Giants are currently tied for second in the 2018 EU LCS

Giants Gaming: EU LCS contenders or pretenders?

Going into week five of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split, Giants Gaming sits tied for second place. Their 5-3 record puts them level with G2 and Fnatic, and above other perennial favorites, such as Misfits and H2K. Fans of the Spanish esports organization may be getting their hopes up for finally having Giants towards the top, but this hope may be misguided.

Giants Gaming has rarely found itself in this position in the past. Despite originally qualifying for the EU LCS five years ago, Giants has only qualified for LCS playoffs twice. The organization has been sent to the Promotion Tournament five times, and relegated out of the LCS twice. Anyone who follows Giants most likely subconsciously considers them a bottom-tier team. An overview of organization’s LCS history easily contextualizes this view.

From Spain to the Main Stage

Giants Gaming entered the EU LCS in 2013

Babeta, Exterminare, Morden, Samux and Motroco

In 2012, Giants Gaming created their first League of Legends team. The roster, consisting of Babeta, Exterminare, Morden, Samux, and Motroco, competed in Dreamhack Valencia and ESL’s Go4LoL. Motroco left in October, but was replaced by JimBownz, who competed with the team at The Siege. Giants finished top four at each event, and went on to Dreamhack Winter, but finished 0-3 in their group.

Due to their relative success, Riot Games invited Giants Gaming to compete for a slot in the premier season of EU LCS in 2013. Along with Fnatic, Copenhagen Wolves, Against All Authority, and Dragonborns, Giants finished in the top five. They instantly qualified for the LCS, making the organization one of the first teams to ever participate in the European league.

Once there, Giants’ momentum subsided. The Spaniards took their first week 1-1 to start in fourth place. They continued to have losing streaks over the 10-week split, finishing seventh place with eight wins and 20 losses. Giants was forced into the first ever Summer Promotion Tournament to defend its place in the league.

The First Worst Loss

Alternate Attax relegated Giants Gaming from the EU LCS in 2013

Kerp, Araneae, ForellenLord, Creaton and Jree

The format of the Promotion Tournament was different in 2013. Teams from three different qualifier tournaments faced off against the bottom four LCS teams in one best-of-five, with the winner earning the LCS slot. Giants Gaming was set to battle Alternate Attax, a German esports organization made up of Kerp, Araneae, ForellenLord, Creaton, and Jree. By winning 3-2, Attax relegated Giants from the EU LCS for the first time.

The Challenger Series had not been developed yet, which meant Giants Gaming was back in the amateur scene. They entered Gfinity London, finishing third-fourth behind Copenhagen Wolves and Eternity Gaming. Gfinity London was the only contest in which they competed for the rest of the year.

Getting Back on the Horse

Throughout 2014, Giants Gaming continued to prove that it was worthy of competition. By April the organization put together an all-new roster, consisting of Reven, Naruterador, Pepiinero, Zigurath and Dave. These five competed in Gamegune in Spain, taking home fourth place.

Giants must not have been happy with that performance, because three months later they brought on Werlyb, Fr3deric, Adryh and Rydle. This was Giants’ second roster overhaul of 2014. This definitely worked out, as they rounded out the

Giants Gaming played in the amateur scene during 2014

Paris Games Week 2014

amateur scene with two gold medals. At Paris Games Week, they took down seven teams including Gamers2, a team Giants lost to at Gamegune. They also won the Liga de Videojuegos Professional, the Spanish regional league.

By becoming so competitive, Giants Gaming was able to move up the European solo queue ranked ladder. And since they were in the top five at the end of 2014, Riot Games once more invited Giants to fight to earn their spot in the EU LCS. They introduced an expansion tournament, which included competitors from the Promotion Tournament, the Challenger Series, and the five-versus-five ranked ladder. Through two stages of gameplay, Giants Gaming took down Reason Gaming to qualify for the 2015 Spring Split with H2K.

