LEC Player Of The Year: Don't Forget About Armut
When you're king of the jungle, sometimes it takes the leader of the pack to get their hands dirty and fend off the snapping hyenas looking to take your crown. But first, you must earn the respect of the pride, and if that means unseating royalty in the process, then so be it. For the snappy MAD Lions in the LEC, savagery was the key, allowing İrfan "Armut" Berk Tükek to sink his teeth into the flesh of the European dragons and lead the team to greatness.
Circle of life
For Armut, his year began signing with a team he'd dumped from the previous World Championships, with his former SuperMassive Esports roster overcoming MAD Lions at the Play-In elimination rounds, only to fall to Unicorns of Love in the Final. MAD spent no time in licking their wounds and liked what they saw in the Turkish top-laner, snapping him up at the earliest opportunity for the 2021 season. Signing alongside Spanish jungler Javier "Elyoya" Prades, the pack had been reshuffled to boast a more fearsome combination at the top of summoners rift, and both newcomers had their heart set on their first appearances at the World Championship Group Stages.
From overthrowing MAD to replenishing their scars in the circle of life, Armut was ready for the challenge, and he just couldn't wait to be king.
Unlike Simba's instant gratification in front of the entire jungle, Armut's first outing of 2021 came against defending LEC champions G2 Esports, fresh off the back of the signing of Martin "Rekkles" Larsson and their top-four finish at Worlds. The samurai hunted down the pack in just over half an hour, with Armut often being targetted by the deadly Martin "Wunder" Hansen, who earned himself MVP of the match in a 32-minute rampage. Despite the rage and hungry nature to get off the mark at MAD, Armut's year had got off to a shaky start, going into the rest of the split with his tail between his legs.
However, no greats of the game roll over at the first sign of defeat, and Armut let out an almighty roar which echoed throughout the rest of the season.
An MVP award of his own in his second match for MAD (vs Astralis), was one of five that he earned in their ten victories throughout Group Play, frequently being the rally point who the pride stood behind, and excelling from the top lane became one of MAD's strongest weapons - especially at Playoffs.
Going into the Spring Split Playoffs, most backed G2 Esports to take home the lion's share and send the pack scuttering back to the bushes, just as they did in the opening fixture of the season. However, Armut and bot-laner Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság quickly put their outside lanes to good use and secured back-to-back 3-1 wins over Rogue and G2 respectively to send them into a shock Grand Finals. Up against Rogue once more, Armut came into his own and earned his place as the rightful king, taking home his first LEC championship win and the respect of the wilder beast.
It means no worries for the rest of your days, it's our problem-free philosophy...
Hakuna Matata was the motto going into the rest of the season, and with Armut not slowing down, MAD Lions galloped through to Worlds with another LEC championship in the form of the Summer Playoffs. Beating G2, Rogue, and Fnatic in the Grand Finals, Armut posted his highest KDA record of a playoffs series to date, boasting a 5.81 figure, leading the way in the LEC Top Lane category.
Throughout the entire LEC season, it was Armut's leading figure that dragged MAD through certain tough spells, allowing the rest of the pride to find their own feet and pull off great team skirmishes before pinching from both lanes. From knocking the lions out of Worlds to earning them a seat on the plane to Iceland (having been changed from China), Armut proved to be the most influential player in the LEC throughout 2021.
If there was any validation needed about his claims to the throne in the European jungle, Worlds 2021 answered most critics' woes. After booking themselves dates against Gen.G, Team Liquid, and LNG, the EU side went toe-to-toe with the competition from across the globe. MAD's Worlds ventures were more a glimpse of what they could do though, having been paired with some almighty foes, but even with a growing disparity between West and East, MAD Lions painted themselves in a little bit of glory.
Their quarter-final appearance versus DAMWON Kia was the furthest any LEC side got at Worlds, with only Cloud9 from the Western hemisphere joining them. Although the season dwindled for the Lions, and Europe as a whole, Armut had saving grace that he'd become a force throughout the region and bore the crown of a champion.