost unprofessional.
Sometimes, you just make choices that will benefit your team. It was a choice that we made, and if we manage to reach the fourth week and make that choice, it’s because we were better than Schalke until there. And we were. That’s why we were Rank 1 already. It’s not like — if they beat us, they surpass us. No, they had two draws that we had wins. Of course, at that point, we were better than Schalke. The thing is, we preferred to look to playoffs because we had really limited champion pool and extend the champion pools during that week instead of winning against Schalke. If Schalke can’t understand that, then I really don’t care.
The result is here. The only games that they won, were the games that we tried to leave our comfort zone, and the Elise-Camille snowball is not something we are that used to playing because we prefer to play Gilius with engagers. The Orianna blind was a cheese we tried to pull of because we had prepared Vayne into Rakan Xayah, but they last-picked Xayah, so everything kind of fell apart. And if we had picked Caitlyn there instead of Orianna, they would lose 3-1.
We proved today that we are better than Schalke. That series, that 2-0 that they gave us, it’s already forgotten. But Memento cannot really say that every professional player needs to take all games serious because, on last week of LCS, teams did the same. And they did it so they would feel more relaxed to go into playoffs. That’s how it goes.
DdM: Even Misfits played (troll) as a playoffs team, so.
AG: They 3-0’d UoL trolling the last game.
KM: Going forward, in the LCS, Giants doesn’t have the best history of success as an organization. They’ve had a couple of fairly good splits, but generally speaking, this isn’t an organization you think of as placing top half. What is your ambition as this new Giants roster?
AG: If we keep this roster, I actually think that we have every possibility to reach to playoffs. The reason is — we started this split with first game casters “This team will be last place for sure.” Four rookies, two bottom LVP players. Coach — bottom LVP. Gilius losing whatever. Ruin coming from Nerv failing open qualifier. And Jactroll that trolled. Intentionally fed the closed qualifiers. So of course, no one expected it, but from the scrim results, I think we would be a playoff team.
There’s something that rookie teams have that other teams don’t have — we actually have fun playing. We have fun playing together. That’s the reason why we’re here. No one is forced to do anything, they just actually like to play the game together. If someone hears our comms, on the fifth game, we’re being able to give some jokes —
DdM: We’ve ff’d the game? *laughs*
AG: No, I’m talking about — in the situation where it is a fifth game, you know, and you’re able to say some jokes just goes to show how much each one of these guys individually and together can improve as a team. I actually think that we can reach really, really high. Of course, it depends on if we keep this roster or not.
KM: A little bit on Jiizuké’s history. I know there has been some gossip about your time on Team Forge. Is there anything you wanted to address about that?
AG: Fuck the Mayweathers.
DdM: I started my career with Forge. I just picked the first team that offered me a gaming house since I couldn’t train at home. I really wanted to play full time League of Legends because I wanted to do it really bad. Yeah, we play Open Qualifier, Challenger Series Qualifier, then we get to Challenger Series, and after two games, as you know, I got benched by Eika.
About that season, I wasn’t experienced, I didn’t know many things, but I had mechanics — that’s what I could offer to the team. I had mechanics, I had insane team-fighting and stuff like that. Was it the best choice to bench me? I’m still of the idea that, if they kept me, even if I had less experience, we would go playoffs for sure. But I don’t know what more — if we could do it or not. If you saw the scrims me and GAP — the ADC — we were gods in team fights. That meta was Viktor or Ryze mid, and GAP was on Sivir or Lucian like — we were just gods on team fighting. We had a really good support (Hiiva), he was shot-calling and carrying fights with Alistar Thresh.
Mimic actually — he started really good. He was one of the best tops. He was raping Ruin like nothing. We played SK, and Ruin was on SK. He was actually raping Ruin in lane, but then Challenger Series, he fell off a bit.
AG: But then you had Taikki.
DdM: Then we had Taikki.
I don’t know, pretty much, that’s what I think about Forge. If I didn’t get benched, we could make playoffs.
AG: Yeah, maybe if you didn’t get benched, you wouldn’t get LCS.
DdM: But from that bench, I could play 20 solo queues a day. At the start, I felt really bad, but after two, three days, I said I just pump solo queue. I got to Rank 1. Then really, I had motivation, and I felt like I could improve every day. I wasn’t really spamming one champion or two champions, I was playing five, six, or seven in solo queue.
I think Forge, if they didn’t want to harm me — I have to say it right.
AG: Hurt you?
DdM: No, no, no. I want to say that even if the bench should have been harm for me, it made me stronger in the end. I improved a lot from that. So I don’t have regrets or hard feelings. I still talk to them and stuff like that.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games