Can Mastermind Weldon solve G2’s International Woes?

Weldon’s Own Success

G2 Esports made an amazing addition to their League of Legends team with the official announcement of TSM’s former assistant coach, Weldon Green, joining their coaching staff. Weldon has been working vigorously within the Pro League of Legends scene with high-profile teams such as TSM, CLG, and Fnatic as a team psychologist. With his recent success with TSM, other teams have picked up on this trend and decided to hire their own team psychologists. They are meant to help deal with the mental grind that pros endure throughout the season, along with helping players deal with the jitters that may be related to playing on stage.

Weldon began on TSM in small sessions during the 2016 Spring Split, eventually landing a full-time position for the Summer. TSM finished the Summer Split with a phenomenal 17-1 record while also finishing first place in the NALCS, before failing to get out of their group at Worlds. Weldon was credited with playing a major role in their success last season. TSM decided that they wanted to part ways with Weldon for the upcoming season, noting that having his assistance may be better in sessions as opposed to full time.

Current State of G2

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Weldon enters a G2 team that has found much success, almost breezing through the EULCS competition last season. They have a talented roster that has failed to show up in international events since they’ve begun their LCS journey. Last season, G2 failed to make it out of groups at Riot’s Mid Seasonal Invitational, struggling against most of the teams there. They received a lot of hate and criticism from the community when they stated they decided to give their players a break coming into a very serious international tournament that would affect seeding for Worlds.

G2 hoped to redeem themselves at Worlds after being put into a group most agreed they would be able to get out of. That did not prove the case as Albus Nox Luna shocked the World, as they became the first Wildcard to make it out of groups. They beat out CLG and G2 for the second spot out of their group. G2 finished Worlds with a 1-5 record, only taking one game off of Albus Nox Luna. G2 as a whole received a lot of hate from the EU community for representing their region so poorly, coming in as the “best team” from Europe.

Building off Regular Season Success

Weldon comes in looking to improve off an overall successful regular season from G2, and improving on the international problems that have plagued them. In EU, Trick and Perkz have looked like two players with amazing synergy and individual talent. As we know, that hasn’t translated into international play just yet.  Meanwhile, Zven and Mithy, have proven to be one of the best bot lanes in the West, but even they didn’t look as good as most people expected at Worlds. Their top laner, Expect, for the most part, was a consistent performer, doing what his team needed. His miscommunication on Teleport, however, cost his team at times.

What is it about performing at international tournaments that hinder G2 so much?  In a twitlonger posted by Perkz after Worlds, he stated, “I was mostly sad that I disappointed myself because I had a lot higher expectations of myself after the whole Korean bootcamp where I felt like I had reached very high level and consistent performance in scrims and not being able to translate that on stage hit me really hard”. The bootcamp in Korea resulted in many rumors that G2 was one of the stronger teams at Worlds. When it came time to play week one, their showing was miserable. They went 0-3, while not looking competitive for basically every game, besides a strong early game vs. ROX in which some poor teamfighting led them to another hard loss.

Weldon has a tough task ahead of him. With a lot of new, young, revamped LCS teams coming into Europe, G2 will not have as easy of a path to Worlds as they did last season. Will he be able to show off the same success as TSM, or will G2’s nerves get the best of them?

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Christian!

Three Things to Look Forward to in the first week of EU LCS

Courtesy of LoLesports.

Courtesy of LoLesports.

Well, another offseason has passed us by and we’re entering into what looks to be another crazy Summer split. As much of the drama over two major organizations receiving the ban hammer from Riot has settled over across the pond, EU has its share of drama. G2, the representative for Europe at MSI, lost the region their First Place Seeding at Worlds, which was essentially gained for the LMS representatives. While many fans thought CLG looked to be the weakest team, Europe’s own seemed to struggle much of the tournament, and it’s questionable whether it was because of the so called G2 Vacation or whether it was just because, well, they’re a relatively young team. Some player trades and movements, too, have fueled the region’s own off season drama too.

But that’s behind us, and now we’ll go through some of the exicting things to look out for in the opening week of EU LCS.

 

1: Bo2 Format

 

This has to be, in some ways, one of the most radical things going on in the EU LCS. Gone are the days of Bo1’s, and while Bo2’s are not necessarily here to stay, they certainly will bring some interesting change to the scene. Riot has purposefully given Europe and NA different formats (Bo2 and Bo3 respectively,) in an attempt to ‘test’ which of the two works better. Regardless, it is certainly going to be refreshing for both fans and competitors alike, as a Bo2 format will be a better test of a team’s strength.

What can fans look forward to with the new format? Well, if it wasn’t already a thing, Europe’s going to love ties. The region is notorious for having multiple tie break games at the end of the split to determine middle of the pack seeding, so it’ll probably be a repeat of history. But there’s another point to be made: teams that are far superiour to the other team will gain ‘more’ than, say, two more evenly matched teams that go 1-1. Why is this? Well, a 2-0 win will give the victorious team a total of three points which go towards determining standings. If teams go 1-1, each team is award only a single point to go towards their standings. Teams, then, that are able to overpower their opponents will shoot up, while teams that go even will be left behind.

Courtesy of lolesports.

Courtesy of lolesports.

It also allows teams to have even more games to play, which can only mean good for the region. More practice will only improve the region, who, along with NA LCS, has lagged behind the East in moving towards a Bo3 or Bo2 format. It also allows teams to have experience in these formats, which require a certain level of endurance, strategy and adaptation from previous games that is not the case in Bo1. Alongside this, it also gives teams a chance to play and draft on both blue and red side, and the ability to adapt and change against a team in their drafting, rather than being completely lost against a secret draft from an opponent and swept away without reply. Overall, Bo2 will provide a much better litmus tests of teams strength and most importantly, will give us more and more games to watch!

 

The New El Claissco

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

Fans of the EU LCS will remember the ‘old’ El Clasico which was between Fnatic and SK Gaming. The teams had a history of placing always beside each other in the ranking, and had a rivalry not unlike that of TSM and CLG over in NA LCS. Now, SK Gaming managed to lose their EU LCS spot, and Fnatic have, in some ways, fallen off (although this may change with the return of Yellowstar.) But, oddly enough, the new El Clasico, between Origen and G2, has a bit of the old in it still: both owners of the team played against each other in the old El Clasico and even against each other in the same lane. Ocelote and xPeke, the owners of G2 and Origen respectively, were also the midlaners for SK Gaming and Fnatic back in the heyday of El Clasico. And now they’re facing off again, but in a very different way.

The Scarfed Spaniard and owner of G2. Courtesy of ocelote world.

The Scarfed Spaniard and owner of G2. Courtesy of ocelote world.

Not only was it these two teams that eventually met in the latest EU Finals, there’s a bit more ‘drama’ going on between the two teams: Zven and Mithy turned in the blue and black for the grey of G2, while Hybrid joined Origen in turn (Origen picked up FORG1VEN to replace Zven as well.) It was a move that surprised most of the scene, while rumours were whispered amongst fans, and it’ll change the landscape of the scene quite a bit. Origen looked to struggle during the whole of last split in all but one regard: their botlane. Zven won them at least a majority of their games during that split, and the loss will be huge to a side that saw a resurgence in the playoffs, but fell short in the end. G2, on the other hand, look to redeem themselves before their European brothers for a shameful performance at MSI.

 

And in the other corner of the ring, xPeke, the King of Backdoors. Courtesy of Gosugamers.

And in the other corner of the ring, xPeke, the King of Backdoors. Courtesy of Gosugamers.

