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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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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Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Finals

EU LCS – The deciding moments

The EU Spring Split came to a close this weekend with G2 Esports facing Fnatic in the finals. Though the final score was 3-0, the series was much closer than the scoreline suggests. As is often the case with such closely matched games, the outcome can be traced back to a single factor that tipped the scales.

Game 1 – Team fight at Baron.

Blue Side: Fnatic

Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau – Sion

Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen – Sejuani

Rasmus “Caps” Winther – Karma

Martin “Rekkles” Larsson – Tristana

Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov – Braum

 

Red Side: G2 Esports

Martin “Wunder” Hansen – Cho’Gath

Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski  – Zac

Luka “Perkz” Perković – Ryze

Petter “Hjarnan” Freyschuss – Jinx

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in – Tahm Kench

The first game of the series started out in G2’s favor. Just after 4 minutes in, Jankos Ganked the rookie Bwipo who had pushed his Top Lane wave just a bit too far. Jankos walked in from the river, and was able to initiate with Stretching Strikes, saving Elastic Slingshot to prevent Bwipo’s escape. With Wunder’s help, he was able to secure First Blood and a small gold lead for G2.

Ten minutes later, G2 stretched this small lead into a considerable one. In a Bot Lane team fight that was originally initiated by Fnatic, G2 found themselves in a position to turn and overwhelm their opponents. Hjarnan took down Hylissang and Broxah, and Perkz was able to kill Bwipo as he tried to escape. Using this advantage, G2 executed the impressive macro play they are known for, and in the following 10 minutes extended their gold lead to nearly 6k as they took three towers, their second dragon, the Rift Herald and Baron Nashor.

Finals

Courtesy of LoL Esports

The decisive fight

Unfortunately for G2, it was this Baron call that allowed Fnatic back into the game. After using Perkz’s Realm Warp to make Bwipo use Unstoppable Onslaught defensively on the bottom half of the map, G2 cleared a wave in the Mid Lane and made their way to the Baron. Despite a Fnatic Teleport coming in behind the pit, G2 decided to stay and finish the objective.  As Broxah cast Glacial Prison and jumped into the enemy team, Caps and Rekkles put down significant damage on Wadid and Wunder. Bwipo landed a knockup from behind the wall, before flashing in and chunking Perkz, Hjarnan, and Jankos down with Soul Furnace. As G2 attempted to escape the Baron Pit, Rekkles melted their health bars one by one, using the resets on his Rocket Jump to follow their Flashes. Jankos was the only survivor for G2, and in the next few minutes Fnatic was able to secure several more objectives.

The next two team fights also went the way of Fnatic, and they nearly ended the game at 33 minutes before Hjarnan respawned and kept the G2 Nexus alive. Fnatic was finally able to end the game at 42 minutes following a clash in the Mid Lane that led to an unofficial Pentakill for Rekkles. Though this is the play captured in most highlight reels, Fnatic may not have made it this far without their victory at the Baron Pit.

 

Game 2 – The double carry

Blue Side: G2 Esports

Wunder –  Gangplank

Jankos – Olaf

Perkz – Karma

Hjarnan – Varus

Wadid – Tahm Kench

 

Red Side: Fnatic

Bwipo – Sion

Broxah – Skarner

Caps – Zoe

Rekkles – Sivir

Hylissang – Braum

In Game 1, Fnatic built their comp around Rekkles being the lone carry.  With three tanks to be the front line, and Caps playing Karma, Rekkles was able to stay alive while putting out 57.9k damage. Their success with this caused G2 to shift their focus going into Game 2. While for their first match, G2 banned three potential Mid Lane champions, they allocated only one ban for Mid Lane in the second. Instead, they focused Rekkles with 3 ADC bans, taking only Ryze away from Caps.

Finals

Courtesy of LoL Esports

The second carry

This suited Fnatic just fine, as they were planning a new strategy for Game 2. They once again went with three tanks, but instead of a secondary support, Caps locked in the high-damage Zoe. Perkz was the aggressor early, and came close to killing Caps around the 5th minute. From there, they continued to farm, staying fairly close in CS. Caps was biding his time. By 10:45, he had enough to purchase Luden’s Echo, and by 11:51, Perkz was dead.

Not only did this solo kill establish a lead for Caps in the mid lane that he kept throughout the game. It also showed that Fnatic could rely on more than just Rekkles to carry them. This additional threat proved too much for G2, and they failed to shut down either one. Despite 6 Magic Resist items on the enemy team, Caps did the most damage in the game by nearly 10k. This focus on MR and Fnatic’s expert team fighting enabled Rekkles to record his second Pentakill of the series. Shorty after this, Fnatic closed out the game to go up 2-0 in the series.

 

Game 3 – Panic

Blue Side: Fnatic

Bwipo – Sion

Broxah – Skarner

Caps – Ryze

Rekkles – Tristana

Hylissang – Janna

 

Red Side: G2 Esports

Wunder – Ornn

Jankos – Zac

Perkz – Cassiopeia

Hjarnan – Sivir

Wadid – Karma

By the time Game 3 came around, it was do or die for G2. Not only had they lost two games in a row to Fnatic, but they had lost both of their head to head matches during the split as well. G2 had been so successful for so long by having superior discipline, macro strategy, and team fighting, but they had found a team that surpassed them in all of those categories.

Only one loss away from being swept in the finals, G2 was desperate, and they played like it. Adjusting their style, they started the game by invading Fnatics jungle. Though they come close to killing Hylissang, he survives, and it puts G2 a bit behind in laning. The early game also saw G2 playing a different game than they were used to. They chased into the river, hoping to catch Broxah, but failed to come close, and lost out on experience and gold in lane. They attempted tower dives and overextended for fights that were not in their favor, forcing them to retreat almost immediately.  Though they got kills and took towers, something was off for G2. They were, understandably, shaken.

Panic sets in

Around the 22nd minute, G2 attempted to take Baron. They seemed indecisive, and were interrupted twice, ultimately wasting nearly two minutes dancing around the objective as Caps pushed the bottom lane into the base. Roughly four minutes later, they attempt Baron again, once again peeling off to fight the 4v5 as Caps split pushed. They managed to kill Hylissang, but then seemed to panic. As Caps chipped down the inhibitor turrets, G2 tried to back. Three members chose to do this inside the Baron Pit, including the flashless Hjarnan. As Fnatic looked to delay their return to base, they discovered the enemy ADC, trapped behind the Epic Monster. Allowing Nashor to do most of the work, Fnatic only had to wait as Hjarnan took giant chunks of damage.

Finals

Courtesy of LoL Esports

With the enemy Carry out of the way, Fnatic was able to put G2 in an impossible position. Caps was nearly on the Nexus, and Bwipo, Broxah, and Rekkles started to take the Baron. Knowing that it would be nearly impossible to defend if Fnatic got Baron, Jankos waited, attempting a heroic Baron steal. Fnatic read the situation perfectly, and stalled. Unable to wait any longer, Jankos dove in, and Fnatic killed both the Baron and the enemy Jungler. Though they did their best, G2 could do nothing to hold off Fnatic at this point, and the series was over.

Looking forward

The finals were a hard fought battle between the former and reigning champions of Europe. Though both had their chances, the superior coaching, strategy, and skill of Fnatic won out in the end. If both teams learn from this intense series, their Summer Split games will be for the history books.

 

I want to extend a special thank you to fellow Hausmate Benjamin Schwartz for his input on this article!

 

Find the rest of my articles here. If you would like to contact me or keep up with things I like, find me on Twitter: @_mrdantes. For more of the best esports news, follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Featured photo courtesy of LoL Esports

 

 

Fnatic will face G2 in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split finals

EU playoffs update: Semifinals review and finals preview

The EU LCS moved into the playoff semifinals this past weekend, with Europe’s quarterfinal winners stepping up to the plate. Splyce met G2 after defeating ROCCAT 3-0 in quarterfinals, while Vitality had beaten H2K 3-2 to face Fnatic in semifinals. Check out last week’s article to get the setup for quarterfinals and semifinals.

G2 v. SPY

G2 defeated Splyce in the 2018 Spring Split semifinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Splyce came into Friday’s match as the slight underdog, as they lost the second place slot in a tiebreaker with G2 at the end of the season. That being said, four of Splyce’s members won All-Pro honors, while only three from G2 were recognized. Splyce also dominated ROCCAT just last week, which made their match-up versus G2 even more exciting.

