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Vit Tasz: “The main issue we are tackling is our relatively specific champion pool”

Things are heating up as playoffs approaches, and despite going 0-2 in Week 6, Team Vitality remains in contention for playoffs. However, they will have to overcome a surging Misfits Gaming and a tricky match against Excel Esports for Week 7.

Vitality’s Head Coach Mateusz “Tasz” Borkowski sat down with us after their game against MAD Lions and talked about Vitality’s ‘double-edged sword’ playstyle and his first season in LEC so far.

First and foremost, thank you for accepting this interview. Commiserations on the 0-2 week. However, both games were very close. As a coach, what are your biggest takeaways?

Tasz: We had a lot of draft discussions and we had to face the reality of those conclusions we came to, if they are good or bad. Sometimes individual players have to come to those conclusions and I feel like we faced reality a bit, especially against G2 Esports. I really liked our draft against MAD Lions and in the end it came down to execution, but I was so happy that the drafts we predicted happened and it was good for us.

The main takeaways are generally how we draft and though obviously there are gameplay takeaways, it wasn’t the main focus of our week of practice.

The team also returned to playing on stage this week. I understand some players have had a bit of nerves, did it play a factor in some of your performances this week?

Tasz: I would say it seems like generally it didn’t have an impact on the players, they took it very well and some of them were even more excited to do it. I’m actually worried that when we go back to the office it’ll just be too boring for them (laughs)!

There is more excitement, there is more happening and you get to see the people from the same environment. Generally speaking it had a positive impact, though I would say there were some nerves in our first game against Fnatic, so there was a bit of impact on our comms but overall now it’s only positive.

Speaking of your games, the game against MAD Lions, Vitality had a good early game then it became a back and forth game before MAD won it. What do you think of Vitality as a team now and what are some of the issues that need to be addressed?

Tasz: There are a lot of issues but I would say the main issue we are tackling is our relatively specific champion pool. We are looking to make sure what we play and feel comfortable on ties nicely in the current meta and not playing against it.

In addition to that, our gameplay is very explosive and it goes both ways, since sometimes we upset, yet sometimes we upset ourselves! It’s a double-edged sword. Those are the general points we are trying to tackle right now.

On double-edged swords, the general consensus even before summer started was that most people thought Vitality would be very volatile and it seems like it so far. What do you make of this assessment? Is the explosive style something that the team has chosen as an identity?

Tasz: When we were committing to those players at the beginning of the season, we knew this could happen, that this playstyle as a team would manifest. To be honest, people were joking that vitality would be either first or last, and I would say it’s not really happening since we’re in the middle of the pack contesting for playoffs right now.

We’re just doing crazy things in specific games, so in a sense there is truth to it (laughs)! But also I think it’s not exactly how people painted it at the beginning, there are definitely more details to it.

Is this a style that Vitality wants to continue to maintain even if the meta changes?

Tasz: I definitely think this is the style that defines us and that we need to keep refining it (laughs)! The question is how good you play it and how much variance there is, and if the variance is going in a positive or a negative way. As I mentioned before, we can upset other teams or upset ourselves, so it’s important that we reduce the amount of upsets on ourselves.

Since this is also your first season in LEC, what do you make of the LEC as a whole and the current strength of the LEC?

Tasz: The teams are strong, but I feel like one of the big narratives currently is that because G2 Esports is not performing that well, it must be because other teams are performing so much better than them. It does seem to be a bit overexaggerated. I don’t think everyone suddenly became so much better than G2, I think it’s a mix of both, them becoming a bit worse and everyone is still getting a bit better.

The level is incredibly high just looking from my perspective comparing it to ERLs, even though I was coaching in the best ERL (LFL) before coming to the LEC. The competition there was already difficult but the LEC is much, much more difficult (laughs). It does make sense since the region is good and while it’s difficult to compare it to other regions now, from what I’ve been seeing in official matches, the level is very high even though some people might over exaggerate it sometimes.

From your experience in the LFL and the EU Masters, how has the transition been like for you? Has it been difficult or has it been smooth sailing, generally?

Tasz: It hasn’t been smooth but I think it was definitely manageable. It wasn’t an easy process but it was a process I could handle because of how Vitality has been and still is supporting me. What I mean by this is, because the break between spring and summer is very short, I went from EUM to instantly needing to set up everything in the next season of LEC because to a certain extent, Vitality was almost fully rebuilding. The coaching staff and players changed quite significantly.

There was a lot to do, so it wasn’t an easy process and it’s still not an easy process (laughs)! I do think I was able to push through it and Vitality is doing a great job supporting me by allowing me to choose the players and staff. Personally, I do think this step into the LEC was a bit early for me, but by having certain people around me like Louis-Victor “Mephisto” Legendre and Andrei “Realistik” Ruse, I do feel like I am getting what I need and i can focus on my strengths while they cover my weaknesses.

One of the most publicised news was Mathias “Szygenda” Jensen’s roleswap which you talked about on broadcast, and I’d just like to get your thoughts on that. Do you still work very closely with Vitality.Bee and with the swap, are the other players much more aware that the academy players could take their place?

Tasz: I do oversee the academy team but I generally don’t attend their scrims. I stay in touch with the players and coaching staff, and if I have the time or opportunity to, I do sometimes watch their scrims and try to stay updated on what’s happening. I try to contribute from time to time if it’s needed but it’s just better to let them go with their own flow. And so far, they are playing very well and have been a very reliable help to us.

As I said on broadcast, we have our game rooms next to each other and are only divided by a glass wall. I can look on my left and see the whole academy team. Even before the MAD Lions game, they helped us to warm up, which I’m thankful for, because it’s always difficult to schedule something like that when they have scrims going on. They definitely helped us with our draft preparations.

On the swaps, the initial swap that we planned was based on the fact that we sent Szygenda to the academy and we told him what we wanted him to improve on, both in and out of the game. We did see that he improved on them and while Enzo “SLT” Gonzalez was very hardworking, we were not able to transition him to have a playstyle we needed from him as a team. At Berlin International Gaming (BIG), he was generally more of a strong-side and a carry, and in our team we tried to transition him into a bit more of a weak-side player. Even though he was putting in a lot of hours, this is one of our current failures, specifically my failure, that we were not able to support him enough in the process of becoming the player we needed as a team this season.

At the same time, he’s working super hard in Vitality.Bee and he’s had good showings there. I think he’s also more unlocked or unleashed because of the kind of player he is and the kind of player the academy needed. I’m still monitoring every game he plays and it’s interesting to see how he continues to develop.

Before we end, coming back to the LEC, Vitality plays Misfits and Excel next week. What are your expectations going into those matches?

Tasz: We are looking to go 2-0. We know what we want to work on, we know what changes we want to make and we know what we’re aiming for. We did have a difficult week and we still performed well against G2 and MAD Lions, so I think if we can keep this project going we should be winning against them.

We’ve come to the end of the interview, anything else you’d like to add? Any shoutouts you’d like to give

Tasz: I’d like to give a shout out to the Vitality fans! They’re always supportive whether we’re doing good or bad, and I always see positive messages on Twitter. I think it’s especially important that I shout them out because I’ve not been using social media recently so this is a good opportunity for me to thank everyone for the support!

Dziękuję Tasz, and good luck!

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