Summer Watchlist 2017: Splyce, Vitality, Roccat, and Ninjas in Pyjamas
Since reflecting on the Spring Split, there have been several changes to the contenders within EU LCS. New organizations have entered the fray, and familiar faces are donning unfamiliar jerseys. Multiple teams have rearranged coaches. All this change is an effort to get ahead of the pack and win Summer Split.
G2 dominated Spring Split: they only lost one best-of-three series out of thirteen. The Samurai went on to finish second place at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. No other team in Europe looked to be on par with G2 before the tournament, but MSI certainly quieted any dissent. With no roster or staff changes to speak of, G2 looks to remain at the top of the ranks. Their eyes will be on the world stage.
Fnatic and Misfits are between G2 and the rest of Group A. Misfits finished the regular season second in their group, while Fnatic tied Roccat for third. However, Fnatic ultimately beat Misfits for third place in playoffs, beating them 3-0 in the best-of-five. Fnatic picked up a new coach, Dylan Falco. Misfits released their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, and acquired Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. The effects of these changes do not appear to be drastic on the surface. Fnatic should be able to retain second place within Group A, putting Misfits third.
Unicorns of Love sit at the top of Group B. Following a similar trajectory to G2, UOL finished the regular season 11-2. They did not drop a series to other members of Group B. UOL went on to finish second in the playoffs. Seeing as the top teams in Group B did not have any major roster updates in the off-season, the Unicorns should easily maintain their top position.
Although playoffs were not pleasant for H2K, their regular season went well. They finished 10-3, losing twice to UOL and once to G2. H2K had not lost to any other team until Fnatic beat them 3-0 in the quarterfinals of playoffs. Only earning 10 Championship Points, H2K will need to perform at a much higher level to re-qualify for the World Championships.
Mysterious Monkeys sit at the bottom of Group B after purchasing Misfits Academy’s LCS-qualified slot. While EU Challenger teams have historically performed well in their first split of LCS, this roster’s talent is questionable compared to the others. They even lost their starting jungler. The Monkeys come into the split with low expectations, most likely ending the regular season in fifth for Group B.
The other four teams should be less predictable. These rosters have all incorporated new players or coaches. These teams’ performances over the split will shape the standings within their respective groups. With huge strides, these squads can climb the ranks. But if they falter, then they will decline. There are major questions surrounding Splyce, Vitality, Roccat, and Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Is a new coach enough for Splyce to qualify for the World Championship?
It is hard to believe this is the same roster that qualified for Worlds 2016. Coming into 2017 as one of two European teams to keep every member of their 2016 team, Splyce was supposed to top Group B in spring. Instead, they squeaked by with a 7-6 record and lost 3-2 to Misfits in the quarterfinals of playoffs. They only earned 10 Championship Points.
But this time last year, Splyce came into the Summer Split with zero Championship Points. It did not stop them from finishing Summer Split in second place, earning 90 Championship Points, and winning the Regional Qualifiers to represent EU as third seed at Worlds. Theoretically, it could happen again this summer.
Splyce only updated the coach position in the mid-season. Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi parted ways with the team, and they brought in Fayan “Gevous” Pertjis to take his place. Gevous previously coached Red Canids in Brazil’s CBLoL. This spring, they finished first place overall and qualified for Mid-Season Invitational.
It is unclear what Gevous will add to Splyce. It is possible that a new coaching style may help bring Splyce’s members up to a new level. The players know they can play up to the same level as Unicorns or H2K. The anticipated meta shifts will probably help Splyce, as well. Tankier junglers with fast clears and impactful kits suit Jonas “Trashy” Andersen, and Martin “Wunder” Hansen generally looks more influential with damage-dealing split-pushers.
Is VandeR the answer to Team Vitality’s shortcomings?
