H2K played below expectations in summer split

Reflecting on mid-season EU LCS expectations for Summer Split

On June 1, 2017, the first day of the EU LCS Summer Split, I articulated my expectations heading into the second half of the year. There were a lot of roster changes in between splits, which led to speculation about what shake-ups might occur before Worlds. I called out four of the ten teams that I thought had the best chance to define the landscape of the EU LCS. These would be the variables that shape their groups, depending on how they adapt to their new rosters and build off of Spring Split.

Like every split past, some teams performed to expectations, others did not. Some played up to a higher level, while other teams further fell. The big picture of the EU LCS remained fairly similar to spring, with the same top six teams qualifying for playoffs. However, the intra-group dynamics and individual team results are fairly different compared to expectations coming into this split.

G2

G2 played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: 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.

Recency bias will paint G2 as the undoubted best team in Europe. They added another LCS victory to their trophy case. The Samurai will be EU’s first seed representative at Worlds. By the end of playoffs it was clear that no one in the EU LCS could challenge G2 in a best-of-five.

But Summer Split was rocky at the start. G2 was 3-3 after five weeks, beating Roccat, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Mysterious Monkeys, but losing to Fnatic, Misfits and Unicorns of Love. Their game score was 9-7, far from dominant. G2 sat in third place in Group A. It was a trying time for fans who were hoping that the G2 from MSI would be back in Europe.

They did eventually ramp up to finish second in Group A, push through quarter and semifinals and take the finals. Perkz returned closer to his MSI form earlier in the year. Mithy stepped up to become a primary initiator for the team. Trick began to rise towards his past level, as well. While all of these players had low points during summer, the G2 line-up did eventually reinvigorate to pre-split expectations. No one could have predicted their early fumbles after a dominant Spring Split, MSI and no major changes to the roster and staff.

Fnatic and Misfits

FNC played above expectations in summer split

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Presplit thoughts: 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.

Both of these teams surprised analysts, but in different ways. Fnatic and Misfits followed slightly different trajectories throughout the Summer Split. Fnatic tore through the European competition, finishing the regular season 11-2, but faltered in the playoff semifinals. They pressed on by winning third place against H2K, and went on to win the EU LCS Regional Qualifier to make it to Worlds.

Misfits had strong showings during the LCS regular season, but never fully convinced the fans that they were a top contender. They finished with a 1-6 record against the top six teams and a 5-1 record against the bottom four teams. However, Misfits shifted gears in playoffs, knocking out Unicorns of Love and Fnatic to make it into the finals. They are the surprise second seed to represent Europe at this year’s World Championship.

Fnatic’s surge is not entirely surprising, but it could not necessarily be predicted. This is the same roster that tied Roccat for third place in Group A just a few months ago. Bringing on Dylan Falco, previously of Team Envy in North America, was the only major change to the roster, which was seen as questionable, at best. The veterans of the team, Soaz, Rekkles and Jesiz, approached their top performance levels. The sophomores, Broxah and Caps, showed their own prowess at various points in the split. Most of all, the synergy among these members was much more apparent than any other team in the league.

Misfits’ growth could be a bit more conceivable coming into the Summer Split. They did make a name for themselves in their inaugural Spring Split by placing fourth. Time in the mid-season should allow this new squad to build synergies and come back to the LCS even stronger. However, by switching out KaKAO for Maxlore, it was unclear how this might affect things. The team did cite communication issues as the primary purpose for the replacement, but Maxlore’s actual skill as a jungler did not appear to be much better or worse than KaKAO. Would Misfits’ communication improve enough to offset the synergy and possible skill loss of trading at all?

In the end, the answer must be “yes.” Ignar and Maxlore did develop a strong jungle-support relationship in the playoffs. Alphari and PowerofEvil were better at using laning advantages to rotate, split-push and teleport around the map. Hans sama proved his worth as an AD carry against Samux and Rekkles, both All-Pro this split. Viewers will have to wait and see how this team holds up against international competition at Worlds. Hopefully, Misfits’ peak is yet to come.

Unicorns of Love

UOL played below expectations in summer split

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Presplit thoughts: 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.

