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

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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.


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Teams participating in 2017 EU LCS Summer Split

Summer Watchlist 2017: Splyce, Vitality, Roccat, and Ninjas in Pyjamas

Since reflecting on the Spring Split, there have been several changes to the contenders within EU LCS. New organizations have entered the fray, and familiar faces are donning unfamiliar jerseys. Multiple teams have rearranged coaches. All this change is an effort to get ahead of the pack and win Summer Split.

G2 finished MSI in second place

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G2 dominated Spring Split: they only lost one best-of-three series out of thirteen. The Samurai went on to finish second place at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. No other team in Europe looked to be on par with G2 before the tournament, but MSI certainly quieted any dissent. With no roster or staff changes to speak of, G2 looks to remain at the top of the ranks. Their eyes will be on the world stage.

Fnatic and Misfits are between G2 and the rest of Group A. Misfits finished the regular season second in their group, while Fnatic tied Roccat for third. However, Fnatic ultimately beat Misfits for third place in playoffs, beating them 3-0 in the best-of-five. Fnatic picked up a new coach, Dylan Falco. Misfits released their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, and acquired Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. The effects of these changes do not appear to be drastic on the surface. Fnatic should be able to retain second place within Group A, putting Misfits third.

Unicorns of Love look to top Group B

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Unicorns of Love sit at the top of Group B. Following a similar trajectory to G2, UOL finished the regular season 11-2. They did not drop a series to other members of Group B. UOL went on to finish second in the playoffs. Seeing as the top teams in Group B did not have any major roster updates in the off-season, the Unicorns should easily maintain their top position.

Although playoffs were not pleasant for H2K, their regular season went well. They finished 10-3, losing twice to UOL and once to G2. H2K had not lost to any other team until Fnatic beat them 3-0 in the quarterfinals of playoffs. Only earning 10 Championship Points, H2K will need to perform at a much higher level to re-qualify for the World Championships.

Mysterious Monkeys sit at the bottom of Group B after purchasing Misfits Academy’s LCS-qualified slot. While EU Challenger teams have historically performed well in their first split of LCS, this roster’s talent is questionable compared to the others. They even lost their starting jungler. The Monkeys come into the split with low expectations, most likely ending the regular season in fifth for Group B.

The other four teams should be less predictable. These rosters have all incorporated new players or coaches. These teams’ performances over the split will shape the standings within their respective groups. With huge strides, these squads can climb the ranks. But if they falter, then they will decline. There are major questions surrounding Splyce, Vitality, Roccat, and Ninjas in Pyjamas.

Is a new coach enough for Splyce to qualify for the World Championship?

Splyce finished Spring Split in 5th-6th

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

It is hard to believe this is the same roster that qualified for Worlds 2016. Coming into 2017 as one of two European teams to keep every member of their 2016 team, Splyce was supposed to top Group B in spring. Instead, they squeaked by with a 7-6 record and lost 3-2 to Misfits in the quarterfinals of playoffs. They only earned 10 Championship Points.

But this time last year, Splyce came into the Summer Split with zero Championship Points. It did not stop them from finishing Summer Split in second place, earning 90 Championship Points, and winning the Regional Qualifiers to represent EU as third seed at Worlds. Theoretically, it could happen again this summer.

Splyce only updated the coach position in the mid-season. Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi parted ways with the team, and they brought in Fayan “Gevous” Pertjis to take his place. Gevous previously coached Red Canids in Brazil’s CBLoL. This spring, they finished first place overall and qualified for Mid-Season Invitational.

It is unclear what Gevous will add to Splyce. It is possible that a new coaching style may help bring Splyce’s members up to a new level. The players know they can play up to the same level as Unicorns or H2K. The anticipated meta shifts will probably help Splyce, as well. Tankier junglers with fast clears and impactful kits suit ‎Jonas “Trashy” Andersen, and  Martin “Wunder” Hansen generally looks more influential with damage-dealing split-pushers.

Is VandeR the answer to Team Vitality’s shortcomings?

VandeR joins Team Vitality for Summer Split

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This is a match made in heaven. Vitality had a rough Spring Split, and the support role was a major reason. Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan (now “Comeback”) finished with a 1.7 KDA and 27.9% kill share before he was benched. Schalke 04, on the other hand, had an excellent spring, and Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan was a major reason. As support, VandeR finished spring split with a 14.4 KDA and 11.4% kill share.

