FC Schalke 04 will live or die by jungle and support in 2018

The 2018 League of Legends preseason continues to heat up, as LCS teams announce roster changes and the media reports daily updates. North American franchising has been a large spot of attention, while the European league has been quiet. Some major players are reportedly transferring to North America, but others have maintained that they are staying in Europe. A select few have announced that they are remaining on the same team from 2017 into 2018.

FC Schalke 04 is the only team to officially announce their entire EU LCS roster. Since re-entering the LCS by promotion from the Challenger Series, Schalke replaced four out of five players and only kept AD carry Upset. Schalke brought on Vizicsacsi, long-time top laner for Unicorns of Love, Pridestalker, Rookie of the Summer Split from Roccat, Nukeduck and Vander, reputable mid laner and support most recently from Team Vitality. There is a plethora of experience between Vizicsacsi, Nukeduck and Vander, while Pridestalker and Upset are promising young talents.

vizicsacsi: the catalyst

During his time on UOL, Vizicsacsi consistently set the pace of their matches. He is able to play carry champions, such as Gangplank, Irelia and Rumble. Tanks, such as Shen, Gnar, Maokai and Poppy, come naturally to him as well. ‘Csacsi has shown mastery of split-pushing, teleport flanks, lane swapping, diving and teamfighting. He is honestly one of the most well-rounded players in the league.

Vizicsacsi enters Schalke 04 as the catalyst of the team. He truly excels when he is able to gain a lead for himself and press the enemy team to respond to him. Pushing towers in the side lane, or diving the enemy bottom duo, ‘Csacsi applies pressure every chance he can get. During laning phase, he will draw enemy jungle attention, making room for Pridestalker to impact mid lane and the enemy jungle.

Moving into the mid game, Vizicsacsi will communicate ways that he can force the enemy’s hand. The opponent’s top laner will choose between regaining control of his lane or following Csacsi to another point on the map. Vizicsacsi always tries to use his tools offensively, so Teleport, Stand United, Cannon Barrage and other timings are crucial for Schalke victories. He will use these global abilities to press the attack when ahead, or turn the game around when behind.

Pridestalker: the wildcard

With only one split under his belt, Pridestalker comes on board without a clear role. Roccat finished the Summer Split with a 5-8 record, mostly losing because of their weak solo laners and poor neutral objective control. The team had an overall lack of proactivity, even when Pridestalker assisted his team in gaining early leads. The team finished the regular season bottom three in the league for First Blood, first turret, first three turrets and dragon percentage.

With the 2018 Schalke line-up, Pridestalker will be the true wildcard player. Team Vitality in the 2017 Summer Split is a good example of what happens when a team of veteran players has a sub-par jungler. Hopefully, Pridestalker pulls through as a keen tracker, keeping tabs on the enemy’s whereabouts and strategy. His most played champions include Kha’Zix, Graves and his pocket pick Warwick, all perfect for singling out the enemy jungler and punishing failed ganks.

Pridestalker needs to be the thorn in the enemy’s side. Each of his lanes are formidable in their own right, so Pridestalker can continue to lock in junglers with solo kill potential. He should focus on managing deep vision in the opponent’s jungle to track their pathing and allow the other members of Schalke to make smart decisions. Pridestalker’s ability to mesh with the rest of the team, to function as a counter-jungler and to control the map will be crucial. He will truly be the wildcard for Schalke’s Spring Split.

Nukeduck: the Anchor

Vitality’s saving grace in the 2017 Summer Split, Nukeduck has won the respect of Europe’s elite players over his several years of experience. Despite Vitality’s 5-8 record, Nukeduck generally won his lane, played a wide range of champions, and output almost a third of the team’s damage. He is one of the only players in recent memory to truly stand out while playing for a losing team.

Moving into 2018, Schalke will hope to utilize Nukeduck’s consistency and unleash more of his carry potential. The mid laner pulled off wins with zoning mages like Orianna and Syndra, AD hyper-carries like Corki and Kog’Maw and mobile assassins like Leblanc and Kassadin. With a more consistent jungler and bottom lane, Nukeduck should be able to be even more dominant in lane, opening him up for more roams and invades.

