After LCS stint, Jiizuke is returning to ERL roots with Giants - Dexerto
League of Legends

After LCS stint, Jiizuke is returning to ERL roots with Giants

Published: 3/May/2022 17:06 Updated: 3/May/2022 17:26

by Meg Kay

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After a spring split hiatus from competitive play, midlaner Daniele ‘Jiizuke’ Di Maurio is ready to return to the competitive stage. From making Worlds with Team Vitality to almost winning the LCS with Evil Geniuses, Jiizuke’s career has spanned continents – and if he gets his way, it’s not stopping here.

Jiizuke has had a fascinating career in competitive League.

He has had the high heights of stealing games off Royal Never Give Up at the 2018 World Championship, proving to the world that Chinese teams weren’t quite as undefeatable as everyone thought.

He has also had his fair share of low lows, of loss streaks and poor domestic performances. But even despite these lows, his lack of a team for the 2022 Spring split left raised eyebrows across the community. How could the 2021 LCS Summer all-pro mid laner suddenly not be worthy of a starting spot?

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He took the Spring split away from competitive play to recuperate and practice, and now he’s finally returned to competitive play – taking a trip back to the very beginning of his career as the mid laner for Spanish side Giants in the LVP.

The 2022 offseason

Jiizuke with Evil Geniuses LCS 2020 roster
Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games
Jiizuke was nominated as the first LCS all-pro mid laner in Summer 2021, but even that wasn’t enough to avoid the capriciousness of the offseason trade market.

It’s no secret that the 2021 postseason left its fair share of casualties – a swathe of talented players who were, inexplicably, left teamless. Players like Nicolaj ‘Jensen’ Jensen and Yasin ‘Nisqy’ Dinçer, two talented veterans with international experience, were notably absent from starting lineups in EU and NA.

Jiizuke was another one of those casualties. He explained how the postseason was controlled by two key players, who effectively locked down the mid lane market in both Europe and North America.

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“Everyone was waiting to see where Perkz and Bjergsen would go, until like November 15,” he told Dexerto. “Nobody wanted to make any decisions on mid laners until those two had a team.”

Bjergsen’s return from retirement and Perkz’s return to Europe from North America were two of the biggest events of the 2021 offseason. However, that meant that other players were left by the wayside, as organizations waited with bated breath for an opportunity to sign two of the most historic players in Western league.

Jiizuke received a few offers, but none from teams that he thought could offer him any real chance of success. He wanted more than just “a team to look good on individually”.

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“If you’re going to sign to a team for one, two years, you need to know that team will have a good chance of success,” he said. “You can’t just go there and think you will perform well individually.”

Individual performance is all well and good, and it is entirely possible to look good on a losing team – but Jiizuke has always wanted success, and that success comes with titles. Not perfectly executing a laning phase while his team catches fire around him.

And so, he took a break. But he wasn’t content to rest on his laurels – his plan had always been to come back, even as early as January. There were been plenty of mid-spring roster swaps this year, in both EU and NA, and he wanted to be ready for tryouts whenever the option became available.

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“I mean, it happened to Mihael ‘Mikyx’ Mehle, right?” he said.

Obviously, finding scrim time is out of the question when you’re not on a professional team, so the majority of his practice came in the form of solo queue. It wasn’t perfect, but it did the job.

“Normally I watch pro VODs during queue times because the queues are so long,” he said. “But after about three hours, your brain starts to get tired, so I have to turn the VODs off.”

But even then, the solo queue grind continued. He highlighted the importance of maintaining the kind of routine he would be under on a professional team, even during his offseason. Structure yields results when it comes to consistent practice, and so recreating that structure was a priority from the outset.

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Days gone by

Riot Games
Vitality’s victory against RNG at the 2018 World Championship has gone down in esports history.

When looking for a team, knowing your teammates is crucial, and far more important to Jiizuke than any regional preference. For him, having a good jungler is everything.

“For me as a mid, jungle and support are the most important synergies. In order of importance, I’d probably say it’s jungle, support, top, and AD Carry.”

But the best players he’s ever worked with? Top laners. He cites both Jeong ‘Impact’ Eonyoung and Lucas ‘Cabochard’ Simon-Meslet as the two teammates who have had the greatest impact on his career, with Bae ‘Bang’ Jungsik coming in at a close third.

