Vitality head coach Mephisto reveals plans for a “curveball” strategy in the LEC

VIT Head Coach MephistoWojciech Wandzel/Riot Games

We caught up with Team Vitality’s head coach Louis-Victor ‘Mephisto’ Legendre for a breakdown of Vitality’s six-man roster, how Haru’s changing the team’s dynamic, and how he feels about VIT’s chances in LEC Summer. 

2022 got off to a pretty poor start for Team Vitality.

After a rebuild that saw them bring together some of Europe’s most iconic names to create a ‘superteam’ intent on challenging G2 and MAD Lions at the top of the LEC standings, community speculation was rife about how the team would be able to turn it around after a disappointing few years. 

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The answer? They wouldn’t – at least not right away. Vitality’s performance in Spring left a lot to be desired. So much so that, in the Spring offseason, after being eliminated in the second round of playoffs, Vitality made the decision to bench jungler Oskar ‘Selfmade’ Boderek and bring in former LCK star and ERL newcomer Kim ‘Haru’ Min-Seung. 

It was a risky gamble. Selfmade, a fan favorite, has long been one of the better-performing junglers in Europe. Benching him seemed, from the outside, like a move that would either pay off spectacularly or be Vitality’s undoing. 

But, after three weeks of LEC competition, it’s proven to be neither. Vitality are doing just fine, sitting in a three-way tie for third place alongside G2 Esports and MAD Lions. The changes have not seen them crash and burn, but they’ve also not propelled the team to the high heights that the creation of a superteam would predicate. 

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Despite their rough year, coach Mephisto remains hopeful that the team will eventually reach these heights, and that they’re “on the road” to Summer split success. 

And if that road to success makes them the first major region team to draft and win with Bel’Veth? Then so be it. 

The Bel’Veth pick

Wojciech Wandzel/Riot Games
With their win against SK Gaming in Week 3, Vitality secured Bel’Veth her first-ever win in a major region.

Bel’Veth became available to play on the pro play patch this weekend, after being disabled in weeks one and two. And Vitality wasted no time, becoming the first major region team to lock her in and, more importantly, win with her. 

The Bel’Veth pick was, according to Mephisto, a bit of an experiment for Vitality. Although he explained that they’d picked her a few times in practice games, they wanted to “see what she could do in a true competitive game”. 

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And the consensus on this experiment? Not bad, but could be better. 

“I think she did fine, if we’d played the first fight better. I think she could have the potential to pop off earlier in the game, but I think she did what she was supposed to do. I was really happy for Min-Seung (jungler Kang ‘Haru’ Min-Seung) to get a carry game in as well.”

Integrating Haru and finding a summer identity

Vitality HaruMichal Konkol/Riot Games
Haru’s already looking like the breath of fresh air Vitality needed – and Mephisto says the team are working hard to keep it that way.

Integrating Haru into the roster has been a crucial part of Vitality’s Summer plan – and getting to take on a carry role is just another boost to his confidence as their new jungler. 

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Integrating him properly was a real concern for Vitality, in ensuring both that he was able to suit the team’s needs and that he wasn’t just swallowed up by their pre-existing synergies and strategies.

“He’s a very kind human, and very easy to work with, but what’s important is that we take care of him as well. That we don’t ask too much of him and that we don’t ask him to sacrifice too much for us because sometimes, you can be blinded by what is good for your solo laners and you can end up denying your jungler tempo or farm.”

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This was, for many, the perceived problem with Vitality in Spring. Every player had the potential to be a carry, and that meant that sometimes assigning resource priority on the map was an impossible task. 

Mephisto concedes that their “multi-threat” approach does have its weaknesses, but that overall it’s a strategy he thinks can be hugely successful for the team if executed properly. He admits that sometimes the team can struggle with being “too shallow” in their ability to play certain comps, but that their adaptability in draft has been one of their greatest assets despite this supposed shallowness. 

“When we are doing draft preparation, if they leave one champion open then that role can carry, if they leave this other champ open, then that role can carry. So I think we are a multi-threat team, but that also causes us to not have as much practice as other teams.”

He cites Excel as a team who’ve gone for depth rather than breadth in their gameplay, and have perfected one style at the expense of flexibility. “If I’m thinking of Excel, for example: I think they have one very big threat in their team, which is the way they play around bot lane, but this is something that they will do all the time.” 

This specialization makes them easy to target, both in draft and in-game – something he explains Vitality do not suffer from in the same way. 

Success with a six-man roster

Michal Konkol/Riot Games
How will the arrival of Vitality’s sixth member change the team’s dynamic in Summer?

But Haru’s not the only jungler on Vitality. In their pre-Summer signings, the team also picked up former FunPlus Phoenix jungler Zhou ‘Bo’ Yang-Bo, who’s only just been able to enter Europe after an extended Visa application. 

Multi-player rosters have always been somewhat controversial in League of Legends. There have been very few occasions where they’ve actually worked, but the logic behind them makes sense even if their application sometimes do not. 

Mephisto elaborates, explaining that Haru will be the team’s main starting jungler regardless of what happens. This, at least, is encouraging – ultimately, being a professional league of legends player is still a job, and positional security is something that can’t be ignored. 

However, he went on to explain how Vitality planned to use Bo as a “last-minute curveball” once he’d been able to practice a little with the team and get some of his communication down (currently he speaks minimal English, and the extent of his work with the team has come in the form of watching VODs while he’s been in China). 

“At some point, when the time is right, we will incorporate him into the roster in a suitable way. But I think Bo is gonna be a super curveball that we can throw at our opponents at any time, even the day before a match. 6pm the day before is when you have to say who’s going to be on the starting roster for the following day’s game – so it’s going to be quite fun having people last-minute adapt to us, that’s for sure.”