The 2018 League of Legends preseason continues to heat up, as LCS teams announce roster changes and the media reports daily updates. North American franchising has been a large spot of attention, while the European league has been quiet. Some major players are reportedly transferring to North America, but others have maintained that they are staying in Europe. A select few have announced that they are remaining on the same team from 2017 into 2018.
FC Schalke 04 is the only team to officially announce their entire EU LCS roster. Since re-entering the LCS by promotion from the Challenger Series, Schalke replaced four out of five players and only kept AD carry Upset. Schalke brought on Vizicsacsi, long-time top laner for Unicorns of Love, Pridestalker, Rookie of the Summer Split from Roccat, Nukeduck and Vander, reputable mid laner and support most recently from Team Vitality. There is a plethora of experience between Vizicsacsi, Nukeduck and Vander, while Pridestalker and Upset are promising young talents.
vizicsacsi: the catalyst
During his time on UOL, Vizicsacsi consistently set the pace of their matches. He is able to play carry champions, such as Gangplank, Irelia and Rumble. Tanks, such as Shen, Gnar, Maokai and Poppy, come naturally to him as well. ‘Csacsi has shown mastery of split-pushing, teleport flanks, lane swapping, diving and teamfighting. He is honestly one of the most well-rounded players in the league.
Vizicsacsi enters Schalke 04 as the catalyst of the team. He truly excels when he is able to gain a lead for himself and press the enemy team to respond to him. Pushing towers in the side lane, or diving the enemy bottom duo, ‘Csacsi applies pressure every chance he can get. During laning phase, he will draw enemy jungle attention, making room for Pridestalker to impact mid lane and the enemy jungle.
Moving into the mid game, Vizicsacsi will communicate ways that he can force the enemy’s hand. The opponent’s top laner will choose between regaining control of his lane or following Csacsi to another point on the map. Vizicsacsi always tries to use his tools offensively, so Teleport, Stand United, Cannon Barrage and other timings are crucial for Schalke victories. He will use these global abilities to press the attack when ahead, or turn the game around when behind.
Pridestalker: the wildcard
With only one split under his belt, Pridestalker comes on board without a clear role. Roccat finished the Summer Split with a 5-8 record, mostly losing because of their weak solo laners and poor neutral objective control. The team had an overall lack of proactivity, even when Pridestalker assisted his team in gaining early leads. The team finished the regular season bottom three in the league for First Blood, first turret, first three turrets and dragon percentage.
With the 2018 Schalke line-up, Pridestalker will be the true wildcard player. Team Vitality in the 2017 Summer Split is a good example of what happens when a team of veteran players has a sub-par jungler. Hopefully, Pridestalker pulls through as a keen tracker, keeping tabs on the enemy’s whereabouts and strategy. His most played champions include Kha’Zix, Graves and his pocket pick Warwick, all perfect for singling out the enemy jungler and punishing failed ganks.
Pridestalker needs to be the thorn in the enemy’s side. Each of his lanes are formidable in their own right, so Pridestalker can continue to lock in junglers with solo kill potential. He should focus on managing deep vision in the opponent’s jungle to track their pathing and allow the other members of Schalke to make smart decisions. Pridestalker’s ability to mesh with the rest of the team, to function as a counter-jungler and to control the map will be crucial. He will truly be the wildcard for Schalke’s Spring Split.
Nukeduck: the Anchor
Vitality’s saving grace in the 2017 Summer Split, Nukeduck has won the respect of Europe’s elite players over his several years of experience. Despite Vitality’s 5-8 record, Nukeduck generally won his lane, played a wide range of champions, and output almost a third of the team’s damage. He is one of the only players in recent memory to truly stand out while playing for a losing team.
Moving into 2018, Schalke will hope to utilize Nukeduck’s consistency and unleash more of his carry potential. The mid laner pulled off wins with zoning mages like Orianna and Syndra, AD hyper-carries like Corki and Kog’Maw and mobile assassins like Leblanc and Kassadin. With a more consistent jungler and bottom lane, Nukeduck should be able to be even more dominant in lane, opening him up for more roams and invades.
This could be a match made in heaven. Schalke is looking for redemption since their initial flop in the EU LCS, and Nukeduck could be the key. He continues to prove himself worthy in the eyes of his peers. 2018 is Nukeduck’s chance to regain some team glory since his days with Lemondogs. At worst, he will be the anchor in the mid lane: reliable and consistent.
Upset: the raw talent
Schalke’s AD carry, Upset, is the only qualifying member that they held onto for 2018. With a complete roster rebuild, Upset will need to adapt quickly to his new bottom lane partner and other teammates. Other than Pridestalker, every player Schalke acquired in the off-season will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to help mold Upset into a future star. This player quickly rose to prominence in the European Challenger Series, and he will look to begin his legacy as an LCS-level player next year.
Europe has a great track record with rookies in recent years. Broxah, Caps, Pridestalker, Alphari, Hans sama, Xerxe and Samux were all rookies in 2017. Schalke is betting on Upset’s potential by building the entire team around him, and for good reason. Throughout the Summer Split he averaged ahead in lane at 15 minutes, which transitioned into menacing teamfighting. Always aggressive, Upset is not afraid to step forward to inflict those extra ticks of damage. He typically output 600 damage per minute, good enough for a 30 percent share.
This raw talent needs to become focused in 2018. With the proper structure, Upset could develop into the next Forgiven. His precision and presence on the map are very similar to the legendary AD carry, and it is no coincidence that Schalke is pairing him with Vander, Forgiven’s old support. Upset can easily become a prominent player in the EU LCS Spring Split, and there is a future for him if Schalke plays its cards right.
Vander: the facilitator
Vizicsacsi will create pressure. Pridestalker will scout the enemy. Nukeduck will consistently carry. Upset will pop off. Vander will be left to gel it all together. This support’s first task is to help Upset create pressure in his lane. Then they will transition that pressure into jungle invades and securing dragons. Protecting Nukeduck and Upset in teamfights will be Vander’s ultimate responsibility, since Pridestalker and Vizicsacsi will most likely engage.
Thresh, Braum and Alistar are Vander’s most played champions of all time, but he has had most success with Taric, Trundle, Nautlius and Shen. Vander definitely performs best with tanks that bring utility to the game. He has never really looked as comfortable on Nami or Lulu, and he has never even played Soraka on stage. This could be one opening for Schalke’s opponents in the future, especially if the meta favors enchanters.
Vander did not elevate Team Vitality as expected in the Summer Split. They still did not come close to making it to playoffs. Hopefully, a new roster and infrastructure will see Vander return to his 2016 H2K performance. He supported Forgiven and the rest of H2K to a World Championship semifinals finish. Just like Nukeduck and the Schalke organization, 2018 could be a year of redemption for Vander.
Schalke 04: the New Hotness
On paper, Schalke has top talent in almost every position. There are some question marks around Pridestalker’s actual skill level, Nukeduck and Vander’s confidence levels since playing for Vitality and Schalke’s support structure as an organization. 2018 will provide the answers to these questions.
Schalke is the first team to officially announce its roster. They have beaten other organizations to the punch, and maybe it will pay off. This mix of formidable veterans, rising stars and overall playstyle flexibility could make for a sharp team. The Spring Split will be full of tests, especially considering Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels is head coach. This will be Krepo’s first appearance back on the League of Legends scene since stepping down from Riot casting after a scandal earlier this year. This will be his first time coaching, although he is a former LCS player and caster.
Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr
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