But it’s not like Origen were forced into a bad position for their botlane either. A pickup of FORG1VEN, who may’ve fell off in H2K’s playoff run, is still one hellva an ADC, and Hybrid is no shrug in the botlane either, previously supporting G2’s import Emperor. The question is whether this duo can do what Zven/Mithy did last split for Origen which is carry the hell out of them. It’s hard to say really that Origen won out in the off season though, as Zven and Mithy just seemed to be one of the strongest duos in Europe, while FORG1VEN and Hybrid are an unproven botlane (together.) Only time will tell, though, whether the new Origen duo will be able to match the old, or whether the old will be as strong in the new G2 roster. But we’ll get a test of it in our first game today!

 

Return of the King

 

Europe’s had a rough bit of a year since their amazing run at Worlds last year. First there was the European Exodus that saw many star players from Europe cross the Atlantic to greener pastures in NA. Then G2, arguably one of the strongest European teams during the split and even the playoffs, floundered in amazing fashion internationally at MSI, birthing the G2-8 or Vacations memes around the globe. But there is a light that many of the European faithful will remember, a beacon of hope for the region, one could say a King: Yellowstar. The Frenchmen was a long-time member of Fnatic, the team’s captain, and arguably one of the reasons the team made their perfect split last year, and not he’s back.

Returning to his home region from his brief trip over the pond to TSM, where he wasn’t able to bring the team the coveted NA LCS title, Yellowstar returns to much of the

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

same: Two Koreans in the top half of the map, Febiven in the mid and Rekkles his partner in death in the botlane. Yellowstar has his work cut out for him in leading the squad that seemed to meander around the middle of the pack all last split without much of a purpose, sometimes doing excellent, others looking abysmal. But if there’s anyone who can whip together a team into shape, it seems it would be Yellowstar, who saw the team through a rebuilding split into a perfect split into one of the strongest showings from a Western team in a long time at Worlds.

While the drama and the swapping around has largely focused on other teams like Origen, G2, H2K, and even the recently remade UOL and Roccat, Fnatic look to have made potentially the biggest move towards addressing some of their previous issues. A solid, sturdy, veteran shot caller like Yellowstar is the missing piece that arguably saw Fnatic act without purpose last split. Fnatic is one of the few EU LCS teams that has secured itself as a staple in the scene as an organization, and while they had their first non-showing at an EU LCS Finals in their teams history, the team looks to be heading in the right direction going forward. The question remains whether this will translate onto the rift, whether Rekkles and Yellowstar will click like they did, and whether the team will again form around their captain and secure themselves a good showing.

MSI Power Rankings

Alright Everybody, MSI is just around the corner and it feels like its about time to release my predictions as to how everyone will perform. There are some pretty obvious choices, but there are a couple wild cards too. Rather then use any kind of S+, A, etc. system, I’m just going to do a pure 1-6 ranking with my predictions and thoughts.

 

  1. SKT T1 -This seems like the obvious answer. SKT has repeatedly proven to the world they are the best. Any questions had during the Spring Split were wiped out when SKT beat ROX Tigers. There may come a day when SKT isn’t the best team in the world, but for now the throne remains theirs.
  2. G2 Esports – once against it feels like Europe will be the greatest threat to SKT’s dominance. I’m not sure that G2 will outperform last years Fnatic (I don’t expect a Game 5 against SKT), but I don’t see any other teams giving G2 much trouble. They looked consistently great all of Spring, and will continue their high level of play at MSI.
  3. RNG– This is the point where I feel comfortable moving teams around, but I do believe that RNG will be able to claim the third place spot. RNG have not consistently performed, but if they play at their best during this tournament, they will easily take bronze. Also I’m a Looper fanboy… so that may have some impact on my thoughts as well.
  4. Flash Wolves– This is one of my bolder predictions. I think fourth is the very best FW is capable of doing, but I’m not sure how confident I am that they will perform well enough to hit this mark, but I firmly believe that FW at their best is a better team then the remaining options.
  5. CLG– I honestly feel kind of bad putting CLG this low, but I’m just not expecting much. CLG had a fairly good, but not incredible split. Despite the preseason hype, NA was not the most impressive region this split, and I don’t think even the top NA team can compete with the other teams at this level.
  6. Supermassive– Who? Again… I feel bad about ranking them this low. They have performed well in the context we’ve seen them in so far. But are they capable of competing against the likes of SKT, G2, or RNG? I think not. I’m honestly pulling for these guys, It would be great to see a smaller region get some love on the international stage, but I just don’t think its going to happen this weekend.

 

I’m looking forward to watching the competition, and I’ll be posting game by game analysis right here on The Game Haus, so make sure to come back and check out if my predictions come true!

 

Storylines to Follow and Games to Watch going into the EU LCS Week 8

The IEM Katowice homecoming

IEM Katowice brought with it the chance for Europe to test itself against the other regions of the world. Fnatic made EU proud, Origen's struggle continued. Courtesy of IEM site.

IEM Katowice brought with it the chance for Europe to test itself against the other regions of the world. Fnatic made EU proud, Origen’s struggle continued. Courtesy of IEM site.

The big question heading into this week is going to be the returning European teams of Origen and Fnatic from IEM Katowice. IEM Katowice was a test of strength for many of the regions, with everyone, as always, jostling around with their eyes on World’s. Europe, again, can hold its head high in one regard, and scratch its head in another. While Fnatic took second place after an extremely strong showing, Origen did not bring as much glory home for the European Union, and the strange story of Europe is continuing to show: somehow always able to show up, and yet also be in question.

You were expecting another witty comment about Origen, weren't you? Courtesy of eSportsHeaven.com

You were expecting another witty comment about Origen, weren’t you? Courtesy of eSportsHeaven.com

We’ll cover the negative first. Origen only managed to take one game off of NA side TSM before being sent packing from the tournament, and that win wasn’t an easy one either. While Royal Never Give Up (RNG) are nothing to scoff at, TSM seem a shaky mess of talent, and such a showing against them calls Origen further into question for fans. It’s a reoccurring statement, but it’s still a very big puzzle as to Origen’s fall from grace. Origen can at least take their time at IEM Katowice as a possible learning experience, hopefully, but, particularly when contrasted with their EU brothers in Fnatic, Origen has a lot to answer for. Still, they’ve all but secured their place in the playoffs, and that’s a vital win for the organization. If they can focus themselves and bring what they learned from IEM Katowice into place, maybe Origen can make a surprise run in the playoffs. Of note too is that xPeke is listed as the starting Mid laner for this week for Origen, while no reason is given it might be speculated that they are seeing if his shot calling or presence is the missing piece. [edit: Power of Evil is feeling sick so xPeke has taken the midlane for this week.]

Fnatic look poised to reclaim their place at the top after a strong showing at IEM Katowice. But will that confidence translate into results in the last two weeks of the split? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Fnatic look poised to reclaim their place at the top after a strong showing at IEM Katowice. But will that confidence translate into results in the last two weeks of the split? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Fnatic, on the other end of things, can hold their heads quite high coming out of IEM Katowice, even with ‘just’ a second place showing. Fnatic, in a lot of ways, lucked out in that their road out of groups meant never crossing SKT T1, who went undefeated throughout their run. Still, they beat out CLG, whose macro style play has been the bane of many a team and can now include Immortals’ scalp as one of them, and Qiao Gu, the second favorite for coming out of Group B. Not only did they beat one of China’s representatives, but they also beat RNG, the other Chinese team, and eventually coming to blows with SKT T1 but ultimately falling in that fight. Still, Fnatic look again like a revitalized, upset-causing team again and that should carry into their EU LCS week. While breaking into the top 2, and thus a berth into the semi-finals, is unlikely for them, they can rest on their laurels that they will be in the playoffs, and can hopefully bring the Fnatic that was at IEM Katowice to the gauntlet if they want to defend their title.

