SK Gaming have peaked higher than anybody anticipated. They are one of only two teams to have defeated G2 Esports. They have taken three games in one split off of the reigning EU Champions and Worlds finalists, Fnatic. In fact, they have successfully defeated all of the top four teams in Europe at least once. They are currently matched in the standings with the aforementioned Fnatic, as well as FC Schalke 04 and Misfits.
In spite of this, the reality is a 7-7 middling split with incredibly stiff competition for the final playoff spot. The rosters in reach of them – Splyce, Origen and Vitality – have rosters with far more star power and obvious talent than theirs. This is without accounting for the roster of Schalke 04, or the upswing of Fnatic and Misfits. Yet there is one player on SK Gaming’s lineup with the talent and the attention that delivers star power. One who has been instrumental in keeping SK Gaming on the cusp of being the little team that could since Day 1.
Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek has been permanently on top of the MVP standings since the first week. No singular player has come close to him in terms of consistent impact on their team’s successes. Despite half of his matches being losses, he has outstripped the MVP nominations of Rasmus "Caps" Winther and Daniele "Jiizuke" di Mauro. In only one win has the MVP award been granted to any other player on his team: Juš "Crownshot" Marušič, for his Jinx performance against G2 Esports – and even this was hotly disputed.
The strong case for Selfmade ultimately can’t be made without a look at the strengths and weaknesses of SK Gaming. They were very proactive early on in the split, with their topside taking hits in XP and Gold to facilitate botside plays. The inefficiency of this strategy was adopted by most teams that saw a surge later on in the same meta, with the lack of resource prioritisation on top lane lending little advantage to either side of most matchups.
The plays to accelerate the game would typically be made post-6 with critical ultimates available. Selfmade’s function prior to the play was like any other jungler’s: secure his lanes, secure his camps, secure control where needed. To this he performed exceptionally. There are perhaps two games where his early game pathing was not up to par, such as the match vs. Vitality where he seemed unaware of Lee "Mowgli" Jae-ha’s invade of his blue buff jungle despite the vision control of the area.
In most circumstances, Selfmade’s pathing would fall due to his laners. The week before last, Selfmade was well positioned to contest his enemy’s Krugs against Misfits Gaming’s Nubar "Maxlore" Sarafian. He timed the contest perfectly to coincide with Jorge "Werlyb" Casanovas Moreno-Torres’ crashing of the wave, but instead of vanishing botside, Werlyb goes for poke under tower giving Paul "sOAZ" Boyer a window to all-in. Werlyb’s loss of summoner spells, HP and subsequent loss of hard priority caused Selfmade to cancel the invade.
This past week, SK Gaming struggled. In the first game, one could argue that Selfmade could be more aggressive around his timings with the absurdly fast clearing Karthus. In the second, there could be no doubt that Selfmade was at least instrumental in his team’s comeback against G2 Esports. On Rek’Sai, Selfmade capitalised on every window given, catching out key members of his over-forcing opponents. Crownshot, the other (and less consistent) light on SK Gaming’s lineup, was given all the time he needed to scale into the power of a 4 item Jinx.
This was not the first time that Crownshot’s Jinx had been afforded this opportunity by his jungler. Against Vitality, Selfmade had Amadeu "Attila" Carvalho’s number. After an early game roam from Vitality’s bot lane to counter a mid/jungle play set up by Vitality, Atilla found himself on side lanes trying to get back into the game. Selfmade would lean towards him like a moth to a flame. With very strong Baron control grouping, SK was able to acquire a decent lead over their opponents. When Vitality found their characteristic force into a seemingly won teamfight, Selfmade went for a very unorthodox wrap around to take out the enemy AD Carry and prevented any semblance of tempo returning to Vitality.
It’s important to consider the instrumental part Selfmade plays, not just as a strong early game jungler, but as a strong functioning part of his team in the mid-late game. This is what distances Selfmade so much from previous rookie hopefuls. He’s showing a confidence in a later phase of the game with glowing success that we aren’t seeing from prominent ‘smart’ junglers like Jonas "Memento" Elmarghichi or Maxlore. At the same time, he flat out contests them in the early phases. It’s a sign of a rare form of completion that we haven’t seen mature since fellow Polish pride Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski hit the scene.
It also can't be said that Selfmade's team makes him look stronger than he is. If anything, one can see the strong intent Selfmade shows and how these best laid plans don’t always go forward. Selfmade in the mid-late game doesn’t just act as a cohesive unit with his team, but also takes the time to cover their shortcomings with creative acts and confident capitalisations. His predecessor, Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen on SK Gaming is a strong example of the last time we could see such a discrepancy. This is not to renege on his teammates as much as to prop him up as high as his performances, and frequent successful MVP votes, suggest.
If Selfmade gets a ‘better’ team, it won’t be his opportunity to prove himself. Selfmade has already done that. He has carried his team time and time again to victory, being instrumental in their victories, and has been the last bastion of resistance in their defeats. If anything, it’ll be his chance to shine even brighter.