After being dropped from H2k-Gaming's starting roster during the offseason, Oskar "VandeR" Bogdan found himself looking for a new team. One would think that almost any LCS team would want a Worlds 2016 semifinalist on their roster, but VandeR decided to head back to Challenger and join up with FC Schalke 04.
Four weeks into the split, Schalke are in first place with 12 points, and a 4-0 record, far above the rest of the competition. Some are saying they're one of the most dominant Challenger teams of all time, during a season where the league has been stacked with dozens of experienced players, and VandeR has been a big part of it. VandeR took some time to chat with theScore esports about the split so far, and who he expects to face off against in the promotion tournament.
So, you went from being a Worlds Top 4 player to playing in Challenger during the offseason. What was that move like? Did it feel like a step down for you?
After H2K decided to not continue with me I was looking for a strong LCS team. But I couldn't find any since most of the rosters were already completed, so I decided to join Schalke instead of a lower team in the LCS, and I think Schalke provides much more than some organizations that are currently in the LCS. It's better to be a team here I think, it's easier in terms of series because you have a lot of time to prepare and practice, to know everyone a little bit better than trying to do it with a bottom tier team in LCS. There's much more stress, it's much more faster. You'll be like, 2-6 and you're looking at relegation, you know?
What is the difference for you between playing in LCS and Challenger? Does it change the way you approach the game at all?
Of course I can play much more relaxed, I have a lot of room to play different, try a lot of stuff, since I don't get punished as much as usually. The level in comparison is so much different, it's hard to explain. At Worlds, all your map movements have to be so precise and you have to think about it yourself and with your team, and here it's like, you can go wherever.
If we get to LCS this split would have been very beneficial since we can practice many different picks and a lot of different playstyles, we don't have to pick something necessarily that will work the best for us, we can try a lot of stuff. I think that I can focus a lot on how to play with my ADC now. With Upset I can have much better teamwork and synergy together than with had with FORG1VEN or Freeze.
How is playing with Upset compared to your previous botlane partners?
I think he's very open minded since he's a new player and very young, he knows he has to learn a lot, but he still has great confidence in his skill. I think his mindset is close to perfect in this regard. It's just good because he always listens to me and if he has any issues about my play he'll give me feedback in a very nice way. It's really good and easy to work with this guy, and if he keeps improving at this rate I think he can become the new Zven.
People have been saying this is the most stacked Challenger has ever been, does it feel that way to you? What do you think of the competition?
It's true. I was watching some Challenger Series matches last split and I can see that we, as a team, present middle LCS level right now I think. We play the competition much ... we make it so that people have to beat us, essentially. So I think we are like, a lot ahead right now in CS as a team, but it obviously can change and we can't stop improving. We can't rest on our laurels, but I think the competition is better for sure, but I think we have LCS level right now and that's it. Fnatic Academy was strong with Broxah and Kikis, but since Kikis has some health issues and Broxah is no longer there, I don't know how well it will go for them.
What about the EU LCS teams? How do you think they stack up right now?
Before IEM my thoughts were that EU was pretty weak right now in terms of teams. I think G2 is a good team and all of the other teams have a lot of issues. They make a lot of mistakes, they have some weak spots. The players are most likely good, but they tend to do some weird mistakes from time to time, they're not playing disciplined. I think we can see the fruits of it in IEM. I think the teams that are there have slightly weaker players, but they are very disciplined, and EU teams aren't. They just give leads for no reason, kind of.
I feel like there are four tiers. I think the two best teams are G2 and Misfits, then H2K and UoL, then Splyce and Fnatic, and then the fourth tier is everyone else. Vitality, Origen, Giants. It's not a clean gap between Top 4 teams and the rest, I think it's more divided.
Who do you think you'll play in the promotion tournament?
For LCS we will play for sure either Roccat or Giants, and Origen or Vitality. I believe it will be OG and Roccat right now, but both Vitality and Giants can end up in relegation. I think we are close to the level of these teams. I want to believe we are better, but I can't really test it. I can't know for sure. I think we have a good shot beating them but it's still more than a month away. The second team that comes from Challenger will either be PSG, who play bad as a team now but they have good players so if they have good shotcalling I think they can join us in the promotion tournament or beat us to get there, and if they will not fix their issues, Kinguin might be. It's hard to say. For Fnatic Academy it depends on if Kikis and the new jungler will work out for them.
Obviously you want to qualify for the LCS, but are there any personal goals you have for this split?
I personally hope to play better individually as well, I know that in H2K I had a lot of games where I didn't play that well individually, I was like still playing good around the map and with the team but I didn't make any more significant plays alone. That's what I'm trying to fix. Part of it is to have better understanding and communication with your ADC, so we are both doing the same thing and we're finding that we can influence the map much, much more than trying to be only in one place.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.