Their first game kicked off with Perkz giving First Blood to Xerxe’s Trundle in the mid lane. Jankos and the rest of G2 responded with a successful top lane gank and a pair of Ocean Drakes. He then turned to bottom lane for a dive, but KaSing’s Janna ultimate and Odoamne’s Sion Teleport nullified Jankos’ attempt, which turned into a death for Wadid and G2’s bottom turret. Over the next several minutes, Splyce and G2 traded rotations to take all outer turrets until G2 won a mid lane fight and took Baron. Using the pushing pressure, G2 accrued a 7,000 gold lead, but when G2 took their second Baron, Splyce traded for Elder Drake and was able to win every fight from there. They took G2’s Nexus in 42 minutes, still over 5,000 gold behind.

Game two was relatively quiet for the first 15 minutes. G2 was able to sustain enough lane pressure to allow Jankos space to take two Infernal Drakes. Wunder showcased the power of Swain, gaining around 40 CS over Odoamne and pushing down both solo lane turrets. G2 more-or-less forced their will onto Splyce for the rest of the game, sometimes a bit overzealous. Hjarnan’s Jhin and Jankos’ Skarner were able to engage onto Splyce at will, which allowed G2 to easily siege. Securing a Baron at 25 minutes was the straw that broke Splyce’s camel’s back, as G2 successfully kited any counter-engage from Odoamne’s Sion or Xerxe’s Sejuani. G2 ended the game almost 10,000 gold ahead by 34 minutes.

G2 gained the early lead in game three, by surviving a massive bottom lane gank from Splyce. They came out of it with two kills and bottom lane turret for just Wadid’s death. G2 also outplayed Splyce when they contested Rift Herald, but Odoamne, Xerxe, and Nisqy took mid lane turret in exchange. By 20 minutes, Splyce and G2 took all six outer turrets. They danced around the first Baron on even terms, but G2 secured it and a kill, which cracked open a 5,000 gold lead. After a surprise pick on Perkz’s Zoe, Splyce turned to secure Baron. Kobbe secured the objective, but G2 forced the fight and Hjarnan’s Jhin cleaned up a Quadra Kill. G2 pushed the series to match point.

Splyce and G2 remained even through the first 20 minutes of game four. However, G2 outplayed Splyce once more in a large top lane fight to take the lead. Odoamne’s Camille teleported in with KaSing’s Shen ult on him, but Wunder’s Fiora teleported in reply. Hjarnan and Wadid beat Kobbe to the lane, which resulted in a three for one for G2. Splyce pressured Baron just after 20 minutes, which resulted in a pick, but G2 staved them off of the objectives. Minutes later, Splyce sent three members bottom to kill Wunder, but G2 secured the Baron in response. In a desperation play, Splyce turned to pressure Baron again, at 33 minutes, but G2 took the fight, took the Baron, took the Elder Drake, and took the series. Hjarnan went 19-2-22 over the four games.

FNC v. VIT

Fnatic defeated Vitality in the 2018 EU LCS Semifinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Analysts were not sure what to make of Vitality versus Fnatic coming into the match-up. Fnatic were clearly the most dominant team in Europe, but Vitality had been their biggest rival during the regular season. Most expected the early game to revolve around Caps and Jiizuke in the mid lane, while Rekkles would be Fnatic’s late game ace up their sleeve. On top of that, Bwipo would substitute for SoaZ, due to an injury. The series could theoretically go many ways.

Fnatic drafted a powerful poke composition for game one, including Nidalee, Zoe, and Ezreal. Most of Fnatic’s pressure was on mid lane, as Broxah pulled off three successful ganks on Jiizuke pre-13 minutes. Although Vitality got a couple of picks on Hylissang’s Tahm Kench, Fnatic secured a 4,000 gold lead by 16:30. Caps’ Zoe roamed several times to nuke down Gilius and Minitroupax, while Fnatic also took first turret and a Mountain Drake. Fnatic took an uncontested Baron just after 20 minutes, and they finished in less than 26 minutes.

Game two saw Fnatic take a level one jungle invade, which ended as a one for one. Vitality ruled the early game this time around, as Gilius’ Skarner pulled off successful ganks top and mid. Fnatic also got outplayed in an early skirmish in their top-side jungle, giving Vitality a 2,000 gold lead around 10 minutes. Hylissang’s Braum made an aggressive play in the mid lane to shut down Jiizuke’s Taliyah and Gilius, which helped even out the game. Fnatic continued to pick up kills by punishing Vitality’s aggression towards Bwipo’s Gangplank in the side lane, gaining their own 3,000 gold lead by 20 minutes. The rest of the game was the Fnatic show, as Vitality only got one kill for the rest of the 30-minute game–no more turrets or neutral objectives.

Vitality got their first win in the third game. Gilius’ Olaf and Jiizuke’s Taliyah focused on the top side and Cabochard’s Camille pick, roaming and ganking Bwipo’s Cho’Gath twice in the first 10 minutes. With so much pressure, Cabochard was able to open up the map, taking several turrets, but Fnatic rotated as a team to match. They evened out the gold around 20 minutes, aggressively outplaying Vitality with Rekkles’ Ezreal and Caps’ Swain. Vitality pushed Fnatic off of a 20-minute Baron and took it for themselves. Fnatic returned to Baron around 29 minutes, but Gilius stole it and Cabochard and Jiizuke’s split push knocked down Fnatic’s Nexus turrets. With the next siege, Vitality closed game three.

Fnatic won out the early skirmishes of game four, mostly centered around Caps’ Swain. By 11 minutes, he was 3-0-2 with 100 percent kill participation. Vitality were active in finding picks on Bwipo’s Gangplank and shutting down Caps, but Fnatic always traded for turrets. Fnatic won the first big fight in the mid lane around 19 minutes, and they snowballed from there. Vitality contested Fnatic’s every move, but Broxah’s Trundle and Hylissang’s Braum permanently slowed their opponents, easily allowing Rekkles and Caps to secure kills. Fnatic took a Baron at 15 minutes without losing any members, and the following siege ended the game in 30 minutes. Vitality lost the series 1-3, qualifying Fnatic for their first finals in two years.

G2 v. FNC

G2 will face Fnatic in the 2018 EU LCS Finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The classic “Old Kings versus New Kings” showdown will happen this weekend for the EU LCS Spring Split title. Of the 10 total LCS championships, Fnatic won five between 2013 and 2015, while G2 has won the last four in a row. These two organizations are the most decorated in EU LCS history.

But these are very different teams than the championship winners of the past. Huni, Reignover, Febiven, Zven, and Mithy play in North America now. Trick moved to the LCK and Yellowstar coaches. Perkz and Rekkles are the only remaining members of these previous winning teams, and everyone is watching them in this final.

2018 Spring Split G2 and Fnatic have relatively similar styles. Their junglers usually wait a while to make moves, opting for safer farm in the early game. Wunder and Perkz generally gain leads from laning phase, while Rekkles and Hylissang are more controlled for Fnatic. Giving a dragon or a turret is okay for these two, as long as they are safely farming and controlling vision.

However, once Baron spawns, the game truly starts. Both of these teams jockey for vision around Baron non-stop. Caps and Hylissang are often Fnatic’s initiators, engaging onto unsuspecting targets or baiting their opponents into an unwanted skirmish. Perkz and Hjarnan stay on the backline, while Jankos and Wadid check all fog-of-war. Wunder is quick to teleport into the fight, while Bwipo tends to hesitate.

Before semifinals, this match-up would be much more Fnatic-favored. But, with Hjarnan stepping up big time against Splyce, and Bwipo subbing in for Soaz, this match-up should be extremely close. Both teams showed variations in their playstyles over their series. Fnatic showed their extreme poke composition and strong team-fighting. G2 showed they can play split-pushing with Fiora and a pick composition with Zoe and Thresh.

Expect intense drafts from these two. Braum, Camille, Swain, Zoe, and Gangplank proved extremely strong for both teams. G2 and Fnatic will most likely stick to the meta picks and opt for scaling through the first phase of the game. Once they are in-game, the victories are going to come down to five-versus-five team-fighting and macro play. It should be a historic series, as these fights are going to be explosive. G2 could tie up the trophy count five and five, or Fnatic may re-establish their dominance in Europe. Find out on Sunday, April 8.

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Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Graph of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split standings over time.

Graphing the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split standings over six weeks

Teams are moving up and down in the EU LCS standings, making 2018 excitingly chaotic so far. They have played six weeks of games, and no one is undefeated or out of the running for playoffs. With most of the league within two wins of each other, every win from here on out will matter. Giants, Splyce and Misfits are tied for fourth at 6-6. Schalke and Roccat are tied for seventh at 5-7. H2K and Unicorns of Love are tied for ninth at 4-8. This totem pole is tight.

However, it has not been this way the entire Spring Split. Even though Unicorns of Love, H2K and Vitality have mostly hovered in the same place over six weeks, all of the other teams have shifted one and a half places per week, on average. All of the movement amounts to frequent upsets and team inconsistencies week-to-week.

Graphing the standings

Graph of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split standings over time.