 

 

GIANTS make giant Roster changes

A really late in the split roster change shows a Giants gaming that is gearing up for relegations. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

A really late in the split roster change shows a Giants gaming that is gearing up for relegations. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

In what is quickly becoming an almost cliché of itself, GIANTS have made a roster change that, on the surface, seems like the formula for mixed results: bring in two Koreans and pray it works. Dropping Atom, betongjocke and original member adryh, in place of SmittyJ, Wisdom and S0NSTAR. SmittyJ is a familiar face to many European fans, he played for G2 eSports in the Challenger Series, and most recently wore the yellow and gold of Diginitas over in NA. Wisdom comes from Korea, hailing from the ROX Tigers (at that time,) which brings a certain pedigree within itself. Still, Wisdom doesn’t carry the same weight behind him as a Spirit or Rush. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of impact he can bring to the lagging Giants, who surely are looking ahead to relegations and maintaining their spot in the LCS. S0NSTAR comes from a much lesser team in the LCK, Incredible Miracle. While still a team in the LCK, and thus still a strong contender, Incredible Miracle has been a largely inert force until its disbandment and reformation into Longzhu. Whether S0NSTAR can bring the much needed carry potential in the botlane to Giants will be the real test going into this week.

The major storyline here is whether this is a literal formula or not, that is, whether dropping two players for two Koreans is the way the West will keep up with the international arms race. While it’s unlikely that Giants will really shock many of us with a swift turnaround, because they’ll still most likely crash out of the Spring split at the bottom of the rung. But if the team starts to show life again, they might be able to stave off the incoming EU CS teams that are looking scarier with each game. Giants will need to make some real changes within themselves to prove they deserve a spot in the EU LCS, but this recent shakeup might be just what the doctor ordered. Sticking with what they had just wasn’t doing the trick, and week after week of losses weren’t showing any real improvements.

 

The god remains: FORG1VEN stays

 

Probably the biggest story coming out of the EU LCS, even bigger than IEM Katowice, was the news that FORG1VEN was being drafted into the Greek army, and was going to be forced to leave before finishing the split and not be back until next year. A heartbreaking interview, as FORG1VEN was visibly close to tears, shook much of the EU LCS (and reddit) and what seemed to be the worst luck story of FORG1VEN was going to come full circle in losing out at his best chance for an EU LCS title.  H2K and FORG1VEN managed, however, to have this service deferred to a later date, so FORG1VEN will finally catch a break and be able to ride the H2K wave into the playoffs. While EU LCS fans sighed a huge sigh of relief, as the best ADC by far in EU LCS would remain for the split, it’s still a very big question mark as to how long this deferment will last.

Ohh look, another "by far" meme. Very original.

Ohh look, another “by far” meme. Very original.

While it’s hard to look a gift horse in the mouth here, FORG1VEN’s being allowed to stay until (we assume) the end of the split and into the playoffs is a small victory for the team. While a successful run in the playoffs can secure a good amount of points towards Worlds, if they’re without FORG1VEN it’s hard to say whether they’ll have the same kind of impact. Furthermore, Summer might not even be a guarantee without him. And there’s a relative silence on the exact terms of this deferment, whether it’ll last post-Spring, into Summer, or even until the end of World’s. The hopes of many fans is that FORG1VEN can post-pone conscription at least until the end of World’s, it’s hard to say whether that’ll be a possibility given the murky territory  that is Government-esports interactions (see VISA issues for a case in point.) Fans can only wait on baited breath for further information, as H2K and the Greek government are probably in some form of discussion over the matter.

 

The fight for 7th

The bottom teams scramble to address internal issues, some making roster changes while others feel their current roster is the strongest it can be. Only time will tell who really was right in the end. Courtesy of lolesports.

The bottom teams scramble to address internal issues, some making roster changes while others feel their current roster is the strongest it can be. Only time will tell who really was right in the end. Courtesy of lolesports.

The bottom half of the standings are gearing up for a strange little battle of their own, and that one isn’t setting their sights on Playoffs and beyond, but mere survival. The race to secure 7th place is heating up the bottom of the batch going into this week, as Elements and Splyce lock horns as they are tied for (currently) 7th place, while Roccat, revitalized with their new support in Noxiak, and Giants, having undergone their own roster shake up, look in hungrily. For those who are unaware, 7th place in the standings gives a kind of ‘grace’ spot, as the team manages to stay in the EU LCS without having to fight for relegations, but are not part of the playoffs. It’s basically making the best of a bad situation for the teams, as nobody wants to have the pressure of relegations hanging over their head and their organization’s life on the line.

The contenders currently for this safe haven are Splyce and Elements, Splyce showing a bit more signs of life having won two of their past 5 games, while Elements has only pulled off a single victory (their position largely secured by their 3-1 first two weeks.) In this way, Splyce looks to be the clear favorite going ahead, although the true test will come this week as the two face off against each other. Neither team can be said to have an ‘easier’ week(s) ahead of them either, so it’ll be a real test of their mettle, but also possibly down to a lot of luck. And, of course, it also depends on how the two teams below them act in the next two weeks.

Roccat and Giants are from the outside looking in for, truthfully, most of this split. Roccat look a lot livelier than Giants, having taken a surprise victory against Unicorns of Love to pull themselves one victory ahead of Giants and one victory behind the current duo at 7th. The permanent (potentially) solution of adding Noxiak may have fixed some problems within the Roccat camp, communication and cohesion being a glaring weakness prior. Giants too come in with a much more new roster than Roccat, having dropped three players for three new ones quite late into the split. Still, Giants just haven’t really shown up this split, so it’ll be a real show of who deserves the spot, if either, when the two go head to head next week. Until then, both will be posturing themselves to come from behind to snake away a spot at staying out of the Relegation pit in the coming months.

 

 

Team Vitality vs. G2 eSports

Our Match of the Week is a clash of titans between the rising Vitality and a bloody G2 eSports. Courtesy of lolesports

Our Match of the Week is a clash of titans between the rising Vitality and a bloody G2 eSports. Courtesy of lolesports

This is pretty much the clash of titans for the week, and should be the most exciting going into this week. The last time these two met, Vitality walked away victorious, and both teams haven’t really seemed to be weaker than the other at any point. Namely, what makes this matchup so exciting is that these teams are tied, so for all intents and purposes this is both a tiebreaker and a kind of testing of these two teams going into Playoffs. Arguably the clear favorite teams to take it all are: H2K, Vitality, G2, and, after IEM Katowice, Fnatic. Two of those four are squaring off, and this should prove to be, in my opinion, the match of the week.

It’s also a clash of styles that will see which comes out on top here. In a lot of ways, Vitality is becoming the CLG of EU (not CLG.eu, sadly,) in their emphasis on macro game over simply dominating lanes and team fights. G2, on the other side, thrive in those domains, constantly just being one up of their opponents in almost all regards. But G2 have kind of come back down to earth in a lot of ways, and it’s also worth mentioning that the last time they met, Vitality came out on top. Still, it’ll be a great showing of the two styles of play, and while it won’t conclusively say which is superior, it’ll definitely show which is stronger at the moment. And that kind of confidence is more important than the wins now.