“Should” was the key word above. Just like G2, Unicorns finished at the top of their group and made it to the finals in Spring Split. They did not make any roster changes in the mid-season. Intuitively, UOL would continue to build off of their strengths coming into Summer Split and continue to be a dominant team in Europe.

But that did not necessarily happen. UOL began the season 6-1, including victories over G2, H2K and Misfits. They finished the last four weeks 3-3, including defeats to Roccat, Fnatic and Vitality. This fall-out culminated in UOL’s 3-0 loss to Misfits in the quarterfinals, and their 3-2 loss to H2K in the gauntlet.

Most critics would point to faulty draft strategies, mid lane instability, and failure to adapt to meta changes as UOL’s biggest problems. Exileh fell from third team All-Pro to seventh on Caps’ mid lane tier list. His performance issues, combined with Xerxe’s curve ball jungle picks, caused UOL to have difficulties drafting to be competitive. Exileh’s reliance on Talon and Vladmir shoehorned Vizicsacsi into a lot of AP top laners, instead of Jarvan IV, Gnar or Renekton.

Summer Split is a huge disappointment for the Unicorns. They continue their legacy of missing Worlds by losing in the gauntlet. All of these players have shown excellence on the Rift, but the limited in-game strategies and individual inconsistencies make it hard for this team to reach the next level. It will be interesting to see what changes happen in the off-season for UOL, if any.

H2K

H2K played below expectations in summer split

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Presplit thoughts: 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.

H2K played about where most people expected them this season. They did finish at the top of Group B, but that was more due to Unicorns faltering than H2K scaling higher skill-wise. Febiven looked more refined than Spring Split, but the bottom lane, Nuclear in particular, proved less dominant in the new meta. Odoamne and Jankos showed glimpses of their top-tier play, but could not exhibit such talent consistently against other top teams.

Playoffs was almost more heart-breaking this split for H2K. G2 skunked the squad 3-0 in the semifinals, sending H2K into the gauntlet. Once there, they made it all the way to the finals, but lost 2-3 to Fnatic to miss the World Championship. The expectation was for H2K to grow in the mid-season to stand a chance of making it to Worlds. Unfortunately for them, that did not happen.

Mysterious Monkeys

MM played to expectations in summer split

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Presplit thoughts: 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.

As expected, Mysterious Monkeys did not have a successful Summer Split. They lost 23 of 28 regular season games, finishing with a 2-11 record. Ninjas in Pyjamas and Roccat were the only two teams they were able to take series from. Even after signing Kikis and Amazing as a top-jungle duo in week four, the Monkeys struggled to make much of an impact on the EU LCS. They did finish last in Group B, which forced them into the promotion tournament.

Although it is unclear how the reported LCS restructuring will affect European teams in 2018, Mysterious Monkeys did get “relegated” in the promotion tournament. They lost 2-3 to Schalke 04 in round one, and 0-3 to Ninjas in Pyjamas in round two. That is the ultimate proof that a team is not ready for the professional league. The Monkeys’ organization will most likely rebuild the roster in the off-season and come back next year with more experience.

Splyce

SPY played below expectations in summer split

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Presplit thoughts: 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.

Firstly, Splyce let Gevous go around two months ago, with two weeks of the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet remaining. He has yet to be replaced. That being said, it is difficult as a viewer to understand how much of an effect a coach has on a team. How much of Splyce’s shortcomings can be blamed on a lack of chemistry between the coach and the players? It is hard to parse apart.

It should be safe to say that Splyce will be disappointed when reflecting on this split. The organization’s power level in the LCS has effectively plateaued this year. Of course, Splyce has not had the same falling off as Origen. Splyce is still a playoff team, and they are clearly a step above Roccat and Vitality. They took G2 to an edgy five games in quarterfinals of playoffs. However, it has felt like a long time since fans and analysts held Splyce to the same esteem as their LCS debut.

Nothing about Splyce’s gameplay is horrible. Each lane is able to hold its own in the laning phase. They are able to contest objectives and commit to rotations. They are able to team-fight in the mid and late game. Splyce just is not the best at any of these gameplay elements. H2K and Fnatic will almost always get larger early game leads and close the game before Splyce can team-fight them. Unicorns of Love and G2 will almost always beat Splyce in a beefy brawl. The Serpents are the undoing of bottom four teams, just like Misfits, but they have been unable to break through the upper echelon of Europe.