Graph of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split standings over time.

Other than Vitality (light grey), Unicorns of Love (pink), and H2K (black), Europe’s teams have shown wide mobility in the standings this split. After week one, eight of the ten teams stood tied for second place, signified by the intersection at the left of the graph. In week two, Giants (royal blue), Roccat (sky blue), and Misfits (red) secured two wins, while G2 (dark grey) and H2K took two losses, and Fnatic (orange), Splyce (yellow), and Schalke 04 (green) finished 1-1. This checkpoint represented a huge fault-line between the top four teams and the rest.

Week three represented a great reunification. Six teams finished the week 1-1, Roccat went 0-2, and G2 went 2-0, which pulled half the league into fourth place. This is where the most lines intersect after the first week. Schalke beat Giants, but lost to Vitality. Splyce beat Misfits, but lost to G2. Fnatic beat Roccat, but lost to Misfits. These wins and losses make it impossible to create a clear “greater than-less than” paradigm to measure each team’s relative strength.

Since week three, it has become more and more clear that Fnatic and G2 are online. Their lines continued to climb over weeks four and five, while Giants, Schalke, and Misfits fell. Splyce and Roccat meandered through the middle of the league, while Vitality, H2K, and UOL frame the top and bottom.

into week seven

Week six represents the most stratification in the standings so far this Spring Split. There is a single first, second and third team. Three teams are tied for fourth, two for seventh and two for ninth. H2K and UOL are only two wins from Giants and Splyce, making this split’s playoff race an exciting one.

Entering week seven, Fnatic has the most momentum, represented by its extended upward curve from week two to week six. G2 would have been in Fnatic’s spot, had they won the head-to-head this week. UOL are moving upwards for the first time all split, and Schalke stemmed the bleeding of weeks three through five.

Meanwhile, Vitality and Roccat move into week seven with the most downward momentum. Their 0-2 weeks have dropped them two and three spots, respectively. Giants have slowly been flowing down the standings, while Splyce are the equilibrium point, remaining in fourth-fifth for five weeks in a row.

These could be the standings if week six repeats.

These could be the standings if week six repeats.

If week seven turns out to be a repeat of week six, then Fnatic would pull farther away in first at 11-3. G2 would also solidify itself as the second place at 9-5. Vitality, Giants, Splyce and Misfits would all conjoin onto third place with 7-7 records. Unicorns of Love would meet Schalke in seventh place at 6-8, while Roccat would drop to ninth, along with H2K, with a 5-9 record.

Any team that improves enough to take a 2-0 week will drastically improve its chances at playoffs. Teams like H2K and Unicorns of Love that have been floating along the bottom of the standings have a strong chance to climb if they can get an edge. No roster is completely hopeless at this point.

With so many key players switching players in the off-season, and the return of the single round robin, best-of-one format, the EU LCS teams have not quite formed their identities. Every week, teams come in and beat teams above them and lose to teams below them. This fluid movement in the standings has made it difficult to mentally formulate which teams are truly better than others. With four weeks left, it is time for teams to put up or shut up.

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Hylissang may change teams in the off-season

Strategies for success in the EU LCS off-season

November 20, 2017 marks the start of the free agency period for the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split, and it is soon approaching. Organizations will begin signing, trading and letting go of various players with hopes of putting together a competitive roster. They will cite all kinds of reasons for making their decisions, but, at the end of the day, they all go into the off-season with one goal in mind: winning.

Various different team-building strategies have been successful in past years. The 2017 World Championship qualifiers from Europe showcased three totally different strategies, which ultimately got them to the top of the standings. G2 kept their entire roster from 2016, which allowed them to continue building synergy while bringing on Weldon Green as an assistant coach. Fnatic completely rebuilt their roster around their star AD carry, Rekkles. The endemic organization brought on a mix of veterans and rookies, which allowed them to shape their playstyle over the course of the year. Misfits came into the league from the Challenger Series, and only replaced their jungler and mid laner. Their focus on combining younger Europeans with talented Korean imports provided fertile ground for experimentation.

Between the reported changes for the EU LCS in 2019, and the expectations surrounding North America’s franchised league starting next year, it feels like there is a lot of pressure on European organizations in 2018. The group system, best-of-three series, mid-season relegations, none of these will be suitable excuses next year. The World Championship is one year away. The path to get there begins in a few days, and decisions made in the off-season will ripple from now until then. Each organization should have had ample time to reflect on 2017 and develop strategies that will get them ahead of their competitors.

Giants Gaming

Gilius returns to the EU LCS with Giants Gaming

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Giants enter the 2018 Spring Split after taking down Ninjas in Pyjamas and Schalke 04 in the 2018 Spring Promotion tournament. Gilius should be a familiar personality to welcome back into the LCS, but everyone else is new. Giants enjoyed a relatively strong run through the Challenger Series, but they would benefit from some upgrades. If a veteran support like Kasing signed on, it would bring more stability on and off the Rift to prop up the rookie carries.

This strategy would mirror Misfits’ updates when they entered the LCS. By bringing in another teammate with multiple splits of LCS experience, Giants could gain leadership and maturity with just a small investment. It would give the new guys an opportunity to prove themselves against other teams without feeling like they are being thrown to the wolves. Spring Split is slightly less important in the grand scheme of the year, so experimentation is a smaller risk. If the team is still not competitive after that change, then mid-season would be the time to shake it up a bit more.

Schalke 04

Schalke 04 joins the EU LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Schalke 04 is the other team promoted from last year’s Challenger scene. SmittyJ is their most veteran player, with several splits of LCS experience under his belt. Memento has been in and out of the LCS for a couple of years now, but the rest of the team is relatively new. Upset is a lauded up-and-coming AD carry, which should be Schalke’s strongest weapon.

It would not be surprising if Schalke took the 2016 Splyce approach to entering the LCS: keeping the entire roster. Each of these players actually produced carry performances last year. With the announcement that Krepo will be head coach this spring, Schalke may decide to invest in infrastructure, rather than talent. They may also be turned off to veteran talents due to last time they entered the LCS with Steve, Gilius, Fox, MrRallez and Sprattel. Just like Giants, Spring Split should act as the testing ground for these new players.

Team Vitality

Week 8: Team Vitality on stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Despite optimism towards Vitality’s acquisition of VandeR in the mid-season, the team still had a lackluster Summer Split performance. It turned out that Vitality’s issues ran much deeper than Hachani’s death share. The jungle position turned out to be much leakier than previously understood, and since the role was essential to team-wide success. This position should be Vitality’s primary focus in the off-season. Cabochard and Nukeduck were consistently strong in the laning phase, but could not get much going in the mid-game.

Shook and Amazing are veteran options that will become available since Mysterious Monkeys and NiP were relegated. Kirei, Loulex or even Santorin will be available from other Challenger teams. It may not be the best time for Team Vitality to pick up someone without experience, because they placed highest when they had a complete veteran squad in Spring 2016. AD carry is the only position possibly worth filling with a younger player, kind of like North America’s Immortals this summer. HeaQ is the best recommendation.

Roccat

Roccat enter the off-season looking for change

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The other fourth place team, Roccat’s problems were inverted from Vitality’s. They almost always won games late with scaling compositions and smart play around objectives. Roccat’s solo laners, Betsy and Phaxi, were two of the weakest early game players in their respective positions. Meanwhile, Pridestalker showcased several statement performances, and Roccat’s bottom lane was in the top half of the league during Summer Split.

It is time for Roccat to let Betsy go. They have cemented him in the mid lane for two straight years, and it has not really panned out, especially when compared to Perkz with G2 or Bjergsen with TSM. Roccat could take a Misfits approach to this off-season, importing for one role and filling the second with a sophomore talent. Top lane seems like the role with the best chance for a successful import. Mid lane imports have almost never worked in Europe, which means someone like Selfie could fit into this roster well.

Splyce

Will Splyce change their roster this off-season?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Arguably, the Snakes have the most difficult off-season of any team. Splyce’s role in the EU LCS is reminiscent of CLG in North America, because this team seems to be stronger than the sum of its parts when it clicks. They could not take more than one series from the top five teams in the league, but then they almost stole semifinals from G2 in the playoffs. Now they have a tough decision in front of them. Does Splyce change its roster and risk losing the synergy of friendship? Or do they stay together and give it another try?

Like CLG this past mid-season, the jungle position would be the most likely target. Trashy felt like the least consistent player on the team throughout the year. When he was on, Splyce was on. When he was off, Splyce was off. And, like Xmithie, he might even feel better switching to another team too. Maybe Splyce tries to nab a Korean aggressor from North America’s discarded teams, such as Chaser, LiRa or Shrimp. They could also try promoting their young substitute, Gripex, to the starting roster to see how it goes. Regardless, Splyce’s coaches and analysts will likely be the most important investments. The team looked best after head coach Gevous stepped down at the end of Summer Split.