While support is an oft-overlooked role, this is a huge pick-up for Vitality. VandeR is a proven veteran with international experience. He will be joining Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi in the bottom lane, one of the more consistent members of Vitality last split.

This is another team that looks to benefit from the upcoming metagame. Top laner, Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet, looked best as a split-pusher when Vitality finished the regular season in third place in Spring 2016. A more anchored bottom lane and pressured top lane could open Charly “Djoko” Guillard up to have more options in the jungle. Vitality could look to move up in Group B if they mesh properly and other teams show weakness.

Will Roccat carry over the momentum from the end of Spring Split?

Roccat come into Summer Split with some momentum

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Roccat avoided the relegation tournament for the first time in three splits. This spring they narrowly missed making it into the playoffs, surging in the last few weeks of the split to finish 6-7 after starting 0-7. The storyline was so exciting to witness.

That momentum needs to carry into the Summer Split. Although Group A is daunting, every team has shown significant weaknesses. Roccat had 1-1 records against every other team in their group, including G2. The mostly new roster was able to click after several weeks of play.

The jungle position is the only one that changed in the mid-season. Maxlore left for Misfits, and Roccat picked up Milo “Pridestalker” Wehnes from Misfits Academy as his replacement. Both of these players draft carry junglers such as Graves, Lee Sin, Kha’Zix, and Rengar, so Roccat’s playstyle should not drastically change. Pridestalker is a rookie, though, so incorporating him may take some time.

Roccat will come into summer an underdog, yet again. But if they can build off of their gameplay, synergy, and growth from spring, then they can definitely take games off of other Group A teams. Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren, in particular, should be able to continue drafting lane bullies such as Gnar, Fizz, and Renekton, which he played well in the final weeks of last split.

Are Ninjas in Pyjamas as bad as everyone anticipates?

HeaQ joins Ninjas in Pyjamas for Summer Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Ninjas in Pyjamas have caught a lot of flak for their player choices since they purchased Fnatic Academy’s LCS slot and replaced the entire roster. On paper, the team looks like a hodge-podge of Korean import solo laners, washed-up legacy jungler and support, and an LCS rookie.

Kim “Profit” Joon-hyung, in the top lane, comes from the LCK’s SK Telecom T1. He played nine games this spring as a substitute: five games on Nautilus, three games on Rumble, and one game on Shen. They won all but one of them. Beyond this small sample, Profit is virtually untested. If he was on SKT, then he is most likely the real deal, but until he hits the Rift this summer, it is hard to gauge him against other top laners in Group A.

Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon is the other Korean import for NiP. He is a mid laner most recently from Wan Yoo Dream, a Korean Challenger team, but previously from KT Rolster when they world contenders. During that time Nagne excelled on assassins, such as Zed, Diana, and Ahri. He also frequently played control mages, such as Lissandra and Azir. Nagne will be facing some of the top western mid laners in Group A.

Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema and Hampus “Sprattel” Abrahamsson are both alumni of Elements before Schalke 04 purchased. Shook most recently played for Vitality in 2016, but was replaced in November. Sprattel most recently played for Paris Saint-Germain in the Challenger Series. Neither player has been viewed as incredibly talented within the last two years.

And Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa will round out the bottom lane for NiP. He played for Giants Gaming last split, and has decent statistics for being on a relegated team. This will be HeaQ’s second split in the EU LCS.

Each of these players is an outcast in their own right. While this team will most likely be the Spring 2017 Origen of Summer Split, it could also come together as an unexpected surprise. If Shook can manage to find synergy with Profit and Nagne, and HeaQ and Sprattel can grow together, then they could find upsets in Group A. This could also be Coach Nicholas “NicoThePico” Korsgård’s shot at redemption, as well. If they can all put aside their past failures, then they just may find success.


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

Who will remain the King of Europe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

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

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

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

 

Is Origen back?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new El Classico? Courtesy of Fnatic.com

The new El Classico? Courtesy of Fnatic.com

Fnatic vs. Origen: the New El Classico

 

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

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

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

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

The middle of the pack shake up

 

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

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

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

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

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

New Kids on the Block in G2, Splyce and Vitality

 

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

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

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

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

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

H2K: Can they keep their top three status?

 

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

ANOTHER European Exodus. Courtesy of na.lolesports.com

ANOTHER European Exodus. Courtesy of na.lolesports.com

European Talent Exodus

 

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

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