KOI has an extra hurdle to take on the road to the LEC Winter championship. The team flourished in the best-of-three stage and was the only one to win both its series 2-0, but its first best-of-five of the year ended disappointingly. Against G2, KOI quickly dropped to an 0-2 score. Though they bounced back in game three, G2 proved to be too strong in the explosive and chaotic fourth game. KOI top laner Mathias “Szygenda” Jensen listened to his teammates’ evaluation and said it was just an off day for the squad.

After the series against G2, Szygenda spoke to Em Dash about joining KOI for the 2023 season. The Dane carries the burden of helping a reigning champion defend its title. It’s a task that comes with a lot of scrutiny from the public, but Szygenda isn’t too fuzzed about public perception. He discussed his role within the team, and why KOI hasn’t been able to play through the top lane yet.

That was quite an end to the series, Szygenda. After two pretty decisive wins from G2 and a good third game from you guys, the fourth game turned into complete chaos. How do you look back at the series?

I think we just had an unlucky day. At least, that’s what Larssen told me. He said that he didn’t feel great today. The bot lane also didn’t seem confident on the Lucian/Nami and we lost both games, which was pretty weird because it’s usually our go-to bot lane. So, we had to drop that in the middle of the series. Individually, I think I did ok. Today was fine. I didn’t do much, but I did ok. Malrang was quite good.

We got some things that we wanted to get from today. I think we found out about some draft things that we had been thinking about, and that we can take into next weekend. That’s pretty good. Overall, it was just a bad day, I think.

“I think that it’s definitely necessary that I’m the ‘stupid guy’ on the team. The other guys are either really serious or they’re a bit shy.”

Did you feel that something was off heading into the day, maybe the vibe in the team or something, or was it during the series that you realized the team wasn’t feeling it?

Larssen just said, after we lost, that it was on him. I just take his word for it. Maybe he could’ve done more. Usually, he’s always doing well. We play a lot around bot and mid, so if they don’t feel the best on the day, it’s obviously a big deal.

G2 has looked very strong in the LEC so far. They’re very explosive. Other than the Draven ban, what did you prepare for them?

They kind of played what we expected, to be honest. They play AP junglers with Jayce or Tristana mid. We had a lot of ideas about what we wanted to play into it. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. That was all we could expect from them, honestly, aside from the Draven ban.

[Broken Blade] played a lot more Olaf than I thought he would. I was expecting him to play Olaf and Jax, but he played a game of Gragas, which was a bit weird. The other games were all on Olaf. That was a bit surprising.

Szygenda KOI LEC 2023
KOI bit the dust against G2 Esports in the LEC Winter Split semifinal. (Source: Michal Konkol for Riot Games)

Fitting into KOI

KOI had a rough start to the LEC Winter Split but flourished in the best-of-threes. You’re the newest addition to the team—how was it to see the team struggle at first, but then deliver later? I imagine it’s quite a relief, in some way.

It was pretty tough. In the first nine games, I was not having the best time. We were losing a lot more than I expected. But we just had bad practice at the start. We started later than everyone else, so we didn’t know the meta. We lost a lot of games that we probably could’ve won if we had practiced harder.

Then we started trying hard, the best-of-threes came around, and we started playing well. We have a good team atmosphere, most of the time, so it’s nice right now. Today was unlucky, but I think it will be fine. It’s good to be on the team. I’m happy with it.

“I looked back and agreed that I was playing a little bit too scared at the start of the season. But I stopped playing like that. I think I’m doing better now.”

Did you feel any pressure joining KOI? You’re playing for the reigning LEC champion after spending a year away from the LEC?

Not too much. I know that we have to play well, but I think we’re doing fine. As long as we’re doing fine, there’s no pressure. It’s only when I’m inting that I’m thinking, “Oh shit, I need to step it up.” But that’s pretty normal. That should be expected from everyone, no matter the team they’re on.

I spoke with your coach, fredy122, and he said that you bring a very positive attitude to the team. Is it natural for you to try to bring a lighter atmosphere to the team?

I think that it’s definitely necessary that I’m the ‘stupid guy’ on the team. The other guys are either really serious or they’re a bit shy. If I can be the clown and bring out the fun, so that everyone smiles and has a good time, that’s all you need in a team atmosphere in my opinion. As long as everyone respects each other.

Szygenda KOI LEC 2023
When he deems criticism warranted, Szygenda tries to learn from it. Otherwise, he shrugs it off. (Source: Wojciech Wandzel for Riot Games)

How Szygenda deals with criticism

You’ve been subject to quite a lot of criticism, this split. People are comparing you to Odoamne, who won the LEC with the team last year. Is that something you pay attention to?

Yea, I look at social media, but usually, people there are stupid. [Laughs] Sometimes, I look at what they say and they can be right. There was a comment one day about me playing too passively, and I looked back and agreed that I was playing a little bit too scared at the start of the season. But I stopped playing like that. I think I’m doing better now.

It’s fine. If people think I’m bad: whatever. I think I’m not doing worse than other top laners. I think we’re all equally bad. [Laughs] Every top laner is kind of bad at the moment. That’s the thing. It’s fine, they can say what they want.

“We tried carries at the start, but due to our practice being so bad, we never got to learn how to play around the top lane.”

So it’s not something that gets to you?

I see most of the stuff. If I see it and I think they’re right, then I’ll fix it. If not, then they’re just stupid and I’ll just let them be stupid online. [Laughs] It’s ok.

Most critique, at least from what I’ve seen, boils down to: you’re primarily a carry player, but you haven’t played many carries. And in the games you did play, for example, a Jax, your performance wasn’t outstanding. What do you think about that?

For sure, we tried carries at the start, but due to our practice being so bad, we never got to learn how to play around the top lane. We were just fighting a lot in scrims. We never got to build game plans around playing through top, and we didn’t really pick it up.

In my opinion, the meta is also a lot about the bot lane right now. So then I just play the champions that the team is used to. But maybe next weekend, or next split, depending on how it goes, I might pull out a little carry here and there. I definitely have them in my arsenal. But I don’t think the top lane is broken right now, so it’s not needed.

Szygenda KOI LEC 2023
Szygenda gives a fistbump to SK Gaming’s players. (Source: Wojciech Wandzel for Riot Games)

The end of the LEC Winter Split

Looking forward, you’re either going to face off against SK or MAD Lions in the lower bracket semifinal. Is it difficult to head into the next week, not knowing who you’ll play?

I didn’t think about it too much, to be honest. It’s gonna be ok, I think. We should be better than both of them, so I expect us to go to the final. You never know, though. We could have another off day, of course. Hopefully not. I really think we can win the split.

Your practice in the next few days will probably be focused on fixing the issues within KOI’s play, then. What are those issues?

Hm… I don’t want to give them away. [Laughs] I don’t want to say what our issues are. The enemy cannot know them. I’m sorry.

KOI plays its next LEC series on Saturday, Feb. 25th, at 6 PM CET against the winner of the series between MAD Lions and SK Gaming. You can watch the series live on the official LoL Esports site.