Imagine you are in top form in the League of Legends circuit; all engines are firing as you prepare to face off Samsung Galaxy in the 2016 World Championship semifinals, representing Europe (and the West) at Madison Square Garden. Imagine that, try as hard as you might, Samsung sends you packing into the offseason after a 3-0 sweep.
If you can vividly imagine that (and the emotions it involved), you might have been a member of H2k-Gaming in late 2016. Otherwise, you can simply listen to what Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu says about his team's performance throughout the competition. "Personally, I felt that it was the most that roster could ever do," he notes. "We reached our peak during Worlds, as our level of play with that roster."
But could you imagine some of the trials they have undergone since then? Odds are, not at all - even if you were a member of that team. The only thing we can do is see it through Odoamne's eyes.
H2k hit a wall, and they needed a way to get over it if they were to contend on the world stage going forward. For Odomane, the offseason had ended as soon as it started; H2k considered him a cornerstone for 2017 alongside Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski. "[The organization and I] had a talk as they wanted me to stay," he retells. "They wanted to make a roster around me, so I had a big say in what players are going to come [to the team]."
The first challenge occurred when Yoo "Ryu" Sang-wook departed to the North American circuit, primarily because of how the team operated around him. "[Ryu] was probably the biggest voice, because whenever he would say something, we would just follow it," recalls Odoamne.
Yet it came with a blessing - or three, in this case. Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten sought to return to the squad, and the organization could bring a South Korean bot lane duo alongside him. Enter Sin "Nuclear" Jeong-hyeon and Choi "Chei" Sun-ho. "It didn't make sense to import a Korean mid laner and get a Korean AD or a Korean support, it would have been too much of a mix," Odoamne explains. "We just thought that bringing a Korean bot lane would be the best."
Odoamne's teammates may have changed, but he, Jankos and Neil "PR0LLY" Hammad approached the game in a similar way. Adapting Febiven to H2k's playstyle is an ongoing process, primarily due to the difference between him and his predecessor. "[Ryu and Febiven] are different players with different styles of play. Febiven would be the more quiet guy that's focused more on [his play], while Ryu would be the loud person that would focus on stuff outside of his lane," Odoamne points out.
Outside Summoners' Rift, however, it is as if he was part of the team all along - which is in part true as Febiven helped H2k reach the League Championship Series before the 2015 spring season. "He's still goofy. He's still the same old Febiven, but he's more serious," comments the top laner with a smile. "Ever since he came in, he's been best friends with Jankos. They troll each other, they jokingly flame each other. There's a lot of fun banter between them."
Nuclear and Chei also adapted to H2k's playstyle despite the language barrier, and assistant coach Son "StarDust" Seok-hee's hire greatly helped. StarDust's contribution didn't stop at translating in-depth League of Legends concepts and strategizing alongside PR0LLY; his experience at the highest level in StarCraft II allowed him to accumulate knowledge regarding practice and mental preparation. "I've seen that he wants to work on our mental strength, see [if] there are any mentality issues in our scrims [and] in our games," notes Odoamne.
With the offseason in the rearview, the squad dropped Origen 2-0, but community perception wasn't necessarily positive in the aftermath - which made their 2-0 dismantling of Splyce more significant. "It feels good mostly because we were being criticized after our win against Origen. We were called 'so bad' and stuff like that, 'we're not even good' or whatever. Obviously, Splyce just played their first game in the LCS against us and maybe just had their first-game jitters," he says, not without a frown.
"Against Origen, we decided to play 'that sloppy' just because we felt so comfortable and confident playing. I feel [that], against Splyce, we turned our gears up and played as aggressive and as focused as we can," he adds, before concluding; "I'm happy about this game [against Splyce] because we can make all those people that don't really know what they're talking about be quiet."