This could be a match made in heaven. Schalke is looking for redemption since their initial flop in the EU LCS, and Nukeduck could be the key. He continues to prove himself worthy in the eyes of his peers. 2018 is Nukeduck’s chance to regain some team glory since his days with Lemondogs. At worst, he will be the anchor in the mid lane: reliable and consistent.

Upset: the raw talent

Schalke’s AD carry, Upset, is the only qualifying member that they held onto for 2018. With a complete roster rebuild, Upset will need to adapt quickly to his new bottom lane partner and other teammates. Other than Pridestalker, every player Schalke acquired in the off-season will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to help mold Upset into a future star. This player quickly rose to prominence in the European Challenger Series, and he will look to begin his legacy as an LCS-level player next year.

Europe has a great track record with rookies in recent years. Broxah, Caps, Pridestalker, Alphari, Hans sama, Xerxe and Samux were all rookies in 2017. Schalke is betting on Upset’s potential by building the entire team around him, and for good reason. Throughout the Summer Split he averaged ahead in lane at 15 minutes, which transitioned into menacing teamfighting. Always aggressive, Upset is not afraid to step forward to inflict those extra ticks of damage. He typically output 600 damage per minute, good enough for a 30 percent share.

This raw talent needs to become focused in 2018. With the proper structure, Upset could develop into the next Forgiven. His precision and presence on the map are very similar to the legendary AD carry, and it is no coincidence that Schalke is pairing him with Vander, Forgiven’s old support. Upset can easily become a prominent player in the EU LCS Spring Split, and there is a future for him if Schalke plays its cards right.

Vander: the facilitator

Vizicsacsi will create pressure. Pridestalker will scout the enemy. Nukeduck will consistently carry. Upset will pop off. Vander will be left to gel it all together. This support’s first task is to help Upset create pressure in his lane. Then they will transition that pressure into jungle invades and securing dragons. Protecting Nukeduck and Upset in teamfights will be Vander’s ultimate responsibility, since Pridestalker and Vizicsacsi will most likely engage.

Thresh, Braum and Alistar are Vander’s most played champions of all time, but he has had most success with Taric, Trundle, Nautlius and Shen. Vander definitely performs best with tanks that bring utility to the game. He has never really looked as comfortable on Nami or Lulu, and he has never even played Soraka on stage. This could be one opening for Schalke’s opponents in the future, especially if the meta favors enchanters.

Vander did not elevate Team Vitality as expected in the Summer Split. They still did not come close to making it to playoffs. Hopefully, a new roster and infrastructure will see Vander return to his 2016 H2K performance. He supported Forgiven and the rest of H2K to a World Championship semifinals finish. Just like Nukeduck and the Schalke organization, 2018 could be a year of redemption for Vander.

Schalke 04: the New Hotness

Krepo will coach FC Schalke 04 in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

On paper, Schalke has top talent in almost every position. There are some question marks around Pridestalker’s actual skill level, Nukeduck and Vander’s confidence levels since playing for Vitality and Schalke’s support structure as an organization. 2018 will provide the answers to these questions.

Schalke is the first team to officially announce its roster. They have beaten other organizations to the punch, and maybe it will pay off. This mix of formidable veterans, rising stars and overall playstyle flexibility could make for a sharp team. The Spring Split will be full of tests, especially considering Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels is head coach. This will be Krepo’s first appearance back on the League of Legends scene since stepping down from Riot casting after a scandal earlier this year. This will be his first time coaching, although he is a former LCS player and caster.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Player and Team Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracles Elixir

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VIT wants to qualify for playoffs

How Roccat, NiP, Vitality and Monkeys make it into EU LCS playoffs

Each EU LCS team has five to seven series left to get into position for playoffs. Over the next five weeks, teams will jockey for a spot in the top three of their groups. If playoffs were to begin today, Fnatic, Misfits and G2 would represent Group A, and Unicorns of Love, H2K and Splyce would represent Group B. It would essentially be a repeat of the Spring Split.