Like Unicorns of Love, it will be interesting to see what happens to this roster in the off-season. Trashy seemed to be the most up-and-down player on the roster, thriving on Gragas and Ivern, but struggling on Elise and Rek’Sai. Mikyx was overshadowed by more proactive support players, but Wunder, Sencux and Kobbe have proven they can carry when needed. Each of Splyce’s players are capable of playing up to the best of Europe, and this roster has played together for two years. The coaching position will obviously need to be filled with someone who can unlock the potential of this squad, or who can make needed adjustments for the future.

Team Vitality

VIT played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: 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.

Bringing on Vander was supposed to shore up Vitality’s glaring weaknesses in the support position in Spring Split. It did not. Vitality looked roughly the same as last split. Nukeduck put the team on his back almost every game. Cabochard did look a bit more like his former self while laning, but Vitality’s bottom lane and jungler could not hold up against the rest of the LCS. To make matters worse, H2K, Unicorns of Love and Splyce all showed serious weaknesses this split, which Vitality was unable to punish. It is no coincidence that three members of Group A are attending Worlds as Europe’s representatives.

Vitality finished with a 12-17 game score. They only took one point off of a top six team (UOL), but won all series against MM, NiP and Roccat. Vitality will need to make serious changes coming into the LCS in 2018. They are simply not an exciting team. Replacing one player in one role does not seem to be sufficient. Looking at jungle and bottom lane is a start, but even top lane is not out of the question. A roster overhaul will be necessary before Vitality lives up to the expectations of European fans.

Roccat

ROC played below expectations in summer split

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Presplit thoughts: 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.

Roccat’s spring momentum did not carry over much into Summer Split. This team continues its arc as the most inconsistent performer in the EU LCS. Roccat finished the Summer Split with 1-1 records against every team in Group A, the only one to do so. The Cats also lost every cross-group match-up, except Unicorns of Love. It is strange that the same team that is taking series off of Fnatic, G2 and UOL is also dropping series to NiP, MM and Vitality.

Pridestalker actually pressed himself into the EU LCS in his debut split. Generally starting ahead in CS and gold at 15 minutes, Roccat’s jungler was one of the only players happy to draft Warwick and Kha’Zix over tank junglers throughout the split. Pridestalker also participated in First Blood in 27.3 percent of games.

Phaxi and Betsy were highly inconsistent this summer. The solo laners could never seem to hold pressure in their lanes against other European teams. Meanwhile, Roccat’s bottom lane was solidly top five in the LCS (in my opinion, Wadid deserved recognition as an All-Pro support). Like Vitality, a roster overhaul will be necessary if Roccat wants to reach the next level of competition. While no one would necessarily expect Roccat to suddenly become a title contender, many analysts were probably hoping for more from them after their end-of-split streak in spring.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

NIP played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: 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.

It’s safe to say Ninjas in Pyjamas was better this summer than Origen was in spring. They had a stiff early game, often gaining large gold leads by 15 minutes. NiP showed some signs of strength, such as their win over Fnatic in week 10. As expected, the Ninjas finished last in Group A with a 2-11 record. The team never seemed to synergize in the mid-late game, often missing opportunities to pressure turrets or neutral objectives. Sprattel and Shook were unable to engage or peel effectively for Nagne and HeaQ to carry, which made Profit’s split-push strategies fall flat.

At the end of the day, NiP was not ready for the LCS. This team did get relegated in the promotion tournament by losing to Giants and Schalke 04, but reported 2018 changes may make that insignificant. Like Mysterious Monkeys, NiP may return to the domestic leagues of the EU LCS. If so, they will need to take a hard look in the mirror and make adjustments. NicoThePico did not add much to his resume on this one, but, again, it is hard to tell how many of NiP’s issues were from the roster or the staff. 

Overall

MSF played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While hardly any of the teams in the EU LCS played to pre-split expectations, the on-paper breakdown of the split was fairly usual. Splyce, Misfits, H2K, UOL, Fnatic and G2 qualified for playoffs. Mysterious Monkeys and NiP fought, and lost, in the promotion tournament. Vitality and Roccat were somewhere in the middle. G2 took home another domestic victory. Fnatic is attending Worlds. Rekkles was voted Europe’s MVP.

