As 2019 draws to an end, social media timelines will soon be littered with resolutions and quotes like “new year new me”. A new year offers a fresh start and Team Vitality is one of the many LEC teams looking to take advantage of that.
The organisation has called upon the services of three extremely promising rookies, jungler Duncan "Skeanz" Marquet, midlaner Aljoša "Milica" Kovandžić and ADC Markos "Comp" Stamkopoulos while Jakub "Jactroll" Skurzyński and Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet will remain with the team.
We caught up with the latter as well as Vitality’s new coach Hadrien "Duke" Forestier, who is fresh from leading Splyce to the League of Legends Worlds Championship quarterfinals, as the French duo talk about the transformation of the team and their hopes for next season.
Cabochard, can you talk us through last season and how you feel about it? What exactly went wrong and why wasn't Vitality ability to replicate its 2018 success?
Cabochard: I think even though we started pretty strong, the overall season was a bit of a disappointment, falling short in the quarter final of playoffs both times was a big hit to the confidence of the team. I think in 2018 everything aligned and everyone felt in the ‘right’ place, we all had a role we ‘fit’ very well and that collection of roles made a great unit. In 2019 we definitely lacked the alignment, we relied on individual performances to carry to make-up for the lack of cohesion. The game in its current state needs more than just one player to win, so for next year we are really doubling down on team play and teamwork overall. We focus on building synergy and getting along both in and out of game as a solid foundation.
Duke you said it was a tough decision to leave Splyce/MAD Lions, why did you decide that this was the best time to move on and what was appealing about Team Vitality?
Duke: After two years at Splyce, as much as I loved working with this staff I thought I wouldn’t be able to grow more as a coach and I saw Vitality as a great opportunity for me to start my own project. The appeal to work for a French team was also a deciding factor to me after all the support I received from the French community during Worlds.
It seems the team was in need of big changes. Duke what was your plan for the roster as you joined Vitality? Also why were Cabochard and Jactroll the players you kept on?
Duke: The plan was to rebuild around rookies, and this was the only kind of project I wanted to go for – that’s why the last two choices I hesitated between were MAD Lions and Vitality. Scouting is an ongoing process throughout the year and we were able to secure the players we wanted. With the three rookies, we wanted to keep some stability to help them grow while sharing experience and that’s why we are happy to have Jactroll and Cabochard around them. Cabo has been the best performing player of Vitality in the past years while Jactroll is a player who is not afraid to pull the trigger, which is key on stage.
Adding on from that, can you tell us a bit more about the three new rookies Skeanz, Milica and Comp and what fans can expect from them?
Duke: I always followed Skeanz in the French scene as he has been the jungle prodigy for the past year. He was already under contract with the academy so it was a no brainer to promote him. Milica has been on my radar for the past two years and was in my opinion the best midlaner outside of LEC. I scrimmed a lot versus LDLC when coaching Splyce and I had the opportunity to see how Comp plays a lot, I think he can develop into a top EU ADC.
And Cabochard, have you had a chance to play with your new teammates yet?
Cabochard: This time around we all joined each other in December for an introductory bootcamp. Before this I didn’t know much about my new teammates other than solo queue experiences and the fact that they were all performing well in their respective regional leagues. We spent around a week grinding together and the energy overall feels great. It was super important for us to get this first week of experience together.
As the most experienced player, do you think you’ll act as somewhat of a leader for the team?
I think leadership is earned and not a de facto given by seniority. I hope to use my experience to share with the guys anything i’ve learned so far but I don’t view myself as ‘above them’ just because I’ve been around longer. But it’s useful to be able to leverage my history and share some learnings with the players. Additionally we have added experienced staff around us, that will also be a huge help for the younger players.
What do you make of the pre-season changes to the game and from that, what kind of style can we expect to see from Vitality next year?
Cabochard: I really like the changes, especially to the Drakes, the Cloud Drake is my personal favourite. It's an interesting duality between the fact that Drakes are weaker, but collecting many of them can suddenly create a win condition. It’s an elegant design. The alcoves are mostly irrelevant but they do provide the opportunity for the occasional outplay.
Even though there were a lot of other small changes, what I like the most is that we see a continuation from the late 2019 meta, in the sense that the game is early-game focused, action packed and fast paced. The top lane meta feels pleasant to play so I’d like to ask Riot Games to not buff Maokai.
Duke: I think we should have an aggressive early-game oriented playstyle, but we will probably need time to be able to play a clean macro game. I think it should be very different that the style we had at Splyce.
And what are you ambitions for next season?
Duke: For the Spring Split my ambitions are to reach playoffs, there is no in between in LEC: either you make it to playoffs or you don't. If we reach this goal, then everything is possible considering we have a lot of potential to grow, so everything will depend on how much we improve throughout the split.
There is no in between in LEC: either you make it to playoffs or you don't"
Cabochard: I want to remain on top form, and honestly I want to go back to Worlds. It’ll be a tough grind but from my experience in the bootcamp I'd say the potential is there. It’s on us to prove it.