Deja Vu

In similar fashion to their first LCS split, Giants Gaming started 2015 with a bang. Pepii and crew had a 2-0 week one, placing them at the top of the standings. H2K and Unicorns of Love took Giants down a peg in week two, dropping the team to fourth. Another 0-2 in week three put Giants into a free fall, slipping down to seventh. Fast forward seven more weeks, and Giants Gaming finished the split with a 5-13 record, tying MeetYourMakers for last place. Luckily, Adryh’s late-game Sivir pick was able to come online and win Giants the game, saving them from auto-relegation.

Another Spring Split and Giants faced another Promotion Tournament. Coincidentally, they met Reason Gaming in a best-of-five to defend their slot. Just as they had in the expansion tournament, Giants took down Reason 3-1 and reclaimed their LCS spot. This qualification marked three times in three years.

A Glimmer of Hope

G0DFRED joined Giants Gaming in 2015

G0DFRED joined Giants Gaming in 2015

Leading into Summer Split marked the first off-season where Giants’ roster remained mostly intact. G0DFRED joined as a rookie support, but everyone else stayed. Together they were able to get through the regular season 8-10, tied for fifth. ROCCAT won the tie-breaker, but Giants still made it into playoffs for the first time since its inception.

H2K skunked Giants in the quarterfinals of the Summer Playoffs. They took the series 3-0, and the longest game was 30:19. Giants garnered enough Championship Points to qualify into the Regional World Qualifiers. ROCCAT shut them down 3-0 in the first round, as well. Nonetheless, Giants had a somewhat successful first split back. They avoided the Promotion Tournament and made it into their first playoffs ever. They even had a slim chance to go to Worlds. It seemed like a great place to start Giants’ new time in the LCS.

Another Spring, Another Let-down

Spring Split 2016 rolled around, and Giants Gaming looked a little bit different. Werlyb and Fr3deric changed teams, and Giants brought in Atom and K0u as replacements. After starting the season 0-4, K0u was benched in favor of BetongJocke, H2K’s substitute jungler. They followed up with another 0-4 streak for weeks three and four, before finally getting their first win in week five versus ROCCAT.

Giants floundered their way through the rest of the split. Smittyj, Wisdom and S0NSTAR moved onto the starting roster in week eight, and Hustlin came on in week nine. Despite all of these changes, Giants finished the 2016 Spring Split in dead last with a 3-15 record. They had to enter their third Promotion Tournament.

As fate would have it, Giants had to face two Challenger teams with former roster members: K0u on Copenhagen Wolves and Werlyb on Huma. After a 3-2 and a 3-1, Giants Gaming re-qualified for the EU LCS. This was their fourth time re-entering.

Giants’ Best Split to Date

Giants Gaming in the 2016 EU LCS

Before coming back into the LCS for Summer Split, Giants took a long look in the mirror. The final member of the original cast, Pepii, left, and NighT, a Korean player from Ever8 Winners, joined. They also brought on a rookie jungler, Maxlore, to replace Wisdom. Smittyj remained in the top lane, S0NSTAR and Hustlin composed the bottom lane.

Giants started the split 0-3, leading many to write them off yet again. But a couple of wins in weeks two and three kept them competitive. A 2-0 win over Fnatic in week five, and a 2-0 over H2K in week six elevated Giants to a new level. Through the 10 weeks, Giants compiled an 8-3-7 scoreline, placing them third overall.

For the first time in its history, Giants Gaming entered the Summer Playoffs quarterfinals as favorites. They also kept the same roster throughout the whole split, which was new for them. Unicorns of Love eliminated Giants from the playoffs by winning 3-1, putting Giants in a fifth-sixth finish for the season. Like the year before, they had enough Championship Points to try the Regional Qualifiers. However, they met Unicorns of Love, yet again, who took the 3-0 win to move on and knock Giants out.

