Potential mid-season targets for EU LCS teams

The 2018 EU LCS Spring Split has concluded, and Europe enters the mid-season. This year is special, because, for the first time in a while, relegation is abolished. While franchising has not happened in the European league, like North America, teams remain secure for Summer Split, regardless of their place in the spring standings.

This time last year, the EU LCS saw several major mid-season roster changes, including Ninjas in Pyjamas and Mysterious Monkeys entering the league, Misfits picking up Maxlore and YamatoCannon leaving Splyce. With the risk of relegation off the table, it is unclear if this mid-season will show the same volume and depth of changes. That being said, here are the most likely targets for EU LCS teams hoping to shake things up this mid-season.

Unicorns of Love: Top-Support

Unicorns of Love may need to consider replacing WhiteKnight this mid-season

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The Unicorns finished Spring Split in tenth place with a 6-12 record. They spent almost the entire nine weeks in last place. Kold stood out as their key catalyst in the early game, playing Kayn, Evelynn, Kha’Zix, and Rengar outside of the meta junglers. His momentum and activity during laning phase pushed the pace for Unicorns’ opponents, but rarely allowed the team to snowball. Samux also performed fairly well across the split, with a string of carry performances on Tristana. These two feel like the best place to start for UOL’s roster moving forward.

Exileh continued his trend of tumultuous performances, sometimes carrying, sometimes feeding. Since Spring 2017, Exileh has been one of the most inconsistent mid laners in the EU LCS. His high points look dominant, while his low points look like feeding. Unicorns of Love will probably keep him, but it would not be too surprising if they replaced him. Bringing in new players to play around him may be better in the short term.

WhiteKnight and Totoro feel like the weak links on this roster. Unicorns’ top laner simply lost lane almost every match, and rarely made up for it in the mid-game. His Gnar was relatively good, but WhiteKnight finished significantly low in almost every top lane statistic. Totoro had a decent LCS debut, but did not bring a “wow” factor to the Unicorns. He was able to make some big plays on Alistar and Tahm Kench, but his Braum and Rakan did not translate as well. Best.GG ranks Totoro seventh among EU LCS supports, around the same level as Promisq, Targamas and Vander. However, these players are a tier below Kasing, Hylissang and Norskeren.

Giants: bot-support

Giants may need to consider replacing Steeelback this mid-season

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Giants came out swinging this spring, hovering among top four for the first six weeks. Unfortunately, a 1-5 record over the last three weeks dropped them to finish ninth overall. Once the meta shifted towards faster games with bottom-centric compositions, Giants fell apart. Ruin could not carry as much as his first few weeks. Betsy did not have adequate time to safely scale to late fights. Djoko’s supportive, control jungle style became much less effective.

However, Steeelback and Targamas were the biggest offenders. Steeelback and Targamas finished the season at the bottom of the league in almost every statistic, from laning phase to damage and KDA. Targamas’ rookie status allows him some grace, but Steeelback is a veteran of Europe, and this split was awful for him. Going into Summer Split, it would not be surprising to see at least one of these two replaced.

Of course, Giants entered the Spring Split with four-fifths of a new roster. It takes time for these players to synergize and build communication, especially when it comes to adapting to changes together. However, it is alarming when a team starts the split strong and progressively gets worse and worse. Betsy and Steelback have played in the EU LCS for a long time, but have not seen success in quite a while. Giants have a lot to think about in this mid-season. They do not need to worry about relegation, but if their goal is to compete with top teams in Europe, then they will have to make changes for summer.

Everyone else

Misfits and ROCCAT may not need to replace anyone on their rosters this mid-season

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Without the fear of relegation, the other eight teams will most likely maintain their rosters. H2K and ROCCAT probably field the weakest rosters, on paper, in the league; yet, they made it into playoffs. Misfits and Schalke 04 are composed of star players, but they consistently lost key matches, and could not execute in clutch moments. Fnatic, G2, Splyce and Vitality showed moments of brilliance over the course of the Spring Split. The players on these teams are not the issue.

Schalke could maybe benefit from organizational change. Something prevented their superstar roster from success, whether that be coaching, management, or something else. From the outside, it is impossible to know what underlying issues plagued them. Misfits falls into a similar category, with three-fifths of their Worlds roster unable to place top six in Europe. Granted, PowerOfEvil and IgNar were powerful components of the squad last year. It is difficult to believe that two new players under the same coach and organization would result in such lowered performance.

