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Smittyj on comparing his time on Schalke 04 to his past experiences: “I didn’t behave differently… All the players were looking forward to qualifying. It was an easy time working with them.”

SmittyJ says Schalke 04 was a better experience than his past League of Legends teams
SmittyJ helped Schalke 04 qualify for the EU LCS. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

On the final day of the European League of Legends Championship Series promotional tournament, Schalke 04 defeated Ninjas in Pyjamas 3-0 to qualify for the LCS. Following the match, top laner Lennart “Smittyj” Warkus spoke with Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about the team’s dynamic and environment as well returning to the LCS after a year away.

Kelsey Moser: No Jayce, Camille, or Jax today. What prompted this decision?

Lennart “Smittyj” Warkus: This decision came from yesterday’s series. The first game, I had pretty good Jayce game. Then we played two Jax games and lost both vs. tanks and lost both games because we fucked up early game and misplayed and couldn’t get past the early stages. That’s why we chose to go for easy champs like just tanks. And if enemy makes a mistake, it’s instantly over.

KM: Is that the biggest thing, then, that the execution was much more complicated with the comps you were running yesterday?

LW: For sure. Today we just played a lot easier comps that were really straightforward, and since no team in this tournament plays any good, we can’t execute those Jayce comps. We could only vs. worse teams than that because they would make more mistakes, and they would let me do my thing. Game 1 yesterday, as well, they had the Galio/Camille comp, and they never used it. We always checked “Where is Galio? Where is Camille?” And Camille was alone, then she just uses Jayce. It’s all about the execution being so bad in these Challenger games.

KM: Were you a bit surprised that NiP actually banned the Jax the first two games?

LW: Kind of, but I can see like Profit — I think, I’m not sure what his exact champion pool is, but he didn’t seem to play champions like Maokai or something that are decent vs. Jax in the early game and can survive really easily. We will fuck up once, for sure, and then it’s over.

KM: Is the adaptation difficult? Most of the split you played around top, but in some of these games a lot of your vision was redistributed around bot. How do you have to play differently?

LW: It wasn’t too different for me since, onstage, it’s very easy to farm next to each other. Enemy would always go for the 100 percent play, not for the 60 percent, so it’s pretty to play top onstage if you have a decent matchup. All you have to do is survive, and if bot lane works out, which it did today, it’s really easy way to win the game. Our bot lane was also way better than theirs, so we chose to play to bot lane.

KM: The drafts were, as sprattel might say, “interesting,” and as a result, your team managed to get pushing lanes pretty consistently across the board. In these situations, does it create more stress around vision control, or is it just uncomplicated to play it out?

LW: I think, for us, it gets easy because on side lane, I really — it’s pretty hard to kill me, but I will always play accordingly. I think it just became easier when we have those pushing lanes. We can close games out fairly decent, compared to other teams, when we have a lead. Having pushing lanes makes everything a lot easier for us.

KM: Going into this split from last split, you initially had a more difficult time in the EU CS. Commentators kind of looked at this roster and said “OK, there are major downgrades.” Were you really confident in this team’s ability to make it back?

LW: I think so, yes. I was obviously not going to expect as much as last time, since we had arguably better players, but I think it turned out actually just as good, I would say. We didn’t — we just had to fix the mistakes that we were not preparing enough and getting too cocky because obviously we were better than them always, last split. It’s a lot different to play onstage. We just prepared better and then showed off big time compared to last split.

KM: I’ve heard it said that you guys do well in scrims. Is it a kind of double take when you do something in scrims, and it doesn’t work on stage? How do you fix it quickly?

LW: Yeah, we do well in scrims, that’s true. But we also don’t scrim the top, top teams, I would say. But overall, personally from experience, I can always tell if something would work on stage and if something won’t work on stage. Like, that’s just down to being experienced, and Memento has experience too. So it was easy for us around top side to see what works and not. I think for the newer guys, they improved a lot, and I think we could help them a lot, too.

KM: As someone who has been in the LCS before and has a lot of younger players on the team, do you feel like that increases your level of responsibility?

LW: To some extent, yes, but I think overall, it’s not that important. Of course, a team with five rookies is going to have a harder time improving than when you have experienced players, but we still had a good mixture. Like Upset was already pretty experienced. He learned a lot from VandeR too, and he could teach Norskeren. Caedrel and Memento could work together well.