He has always liked playing through a top laner, and that preference was one of the cornerstones of the success of Team Vitality’s legendary 2018 roster. The synergy between Cabochard and Jiizuke survived even as the team changed junglers mid-split, and it allowed Mateus ‘Kikis’ Szkudlarek to slot into the roster with very few growing pains as a replacement for Erberk ‘Gilius’ Demir.

In an attempt to facilitate that top/mid synergy, Vitality looked to Galio mid lane as their pick of choice in the opening round of the 2018 playoffs. In combination with junglers like Kindred and Jarvan, and Sion in the top lane, the “Press R to engage” composition had dominated scrims for Vitality. So why not take it to the EU LCS stage?

But, according to Jiizuke, those scrims were heavily misleading, and almost cost them their spot at the 2018 World Championship.

“We had like a 90% win rate in scrims, and then we went on stage and lost 3-1 to Schalke, got completely stomped.”

It was reverting back to his comfort picks of Ryze and Leblanc that secured Jiizuke and Vitality their Worlds spot in a 3-1 versus Misfits Gaming – despite the fact that these comfort picks performed worse in scrims.

And, only a few short weeks later, it was that selfsame Ryze pick that netted the team their historic victory versus Royal Never Give Up at Worlds that year.

Former Vitality coach Jacob ‘YamatoCannon’ Mebdi’s legendary speech after Vitality exited the tournament has become famous for one line – “play your own game”. Before that Vitality win, the world had assumed that you had to play like the LCK or the LPL to succeed. That the only way to win was to imitate those who were already winning.

But Vitality proved that not to be true. They won their own way, and wrote their names into League’s history books despite not even making it out of groups.

The transition from rookie to veteran

Jiizuke at Worlds 2018 on Vitality
Riot Games
The transition from rookie to veteran isn’t something that happens overnight – but now, on Giants, Jiizuke will be one of the team’s most mature voices.

He took a short break from the practice schedule during the offseason, but now he’s joined Giants Jiizuke is right back to scrimming and VOD reviews for the upcoming LVP Summer split. And he’ll have plenty of VODs to review, as MSI kicks off in Busan in a mere week’s time.

He’s excited for G2’s international performance, citing their bot lane as one of the most exciting parts of Europe’s international hopes. “I think the scouting for Flakked was just really good,” he says, “and I think he’s a super good rookie.”

Europe’s relationship with rookies has been… rocky, to say the least. Rumors that MAD Lions jungler Steven ‘Reeker’ Chen will leave the roster at the end of the spring split will mark yet another rookie whose tenure in the LEC has been far shorter than expected.

There have been concerns about the fast turnover of EU rookies in recent years, with multiple teams fielding rookies for only one or two splits rather than seeing them as a long-term investment. Europe has had golden years in terms of rookies, but it feels like the region is entering a slump, where rookies are underperforming only to be sent packing after failing to live up to expectations in a single split.

According to Jiizuke, however, the problem doesn’t lie at the feet of the rookies themselves.

“You can’t just sign a full team of rookies to save money and expect them to do well. You need the veterans as a foundation, and you need to properly scout the rookies and not just sign them because you think it will be cheaper.”

He was one of those rookies, once – all the way back in 2017. He joined Team Vitality from Giants Gaming, a team to which he’s returning for Summer 2022. With the EU LCS experience of top laner Cabochard, Vitality made the run from the LEC to the World Championships with four rookies.

And, in a serendipitous turn of events, he’ll now be that veteran leading a pack of rookies to victory. He told Dexerto he would always be open to competing in an ERL in his return to competitive play, and he’s made good on that promise with a return to Giants.

He’ll replace Aljoša ‘Milica’ Kovandžić, also a former Vitality player, and compete in the LVP during the Summer split, with the ultimate hope of qualifying for EU Masters.

He’s one of multiple former LEC pros to make the step to ERL play in 2022. The international renown of Europe’s regional leagues is such that, despite being a tier below leagues like the LEC and LCS, it’s no longer considered a step down or a step back to go and compete for a chance at an EU Masters appearance.

For Jiizuke, the Spanish LVP and French LFL were the two most attractive ERLs purely due to their high viewership numbers. More eyes on your gameplay means more opportunities for upward movement, and both regions bring in viewership that has on occasion rivaled even the LCS.

EU Masters is the goal this season for Jiizuke. And on an ERL team with three ex-LEC veterans and two ERL superstars, that dream doesn’t look too far away from becoming a reality.