Unicorns of Love

Unicorns of Love may lose some members for 2018

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Barely missing Worlds for the third year in a row, Unicorns of Love have to make some changes for 2018. Exileh’s inconsistencies in the mid lane were obviously problematic. Hylissang played uncharacteristically reckless most of the year. Even Vizicsacsi did not look as polished as past splits. Interestingly enough, Xerxe and Samux, the rookies of 2017, felt like the consistent elements on the team.

This is also the first team on the list with a high probability of losing certain members to the hypothesized “EU-xodus,” due to a franchised NA LCS. Hylissang is reportedly signing with Fnatic, and there were rumors of Vizicsacsi moving to North America. If these veterans skip UOL for new opportunities, they may look to VandeR, Kasing or Kikis as replacements. They could also potentially experiment with rookie or imported top laners, such as WhiteKnight or Profit. If the Unicorns are able to keep all of their members, then it would be smart to bring on a substitute mid laner, like Blanc or CozQ, to have back-up for Exileh.

H2K

H2K may lose players in the off-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K is in the same boat as Unicorns of Love. They barely missed Worlds after a rocky year, with high peaks during the regular season and low valleys during playoffs. Jankos, Odoamne and Febiven are star players with targets on their talent for new North American organizations. The off-season presents an opportunity for H2K to bring in a new player or two, but also potential for keystone players to leave.

Hypothetically, if H2K can only retain one of their three European starters, then Febiven is probably the best bet. He is a relative newcomer to H2K, while already feeling like someone worth rebuilding around. H2K would most likely release the imported bottom lane duo so they could look towards top and jungle imports. Young AD carries and supports would be easy for a team like H2K to bring on. Noxiak, AoD, HeaQ and Minitroupax are a few players worth considering, especially if they are able to acquire experienced players for the top side of the map. The best case scenario is for H2K to keep top, jungle and mid, while signing a new bottom lane.

Fnatic

Fnatic's roster could remain the same in the off-season

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While Fnatic did not have a spotless performance in 2017, they certainly grew as the year went on. Broxah and Caps proved to be worthy investments as rookie players, and the veterans, sOAZ, Rekkles and Jesiz pulled their weight. It would be surprising to see this roster change too much in the off-season, considering this year was much better than 2016 for every single player. It seems mutually beneficial for the organization and players to stay together and build off of their accomplishments this year.

However, ESPN esports already reported that Hylissang will sign on as support, replacing Jesiz. This position seemed most likely to change, because Jesiz’s contributions to the team went unnoticed most of the time. With his assistant coaching experience, his value on and off the Rift was most likely more as a leader than an individual talent. Someone like Hylissang would seem to bring just as much veteran experience and flexibility to hopefully elevate Fnatic even higher. Top lane would be the next spot to consider changing, as sOAZ did express issues with his teammates throughout the year via social media. If he can get that part of his personality under control, then he is definitely worth holding.

Misfits

Misfits' roster may change in the off-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

What a whirlwind year for this team. Misfits continued Europe’s trend of sending a team to Worlds from the Challenger Series within the same year, like Splyce and Origen in 2016 and 2015. Replacing KaKAO with Maxlore panned out well, and it is difficult to think of what the organization might want to change roster-wise. This team probably has the greatest risk of falling apart due to the players changing teams.

Maxlore and PowerOfEvil jump out as prime candidates for swapping teams. Talented European junglers are a hot commodity, and sophomore star talent could go to another EU or NA LCS squad. PowerOfEvil has switched teams every year since entering the LCS, so another jump would not be a surprise. With IgNar hinting at leaving Europe, Misfits would be left with Alphari and Hans sama. They should definitely fill the mid lane with their strongest possible candidate, such as re-signing Selfie, or trying to score Nukeduck. Pulling Trashy or Jankos would be an excellent fit, and maybe Misfits could be Jesiz’s new home. If this organization continues to prioritize communication, then they will be prone to prioritizing new talent over imports.

G2

Could G2's roster change in the off-season?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The reigning kings of Europe enter the off-season after suffering another bitter knockout in the group stage of Worlds. Like Splyce, it seems as though the experiment of maintaining the same roster from last year did not pay high enough dividends. International performance was G2’s ultimate focus this year, which showed at Mid-season Invitational, but not at the World Championship. To be fair, they had a difficult group, but the players and staff must still be disappointed.

Trick felt lackluster this year. His farming control style did not punish opponents the same way this year as in the past, and it seemed to hurt G2. It would not be surprising to see him replaced just to freshen up the jungler role, because every other member had relatively consistent performances and carried at times. Expect is the secondary weak point, but even he fulfilled his roles in the tank and split-push metas. Perkz seems highly unlikely to leave, while G2 offered their bottom lane duo to field offers elsewhere. Zven and Mithy have a lot of star power and success under their belts, which makes them an attractive acquisition. It is just hard to imagine them on a different team. It may be worthwhile for Zven and Mithy to stick with G2 another year to try playing with new top-side players, such as Maxlore or Odoamne.

Overall

2018 feels like the year when the EU LCS organizations change their identities. Unicorns without Vizicsacsi, H2K without Jankos, Splyce without Trashy, Roccat without Betsy–these organizations could have new faces next year. It will be exciting to watch veterans try to find the best teams for achieving greatness, while young players try to raise their stocks. Recognized imported players may decide to return home, while newcomers arrive to Europe. And there is a decent chance that keystone European players export to North America’s possible greener pastures. Regardless, this off-season will be another whirlwind of trades, acquisitions and “parting ways,” and EU LCS fans should be excited for change.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Voting is open for the 2017 All-Star Event

My picks for the 2017 EU LCS All-Star team

The 2017 All-Star voting has opened for esports fans around the world. Members of each region are deciding which players in each role get to represent them as All-Stars. The cream of the crop is rising to the top, as League of Legends players cast their votes.

This year Riot regionally restricted voting, meaning North American players vote for the NA LCS All-Stars, Europeans vote for the EU LCS All-Stars, and so on. Just like every year, there are ongoing debates about what factors into a player’s All-Star status. Is it based on their match statistics? Is it about their team’s success? Does a player’s legacy factor into it? These and many more questions are on everyone’s minds.

I have decided to publicize my choices for the EU LCS All-Stars, since that is the league that I covered most this year. Total disclosure, I am a North American resident, so my actual votes were restricted to the NA LCS. Nonetheless, I do have opinions on who should be considered the European All-Stars this year.

As these choices are subjective, much of what someone finds worthy of All-Star status is merely how they feel when watching a player. An All-Star is someone that wows the audience with their skill and consistency. They are a player that always contributes to their team’s success. All-Stars bring a strong presence in every competition, which usually translates into draft strategy, lane pressure, teamfighting and controlling objectives.

Here are my five choice players. I am only factoring in 2017 performances, including Spring and Summer Splits, Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship. I largely ignored Rift Rivals, and these player choices do not take into account whether or not a player is their team’s shot-caller.

Vizicsacsi

UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

My only player choice that did not qualify for Worlds this year, Vizicsacsi is the best that Europe has to offer. He consistently put up impressive performances this year, while Unicorns of Love suffered inconsistency as a team. ‘Csacsi is the only top laner in the EU LCS that should play up to the level of any other region’s All-Star opponents. He has been a leader on Unicorns of Love for almost four years straight now, longer than any other top laner in Europe.

Vizicsacsi carried games on Shen, Cho’Gath, Galio and Gnar this summer. He is the only EU LCS top laner to be top four in CS, XP and gold at 15 minutes, damage per minute and damage percentage in Spring and Summer Split this year. For these reasons, Vizicsacsi was first team All-Pro in Spring Split, and third team All-Pro in Summer Split. Finally, Vizicsacsi is one of the most talented players in the world who consistently gets denied opportunities to attend international events, so All-Stars would be a chance to provide him one.

SOAZ and Odoamne are the next closest contenders, in my book. Personally, sOAZ’s negative social media presence towards the end of Summer Split and during Worlds makes it difficult for me to vote for him as an All-Star. His performances this year were solid, even if Fnatic’s overall strategy was leaky. He was also much more likely to be stuck on a tank, rather than experimenting with a wider variety of champions (which, of course, is not entirely his fault).

Odoamne’s credentials are similar to Vizicsacsi’s. He is a legacy EU LCS top laner who has been on H2K since May 2014. Odo was a consistent force this spring and summer, which earned him second team All-Pro both splits. However, Odoamne’s laning phase was considerably worse than Csacsi’s in the Summer Split. He finished seventh-eighth among top laners at 15 minutes.

