Armut: “I didn’t want to get 3-0’d, so I had to play Wukong”
On Sunday, April 11th, MAD Lions broke the LEC’s longstanding tradition of crowning either G2 Esports or Fnatic as champions of Europe. For the first time in almost seven years, a new name is added to the wall of fame in the studio after MAD Lions came back from an 0-2 deficit against Rogue to complete a reverse sweep. Pivotal in their miraculous recovery was top laner İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek, whose Wukong play acted as a compass straight to the trophy.
After the victory, Armut joined us for an interview to talk about the championship weekend and how his team managed to stay optimistic despite being 0-2 down. He also explained the thought behind the saving grace Wukong pick and looked ahead at attending the Mid-Season Invitational.
Hotspawn: Congratulations on becoming the LEC champion, Armut! Going from TCL champion straight to being an LEC champion, that must feel quite unreal.
Armut: Yeah, it is. I probably haven’t realized yet that we won the LEC. I don’t feel like that, you know? [Laughs]
Hotspawn: What do you feel at the moment then?
Armut: What do I feel? Hmmm, I’m kind of an interviewing machine right now. I’m just thinking about answers and giving interviews for a long time. [Laughs] But yeah. I’m just talking about the game, life, and my fans.
Hotspawn: [Laughs] Alright, let’s waste no time then and talk about the championship. Heading into the weekend, many people thought that you would have to face G2 in the finals. Was this the same for you?
Armut: Yeah, I was actually expecting G2 to come from the lower bracket and beat us in the finals. [Laughs] That is what I was expecting, but it didn’t go like that. But I really wanted to play against G2 because beating them in the finals would really mean something, you know? I would probably be ten times happier than I am now. I’m not saying that Rogue is bad or something. It’s all about G2. Winning the finals against them would just be really cool.
Hotspawn: It’s the prestige that comes with it.
Armut: Yeah, exactly.
Hotspawn: Well, then you find out that you’ll be playing against Rogue, who pretty dominantly defeated G2. Were you at all intimidated by how well Rogue played in that series?
Armut: No, it was just very random to me. “Ok, so we are playing against Rogue?” Of course, I was surprised because I was expecting to face G2, and we were getting ready for G2. But Rogue won. I guess G2 had a really rough Playoffs. Their drafts weren’t looking good, and they didn’t play that well. They’ve explained why it happened. We were not expecting it.
Hotspawn: Had you at all prepared specifically for G2?
Armut: For myself, I knew that Wunder was trying to play Irelia in solo queue. So it would have been a totally different draft from me if I had to play against him because I’m picking Gnar all the time, and Irelia is a really hard matchup for the Gnar. [Laughs] So I was just thinking: “If I will face G2, what will I play?” I had something in mind, but then we faced Rogue. So I just picked Gnar again, and we lost the first two games. [Laughs]
Hotspawn: Let’s go into the series then. The first game was pretty comfortable for Rogue, but the second game seemed to be much stronger from your team’s side.
Armut: I think game two was ours, but they kind of stole it from us. So, it made us angry and think “How can they do that?” [Laughs] I mean, we felt that we were better than them, to be honest. So we just told ourselves that the series was ours. It is 2-0? Now we will win it 3-2. I was actually showing to the camera that we would win 3-2.
Hotspawn: Oh yes, that has become a meme immediately.
Armut: Oh, it is a meme already? I don’t have a connection here. But anyway, I showed the camera and the viewers that we would win it 3-2.
Hotspawn: I’ve spoken to your teammates a few times. They’ve all said that, after a game loss, it’s pretty easy for the team to mentally reset and brush off the loss. Even 0-2 down in the finals, I still saw everyone laughing, making jokes. How can you keep such a good atmosphere in the team?
Armut: I think it’s because it was already unexpected for us to go to the finals. Even if we lost, we didn’t really have something to lose. Of course, if we can win, we will go and get the win. But even if we lost, I don’t think we should be unhappy about it. If we lose a series that we could have won, then it would be really sad. But let’s say we faced G2 or Rogue, they were totally better than us, and we would lose the series: I wouldn’t be unhappy. We already made the finals, which nobody was expecting. We weren’t expecting it. This is our first Split together, so we already accomplished so many things. We should be happy no matter what, even if it’s 2-0 for the opponents.
