In the most unusual circumstances, Matti “WhiteKnight” Sormunen graced the European stage once again with his presence.
It is somewhat fitting.
He’s been on Europe’s radar since the start of the European LCS. He would hit the top of the solo queue ladder in season three and four yet he wouldn’t make his first appearance as a top-lane starter until 2017. We don’t talk about that time he was the marksman for Team ALTERNATE. We sometimes talk about that time when he beat some guy named Bjergsen while subbing as a mid-laner. Since then, it has been a combination of team disappointment, a relatively quiet style of play yet some excellent performances in unfortunate circumstances.
And somehow, joining the disheveled Astralis organization has helped turn around the narrative of his career. You can’t make this up.
Remember When PSG Was Going To Be the Next Great EU LCS Organization?
In the era of relegation, it was always a treat to watch some of the best solo queue talent attempt to fight their way into the main stage. Even better would be the stories of known entities getting shocked by lesser-known entities. WhiteKnight would join the team seemingly out of nowhere in January of 2017 and help lead the team to a shot at the EU LCS Summer Promotion tournament.
His 4-0 regular-season record would primarily feature him on tanks. Yet it would be his ability to play the weakside of the map and be a rock for a team that would make him such a valuable player. It would also limit him at times as the team would lose to Fnatic Academy in the qualifier match. His lane opponent Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek would pop off on the carry champion Akali.
PSG would look to learn from their mistakes yet they would still crumble in the summer split of the EU CS. But it would be a decent enough showing from WhiteKnight to earn a call from Unicorns of Love in 2018.
Taking over for the legendary Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás was a tough ask. He was capable of producing similar results and potentially being able to fill said shoes. Once again, he would attempt to be the rock for his respective team yet it wouldn’t fair as well for him. Statistically being one of the worst top-laners in Europe for both the spring and the summer season wouldn’t be a good look. It was somewhat explainable given Unicorns of Love overall negative performance, his partnership with Jonas “Kold” Andersen not being as good as expected and the overall dysfunction with the organization. Even with the improvement in the summer split, it wasn’t enough.
Back into the Shadows
Joining Berlin International Gaming felt like a stepback at the time. He would be the old man joining Finn-Lukas “Don Arts” Salomon, Dirk “ZaZee” Mallne, Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság and Risto “Nukes” Luuri. Despite a solid showing in the spring, a support swap into the second half of the season — bringing on Labros “Labrov” Papoutsakis — would turn the team from good to great.
Being an afterthought on a team with Carzzy was expected. Yet his impact in matches didn’t go unnoticed. His ability to play towards the bottom side of the map and connect well with Don Arts helped the team capture an EU Masters Summer 2019 victory.
The 2020 iteration of BIG would see new forms — as talent would be called up to the LEC. While still partnering with Don Arts, the team would bring in a new mid-laner, a new marksman and a new support throughout the season. The talent was still good — current Excel support Henk “Advienne” Reijenga replaced Labrov. It was just tough to execute from a team perspective.
Individually, it was much of the same from WhiteKnight. He wouldn’t be a statistical god, he wouldn’t require many resources but he would still leave an impact on the Rift if given the opportunity.
The Stars Aligning
With the Astralis re-brand, expectations were high for the first lineup. It is safe to say they missed the mark.
Bringing in veteran talent to pair with relatively green faces has been a strategy new coaches take when getting their feet wet. Nikolay “Zanzarah” Akatov and Jesper “Jeskla” Klarin Strömberg received high praise for their work in the regional leagues however they were paired with Erlend “nukeduck” Våtevik Holm and Hampus Mikael “promisq” Abrahamsson — two players perceived to be at the end of their respective careers.
The team would look relatively uninspiring to start the season. While looking slightly better than the expectations they were given, Astralis failed to develop any sense of cohesion. Nukeduck would step away from the team due to personal reasons and Carl Felix “MagiFelix” Boström would join.
Things would start to change.
A lot of things changed for Astralis. But this is a WhiteKnight piece.
WhiteKnight has been playing the role asked of him to the best of his abilities. He has the lowest percentage of his team’s deaths among top-laners (10.9%), fourth-highest kill participation and is limiting the gold and experience damage that can come because of reduced jungle influence. He’s making up for early game deficits by receiving a large portion of his team’s mid-to-late economy. He tops the LEC top-laners in the percentage of his team’s post-fifteen-minute creeps (26.1%) and the second-largest percentage of his team’s economy (24.3%).
In a strong-side situation, he makes the most of the opportunity. He put together a crushing performance against Vitality in week 4. And it is also impossible to dive WhiteKnight – as Misfits found out the hard way in week 2.
Coordination between the top-laner, mid-laner and jungler for Astralis have been key points in getting the team across the finish line. Against Schalke, a 12-minute fight in the mid-lane, trading 3 kills for 1 curbed the early lead Schalke had built. Their ability to time the teamfight in such a tight space — especially against a Zilean — was brilliant.
Astralis look much better in skirmishes compared to team fights. Against G2, they would go toe-for-toe with one of the best teamfighting organizations to ever grace the LEC stage. The high-paced and high-action matchup played into their strengths. While the G2 bottom lane would run over their opponents, the top side of the map would keep things interesting for Astralis, constantly looking to trade or take advantage of the opponent’s errors. A failed dive from G2’s top-laner onto WhiteKnight was snowballed into two kills and plates.
A KDA Player But In a Good Way
Every single match, WhiteKnight continues to push his limits and seemingly is always able to get away. He’s been the player Astralis can rely on to help bail the team out of a bad situation. And when they aren’t in a bad situation to begin with, they’ve flourished.
This has arguably been the best WhiteKnight has looked in his career but this has also been one of the best situations he’s ever been a part of. He’s been given his champion of choice. MagiFelix and Zanzarah have been outstanding performers. Even the widely criticized promisq has loved moving around the map.
He’s now able to operate.
His journey through the LEC has been one of the best stories never really told. He’s never been with the big-name organization and he’s never had the big career moment. For a player that could have potentially been out of the LEC given the fall of Unicorns of Love, he’s done everything to show he deserves a spot. He has been one of the best top laners in Europe since the mid-lane change and continues to impress in ways that may not necessarily be highlight outplays or statistic anomalies.
He’s the top-laner you can forget about. And in a role that is meant to be a pillar for a team, that’s not a bad thing.
“From Our Haus to Yours”