EU’s Final Showdowns: G2-UOL, FNC-MSF

The last matches of the 2017 EU LCS Spring Split are happening this weekend, April 22nd-23rd. The playoffs have been exciting thus far, and the final two series look to be just as juicy. Fnatic will battle Misfits for third place, while Unicorns of Love attempts to dethrone G2. All four of these teams have rounded out the past few weeks well, but here are some notes going into their last match-ups of Spring.

Misfits

Playoffs: Misfits mid laner, PowerOfEvil

courtesy of Riot esports

Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage has had an excellent playoff run. Among all of Misfits and Fnatic’s players, PowerOfEvil has been averaging the highest damage per minute: 620 (the next highest is Martin “Rekkles” Larsson with 497). He makes up 29.8% of Misfits’ damage. His average during the regular season was 495, or 28.8% of the team’s total. PowerOfEvil will need to maintain this high level of play and shut down Rasmus “Caps” Winthe if Misfits want to stand a chance of winning.

Their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, will need to adjust. Between all ten Misfits and Fnatic players, KaKAO sits bottom two in KDA, kill participation, first blood rate, and experience difference at 10 minutes. This is not going to cut it if Misfits are to win this weekend’s series and secure third place. Many analysts have criticized his play on Rengar. His win percentage is only 33% on this champion, so he should try to stay away from it in the draft. Unicorns of Love were smart to ban Lee Sin and Elise, for which he holds 78% and 67% win-rates. His next best options are Ivern and Rek’Sai, for which he also holds 67% win-rates.

Overall, Misfits have mainly lost the early game pressure they exhibited during the regular season. So far, they have averaged 384 gold behind their playoff opponents, which is awful compared to their 820 gold ahead during the regular season. The largest discrepancy between Misfits and Fnatic has been their respective abilities to take the first three turrets. Fnatic holds the top spot among playoff contenders, taking their opponents’ first three turrets in 71% of games. Misfits have only achieved this in 44% of their games.

Fnatic

Playoffs: Fnatic's support, Jesiz

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic’s most improved player for playoffs has been Jesse “Jesiz” Le. Almost every statistic of his has improved over the past two weeks. His KDA went from 3.4 to 5.2. His kill participation rose from 60.3% to 68.9%. Jesiz has been a primary engage tool for the team on champions such as Camille, Thresh, and Zyra. He is also a big reason why Rekkles has been able to get through laning phase on off-meta marksmen. Hopefully, Jesiz is able to maintain this high-pressure playstyle.

While having a wide champion pool can be good, it is not always necessary. Fnatic’s odd champion choices essentially ended their series against G2 last weekend. Vayne, Tristana, Kayle, Annie: these selections were not necessary. The flexing of Camille and Kennen have generally worked well for Fnatic, but branching out much beyond those picks is a bit much. The surprise factor does not outweigh the execution factor.

One area where Fnatic has excelled during playoffs is Baron control. Fnatic has taken the first Baron in 86% of their playoff games (compared to 38% during the regular season). They have also maintained a 71% Baron control rate (compared to 33% during the regular season). This focus is much better than Misfits, and will more than likely be the biggest factor in Fnatic’s favor. Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen and crew will need to continue to prioritize this objective.

Unicorns of Love

Playoffs: Unicorns of Love's top laner, Vizicsacsi

courtesy of Riot esports

Unicorns of Love have strong players at every position except, arguably, their AD carry. During playoffs, Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert have averaged 605 and 600 damage per minute, respectively (third and fourth highest of all players). Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir tops the competition in KDA (10.5) and has the second-lowest death share of all player in playoffs (8.9%). While Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort generally averages behind in CS at ten minutes, he stays ahead in gold and experience, and he maintains the third lowest percentage of UOL’s deaths (13.3%).

One of the Unicorns’ biggest strengths is their champion pool. Xerxe has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Warwick, Ivern, Rengar, Rumble). Vizicsacsi has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Renekton, Rumble, Nautlius, Shen). And Exileh has won games on 11 different champions this spring. Pinching their pools will be virtually impossible for G2.

As a team, Unicorns of Love has secured first blood and first dragon in every game of playoffs so far. UOL has also secured the first Baron in in 75% of games with a 71% Baron control rate. If they are going to beat G2, it will most likely be off the back of a Baron trade. G2 have averaged a poor 25% first Baron rate during playoffs, and a 50% Baron control rate. During the regular season, G2 secured first Baron 72% of the time and maintained a 74% Baron control rate.

G2

Playoffs: G2's mid laner, Perkz

courtesy of Riot esports

G2 will be a formidable foe for Unicorns of Love. They offer similar strong players in virtually every role. Luka “Perkz” Perković has really shined throughout playoffs so far. He has the highest damage per minute (635) and percent of his team’s damage (33%). He has the lowest death share of all players in playoffs (8.5%), and he has the third highest KDA (7.0). UOL’s Exileh showed a bit of weakness against PowerOfEvil during laning phase last weekend. Perkz will be even more difficult for him to overcome.

G2’s other primary carry has been Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. Although he was not quite as dominant in the Fnatic series last weekend, his match-up with Unicorns’ bottom lane should be much easier. Zven has averaged 6.5 CS and 164 gold ahead at ten minutes. If there is a player who needs to step up in this series, though, it is Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun. Trick’s regular season KDA was 4.7. So far in playoffs, it is 1.8. He averaged significantly ahead in gold, experience, and CS at ten minutes. In the playoffs, he has averaged 7 CS and 108 experience behind.