This Summer Split will be remembered as the last one with two groups and one professional-level league. If the reported changes for the EU LCS come through in 2018, then we will be looking at an entirely different ecosystem. It will be home to 24 total teams with 24 rosters and 24 different dynamics to keep up with. The lines between S tier, A tier, and so on will become more blurred, and placements between organizations should become more nuanced.

Expectations going into Spring Split next year will be so up in the air it may not even be worth writing about. So as we move into the 2017 World Championships, take some time to reflect on your experience with the EU LCS. As you cheer for G2, Misfits and Fnatic through the event, preserve these Summer Split memories so we can talk more in 2018 about the future of League of Legends in Europe.


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Unicorns of Love entered the EU LCS in 2015

A brief, heart-breaking history of Unicorns of Love

With the 2017 EU LCS Regional Qualifiers finished, Europe has chosen three teams to represent them at the League of Legends World Championships, and the Unicorns of Love is not one of them. This seems to be their destiny. UOL is always good enough to be a contender, but never good enough to be the champion. They have always had a shot at Worlds, but never reached it. They have made it into the gauntlet thrice, and lost out all three times. Here is a brief look at how the Unicorns got here, and why it is so heart-breaking.

2015

Unicorns of Love qualified for the EU LCS in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unicorns of Love entered the LCS in 2015 by defeating Millenium in the 2015 Spring Promotion tournament. UOL was promoted, while Millenium was relegated. Their roster included Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás top, Berk “Gilius” Demir jungle, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage mid, Pontus “Vardags” Dahlblom AD carry and Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov support. After Millenium took a 2-0 lead, the Unicorns were able to reverse sweep the series, winning 3-2. This was the beginning of the Unicorns’ legacy as wildcards in the EU LCS.

Coming into the 2015 Spring Split, UOL replaced Gilius with a new jungler, Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek. Kikis was known for his pocket picks in the jungle, such as Sion, Gnar or Shaco. In their debut split, UOL finished with a 9-9 record to secure fifth place and qualify for playoffs. PowerOfEvil was the only player in the league to be the weekly MVP more than once (weeks four and eight).

In Spring Playoffs, the Unicorns had to face fourth place, Gambit Gaming. UOL took them down 3-1, moving them into semifinals against number one seed SK Gaming. In a massive upset, UOL won that best-of-five 3-2. This win brought them to their first playoff finals within their first split, facing second seed Fnatic. The Unicorns took it all the way to five games, but fell short to finish in second place and tally 70 championship points.

UOL came into the 2015 Summer Split carrying momentum. They swapped Gilius back into the jungle role, while Kikis went to G2 (then Gamers2). In almost identical fashion, the Unicorns finished the split 9-9, but placed fourth. Gilius left the team going into playoffs, leaving Cho “H0R0” Jae-hwan as their starting jungler.

Summer Playoffs put UOL against Roccat first, who they defeated 3-2. The victory pushed them into an even tougher semifinals match-up versus an undefeated Fnatic. Getting skunked 3-0, UOL was forced into the third place match with H2K. A win here would send UOL to Worlds as Europe’s second seed, assuming Fnatic won in the finals. However, H2K crushed UOL in another 3-0, and Fnatic won the finals, sending UOL to their first EU LCS gauntlet.

Luckily, UOL’s 110 total championship points entitled them to a full bye in the Regional Qualifiers. Giants, Roccat and Origen would have to fight each other before meeting UOL in the final. Origen, a line-up that would go on to finish top four at the 2015 World Championships, made it to the gauntlet finals and took down UOL in a final 3-0. The Unicorns’ 2015 season would end there.

2016

Unicorns of Love replaced three starters for 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Coming into 2016, Unicorns of Love decided to replace three of their five starters. Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi signed as their jungler and AD carry, previously of Gambit. Hampus “Fox” Myhre stepped into the mid lane from SK Gaming. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang remained UOL’s top and support.

UOL went through the 2016 Spring Split like past splits. They finished with a 10-8 record, showing strength against teams below them and weakness against teams above them. Most of their problems revolved around the jungle position. Starting in week three, Diamondprox had to leave Europe, due to visa issues. UOL borrowed Millenium’s jungler, Charly “Djoko” Guillard, as a temporary replacement. In week four UOL brought in Rudy “Rudy” Beltran, an unknown player, who was replaced in week seven by ex-H2K Jean-Victor “Loulex” Burgevin. These jungle player rotations hindered UOL’s ability to compete against more stable rosters.

