Hindsight is 20/20

Hindsight is 20/20 and knowing now how everything has panned out, I wouldn’t make the same decisions if I had my time again, but there’s no way I would’ve done anything different in the moment.

Throughout my life, it has been down to me to make my own path and to be self-sufficient. My outlook has always been very short-term; prioritizing short-term happiness over long-term career strategies. All of my decisions have been made in this way.

I’m not the type of person to dwell on whether or not I regret certain decisions in my life; what’s done is done and I need to live with that – it doesn’t matter if, in hindsight, it was a good decision or not, provided that you learned from it.

Let’s start from the beginning, with my first LCS experience and the Unicorns of Love. I don’t think any of us really expected to reach the EU LCS as early as 2015. The team had always prioritized a fun and relaxed environment, it was just a huge group of friends operating like a family.

It was important that we felt a sense of togetherness since – after we reached the LCS – everyone was shitting on us on social media, fans and pro players alike; no-one felt that we deserved our spot in the LCS, but rather, that we were a group of jokers who weren’t taking anything seriously. Of course, that wasn’t true and we’d prove them wrong.

We took second place in our first split, almost beating Fnatic in the final. That was a wake-up call for me, I realized that I wanted more than anything to reach the top. If I could finish second by having fun and taking a relaxed approach to practice, what could I achieve if I really dedicated myself?

There are a few different perspectives for every story, but from my point of view – the rest of the team wasn’t on the same page as myself. I wanted to replace our weakest player, but no-one else within the organization agreed with me since we’d finished second with that roster and the Unicorns felt that friendship and family values were important.

As a professional player, I was more interested in trying to win than keeping people happy. I wasn’t going out of my way to screw anyone over, but I wasn’t against strengthening the roster just because you like someone. In my opinion, that can’t really happen in business or in competition.

We didn’t make the roster change I wanted. At the very least, I tried to make changes in how we prepared for scrims, how we reviewed vods and how we communicated in-game; basically, all the things that the other top teams were doing. From my perspective, it felt like we spent too much time joking around and patting each other on the back. I wanted to make everything a little more professional.

No-one at Unicorns of Love shared my vision for the team. Even when I raised these potential improvements to the management and coaching staff, I was brushed aside. As the weeks went by and still nothing changed, I became increasingly frustrated.

I no longer felt comfortable as part of the team and I decided that it would be best for me to leave the Unicorns. Originally, I was supposed to move to one of the EU LCS’ Worlds representatives, but frustratingly, UOL wouldn’t let me. Apparently, I knew too much. I knew too much about the team’s strategies to the extent that it would be difficult for UOL to qualify for Worlds themselves.

I understand that they didn’t want me joining a close rival, but at the time, I was furious. I was promised that my contract would be cut off and I’d be given a clean break, but that really wasn’t the case. Since I wasn’t allowed to join another LCS team, I decided to join Gamers2 – they stood out to me as the best option amongst the Challenger teams.

Gamers2 qualified to the EU LCS pretty comfortably. Soon after the promotion tournament, Ocelote approached me and told me that he planned to build the team around me. He asked me to build the roster for our first LCS split and to choose who I wanted to play with.

I was looking at all the options available to me. I was really struggling to find a top laner that I felt was good enough, I wasn’t going to settle for anyone sub-par; I had big ambitions for this team.

One day, I was watching the LCK, weighing up the possibility of importing a player from another region. I was watching a series in which CJ Entus took down SK Telecom T1, playing with their substitute jungler. It was in that moment that I discovered Trick.

I could tell right away that this guy was a really smart jungler and yet he’d barely played that split in the LCK. It was at that point that it dawned on me: ‘If I can’t find a good top laner, Trick can fill our jungle slot and I’ll do it myself.’

I knew that, initially, I would be much weaker in the role than I’d been in the jungle, but it would be better for the team overall to bring in Trick. After he agreed to join us, I asked him to recommend an AD Carry and he requested that we also bring in Emperor from Korea.

The top lane meta at the time was all about carry champions and I really wasn’t great at them and during our first scrims as a team, I lost most matchups to most of my top lane rivals. As a team, we stopped playing towards top lane since Trick and I really weren’t synergising. Fortunately, the game then shifted towards tanks and from being amongst the worst top laners in EU, I was soon the best or in the top three at the very least.

By that point though, it was already ingrained in everyone’s mind that we shouldn’t play towards top lane and so I was left to farm alone on my top lane island. Honestly, I was fine with that, I’d never been interested in being our team’s star player. I did my job and did it well. We finished first in the regular split and went on to win playoffs, where I played the best tournament of my life.

 

I think, at that moment, I was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life; I felt truly accomplished and complete. I had assembled the best team in Europe and I had Worlds in my sight – my ultimate goal – and with the circuit points we had already accumulated, it looked like that dream would soon become a reality.

It wasn’t to be. I never recaptured that feeling of success. Everything was about to spiral downwards.

First came the whole ‘G2 Vacation’ meme. After all the effort they had put into the Spring Split, we decided that Trick and Emperor needed some time off. It’d been five months since they’d been in Korea and they missed their family and their homes. If they didn’t go back to Korea for a two-week break before MSI 2016, they wouldn’t be able to go back at all until after the Summer finals.

We did what we thought was best for them, knowing as a direct result that we wouldn’t be as well-prepared for MSI as we would’ve ideally liked to be. The community pinned our poor performance at that event down to our lack of practice, but in reality, there were other factors behind the scenes that could’ve been managed better that directly contributed as well.