G2’s early game was phenomenal against Fnatic last weekend. The squad averaged 877 gold ahead at 15 minutes. That was the case during the regular season, as well. What looks like a weak spot is taking early towers. During the regular season, G2 took first turret in 64% of games and the first three turrets in 73% of games. In their series last weekend, they only did 50% and 25%, respectively. Unicorns of Love take the first turret less often, but the first three turrets more often. G2 will have to transition their early game leads into early objectives if they want to stand a chance against UOL. Teamfighting may not be the correct strategy. Smart rotations and perfect execution will be their only chance at victory.

predictions

Fnatic has looked much stronger in the past few weeks than Misfits have. I do not think it impossible for Misfits to take this, but it is highly unlikely. Just as Misfits took one game off of Unicorns of Love, they should get one from Fnatic, but Fnatic should win 3-1.

The finals series will be much more exciting. G2 have looked a bit weaker, while Unicorns seem hungry. Either way, it should be a five game series. If UOL wins it will be from snowballing the top side of the map, while G2 should look to snowball the bottom side. While both will likely happen, Vizicsacsi’s gameplay lately is seemingly unstoppable. This should be Unicorns’ spring split playoff victory.


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Power Rankings: G2, #1 western team

Best in the West: NA vs. EU Power Rankings

Other than the few teams that compete at international events, audiences hardly get to see how North American and European LCS teams match up against one another. Nonetheless, it is a constant source of debate. Fans around the world tout their favorite teams as being “The Best in the West,” comparing the 20 teams from both leagues.

It can be difficult to compare teams from different leagues. Anyone who watches international competitions, such as Mid Season Invitational or the World Championships, knows this. With different playstyles and champion preferences, it is impossible to truly know how things would play out before teams actually compete. However, since it is a fun and controversial topic, here are current power rankings for the top 10 teams between the NA and EU LCS.

  1. FNC
Power Rankings: #10 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic are serving as a litmus test for the EU LCS. Their overall kill-death ratio is 1.08, meaning Fnatic barely gets more kills than deaths. They average only 429 gold ahead at 15 minutes. 50% of the time, Fnatic secures first blood or first Baron, and they only take first turret 43% of the time. The one metric where they skew towards the top of the league is first three turrets rate (79%).

The Fnatic-Splyce match-up this week will either prove or disprove this team’s placement. If Splyce win, then they deserve the tenth slot in these rankings. Fnatic have yet to win a series 2-0, but they also have not lost 2-0. Taking G2 to three games in Week 1 is the main criteria keeping Fnatic ahead at this point. Hopefully they will shore up weaknesses in the jungle with Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen starting. If so, then Fnatic will solidify themselves as a playoff team.

  1. P1
Power Rankings: Phoenix1, #9 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Phoenix1 is tied for fourth place in the NA LCS with a record of 4-4. Prior to Week 4 they would be higher in the power rankings, but losing 0-2 to FlyQuest and 1-2 to CLG has many questioning their consistency. P1 averages 117 gold ahead at 15 minutes and have the highest first Dragon rate (84%). Paired with the second highest Baron control rate, 61%, they show strength playing around neutral objectives.

This squad has exhibited a high skill ceiling in almost every position, but last week showed their low floor. P1 is also the only team in the league who has not faced off against Cloud9. If they can take a game, or the series, then they will solidify themselves in the top of the standings. But, if they lose both games, then they may have a tougher time staying in contention for playoffs. Up to this point they only take first turret and the first three turrets 47% of games. Nonetheless, they seem stronger than any of the bottom six EU LCS teams.

  1. FOX
Power Rankings: Echo Fox, #8 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Echo Fox’s early game is unmatched thus far in the NA LCS. They average 1,530 gold ahead at 15 minutes. Thanks to star rookie jungler, Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham, Echo Fox has secured first blood in 75% of games and first Baron in 68%. The third fastest average game time (just under 38 minutes) implies that they close games well. However, they only have an even 50% winrate over 20 games played, which means they lose just as quickly as they win.

The main issue holding FOX back from being A-tier is their overall Baron control rate, 49%. While they generally take the first Baron of the game, there are usually multiple per game and the enemy teams are getting any that spawn subsequently. Echo Fox also only secures Elder Dragon 25% of the time. While FOX has won series against TSM and FlyQuest, they have also lost series to Phoenix1, Team Liquid, and Immortals. Consistency will be the key moving forward.

  1. TSM
Power Rankings: TSM, #7 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Team Solo Mid sits tied for second place with FlyQuest. However, FLY is the only team they have not matched up against. TSM would be ranked higher were it not for the fact that they have played the most total games in the NA LCS. They have dropped a game to every team ranked beneath them except Envy, and Echo Fox beat them last week 2-0. TSM’s average game time (38:24), gold difference at 15 minutes (-5), and Dragon control rate (52%), are all middle-of-the-pack.

Where this team thrives is in taking turrets. TSM takes first turret in 62% of games (second in the league) and the first three turrets in 71% (first in the league). The primary difference between this squad and C9 and FLY is the K:D ratio. C9 and FLY average 1.45 and 1.49, respectively. TSM averages 1.09. Moving forward, they will need to trade fewer deaths and/or more kills while maintaining proper map pressure. This week’s series with FlyQuest will solidify second place.

  1. MSF
Power Rankings: Misfits, #6 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Misfits average the highest kill-death ratio in the EU LCS and the lowest combined kills per minute. They average 860 gold ahead at 15 minutes, secure the first dragon 67% of the time, and kill 70% of all dragons. This means Misfits plays a clean game, gaining early gold leads from creeps and neutral monsters. A major factor separating this squad from others ranked above them is their first turret rate (50%) and first Baron rate (58%).