Maxlore

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits’ run at Worlds was due largely in part to Maxlore’s jungling. There is recency bias in my selection, because Maxlore was not as impressive during Spring Split on Roccat, but he clearly improved through Summer Split. Misfits initially brought him on to replace KaKAO because of his communication. I would say Maxlore fulfilled that promise, as Misfits’ team cohesion and synergy got better and better every game.

The Sejuani-Gragas-Jarvan IV meta benefited Maxlore more than almost any other jungler. He consistently made the most of his tankiness and crowd control. While Misfits did not have the best neutral objective or vision control, their team-fighting was definitely better than their European counterparts, and Maxlore was a huge part of that.

Jankos is Europe’s renowned jungler favorite, but he did not have a stellar year. His “First Blood King” title did not ring true, and his pressure did not seem as strong as years past, especially during the tankier jungle metas. Jankos is still definitely a top European jungler, but not the top jungler of 2017, in my opinion.

Broxah would actually be my second choice. He had a strong showing domestically in Spring Split, and he did earn the first team All-Pro honor for Summer Split. Broxah’s early games were clean, but as the game went on he seemed to have a harder time knowing exactly when to engage or peel, when to contest or concede. I could totally understand someone casting their vote for Broxah, but I simply found Maxlore’s performances at Worlds more All-Star worthy.

Perkz

Perkz is G2's mid laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Mid lane is the role that seems the most straight-forward to me. Perkz had a monster year, even with some setbacks towards the beginning of Summer Split. He brought an excellent combination of laning phase pressure and team-fighting prowess that is hard to find. Other mid laners rarely acquired early game leads against Perkz, and even if they did he never felt fully out of the game.

Add in his Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship performances, and Perkz feels like the right choice. He consistently played up to the level of his opponents, including Faker, xiaohu, Crown and xiye. There were plenty of times where the other members of G2 felt non-existent, yet Perkz always seemed like the player with a plan. He is passionate on and off the Rift. You can feel it in his interviews and in his social media, especially his update following Worlds. Perkz simply feels like the best representation of a European All-Star. 

PowerOfEvil is a close second choice. He exhibited quite a resurgence in 2017 from his days on Origen. Misfits brought him on when they entered the LCS, and he helped bring them to a World Championship. PowerOfEvil’s presence made mid lane the focus of most of their matches, especially when playing Orianna. He almost always got roaming priority during laning phase, and was happy to sacrifice CS and XP to assist his teammates. While I can understand votes cast for PoE, he lacks the bravado that Perkz has, which is keeping me from seeing him as an All-Star.

Febiven and Caps are decent choices, but neither seemed as consistent throughout the game as Perkz or PowerOfEvil. Febiven rarely felt as dominant in team-fights, while Caps regularly played without respect for the enemy jungler. H2K threw early leads due to Febiven’s passivity. Fnatic often lost leads due to Caps’ aggression. They are definitely crucial pieces for their respective teams, but they lack the versatility that Perkz and PoE bring.

Rekkles

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The entire Fnatic roster was rebuilt around Rekkles for 2017, and he totally delivered on the pressure. In Spring and Summer Splits, as well as Worlds, Rekkles consistently went even or won bottom lane, and quickly transitioned into methodical positioning and damaging in team-fights. It seems like he had the flashiest moments among AD carries in the EU LCS, juking, flashing forward and making the most of every auto-attack.

Rekkles was also the most inventive marksman in Europe this year. His Kennen went unanswered for a long time. He was one of the only players drafting Sivir when the champion pool was pinched. Rekkles also gave the greatest Twitch performances, all while gladly playing the meta Varus, Ashe, Jhin, Caitlyn, Xayah and Tristana. No other AD carry matched this level of versatility, which is a huge reason he is considered an All-Star.

Zven is the only one who came close, but he was not as dominant this year as last year, in my opinion. He was by far the most consistent bottom laner in Europe, outputting damage and not dying. However, he rarely seemed to push his limits the way Rekkles did. To be fair, Fnatic’s playstyle revolved more around Rekkles than G2’s did around Zven, but that does not discount Rekkles’ performances below Zven’s.

There is a wide gap below Rekkles and Zven. Hans sama certainly stepped up in LCS playoffs and Worlds, when the meta needed him most. I’m not convinced he is on the same level as Fnatic and G2’s AD carries, especially when considering the rest of Summer Split. Kobbe and Samux had consistently good performances throughout the year, but their teams were too inconsistent to let them shine.

IgNar

Ignar is Misfits' support at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Similar to Rekkles, IgNar’s champion pool seems endless. He played Malzahar, Zyra and Tahm Kench in Spring, and Thresh, Rakan, Alistar and Bard in Summer. Misfits then drafted Taric, Janna, Leona and Blitzcrank at Worlds. IgNar stuck to the meta when necessary, but he was not afraid to adapt and innovate. This flexibility is part of the reason Misfits was able to make a deeper run at Worlds than expected.

G2’s mithy had a great year for himself. He did have several game-saving plays in the Summer Split. However, while he showed a wide variety of playstyles, he lacked the same innovation as IgNar. I cannot remember a time when mithy drafted a surprise, non-meta pick. He generally went with the flow, and locked in an expected support to compliment Zven’s champion. For this reason, mithy feels like less of an All-Star.

Jesiz, Chei and Wadid were impressive in the support role as well, but they showed a bit less consistency and lack that clutch factor. Jesiz is more aligned with mithy, where his role revolves around Rekkles. H2K and Roccat rely more on Chei and Wadid to actually carry them in games.


Featured Image: LoLesports.com

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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samsung galaxy

Samsung Galaxy: Kingslayers

Samsung Galaxy (SSG) overthrow the greatest dynasty in League of Legends history. After losing out against SK telecom T1 (SKT) at the World Championships in 2016, SSG worked all year for their shot at revenge. SSG’s Top 8 performance will go down as one of the most dominant runs in League history. Closing with a 9-1 record, Samsung Galaxy defeated the world’s top LoL teams and stamped their names in history. Despite this dominating performance, the climb to a world title was not easy.

Road to Redemption

samsung galaxy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In the early years of LCK, Chanyong “Ambition” Kang was regarded as one of the world’s top mid-laners. Enter Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee, SKT’s mid-lane prodigy who, in his debut performance, dominated Ambition‘s former team, CJ Blaze. In 2016, Ambition became the jungler for Samsung Galaxy and met Faker again, this time for the world title. At the World Finals 2016, Samsung Galaxy took SK telecom to a grueling five game series. SKT edged out a victory to secure back-to-back world titles. 2017 would be a redemption chapter for Samsung Galaxy. The main roster stayed together, determined to grow and claim the glory that narrowly slipped through their fingers.

At Worlds 2017, Samsung Galaxy drew into Group C alongside Royal Never Give Up (RNG), G2 Esports (G2) and 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor (FB). Samsung was a huge threat in what many regarded as this year’s “group of death.” Their immaculate control style paired well against G2 and FB, who looked largely outclassed by the Korean representative. But the group stage did not go as smoothly as Samsung would have hoped. A near loss against 1907 Fenerbahçe along with two defeats against China’s RNG, left Samsung as the second seed of Group C.

The road would not get easier. In quarterfinals, SSG paired against tournament favorites, Longzhu Gaming (LZ). Longzhu’s aggressive early game playstyle looked like a perfect match to overpower Samsung’s defensive, late-game team. With the odds against them, Samsung Galaxy delivered the biggest upset of Worlds. After sweeping LZ 3-0, Samsung advanced to meet China’s dark-horse Team WE (WE). Coming into semifinals, buzz around this Samsung team rose. Suddenly, fans remembered that SSG were last year’s world finalists. With momentum on their side, Samsung Galaxy outclassed WE in a convincing 3-1 victory.

Walking the Knife’s Edge

samsung galaxy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

On the other side of the finals bracket, defending champions SK telecom edged out two Top 8 matches against Misfits Gaming (MSF) and Royal Never Give Up (RNG). However this year, the most dominant organization in League history looked shaky coming into Worlds. A loss against Longzhu Gaming in the LCK finals highlighted SKT’s rough summer split. After unexpectedly dropping a game against ahq e-Sports Club (AHQ) in the group stage, criticism surrounding starting jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han and AD-carry Junsik “Bang” Bae clouded the SKT narrative.

In their quarterfinal match against Misfits Gaming, SK telecom stood at the edge of defeat. Down 1-2 in the series, fans prepared for the largest upset of League history. Teetering on the knife’s edge, SKT’s legendary mid-laner Faker stretched his shoulders and carried his team to the promised land. After this narrow victory, SKT stood before Royal Never Give Up in the semifinals.