KM: Obviously, yesterday, you lost to Giants. What was the atmosphere like last night when you went home? Were you able to immediately talk about the matches?

LW: Yeah, it wasn’t that much of a breakdown, I would say. Everyone knew we had a second chance today, and Giants was the best team, I would say, we could face out of all of those. We still could have won against them if we didn’t do some really, really bad mistakes. We were kind of fine about it.

KM: When I talked to Memento, he said you make a lot of the calls. You’re the one who is kind of shot-calling people around in some way or pointing out mistakes. How would you describe your role overall?

LW: I do quite a lot of shot-calling when I am on side lane. I have to communicate a lot to my team what I can do, what I can’t do. I would say I’m more of a leader, but onstage, sometimes they get too like — they get too lost, I would say. Then I just tell them what to do, but this doesn’t happen very often. They mostly know what to do. They can shot-call, like Memento and the other team can work together. I don’t have to do that much, actually.

KM: When you go for some of these Barons — I feel this is something that has come up for Schalke a lot — these 22-minute Barons where you get caught between peeling off or committing. How is communication like in these scenarios. Is someone chosen to decide what to do with Baron?

LW: That’s mostly my thing. I am always confident about doing Nash. Memento too. Usually, we try to play it — we have this thing where we try to play it clean so the enemy can’t get Nash, but sometimes it still happens that they somehow get into the pit and stuff like this. It’s like really 50-50, but it’s mostly Nash calls. Memento had a good idea too today with Cassio and Cho’Gath where we could just do it. They were blind on the map, and they didn’t respond in time, so we could finish.

KM: Even though your team has a lot of top side control, it seems like Rift Herald isn’t something that you really prioritize. Many times you will let the other team get it, then you will stall out so they can’t use it. So I was curious how you approach Rift Herald in theory?

LW: I think it’s a good objective. It’s better than most dragons. We have some issues playing around it because it takes a long time, and we often can’t think ahead enough to see if they can stop us or not. Most of the time, I would rather ignore it than take it, and just do something else: something simpler on the map like a turret.

KM: In the third game, for example, they used Herald against Kassadin, and you had to react to it. Is this something that you aren’t as experienced with since you play with a lot of wave clear mid?

LW: Not necessarily. It was just we reacted bad to it because top wave was really bad, and I really wanted to push it out. I don’t know what happened bot, but Upset wanted to push too, so we were in a situation where mid turret is gone for sure, but they will go for next one too if we don’t get there in time. We reacted bad to it, and Kassadin died, made a mistake. It turned out not that good, but we definitely have issues around it.

KM: Qualifying for LCS for you may be kind of big because, in the past, you’ve had a lot of rumors about you starting with DIG and then on Giants. Do you have anything you’d want to say about this kind of gossip?

LW: The rumors are not necessarily false, but there’s always two sides to a story. It’s just that I try to achieve something great, like win LCS, and if someone really doesn’t seem to care about this situation, too, and the place in LCS, I will tell them we can’t work together. If it’s not your goal to qualify as well or to go to worlds or something like that, then I will just say it straight up. It makes me sound really rude sometimes, but as I said, it’s always two sides. It’s not all my fault.

Schalke — I didn’t behave differently, let’s say it like this. I didn’t behave differently. It was not worlds. It was LCS this time. All the players were looking forward to it, looking forward to qualifying. It was an easy time working with them, and they didn’t slack off.

KM: Memento said that that’s something he really liked this about the team too. That the atmosphere was really good for accepting criticism. Are you the kind of player that needs specific other kinds of players around him?

LW: I wouldn’t say so, but they all have to work on themselves and not just completely slack or not look to improve if they are playing bad. Like most people know how to fix it or something. I’ve been a lot more calmer about the new players, too. They were playing a lot of games, but they didn’t — they weren’t using them to the maximum, so I tried to really teach them that quality is better than quantity when it comes to solo queue. They all improved, so I can’t say anything to them. They all improved as much as they could, I think.

KM: Going into the LCS next year with Giants Gaming. It’s been kind of fun to watch the back and forth on Twitter. Even though you lost yesterday, would you have anything to say for next year?

LW: Certainly, they played well, but I think with our roster, and if we get more experience, we will have no problem beating them.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games