If Misfits want to move up in these power rankings, they will need to translate their early game leads into taking down the first three turrets and securing Baron. They took G2 to three games and beat both Fnatic and Splyce 2-0, but the Week 6 match-up with Unicorns of Love will be key. If Misfits take the series, it will establish Group A, and Misfits as a team as much stronger than Group B.

  1. H2K
Power Rankings: H2K, #5 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Staying true to Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski’s moniker as “First Blood King,” H2K secure the first kill in 73% of their games. They also average the highest first turret, first three turrets, and first dragon rates. All of this combines for the highest 15-minute gold difference in the EU LCS (1,160). However, H2K’s average game time is middling (just over 37 minutes). Even though they match up well with Unicorns of Love’s early game statistics, H2K has a harder time actually closing games.

Taking G2 to three games in Week 4 is a good sign for this squad. H2K’s Korean bot lane has appeared more comfortable communicating with the rest of the team. The key for this team to climb to the top of the league is fewer deaths. H2K average 12.4 per game. Unicorns of Love, G2, and Misfits average 11.5, 8.8, and 8.1, respectively. Week 5 should provide an easy win, but H2K will need to secure convincing wins against Fnatic and Misfits before their Week 8 rematch against UOL.

  1. UOL
Power Rankings: UOL, #4 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Many spectators have been surprised by Unicorns’ dominance in the first four weeks. Sporting the highest combined kills per minute (team kills plus enemy team kills) and the shortest average game time, Unicorns of Love play bloody games. They average 1,072 gold ahead of their opponents after 15 minutes. This translates into the highest first Baron rate, 91%, and highest overall Baron control rate of 88%.

Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás is among the most consistent top laners. Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort have stepped into their roles cleanly as rookies. This team thrives on chaotic teamfights, often pursuing several skirmishes across the map at the same time. Teams ranked below Unicorns are unable to dissect this playstyle and effectively punish it. Teams ranked above them theoretically could. While they have not suffered a series loss up to this point, Unicorns of Love will face G2 in Week 5, their toughest test yet.

  1. FLY
Power Rankings: #3 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Week 4 saw FlyQuest put in their place just below Cloud9. Although it was a back-and-forth series, C9 came out on top. The only other team to beat FlyQuest so far is Echo Fox. Nonetheless, FLY have looked monstrous so far this split. They top the NA LCS in K:D ratio, first turret rate, Dragon control, Elder Dragon control, first Baron, and Baron control. They also hold second for gold difference at 15, first Dragon, first three turrets, and First Blood. There are very few weaknesses on this roster.

However, they have lost two series. Three of those losses had An “Balls” Le on Poppy. Maybe that is an uncomfortable champion for him? In Game 3 against Cloud9, Hai “Hai” Du Lam locked in a blind pick Zed. That may have been a bit arrogant. Nonetheless, FlyQuest should be able to match almost any team in the West, starting with TSM this week.

  1. C9
Power Rankings: C9, #2 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

The last undefeated team in North America is Cloud9. They have only dropped four out of 20 games so far, and two of those were lost while starting substitute top laner, Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. Other than their high K:D ratio and Elder Dragon control rates, C9 do not appear that impressive on paper. They have the lowest first turret rate in the league, average 7 gold behind their opponents at 15 minutes, and only take first Baron or Dragon in 47% of games.

Cloud9’s roster is strong in all positions. Whether it is Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen securing solo kills in the mid lane, or Juan “Contractz” Garcia sacrificing early farm to gank lanes, each player contributes in meaningful ways to the team’s overall goal: winning series. Coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu should be given credit for generally superior drafting, as well. There is no doubt this Cloud9 squad could go toe-to-toe with any team in NA or EU.

  1. G2
Power Rankings: G2, #1 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Finishing four weeks 6-0, G2 have the best record in Europe. Even in a stronger group, G2 have appeared a tier above the rest. They have won 12 of 15 games played. Even though G2 have the longest average game time (just over 39 minutes), they secure first turret 67% of games and first Baron 79% of games. G2 is ranked first overall because they have demonstrated the early game proactivity of FlyQuest, Unicorns of Love, and H2K, as well as the mid/late game teamfighting of Cloud9 and Misfits.

All of G2’s individual players are a force to reckon with. Every single one has demonstrated a high ceiling. Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez has made a habit of over-extending recently, but the rest of the team makes up for it. G2 averages ahead 742 gold at 15 minutes, which sets them up to comfortably make plays across the map. A win in their series against Unicorns of Love this week will solidify their claim to the throne; a loss might reveal a chink in the armor.

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EU LCS 2017 logos

EU LCS Week 3 Predictions

Week 3 will be the week that settles the standings in Group A and B before heading into cross-group play. Fnatic and Splyce sit in the middle of their respective groups. Both teams will play twice this weekend, and the results of those four matches should give us a better picture of the LCS as a whole. Are Splyce and Fnatic closer in skill to H2K and Misfits, or Giants and Vitality? We should have an answer at the end of this week.

Week 3: Splyce versus Unicorns of Love

courtesy of lolesports.com

Top lane will be heavily in favor of Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás in Week 3. Jonas “Trashy” Andersen has not seemed to have the same jungle presence as last split. Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir has been fantastic thus far. Chres “Sencux” Laursen will need to punish Fabian “Exileh” Schubert’s aggression or else he will be steamrolled.