This inconsistency came to a head in the Spring Playoffs when fourth seed Origen defeated the Unicorns 3-0 in the quarterfinals. UOL’s split ended in fifth-sixth, granting only 10 championship points. It was a disappointing placement that demanded change for the Summer Split.

In the mid-season, Unicorns of Love brought in two Korean imports to play jungle and AD carry. Kang “Move” Min-su came into the EU LCS after most recently playing for Gravity in North America. Kim “Veritas” Kyoung-min had played for Vortex, a North American Challenger team. UOL also signed Fabian “Exileh” Schubert, a mid laner with history on several European Challenger teams. Riot also changed the EU LCS regular season to a best-of-two format.

These changes did not seem to affect Unicorns’ consistency much. If anything, it hindered their performance. UOL finished the regular season Summer Split in sixth place with a 6-5-7 record. This line-up was clearly better than tenth through seventh places, but also a step below first through fifth. The Unicorns would go into playoffs as underdogs.

Once there, UOL was able to take down third seed Giants 3-1. Moving into semifinals, UOL had to face an undefeated G2. The Unicorns lost 3-1, which sent them into their second third place match against H2K. Winning 3-1, H2K pushed UOL into the Regional Qualifiers for the second year in a row.

With only 50 championship points, Unicorns of Love found themselves in a difficult position. Giants, Fnatic and Splyce stood in their way of going to Worlds. UOL defeated Giants and Fnatic 3-0, propelling them forward into the gauntlet finals again. 2016 looked like UOL’s redemption. Sadly, Splyce took the series 3-2, keeping the Unicorns out of Worlds for another year.

2017

Unicorns of Love signed Xerxe and Samux for 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This third year has been Unicorns of Love’s third opportunity to go to Worlds. In an off-season full of roster swaps, UOL made some questionable changes. Bringing in European veterans in Spring 2016 did not bring the success they wanted. Korean imports in Summer 2016 was not fruitful, either. For Spring 2017, the Unicorns brought in two low-profile Europeans, Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort. Xerxe had played for Dark Passage in the TCL, but could not participate in the International Wildcard Qualifiers, due to his age. Samux had played once in the LCS in 2012, but was quickly relegated. He only played in the Challenger Series after that.

Riot further changed the EU LCS format to have two groups that play best-of-threes each week. This format seemed to suit UOL, as they finished the Spring Split in first place for Group B with an 11-2 record. Topping their group afforded UOL a first round bye in the playoffs. They were met by Group A’s second seed, Misfits, who the Unicorns defeated 3-1 to qualify for the finals. This was their first playoff finals over five EU LCS splits. They met defending champions G2 and lost 3-1. UOL was granted 70 championship points.

For the first time since entering the LCS, Unicorns of Love did not change their roster between splits. The team seemed confident coming into the Summer Split with Vizicsacsi, Xerxe, Exileh, Samux and Hylissang. But the summer regular season was slightly worse than spring, mostly due to problems surrounding Exileh and the mid lane. UOL put up a 9-4 record, placing second in Group B behind H2K, based on game score.

Quarterfinals did not look to be much of a problem, as the Unicorns would face Group A’s third seed, Misfits. Unfortunately, UOL could not take a single game, and lost 0-3, ending their playoff run earlier than expected. UOL’s 90 total championship points put them behind Misfits and Fnatic. Unicorns would go to their third straight regional gauntlet.

The Unicorns sat in the second notch of the Regional Qualifiers, after H2K versus Splyce, but before Fnatic. H2K took the victory over Splyce, which meant they could face UOL in a critical moment, once again. In a nail-biter series, H2K secured the 3-2 win, spoiling the Unicorns’ chances of representing Europe at Worlds this year.

2018

 

What will Unicorns of Love do in 2018?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

What will Unicorns of Love do between now and the 2018 season? Every member of this roster has shown promise in 2017. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang have been with this team since their induction in 2015. Coach Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant and manager-mascot Romain Bigeard have been staples, as well. Xerxe and Samux have solidified themselves as LCS talents. Exileh may have had a rough Summer Split, but his high points are unquestionable.