With RNG’s veteran AD-carry Zihao “Uzi” Jian leading his team, SK telecom geared up for one of their hardest matches of Worlds 2017. With the Shanghai crowd surging for their home team, Royal took the series lead against SKT 2-1. Once again, SK telecom stood at the mouth of the abyss. A single loss would be the end of the SKT dynasty. SK telecom clawed their way to victory in Game 4 of the semifinals to take the series to its final match. One elimination game away from their rightful spot at the finals, SKT zeroed in on their win conditions. Despite the criticism surrounding his play, it was SKT’s Peanut who found a clutch pick to snowball his team to the World Finals. Once again SKT walked on the knife’s edge. Once again, they prevailed.

Samsung Galaxy the conquerors

samsung galaxy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their loss in the previous year, Samsung Galaxy had a shot at revenge. In Game 1 against SKT, Samsung Galaxy doubled-down on their top-laner Sungjin “CuVee” Lee. Samsung recognized SKT’s tendency to play around carries and split-pushers for their top-laner Seonghoon “Huni” Heo. SSG locked in AD “Kennen,” a pick that would have CuVee outplay Huni with his own style. CuVee delivered, amassing a 20 CS lead at ten minutes, giving Huni little space to find teamfight initiations. Samsung dominated the vision and objective game to crush SKT in the series opener.

In Game 2, SK telecom struck back. Early proactive plays from Faker‘s “Ryze” gave SKT a sizable lead in the mid-game. But, at 18:47, SKT Bang made a crucial mistake. Flashing into the dragon pit to land a “Chain of Corruption” on Ambition left Bang open to a re-engage from three Samsung members. SKT lost the ensuing teamfight and several fights after. Bang‘s misplay opened a snowball that Samsung used to roll over SKT in Game 2.

Faced with yet another elimination in Game 3, again SKT stood on the knife’s edge. With their backs against the wall, SKT found success in early pressure coming from their substitute jungler Sungu “Blank” Kang. Early proactive plays opened a 7.0k gold lead for SKT at 25 minutes. However, Samsung Galaxy never gave SKT enough room to severely punish these advantages. Samsung took favorable trades when possible and stretched the game out. Finally, at 39:18, SSG’s AD-carry Jaehyeok “Ruler” Park seized his chance for victory. Ruler used “Flash” and “Chain of Corruption” to root Faker and Bang, earning two picks onto SKT’s main carries. Samsung pushed this man advantage to close out a dominating 3-0 sweep to win the World Championship.

The dynasty was over. Samsung Galaxy ascended the throne as the 2017 World Champions. They triumphed over both Longzhu and SK telecom, a feat that few thought was possible. The road was long for Samsung Galaxy, but the prize was all the sweeter for it.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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predictions

RLCS playoff predictions

League play for season four of the Rocket League Championship Series and Rocket League Rival Series came to an end last weekend for North America and Europe. With that, it’s time to look at predictions for the upcoming promotion/relegation tournament as well as playoff predictions. Here are the RLCS standings for NA and EU after league play:

 

 NA

  1. Cloud9 6-1
  2. G2 Esports 6-1
  3. Ghost 5-2
  4. NRG Esports 4-3
  5. Rogue 3-4
  6. FlyQuest 2-5
  7. Allegiance 1-6
  8. Renegades 1-6

 EU

  1. Method 6-1
  2. PSG eSports 6-1
  3. Gale Force eSports 5-2
  4. Mockit eSports 4-3
  5. exceL 3-4
  6. Flipsid3 Tactics 2-5
  7. Team Envy 2-5
  8. Team Secret 0-7
playoff predictions

Image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Seeds seven and eight for both NA and EU are no longer competing in season four. They are currently in the midst of fighting for the last two seeds moving into season five. The round-robin promotion/relegation tournament is underway. The top two teams from the RLRS in both regions are also competing in said tournament. Those teams include Fibeon and Out of Style for NA, along with Fnatic and The Juicy Kids for EU.

I’ll give you my predictions for the promotion/relegation tournament results before we move onto the rest of season four. In the end, for NA, I’m expecting to see Fibeon and Renegades in season five of the RLCS, with Out of Style remaining in the RLRS and Allegiance moving down to join them. As for EU, I expect to see Fnatic promoted to the RLCS alongside Team Envy retaining their spot, while The Juicy Kids remain where they are and Team Secret is relegated back.

These are certainly the safer predictions when it comes to the promotion/relegation tournament. That being said, they’re safe for a reason. I’ll throw all of you Brandon “Lachinio” Lachin fans a bone and say Out of Style has the potential to come out on top over Renegades, relegating them back to the RLRS.

Now onto the remainder of this season.

NA

The fight for top four in NA was a close one all season. With top two still up for grabs at the start of week five, each of the top four teams had a viable shot at clinching one of those spots. As we now know, Cloud9 and G2 are the teams that managed to pull it off. Cloud9 was no surprise, considering the incredible season they had. I admit, I wasn’t expecting G2 to clinch that other spot.

playoff predictions

Image courtesy of play.esea.net

We’re guaranteed to see Cloud9 and G2 at the world finals this year, but who will the other two NA teams be? Here’s what we’ll see in round one of the NA playoffs: NRG versus Rogue and Ghost versus FlyQuest.

These are certain to be close matches. That being said, my NA playoff predictions are NRG over Rogue and Ghost over FlyQuest. I’m picking NRG over Rogue simply because of the team chemistry here. NRG won the last three NA regional championships and I’m looking to see them pick up number four.

As for Ghost over FlyQuest, the decision is a bit more difficult. FlyQuest looked strong all season, despite ending with a 2-5 record. And let’s not forget Kais “Sadjunior” Zehri made it to every LAN from previous seasons. But, as analyst Michael “Quinn Lobdell” Behrouzi said on RLCS Overtime, there’s a first time for everything. And this might be the first time Sadjunior doesn’t make it to the world championships. I say that because Ghost has looked phenomenal in season four. Despite going in with the number three seed, they could have easily been a top two team.

EU

playoff predictions

Image courtesy of excelesports.com

As we’ve seen all season long, EU is a bit more of an emotional roller coaster for Rocket League fans. Team Envy, formerly Northern Gaming when they won the season three world championships, now sit in the seventh seed. Meaning their season is done. They’re currently fighting for their season five RLCS spot in the promotion/relegation tournament. Gale Force eSports and Flipsid3 Tactics, two other highly anticipated teams at the beginning of season four, are sitting in the number three and six seeds respectively. Needless to say, EU’s had an unexpected season.

That being said, there’s still time for Gale Force and Flipsid3 Tactics, as they look forward to playoffs. Here’s round one of the EU playoffs: Mockit eSports versus exceL and Flipsid3 Tactics versus Gale Force esports.

Now just because Flipsid3 and Gale Force are both looking to keep the dream alive doesn’t mean they’ll both get to. There’s only four EU spots at the world finals, meaning only two up for grabs. One of these two teams’ seasons will come to an end after this weekend.

Here are my EU playoff predictions. ExceL over Mockit eSports and Gale Force over Flipsid3 Tactics, and here’s why.

ExceL had a rough season three, under the name Cow Nose. However, in the off season, the squad dropped Danny “DanzhizzLe” Smol and replaced him with Kasper “Pwndx” Nielsen. They came into season four by securing a spot in qualifiers, and they’ve looked strong ever since.

GFE versus F.3

As for Flipsid3 Tactics and Gale Force eSports, it promises to be nail biter. All six of the players that make up these two starting rosters are veterans of not only the RLCS, but the world championship stage. They’ll all surely be eager to make it back to that stage as well. Flipsid3 Tactics, time and time again, have come up through one loser’s bracket or another to turn their position in a tournament around. They are essentially in that same position now, securing the sixth and final playoff seed. However, I have to give this one to Gale Force.

This Gale Force eSports squad formed after season two. Courant “Kaydop” Alexandre left Mockit eSports after winning the season three regional championships. Had he stayed with Mockit and one other member of that roster from season three, he would have been guaranteed a spot in this season of the RLCS. Despite that, he left to join Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs on Gale Force. Their third, Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver, has a similar story.

playoff predictions

Image courtesy of @GFEsports Twitter account.

Since then, they’ve been a force to reckon with. Although they had somewhat of a second place curse during the off season, until the NBC Universal Open, they were still coming in at least second consistently. Now they’re looking for yet another first place win in a LAN environment.

So, there you have it, here are the eight NA and EU teams I expect to see in the world championships:

 

 NA

  • Cloud9
  • G2
  • NRG
  • Ghost

 EU

  • Method
  • PSG eSports
  • exceL
  • Gale Force

 



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playoffs

RLCS: looking ahead to playoffs

The Rocket League Championship Series and Rocket League Rival Series are past the half-way mark for season four league play. It’s time for a peek at what playoffs may hold in store, as we move into the last two weeks of North American and European league play.