If Splyce will get an advantage anywhere it is bot lane. Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov has given several free kills over the first two weeks. Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort has not been punished for playing 1v2 for extended periods of time. Splyce will need to capitalize. Unicorns will win the series, but Splyce will take it to three games. 

Week 3: Fnatic versus Misfits

courtesy of lolesports.com

This is the marquee match-up of Week 3. Rasmus “Caps” Winther will need to maintain dominance against Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and transition into other lanes. Maurice “Amazingx” Stückenschneider and Jesse “Jesiz” Le will need to contain Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun from roaming as much as possible. Barney “Alphari” Morris has advantage in top lane. Misfits should play him on a carry champion versus Paul “sOAZ” Boyer.

This will be a battle between veterans and rookies; the old organization and the new. Misfits should win 2-1, but it will be close.

Week 3: Vitality versus H2K

courtesy of lolesports.com

Not much to talk about here. H2K have been performing higher than expected since bringing on an imported bot-side. Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski should be able to surpass Charly “Djoko” Guillard, which is Vitality’s best performer so far. Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu should be dominant against Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet’s current form. Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten will continue to crush the mid lane in Week 3.

Vitality could attempt to snowball bot lane, but Djoko ganking has been their main tool for that. H2K will take the 2-0 win convincingly.

Week 3: Giants v G2

courtesy of lolesports.com

Giants have high first dragon and first baron rates. However, they also have the lowest first-three-turrets rate. That is where G2 should focus in Week 3. Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez should be able to easily subdue Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa and Morgan “Hustlin” Granberg, secure first turret, and open up the map. Luka “Perkz” Perković may be surprised by Na “Night” Gun-woo’s over-aggression. Ki “Expect” Dae-Han and Olof “Flaxxish” Medin should match up fine in laning phase, but Expect’s use of Teleport has been on point.

Finally, Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun should continue to play utility champions to protect Perkz and Zven, allowing them to shell out damage continuously. There is the off-chance that Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi steals a Baron and Giants win a game off of that, but this should be an easy 2-0 for G2.

Week 3: Origen versus Splyce

courtesy of lolesports.com

This match will be a deciding factor on how fans feel about these two teams. Splyce looked flat Week 1 against H2K. Week 2 against Vitality was more convincing, but mostly off the back of a Mordekaiser counterpick that snowballed immediately. Origen have had decent laning phases, but a lack of synergy through the mid-game has been the primary weakness.

If Origen win this series, then there is hope for them moving forward, and fans will seriously question Splyce’s gameplay. If Splyce put up an easy win, then they will solidify themselves, and Origen will finish 0-4 after Week 3. Realistically, Splyce should win 2-0.

Week 3: Roccat versus Fnatic

courtesy of lolesports.com

This is Group A’s mirror match-up to the Origen vs. Splyce series. While Fnatic looked stronger than expected in Week 1 against G2, they dropped a game to Giants in Week 2. Meanwhile, Roccat took a game off of Giants. Fnatic will need to put up a decisive 2-0 against this team to feel good about themselves. Roccat have not looked competitive in any of their games so far.

If they take a game or series from Fnatic in Week 3, then it would be extremely impressive. Felix “Betsy” Edling needs to figure out his role on the team since it was re-built around him in the off-season. I have a feeling Caps will keep him busy in the mid lane, though. Fnatic wins 2-0.

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Over/Under (Part 1): LCS Players Above Expectations

With two weeks of gameplay under our belts, it is becoming more and more clear which players are carrying their teams, and which players have become burdensome. Most pre-season predictions regarding individual players have come to be true. However, there are several examples of players who have gone a tier above expectations, and others who have gone a tier below.

This week I want to recognize an LCS player from each position that has exceeded expectations. These are individuals who have contributed to their team in a note-worthy way. Some players we thought might have a tough time against strong lane opponents. Others we thought might not be ready for the LCS. Still others we expected to simply be unknown factors coming into the Split. Regardless, these five players have been crucial to the success of their respective teams.  

Samson “Lourlo” Jackson

Team Liquid, Top Laner

KDA:    7.7   (1st Overall)

D%:    6.9% (1st Overall)

While Team Liquid has not looked great as a team, Lourlo has been performing above expectations. He averages almost even with his lane opponents. He averages one death per game (only 10 total deaths so far). This allows Lourlo to constantly engage, playing champions such as Nautilus and Poppy. Lourlo is reliable to survive ganks and remain even with tough lane opponents.

Team Liquid Top laner, Lourlo

courtesy of Riot eSports

FlyQuest Jungler, Moon

courtesy of Riot eSports

 

 

Galen “Moon” Holgate

FlyQuest, Jungle

KDA:  5.0   (7th Overall)

FB:   60%   (3rd Overall)

Moon’s statistics paint him to be an aggressive early-game Jungler far above expectations. He offers a high KDA, high damage throughout the game, and high rates of securing First Blood. Moon is generally behind in CS at 10 minutes; but by then he has most likely allowed his team to create pressure around the map. Moon has even pulled out surprise picks like Evelynn and Kindred.

Hai “Hai” Du Lam

FlyQuest, Mid Laner

DPM:  670    (1st Overall)

EGPM: 284.5 (3rd Overall)

Hai has a middling KDA and averages even in CS at 10 minutes. What he is known for is play-making and decisive shot-calling. Hai has the highest damage to champions of all players, far above expectations. He also has the third highest earned gold per minute. Hai is always making the most of every second of the game. This translates to FlyQuest’s 70% first Dragon rate and 75% first Baron rate.

