H2k-Gaming have built an all-new roster for the 2018 season, signing top laner Lennart "SmittyJ" Warkus, jungler Lucas "Santorin" Larsen, mid laner Marc "Caedrel" Lamont, AD carry Patrik "Sheriff" Jírů and support Hampus "sprattel" Abrahamsson.
The team will be coached by former FC Schalke 04 head coach Michael "Veteran" Archer, who brought SmittyJ and Caedrel with him from Schalke. This isn't Veteran's first time with H2K, as he was their lead analyst in 2016, when H2K reached Top 4 at Worlds.
"The reason behind [signing Veteran] being two things principally," H2K's chief gaming officer Richard Wells told theScore esports. "One, Veteran was previously our assistant coach in 2016. We felt that this is obviously when Pr0lly was stilly head coach. We felt that his input, particularly around Worlds when we finished Top 4 was pretty invaluable, and you know, we really enjoyed working with him at the time."
According to Wells, the organization chose their core three players, SmittyJ, Caedrel and Sheriff within three days of the offseason, and didn't speak to other players for those positions. While SmittyJ and Cadrel came from Schalke, Sheriff is returning to Europe after playing the past few months in Turkey. Sheriff has just turned 17, making him eligible to play in the EU LCS.
"Everyone we spoke to, and based on our VOD reviews and watching him play soloqueue, everyone we spoke to said this guy is the most talented AD carry in Europe, or at least the most talented AD carry who has not had an opportunity to perform at the very highest level," Wells said. "And I had that opinion before I even spoke to anyone. Before Veteran had even joined H2K, we were going through our lists of top priorities to lock in ASAP regardless of experience, age or position and we both had Sheriff number one on our lists."
Wells says that the roster was designed to have strong laning off the bat, with several experienced, veteran players to guide their rookies in Caedrel and Sheriff, which made it take a little longer to fill the jungle and support positions. According to Wells, there was plenty of available talent in the jungle, and the organization also spoke to Jonas "Trashy" Andersen, Jonas "Memento" Elmarghichi and Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir, but ultimately chose Santorin, in part due to his enthusiasm during their interview.
"I'm pretty sure we could have signed any of the players we spoke to based on our conversations with them, but we felt that Santorin was the most motivated, and felt like he had the most to prove," Wells said. "Also, because he's been around for a while now, he has a lot of experience and we think he has the most sound mechanical fundamentals as well. We wanted multiple experienced voices on the team, considering we were also going to have rookies."
Finally, sprattel was the last player H2K signed for the season, and while Wells admits that he is the most surprising part of the roster, he believes that sprattel never really been given the team he needs to play up to his skill.
"The guy's never had a good AD carry, he's never had a good team. When his name first came up, I wouldn't say I dismissed it, but I did say 'enh' and pushed it aside. I wasn't really interested," Wells said. "But a lot of different people, and most of the people we talked to said that he's really talented, especially in lane, he's a really good laner. He's a really talented player. It's either a stage issue or it's just the scenario he's been in, or possibly a combination of the two.
"We spoke to him extensively, he believes it's the latter, and he's been the victim of circumstance, and we really took our time over picking the support, but he was higher on our list than our other options in the eyes of our AD carry and also the other players who all believe him to be a strong player."
The team has yet to scrim together, so Wells isn't quite sure of how the team will work together in the early stages, but believes it's a lineup that can make it to the playoffs in the spring and peak in the summer. Wells also says that several players on the team were encouraged by H2K's recent transparency surrounding their business decisions, particularly some of them being kicked from rosters they helped qualify for the LCS.
"I feel that with everything that H2K has been saying and doing publicly, with full transparency, that a lot of players, for different reasons, that have felt sort of shunned by their organization" Wells said.
"For example getting promoted to LCS and then being told you no longer have a place on their roster, I think that the philosophy of H2K is very attractive to players that felt like they'd been wronged in this way. It was almost a rebel camp for all the people that had been thrown out, all the people that still absolutely deserve to be playing at the LCS level who were cast aside by the team that they had got promoted, and there was a connection created based on that mutual experience and they still wanted to play, and H2K represented those values."
H2K recently released a letter stating that they have cut their budget down to €1 million by reducing player salaries and other overhead in order to become a break-even team for 2018. Wells said that the players they had signed to them in 2017 knew this, and it was part of the reason they accepted offers elsewhere.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.