 

Fnatic vs. Team Vitality

Can the IEM Katowice second place team show up against the top dog Vitality? Courtesy of lolesports

Can the IEM Katowice second place team show up against the top dog Vitality? Courtesy of lolesports

Our second game includes Vitality again as they square off against the returning Fnatic. While Fnatic showed up big at IEM Katowice, which I think took a lot of people by surprise, when it wouldn’t have last year. It’s impressive too, given the kind of turbulent split that Fnatic’s had, but they’re coming into this with fresh validation that they, again, have a world class team. Vitality, not having the same experience, still seem a strong contender, and if the standings were the only element going into this it might not be as exciting of a game as it will be. But the real storyline, and excitement, is just how well this newly energized, and in some ways titan killing, Fnatic is versus the tried and true side of Vitality.

The big hype going into this match is going to be how Fnatic do. I mean, if Fnatic show up, it’ll be great. But, many weeks back in Week 1, the last time these two met, Vitality came out on top. Still, it’s hard to really see that as relevant now. What’s interesting, too, is that both teams started out rougher than they currently are as far as form goes. Vitality dropped its first game to Roccat, and Fnatic’s only showing an 8-6 record, both not overly indicative of the strength of each squad. Well we don’t really say whose going to win in our matches of the week, one has to feel that the ball is in Fnatic’s court here, and that a loss on their part will mean more than a loss on Vitality’s part. Fnatic just went toe to toe with SKT T1, while not taking a map and not really making them sweat, this still has to give them a kind of edge for experience. Fnatic, too, looked great in some of their games, and maybe picking up Klaj was exactly the missing piece for Fnatic. This is Fnatic after all, their Support role has always been a major piece in their squad. Vitality, on the other end, want to show themselves to be the real contender for the top, if not first place overall, by taking down the reigning champs (albeit, with the majority of those champs being in other teams.)

Storylines and Games to Watch in Week 7 of the EU LCS

 

Late Roster Swaps: The right moves or trying to save a sinking boat with a bucket?

 

The Spring Split on both sides of the pond has been rife with VISA issues, on the NA side we had the kerfluffle that was Echo Fox’s first couple of weeks, while the European edition saw Ryu from H2K temporary out, while both Diamondprox and Edward seem to have been denied a future in the EU LCS. Therefore, it’s not much of a surprise to see the two teams affected making a last ditch roster change, even with only a few weeks remaining.

Unicorns of Love are our first team we’ll talk about, mainly because they’re still quite high on the standings. UOL brought in Challenger hero Rudy, who at times seemed to shine but also very much seemed a SoloQ hero. Instead of what could be a diamond in the rough, pun intended, UOL has gone the other team building direction: LCS experience in a team environment over raw mechanics. They picked up Loulex to fill the void in their Jungler position, which is either a major upgrade or a major downgrade.

Can the dishnoured French Jungler bring the experience UOL needs? Courtesy of Leaguepedia

Can the dishnoured French Jungler bring the experience UOL needs? Courtesy of Leaguepedia

It all depends on a few things for UOL, things that fans will be desperately paying attention to. The first, and most vital, is whether the rest of the team, talent wise and carry wise, can take a hold of the game without the mechanical pressure from a star jungler. Loulex was never known to make major plays on H2K, but his clear experiential lead over udy is what he will bring to the team. But this all depends on whether UOL has enough of the necessary raw talent to make the games swing in their favour. Or go full CLG and try and out-macro your opponents. This is could be a possible style change for UOL, who in their first incarnation were known and loved for their chaotic playstyle with lots of team fights. The only remaining members of that team are Viscicaci and Hylissang.

Roccat, on the other hand, had a clear upgrade in their botlane from extinkt to Noxiak. Extinkt never really… inspired me much when watching him, he just didn’t seem to be completely comfortable in the position. Noxiak, however, is quite the veteran of being tossed around in the EU LCS in League’s most underloved role of Support. It’s hard to say exactly what Noxiak can do for Roccat given how late it is in the split for the team, but it’s not just about standings for Roccat now: it’s about survival. Relegations are an almost certainty, so the team needs to be looking inwards seriously to figure out the problems within themselves so they can prove they belong amongst the best.

Can the travelling Noxiak finally find a home in Roccat? And will that be a home that'll last? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Can the travelling Noxiak finally find a home in Roccat? And will that be a home that’ll last? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Roccat is just a team that can’t seem to pull off what Elements can, that is, being the leftovers of Europe and still managing a few decent wins. As far as raw talent goes, though, Roccat is in a much better position than Giants and Elements, so there is hope that maybe the addition of Noxiak can solve some of the problems that plague Roccat. But I think it’s going to take a lot of work to fix those problems, and that’s if players and the organization stay together as a unit. But in all truth Roccat needs to look to the future of the Summer Split, while hoping to prove that they belong in that split in the next three weeks.

 

Looking for slip ups from the top

Courtesy of LoLeSports.

Courtesy of LoLeSports.

A lot of the storylines from the last couple of weeks have been the jostling of the upper teams proving themselves against each other.  Most, if not all, of the top contenders for the throne were up against each other in some capacity. This week is different. The only teams who we can reasonably say are challenged will be our Games of the Week, that is, the Fnatic vs. H2K and Origen vs. G2 eSports. Those are the only two games I feel could be really contention points between the teams, but I’ll talk about that later in the article.

Both Vitality and UOL have easy weeks ahead of them. If either team doesn’t come out with a 2-0 week that’ll be a worrying sight. Vitality faces a struggling-to-remain-even-LCS-caliber team of Giants, which even a close game will be a worrying sign from the resurging Vitality squad. Vitality also faces the downward spiraling Elements, who has struggled to take more than a single win after their surprising 3-1 first two weeks of the split. Still, Elements have shown to be a team that can surprise some of the upper teams, and Vitality, also, has been one of the two victories for Roccat, so they’ll need to not rest on their laurels, but a relatively quiet week should be expected for the team.

UOL face both Roccat and Splyce this week, the former having joined them in making a last minute roster change while the latter have remained untouched since making it into the LCS (other than the acquisition of Trashy for the Jungle.) UOL vs. Roccat could’ve been a Game of the Week, if it weren’t for the fact that the standings make this a hard-to-hype game. UOL should still be able to take the win, but the real point of interest between these two will be whether the new roster will be able to correct the course of the team. UOL is still quite high in the standings, but in an environment that has been rather scattered and weak and is only getting tougher, UOL need to do better than ‘mediocre.’ The next game against Splyce is similar in ways to the one against Roccat: it should go UOL’s way, but a recent feisty Splyce has shown that while they are low in the standings, they’re still here to stay. Still, a 2-0 week for UOL should be expected, given the standings.

Both H2K and G2 eSports have a single tricky game ahead of them against, oddly enough, the two strongest teams from Europe’s last Summer split, Fnatic and Origen. Both teams face a relatively uninspiring team elsewise: G2 against Elements is relatively easy to call, while an H2K against Giants barely even requires being watched. Still, any slip ups in these games could point to bigger issues for the upstart teams. Anything less than a 1-1 week for either team will be deeply concerning for fans and the teams alike.

 

 

Origen, Elements, or Splyce: Will the final Playoffs team please stand up?

 

[insert Origen and Tilting joke.] Courtesy of eSportsHeaven.com

[insert Origen and Tilting joke.] Courtesy of eSportsHeaven.com

We’ve talked about playoff seeding before, but it’s going to become a common storyline going forward in the last few weeks of the Split. This is where playoff dreams can be realized or fall apart based on each game, so teams will need to not let their guards down. The three teams, however, that are still contending for this position seem like an odd bunch. First, and foremost, we have the leader of the pack in Origen. Origen, folks, is still in a tenuous position for playoffs. Oi. I’ve already mostly said my peace on them, but they still need to be brought up as not securing necessarily for themselves a place in the playoffs, which have gone up exponentially in importance for teams who want to go to World’s. So Origen needs to hold onto this spot if they have any hope of not having to repeat last years miracle run from CS to the 3-4th at World’s.