Hotspawn: So even if it would be a 3-0, you wouldn’t be sad?
Armut: No, it would be sad. [Laughs] It would be a loss for the fans because no one wants to watch a 3-0 finals. As the viewer, I know that too. So it would suck. I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t want to get 3-0’d, so I had to play Wukong, you know? [Laughs]
Hotspawn: That’s an excellent segway into the next topic. 2-0 down, you start playing Wukong. Now I know it’s a team effort, but it really felt like you took your team by the hand on Wukong and dragged them back into the series. What did you tell Mac to let you draft Wukong?
Armut: I was telling them: “Hey, they are drafting Lucian mid, that’s a worse ADC. Just let me pick Wukong, I can do it!” The top lane match-up doesn’t matter. I can play the laning phase. I don’t mind losing my lane if I know that I will win the game. Wukong was really good into the drafts of Rogue in game three and game four. So I just went for it.
It was really weird that they didn’t ban Wukong in game four. They had the chance to ban it, and I think they really should have done that. Then, in game five, they ban Wukong, but Wukong was really bad into their comp then. So I was like: “Ok, we take those!”
Hotspawn: You got into their heads with the Wukong.
Yeah, probably! [Laughs]
Hotspawn: So, when you were 0-2, you kept calm and things were lighthearted. How was the atmosphere in the team when you guys reached a 2-2 score, though?
Armut: I was kind of joking with the team. I was telling them: “Guys, this is the most important game in your life. This is probably the last chance you can get at winning the finals in your entire life.” [Laughs] So I was kind of pressuring them but still saying “no pressure guys!”
Three, four months ago I was just thinking about how painful it would be if we would get reverse-swept. Then, yesterday, I saw in a dream that we got reverse-swept by Rogue. But today we reverse-swept them. It’s kind of weird. But it’s so much fun to play a fifth game. Everyone feels it. Some people are choking, other people have a lot of adrenaline. Game five is the best game, man.
Hotspawn: During that fifth game, it seemed for a while that Rogue was going to win. When did you realize that you were the ones who would win the game?
Armut: I didn’t realize that we would win the game. I just kept thinking that we could win. We have a chance to do it, so why not take it? That was our motto during the game.
Hotspawn: When you joined this team, did you ever imagine that you would go on to win the first Split?
Armut: No, I didn’t even dream about it, to be honest. It was just too unreal, you know? [Laughs] G2 just seemed so strong in the regular season, during scrims and during official matches. They seemed unbeatable with Rekkles. So we were thinking that they would be the champions again. But here I am, champion of the Spring Split!
Hotspawn: You’re going to MSI, and you’re going to play against a team from the TCL as well. Is that something you’re looking forward to?
Armut: Yeah. It’s always really fun to play against your home country, I guess. It sounds fun, at least. I’m sorry that I’ll have to beat them, but this is how it goes.
Hotspawn: Assuming you make it out of the Group Stage—
Armut: Let’s not talk big! [Laughs]
Hotspawn: [Laughs] Let’s say you do, you’ll be facing top teams from dominant regions like the LPL and LCK. Reigning world champion DAMWON KIA has already made it, for example. You’ve been to Worlds, but does the prospect of playing against them get you excited?
Armut: To be honest, I don’t watch the other regions that much, so I don’t know. I know the LPL and LCK are really, really strong. But other than that, I don’t know many regions. I don’t follow them that much. Khan, Nuguri, I might play against them. In 2019 I also played against Nuguri and he was really good.
Hotspawn: It’s been a crazy Split, Armut. What do you want to say to the MAD Lions fans to close out your championship Spring Split?
Armut: Thanks for everything. If people are having fun while watching me on the camera, playing League or not playing League, I’m really grateful. It is something I enjoy a lot too. It’s the best feeling I will ever feel. I really love that.
Armut and MAD Lions will next take to the stage at MSI 2021 in Reykjavik. You catch the reigning LEC Spring Champions in action from Thursday, May 6th.