Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek is no stranger to playing the LCS final. Exactly one year ago, he found himself also fighting for the European crown as his then-team, Unicorns of Love, faced fnatic in front of a fully-packed Palacio Vistalegre, in Madrid. After a five-game thriller, the winner wounded up being fnatic – the team that G2 beat to reach Sunday’s final. Revenge talk aside, as we discuss with Kikis the game ahead, the Polish jungler-turned-toplaner believes that second time is the charm and that his team will find the glory that they are searching for.
“I seem to have a trend of doing better than in the previous year, so I am sure that trend will keep going, at least for now, and we will take first place,” he said. ” I feel my team is much stronger and a lot better prepared, and I will not stand the feeling of not getting the trophy for the second time when I was already so close last year.”
In some ways, G2’s incredible journey resembles that of UOL: an aggressive team with off-meta picks pulling out all stops and defeating established sides. But will it be enough to beat a reinvigorated Origen side with seasoned players?
“Even though some of our players have not played at such a big stage yet, I do not think it will cause us any problems, and I do not expect us to crumble under pressure,” Kikis reckons. “I expect us to win. Origen is a really strong team, but I think we are stronger and we can take it 3-0 or 3-1. We are the stronger team and as long as we stick to what we know we will win by pure skill difference.”
Going over the differences between the two teams, Kikis believes that we will see two opposite styles of play in the final: “We have different priorities on players, Origen tends to play around Zven and let him be the man carry, while we have three carry players that tend to switch depending on the game,” he explained, before analysing his match-up against Paul “sOAZ” Boyer: “He favoured split-pushing champions in the regular season and was excelling on Fiora, for example. It will be interesting to play versus him in this meta.”
As the conversation touches on the meta, we ask him about tanky champions as Ekko and Poppy being the current flavour-of-the-month for top laners. “The meta is fine,” Kikis answers straight away. “It is mostly tanks on top lane, but the champions combined with powerful items like Iceborn Gauntlet and Sunfire Cape deal a lot of damage and are very hard to kill, as you can see in some games in which Ekko is carrying. The meta suits me because my strengths are team fights and TP plays, and playing tanks with strong CC and good engage helps me with that.“
Going back to Sunday’s match, we discussed Origen’s ability to switch between mid laners to react to how the series develops. Kikis tends to agree that it makes things harder for his team but he rejects the notion that it will be a key role in the match.
“The more players a team has, the harder it is to prepare against them,” Kikis explains. “You need to do more research and have more drafts prepared in your mind because they can switch players in between games. But I believe that their play style does not differ enough that much that it forces us to do something special or change the way that we play.”
Nine months into his spell with G2, Kikis finds himself fighting for the title of European champion, something that many believed to be impossible when he joined the team in the Challenger Series, shortly after leaving Unicorns of Love. Asked if G2’s campaign has been a slap in the face of all the critics, the Polish veteran acknowledged that he “was not surprised” with the negative comments around the scene.
“I had my own reasons and no one knows all the story, but for someone on the outside it must have seemed like the worst decision one could have made,” he continued. “I was really grateful to the people who supported me and understood that I had to have strong reasons to make this decision. The support I received from fans and friends was crucial, and it really helped me to deal with everything.”