Elements shows at times that they've got the right ELEMENTS to win, but seem to crumble in some of their late game decision making. Courtesy of Leaguepedia

Elements shows at times that they’ve got the right ELEMENTS to win, but seem to crumble in some of their late game decision making. Courtesy of Leaguepedia

Elements is another team that, maybe back at their inception, would’ve been a surprise for only existing at this point in the standings. But given the vagabond and misfit nature of the team, a playoff spot would be a resounding victory. However, given their most recent games, I highly doubt it. Still, they have the chance, with a couple of bad weeks from Origen, Elements could find themselves in the playoffs and the possibility for some points towards World’s. Still, given the weak field that is the EU LCS, Elements could go decently far, maybe finding themselves in contention for the 3-4 place, which would be great for a team still struggling to remain more relevant than just a spot to be sold in the offseason.

F&%$ Yea Denmark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qv_qcD3JjCE for those no in the know.

F&%$ Yea Denmark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qv_qcD3JjCE for those no in the know.

Our last playoff contender is the one who an older Defico probably still has dreams of, the all Danish roster of Splyce. Splyce entered into the EU LCS as a possible contender for middle of the pack, but have struggled in the early stages of the split. This team has recently picked up a couple of crucial wins that have them still poised to make their first Split also their first appearance in the playoffs. Recently, the team has stated that they have “grown some balls” and are starting to make the aggressive moves they pull off in scrims. Time will tell whether this will translate into an actual consistent playstyle, but it looked good, much better than their “wait for Sencux to carry,” style that got them a few early wins. If Splyce wants to prove themselves to not simply be a ‘relegation contender,’ and a real contender in the LCS, they’ll need to make sure that scrim mentality continues to come out, because it seems to work much better.

 

Games to Watch

 

Fnatic vs. H2K: For Fnatic, proof for being here, for H2K, business as usual.

Courtesy of LoLeSports

Courtesy of LoLeSports

As if it needed being said, H2K looks strong, but now that they’ve returned to their full roster with Ryu in the midlane, normality might be able to return to the squad. But H2K hasn’t really been all that worried by the subbing in of SELFIE. They’re still on the top in a three way tie. Fnatic, on the other hand, have struggled to really assert themselves in the way they did last split, not surprising given their relative ‘emptying of talent’ that took place in the offseason. If Immortals current win streak is any indication, Huni and Reignover played major roles in Fnatic’s record setting split. The loss of shotcaller and veteran rebuilder in Yellowstar was another hit. Still, Fnatic is no team to shrug off, and hence why this is one of our games of the week.

On the line for H2K is whether they will remain at the top when Week 7’s dust settles. They’ll need to gel again as a team, so it’ll really be a story of whether this H2K is deserving to be on the top. Fnatic, on the other hand, have a lot on the line. H2K could reasonably lose quite a few of their games going ahead and still make playoffs. Fnatic can’t. They need each win, and not just to make it in but to also prove that they should be in the playoffs. Fnatic’s been up and down, and while they have all the right tools, it’s got to actually work. The acquisition of a new support player that’s been cited as a shotcaller like Yellowstar is promising. A win here for Fnatic would be huge, while a win for H2K will only cement what many already say, that is, they’re one of the best in Europe.

 

Origen vs. G2 eSports: For Origen, redemption, and for G2, a show of muscle.

Courtesy of LoLeSports

Courtesy of LoLeSports

Origen, Origen, Origen. I’m sorry, but seriously, what the Origen is Origen right now? Just scraping by currently to make it into the playoffs is not at all what anyone would’ve predicted. It really raises the question as to the actual role for xPeke on the team. That aside, Origen needs this win, not to pad their current two game lead over Elements/Splyce, but more so to prove that they won’t be down and out getting 3-0ed in the first level of playoffs. G2 eSports is in a similar case to H2K: this game is really just a sabre rattling to the other top teams more so than proving themselves against a lower tier team. Still, G2 have seemed less like gods lately, so it might still be vital for them to reassert themselves against the other top tier teams.

For Origen and their fans this is the chance to rally behind something this split. Some key victories off the top teams can point towards a good playoff run, ultimately what matters most. Still, even a good showing can be encouraging. Origen need to, though, be sure not to slip too far behind and remain at a comfortable distance from Elements and Splyce, elsewise they may be looking at probably the strangest history of recent teams to date. G2 eSports need to maintain their solidity at the top, while also beating back the increasingly hungry middle of the pack in Europe. Still, the implications of this game for G2 are more immaterial than standings position. G2 need to prove themselves to not just be a ‘flash in the pan,’ but a consistent top tier team, and that means not dropping games to lower tier teams, at least not without a fight.

The Curious Economic Case that is G2 eSports: How you can have your cake and eat it too?

G2 eSports club, the team who currently is tearing apart the EU LCS and getting a foothold in the CS:GO scene, owned by the ever appealing eye candy that is Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago, storied ex-midlaner for SK Gaming back in the ‘glory days,’ has to be one of the most economic cases in eSports to date. G2 eSports has been a staple, until recently, in the category of eSports teams that are ‘almost-good-but-not,’ having fielded multiple rosters in the EU CS and finally cracking into the LCS. Their CS:GO side, too, is storied, with the acquisition of a Polish squad that just never seemed to ‘make it all the way.’

SCARF. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

SCARF. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Of course, this is all old news, ask anyone who follows the EU LCS and they’ll say G2 eSports is a top contender for the European throne. But it’s not their League of Legends team that is our point of interest: no, what makes G2 the strangest little economic story is their CS:GO lineup. Dropping their crumbling Polish squad, G2 went silent until they agreed with Kinguin, a competitor to Steam, to a kind of ‘merger’: G2.Kinguin would be born.  Kinguin would be their chief sponsor, and G2 would become the team that would field an interesting European experiment.

Kinguin had made their foray into eSports from being a sponsor to being apart of a team with the creation of a European ‘super team,’ one made up of many different nationalities, with the main talent coming in Scream and Maikelele, a Belgian and Swede respectively. The team was rounded out by another Swede in Dennis, now playing for Fnatic, Rain, a Norwegian, and the Portuguese player Fox. Needless to say, the team was plagued early on by miscommunications and relying largely on the raw talent they all brought to the table. They had mixed results until their breakaway run in Dreamhack Cluj where they managed a 3-4th placement.

I mean, yes, it is a penguin wearing a crown. Yes, we're a serious organization. Why do you ask? Courtesy of the Steam Community Market Listing

I mean, yes, it is a penguin wearing a crown. Yes, we’re a serious organization. Why do you ask? Courtesy of the Steam Community Market Listing

But now we move into our curiosity proper: Titan’s buying out of Scream’s contract to the tune of a whopping $150,000. That’s a lot. And, oddly enough, Titan didn’t seem all that much better for it, while G2 went on to turn themselves around, largely becoming a Nordic team + Fox. Maybe comms cleared up a bit, or maybe the team just started to gel more, but G2 just seemed to be a lot richer and doing just fine, having acquired Jkeam from a rebuilt-then-disbanded-again Copenhagen Wolves. All of this doesn’t really make for all that newsworthy of an article, especially because it all happened months ago: but it’s what happened next that makes it such a strange twist of fate.