Standings

First and foremost, here are the current standings after week three of league play:

 

 NA

  1. Cloud9 4-1
  2. NRG Esports 3-1
  3. G2 Esports 2-1 (7-5 games)
  4. Ghost 2-1 (6-6 games)
  5. FlyQuest 2-2 (8-8 games)
  6. Rogue 2-2 (8-8 games)
  7. Renegades 1-3
  8. Allegiance 0-5

 EU

  1. Method 4-0 (12-5 games)
  2. PSG eSports 4-0 (12-5 games)
  3. exceL 2-1 (7-3 games)
  4. Mockit eSports 2-1 (8-5 games)
  5. Gale Force eSports 2-2
  6. Flipsid3 Tactics 1-3
  7. Team Envy 1-4
  8. Team Secret 0-5

As I predicted at the beginning of the season, Allegiance and Team Secret, then Emotion and Aeriality, have all but solidified their spots in the bottom two of the RLCS. Both sit at 0-5 with two matches remaining. These teams have their bye weeks coming up in week four and will return for their final matches of league play in week five.

While there is a chance each of these teams can clinch number six and move on to playoffs instead of their promotion/relegation tournaments, it’s not looking promising.

Playoffs Clinched

Three teams, across NA and EU, have already clinched their top six spot, guaranteeing a shot at playoffs as well as auto-qualification for season five of the RLCS. These teams are Cloud9, Method and PSG eSports.

Cloud9

playoffs

Image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net.

Cloud9 was perhaps the most highly anticipated newcomers to the RLCS this season. The Cloud9 roster consists of Jesus “Gimmick” Parra, Mariano “SquishyMuffinz” Arruda and Kyle “Torment” Storer, and of these three players, Torment is the only one to compete in a previous season of the RLCS.

Despite a lack of prior RLCS experience, Gimmick and, especially, Squishy, came riding into season four on a hype train. Squishy’s been prominent in the community for quite some time through streaming, known for his next-level mechanical skill. That being said, it was at DreamHack Atlanta 2017 that this roster really made a name for themselves.

Playing under the name The Muffin Men, these three showed up to DreamHack Atlanta to take on some of NA and EU’s biggest name teams. They took first place and were quickly picked up by Cloud9. At DreamHack Atlanta and since, Gimmick continues to build the hype around his name, showing the world that he’s ready to take on the top Rocket League players just as much, if not more, than Squishy and Torment.

Method and PSG eSports

Both Method and PSG eSports sit undefeated at the top of the EU leaderboard. With only three games left to play, these two tames have already guaranteed their top six position.

playoffs

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

Many expected both Method and PSG to do relatively well, even considering the stiff competition in EU. They’ve managed to continue to perform above expectations.

Method is the only EU squad from season three of the RLCS to retain their entire starting roster. They’re showing everyone just how deadly that long-term team chemistry can be. PSG, on the other hand, is showing everyone just how deadly an untried roster can be.

Despite their 4-0 standings right now, these teams will finally meet up in week four, guaranteeing an end to at least one of their undefeated seasons. All things considered though, it’s looking more and more promising that these two teams will come out of league play with the number one and two seeds. It’s tough to predict, but I’m expecting to see PSG come out in the number one seed.

Promotion/Relegation

When Psyonix announced the Rocket League Rival Series, they also announced a Promotion/Relegation tournament which will take place the weekend after league play finish. The bottom two teams from each region of the RLCS will play a round-robin style tournament with the top two teams from the RLRS in their respective regions.

To no surprise, as mentioned above, the current bottom teams in NA and EU are Allegiance and Team Secret respectively. Both sitting at 0-5, it’s difficult to imagine either clinching a top six spot at this point. However, the real interest is around who will wind up in seventh for each region. Right now, that’s Renegades for NA and Team EnVy for EU.

Renegades

Although it’s somewhat surprising to see Renegades out of the top six currently, they were never expected to be a top two, or perhaps even top four, team. That being said, they aren’t in deep water just yet.

Renegades, 1-3, sit just behind Rogue, 2-2, on the NA leaderboard. These two teams will come together for a match in week four. On top of playing each other, Renegades are set to play Ghost and Rogue are set to play G2 Esports. If Renegades are able to secure a win against Rogue and Ghost, and Rogue falls to G2, then Renegades could easily move up to that number six spot. This isn’t an unlikely scenario, but Rogue certainly has other plans.

The current number seven seed across the pond faces some tougher odds than the Renegades.

Team EnVy

Team EnVy is the reigning world champion from season three, the roster playing then for Northern Gaming. One of their starters, Nicolai “Maestro” Bang, was unable to attend the world championships and was then on vacation for much of the off season. As a result, Team EnVy dropped Maestro and picked up Marius “gReazymeister” Ranheim, whom they’d spent much of the off season playing with.

playoffs

Image courtesy of @TeamEnVyUs Twitter account.

There were certainly doubts when the iconic Maestro and Remco “Remkoe” den Boer duo split up. That being said, there was also a lot of anticipation for the addition of gReazymeister, as Remkoe, Maestro and gReazy made up the starting Northern Gaming squad in season one of the RLCS.

However, those doubts and concerns are winning out over the anticipation. Team EnVy sits at 1-4. Although they aren’t currently too far behind Flipsid3 Tactics, who sit at 1-3, Team Envy is the one win that Flipsid3 has so far.

Considering Remkoe’s Twitter responses to their losses after week two, I imagine this squad won’t stick together if they’re relegated to the RLRS. Even they do come out on top of Relegation/Promotion tournament, I still expect to see a roster change, since teams are only required to maintain two-thirds of their starting roster to retain auto-qualification.

Be sure to keep checking back for more info on playoffs and the world championships as season four of the RLCS and RLRS draws closer to the end of league play.


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Febiven joins Clutch Gaming for 2018

Reflecting on mid-season EU LCS expectations for Summer Split

On June 1, 2017, the first day of the EU LCS Summer Split, I articulated my expectations heading into the second half of the year. There were a lot of roster changes in between splits, which led to speculation about what shake-ups might occur before Worlds. I called out four of the ten teams that I thought had the best chance to define the landscape of the EU LCS. These would be the variables that shape their groups, depending on how they adapt to their new rosters and build off of Spring Split.

Like every split past, some teams performed to expectations, others did not. Some played up to a higher level, while other teams further fell. The big picture of the EU LCS remained fairly similar to spring, with the same top six teams qualifying for playoffs. However, the intra-group dynamics and individual team results are fairly different compared to expectations coming into this split.

G2

G2 played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: G2 dominated Spring Split: they only lost one best-of-three series out of thirteen. The Samurai went on to finish second place at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. No other team in Europe looked to be on par with G2 before the tournament, but MSI certainly quieted any dissent. With no roster or staff changes to speak of, G2 looks to remain at the top of the ranks. Their eyes will be on the world stage.

Recency bias will paint G2 as the undoubted best team in Europe. They added another LCS victory to their trophy case. The Samurai will be EU’s first seed representative at Worlds. By the end of playoffs it was clear that no one in the EU LCS could challenge G2 in a best-of-five.

But Summer Split was rocky at the start. G2 was 3-3 after five weeks, beating Roccat, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Mysterious Monkeys, but losing to Fnatic, Misfits and Unicorns of Love. Their game score was 9-7, far from dominant. G2 sat in third place in Group A. It was a trying time for fans who were hoping that the G2 from MSI would be back in Europe.

They did eventually ramp up to finish second in Group A, push through quarter and semifinals and take the finals. Perkz returned closer to his MSI form earlier in the year. Mithy stepped up to become a primary initiator for the team. Trick began to rise towards his past level, as well. While all of these players had low points during summer, the G2 line-up did eventually reinvigorate to pre-split expectations. No one could have predicted their early fumbles after a dominant Spring Split, MSI and no major changes to the roster and staff.

Fnatic and Misfits

FNC played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Fnatic ultimately beat Misfits for third place in playoffs, beating them 3-0 in the best-of-five. Fnatic picked up a new coach, Dylan Falco. Misfits released their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, and acquired Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. The effects of these changes do not appear to be drastic on the surface. Fnatic should be able to retain second place within Group A, putting Misfits third.

Both of these teams surprised analysts, but in different ways. Fnatic and Misfits followed slightly different trajectories throughout the Summer Split. Fnatic tore through the European competition, finishing the regular season 11-2, but faltered in the playoff semifinals. They pressed on by winning third place against H2K, and went on to win the EU LCS Regional Qualifier to make it to Worlds.

Misfits had strong showings during the LCS regular season, but never fully convinced the fans that they were a top contender. They finished with a 1-6 record against the top six teams and a 5-1 record against the bottom four teams. However, Misfits shifted gears in playoffs, knocking out Unicorns of Love and Fnatic to make it into the finals. They are the surprise second seed to represent Europe at this year’s World Championship.

