“There could be a case [for me as the best jungler in Europe in 2014] but I don’t really think so. I think me and Shook were pretty even, and Jankos made a lot of other junglers seem weaker but every time we met he wouldn’t do what he’d do with other junglers in Europe. It was like he was scared.”
When it came to writing what is essentially pretentious fan mail about a player from each relegation team, I already knew who the easiest one would be. In 2014, SK Gaming were an underdog story and Svenskeren was the underdog. Others would do well: Fredy122 would grow and develop into a phenomenal (if not world class in Season 4) top laner, Candypanda’s aggression and playmaking abilities on various hyper carries would become known, nRated was praised for being the brains behind the operation and Jesiz would actually make Worlds. But all of these players did it on the back of one man and that man was Svenskeren.
Ignore what you have been told. In 2014, Svenskeren was the best jungler in the west. No amount of mediocrity on his roster was enough to keep him away from the world championships. Only his foolish self could do that.
Spring 2015 presented a lot of change for SK, but not as many as one might think. What was perceived as change was actually just an upgrade to an already functioning machine. What did change was how successful the team’s style was and how that influenced their mid game. Gone was the SK of old that was running people across the map to trade objectives, only teamfighting when it was absolutely advantageous. If you wanted that then look no further than H2K Gaming. This SK won lane and won game.
New Beginnings, Rusted Tools
The critical thing that changed was Fredy122’s champion pool, but SK ,as a bot-centric team with a mid laner that spread any advantages he accumulated, was unchanged from Season 4 to Season 5. Previously, Svenskeren had ensured Jesiz survived lane on control mages like Orianna or the gateway assassin of Ahri, drip-fed Candypanda on late game hypercarries and gave Fredy122 as much comfort as he required to develop into the monster he later became. Mid to late game Fredy122 would be able to peel and protect on his tanks, Jesiz would be almost a secondary support (changing to another damage dealer later on) and Candypanda would be the start of the show. Sound familiar?
Forg1ven was better at what he did as a hypercarry in the mid-late game and a bully in the bottom lane, Fox could be trusted to win lane on his own (the most solo lane kills of any mid laner in Spring), and Svenskeren was finally able to return to his true love — counter jungling. However, what was impressive about the Svenskeren of Season 4, was that his ability hinged largely on his mechanics. He would dominate team fights. He played each one so well, a mastery of the champion one generally found in laners. This mechanical ability and prowess on champions like Kha’Zix in Season 4 translated into his Season 5 Lee Sin, Nidalee and Rek’Sai picks.
He could also finally take it into the early game. If this Svenskeren saw a win condition in any lane, he would take over the corresponding half of the map. Once SK had the outer ring of turrets down, he could focus on neutral objectives. Spring split Svenskeren was the master of dragon. If SK weren’t able to press their turret advantage they would five drake and win. Sometimes it was a compositional issue. They had few ways to contest one of their early victories against MYM for example, so they continued to farm up, avoid unnecessary fights and take every drake for free. From season four to season five not much had changed. What ended up being SK’s downfall was inherently linked to their playstyle in the face of significant meta changes as opposed to any singular player. It wasn’t even that they were ‘figured out’ by any means - they ended with a 15-3 record and every series in the playoffs went the full five.
Svenskeren was breaking the meta when he was attempting to carry these games. His Lee Sin against the Unicorns of Love in Game 4 was some of the greatest display of his individual proficiency. The Unicorns’ attempt (while ahead) to take his red buff resulted in four deaths at the hands of the Swede. The massacre didn’t stop there, and SK were almost able to save the series from the jaws of defeat. Not off the back of Forg1ven or Fox, or Fredy122 or nRated, but once again off of Svenskeren. It was difficult for the assassin focused mid laner and the hypercarry oriented Forg1ven after the rise of Cinderhulk. Their playstyles were no longer the most effective at outputting the damage required to justify their gold and their champions. Svenskeren was the only one pushing through.
The Summer of Old
Summer split saw the return of Candypanda and SK’s priorities didn’t change. Against the Cinderhulk meta they were still prioritising Candypanda on his hypercarries and his gold share put him in the top five with other ADCs who were their team’s win condition (Forg1ven, Freeze, Hjarnan). Whether he was a worse AD Carry than his predecessor did not matter. This was the wrong approach and the wrong meta for it. Forg1ven himself was struggling to adapt on Gambit too, yet SK were still stuck on a patched out meta.
Regardless, Svenskeren was still making the case for the best in his role. He was invading hard on Ekko against ROCCAT and his old rival Jankos, eliminating the former First Blood Machine and using his position to set up dives in other lanes. Dives that never happened as the waves weren’t pushed by their laners to coincide with his movements. Against Giants, he recognized that they would lack the mid game damage to pressure objectives without Kalista snowballing. On Rek’Sai, he took over Fr3deric’s side of the jungle and dominated the bottom half of the map, but his team lacked the ability to close out the game as their decidedly low damage composition was outscaled by the Giants’ double tears on Ryze and Urgot, with an additionally scaling AP Ezreal. It was a loss from a massive lead born almost entirely out of Svenskeren’s aggressive play and incredible ability to take over the game.
This split, it just wasn’t enough.
In much the same way that Jankos made other junglers look weak in Season 4, Svenskeren spent season five doing much the same. His team is so often behind but he is still able to invade. He wiped the floor with loulex to pave the way for SK’s upset win over H2K Gaming. He did the same with Kikis against the Unicorns of Love. If you have a weak jungler on your team, SK Gaming had all the tools to take games off of you. Against Giants it was close, against H2K it was close the first game and a victory the second. Jankos, a player prone to lose control of any game he doesn’t take first advantage in, had to concede a defeat to Svenskeren, a player for whom domination was a mantra.
Invading the Future
Svenskeren and Fredy122 have been together since Supa Hot Crew. He once listed Fredy122 as his best friend in the game. Fredy122 has had peaks that made him world class. For Svenskeren, it seems to be his default state. I used to contend that Fredy122 had the potential to be a top laner in vein of Koro1, had he been allowed to develop in the same way Koro1 did. They both started by receiving a low priority from their team and were exceptional in their abilities to make more happen with less. Koro1 has since evolved into something more. Fredy122 was suddenly pushed into the 1-3-1 meta split pushing, rather than be allowed to continue developing gradually as the utility tank and meat-shield he had been making his name as. Who knows what he may have become on his own terms. On the other hand, Svenskeren is more comparable to Spirit.
Svenskeren is a win condition. He is the only jungler in Europe that I would not hesitate to build a team around. No matter what the state of his laners he makes it works. He propels them forwards. He has done it all the way to the World Championships with the potential to go so much further. The choices that keeps Svenskeren down are not the ones he makes in the games themselves. I hope he knows this. When interviewed he still believed Jankos, a jungler dependent on his early successes in the game, to be above him in 2014. In my eyes there was never a contest. Svenskeren was and is the undisputed best. He makes a lot happen with a little and snowballs tiny leads into insurmountable advantages. His teamfighting is exceptional. His mechanics are obscene. His ability to read his opponents have been unmatched since the days of Diamondprox in his prime.
Svenskeren does not deserve to be where he is. He deserves to be representing Europe in the World Championships. He is one of the few hopes Europe has of showing a true carry jungler capable of taking on the best of the East. He still has room to grow. He deserves a team that will allow him to play as freely as he did in spring split Season 5. A team that will take on the advantages he gives and build a victory out of it. He is far from done.
Michael “Veteran” Archer is an EU writer, analyst/coach and professional fanboy who once said he’d write five articles on Svenskeren in a week if SK made the playoffs. You can follow him on Twitter.