H2K and ROCCAT clawed their way into playoffs through steady improvement over the split and winning when it counted. H2K, specifically, made roster adjustments part-way through the split, which made a huge difference in their performance. They could realistically keep what is working and build off of it. ROCCAT understandably struggled in different positions throughout the spring, considering both its solo laners are Korean imports. However, Memento and Norskeren provided stalwart, consistent support. HeaQ exhibited highs and lows, but seems promising overall. Roster-wise, it may be worth retaining these players and working on consistency, communication, and synergy.

The 2018 mid-season may be the least tumultuous in Europe’s history. The region has historically seen rapid turnover between splits, due to new organizations entering the league regularly. Without the Promotion Tournament, the current LCS organizations can rest on their laurels and turn towards improvement and development, rather than risky, immediate change. Unless top talent turns to North America’s bottom-tier teams, expect those players to remain on their same teams.

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FOX Altec did not prepare anything special for Clutch Gaming's bot lane

FOX Altec on facing Clutch’s bottom lane for third place: “I was not afraid of Clutch’s 2-v-2.”

Echo Fox decimated Clutch Gaming in their third place match of the NA LCS Spring Split playoffs. Their top-side trio of Huni-Dardoch-Fenix took over every single game, leaving both bottom lanes to their own devices. Such inactive bottom lanes are very different from the other games of quarterfinals and semifinals.

Quarters and Semis

Looking at Team Liquid’s victories over Cloud9, Doublelift and Olleh accounted for roughly 73 percent kill participation. Sneaky was involved in 86 percent of Cloud9’s kills. In the TSM-Clutch series, Zven and Mithy combined for an 8-27-23 scoreline (1.15 KDA) versus Apollo and Hakuho’s 20-7-48 (9.71 KDA). When Echo Fox lost to Team Liquid and Clutch lost to 100 Thieves in semifinals, Doublelift and Cody Sun won Player of the Series, with Doublelift specifically dominating TL’s series. Altec and Adrian combined for a 1.31 KDA in that series.

Third place match

Compare those matches to the third place match. Altec only participated in 36 percent of Echo Fox’s kills. Even as support, Adrian was only involved in 51 percent. FOX barely used their bottom lane to take the 3-0 over Clutch Gaming, turning the “bot-centric meta” on its head.

FOX Altec did not preapre anything special before facing Clutch Gaming in the third place match

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When asked about preparing to face Apollo and Hakuho leading into the third place match, Altec responded “I was not afraid of Clutch’s 2-v-2. Sure, Hakuho has looked good on Thresh, but Adrian and I have unique picks of our own that we can pull out whenever we need to. We practiced a lot in scrims, but we didn’t prepare anything special for this series.”

Altec and Adrian played fine. They didn’t need to do more than keep Apollo and Hakuho glued to bottom lane by constantly pushing. Echo Fox only banned Thresh once, but Clutch drafted Tahm Kench and Braum for Hakuho, while Apollo’s Caitlyn and Varus failed to earn any early pressure. Adrian’s Nami was crucial in disengaging any roams and ganks from Febiven and Lira, keeping Altec safe.

Fenix, Dardoch, and Huni’s spectacular play won this series. With their snowballs rolling, Altec and Adrian simply needed to play safe, which they accomplished. Clutch’s bottom lane was unable to gain leads for themselves, and they watched the rest of their team crumbled.

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H2K are trending up in week six EU LCS

Trending in EU LCS: Week 6

The EU LCS returned this week after a brief hiatus to accommodate Rift Rivals. Since week five, Riot introduced patch 7.13 with several minor balance updates. Fans were able to see some adaptation in the various regional showdowns, but many European teams were able to experiment longer with the patch while Fnatic, Unicorns of Love and G2 played on the patch against representatives of the NA LCS.

Every new patch affects the meta. Every new meta affects teams’ performances. There were not too many huge shake-ups in the standings this week. However, week six does finish with some EU LCS elements trending up and others trending down.

Trending Up

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing after week six of the EU LCS. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put their team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

G2 are trending up after week six of EU LCS

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G2

G2 bounces back from a disappointing Rift Rivals showing by defeating Splyce in a dominant 2-0. Perkz looked much more comfortable in the mid lane, ending the series with a 16-1-15 scoreline. Trick utilized Sejuani in the jungle in both games. All-in-all, G2’s wins were clean. For example, the second game was less than 24 minutes long, and the samurai accumulated a 10,000 gold advantage in that time. With Misfits’ loss to Unicorns of Love, G2 tie for second place in Group A with a 4-3 record.