Like splits past, Riot has already announced major changes to the EU LCS format for 2018. The LCS will be split into four domestic leagues with a greater league running parallel. UOL has claimed their slot in Berlin, as reported by ESPN, with Roccat and Schalke 04. The current two-group format has treated the Unicorns well during the regular season. Maybe this update will too.

Regardless, the pink-and-white have made their mark on the EU LCS since joining in 2015. Despite falling short of Worlds year after year, UOL has cemented itself as a top contender in the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet. European teams fear this organization as a competitor, because they know that UOL is destined for greatness. 2015 may not have been their year. 2016 may have been rocky. 2017 may have been heart-breaking. But who knows what 2018 may bring? Will falling short remain Unicorns of Love’s legacy, or will Love finally conquer?


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Names, dates, etc.: Leaguepedia

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The Runback: Street Fighter V Patch Notes, Evo Japan Update, and FPS2 Preview

It’s another busy week in the fighting game community. We’ll cover the new Street Fighter V update, Evo Japan dates, and a preview of Frame Perfect Series 2 in Orlando, Florida. The Killer Instinct World Cup also wrapped up last Saturday, we’ll take a look back at the KI community’s biggest event.

Street Fighter V Season 2 Patch

The rumors of a possible patch before the start of Season 2 were (somewhat) true. A week after Final Round 20, Capcom released a patch with minimal nerfs. As expected, Capcom essentially went through and adjusted the smaller aspects.

Accordingly, the game has seemingly shifted towards grappler-type characters. There’s no overarching mechanical changes outside the fact that the risk-reward system is now amplified with no jump back option select. The direction of how Capcom wants players to play this game is clear: BURST DAMAGE ABOVE ALL (sorry for yelling)!

It’s likely that this will be Capcom’s last patch in Season 2. Players will now have the rest of the season to refine their characters. Ibuki won the first major CapCup event, but Mike and Guile had a strong showing. Balrog seems unexplored and ready to become a real tournament contender.

Evo Japan: January 26-28, 2018


The date is set and it’s actually happening. Evo is going across the pacific to Akihabara, near Tokyo. The wait will only be a full-year, but Evo will once again expand into a two-event circuit. Japan is also an obvious choice for the next Evo as a large population of the country plays fighting games.

It’s an ode to the strong Japanese community that has spent years flying west to the United States. It will be the first Evo outside America and should display the quality depth of Japan’s street Fighter V, anime, and 3D fighters. Many top players are already considering making the trip to Evo Japan.

Frame Perfect Series 2

FPS2, a Smash event in Florida, will host four of the Melee gods and a litany of other top players from the region. The majority of the Smash 4 top 15 will also be in attendance to face the strong Florida Smash 4 scene. The tournament will feature runner-up at Frostbite 2017 Tsu and his Lucario.

Additionally, the Japan crew will be making an appearance in Smash 4. The event will be focused on top player vs. the field. Is it possible anyone outside of Armada (Adam Lindgren) and ZeRo (Gonzales Barrios) win in either game? The last five months say don’t take the bait, pick the favorites. Players have gotten close, but just haven’t finished the job.

The event will feature eight top-20 Melee players. Unfortunately, aMSa (Misaya Chikamoto), the popular Japanese Yoshi, can’t attend because he has the stomach flu. The field isn’t as deep as Smash 4, but the names at the top make this a major event. Winning this Melee tournament will require running the gauntlet of Mango (Joseph Marquez), Mew2King (Jason Zimmerman), and Hungrybox (Juan DeBiedma).

KI World Cup Levels Up

Twitter.com/Cptn_EO

Despite missing out on making it into Evo, the KI community is going strong. After another average attendance year, the future of KI was in the balance. The community responded with a well-funded and represented tournament.

Regardless, Sleep (Darnell Waller) was able to continue his run of strong play with his win at KO cup. He couples this win with his Evo title, which makes him the undisputed number one. The Ultra Tour will continue into Season 3 with Combo Breaker on the horizon.