This is a match made in heaven. Vitality had a rough Spring Split, and the support role was a major reason. Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan (now “Comeback”) finished with a 1.7 KDA and 27.9% kill share before he was benched. Schalke 04, on the other hand, had an excellent spring, and Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan was a major reason. As support, VandeR finished spring split with a 14.4 KDA and 11.4% kill share.
While support is an oft-overlooked role, this is a huge pick-up for Vitality. VandeR is a proven veteran with international experience. He will be joining Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi in the bottom lane, one of the more consistent members of Vitality last split.
This is another team that looks to benefit from the upcoming metagame. Top laner, Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet, looked best as a split-pusher when Vitality finished the regular season in third place in Spring 2016. A more anchored bottom lane and pressured top lane could open Charly “Djoko” Guillard up to have more options in the jungle. Vitality could look to move up in Group B if they mesh properly and other teams show weakness.
Will Roccat carry over the momentum from the end of Spring Split?
Roccat avoided the relegation tournament for the first time in three splits. This spring they narrowly missed making it into the playoffs, surging in the last few weeks of the split to finish 6-7 after starting 0-7. The storyline was so exciting to witness.
That momentum needs to carry into the Summer Split. Although Group A is daunting, every team has shown significant weaknesses. Roccat had 1-1 records against every other team in their group, including G2. The mostly new roster was able to click after several weeks of play.
The jungle position is the only one that changed in the mid-season. Maxlore left for Misfits, and Roccat picked up Milo “Pridestalker” Wehnes from Misfits Academy as his replacement. Both of these players draft carry junglers such as Graves, Lee Sin, Kha’Zix, and Rengar, so Roccat’s playstyle should not drastically change. Pridestalker is a rookie, though, so incorporating him may take some time.
Roccat will come into summer an underdog, yet again. But if they can build off of their gameplay, synergy, and growth from spring, then they can definitely take games off of other Group A teams. Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren, in particular, should be able to continue drafting lane bullies such as Gnar, Fizz, and Renekton, which he played well in the final weeks of last split.
Are Ninjas in Pyjamas as bad as everyone anticipates?
Ninjas in Pyjamas have caught a lot of flak for their player choices since they purchased Fnatic Academy’s LCS slot and replaced the entire roster. On paper, the team looks like a hodge-podge of Korean import solo laners, washed-up legacy jungler and support, and an LCS rookie.
Kim “Profit” Joon-hyung, in the top lane, comes from the LCK’s SK Telecom T1. He played nine games this spring as a substitute: five games on Nautilus, three games on Rumble, and one game on Shen. They won all but one of them. Beyond this small sample, Profit is virtually untested. If he was on SKT, then he is most likely the real deal, but until he hits the Rift this summer, it is hard to gauge him against other top laners in Group A.
Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon is the other Korean import for NiP. He is a mid laner most recently from Wan Yoo Dream, a Korean Challenger team, but previously from KT Rolster when they world contenders. During that time Nagne excelled on assassins, such as Zed, Diana, and Ahri. He also frequently played control mages, such as Lissandra and Azir. Nagne will be facing some of the top western mid laners in Group A.
Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema and Hampus “Sprattel” Abrahamsson are both alumni of Elements before Schalke 04 purchased. Shook most recently played for Vitality in 2016, but was replaced in November. Sprattel most recently played for Paris Saint-Germain in the Challenger Series. Neither player has been viewed as incredibly talented within the last two years.
And Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa will round out the bottom lane for NiP. He played for Giants Gaming last split, and has decent statistics for being on a relegated team. This will be HeaQ’s second split in the EU LCS.
Each of these players is an outcast in their own right. While this team will most likely be the Spring 2017 Origen of Summer Split, it could also come together as an unexpected surprise. If Shook can manage to find synergy with Profit and Nagne, and HeaQ and Sprattel can grow together, then they could find upsets in Group A. This could also be Coach Nicholas “NicoThePico” Korsgård’s shot at redemption, as well. If they can all put aside their past failures, then they just may find success.
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