Fool Me Twice, Fool Me Thrice, Fool Me Four Times

Flaxxish and Memento played for Giants Gaming last year

Flaxxish and Memento played for Giants Gaming last year

Despite their Summer Split success, Giants entered the 2017 Spring Split with three more new players. HeaQ and Flaxxish were rookies, while Maxlore traded to ROCCAT with Memento to Giants. NighT and Hustlin stayed as starters, and S0NSTAR moved to a coaching role.

Riot introduced the group system to the EU LCS in 2017, which turned out to be a death knell for Giants. They found themselves in Group A with G2, Misfits, Fnatic, and ROCCAT. Giants began with a pair of 2-1 losses to G2 and Misfits, then followed with a 2-1 win over ROCCAT. They would not get another series win until week seven versus Origen, heading into week eight 2-7, and finishing the regular season 2-11.

For the fourth time in four spring seasons, Giants faced relegation in the Summer Promotion tournament. Origen was the only team that split with a lower win rate, so Giants easily took that match-up 3-0. However, a hungry Fnatic Academy swept them back with a 3-0 of their own. And for the second time in history, Giants Gaming was knocked out of the EU LCS.

The Recent Past

Giants spent the 2017 Summer Season in the EU Challenger Series, playing against Origen, Schalke 04, Paris Saint-Germain, Red Bulls, and Wind and Rain. In the mid-season they decided to scrap their entire roster and rebuild. Jiizuke, Gilius, Minitroupax, Jactroll and Ruin joined the team with LCS ambitions.

Over five weeks, Giants won four of five games and lost once to Schalke. Their 4-0-1 record placed them first in the standings–Giants’ first first place since 2014. This new line-up looked poised to go into promotions, and they did. Giants took down WAR 3-0, which entered them into the 2018 Spring Promotion tournament with Schalke, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and Mysterious Monkeys. By taking a 3-1 over NiP and a 3-2 over Schalke, Giants re-qualified into the LCS. The cycle of qualification-promotion-relegation came full circle for the second time.

In the Present

Giants Gaming is tied for second in the 2018 EU LCS

Giants Gaming is tied for second in the 2018 EU LCS

All of Giants’ members, except Ruin, moved to Team Vitality for the 2018 Spring Split. Giants brought on Djoko and Steeelback from Vitality, Betsy from ROCCAT, and Targamas, a rookie. Preseason predictions put Giants towards the bottom of the field, yet they currently find themselves tied for second. The first four weeks have been a success.

Right now there are analysts and audience members who may want to believe in Giants Gaming. They may think this is their year–that Giants can do better than ever before. But remember to keep this long history in mind. Giants have finished bottom seven every Spring Split in which they have ever competed. Two of those four splits resulted in relegation out of the LCS.

But twice they have come back and reclaimed their spot. Giants has successfully defended its spot two times, as well. This split could be the split to change minds. Giants will need to overcome its past shortcomings, and win the hearts of EU LCS fans by making it into playoffs and making a deep push in this split.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, GosuGamers, Leaguepedia, Millenium.org, WindandRain.org

Historical Data: Leaguepedia

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Ninjas in Pyjamas released, Cyclowns disband and Finnsi leaves Movistar Riders

Well that was incredibly pointed. As mentioned in our OWL takeaway, Blizzard has fallen flat on its face in terms of presentation. NiP’s announcement only lends more credit to the idea. If Blizzard hopes to run a successful league, they’re going about this in the wrong way. Right now CS:GO is getting more viewers, more money, and more players. More everything is good for a scene while Overwatch has quietly slipped farther in viewership.

In other news, Finnsi left the Spanish team of Movistar Riders with very little explanation. At the worst Google translation, it has something concerning discipline. Upon some digging into the Reddit threads, I was linked to this.  That is Logix talking about it at length. Personal issues are not uncommon with players in any sport and if the team suffers for that, there has to be comeuppance.

