Columnist Nick Geracie puts Kacper “Inspired” Słoma’s first year in the LCS under the microscope. (Featured Image: Source: Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)
Expectations could not have been higher for Kacper “Inspired” Słoma heading into the 2022 League of Legends esports season. The jungler had just come off another impressive year with Rogue – his best season yet – that saw him win the 2021 League of Legends European Championship MVP award and take another trip to the World Championship.
When it was announced that Inspired would be crossing the Atlantic Ocean to play for Evil Geniuses in the 2022 League Championship Series season, Inspired was almost immediately expected to be the best jungler in North America due to his level of play in his last season on Rogue.
Fast forward about nine months – Inspired has won an LCS title, attended the Mid-Season Invitational for the first time in his career, won the LCS Summer Split MVP award, and is headed to the World Championship once again. Throughout the many ups and far less frequent downs of Evil Geniuses’ 2022 season, Inspired has been the team’s best player and, as advertised, established himself as the best jungler in the LCS.
Evil Geniuses looked monstrous at the beginning of the season. Throughout the majority of the LCS Lock In, they were the most dominant team in the tournament – albeit one without full rosters for many teams – and while they lost to Team Liquid 3-0 in the finals, the general consensus was that the roster had already proven it could live up to the hype surrounding it heading into the year.
Throughout the Lock In, Inspired boasted a 6.4 KDA – second only to Team Liquid jungler Lucas “Santorin” Larsen – and utilized the innovative approach to jungle pathing that made him such a formidable opponent in the LEC. However, in the Spring Split, Evil Geniuses failed to find the consistency present throughout the majority of the Lock In. While Inspired was able to still put up strong individual numbers, EG finished the split 9-9 and captured the 4th seed in the Spring Playoffs through a tiebreaker win against FlyQuest.
Despite a middling split from a results perspective, Inspired expressed confidence in Evil Geniuses heading into the post-season. “Taking more risks in the draft is definitely more possible in best-of-fives than best-of-ones. If you want to win bo1s you need to always just draft a safe composition and not give your enemies to many win conditions,” Inspired explained in an interview with Inven Global.
EG looked like an entirely different beast in the Spring Playoffs. After a narrow 3-2 loss to 1st seed Team Liquid, EG dropped down the lower bracket and eliminated FlyQuest 3-1. From there, EG hit their stride at just the right time, sweeping Cloud9, Team Liquid, and 100 Thieves to win their first LCS title and represent North America at MSI 2022.
The numbers don’t lie
Inspired had the highest KDA of any player in any role in the post-season at 8.4, and while his early game innovation was paramount to EG’s success, his role was more of a facilitator for the young carries of Evil Geniuses. Even on carry-centric champions like Nocturne, Inspired would often build an early Knight’s Vow or Anathema’s Chains in an effort to keep AD carry Kyle “Danny” Sakamaki alive in teamfights to stupendous effect throughout the post-season.
At MSI 2022, EG came out of the gate a little shaky – they were able to win all four of their Group Stage matches against League of Legends Circuit Oceania representative ORDER, but went winless against LEC champion G2 Esports. Even after an impressive win over League of Legends Champions Korea representative T1 in the Rumble Stage, EG was unable to find a win against G2 for the duration of the event.
EG undeniably ramped up, but after qualifying for the Knockout Stage, found themselves eliminated at the hands of League of Legends Pro League representative Royal Never Give Up and had to settle for a top 4 finish at MSI 2022.
Throughout the event, Evil Geniuses rookie mid laner Joseph Joon “jojopyun” Pyun was praised for his willingness to remain proactive and not succumb to hesitation or fear on the international stage, and rightfully so, but Inspired was quietly the team’s best player at the event.
Inspired led all junglers at MSI 2022 experience differential at 10 minutes and CS per minute, showcasing peak efficiency throughout the early game in an effort to give EG their best chance against the steep competition of other major region representatives. Even in EG’s 0-3 loss to RNG, the matches were more competitive than the score would imply.
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Evil Geniuses looked inspired after MSI
Teams returning to their region from MSI often start slowly in summer because of the shorter break due to participating in the international competition, but EG treated the Summer Split like a victory lap. EG hit the ground running immediately in summer, winning their first four games and not slowing down on their way to a 15-3, 1st place finish. Inspired, like every other member of Evil Geniuses sans top laner Jeong “Impact” Eon-young, was named to the All Pro team for the Summer Split.
It looked like nothing could stop Evil Geniuses from defending their spring title, but in an inverse to the previous post-season that saw EG hit their stride at just the right time, the 2022 LCS Championship saw the squad stumble at the worst time possible. EG seemed to have completely changed their style overnight, playing and drafting antithetically to the Danny-focused identity they had found success with all split.
EG shockingly lost their first match of the LCS Championship to Cloud9 3-1, and while they would qualify for Worlds 2022 through the lower bracket, they were incredibly shaky in their wins against TSM and Team Liquid that guaranteed them a top 3 finish.
Before the final weekend of the season, Danny stepped down from the starting roster due to burnout and mental health fatigue that had clearly affected his performance throughout the post-season. EG had gotten to Worlds, but they would have to try and defend their LCS title with EG Academy AD carry Muhammed Hasan “Kaori” Şentürk on very little notice and without ample practice time.
Despite putting up a strong effort in five games, EG was unable to best 100 Thieves to qualify for the final of the LCS Championship and settled for the 3rd seed heading into Worlds.
The best jungler in the LCS this season?
It’s difficult to claim that EG is heading to Worlds in their best form. Kaori had an impressive LCS debut with the team despite less than a week of practice with the squad, and EG’s re-tooled identity with him in the lineup will take some more fine tuning before it can hope to stand up to international competition.
However, in his first LCS season, it’s hard to have asked for more from Inspired. He was EG’s best and most consistent player throughout 2022 thus far and picked up a lot of the slack present in the post-season due to Danny’s competitive exhaustion, and when looking back across the past nine months, it’s nearly impossible to argue against him as the best jungler in the LCS this season.
It’s easy to allow recency bias to get the better of one’s judgment — Evil Geniuses failed to defend their title in the 2022 LCS Championship and had to settle for the #3 seed to represent NA at Worlds. However, when considering the circumstances surrounding Danny’s burnout and Kaori’s subsequent substitution, it’s hard to fault Inspired as an individual for EG coming up short.
Whether EG can return to peak form before Worlds is still a question mark, but Inspired’s performance throughout the season, regardless of EG’s form as a team, has been that of a top jungler in the region through and through.
Inspired came to North America and in one split became its champion. Another split later and he is the only player in history to win an MVP award in both the LCS and the LEC. At Worlds, Inspired will look to bring his career to even greater heights after setting his highest mark yet on Evil Geniuses in 2022.
*All statistics provided by Oracle’s Elixir