Vitality’s 2022 roster was, on paper, one of the most stacked rosters the LEC had ever seen. Which is why it’s all the more shocking that they failed to qualify for the 2022 Summer playoffs, and will miss out on representing Europe at Worlds.
A former MSI Champion and one of the most successful Western players to ever compete in League of Legends. A back-to-back LEC Champion. A multiple LCS and LEC finalist. A former world champion.
On paper, this roster should have been completely indomitable. Based on résumés alone, it had pound-for-pound some of the highest-achieving talent in Europe. This was Team Vitality’s big LEC gamble that shouldn’t even have been a gamble – bringing together some of Europe’s brightest in the hope of becoming the region’s premier League of Legends team.
And only one year on from that gamble, the team has failed to qualify for the World Championship. After the Alliance superteam from all the way back in 2014, this is one of the biggest roster failures of any European League of Legends organization.
What went wrong?
I’m not going to attempt to theory craft what it was exactly that went wrong for Vitality behind the scenes. There are a million different intangibles that can go into making or breaking a team, and unless you’re spending every waking minute in their scrim room, it’s impossible to know which was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Inside the game, there’s no theory crafting required to see what went wrong. They were continually let down by their mid-game decision-making. It felt like they had no real set pieces to fall back on, and were just relying on the sort of solo queue ‘you go here, I’ll go here’ shot-calling style to set up for plays.
Watching their voice comms videos, it’s like they were playing from a public library. They were barely communicating – and while sometimes minimalistic communication can be beneficial for getting information across, it really doesn’t feel like this was anything other than giving up.
The most galling part of all of this is that their qualification for playoffs was entirely in their own hands. They had to win a single game, and not even against a top team. Their 2022 Summer split ended with a five-game losing streak, but they still had the opportunity to qualify for playoffs right up until the final second.
Pointing fingers in a case like this is pretty redundant. Every player had a part to play in this failure, even though support Labros ‘Labrov’ Papoutsakis was arguably the best player on the team and repeatedly pulled his team back from the jaws of death only for them to launch themselves back in at lightning speed.
But possibly the most surprising underperformer of the split was AD Carry Matyas ‘Carzzy’ Orsag. In his MAD Lions prime, he was considered by many to be the second coming of Martin ‘Rekkles’ Larsson. But this split was unquestionably the worst of his career.
When a team’s coordination and communication are bad, the AD Carry is the player that suffers the most. It is the role least capable of making plays on its own and the most easily punished for a lack of team cohesion in team fights and around major objectives.
This is not to take the responsibility for Carzzy’s poor play off his shoulders. It is, however, to suggest that kicking him from the roster may not be the immediate fix Vitality need.
How many more chances will Vitality have to get it right?
I highly doubt we’ll see this iteration of Vitality’s roster again. The most likely change I can see them making is bringing in substitute jungler Zhou ‘Bo’ Yang-bo as a full-time replacement for Kang ‘Haru’ Minseung.
Bo acquired his Visa too late to start with the team from the beginning of the Summer split. He’s also not massively proficient in English, having played in China for the entirety of his career. With how essential communication is in League, a multi-language team is another layer of difficulty for a roster who’d already underperformed in Spring.
While Haru is also not a native English speaker, he’d already spent a split playing on an English-language team with X7 in the NLC.
Coach Louis-Victor ‘Mephisto’ Legendre told Dexerto in an interview earlier this year that the plan was to bring in the former LPL star as a “curveball” in certain moments to throw off opponents. But Vitality have lost that luxury.
When you’re failing to qualify for playoffs with one of the most expensive rosters in the league, you don’t need to be thinking about flashy last-minute strategies — you need to be going back to your fundamentals and building even the most basic level of synergy between your players.
So if they can’t bring him in as a curveball, they may as well just bring him in as a full-time starter. Bo is one of the most mechanically gifted junglers in professional play right now, and he’ll now have at least five months to work on his English in order to have it up to a passable level for in-game communication.
Alternatively, Vitality could build up from scratch. Throw all their toys out of the pram, and start again, with a budget ERL roster that they could look to develop over the course of a year or so. But unfortunately, they’ve already tried that, and to no avail.
Where do they go from here?
So, then, it seems as though the only solution is for Vitality to stick with what they have. The failure to make the playoffs was a real smack in the face for all of Vitality’s players — this may well be the cold-water shock they needed to kick them into gear for 2023.
It’ll be a difficult offseason, and one that will involve going back to the fundamentals of teamplay in a way that won’t be easy for a roster that consists of multiple regional champion veteran talents. But it’s necessary and important. Vitality don’t get to spend this much on a roster only to toss that roster aside the second it doesn’t perform well.
If anything, I’d suggest a change to the coaching staff — perhaps move Mephisto back into an assistant coaching role and bring in some new blood. It could provide the players with the chance to reset completely and head into 2023 with a fresh mentality.
But changing their entire roster would be suicide. These players are too good to not be worth another split, at least. If the offseason is handled correctly, and players are given the time to properly go away, mentally reset, and come back, then I can’t see why Vitality can’t start afresh with a new coaching staff.
Bring in Bo if you must (and if his English communication is at a point where he feels ready to compete), but don’t get rid of the whole roster. You went to the effort of signing these players — you can’t just drop them and try something else at the first sign of trouble.