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Alex Ovechkin, NHL, IIHF, IOC, Olympics, 2018, Korea, NLHPA, Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr, Hockey, Wayne Gretzky, Washington Capitals, National Hockey League, International Ice Hockey Federation, 2018 Olympic Games, 2014 Sochi Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Olympic Hockey

Olympic Hockey: The NHL Abroad

Olympic hockey as you know it may never be the same again.

Players badly want to represent their countries in the upcoming Olympics, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL owners see no benefit in allowing their players to compete overseas. It is now up to Bettman to find a suitable solution to this problem.

But how did we even get here?

Alex Ovechkin, NHL, IIHF, IOC, Olympics, 2018, Korea, NLHPA, Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr, Hockey, Wayne Gretzky, Washington Capitals, National Hockey League, International Ice Hockey Federation, 2018 Olympic Games, 2014 Sochi Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Olympic Hockey

Gary Bettman (left) and Donald Fehr (right). Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski, USA Today Sports

For the past twenty years, the NHL has participated in the Winter Olympics without interruption: Nagano, Salt Lake City, Turin, Vancouver, and Sochi. This young tradition may soon be coming to an end.

With the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang a little over a year away, the NHL has not yet decided whether or not they will allow their players to travel to South Korea and represent their respective countries.

The main actors at play here are the International Olympic Committee, the NHL, and the NHLPA (Player’s Association).

The whole question of whether or not the NHL should participate in the upcoming Olympics began when the IOC announced that they would no longer front the bill for travel and insurance costs. The estimated cost to cover these was over $10 million. This left a sour taste in the mouths of many NHL owners.

 

According to Bettman

There is a “strong negative sentiment” among NHL owners towards halting mid-season and allowing their elite players to compete overseas in 2018. Their concerns primarily revolve around the almost certain revenue losses, which inevitably come with an Olympic break, and potential player injuries. Both pose serious problems for owners routinely responsible for hundred million dollar payrolls. For Bettman, the solution was a matter of compromise, but not between the NHL and the IOC. Instead, Bettman and the NHL approached the NHLPA with a deal.

In return for the NHL fronting the travel and insurance bills, suffering the revenue losses, and risking their most valuable players to injury, the NHLPA was asked to extend the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, thereby waiving their opt-out clause in 2019. This would have extended the current CBA well into the future, ensuring players the opportunity to participate in international hockey for another two Olympics. It was, however, categorically rejected by the NHLPA.

And so here we are

Everyone is waiting for a decision to come down from the NHL’s top brass about whether or not we will see the world’s top talent compete in Korea in 2018. Some aren’t waiting though.

Washington Capitals star, and NHL icon, Alexander Ovechkin has repeatedly stated that his will to compete in the Winter Olympics is greater than that of the NHL’s to abstain. Even if the NHL refuses to participate, Ovechkin has said that he “and other players will definitely come [to the Olympics]” in 2018 and represent Russia. He made similar statements when the NHL’s participation was up in the air prior to the 2014 Sochi games.

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky gave his two cents, stating that he happens “to love everything about the Olympic Games.” Gretzky knows, though, that his love of the games does not necessarily mean that the NHL has to participate. “I like the Olympic Games, but does that mean that the NHL is going to go? I don’t have a crystal ball, I can’t tell you,” he said.

While Gary Bettman and the NHL hope to reach a decision by early January, they continue to appear rather pessimistic in their potential participation, or lack thereof, in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea.

 

In the meantime

 

 

The League’s top super stars of past and present have spoken out against the NHL’s proposed divestment from Olympic hockey. Their representative, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, recently released a statement to the public on Sunday.

I’m more optimistic now than I have ever been, at least as far as we’re concerned, that we’ll be able to reach an appropriate agreement with the IIHF to allow for the players to go.

The problem is that this sentiment is not felt by the other parties involved. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has told the NHL that they will find a way to bridge the $10 million gap, but the NHL remains weary of their ability to do so.

The IOC has stoically remained silent on the subject.

The NHL has yet to release any more information other than the fact that they are no more inclined to send their talent to Korea in 2018 than they were before Fehr’s statement on Sunday.

This leaves us fans, sitting here, waiting patiently. Wondering what our respective teams will look like without their NHL talent on board. Wondering, perhaps, who will be willing to follow the likes of Ovechkin and company if the NHL does indeed pull their support for the games and what that will mean for the NHL, the NHLPA, and the IOC.

 

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