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Jankos Unleashed: The First Blood King Speaks

H2K have managed to find themselves in a perilous position. Not only are the hopes and dreams of Europe resting on their shoulders, but they are the only team from the entire West left in the Top 4 teams in the World. Now, they’re preparing for a semifinals as the only non-LCK representative. It’s a high-stakes situation, but H2K’s current hot streaks show that they thrive under pressure.

We had a chance to catch up with a major factor in H2K’s success, Jankos. They call him the First Blood King, and that early, calculated aggression has contributed to H2K going from behind in their group to a semifinalist. Jankos shared his thoughts on H2K’s dominant 3-0 performance in the quarterfinals and the semifinals that loom ahead.

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"ANX’s strength was that they were very unpredictable," he says about his last opponents. "That’s why they manage to win a lot of their games. They just kind of take random fights, they try to fight a lot, they do YOLO plays." This aggression and reliance on what some might call cheese is what got ANX so far, but H2K identified a key point to focus on. "They don't have enough vision. If they get punished, they lose."

ANX were more than just a one-trick pony who relied on early aggression, as their consistent performance throughout Groups showed; they had some real skill behind the dazzle. H2K were able to come up with a comprehensive plan to best the Wildcard team. "They were doing pretty much random stuff and getting away with it, I feel like. [We played] a more specific game, a slow game. Plus I feel like we had the ability to understand them after watching certain of their games. It made us very strong opponents against them."

The Russians on ANX had been treated as the underdogs who overcame successful teams, and H2K may have disrupted their journey through Worlds by refusing to buy into that narrative. "We never looked at them as underdogs. We looked at them as any other opponent. Even though in some games we played too eager, we still played our game and we prepared."

Semis are coming

The next match ahead reverses the dynamic; now H2K are the underdogs. Samsung Galaxy is on a winning streak as well, and the Korean team has looked stronger as the tournament progresses. "I think it's very hard to judge whatever I will do against Samsung because they are one of the best Korean teams. The only teams that are left are us and three Korean teams."

He notes that the jungle presence may be more than H2K has contended with so far in the tournament: "I think Cloud9 played really bad, and Meteos didn't force enough, and they got outplayed a lot. But if our solo lanes can match their laners, I think we can make it. I think Samsung's weaknesses are that they maybe don't have the strongest lane players."

The question then becomes whether H2K’s lanes can stack up against the Samsung competition. "I trust my laners, and if we have the matchups we want we can really play aggressive against Ambition, even though he's one of the smartest players in this tournament," Jankos said,

While H2K is stacked with individual talent, the team has been plagued by rumors since FORG1VEN left (and rejoined) the team. H2K has responded to the rumors by presenting a united front both in and out of game. Of course, the semifinals are a situation that might add some pressure to a strained scenario. Jankos doesn’t seem worried by it. "We try to be professional; we try just not to have a lot of emotions towards other people. We don’t need to be the best friends to play the game." 

It’s a fair point that he furthers elaborates on. "I know other teams that aren't the best friends maybe, and maybe they even hate each other, but when it comes to playing this game then they come together. We are just trying our best to show people that we are good players. And then whatever happens after the season happens, you know."

For now, H2K are keeping their sights on the next immediate challenge: Samsung Galaxy. As the last non-Korean team, H2K are proud to be the West’s final chance. "I’m really excited. I don’t know how I’ll feel later, but right now I’m proud of it," he says, about being the final representative of the LCS. "There’s no pressure, because if we lose, we’re just one of the teams that lost to them. Everyone loses to them."

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s taking a defeatist attitude. “I feel more pride from the fact that we are the last Western team, and I'm willing to try our best to show we can at least match Samsung. Maybe we will lose, maybe not, we will see, but I want to take at least one game and show that we are here for a reason.”

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