The 2023 LEC Winter Split has come to an end for Team Vitality—much sooner than they had planned or expected. Though the brawly, explosive playstyle brought the team to a shared first place spot in the best-of-one stage, the team failed in the Group Stage. First, the team fell 0-2 to KOI. Then, in the lower bracket, SK Gaming handed them another swift 0-2 loss, and Vitality’s bid for the Winter Split title came to an abrupt end at fifth/sixth place.
Support player Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser thinks many things went wrong for the team in the Winter Split. After being eliminated from the Group Stage, Kaiser spoke with Em Dash about the disappointing results and explained that communication issues continue to plague the team. The two-time LEC champion also discussed the team’s struggle with basic League of Legends concepts and how he and his bot lane partner Matúš “Neon” Jakubčík struggled to step up.
Losing to SK Gaming
Welcome, Kaiser. Vitality’s Winter Split ends with an 0-2 loss against SK Gaming. I don’t think many people would’ve been able to predict that, a few weeks ago. What are your initial thoughts on the series?
It’s disappointing for sure. I think we played fine in game one. Of course, we still made a lot of mistakes. We had a good early game lead and we had a decent draft that let us snowball. But against their composition, we had to play it out really cleanly, and we didn’t do that. We gave them the second Drake and the fourth Drake as well, which slowed the game down a lot. We then flipped [Baron Nashor] at some point, which they stole, and that delayed the game even more. The game was already really hard because they outscaled us by a lot. I would say it was still a decent game, though.
Game two… I think the draft was hard to play. They had a decent draft against us. In general, we took a lot of bad fights. The enemy just had a numbers advantage and we didn’t respect it.
“I think there has been improvement in some aspects. We didn’t get much better at other aspects, though. For example, the basics are still lacking for us.”
Why would you go for a draft that’s hard to play when you’re on the back foot in a series?
The Karthus was performing well in our scrims. We thought that throwing in a curveball could be good for the series. In hindsight, carry junglers might just not be that viable at the moment. I feel like SK’s comp was just easier to execute. They had a lot of winning lanes, I feel. It was hard for us to get back into the game after the early game. They also just played better than us.
Back to the basics
You headed into the series after another 0-2 loss, against KOI. What did you identify as the mistakes in that series, and how did you go about addressing those in the few days you had between the two series?
Against KOI, we had a really bad performance in the bot lane. Today, I think we wanted to play picks that we were more used to. That’s why I played two tank supports. I think that’s the main thing I took away from the KOI series.
We also have to play more as a team. Today, we didn’t really show that. Maybe in game one, we had some good plays that got us ahead, but we still have a lot of things to work on. We don’t play that well together. We just have to fix that communication so we can get better for the next split.
The in-game communication on Vitality has been brought up repeatedly. Perkz mentioned it at the start of the year, and Neon also spoke about it. If you look at the Winter Split overall, has the communication improved?
I think there has been improvement in some aspects. We didn’t get much better at other aspects, though. For example, the basics are still lacking for us. Understanding team compositions in general, understanding the draft… Sometimes we are just not good enough to play certain champions, right? That’s something we’ll have to fix for the next split as well. But it’s mostly about the basics of the game. How to set up [Baron Nashor], how to set up Drakes, how to play around sidelanes, stuff like this.
“Some of it is because we just don’t listen to each other sometimes. (…) What we say is actually good, you know? But what we do is bad.”
It’s a bit surprising that you say that basics are such a struggle. Perkz is one of the most experienced players in the LEC, and you and Neon also have many splits under your belt. Why are the basics so difficult for the team to grasp?
I think some of it is because we just don’t listen to each other sometimes. For example, Bo randomly walks into the enemy jungle, or I randomly walk to an objective. We don’t really listen to what is said by the others. We have to call clearer for each other. We have to be more urgent with our voices. What we say is actually good, you know? But what we do is bad.
So, I think we just have to listen better and play out the games cleanly. In scrims, we don’t really do it that much. Scrims are always bloody, so you can’t really practice the basics that much unless you are really disciplined. Then, if you get a lead, you just have to play the game with a lot of discipline and don’t make any great mistakes. You have to always play together.
Right now, I wouldn’t quite say we’re a solo queue team. I think we are definitely better than that. But other teams have better communication or better team play. I think it showed today. SK was just outplaying us on the map. Especially in game two.
Fixing bot lane struggles
Across the split, you and Neon have been subject to a lot of criticism. Do you think that’s justified?
I think we had some really rough games, for sure. Part of it is that we’re not really comfortable in the meta. We have some champions we are really good with, but those are not champions you can pick in every situation. We should have practiced more of the meta champs, I think, and stick with them.
In scrims, we are performing much better than we are on stage. We are actually a good bot lane, I would say. Of course, we didn’t play well on stage. We had good games, but we also had some really rough games. Especially in the KOI series, right? I think we really inted that one.
If we can also play better as a team in general, and play more meta champions, we’ll be better for sure, also as a bot lane. In scrims, what we do is actually working. But there are really good bot lanes in EU and the competition is fierce. We just have to play better.
“In the weeks when other teams are still playing, I think we can do a lot of good work. We can start fixing our team play issues and our communication issues.”
The next split starts in roughly three weeks already. What are the next days going to look like for Vitality?
We’ll probably take a few days off, but we also want to start scrimming as soon as possible. Even though we might not play on the patch that we’ll play the first week of the new split of, it doesn’t really matter. The issues we have to fix are not just about the champions we play. It’s also about fixing the teamplay issues I mentioned. In the weeks when other teams are still playing, I think we can do a lot of good work. We can start fixing our team play issues and our communication issues.
Sure, we should have tried to fix that way earlier, right? I think we knew what our issues were, but we might’ve been too slow with that. The loss against SK today brought all the issues to the surface, so we’ll have to fix them in the next weeks.
The LEC Winter Split playoffs continue on Friday, Feb. 24th, at 6 PM CET. You can watch the series live on the official LoL Esports site.