But playoffs does not start today, lucky for Roccat, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team Vitality and Mysterious Monkeys. These squads still have a chance to muscle themselves into playoffs. The road ahead will be difficult, but not impossible. Here is the outlook for the rest of the split for these four EU LCS teams.


GROUP A

ROC

Record: 2-5 Schedule: MM, UOL, NIP, FNC, G2, MSF

ROC want to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This is one of the most unpredictable teams. ROC served FNC their only loss in week three, but also lost a crucial 2-0 to VIT in week five. Their game record is 7-11 (38.9 percent win rate), but their series record is 2-5 (28.6 percent win rate).

On paper, ROC does not have much going for them. The team averages 1,059 gold behind at 15 minutes. They have the lowest First Blood rate in the LCS. ROC also sits in bottom two of the league for first turret rate, first three turrets rate, Rift Herald control and Elemental Drake control. According to OraclesElixir.com, ROCs early game and mid-late game ratings are ninth and eighth, respectively.

The only areas ROC relatively exceeds in are Elder Drake control and Baron control. They take 67 percent of Elder Drakes and 44 percent of Barons. Pridestalker has been instrumental in ROC’s objective control. The jungle, especially late game, has been ROC’s biggest strength.

For ROC to qualify for playoffs, the solo laners will need to improve. Betsy only looks comfortable with his pocket pick Vladimir. Although he puts out decent damage (445 dpm, 29.1 percent share), Betsy only participates in 60.9 percent of ROC’s kills, second lowest among mid laners. He is also one of three mid laners to be at a deficit in gold, XP and CS at 10 minutes.

Phaxi is in a similar, yet opposite position. He averages some of the lowest damage statistics of all top laners (313 dpm, 20.8 percent share), but does not start as far behind at 10 minutes. Phaxi is only involved in 57.6 percent of ROC’s kills, second lowest among top laners. He and Betsy will need to be more involved if ROC are to pick up wins against other EU LCS teams.

NIP and MM should not be too hard for ROC to overcome in weeks six and eight. Their series against G2 in week 10 will be critical. If G2 and ROC go 2-4 in all other match-ups, then this will be the edge ROC needs to force a tiebreaker based on game wins. Since ROC has proven they can even sneak series wins against FNC, they can reasonably take games off of any team. And if teams from Group B continue to beat Group A teams above them, then that benefits ROC.


NIP

Record: 0-8 Schedule: SPY, G2, ROC, MSF, FNC

NIP want to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

NIP is at the largest series deficit in the EU LCS, but it is not too late for them to turn it around. The squad lost to MM at the beginning of week five, but then they came back to take UOL to three games on Sunday. NIP’s early game is their strength. They average 232 gold ahead at 15 minutes, fifth highest in the league. They have a 78 percent First Blood rate, which is second highest in the EU LCS, and a 50 percent first turret rate, fifth in the league.

All three of NIP’s carries average ahead at 10 minutes. Shook is the only one behind in CS and XP, but his 61 percent First Blood rate (fourth overall) more than makes up for it. NIP secures Rift Herald in 72 percent of games, second in the league. This early aggression is a great place to start building winning strategies.

NIP’s issues surround mid-late game. Despite taking first turret in half of their games, NIP are middle-of-the-pack for taking the first three turrets (44 percent), first dragon (44 percent), and overall dragon control (49 percent). Worse yet, they are last in the league for first Baron rate (17 percent) and overall Baron control (21 percent). This is a glaring issue that will inhibit NIP’s ability to win unless it is addressed. EU LCS matches are so often won and lost around a Baron call.

Vision control is another area where NIP needs to improve. While they have high wards per minute (3.76), they have an abysmal wards cleared rate (1.11 per minute). NIP clears the lowest percentage of enemy visible wards in the league (52.1 percent), and only clears 10.4 percent of non-visible wards. This gameplay aspect is crucial to mid-late game, especially strategy surrounding neutral objectives.

Luckily, NIP is in Group A with other struggling teams. In week eight, they face a G2 squad that is heavily underperforming. ROC is the other opponent that week, who has one of the worst early games in the EU LCS. In week 10, NIP will battle FNC, who also disappointed at Rift Rivals. Unfortunately, NIP lost this week’s less intimidating VIT match-up 2-1, losing any momentum from week five. If ROC, G2 and FNC falter, then it may just be NIP’s opportunity to climb into third place within their group and qualify for playoffs.


