A Challenger Approaches.
As we entered the Play-Ins stage of EU Masters, many of us thought that SK Gaming’s Academy roster would struggle - especially given their recent form. But as of Wednesday, the 10th of April, they sit at a 5-1 record. SK Prime have secured first place in this stage of the tournament and automatically qualified for the main event.
SK Gaming Roster
TOP: Sacre To those of you that have watched the previous EU Masters, Sacre is certainly no stranger. He was the standout of a Kliktech roster that brought both glory and awareness to an oft-neglected Balkan Region.
Sacre comes into 2019 with high expectations placed upon him. Has he lived up to them so far? Absolutely. A dominating carry threat, a substantial portion of SK's aforementioned wins have come from him single-handedly taking over games. This includes matches featuring slightly unconventional picks such as Fiora and Rumble.
During the offseason, there were some questions about communication and synergy. These had solid reasoning, especially considering that Sacre was an import that hadn't played with any of the players on the team previously. Even so, he soon quelled any doubts through sheer dominance.
JNG: Phrenic The gold standard of German resident junglers, Phrenic is both a carry threat and tank presence. Renowned for his aggressive early games and pop-off potential, the könig of the jungle has made a name for himself over the past two and a half years.
It's no coincidence that he has been on top 3-4 teams throughout his entire career! His aggressive jungling style is a pleasure to behold (when it doesn't blow up in his face).
MID: Jenax The other change in the sololanes for SK this past offseason, Jenax is about as much of a veteran in the German scene as you can possibly get. He also presents a player that has performed under pressure for most of his career. Stellar offline performances help sit him comfortably in the upper echelon of German resident mid laners. I would consider him to be on a similar level to Schalke 04's LEC midlaner Abbedagge, though Abbedagge has higher highs and lower lows. Jenax is a known quantity, but still maintains a consistently impressive standard of play.
The victim of circumstance when it comes to the limelight, Jenax is surrounded by stars that outshine him - yet he is the player that leads SK to a majority of their victories. Be it through highlight plays, or just solid Viktor positioning, Jenax always delivers. Those of you that watched the games earlier this week will undoubtedly remember the potency of his pocket Renekton pick into melee mid matchups.
ADC: Keduii Once upon a time a Tristana one-trick that struck fear into the hearts of high Elo solo queue players everywhere (on both teams, no flame of course). Keduii is now living testament to just how promising the next generation of German (and EU) AD carry talent truly is.
Despite being one of the youngest players in the League, he puts up solid statistics and highlight-reel worthy plays almost every game. SK play around Keduii reasonably well, though his offline performances have yet to be as spectacular as his online ones. This guy certainly has a bright future ahead of him - first stop, EU Masters.
SUP: Doss A veteran of the Spanish League, Doss is often looked at as a primary catalyst for both SK's wins and losses. Whether it's when making solid picks with Thresh or going for insane engages with Alistar, Keduii's partner in the bottom lane rose to meet the challenge posed by the superteams in the region.
So far, Doss looks to stand out on occasion even with a team stacked to the brim with promising talents.
Looking at the players individually, they certainly have some talent and promise.
But to even be in contention for first seed to begin with, they had to be doing something right. Let’s get some context on this team!
June 8th, 2018. A date most German fans were either super excited, super confused, or a bit of both - it marked the return of former LCS organization and multiple-times Worlds attendee SK Gaming to the League of Legends scene. At the time, their most high profile acquisition seemed to be head coach Brokenshard in late August of that very same year.
Most of 2018 was spent getting the roster accustomed to each other, building synergy between some of the more promising young talents in the scene, and taking consistently high placements across numerous tournaments. Even so, the team seemed to be forever doomed to linger in ESG, and occasionally Mouz's, shadows.
This would seem to be a blessing in disguise, however, as when other top teams imploded (or simply underperformed), SK would maintain their consistency. They continue to retain their points and relative dominance over the region.
During the ESL Meisterschaft 2019 Spring, SK has put up a 15-3 win/loss record. This meant that they maintained sole control over first place for almost the entirety of the split. They headed into playoffs as a strong favorite, but fell short - now we are expecting new coach Kanani to help cure their LAN jitters.
But if SKP is this strong and full of promise, why aren't they hyped up coming into this tournament?
As aforementioned, SKP are notorious for underperforming in an offline environment within the German scene. Whether their recent success can be attributed to the fact that this stage of the tournament is played exclusively online will be tested once they play in a LAN environment next week.
Their recent offline results are a testament to this reputation, having dropped out of both of the most recent qualifiers convincingly. In Bonn, SKP lost to BIG (Germany’s other representative) 0-3 in the finals. In Berlin, SKP lost to AHG and dropped out of the tournament early. This meant that all the points they’d built up to secure first weren’t enough to keep them there.
Consistently placing highly in online events but falling short in offline environment seems to encapsulate this SKP line-up. As such, all eyes will be on them to see if they can overcome the self-inflicted curse they carry with them now. They have a chance to claim revenge against BIG, but EUM will be spent looking to gain glory for your region as a whole. Indeed, the rest of the teams in the main event had better watch out for the German double threat, especially given SKP’s form in the play-in’s so far.