Who will remain the King of Europe?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.