The LEC has turned yellow-and-black in the 2023 Winter Split. Having crafted their roster more carefully this time around, Team Vitaltiy quickly rose to the top of the standings and finished the best-of-one stage in first place. Nevertheless, there is a lot of work to be done still. Vitality’s games are frequently chaotic. Matúš “Neon” Jakubčík shares the sentiment.
After beating Team BDS, Neon spoke with Em Dash about Vitaltiy’s triumph in the LEC and what still needs to be addressed internally. He also reflected on his own role in the team and discussed why some LEC bot lane duos might look stronger than they are.
The chaos in Vitality’s communication
Congrats on the victory, Neon. It wasn’t a particularly clean one, but it was very entertaining, as have many of Vitality’s games in the LEC been so far. How has the start of the new year been for you?
I rate the start very positively. We didn’t expect the team to do so well in the start, simply because we have two players who are getting accustomed to EU. They’re learning a new language, so we expected a lot of issues when it comes to communication and macro game. We still do have those issues. We’ve been able to get some wins that we maybe shouldn’t have had, just by using our mechanics, but we still struggle with our macro play a bit because of the comms. I think it shows. Especially this week, our macro game wasn’t on point at all.
“It’s not just about killing the enemy; it’s also about winning the game by moving around the map well. That’s what we’re currently not so good at.”
Do you also have conflicting ideas about how the game should be played, then?
It’s more that we aren’t really on the same wavelength in the game. When we say something, our teammates might not understand what we mean. It can be chaotic because everyone is talking at the same time. I think, in the heat of the moment, we are sometimes bad at explaining what we want. For example, if Bo wants to say something, he maybe cannot find the right words. Or, if we give him a detailed plan, maybe he doesn’t fully understand it. So, it is a bit difficult because of the language barrier, but they’ve been picking up English very quickly. It’s going to get progressively better.
Are there any other ways you try to improve the situation, like grinding games or discussing set plays, or is the focus really on getting the English level up?
Our scrims are very messy and I think we might have picked up some bad habits from scrims. Like, Bo is usually very, very aggressive with his plays. [Laughs] That’s just how it is sometimes. You need to find the balance between being aggressive and minding what you’re doing. It’s not just about killing the enemy; it’s also about winning the game by moving around the map well. That’s what we’re currently not so good at.
Neon fitting into the team
Let’s talk about your place on the team. You came off the back of a great year at Misfits, where you had your breakthrough as one of the best bot laners in the LEC. Now you’re on a team surrounded by top-tier talent. How different is this for you?
It just feels very different. There are more eyes on you, there are more expectations to perform. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. When it comes to how I see my teammates: yes, it feels a bit weird. I’ve never been on a team where I feel like my teammates are this good, or where I play with big names.
I also tell myself: we all know how superteams work, and we know how they don’t. [Laughs] In the end, I try to not think about anything besides that we’re just a team. I have teammates, as I’ve always had, and I’m just gonna try to play my best game.
“[Kaiser and I] are pretty ’emotionless’ in the game. No matter what the issue is, we can always work it out and solve it.”
I remember asking you last year, when you played for Misfits, if you had taken on the role of leader, since you were the most-seasoned player on the lineup. Back then, you said you hadn’t, although I do recall you giving a few motivational talks ahead of important games. You play with more vocal players now: how do the dynamics work now? Do you sit in the backseat more?
Yeah, so, in this team, I actually try to not talk. [Laughs] Usually, there are a lot of people talking. I like the fact that I don’t have to talk. I play AD carry, and I think that’s a role where you mostly just react to what your teammates want to do or what they are doing. I don’t mind that I don’t have to talk. It makes it easier to focus. I obviously still communicate the things I need from my team, but it’s nice to play with other players that are vocal. They can make the game easier for you.
And as bot laner, synergy with your support player is obviously essential as well. How has working with Kaiser been?
I really enjoy playing with Kaiser. I think we’re very similar. We are pretty ’emotionless’ in the game. No matter what the issue is, we can always work it out and solve it. I really like that. I always wanted to play with him because I always thought that he was very good. I’m very happy that it came true.
Why LEC bot lanes look so strong
You have your work cut out for you in the LEC. The bot lanes in the LEC seem very stacked at this point. A duo like Exakick and Doss can come in and instantly be in the conversation for being the best bot lane in the league. Why do you think the bot lane is so stacked?
I think, this season, bot lane is very explosive. You play a lot of matchups where just one thing can decide the game around for either side. What happens often, is that one bot lane gets ahead and then there’s no way for the other lane to get back.
I would not overreact to the bot lane so far. The meta is going to change a bit with the patch. I would at least wait until the best-of-threes. Teams can actually adapt then. Maybe we’ll see more melee supports, for example. In this meta, we’ve seen almost only ranged supports. It’s very likely that the meta will eventually shift back to melee supports. Then we will see if these bot lanes are actually really insane, or if they have just been really good at this thing.
“I would not overreact to the bot lane so far. It’s very likely that the meta will eventually shift back to melee supports. Then we will see if these bot lanes are actually really insane, or if they have just been really good at this thing.”
So, you think the bot lane meta is too volatile at the moment to make any calls about players being structurally good?
Exactly. The bot lane meta is very volatile. Whatever you play, it’s very hard to come back in the game if the enemy gets a lead. That’s how the enchanter meta works. It’s also why, if one team starts winning, it looks like they’re dominating really hard and the other side is just getting stomped. In the enchanter meta, once you get behind, you’re just bound to get fucked.
Next up: best-of-threes
Well, to round up: you mentioned the best-of-three series, and best-of-x series didn’t go too well when you were on Misfits. This is obviously a different team, and you were the first ones to lock it in. How are you looking at the best-of-three stage?
I’m actually looking forward to best-of-threes this year. I wasn’t looking forward to best-of-fives on Misfits because I knew we had no champion pools and we had one style of playing the game. I knew that we were going to get figured out. Here in Vitality, we have a lot of players who have very deep champion pools. That is necessary for your success in a best-of-three series because it allows for flexibility and adaptation. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make good use of those champion pools.
Vitality plays its next LEC series on Saturday, Feb. 11th, at 6 PM CET against Team Heretics. You can watch it live on the official LoL Esports site.