FlyQuest's Mid laner, Hai

courtesy of Riot eSports

Unicorns of Love AD Carry, Samux

courtesy of Riot eSports

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, AD Carry

KDA:      6.4 (4th Overall)

CSD10: +6.7 (6th Overall)

There have been several games where Samux holds lane 1v2 while his Support roams to create pressure around the map. The fact that Samux can come out ahead in CS is even more impressive. With an average of 21.9% of his team’s gold (lowest ADC), he serves as a low-economy player that enables his Top, Mid, and Jungler to get fed. Samux’s instant meshing with Unicorns of Love has been above expectations.

Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun

Misfits, Support

KDA: 7.9    (2nd Overall)

KP:   78%   (4th Overall)

Playing champions such as Thresh and Taric, IgNar is not afraid to play the map. While he already demonstrated his reliability in the Challenger Series, his transition to the EU LCS has been above expectations. IgNar sets up kills for all of his teammates while maintaining very low death rates. He also averages 1.52 wards per minute (2nd highest among all players), which is quintessential for successful roaming and intelligent ganking.

Misfits' Support, IgNar, and Jungler, KaKAO

courtesy of Riot eSports

Each of these players will need to continue exhibiting excellent play to maintain, or improve, their teams’ standings. We are only two weeks in, and as teams begin adapting to one another’s play-style, we could see changes. Whether it is a change in competition, a change within the meta, or a change in League of Legends itself, these players will need to continue to adapt if they want to succeed.

Keep an eye out next week for my list of under-performers. Just as some players have exceeded expectations, others have fallen short. I will acknowledge five more players on that list that will need to improve in order for their team to move up in the standings.

Correction(s): This article previously provided an image of Misfits’ Jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, instead of IgNar. Also, Moon was incorrectly labeled as the Jungler for Team Liquid instead of FlyQuest.

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Misfits on stage for EU LCS

EU LCS Week 2 Preview

Boy, is it great to be back! Week 1 of EU LCS was action-packed. There were plenty of surprises: champions, builds, and stand-out performances. The standings should not surprise anyone, though. G2 and H2K are at the top of their respective groups. Misfits and Unicorns of Love each got a win under their belts. Everyone else lost a game to one of those four teams. There is not much we can decipher from just one week. It will take a couple more to really know how these teams match up. Nonetheless, you should keep an eye out for these four head-to-heads in Week 2.

Week 2: Vitality versus Splyce

courtesy of lolesport.com

These teams are on different ends of the spectrum for me. Vitality looked better than I expected during their match against Unicorns of Love last week. Splyce looked pretty weak against H2K. This Week 2 match-up should be a good gauge of Group B as a whole. Based on pre-season predictions, Splyce should win, sticking to the top of the standings. But if Vitality win, then it shakes up the momentum for the rest of the season. Most analysts assumed Splyce would maintain the same level of macro-play they demonstrated last Split. This synergized team would theoretically have an advantage over other Group B teams that were pieced together in the off-season. Sadly, it did not seem to be there in Week 1.

None of the Splyce members stood out to me against H2K. They all seemed to be stifled under pressure, particularly Mid, Jungle, and Top. The kill scores for their games were 24-6 and 22-10 over 27 to 29 minutes. H2K were playing fast and hard. The individual match-ups should be less intimidating against Vitality, but Splyce’s solo play has never been considered a great strength. They will need to showcase the smart group play that got them to Worlds last year to re-instill confidence in the squad.

Vitality looked weaker in Game 1 last week against Unicorns, but Game 2 was back and forth. Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi and Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan were able to get a lead in bot lane with the help of Jungler, Charly “Djoko” Guillard. The point of weakness was in the top-side match-up between Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet’s Fiora and Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás’ Camille. After two games, Cabochard’s KDA was 1.8. He finished last among Top laners in Gold Difference at 10 minutes (-475) and Kill Participation (39.1%). Meanwhile, Djoko topped the entire league in Kill Participation at 82.6%. Vitality may need Djoko to shift more focus to the top side of the map. Cabochard will also need to utilize his Teleport earlier to join his team.

Splyce failed to outweigh their individual shortcomings with strong macro-play against H2K. Hopefully, they can try again against Vitality. If Vitality can try to match H2K’s calculated aggression, then they may be able to take down Splyce as well. Cabochard should not be as neutralized against Martin “Wunder” Hansen. Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holm should match Chres “Sencux” Laursen much easier than Fabian “Exileh” Schubert. On the other hand, Jonas “Trashy” Andersen will need to make sure Djoko is not free to influence the map as he pleases. It should be much easier than facing Jankos.

Unicorns of Love versus H2K Week 2

courtesy of lolesports.com

H2K tops Group B with two wins, zero losses. Unicorns are second with one win and zero losses. Week 2 will decide who finishes 2-1. If H2K win, then they stay in first. Assuming Unicorns of Love beat Origen this week, they will need to win against H2K to move up. This should be an exciting game to watch, since both teams looked explosive in Week 1 with a heavy focus top-side.

Unicorns of Love have historically done well in chaotic games. If Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski gets recklessly aggressive, and Unicorns are able to exploit it, then it could be H2K’s demise. With immobile ADCs and Supports in meta, I imagine Exileh will continue to pull out his pocket pick Kassadin and wreak havoc. Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten joins him at the top of Mid lane KDAs, both averaging just above 10. Febiven will need to maintain lane control in this match-up to keep Exileh from roaming.