Enter 2016: The year that, like every year, is when eSports is really going to make waves. While League of Legends saw more high investors buying team slots than ever, CSGO has also seen a surge in bigger money and bigger orgs getting in while the going’s hot. Just like EnVyUs and OpTic gaming before them (man those are weird to spell…) FaZe Clan wanted in on the newest (oldest?) FPS, so they got into talks with G2 eSports. It seems FaZe had some serious backings, and managed a deal for the team to the tune of, get this, $700,000. It makes sense: I mean, G2 seemed to be quite a rising star at the time, so maybe some investment and commitment to the team from an org could turn them into a top 4. But that means that, just in proper player management and acquisition, G2 eSports netted somewhere around $850,000.

Kind of looks like a race care symbol, but that is going to look amazing in foil. Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

Kind of looks like a race care symbol, but that is going to look amazing in foil. Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

So alright, that just looks like good business practice. I’m sure we’re all both sad that we can’t have those nifty little Samurai stickers anymore. But hey, FaZe is gonna look killer with foil. This story is what makes G2 eSports one of the strangest little stories in my opinion of recent eSports economic history: Titan, as an organization, folds in on itself, releasing all of their teams into the open seas. As sad as this was, given Titan’s tenure in the scene, it became the culmination of our G2 eSports story. G2 eSports just sold their CSGO team to FaZe not more than 12 days later they had a new team with a very familiar face: ex-Titan is signed by G2 eSports. And that means Scream is again wearing the G2 logo into battle. What makes this such an odd little story is just that G2 managed to sell, arguably, their most talented player for $150,000 and have that really turn into renting him out, as they eventually acquire him and a full roster of French speakers.

Hey guys, we're a Spanish based eSports club... what screams that to our fans? A samurai. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Hey guys, we’re a Spanish based eSports club… what screams that to our fans? A samurai. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Only time will really tell which of the two teams has the potential to carry on and really make their mark, as the ex-Titan squad really seemed to be in a kind of slump as of lately, comparisons maybe to NiP being apt here: the team seems talented, but they just seem to fall short in the face of games they should close out. Maybe the CLG of Europe is a better way of putting it. But all of that really pales in comparison to the business maneuvers that the G2 eSports club managed to do in the CS:GO scene, and will definitely help buffer their coffers, if nothing else Ocelote can buy another few hundred scarves too.

Four Story Lines to follow going into the EU LCS Week 4

Who will remain the King of Europe?

I will not let this meme die. Courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IWojm7QngI

I will not let this meme die. Courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IWojm7QngI

I don’t think any analyst or predictor could have imagined the current standings in the EU LCS. For one thing, most fans will note the distinct lack of Origen there. But on top of that, G2 and H2K are currently locking horns for top of the heap. That H2K is a contender for the top isn’t much of a surprise: they retained their star top laner in Odoamne and got the legendary Greek ADC in Forgiven. Vander and Jankos were good pick ups too, of course, but it’s more in those two players that H2K looked to be a strong team. While H2K was uninspiring at World’s, particularly in contrast to their European brothers in Fnatic and Origen, they still managed make it to World’s.

Stop.Giving.This.Man.Corki.Already. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Stop.Giving.This.Man.Corki.Already. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

But G2 eSports came in as a kind of questionable team, with a relatively unknown (but now has definitely made his mark) midlaner in Perkz and having lost some of their more ‘well known’ players. But the team just seems to work: PerkZ himself kidded that the secret is just picking up two Koreans and playing well enough and let them carry (what I would lovingly chide as being the “Fnatic Style.”) But other teams have done that and failed miserably. G2 eSports, even when behind, manage to scrap a win, and those lucky enough to have drafted PerkZ in their Fantasy leagues know already this is a team to beat in Europe, if not the team.

But both teams can’t rest on their laurels. It’s still early in the split, and a 0-2 week followed by another teams 2-0 week can unseat these top teams. UOL and Vitality are nipping at their heels, only one loss behind. H2K looks to have the easier week, facing the surprisingly good at times and abysmal at others, Elements, and the Danish side of Splyce who have yet to really make much of an impact this split. G2 also face Splyce, but must also take down the European titans (or slated to have been…) Origen.

 

Will the real middle of the pack teams please stand up?

 

Right now, as is usual, the middle of the pack are all easily within a good/bad week of each other. Given how early we are into the split this isn’t much of a surprise to anyone, with the rare exception of NA where Immortals looks to be dominating entirely, or even Cloud 9 in their first split, the middle of a split usually is the ‘make it or fail,’ kind of mentality. This is where 2-0 and 0-2 weeks can crush or make playoff dreams for teams, so teams will be buckling down from here on out.

Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

We’ll look at Vitality and UOL first, given they are 1 win over the ‘middle’ middle of the pack. Both teams are coming off a 1-1 week, but with UOL losing their star jungler in Diamondprox, I have to think that Vitality will have the bigger chance to distinguish themselves this week. Vitality should, emphasis on should, take down Elements and look poised to go 2-0 against their current tied rival in UOL. UOL is in another similar position, where they should be able to pick off a crumbling Roccat, but their face to face with Vitality will be telling of how their recovery is fairing.

If you had said to me last split that Origen and Fnatic would be tied for a position, I’d have believed you. Of course, that position would’ve been first place and not 3rd. What was turning out to be the next El Claissco has seemed to have largely fizzled out. Both teams are struggling to find themselves a footing, but this week might be the one for them to turn it all around. Fnatic has an easy week, facing the bottom two teams, so anything less than a 2-0 week will be a bad omen really. Origen should at least go 1-1, being placed against the dominating G2 eSports. Still, having these two teams be in the dead middle of the group just doesn’t feel right, and it’d be concerning if they were to fall any lower going into the rest of the split.

The last middle of the pack team is probably the only one who can seriously say that it’s an achievement. Elements were largely considered to be the TiP of the EU LCS, after a failed selling off of the team’s spot lead to a rushed and scrappily thrown together team. In truth, this seemed like more of a hope of securing a spot in the LCS to sell for the Summer split than to go anywhere serious, but the team managed to turn some heads where they went 3-1 in the first two weeks. Now they’ve had a 0-2 week that’s solidly brought the squad back down to earth, but the question is whether Elements will bounce back or continue to plummet. There have been countless teams that blaze through the first bit of a split only to crash and burn in the latter bit. It doesn’t help too that Elements is facing a super hard week: up against Team Vitality and H2K. But if Elements can manage to topple these opponents they have a chance to make a really big statement. If they fall flat though it’ll leave many questioning whether Elements has gotten this far on skill or from teams just not giving them the respect they are due.

 

Is Origen back?

Origen's gameplay is increasingly becoming a concern. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Origen’s gameplay is increasingly becoming a concern. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

When I first took in the full effects of the European exodus, particularly in the losses that Fnatic felt, I had a clear image in my head: the era of Origen dominance. I mean, they were quarter finalists at Worlds. They only swapped out xPeke for Power of Evil, arguably not that big of a deal. But oh man have they seemed not themselves. Even the team members themselves have been harsh on their performance. So what happened?

Well, last week was a bright spot for Origen, as they went 2-0 finally. This puts them right in the increasingly bloated middle of the pack, and, given 0-2 weeks by the two top teams in Europe and a 2-0 performance again, balance could be restored to the universe. This is unlikely, however. But what will be probably the game to catch this week is the one between Origen and arguably the strongest team in Europe right now, G2 eSports. A win here for Origen will do more than just pad their worrisome record this split, but also assert themselves as one of the strongest teams by taking down one of the strongest teams.