Besides NiP leaving the scene, Cyclowns disbanded hours after going down with two losses and a draw in Overwatch League. The team lasted five months. Two major players, Meowzassa, the main tank for them joined Laser Kittens in late May, and Boombox, who played Support, is on eUnited. While Meowzassa and Boombox were receiving offers, the remaining teammates did not. This reads that the five of them really wanted to stick together and play. That having been said, it leaves open the potential for the remaining players to fill some gaps in other teams immediately.

Player movement seems to be a lot more chaotic when the talent pool for a game is so vast. I still refer to the quote from my superior editor, Jared MacAdam, “a scene with more talent than teams”. The base sentiment, however, is that a league like this is in flux still. There are a lot of incredible players. The same cannot be said in terms of teams with available spots. It’s a buyers’ market and the easier a player is to get along with, the less of a problem it will be to pick them up for a team. The issue is they’re behind the eight ball to stay in line or they’ll be on the street in months. Finnsi will crop up again without a doubt and the rest of Cyclowns will likely find teams willing to pay them and give them a roster spot.

Call it luck that Cyclowns suddenly dissolves. With Finnsi gone, you can swap in anyone on Cyclowns and lose almost nothing. It is fantasy sports teams in real time with real players. There’s not even a commissioner saying you can’t do it either. In this case, Movistar played a match with former Cyclowns player Destro taking Finnsi’s spot. Is it a try out, a possible roster move?

I just wonder how this continues when Overwatch League is still mid-way through the season. At some point Blizzard has to ask themselves if starting a league when the entire scene has monumental shifts with teams forming and disbanding, players switching teams in mid-season is viable. A perceived lack of steadiness in North America and Europe and that leads to having questions about solvency for a league. Teams are questioning the game’s ability to remain within the public eye and be a pillar for their organization. One only has to look at APEX to get an idea of how a league keeps its teams and players in line, so why is Blizzard struggling? It’ll be something to watch in the future as Overwatch continues barreling forward toward an uncertain future. Especially now with a major team that influenced the meta suddenly being yanked out of contention.

More as this develops.


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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Origen vs. Unicorns of Love Preview

Origen and Unicorns of Love have become household names in the EU LCS, maybe not for their tenure in the league like fan favourite Fnatic, but because of their strong performances and likeable brands. I mean, really, who wouldn’t like a team with xPeke at the helm or a friggin Unicorn? But there’s also a slightly more silent story building between these two teams: the frictions of old team mates. Power of Evil, Origen’s current mid laner, was just one of many the Unicorns who fled to greener pastures in the off season. Whether there’ll be any bad blood between the two remaining Unicorns, Hylissang and Vizicsacsi, support and top laner respectively, isn’t entirely clear. However, it’ll be a real test as to whether Power of Evil made the right move in the off season.

 

Origen

 

The Dane in the Bot Lane has a lot to carry on his smiling shoulders. Courtesy of lolesports.

The Dane in the Bot Lane has a lot to carry on his smiling shoulders. Courtesy of lolesports.

If Vitality are the CLG of the EU, then Origen are the TSM of EU: a team almost everyone had slated to dominant the league and then proceeded to fall flat on their face repeatedly, week after week. Origen doesn’t have all the excuses TSM did, however. They don’t have a bunch of players, all veteran players mind you, who have never played with each other thrown into one of the most competitive splits NA LCS has ever seen. Origen swapped out one member, xPeke, for what was arguably seen by all as an upgrade in young blood of Power of Evil (PoE.) But the team just seemed to fall apart from there. Issues with their coach have also meant that the team, arguably when they most needed it, are coachless. I have my own personal opinions on the matter, but I think that Origen, regardless of the results of the playoffs, need to address that issue. A coach that can craft better pick and bans, while letting the players focus on their game, is something in dire needs for the team.