The Top lane will be an epic duel if Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu and/or Vizicsacsi get on carry champions. Similar to the Mid lane match-up, these Top laners are above all others, averaging 5.4-5.5 KDAs. Vizicsacsi had higher Kill Participation, lower Death Share, and higher CS Difference at 10 minutes, but Odoamne will have more Jungle pressure to back him up. Vizicsacsi will need to exploit all Teleport advantages.

The Bot lane will most likely decide this match. Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort averaged 9.5 CS ahead at 10 minutes, while Shin “Nuclear” Jung-hyun averaged 10.3 behind. This bodes well for Unicorns of Love. However, Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov over-extended and got caught out repeatedly, resulting in a 39.1% Death Share, highest in the league. Hylissang needs to play more passively to prevent excess deaths. The other issue that Unicorns’ Bot lane could run into is champion pool. Samux and Hylissang played Caitlyn-Lulu in both games, while Nuclear and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho showcased Jhin-Zyra and Ashe-Tahm Kench. Of course, the bans will most likely be directed towards Top, Jungle, and Mid, but if H2K decide to pinch Unicorn’s AD Carry and Support picks, then I hope they have an answer.

Misfits versus G2 Week 2

courtesy of lolesports.com

This will be Group A’s premier match-up. Similar to H2K v. Unicorns of Love, Week 2 will decide which of these two teams will remain at the top of the group. Assuming Misfits beat ROCCAT, one of these teams will end the week 3-0. Both teams came into the season with high expectations, and enjoyed a strong first week. Dropping one game each, some weaknesses appeared in G2 and Misfits, which makes this week even juicier.

G2’s series against Fnatic last week was full of highlights. All three games went 42 minutes or longer. The game that Fnatic won involved a couple of solo kills on Luka “PerkZ” Perković and strong macro-play around Baron, Dragon, and manipulating minion waves. Fnatic also picked off Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen to end. The games they looked strongest involved PerkZ drafting Leblanc and amassing 4,000 Gold leads on his opponent. G2 will need to make sure PerkZ’s play becomes consistent. While his KDA is higher than Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, his Kill Participation is almost 10% lower. Both Mid laners have a high Death Share for their teams.

Misfits dropped their game to Giants due to a surprise Illaoi pick in the Top lane from Olof “Flaxxish” Medin. After leading for 23 minutes, and by 3,000 gold, Misfits botched two teamfights around Baron. However, the following two games were rather one-sided. Barney “Alphari” Morris is a solid Top laner. He was able to average 10 CS over his opponent at 10 minutes, despite playing two games on Maokai against Illaoi and Nautilus, and one game on Rumble against an AD Kennen. Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun boasts the highest KDA of all players in the league, thanks to his 26 assists over three games and only 7.7% Death Share (third lowest in the league). Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez will need to try his best to match this playstyle, since he has the lowest Kill Participation of all Supports, and a high Death Share. 

The real uneven match-up between these teams is in the AD Carry position. Zven more than doubles Steven “Hans sama” Liv’s KDA. He also has half his Death Share. And even though Hans sama averages high Gold, XP, and CS at 10 minutes, he was facing Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa. Zven faced Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss. Misfits will need to make sure that they do not come into this series with any arrogance. Each player will need to execute properly around objectives. If Misfits can take G2 in a best-of-three, then they will solidify themselves as king of the hill. G2 are going to do their best to knock them down a peg.

Giants versus Roccat Week 2

courtesy of lolesports.com

While neither of these teams had a stellar Week 1, they will have a chance to redeem themselves. Giants took a game off of Misfits. ROCCAT was decidedly beaten by G2. These series exposed clear weaknesses in both squads. They will need to watch those games to see where they can leverage their opponents’ weaknesses, and where they can improve their own.

Giants win against Misfits came off the back of a Top lane Illaoi for Flaxxish. He laned well and Misfits fell into the trap of fighting in the Baron and Dragon pits. Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi stole the Baron multiple times in the series. Na “Night” Gun-woo also made several pro-active roaming plays on the map. However, he was completely shut down on Ekko. The biggest pain point was the Bot lane. HeaQ averaged 11 CS behind at 10 minutes–lowest of all EU ADCs. He and Morgan “Hustlin” Granberg will need to exert more lane pressure.

There was nothing notable about ROCCAT’s performance against G2. They were purely outclassed in every position and in macro-play. Since the team rebuilt around Mid laner, Felix “Betsy” Edling, I was expecting him to stand up a bit more to PerkZ’s pressure. Betsy looked particularly lost in Game 1 on Taliyah. I cannot recall a single well-placed Weaver’s Wall. PerkZ was able to roam on Leblanc, rather than have his lane pushed in. I do not want to see Betsy on that champion until ROCCAT can synergize. And even though Hjärnan averaged 11 CS ahead at 10 minutes, he only participated in 37.5% of his team’s kills (second lowest of all players). He needs to transition any advantage in the laning phase to helping teamfights around neutral objectives.

I imagine Giants will win this somewhat easily. If they can play around neutral objectives like they did against Misfits, then ROCCAT will not stand a chance. However, if Hjärnan and Kim “Wadid” Bae-in can exploit Giants’ Bot lane, then this may be closer than it looks on paper. NighT did not enjoy facing Syndra in the Mid lane, so maybe Betsy should draft her. Assuming Misfits beats ROCCAT and Fnatic beats Giants, this match-up will decide who finishes Week 2 at the bottom of Group A.