GROUP B

VIT

Record: 3-4 Schedule: FNC, G2, MM, H2K, UOL, SPY

VIT want to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

VIT are a team that came out of week five trending upwards. They put up a decisive 2-0 victory over ROC by utilizing mid lane Corki and Kog’Maw. VIT mid laner, Nukeduck, has been a topic of conversation since Caps shared his EU LCS mid laner rankings and put him at number two.

The VIT solo laners generally hold things together for this team. Nukeduck and Cabochard average ahead of opponents in gold, XP, and CS at 10 minutes. Together they make up 54.7 percent of VIT’s total damage, the second highest top-mid duo in the league. There is a reason these two players have been on the team the longest.

The jungle is problematic, though. This is Djoko’s second split in the EU LCS, and he has not been able to make a name for himself just yet. While he contributes a decent first blood rate (44 percent), gold differential at 10 minutes (+123) and XP differential at 10 minutes (+59), Djoko’s kill participation is very low for a jungler (66.7 percent) and his death share is high (24.9 percent). On top of that, VIT’s worst metrics surround jungle control (46.2 percent), Baron control (42 percent) and dragon control (37 percent).

Part of the poor dragon control starts with VIT’s bottom lane duo. Steeelback has been criticized for “playing for KDA” in the past, and that argument could be made currently. He has a 3.5 KDA, which is highest on the team, but he falls behind by 10 minutes, offers the third lowest damage of AD carries in the league (434) and the second lowest share of damage (24.2 percent). As for support, Vander has the second lowest kill participation (64.8 percent) and low wards placed and cleared per minute (1.42, 0.27).

VIT has potential if they can resolve their jungle-bottom issues. As North America taught Europe at Rift Rivals, early dragon control can hugely benefit a team. Nukeduck and Cabochard are reliable in holding their lanes against other talented top-mid duos, but they cannot carry games alone. Steelback will need to contribute more damage, even if it results in more deaths. Vander and Djoko need to improve in the vision game.

The series against NIP and MM should be expected wins. SPY and G2 are certainly beatable opponents. FNC, H2K, and UOL will probably be the most difficult for VIT, but they only need to overtake SPY in the standings to make playoffs. It may just come down to their week 10 match-up.


MM

Record: 1-6 Schedule: ROC, MSF, VIT, UOL, SPY, H2K

MM wants to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MM secured their first series win in week five in a 2-0 victory over NIP. The addition of Kikis and Amazing has certainly improved MM’s overall performance. However, they still lost 2-0 to FNC and G2 since their arrival. This team has plenty to improve while working towards third place within Group B.

Kikis is the best individual performer during laning phase, coming out ahead 51 gold and one XP at 10 minutes, but two CS behind. Every other member falls behind in the early game. The bottom lane is the biggest offender, averaging a deficit of 230 gold, 232 XP and five CS by 10 minutes, lowest in the EU LCS. Altogether, MM’s early game amounts to 1,360 gold behind at 15 minutes, a 36 percent first turret rate and 21 percent first three turrets rate (all lowest overall).

MM is also in the strange position of having the fourth highest combined kills per minute (0.77), yet the lowest kill:death ratio (0.52). These numbers indicate that they like to fight, but often lose. CozQ sacrifices the third highest death share among mid laners at 22.3 percent. At the same time, he only participates in 58.6 percent of MM’s kills, fourth lowest overall. This lack of positive contribution in the mid lane will continue to hurt MM’s chances of winning unless it is addressed.

If MM are to rise through the ranks, they will need to focus less on skirmishing and team-fighting. Being overly proactive can be just as harmful as being overly passive. ROC and VIT are not out of this team’s reach. More of MM’s placement in Group B will depend on how teams above them play against each other. If H2K, SPY, and UOL can beat VIT, then MM have a better shot of moving up to third place. It may be the longest stretch of the bottom four teams.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir, Games of Legends

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