H2K Gaming already had a good roster and some of the best macro play in European League of Legends. Then it made improvements in almost every role, including the acquisition of longtime European devotee Michael “Veteran” Archer as analyst.
What’s been most impressive to this point of the spring League Championship Series split is H2K’s ability to maintain its impressive macro play through the drastic roster changes.
Despite Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook missing three weeks, the team is still tied atop of the standings, highlighting an extremely high macro understanding and a unique situation with shared responsibilities whereby each carry threat wields the potential to burst into life when needed.
There’s a very real possibility that people initially overlooked H2K’s roster. From players in the West, Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu was arguably one of, if not the best, top laner. Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski was, when on form, a top tier jungler in the West on an underwhelming team. Ryu has always been an excellent mid laner, boasting an impressive resume and a wealth of experience.
Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou is quite simply one of the best Western talents we have ever seen, and while Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan may have been underwhelming in recent history, in a fashion similar to Jankos, his ceiling has always been high.
Considering the two former ROCCAT players were easily made to look worse because of their previous team’s performance, H2K’s lineup is special. It’s long been a top team in Europe, but now H2K is now poised to take on the world.
A stalwart member of H2K, Odoamne has been with the team since being a part of the roster that qualified for the LCS in late 2014. Season 5 was a breakout year for the Romanian who, after spending much of Season 4 as a little-known talent, earned critical acclaim as one of the few top laners that was capable of thriving in a metagame that demanded tactical understanding.
In particular, with arguably the best teleport game in Europe, H2K will continue to look to him as a guide.
Perhaps the best word to describe Odoamne is “versatile,” as not only is he adept at playing multiple styles, but he has remained at a high level throughout several different metagame shifts.
That, coupled with a diverse champion pool (eight different champions in 11 games so far this split) and impressive strategic flexibility, leaves little wonder why the top laner is one of the team’s stars.
Regarded by critics as one of the best junglers in Europe despite appearing on relatively mediocre teams, Jankos has found his way back to a familiar home. Although it’s his second run with the H2K brand, the team and the players surrounding him will surely feel familiar as they continue to stamp their mark of authority on the region.
Known in particular for his moments of genius in the early game, Jankos is known affectionately as the “first blood king,” a token of admiration from fans and critics alike who remember his dominating and proactive play. Despite suffering continued disappointments with ROCCAT, Jankos never lost his reputation.
It was only a matter of time until he landed on a strong team. Featuring some of the most impressive lanes in the West, H2K must seem like a dream come true for a jungler who has been without influential lanes for much of the past year.
Indeed, Jankos won’t benefit from only enhanced options in his lanes. A more stable environment, coupled with the proven talents around him and the macro game H2K is capable of, will allow the team to utilize his aggressive play style to control games early, especially domestically.
“We all trust Ryu … his calls are decisive and everybody listens.” – Jankos, Summoning Insight 67
Though sometimes underrated in the past, Ryu has been one of the strongest performing mid laners since his arrival in Europe. As one of the most consistent players in the region, H2K owes a lot of its success to the Korean import, who is known for calm, focused play and his proficiency on ability power champions (especially Fizz, on whom he is undefeated).
Unfortunately for his team, however, the biggest talking point surrounding Ryu has been away from the game, as visa issues forced him out of the starting lineup beginning in Week 3. The surely agonizing circumstance could’ve proven inhibiting upon his return — what if the strong start to the season faded away in the depths of visa hell? — but he displayed in Thursday’s return the familiar spark of a determined player.
Despite losing the game, Ryu showed excellent adaptation and improvisation in a difficult lane, a promising sign for the H2K faithful.
Although Marcin “SELFIE” Wolski filled the void admirably, there was an obvious disconnect when watching the team without Ryu. A large part of that is Ryu’s ability to play multiple styles, in addition to his abundance of experience playing in and around some of the best teams in the world, dating back to his days in Korea.
According to Jankos, Ryu is one of the most assertive members of the team. His return could undoubtedly catapult H2K to international success.
Understanding FORG1VEN is pretty simple: He wants to be the best. The proud Greek marksman has shown that he has the potential to be that and finds himself in the best environment he’s ever seen.
If there’s a knock on FORG1VEN, it’s that for all his talent, he has little team success to show for it. In fact, several team failings around him have earned the Greek an unfair stigma.
A polarizing character, people seem to either love or hate FORG1VEN. But there’s no denying his multiple displays of individual prowess that have firmly entrenched him as one of the best players in Europe. It might be easier to understand his blunt and stoic demeanor when realizing he’s had to contend with several controversial decisions, poor teams and disruptive environments throughout his career.
Now, finally, FORG1VEN is playing on one of the most star-studded rosters ever seen in Europe. A new chance, to be sure, but is it potentially his last true opportunity? Depending on how this season progresses, the answer to that question will become apparent. In the next nine months, we’ll see if the career of FORG1VEN will be a story of wasted talent, or the struggle of a champion.
A veteran of the scene, VandeR has seen his fair share of highs and lows. Last season, he struggled with form on ROCCAT, next to Jankos. It’s for primarily that reason people seemed to think he’d be H2K’s weak point.
But the 21-year-old has exceeded expectations so far this season. His role has been clearly defined, and the concerns over his form have been dismissed. For him, it’s a case of his team finally utilizing his skill ceiling to what seems to be its actual potential, something that never happened on ROCCAT.
Resilience and Evolution
Despite Thursday’s stumble against Team Vitality, H2K remains one of the contenders in the European LCS. The players are individually brilliant. Their chemistry has been fantastic so far. Nonetheless, despite all of the positive elements, the team is not without fault. Occasional poor individual performances alongside some messy team games highlight consistency as a major issue.
H2K cannot afford those lapses in international competition, as the best teams in the world will absolutely punish a poor showing. Whether the issues were related to the absence of Ryu or not is tough to say, but it’s obvious that overall, it has impacted the team negatively. With his return, reintegrating the Korean mid laner back to his previous form might take time.
Still, H2K in Season 6 is the European super team: Equal to North America’s Team SoloMid in terms of star power, and superior to TSM in macro play. Indeed, H2K is the European version of what TSM should have been.
There is something to be appreciated here. Almost every game they played with a full roster was sophisticated and efficient — a joy to watch. The definition of a “perfect game” often changes depending on the era, but the phrase is almost never associated with Western teams. Watching this iteration of H2K play, however, might change that dynamic.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games.