But that is in the future, and we’re concerned with the present competition here. Origen still bring with them that absolutely insane run into World’s, from a Challenger Series squad to 3-4th in the world is nothing short of a herculean task. But it seems that like Icarus they’ve fallen just as hard. They still have all the pieces in place to be a successful team, and truthfully it comes down to whether Zven is able to carry the team on his back or not. Team comps that play around the star Dane in the bot lane will be what Origen need to consider. The other question that remains in the air is which Origen will show up the plate: the one that’s gone 4-0 in the last two weeks of the split, or the one who went only 7-7 in the other seven weeks. The question of the midlaner choice is another one that Origen fans will be paying attention to, while it is likely to be PoE, this might be a bit of a last straw for the German mid laner if the team isn’t able to get the results they need. Or the target may turn to other, failing members of the team.

 Only the Origen, master of all four regions, could stop Korea, but when the world needed them most, they vanished (and became really shity.) Courtesy of avatar.wikia and leaguepedia.

Only the Origen, master of all four regions, could stop Korea, but when the world needed them most, they vanished (and became really shity.) Courtesy of avatar.wikia and leaguepedia.

 

Unicorns of Love

The French counterpart from the Unicorns, Steelback has his equal share to carry going into this game. But will his impressive performance still be enough? Courtesy of gamingnews365.

The French counterpart from the Unicorns, Steelback has his equal share to carry going into this game. But will his impressive performance still be enough? Courtesy of gamingnews365.

The Unicorns of Love are the ones on the other side of the rift from fan favourite Origen, and are equally deserving of the title ‘fan favourite.’ The simple colour choices and mascot have won the team much of their initial, and probably remaining, fans. The Misfits of Love could be another apt name. The team is comprised much like a more successful Roccat or Elements: all the leftovers from other teams, with two remaining players who, in ways, were over looked for poach—I mean, drafting to other teams to fill the void that the European Exodus left. Fox from a failed SK, Steelback the ex-Fnatic and ex-NA ADC, and a swapping sample list of European junglers due to Diamondprox’s sudden expulsion from the league due to VISA issues. Still, they’re not a team to jot down as an easy opponent, as many teams learned, but it’s almost a question here of which team is worse rather than which is better.

Can the Unicorns gallop off to a mythical victory here? Courtesy of leaguepedia.

Can the Unicorns gallop off to a mythical victory here? Courtesy of leaguepedia.

The Unicorns are in a similar case to Origen, in that their strongest member has to be their ADC Steelback. Since returning back the Union he’s been putting up the stats that would make any fantasy player swoon: he’s rocking a 6.8 KDA, which, to put it relatively, is only 0.4 behind FORG1VEN and is a whole 1.4 above next in the league Hjarnan. This is further impressive given his team’s standings at 10-8. Still, the Unicorns are going to need to work around the French ADC to win, while Fox, their other carry potential, has the potential to also act as a carry depending on what kind of player he shows up as. As with Origen, I feel the real battle is not who will come out on top, but who won’t be on the bottom. Both teams look shaky and weak at best, and, barring a Playoff miracle, I don’t see them challenging either of the top teams in H2K and G2 esports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predictions: Origen win 3-2 over Unicorns of Love

Courtesy of lolesports.

Courtesy of lolesports.

I have to give it to Origen because they are, still, the stronger team. They look weak, and they’re sloppy as all hell, but I think they look better when they’re in form than Unicorns do. Still, I don’t think this’ll be an easy one for Origen, and I think a lot of it hinges on how well they’ve prepared their drafts. Without a coach to really give solid advice a best of five can get scary for a team. I think they need an early win in the series as a showing of confidence against the Unicorns. But it won’t be easy, and it really puts a lot of pressure on Zven to keep doing his thing and for the rest of his team to just not die (looking at you Soaz.) I think Unicorns have the potential to have break away games if Origen shows a weakness in form, something they should be able to exploit solidly with such a veteran lineup. Hence the two victories for the Unicorns. I just give it to Origen overall because, even with their pathetic showing, they’re still almost the same team that absolutely was a menace last year. Can Origen finally claim a European cup? I doubt it. But this would be the start they’d need to secure that, and maybe another showing at Worlds.