Alongside former Giants Gaming teammates Amadeu "Attila" Carvalho, Jakub "Jactroll" Skurzyński and Erberk "Gilius" Demir as well as Team Vitality member Lucas "Cabochard " Simon-Meslet, Jiizuke has transformed Vitality from mid-tier LCS contenders to a team vying for Worlds placement. Though Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek now plays in place of Gilius, the team as a whole has come back as one unit from their devastating reverse sweep loss in the Spring Split 2018 3rd place decider to clench third place off the backs of Misfits Gaming in the Summer Split 2018.
Speaking with sincerity after their victory, Jiizuke had plenty to say about returning to Spain, what this might mean for Worlds, and how he has improved himself to become the mid lane monster Vitality has been waiting for all Split.
You had a very emotional response–we could see your team swarming around you while you were crying on stage. What was going through your head at that moment in time?
Jiizuke: Ten seconds before we ended the game, I knew we'd won so I was already crying. I was like, "Guys, I have tears, I don't know what to do. Two people are calling for me, help me out." I knew we'd won but I was still trying to play. I don't know, I've never felt so good. It was kind of a redemption for us because, last Split, we were in the same position. We were 2-1 against Splyce and they reverse swept so the fact that we made it this time means a lot for four of us at least, Kikis has joined us now, but it means a lot. We overcame our demons and we showed a really good performance.
This time last year, you were playing in the LVP and Challenger Series here in Spain. What does it mean to you to be back in Spain again but this time winning the third place decider match?
I thought I would never come to Spain again because, of course, going down from LCS to LVP... I don't want that. But going to a big stage like this in Playoffs and coming back to Spain with the fans that we have here, it's really insane. They showed how passionate they were for four games in a row. They were screaming with us, they were excited, and I love them for that.
Provided Fnatic win versus Schalke, you're locked in for Worlds. At the moment, you're one step away and you've come a long way this year. You started off as a Rookie and now you're going to the biggest international stage possible. How do you think that you've grown as a player and a person over this year?
I had to evolve and that's what I did coming into the Summer Split.
I think, at the start of the year, I was really just approaching the LCS scene in a different way. I wanted to show up really hard which I did, but then I was punished for that in the Playoffs. Broxah and Xerxe really played well around me–actually, all the teams played well around me. I had to fix this, I had to evolve, and that's what I did coming into the Summer Split. Yes, people said that I didn't play good, whatever, I just fixed my playstyle and the way that it was calculated. I don't think... Going 0-7 and making Playoffs, what is that? I was really ashamed of my performance and I really had to fix it, and I think I did and today I showed that I can do both things at the same time.
One of the perks of making the Playoffs is that you get to see your face printed on advertisements all over Madrid. How does that feel?
When I saw it, I was dying. I was like, "This is unbelievable, what just happened? How did they do that?" It was really insane. I was in scrims and, usually we don't allow posting stuff in scrims but I didn't do it on purpose, I went to the internet and there was this picture and I had to share it. I don't care, I had to.
You were facing up against Sencux, who analysts were saying is probably the weakest midlaner you've played against in a Best of Five series. Did you take that into consideration when you were strategising for this match?
As a team, we thought that we could win mid-jungle hard. We thought that it was a bit of their weakness. They don't 2v2 a lot, they focus more on their bot lane to support them. When we were going into the game we thought that if we played good with our 2v2 then our bot lane will be safer, they will farm for late game, so we'll just play around me and I could snowball the game. And that's what happened. At least in three games. Even the Syndra game, the first game, it was really close. I was 30 CS ahead but then we just did mistakes all over the map.
You've been criticised in the past for your limited champion pool because you've played a lot of Taliyah and Galio, but then you brought out Zilean. How long has this been in your back pocket?
I always had eyes on other champions, I just thought that Galio and Taliyah were the best ones so I was just blind picking them and no one could counter me. I just had the mindset that the champion was good for lane, for roaming, and mid game and late game wasn't so bad. Playing scrims and playing against Schalke, for example, I thought that I could go back to my playstyle from Spring and just win even easier than that. Before I was spamming Galio, roaming top or bot to get the advantage, first blood or tower. I was getting wrecked but I was sacrificing for the team and we would win eventually, but then we started to be a bit inconsistent. This playstyle, if you're inconsistent, can't work out in my opinion.
I thought that I could go back to my playstyle from Spring and just win even easier than that.
I think you can't make mistakes if you want to have that playstyle so I went for those 1v1 or 2v2 champs. For example, the second game with Zilean/Kindred, we were diving both their mid and their jungle. I think we were really good playmakers. I just pick whatever I think is best for the meta. Some people thought that Yamato was putting me on Galio duty, but I think that Galio was the best pick and I just wanted to win so I was picking the best that I thought would bring us the win.
Speaking of playing 1v1 champs, in Game 3 you were playing LeBlanc and just deleting Hans Sama. Was that the plan, just play a champ that could completely nuke him?
I could pick between some champions and I went for LeBlanc. Before the game started I was like, "In later fights, I'm going to one-shot Hans Sama." No other words. And that's what happened. Hans Sama wasn't playing, I think I denied him a lot, and Sencux once tried to go on me–I one-shot him as well. I think I had a good performance. I could do better, I made some mistakes, but I'm proud of myself.
I think I had a good performance. I could do better, I made some mistakes, but I'm proud of myself.
In Game 4, they let you have your trademark Ryze. Why do you think they let you have him?
I showed them that I can play so many champions. They had to leave something open and they left Ryze because they thought that I wasn't going to play it because I'd never blind picked during the first three picks in any game. I was last pick, and I think they thought I didn't want to play it and they gambled it. I think they wanted me to pick fourth pick so they could counter it or some strategy, I don't know what was in their minds, but the last pick meant a better match-up for myself so I think we played well in draft. In draft I said to my team... "Guys, this is a Ryze game. Just give me Ryze, lock it in, no questions. Jactroll, pick me Ryze, lock it in." When it's about mid champions they trust me.
Today, in the crowd, there was a huge turn-out from the Vitality family. What did it mean to you today to have their support in the crowd?
They were really insane. Every time we were walking onto the stage, we could see them on the right. They were just cheering so hard for us and I could feel their energy while I was playing along with the Spanish crowd. It was such an insane experience playing in Madrid, really. I wish it were the Finals but I think that they showed us that, even if we didn't make it there, there are many that love us.
For the people at home who couldn't make it out to Madrid today, do you have any words of thanks for them?
Well, I thank you all. I thank you for the heartwarming comments on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. You guys really helped me when we lost last week. There were like 100 messages at least. I read all of them, actually. Of course, I can't answer but I read all of them and I'm really thankful to fans like you. Thank you.