H2K

H2K secured another 2-0 over a Group A team, Roccat. While the win is not unexpected, the sheer severity of Roccat’s losses show that H2K wants to be at the top of Group B at the end of the Summer Split. Game one ended in 26 minutes and game two in 21 minutes. H2K did not die a single time in game one, and only sacrificed two turrets. Roccat got five kills in game two, but only one turret. Nuclear and Chei did not die a single time over the course of the series. H2K has finished every winning series 2-0, and they have only lost games to UOL and Fnatic. They will look to solidify themselves as the third best team in Europe against G2 next week.

MM Kikis is trending up after week six of EU LCS

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MM Kikis

Mysterious Monkeys picked up another series win this week against Roccat, but it was not pretty. Monkeys’ top laner, Kikis, came up huge in every single game to keep the team competitive. In game one it was a split-pushing Jayce. Game two was a mechanically intensive Akali, weaving between enemies, in and out of stealth. In game three it was an aggressive Renekton, finishing almost 4,000 gold over his lane opponent. While the Monkeys do not look too great as a team, Kikis is trying to be a menace in the top lane.

Cinderhulk junglers

The Enchantment: Cinderhulk jungle items were buffed because “while tanks are trying to farm Cinderhulk, everybody else around them is already farming more quickly,” according to the 7.13 patch notes. In response to this change, EU LCS junglers prioritized Gragas and Sejuani much higher than week five. Zac maintained his high ban rate, and was picked once by H2K’s Jankos. Olaf was locked in twice by Vitality’s Djoko. There were still other non-Cinderhulk junglers, such as Elise and Kha’Zix, but they were much less frequent.

Kalista ADC

The Spear of Vengeance has returned to the bottom lane in week six. While Kalista has seen a few lock-ins prior to this week, her play rate jumped this week. She was picked in seven out of 15 games, and banned in another three. This bump in pick and ban comes off the back of her strong showing at Rift Rivals, particularly the LCK-LPL-LMS showdown. Kalista enables her support to engage or disengage around her ultimate, Fate’s Call. Therefore, EU LCS bottom lanes paired her with Alistar, Rakan, Braum and Thresh. Finishing with four wins and three losses, she is not a guaranteed win, but Kalista will most likely continue to be a prioritized marksman pick.

Trending Down

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week six of the EU LCS. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past. These elements are downward trending in the EU LCS.

Splyce's bottom lane is trending down after week six EU LCS

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Splyce bottom lane

Splyce lost 0-2 to G2 in their week six series, and none of their players looked particularly strong. One part of the map that looked weaker than usual was Splyce’s bottom lane duo, Kobbe and Mikyx. They ended the series with a combined 1-17-15 record playing Kalista-Rakan and Varus-Bard. In game one, G2’s Zven got a Triple Kill before 18 minutes, which included Kobbe and Mikyx. In game two, Zven killed Mikyx around five minutes, and Perkz killed Kobbe around seven minutes to start the snowball.

Roccat

Roccat finishes week six with two series losses against H2K and Mysterious Monkeys. This is going to heavily hinder their chance to make playoffs. H2K completely demolished them in two sub-27-minute games. Roccat lost large early leads in games one and two against the Monkeys. Luckily, they were able to bring it back in game two. However, they still lost game three in convincing fashion. Roccat’s record falls to 2-6, two games ahead of Ninjas in Pyjamas and two games behind G2.

Top lane Galio is trending down in week six of EU LCS

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Galio top

While he was not completely relegated from professional play in the EU LCS, Galio was not drafted into the top lane this week. Tanks and bruisers, such as Renekton, Jarvan IV, Kled, Jax and Gnar were prioritized more. Galio’s armor was reduced in patch 7.13, which made him particularly weak against these AD threats. He may remain as a mid lane niche pick, as he was drafted by UOL’s Exileh and NIP’s Nagne in week six.

Lee Sin jungle

Unlike Galio, Lee Sin was not targeted in patch 7.13 at all. However, Enchantment: Cinderhulk, Rek’Sai and Kha’Zix were all changed in ways that negatively impacted Lee Sin. He was picked once by H2K’s Jankos and once by MM’s Amazing. Graves and Kindred were both picked while Lee Sin was still available. Olaf and Elise were played just as many times, or more. While Lee Sin is almost always a possible pick in professional League of Legends, he seems to have taken a back seat in the EU LCS for the time being.