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5 Rookies to Watch This Split

The North American and European LCS start in a few weeks, and I’ve decided to highlight some up-and-coming rookies who will be playing in their first seasons professionally in LCS. Last season was an exciting one as we got to see a lot of talented rookies come from both regions. These are some names to look out for as we head into Season 7:

Cody Sun  (Immortals ADC)

Formerly known as Massacre, Yi Lu “Cody Sun” Sun is a Chinese American player who has been playing ADC in challenger series since Spring 2015 when he played for Imagine in NACS. Most recently, he played in the NACS with Dream Team who was swept by C9 Challenger in the Summer playoffs. He sported a 9.33 KDA in the NACS Summer Split and was a huge part in many of their victories.  On a day and a half of full team practice before IEM Gyeonggi, Cody Sun was able to showcase an amazing 8-0 Ezreal game vs Korea’s Kongdoo Monster.  Outside of that game, he looked rather inconsistent, which is fair for a rookie playing against some tough international competition for the first time.  It will be thrilling to see what this ADC can show with more practice on the NALCS stage.

Caps (Fnatic Mid)

Picture Courtesy of CLICKon Esports

Rasmus “Caps” Winther is a 17 year old, hungry, Danish kid out to prove himself as Fnatic’s new mid laner. He will have huge shoes to fill, playing alongside a core of veteran LCS players in Soaz, Rekkles, and Amazing.  Caps made Reddit headlines a week after being introduced as Fnatic’s new mid laner, when a thread was made about him threatening a player in Challenger saying, “You have no idea how much impact I have on rosters. You can troll me all you want, but I will make sure you never get to join a CS nor LCS team.” This was a rather bold statement coming from someone who just got introduced as a starter on an LCS roster. Fnatic and Caps later released an apology statement for this event. In 6 games with Challenger team NRV, he showed off a subpar 1.9 KDA with a 76 kill participation, which was highest among EUCS Mids.  EU, and specifically Denmark, have been known to produce fantastic Mid laners such as Bjergsen, Froggen, and Jensen.  Caps will get a chance to add his name to this elite list of Mid laners as he enters his first EULCS season.

 

Contractz (C9 Jungler)

Replacing longtime C9 Jungler, Meteos, will be none other than the young and hungry C9 Challenger Team Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia. Contractz’ competitive career started in 2015 with Zenith esports, where his team placed 5-6th in the HTC Ascension Challenger invitational. He then played for team Ember in the 2016 NACS Spring season at only 17 years old, before being replaced by Santorin for playoffs. The following summer NACS season, he replaced Rush on the C9 Challenger squad after Riot implemented a new rule regarding residency. He was able to gain veteran mentor-ship playing along LCS veterans, Hai, Balls, LemonNation, and Altec. Contractz sported a 3.92 KDA in the NACS summer season with a 67% kill participation, mostly playing Graves and Reksai. He has been heralded as being a similar player to Dardoche as a young and talented NA Jungler, but with a much better attitude. He joins a very talented C9 roster looking to stay atop the standings and compete for their fifth straight appearance at Worlds.

Goldenglue (Team Liquid Mid)

Picture courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Greysen “Goldenglue” Gilmer is a well known name around the Pro League of Legends scene. He has made multiple appearances on the NALCS stage, subbing for teams such as Dignitas and T8. One could say he is a veteran of the Challenger series, playing professionally since 2013. He’s never held a starting position at the beginning of a season on an LCS roster, but will be given his first shot with Team Liquid this season. He replaces Fenix after a debacle of a season from Team Liquid as a whole. They had a team meltdown towards the end of the season, ultimately leading to a pathetic showing in the gauntlet in which they played with two challenger players as last minute subs. For the upcoming season, Team Liquid decided to bring back Piglet, while keeping former members Lourlo and Matt. They promoted Golenglue from Challenger Series and brought in All Star Jungler, Reignover to round out the roster. A lot of hate was brought upon social media when Team Liquid announced Goldenglue as their Mid laner, so he will be looking to prove himself coming into this season.

Xerxe (Unicorns of Love Jungler)

Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir is a 17 year old Romanian Jungler, who most recently played for Dark Passage in the Turkish Champions League(TCL). He showed off a phenomenal 7.98 KDA in 36 games, with a 70 percent kill participation in the Summer Split of TCL.  He showed an ability to perform well on a multitude of champions, pulling out seven different champions last season. The Jungler he will be replacing is Move. Unicorns of Love pulled off a stunning win at IEM Oakland, defeating TSM 2-1 in the semifinals en route to a 3-2 victory over LMS’ Flash Wolves. UOL was a win away from qualifying for Worlds last season, and return with their consistent duo, top laner Vizicsacsi, and support Hylissang. They look to be hitting their stride after being so close to attending Worlds and performing well at IEM.  Exileh, their Mid laner, looks like a strong EU talent, and seemed to get better as the Summer Split went on.  Xerxe is plugged into a team that looks to be on the rise. It will be up to him to make sure he plays up to his potential, helping UOL push for Worlds.

Let me know what you think of this list in the comments below, and as always, 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!

Uh Oh VISA Doe: The VISA issue and how it effects the future of the LCS

If you’ve been following both the NA and EU LCS lately, you’ve probably noticed that the topic of work VISAs is a pretty big topic. The Western scene has seen an increasing move from ‘regional’ teams, teams who are gathered entirely from League’s home region, towards a more ‘international’ team scene, where foreign talent from Korea/Europe is imported to another region. With this, arguably, we’ve seen the talent-level of the LCS increase, but this also has led to many complications as far as VISAs go. Basically, given the ‘league’ format of the LCS, players must live near the city that hosts the LCS (Berlin for EU and Las Angeles for NA.) Unlike tournament circuits, this means that foreign players must apply for work VISAs to live in that area: which leads us to our current ‘crisis.’