Origen shouldn’t go any less than 1-1 this week though, up against a stumbling Giants that just looks like a fish out of water this split. Origen really needs to look within themselves, lest they become a case of Cloud 9 where dropping their midlaner for arguably a mechanical upgrade results in a horrible disaster of a split. The difference is that Hai has been well cemented now as probably the most charismatic and ‘leader-like’ player in LCS history. xPeke didn’t seem like such a vital role to the team, no slight against him, it just seemed like they had cohesion outside of him. But if Origen’s record is a trajectory, having started off 0-2, then 1-1, then 2-0, maybe Origen can still turn this split around and reassert themselves as the King’s of Europe. Until then, this is a storyline we’ll have to watch closely.

 

Snakes, Cats and Giants Oh My!: Do or die for the bottom of the pack?

Splyce still has plenty of time to prove to EU that they deserve to be here. But they need to start winning games to do that. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Splyce still has plenty of time to prove to EU that they deserve to be here. But they need to start winning games to do that. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Three teams find themselves at the bottom of the European dogpile, in descending order: Splyce, Roccat and Giants. We’ll discuss them in that order. Splyce had a shining moment in an otherwise lackluster split with an insane play from Sencux, but still look slightly shaky in a lot of ways. Although there is a lot of potential in this team, it’s these next two weeks that will really determine how much of this potential can be actualized. Coming in from the Challenger Series, making it into playoffs would be a victory for this team and point to a possible bright future. Given how early it is in the split a 2-4 record isn’t the end of the world. But Splyce needs to find more wins if they want to remain relevant. This week doesn’t look like their week either, being put up against arguably the two strongest teams in Europe right now: H2K and G2 eSports. If the Danes manage to take a single game off of either of those opponents that’ll be huge, but this is probably a pipe dream. It’ll be a question of how much of a resistance they can put up.

Team Rocket-- I mean, Roccat, just can't seem to catch a break. But they'll need to if they wish to retain their LCS status. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Team Rocket– I mean, Roccat, just can’t seem to catch a break. But they’ll need to if they wish to retain their LCS status. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Poor Roccat. This is a team that’s probably been slated to do great things since its inception and multiple iterations, but just never seems to deliver. I don’t think anyone can feel anything but bad for them too, having lost their star support player in Edward due to VISA issues. The team is arguably similar to Elements in a way, a mix of leftover pro players banded together to have one last go at remaining relevant. Besides a strong, if not surprising, early win against Vitality in Week 1, Roccat just hasn’t seemed to manage anything else. Roccat are up against VISA struck UOL though, which might be a chance for this team to get a win, as well as facing a Fnatic lineup that is a shadow of its former perfect split self. But I just don’t even think that’s likely.

I'd make a David and Goliath joke or a pun about the bigger they are the harder they fall if Giants ever were actually a scary team. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

I’d make a David and Goliath joke or a pun about the bigger they are the harder they fall if Giants ever were actually a scary team. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Lastly, we have Giants. I… I don’t really know what to say about them outside the fact that they’ve just seemed off this whole split. 0-6 stands as a case in point. This is very concerning, and the team, in all truth, should be shooting for a ‘not-relegated’ position in the rankings and consider themselves good if they manage that. But I just don’t think they will. There are hungry, strong teams in the EU CS this year too, so Giants needs to be mindful of this fact. If this was last split, the two games Giants are playing would be too easy to predict: Fnatic and Origen looked like the only two teams that ever gave each other hassle, while Fnatic’s perfect season and Origen’s run from CS to World’s made them Europe’s strongest teams. But these are not the same teams, and if Giants can sneak even a single win, they might end up in a much better position than I’ve slated them to be. I just don’t know if that’s even a reasonable dream for them. It’s going to come down to whether Giants can manage to do anything this split, because if they lose this week, they’ll have lost for half of the entire split… and that’s not good.

The Five Storylines To Follow Going Into The EU LCS Spring Split

The new El Classico? Courtesy of Fnatic.com

The new El Classico? Courtesy of Fnatic.com

Fnatic vs. Origen: the New El Classico

 

Europe, as a region, has always tended towards monolithic super teams, having some of the greatest talent in the West, born and raised in their own region. During the Summer Split, Fnatic could not be considered any less than the strongest team in Europe, taking the first ever perfect split in the LCS. Right at their heels though were their younger, or older, brother in Origen, the team formed around the leaving of xPeke and Soaz that blazed from the EU CS to the Quarter Finals at Worlds. With the absolute crashing and burning that was SK Gaming’s LCS team, a new El Classico is brewing, that is, between the two European giants in Fnatic and Origen.

What’s to watch between these two teams? Well, right now, Origen looks set to take Europe by complete storm, even more so than last time, and maybe even challenge Fnatics record of a perfect season. Origen looked strong going into the Summer Split in 2015, they looked strong at Worlds where NA teams faltered around them, and they look (possibly?) even stronger with Power of Evil in the midlane (not to slight xPeke in any way.) Fnatic, on the other hand, has done a lot of rebuilding. They lost their Top, Jungler, and Support to NA, and that is a huge hit, particularly in their Support. Yellowstar can take almost full credit for rebuilding the team and leading them on the Fields of Justice to victory, a strong shotcaller and a great support player. Huni and Reignover, Top and Jungler respectively, are huge talent hits, but talent can be replaced. The wealth of experience that Yellowstar brought to the team cannot. Still, everyone casted complete doubt on the lineup that ended up going undefeated in the Summer Split, so if any EU team can almost completely rebuild a roster into a world class team it’s Fnatic. Gamsu and Spirit, Gamsu coming from a rather lackluster Dignitas squad but having his shining moments there and Spirit from Team WE and Samsung Galaxy Blue, are strong pickups to replace the Korean duo for the top half of the map. Noxiak, their Support player, has yet to really be seen, and has some of the biggest shoes to fill coming into this split. The storyline here is a question mark too: will Fnatic and Origen remain the two top dogs in an increasingly competitive league, given some of the star studded talent that’s consolidated in other teams?

The 'Middle of the Pack' squad. Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

The ‘Middle of the Pack’ squad. Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

The middle of the pack shake up

 

Europe’s also probably the most volatile of the regions. Upstart teams like Lemondogs, Alliance, Supa Hot Crew and others, rise and fall almost as quickly. They also lay claim to the most competitive middle of the pack teams ever. Just look to the Summer Split 2015: the four teams ranked 4-8 had 1 game difference between them. That is insanely close. So what does this mean here? Well, these teams have always struggled to really cause the two to three headed giant of the top of the league to sweat. Sure, they’ll take games off of them at times, but overall it’s hard to say that a Roccat or Elements really could take down Origen in a best of three. There’s always something that’ll slip up, maybe nerves or small mistakes, that the upper teams will take advantage of and run with it.

So what’s the story going into this split? Well, the usual talent conglomeration. The Unicorns of Love hope to rebuild themselves, having lost Power of Evil, Kikis, and Vardags, around some pretty talented players: the (in)famous Diamondprox will hold down the jungle, Fox the midlane, a shining player for SK Gaming’s turbulent Summer Split, and lastly the French talent in Steelback, whose tenure in Fnatic is resume enough. For Team Elements, having lost their star in Froggen, they have chosen to try and rebuild largely around Steve, Roccat’s old top laner, and MrRalleZ, the literal Danish ADC Giant. The rest of their roster, other than Gillius who played for Unicorns of Love and G2, are unheard of solo-queue players. Lastly, we’ll look at Roccat’s new lineup, one of the few middle of the pack teams to actually pick up some pretty experienced players in every lane. Fredy112 in the toplane, ex-SK Gaming, Airwaks in the Jungle, ex-Copenhagen Wolves, Betsy in the Midlane and Edward as Support from ex-Gambit, and lastly, the most untested of the team, Safir as ADC, taken from Renegades. Given that each of these players is at least as talented as any middle of the pack team could hope for, it’s the eternal question of whether this can translate onto the stage in any meaningful way.

