Following his 3rd place win against Misfits this past weekend, Blitz Esports sat down with Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek, Vitality's jungler. He's played four different roles across seven years of competitive play, and now, he's secured his first ever trip to Worlds.
You've done a bit of everything. You’ve won LCS splits before, you’ve competed in international events, even beating out a Korean roster back in Season 1, but you never managed to nail down that Worlds qualification. How does it feel knowing you could be finally securing it if Fnatic win the finals? [Note: Fnatic did win finals, and Vitality will be attending Worlds Group Stage.]
It feels good to have so many hours put into what you do, what you love doing, what is your passion, and having any kind of success—I guess I was successful in the past, but I always missed out on Worlds. I either left the team in the summer split, or when I joined Fnatic it was the worst split ever of Fnatic, I think. Like the roster I came to was already kind of on a downward spiral. So now that I'm finally playing in the Summer Split, the second part, and I'm doing really well, and together with the team it just feels great.
How was it to face Maxlore, who is considered to be one of the better junglers in the region? Yesterday he pulled off some "different" picks, if you will.
The first time I played against him, there wasn't much interaction between us, because we had the idea of splitting the map. But I finally got to play against him in a normal scenario, and it was the first time someone did to me what I usually do to other people, he just completely smashed me in the first game.
So I really respect him as a jungler. I think he's really good, even though I think that Eve pick was really 'int' and he trolled with that one. That happens sometimes I guess, but I think he's really good, and he has a similar playstyle to me. So it was really fun, because the first game I got demolished, and the second game I demolished him, and the other two games I was playing Gragas, so there wasn't really much to do.
I remember back at EU masters, when you were on Illuminar, you mentioned there would be no hard feelings if someone got contracted for an LCS team. Were you expecting so late into the season to get an offer?
I wasn't expecting it, to be honest. But I was still prepared in case that did happen, because we had like four weeks break from scrims in the meantime, because there was actually really nothing to play. But even then, I was playing solo queue like 10 to 13 hours a day, every day almost, to make sure my mechanics are in check and my champion pool is not an issue in case I would need to jump right into an LCS team. And that's what happened.
Talk to me about joining the team. It seems like you guys meshed really well and things just clicked. What do you think was the reason for that?
I think everything, to be honest. I already knew some of the guys from before, and we get along, like talking and laughing, friend-wise. And then with the guys I didn't really talk to much in the past, it clicked as well because everyone was on the same page, and similar in terms of sense of humor and just being chill to be around with.
And when it comes to game, I think I have their respect as a player. Like usually you need to earn the trust, but I think I had their trust really fast because, from the get-go, from the first scrims, my communication was really clear. I was taking charge of the early game. Instead of joining a new team and saying, "Oh guys, maybe we can do that. Maybe you can do that," I was like, "No guys, I do this this and this, and then you follow."
And they actually respected that. I think that's why I had their trust from the get-go, and I performed really well in the first days of scrims. I was usually in the face of the enemy jungler, so I was ganking the enemy jungler, and then my lanes were like 1v1, 2v2 winning because there was no pressure from the enemy jungler. And yeah, we meshed really well with that playstyle.
Throughout your career, you've bounced a lot between positions. Mainly between top and jungle, but I remember you playing a bit of support as well. What do you think makes you such a versatile player? And overall throughout your career, are there periods and roles that stand out to you?
Me, as a person and as a player, I'm a deep thinker, and I learn fast from mistakes. So it doesn't take me a long time to pick up new stuff, like changing roles. Of course at the start, when I switched to top lane from jungle, at the start that was pretty bad. But it took me like 1-2 months to get on a good level, and then after a few months, I was one of the best, if not the best top laner in the split, or in the play-offs that I played with G2.
So I think that, together with my passion, and with how much I sacrificed and how much time I spent on having a clear mind, or a clear idea about what is good right now in terms of champions and how the game is supposed to be played, I think I wouldn't really have problems switching roles. Maybe mid lane is different now; because there are too many insane players on mid, it would be really hard to do much there, I think.
And sometimes—like I played mid lane as well for one month in Poland, and it was during the Czaru times, when he was considered one of the best in Europe, and I was actually faring quite well against him at the time. But then I went jungle again.
My favorite role is ADC actually. I guess that's why I like Kindred so much, because my movements. Usually in teamfights, I don't talk much. You can see it on the voice comms, I talk before and after teamfights, but in the teamfights I'm focusing on my mechanics purely. And I think that's why I really like ADC as well, and playing Kindred. I think my movement is really good in teamfights, like dodging all the skillshots, and having a good idea playing on range and where I need to stay.
So yeah, it's really fun to be able to deal a lot of damage, and also, with Kindred, I almost got the penta. I think only ADCs or midlaners can get pentas. Usually it's really hard for other roles, unless you're like Darius and dunking everyone with the ultimate.
Was there a specific time period where you enjoyed a particular role most?
I think it was the mid lane when I played, because at the time I was really liking the melee mages that were in the meta. I played a lot of Kassadin and Diana which were really fun to play, because there was a lot to take into consideration. Like pre-6, you are really weak, and then you need to make sure they don't shut you down, and then you scale slowly and slowly. And then when you get 2 items you just one shot everyone. So that was my favorite to play.
Images via lolesports Flickr