When it comes to the highest levels of competitive League of Legends, H2k-Gaming's players are among the most expressive when they're up on stage. It doesn't take long to notice either Yoo "Ryu" Sang-wook or Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski loudly calling the shots, which was evident during H2k's showdown with Fnatic this week; the pair were clearly audible, despite a raucous Fnatic-heavy crowd.
By the end of the day, H2k defied the crowd's wishes and huddled triumphantly -- a sight that's become more and more common, with the "H2What? H2k!" chants becoming audible at the end of the match, albeit from the farthest seats in the arena.
Had H2k made the wrong calls that day, the outcome would have been different.
For Jankos, shotcalling is no simple process, despite his experience throughout the years. No matter the jersey he wears, or the teammates he has, he has been distinctively loud and decisive to great effect.
Take, for example, the 2015 ROCCAT squad that nearly qualified for the World Championship, and compare it to the current H2k-Gaming unit that is poised to overcome that hurdle. Today's H2k has had better performances and has a significantly better chance than last year's ROCCAT, but it did not happen naturally -- at least not for Jankos.
"I think it's because I was not under PR0LLY's wing when we started playing, so I didn't know the team so well," Jankos says of his current coach, Neil "PR0LLY" Hammad. "I didn't know what they expected me to do or say, or I didn't know how they worked with each other."
He needed to adapt to rosters that were constantly changing around him -- including the coaches. Team ROCCAT's 2015 roster, which had a unified front under Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi's tactical leadership, differs from PR0LLY's 2016 H2k-Gaming squad. After all, the two coaches were dealt very different starting hands.
"Yamato didn't have much to handle in terms of players because I think we were working really well when we had RalleZ, Steve and me and Vander and Nuke. We were really friendly to each other, and there was no many grudges, and we never fought with each other," recalls Jankos, before explaining why, according to him, PR0LLY may be the better coach among the two. "[PR0LLY] knows so much, he can explain it so well, and he has so much patience-even when he was working with FORG1VEN. Even though, for us, something was obvious, he took so much time to explain it to FORG1VEN for him to make sense, because he thought a different play would be more efficient."
Jankos also needed time to adapt to his surrounding teammates, as Oskar "VandeR" Bogdan was the only one to follow him to H2k-Gaming. Likewise, H2k lost one of its primary shot callers, Raymond "kaSing" Tsang, who moved to Vitality -- and the team leaned heavily on Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu and Ryu, in that regard.
He did eventually ease into his role. "I was still talking my part, and I learned how to do it, and I tried to talk more, so that Ryu and Odoamne don't need to talk all the time," he added.
More importantly, he learned that teaming up with Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou-Napoleon had as many pros as it had cons -- and the latter part of that equation eventually required a shift within the team. "I think overall it was not out of the blue [that FORG1VEN left,]" reminisces Jankos. "Don't get me wrong. He was a really skilled player. He was a good mechanical player, but his teamwork was really bad. We just couldn't work with him, kind of."
FORG1VEN's take on losses may have contributed to a rift that eventually led to his antagonism towards his teammates. "He took losses really personally, and it offended him that he was losing to Rekkles and to Niels, because he thought he was much better and that they are just lucky that they're actually winning, and that he always has worse teammates," adds Jankos, before taking the blame for H2k's 2-3 defeat in the European LCS playoffs against Origen.
The addition of Ales "Freeze" Knezinek has allowed H2k-Gaming to gain the ability to move forward more quickly as a team. "I believe in hard work, and I think it's so much easier to work with Freeze. So, I'm really happy in the team environment right now," the jungler points out, confident that the squad can reach the European Top Three spots.
"Don't get me wrong. He was a really skilled player. He was a good mechanical player, but his teamwork was really bad. We just couldn't work with him, kind of." Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski
With disagreements in their past, and no real long-term repercussions from those conflicts, the squad was able to look into its spring split experiences and the current patch changes and determine the best course of action.
H2k's spring playoff showing highlighted who stood out as the primary shot callers during its series against Origen and Fnatic, and H2k used that as a building block. "We decided that we [Ryu and Jankos] should be the shotcallers, and people should always listen to us, and if it's bad we can always discuss it after," notes Jankos. "But I feel like, in the LCS, everyone is talking and everyone is giving information, and that everyone can make the right call-and if we see it's good, we just follow it."
As for the patches, two noteworthy changes caught his attention. One of them involves the new dragon buffs. "We don't really care about air drakes, so that's out of the picture. Then Cloud Drake is only good early-game. We have to put the effort to get the Infernal Drakes," he says.
As for the other one, H2k's showcase against Fnatic proved enlighting, if only because Fnatic was the ideal opponent demonstrate it. A three hour-long preparation phase helped the squad narrow down Fnatic's possibilities, allowing the team to essentially "read its opponent's hand" as a high-level poker player would.
"I could say that a lot of their players are very predictable, and they tend to do the same stuff in every single game," informs Jankos. "Most of the champion pools are really visible and really low. They don't play a lot of champions on different roles. So I think those are the three main weaknesses."
In came Draven, the slayer of squishy champions. "We believe that just because everyone is playing so much squishy stuff right now that he's a good pick, because he can one-shot everything. And Freeze is probably the best Draven in Europe, easily."
The team's bout against Fnatic was not without its mishaps, but it allowed Jankos to note progress from the squad's previous showings. H2k acted as one unit, and coordinated its actions accordingly -- a far cry from its showing against Giants the day before.
"Against Giants, I invaded a bit too early, I didn't wait for my team, and I died. They snowballed the early-game because of it. So I think the main thing we learned is that we have to be patient," concludes Jankos.