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League of Legends

No Longer the Underdogs: Rogue’s Need to Reach the Top of the Mountain

Rogue is a feel good story.

The brain child of Tomislav “flyy” Mihailov, the organization continues to see improvement and has become one of the best in all of Europe. Walking the line between having an incredible talent development program in AGO Rogue along with dropping the bag for premium talent, they’re doing a lot of things right.

But they haven’t made it to the finals yet.

The LEC region has seen improvement in their upper-middle of the pack yet all organizations continue to chase the likes of Fnatic and G2. Five splits of competitive action, two splits where they realistically could have or could be winning the title and only disappointment to show for it. Failing to see a post-season final in 2020 Summer was a red flag for the organization for change and they quickly took action to resolve. However, their Round 1 loss to MAD Lions might setting off an alarm that something is wrong.

A team that has so often been measured on the rift and in their approach to their roster construction may just need another change to overcome their playoff demons.

Continuing to Improve

Rogue developed something special in 2019. After an impressive performance in the Ultraliga, Rogue would bring in Finn “Finn” Wiestål, Kacper “Inspired” Słoma and Emil “Larssen” Larsson from their academy line-up. Competing with a veteran bottom lane and more importantly, having  Oskar “Vander” Bogdan as an in-game leader helped the team improve from dead last in spring to fifth place in the summer split. And after upsetting Spylce in the first round of the post season, a hype train was building for Rogue – even with their disappointing exit against Schalke 04.

Since then, they’ve been building off of that steam. Making minor improvements to their roster has panned out well in terms of regular season performance. Bringing in Steven “Hans sama” Liv and Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu provided stability to their respective roles – two areas that were key weaknesses in their post-season woes. Their front office would surprise fans by promoting Adrian “Trymbi” Trybus and moving on from a leader in Vander but it has worked out well so far. Trymbi and Inspired have been a lethal combination.

Split over split, they’ve seen statistical improvements in their early game performances. They’re increasing their average gold lead at fifteen minutes by 115, improving their first dragon percentage by 28% and are improving their first turret percentage by 6%. They still average a 34 minute game time but have increased the entertainment aspect of things with an increase combined kills per minute by 0.16.

It hasn’t necessarily been all rosy. Their kill-to-death ratio is down 0.18 points, their Baron and Dragon control have all dipped. But for the most part, not bad.

Rogue have found comfort in a tactical approach to competitive League of Legends. At times, they give the impression that they are one-dimensional. But when it works, it works incredibly well.

No Longer Rookies

Did you know that Simon “fredy122” Payne has been the head coach of Team ROCCAT/Rogue since December of 2017?

A player that was a legend in the scene as a top laner has been one of the longest standing head coaches in the league. He and Fabian “GrabbZ” Lohmann have been with their current organizations for over three years – the longest in the LEC.

Rogue clearly has trust in fredy122. Same with assistant coach Marcus “Blumigan” Blom, who joined the main roster in June of 2019. Both have done an excellent job from a talent development perspective and deserve recognition for their accomplishments.

But this is now a team that is expected to contend for championships – or is able to contend for domestic championships. Rogue’s performance at Worlds 2020, only managing to win one game in Group B, was disappointing. It wasn’t a good showing. Finn would actually be the best player for them at the event. Larssen and Inspired weren’t playing up to their usual standards. And calling this a result of their inexperience on an international stage doesn’t necessarily play anymore.

A lot of the small things that come to mind with the line-up no longer fly under the radar. Larssen’s tight champion pool along with hesitant decision making cannot go unnoticed. Hans sama’s less-than-stellar statistical performance this year should be questioned.

You Can’t Keep Waiting

Between the years of 2015 and 2018, the NBA Finals saw the Cleveland Cavaliers face the Golden State Warriors for the title. 30 others teams in the NBA had to be reminded that two teams were above the rest. The eastern conference couldn’t get past LeBron James. The western conference couldn’t keep up with the Warriors.

The mold would be broken with a little bit of luck and much needed change. LeBron James would leave Cleveland and take his talents to Los Angeles. Meanwhile the Toronto Raptors would break up their duo and trade for Kawhi Leonard, becoming the clear front runners in the east. Golden State would still find themselves in the NBA finals however injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson would weaken their overall powers.

The Raptors’ progression was interesting because at the time, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were seen as a duo. Breaking up the two best players on your team seems crazy. Yet, it would be the much needed change that would elevate that roster to such great heights. On the flip side, the Portland Trail Blazers continue to try and make Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum the duo that will win them a title.

They’re still waiting – four first round exits, one western conference finals appearance in seven years.

Alliance and G2 Esports were able turn the tides of the LEC not just by waiting. They instead went out of their way to build a line-up that worked, creating their own path to greatness rather than relying on Fnatic to fail. Their ability to improve coinciding with moments of weakness brought them championships.

A Must Win Situation

Sports personalities will talk about “must win years” for franchises. This feels like a must-win split for Rogue. Fnatic lost Martin “Rekkles” Larsson. G2 has looked vulnerable. Rogue made the move to take their lineup over the top. Improving their record by a game is still impressive – going from 13-5 to 14-4.

But seeing the same problems emerge is rough: Larssen disappearing at times, the team struggling to win team fights, mechanically being overpowered. Despite performing well early, they’re still vulnerable in the mid-to-late game. Previous mentioned flaws with the team still exist..

They’re suffering from success. Rogue are too good to give-up on the line-up but they aren’t at the point where they need to be. And addressing it is scary – how does changing “X” impact “Y”? Continuing their current approach could keep them at the top of the pack, maybe get them a spot at Worlds but not necessarily given them a reasonable fighting chance. It’s electing to be good, not great.

 


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