Despite emerging as the top seed from Group C of the 2016 League of Legends World Championship, H2K-Gaming are undoubtedly the underdogs heading into their semifinal clash with Samsung Galaxy. H2K’s impressive seven game win-streak is matched only by their Korean opponents; both sides have defied the odds in making it so far, yet the Europeans will need to continue to exceed expectations if they’re to clinch a spot in the final. Jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski’s role will be pivotal.
Few would have predicted this matchup as a potential semifinal. Samsung Galaxy, as the third seed from South Korea, shocked the American home support to top their group ahead of Royal Never Give Up, dumping out one of the pre-tournament favourites, Team SoloMid. SSG eased past Cloud9 in the quarterfinals to set up their next opportunity to dampen the hopes of western League of Legends’ fans.
H2K-Gaming similarly turned up the heat in week 2, upsetting China’s first seed, Edward Gaming, to rightfully top the group and earn themselves a favourable draw against Albus NoX Luna. For all the criticism aimed at the European squad’s ‘undeserved spot in the semifinal because their group was easy’ – H2K have shown a number of clinical and spirited performances – they’re not to be written off.
Samsung clearly present H2K’s toughest test of the tournament so far, the Korean squad have demonstrated their ability to convert leads into victories consistently throughout Worlds 2016. Falling behind is often a death sentence for their opponents.
H2K-Gaming coach, Neil “Pr0lly” Hammad knows his team’s shot is limited, but he’s confident that if they get their noses ahead early, H2K have a good shot at securing victory:
“If you give that gold lead to a Korean team, they’ll close it really quickly,
“That’s kind of the concern about Samsung Galaxy is that if they do get a lead, it’ll be hard to get it back. And if we have a lead, they’re going to play really hard for us to close the game. I think if we’re able to shore up that, I think our early game will still beat theirs unless we throw or something weird early.”
Neil “Pr0lly” Hammad
With an emphasis on securing an early lead, Jankos may well hold the key to crushing the Koreans. His statistics for impacting H2K’s early game are frankly remarkable:
— Tim Sevenhuysen (@TimSevenhuysen) 10 October 2016
Jankos’ thirst for first blood is insatiable, earning him the title of ‘First Blood King’. The re-emergence of Lee Sin into the competitive meta has played perfectly into the hands of the H2K jungler. Working alongside carry top laner, Andrie “Odoamne” Pascu, Jankos snowballed each of their three matches against Albus NoX Luna out of control within the early stages of each game.
“I think we have to prove ourselves against Samsung so that people will shut up about us having the easiest group and the easiest quarters because, to be honest, we probably had the easiest ones. But I also think we played good.
“I want to prove ourselves and take a game or two or even win the BO5 to prove to people we deserve to be here. If we beat them we will be in the finals as the only other European team to ever reach the finals, and it would be amazing.
“For now, we just have to focus on Samsung and try to find something.”
Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski
H2K-Gaming have an immensely high individual skill ceiling, arguably higher than any other western team who have participated at the 2016 League of Legends World Championship – if anyone is in a position to take a game away from the Koreans, it’s H2K.
With Jankos tearing up the map on his quest to snowball an early lead, H2K-Gaming will need to play their early-game strengths if they’re to record yet another upset and reach Europe’s first World Championship final since the tournaments debut.