The Emperor situation is the one that stands out in my memory. Emperor was told the evening before our first game at MSI that he wouldn’t be a part of the team for the Summer Split. To clarify, I was kept in the dark on this too, but obviously, this news didn’t affect me nearly as much as it affected Emperor.

I was close to him and I could tell that it really hit him hard. He wasn’t the same player when he stepped onto the MSI stage the following day. The whole team atmosphere was in pieces, we had a lot of arguments off-stage and as much as I tried to keep everyone together, in that situation, all it would take was something very small and suddenly a small crack would lead to a complete collapse.

I felt like I was positioned as a scapegoat after G2’s early exit from MSI 2016. Having played on an island for the entire split, my public image was already poor and even though none of us had played well, I was framed by the community as the player least deserving of my spot in the roster… ‘Scumbag Kikis’.

Reddit’s opinion does carry weight, it shouldn’t, but it does. Players, managers, coaches, we all go on Reddit and if you see thousands of people all flaming one individual on the roster, it does make you question whether or not they have a point.

I’ll admit, I’ve done it. I’ve been on Reddit after a loss, seen the post-match thread flaming my teammate and found myself agreeing with them: ‘Yeah, he did play really bad!’. After about five seconds though, I come to my senses: ‘Wait, why am I listening to people who know much less about the game than me and know nothing about the team’s situation?’. I should know better… G2 should’ve known better.

After MSI, I was told that my position in the team was 99% safe. A few weeks later, Perkz and Trick headed off to Korea to bootcamp together where they found a top laner who had been performing well in Korean solo queue and was ranked highly on the ladder. They pitched to the management that G2 should bring him in as a 6th substitute player.

I was surprised. I thought I’d played well in the Spring Split, but in their opinion, though I was good in EU, they didn’t think I could stand up against Korean top laners (despite the fact I had performed well against Looper at MSI – then considered one of the best top laners in the world).

Reluctantly, I agreed but I thought the whole thing was disrespectful. I really liked Daehyun and we still get on well to this day, but he had a lot to learn when he joined G2. I was expected to split my scrim time with him and beyond that, coach him and teach him everything I knew. Maybe I wasn’t right to view it in this way, but it felt like I was training up an apprentice so that, ultimately, he could take my job.

I lost trust in my teammates after that. Maybe I just wasn’t mature enough to deal with the situation at the time, but at one point, I just told everyone that I didn’t feel comfortable with how things were panning out. I asked them to choose: it was either me or Expect.

Looking back, I don’t think that was a good decision, but like I said, I have to live with that now. On reflection, I can see how G2’s management would view it: ‘If we agree to his ultimatum now, what is he going to demand in the future?’

You can’t give that amount of power over to players – I know that now – but at the time, that really wasn’t what I was trying to do, I just wanted to feel comfortable in my own team and appreciated for the hard work I’d put into G2.

In hindsight, I should’ve just stuck it out, at least until the end of the split. Because I left midway through the split, my options were extremely limited and I ended up joining Fnatic, a sinking ship by that point. The team atmosphere and morale within the team was at an all-time low, I doubt even the addition of the best mechanical player in the world could have changed that team’s trajectory.

I felt like I found my feet again with the brotherhood that was Fnatic Academy. I was really happy there for a while – I also entered my first relationship during that period – but then things crashed into a wall again. The relationship didn’t work out and the FNA roster was dissolved after a buyout from Ninjas in Pyjamas.

I stopped caring about League for a while. My career was plummeting downwards and I was feeling demotivated. It’s so much harder to pick yourself up from such a situation having experienced the highs of success just a year earlier.

Joining Mysterious Monkeys is perhaps the one decision I genuinely regret since I didn’t learn anything from it, I knew beforehand that there was nothing for me to gain there. They were offering a lot of money, a lot more than I had ever earned before and that’s why I joined them.

More than anything, I was disappointed in myself, I was never a player that was motivated by money before, I guess I just lied to myself that I could make something of that team and revive my career there – it was never going to happen.

At the very least, it put me back in the public eye and I was in talks with three EU LCS teams ahead of the 2018 Spring Split. I was holding out for the best of the three teams to confirm their offer, but it ended up taking so long that the other two offers disappeared and inevitably, the team I was holding out for went with someone else. It was just another in a long chain of bad decisions on my part.

It’s been hard to take many positives from this past year. Now playing with Illuminar in the Polish scene, we’ve won the championship and placed second place at the EU Masters, but without sounding arrogant, I haven’t found it to be all that fulfilling.

Throughout my career, I’ve had my ups and downs – admittedly, more downs than ups recently – but rather than breaking me, it’s hardened me. I’ve matured, both as a player and as a person, to the point where I now feel confident in my ability to lead a team and set a positive example through my work ethic.

For now, there’s a little interest from LCS teams, but I think it’s unlikely that I will make a return in the Summer Split. Not only are there a lot of talented players in the league right now, but with the new system on the horizon, I don’t think teams are looking to make changes or spend money unnecessarily.

If I don’t get an EU LCS offer for the summer, then I’m just going to stay in the Polish scene; I’m not done with League of Legends just yet. I will do everything in my power to position myself as a high-value player for the teams looking to make changes ahead of 2019.

I wouldn’t be a happy man today if I obsessed over what’s fair and what’s not, what I could’ve done and what I couldn’t. I’m a realistic person and I know I’m going to get back to where I want to be.

Image & Video Credit: Timo Verdeil/Riot Games

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