The newly minted Echo Fox already faces some growing pains of being an organization. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

The newly minted Echo Fox already faces some growing pains of being an organization. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

We’ll start by discussing the NA situations. Everyone’s probably heard of Echo Fox by now, if for no other reason than its colourful and personality filled owner in Rick Fox. They also managed to nab arguably one of the most underused talents in the world: Froggen, who, since joining Elements never quite looked the same. But Echo Fox was dealt a heavy blow when they had to forfeit a match because they did not file the proper papers to field half their team: Froggen, from Denmark, Hard, from Canada, and Kfo, from Korea. They have managed to play in games by tapping on the shoulders of Challenger team, Ember, for subs.

The legend of Diamondprox may very well be coming to end. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

The legend of Diamondprox may very well be coming to end. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

While Echo Fox seems to have sorted themselves out, it cannot be said the same for those in Europe who have been hit hard by the recent VISA inquiry. The return of a legend in Diamondprox was brought to a swift end by local laws, as the ‘category’ of eSports players is still rather vague in Germany. To that end, Diamondprox, who was the starting jungler for a rebuilt Unicorns of Love, cannot play in the EU LCS, raising questions as to whether his non-EUship, being a Russian player, had anything to do with it. Sadly, it seems that the remnants of the great Gambit are slowly being dispersed again.

The Thresh Prince may finally be put to rest if the VISA issue contiunes. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

The Thresh Prince may finally be put to rest if the VISA issue continues. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Diamond isn’t the only ex-Gambit player hit by the VISA issue, as his fellow in Edward, an Armenian, also is unable to play for his team, Roccat. Ryu of H2K was also found to be of invalid standing, where they subbed in a familiar face SELFIE, currently signed to Echo Fox as a sub, and seemed no worse for wear from it. While Roccat found themselves taking a wallop and leaving 0-2, UOL faired slightly better pulling a 1-1 record while H2K surprisingly went 2-0, one of which was against super team Vitality. Teams across the LCS will need to look long and hard at this issue going forward, as largely teams have had to scramble to find suitable replacements to their talent imports.

But where does this leave fans? Well it’s a hard and ambiguous debate right now really. Yes, to be seen as legitimate, it should go without saying that players and organizations follow local laws to a T, particularly given some of these teams have had a long tenure in the LCS, Echo Fox aside. Yet I don’t think any fan can sit and watch as both Edward and Diamondprox seem so… defeated by the blow to their careers. Sure, if these were less storied players, it might be a different story. Nothing against Ryu, but the aforementioned were definitely in the lime light (sadly) of this situation. This has to raise the counter question: would the scene be as up in arms if these weren’t such fan favorites? Surely biases exist, but it just doesn’t feel right to see some players lamented more than others stuck in the same situation.

Does the City of Lights deserve to be queen of Europe? Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Does the City of Lights deserve to be queen of Europe? Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Furthermore, there’s the big glaring question mark over Riot’s head. If the German government can’t even recognize your players properly, is it time to reconsider your location? Sure, Germany is quite central in Europe, but if its government is not forward-looking enough to sit down and iron out some laws over this issue, does it really deserve to be the host country of the EU LCS? Surely, a place like France or the U.K might be more progressive in this sense, or not at all. But the question is really being asked about the future of the EU LCS. While the creation of the C.I.S. region surely will help the fledgling (outside of Gambit,) Eastern European scene, is it really an answer to two players almost synonymous with the EU LCS?

But Riot also walks a double-edged sword here: eSports is still young, and it needs to be seen as a legitimate sport. That means following the laws, regardless of our opinions on them. It’s a harsh sentence to drop, but it’s also, sadly, a necessary one. Could you imagine a case like this in traditional sports? Of an imported talent flying in the face of local law? Wouldn’t be good. So Riot did need to come down hard on the players and organizations, not so much to punish them but to set an example going forward. Riot has increasingly taken the role of judge, jury and executioner, to the chagrin of some and the approval of others, laying down the heavy hand of fines to big teams like TSM and CLG (who practically became a meme of ‘better fine HotShotGG.’) This all might seem rather arbitrary at times, and sure the grey zone in some of these issues persists, but the fact that Riot is seeing itself as having a heavy influence in the leagues it’s responsible for shouldn’t come as a shock. What would the NFL be without some good ol’ fashioned fines?

Or is it London Calling for the EU LCS? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Or is it London Calling for the EU LCS? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

One also has to wonder at the level that Riot is in communication with the German government over this. Surely the pains and costs associated with a move would be harsh, but if this is the view of your players by the local authorities, that they’re not ‘athletes,’ then maybe it’s time to look forward more. In the NA LCS, this issue is relatively small, as the USA government recognizes players as athletes, and thus applying for the proper work VISAs is only mildly a headache. The pressure is on not just Riot but also Germany to reconsider its archaic view or possibly lose its status as the heartbeat of the EU LCS. Teams shouldn’t be impacted by the politics of the locality they’re in any further than making sure they comply with local laws. Teams might very well face relegation threats over this issue, and to have that hang over not only the players but the organizations themselves and their trust/investment in the scene is troubling. Riot and Germany need to act swiftly to at least bring some level of discussion to the forefront, otherwise this might spell disaster for the EU LCS.

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.