So, what’s the storyline to follow? Well, the real question hanging over everyone’s head is whether these teams can make any real impact in the league. The dream of every middle of the pack team is to lose that title and make it comfortably in the top 3 or 4 of the League. But, given some of the new talent, this might be just a dream for many of these teams. It’s not impossible, of course, that one of these teams can just ‘click’ and absolutely dominant the league. This is Europe, if it’s going to happen anywhere it’s here. But I think, at least on paper, these teams are going to be a solid middle of the pack group, not able to really make a dent on the pedigree that will claim the top four.

Can the new kids on the block bring their A game? Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

Can the new kids on the block bring their A game? Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

New Kids on the Block in G2, Splyce and Vitality

 

In contrast to NA, Europe was relatively quiet when it came to purchases for LCS spots. Sure, Splyce made headlines with their million(!!) dollar acquisition of Dignitas.EU, the first fully national Danish team to make it into the league in a while (since Copenhagen Wolves did many moons ago with Bjergsen.) Vitality, too, bought into the league, picking up Gambit’s old spot and built arguably one of the scariest rosters for these new comers. Lastly, G2 did it the old fashioned way, constructing a good roster, attempting to get into the LCS, failing, rebuilding, and then managing to get in through the Promotion tournament.

As any team entering the LCS has over their head, the big question mark over all these teams is just how well will they do now that they’re at the big kids table of the LCS? Splyce did amazing during the CS, being probably the most dominant force there and making it in through the automatic promotion that Riot introduced (where the 10th place LCS team is automatically relegated, while the top CS series team is automatically promoted to the LCS.) But how will they fare against this new competitive EU LCS? It’s hard to say. They’re actually quite lucky in one regard over the other newcomers, in that they’ve largely all played together for quite some time. They know each other, and that’ll go a long way to (hopefully) having clear communications and good synergy. Talent-wise, the only notable players are Trashy in the Jungle, who was Jungler for now relegated Enemy eSports, and Nisbeth, the support player for also now relegated Meet Your Makers, which isn’t really telling of any greatness. What about G2 eSports, the eSports ‘club’ built by ex-SK Gaming Ocelote? Well, largely they became a farm team for many other organizations. They’ve had many players come and go, but their current roster, revolves around the hope of Emperor, their ADC from Korea and North America’s Team DragonKnights, and Kikis, their Top laner who played Jungler for Unicorns of Love, being able to make an impact. It’ll be interesting to see how this team does for communication, given the diverse languages within the team. But G2 has a steep uphill battle before them, and it’s questionable as to whether they’ll really leave a mark in the EU LCS.

Last, but certainly not least, is Team Vitality, who get their own paragraph because I think they are the newcomer team to look out for. While Roccat were able to snag notable players for each of their positions, Vitality were able to do so and then some. They grabbed Cabochard for their top lane, a consistent threat on the old Gambit lineup. Next is Shook, the very storied Dutchman whose bounced between Copenhagen Wolves, Alliance-Elements, then Copenhagen Wolves, and now Vitality, making great impacts on each team (as much as can be said for some of them.) Nukeduck holds down the mid lane, who’s also been a European standard and has been slated as the potential-ridden midlane, always expected to do big but never quite making it there. Lastly, and I think this is really the strongest point, is the duo lane taken directly from H2K gaming, in Hjarnan and Kasing. H2K was Europe’s third seed going into Worlds, and while they didn’t overly impress many, that’s still something. It’s all going to come down to how this team actually performs though. Talent is one thing, but League is a team oriented game still, and communication and synergy are not just buzzwords. While on paper they look like the strongest ‘new’ team, this has to translate onto the stage.

FORG1VEN to lead another team to glory or to mediocrity? Horrible Photoshop intended.

FORG1VEN to lead another team to glory or to mediocrity? Horrible Photoshop intended.

H2K: Can they keep their top three status?

 

H2K was another example of Europe’s upstart nature, coming out of CS and into quite a strong position within the LCS and eventually making it to Worlds. They were strong before, but I can’t help but feel they’re both in a better and worse position this split. The good? They got FORG1VEN. Anyone who followed SK Gaming in the Spring Split last year knows this is BY FAR the biggest pickup in the offseason for Europe. He is good, really good, and if he can learn to cooperate with his teammates in H2K they can easily retain their third spot position (dropping maybe to fourth at times.) The bad? Well, Europe’s gotten a lot more competitive too, even with the loss of some major talent, and as good as FORG1VEN is he is also… a difficult player to have on a team. FORG1VEN is a definite improvement on pretty much any ADC in Europe, but he is also just as difficult to have on a team as it is to not have him on your team. The storyline of H2K is really going to revolve around their botlane, and whether the veteran in VandeR can keep him both satisfied as a Support and reign him in when needed. The dynamic of H2K will either make or break them as a top team in EU LCS, and the Spring Split is going to be when all eyes are watching them on which it’s going to be.

ANOTHER European Exodus. Courtesy of na.lolesports.com

ANOTHER European Exodus. Courtesy of na.lolesports.com

European Talent Exodus

 

European exports to NA aren’t much of news, it’s happened before and made huge impacts, like the move for Bjergsen, and also made very small difference, think Evil Geniuses. This time, however, it’s been quite an exodus. Europe lost Huni and Reignover to newly minted Team Immortals in NA. As if that wasn’t hard enough for EU fans, they lost Yellowstar, the jewel of Europe, to TSM and Svenskeren also to TSM. Surely things couldn’t be worse? Well, then they lost Froggen to Echo Fox a new start up team, and then SmittyJ (arguably less of a hit, but one nonetheless,) to Dignitas. It’s all a bitter pill to swallow, having also seen Alex Ich leave to help form Renegades in NA, alongside Jensen, ex-INCARNATI0N, who joined the then struggling Cloud 9 team.

This storyline is kind of twofold to follow. First, the question most pertinent here is whether Europe can recover. Those who caught the EU LCS trailer know that this is going to be a big storyline there. Europe’s been here before, goes the trailer, they’ve been doubted before, but they’ve always come out of it stronger than before. One of EU’s greatest hopes, in Origen, is still fully intact from this exodus. Fnatic’s rebuilt itself before with less. Heck, EU can even claim to have fully imported something from NA in Safir for G2. But the question could also be rephrased less harshly: not whether Europe will ‘recover,’ but how Europe will show it is still one of the most dominant regions in the world. The second side of this coin? Well, it’s whether these Europe imports will affect NA’s LCS. Bjergsen’s rightfully so considered to have kept TSM afloat and relevant since he joined. He’s the strongest mid laner in the region, at least for now. But then Dexter, CLG’s old Jungler, didn’t seem to have such a lasting legacy for CLG. Then there’s also the story of Evil Geniuses, failed import and eventual dissolution. Jensen ultimately was good for Cloud 9, but when he joined many doubted him a worthy heir to Hai’s throne. TSM’s also known no end of ‘failed’ European junglers too. So the question for NA fans is this: will these injected Europeans make an impact to a region that showed such promise going into Worlds but ultimately fell flat on their faces? As with all our storylines here, only time will tell.