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Is It Finally Time for a New Strategic Leader on Rogue?

Rogue has been a feel good story. While an organization that was introduced to the LEC with franchising, their management team were previously behind Team ROCCAT. Their claim to fame as a team came with their development of young talent — with their academy roster continuing to create LEC talent. And now, they’re seen as one of Europe’s best organizations.

Yet something seems to be holding them under the bright lights. Despite making it to Worlds for the second straight year — and being in a position to exit the group stages following FunPlus Phoenix’s shocking collapse, they didn’t. It wasn’t their time.

Starting in the summer split of 2020, Rogue has been the best regular season team in the LEC. Their 40 game win total is impressive. It’s even more impressive when you realize their 9 wins in the 2020 Spring equaled their total wins in 2019. They noticeably have more wins on Fridays than on Saturdays — 21 of their wins coming on Fridays, 14 coming on Saturdays. But it should be also understood not all days are created equally — sometimes they’ll see their regular season kryptonite G2 on a Saturday.

Rogue has had one head coach — Simon “fredy122” Payne. Outlasting former G2 head coach Fabian “GrabbZ” Lohmann, he currently holds the title of longest tenured coach in Europe. Moving from the role of top-laner to a front office position as his playing career was winding down, he’s been through it all with the organization. He’s been with them at the lowest of lows but helped them into a line-up no one was really expecting.

But when you have the same coaching staff, you pick up on small trends.

For example – Rogue are really good in Game 1s. In their domestic play-off history, their record is 9 wins, 5 losses. Presumably, you would think that Rogue could carry the momentum into Game 2. This is not the case – their record is  3-6. The play-off format defends this statistic in a way – given that the opposing team would have the ability to chose side selection.

Rogue has defined themselves as a team that wins games from start to finish. In their regular season wins, they’re dominant in the early game and don’t leave room for teams to bounce back..

Regular Season Wins
AGTKDCKPMGD15FB%FT%F3T%HLD%FD%DRG%
2020 Su34.62.650.6175062%77%100%63%54%67%
2021 Sp33.42.450.78216371%93%93%57%71%61%
2021 Su31.72.470.77330962%92%100%62%77%69%

Even in their losses, they were typically still averaging early game gold leads. Their downfall would primarily come with team-fighting or mid-game blunders. But in the play-offs, it does change a little bit. Here’s how it looks:

Playoff wins
AGTKDCKPMGD15FB%FT%F3T%HLD%FD%DRG%
2020 Su32.12.710.88248980%100%80%60%40%64%
2021 Sp32.91.860.74160468%78%67%44%78%66%
2021 Sum30.52.950.91181367%67%68%83%0%46%
Playoff losses
AGTKDCKPMGD15FB%FT%F3T%HLD%FD%DRG%
2020 Su32.60.510.82-181450%67%17%58%50%26%
2021 Sp33.70.570.86133350%38%75%44%63%47%
2021 Sum33.30.561.02-23750%75%38%44%38%19%

The trend in their losses suddenly changes — it is more connected to early game deficits. Their semi-final loss to Fnatic would feature Fnatic continuing to put the pressure on Rogue to react.  Rogue haven’t been a great team when it comes to playing from behind. Despite establishing himself as one of the best players in Europe, Kacper “Inspired”  Słoma has had some head-scratching decision making when attempting to fight back into a match.

But it has to be more than that — what else is happening?

LeBron James figured something out in his second stint in Cleveland: he didn’t have to care about the regular season. The eastern conference truly couldn’t play against him in the playoffs. Either they would implode on themselves (Philadelphia) or they simply couldn’t hold him back (Toronto). He was that good.

There was the thought for a long period of time that no matter the case, the end result in the LEC playoffs would be G2 and Fnatic and they would crush all participants in their way. Whatever third team would join them would just be the team that was last to face them. Maybe Rogue were just the unfortunate obstructions in their way.

They weren’t. The crazy thing about Rogue is that they have been eliminated by five different teams in five different splits:

2019 Summer – Schalke 04 Esports (3-1)

2020 Spring – Origen (3-1)

2020 Summer – G2 Esports (3-2)

2021 Spring – MAD Lions (3-2)

2021 Summer – Fnatic (3-0)

Rogue doesn’t necessarily have that excuse — that they were simply going up against a generational team or player. It becomes even more difficult when MAD Lions — their narrative rival — is progressing quicker.

But they made it to Worlds this year and G2 didn’t.

Rogue has lucked out in a lot of ways. They haven’t really had to “win” in the playoffs to make it to the Worlds stage. They’ve been able to rely on regular season success to carry them over the finish line. They’re rewarded for their efforts but aren’t earning it in the same way as others. They were supposed to be competing in the play-ins this year yet were able to take advantage of the Vietnamese participants were unable to attend due to COVID.

And Rogue fans may be fine with the result of their Worlds appearance. Despite exiting in the group stages, they exit as the third place team Group A – losing in heartbreaking fashion to Cloud9 in a tiebreaker match. Its progress. 

Yet it also feels as if Rogue will be making the mistake to be content with where they are at and how they are progressing. Potentially, they may make an adjustment to bring in better players — more than likely looking at a new support.

But as we somewhat learned, Rogue already have some incredible players. Steven “Hans Sama” Liv would have the tournament of his life, with his value sky-rocketing. Their young mid-jungle duo both looked presentable And while not necessarily having incredible tournaments,  both their top and support were able to recover in critical moments and both were key figure points throughout the regular season.

It kind of feels like Rogue should run it back with their roster.

And it is why the thought of a new coach becomes a lot more interesting. Rogue haven’t signaled that a coaching change is on their mind and it truly hasn’t felt as if fredy122 has been a problematic figurehead. Its all about progression. Rogue need that extra “something.” Bringing in a veteran in Andrei “Odoamne”  Pascu felt like the move that was meant to take the team over the top. He didn’t.

It is why a coaching change feels right.

The team needs a new sense of direction regarding how to approach the game of League of Legends. It isn’t to say that what fredy122 and company have been preaching isn’t right, it simply isn’t working against some of the best competition in the world. Its been a long time and both parties should be happy with their success and accomplishments. Rogue can pick-up a coach that can turn a contender into a champion. Meanwhile, fredy122 can be the key piece a team needs in developing their next generation.

Or Rogue can preach patience.

An organization that has been one of the key participants in re-shaping the LEC still hasn’t cashed in on their newfound status as one of Europe’s best. Instead, they’re beginning to feel like the organization that will fall behind. As players like Misfits and Vitality continue to ramp up operations and we wait for G2 Esports to throw its muscle around, Rogue are going to be the ones to watch.

Are they ready to be contenders?


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