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Summer 2017 over/under (part 2): LCS players above expectations

With three weeks of NA and EU LCS in the books, audiences are starting to get a feel for teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Some squads have carried over similar strengths from Spring Split. Others have risen or fallen in performance. But even within rosters that tend to play consistently, there always seems to be an ebb and flow on the individual player level.

Last week, I highlighted players who need to return to past form for their respective teams to have a chance at peak performance. This week it is all about the other side, summoners who are trending upward so far this summer. These players have visibly improved. They are putting up statistics that are exciting and surprising. More importantly, though, these members have elevated their teams’ overall performances with their gameplay on the Rift.

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

CLG, Top laner

KP%:    61.8%   (2nd top laner)

D%:        19%    (4th top laner)

Darshan is a player who has come and gone as a presence in the top lane. While he almost mirrors his statistics from Spring Split, Summer Split seems different. Many of the imported top laners who struggled to find their place last split currently feel much stronger. Yet, Darshan has been able to keep up enough in lane to help CLG pressure the map through split-pushing and cleaner Teleports. Darshan’s team will rely on him to anchor his lane against top-heavy teams in the NA LCS.

CLG Darshan is exceeding expectations in top lane

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DIG Shrimp is exceeding expectations in the jungle

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Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Dignitas, Jungler

KP%:    79.1%   (2nd overall)

XPD@10:    325  (3rd overall)

Dignitas’ newest jungler, Shrimp, has been on a tear so far this split. He and top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, are the only members of the team to start ahead of their opponents at 10 minutes. Despite Dignitas’ early deficits, Shrimp has enabled the team to control Elder Dragon and Baron better than most teams in the NA LCS. His Lee Sin is particularly strong.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy, Mid laner

KDA:    4.2   (4th mid laner)

DPM:    494  (6th mid laner)

Pirean is by no means close to the best mid laner in the NA LCS. However, his addition to Team Envy has seemed to boost their overall performance. Within the team, Pirean has the highest KDA, lowest death share, and ties Apollo “Apollo” Price in damage share. Even in Envy’s losses, the mid laner looks proactive on picks like Taliyah and Ahri. Pirean seems like a much better fit than Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in spring.

NV Pirean is performing above expectations in mid lane

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UOL Samux is exceeding expectations in bottom lane

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Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, Bot laner

DPM:    604   (4th overall)

DMG%: 28%  (6th overall)

Despite already meshing well with Unicorns of Love in his rookie split, Samux is solidifying himself as a top AD carry in EU LCS this split. He is putting out high damage and keeping his deaths low, sporting a 7.7 KDA. Samux’s positioning and decision-making have been crucial to Unicorns’ scary team-fighting. Standing out this way among a strong field of European bot lanes truly is a feat.

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in

Roccat, Support

D%:   15.4%  (2nd support)

KP%:  68.5%  (6th support)

The flashiest Rakan player in the EU LCS, Wadid has been a primary initiator for Roccat this split. This trend started during Roccat’s win streak towards the end of Spring Split, but he has blossomed these past few weeks. Wadid enables his bottom lane partner, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss, to get ahead during laning phase and clean up team-fights. Viewers feel this player’s presence on the map, which is impressive considering there are several competitive, veteran support players in the league.

ROC Wadid is exceeding expectations as support

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honorable mention

IMT Cody Sun and Olleh are above expectations in bottom lane

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Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Immortals, Bot lane duo

DPM: 534,251 (2nd bot lane duo)

FB%: 27%,20% (1st bot laner, 1st support)

The success of Immortals’ bottom lane is difficult to separate between marksman and support. Both Cody Sun and Olleh have exhibited vast improvements from their starts at IEM Gyeonggi. Many fans could see the power shift towards the end of Spring Split, but not to the current degree. This duo has consistently pressured opponents throughout the game in laning, turrets and team-fights. Olleh’s aggressive Bard and Morgana pairs particularly well with Cody Sun’s Caitlyn and Varus. Immortals’ bottom lane has been a force so far, and remaining at the top of the standings will definitely depend on their continued growth.

All of these players are playing above their previous benchmarks. It only takes a short time for above expectations to turn into the expectation, and, as the NA and EU LCS advance, viewers will look for continued improvement. No one will necessarily remember which teams and players were stomping or slumping three weeks into the split. If these players truly want to leave their mark, they will need to maintain this high level of gameplay over many more grueling weeks of League of Legends.


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