Fnatic’s surge is not entirely surprising, but it could not necessarily be predicted. This is the same roster that tied Roccat for third place in Group A just a few months ago. Bringing on Dylan Falco, previously of Team Envy in North America, was the only major change to the roster, which was seen as questionable, at best. The veterans of the team, Soaz, Rekkles and Jesiz, approached their top performance levels. The sophomores, Broxah and Caps, showed their own prowess at various points in the split. Most of all, the synergy among these members was much more apparent than any other team in the league.

Misfits’ growth could be a bit more conceivable coming into the Summer Split. They did make a name for themselves in their inaugural Spring Split by placing fourth. Time in the mid-season should allow this new squad to build synergies and come back to the LCS even stronger. However, by switching out KaKAO for Maxlore, it was unclear how this might affect things. The team did cite communication issues as the primary purpose for the replacement, but Maxlore’s actual skill as a jungler did not appear to be much better or worse than KaKAO. Would Misfits’ communication improve enough to offset the synergy and possible skill loss of trading at all?

In the end, the answer must be “yes.” Ignar and Maxlore did develop a strong jungle-support relationship in the playoffs. Alphari and PowerofEvil were better at using laning advantages to rotate, split-push and teleport around the map. Hans sama proved his worth as an AD carry against Samux and Rekkles, both All-Pro this split. Viewers will have to wait and see how this team holds up against international competition at Worlds. Hopefully, Misfits’ peak is yet to come.

Unicorns of Love

UOL played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Following a similar trajectory to G2, UOL finished the regular season 11-2. They did not drop a series to other members of Group B. UOL went on to finish second in the playoffs. Seeing as the top teams in Group B did not have any major roster updates in the off-season, the Unicorns should easily maintain their top position.

“Should” was the key word above. Just like G2, Unicorns finished at the top of their group and made it to the finals in Spring Split. They did not make any roster changes in the mid-season. Intuitively, UOL would continue to build off of their strengths coming into Summer Split and continue to be a dominant team in Europe.

But that did not necessarily happen. UOL began the season 6-1, including victories over G2, H2K and Misfits. They finished the last four weeks 3-3, including defeats to Roccat, Fnatic and Vitality. This fall-out culminated in UOL’s 3-0 loss to Misfits in the quarterfinals, and their 3-2 loss to H2K in the gauntlet.

Most critics would point to faulty draft strategies, mid lane instability, and failure to adapt to meta changes as UOL’s biggest problems. Exileh fell from third team All-Pro to seventh on Caps’ mid lane tier list. His performance issues, combined with Xerxe’s curve ball jungle picks, caused UOL to have difficulties drafting to be competitive. Exileh’s reliance on Talon and Vladmir shoehorned Vizicsacsi into a lot of AP top laners, instead of Jarvan IV, Gnar or Renekton.

Summer Split is a huge disappointment for the Unicorns. They continue their legacy of missing Worlds by losing in the gauntlet. All of these players have shown excellence on the Rift, but the limited in-game strategies and individual inconsistencies make it hard for this team to reach the next level. It will be interesting to see what changes happen in the off-season for UOL, if any.

H2K

H2K played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Although playoffs were not pleasant for H2K, their regular season went well. They finished 10-3, losing twice to UOL and once to G2. H2K had not lost to any other team until Fnatic beat them 3-0 in the quarterfinals of playoffs. Only earning 10 Championship Points, H2K will need to perform at a much higher level to re-qualify for the World Championships.

H2K played about where most people expected them this season. They did finish at the top of Group B, but that was more due to Unicorns faltering than H2K scaling higher skill-wise. Febiven looked more refined than Spring Split, but the bottom lane, Nuclear in particular, proved less dominant in the new meta. Odoamne and Jankos showed glimpses of their top-tier play, but could not exhibit such talent consistently against other top teams.

Playoffs was almost more heart-breaking this split for H2K. G2 skunked the squad 3-0 in the semifinals, sending H2K into the gauntlet. Once there, they made it all the way to the finals, but lost 2-3 to Fnatic to miss the World Championship. The expectation was for H2K to grow in the mid-season to stand a chance of making it to Worlds. Unfortunately for them, that did not happen.

Mysterious Monkeys

MM played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: While EU Challenger teams have historically performed well in their first split of LCS, this roster’s talent is questionable compared to the others. They even lost their starting jungler. The Monkeys come into the split with low expectations, most likely ending the regular season in fifth for Group B.

As expected, Mysterious Monkeys did not have a successful Summer Split. They lost 23 of 28 regular season games, finishing with a 2-11 record. Ninjas in Pyjamas and Roccat were the only two teams they were able to take series from. Even after signing Kikis and Amazing as a top-jungle duo in week four, the Monkeys struggled to make much of an impact on the EU LCS. They did finish last in Group B, which forced them into the promotion tournament.

Although it is unclear how the reported LCS restructuring will affect European teams in 2018, Mysterious Monkeys did get “relegated” in the promotion tournament. They lost 2-3 to Schalke 04 in round one, and 0-3 to Ninjas in Pyjamas in round two. That is the ultimate proof that a team is not ready for the professional league. The Monkeys’ organization will most likely rebuild the roster in the off-season and come back next year with more experience.

Splyce

SPY played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: It is unclear what Gevous will add to Splyce. It is possible that a new coaching style may help bring Splyce’s members up to a new level. The players know they can play up to the same level as Unicorns or H2K. The anticipated meta shifts will probably help Splyce, as well. Tankier junglers with fast clears and impactful kits suit ‎Jonas “Trashy” Andersen, and  Martin “Wunder” Hansen generally looks more influential with damage-dealing split-pushers.

Firstly, Splyce let Gevous go around two months ago, with two weeks of the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet remaining. He has yet to be replaced. That being said, it is difficult as a viewer to understand how much of an effect a coach has on a team. How much of Splyce’s shortcomings can be blamed on a lack of chemistry between the coach and the players? It is hard to parse apart.

It should be safe to say that Splyce will be disappointed when reflecting on this split. The organization’s power level in the LCS has effectively plateaued this year. Of course, Splyce has not had the same falling off as Origen. Splyce is still a playoff team, and they are clearly a step above Roccat and Vitality. They took G2 to an edgy five games in quarterfinals of playoffs. However, it has felt like a long time since fans and analysts held Splyce to the same esteem as their LCS debut.

Nothing about Splyce’s gameplay is horrible. Each lane is able to hold its own in the laning phase. They are able to contest objectives and commit to rotations. They are able to team-fight in the mid and late game. Splyce just is not the best at any of these gameplay elements. H2K and Fnatic will almost always get larger early game leads and close the game before Splyce can team-fight them. Unicorns of Love and G2 will almost always beat Splyce in a beefy brawl. The Serpents are the undoing of bottom four teams, just like Misfits, but they have been unable to break through the upper echelon of Europe.

Like Unicorns of Love, it will be interesting to see what happens to this roster in the off-season. Trashy seemed to be the most up-and-down player on the roster, thriving on Gragas and Ivern, but struggling on Elise and Rek’Sai. Mikyx was overshadowed by more proactive support players, but Wunder, Sencux and Kobbe have proven they can carry when needed. Each of Splyce’s players are capable of playing up to the best of Europe, and this roster has played together for two years. The coaching position will obviously need to be filled with someone who can unlock the potential of this squad, or who can make needed adjustments for the future.

Team Vitality

VIT played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: This is another team that looks to benefit from the upcoming metagame. Top laner, Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet, looked best as a split-pusher when Vitality finished the regular season in third place in Spring 2016. A more anchored bottom lane and pressured top lane could open Charly “Djoko” Guillard up to have more options in the jungle. Vitality could look to move up in Group B if they mesh properly and other teams show weakness.

Bringing on Vander was supposed to shore up Vitality’s glaring weaknesses in the support position in Spring Split. It did not. Vitality looked roughly the same as last split. Nukeduck put the team on his back almost every game. Cabochard did look a bit more like his former self while laning, but Vitality’s bottom lane and jungler could not hold up against the rest of the LCS. To make matters worse, H2K, Unicorns of Love and Splyce all showed serious weaknesses this split, which Vitality was unable to punish. It is no coincidence that three members of Group A are attending Worlds as Europe’s representatives.

Vitality finished with a 12-17 game score. They only took one point off of a top six team (UOL), but won all series against MM, NiP and Roccat. Vitality will need to make serious changes coming into the LCS in 2018. They are simply not an exciting team. Replacing one player in one role does not seem to be sufficient. Looking at jungle and bottom lane is a start, but even top lane is not out of the question. A roster overhaul will be necessary before Vitality lives up to the expectations of European fans.

Roccat

ROC played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Roccat will come into summer an underdog, yet again. But if they can build off of their gameplay, synergy, and growth from spring, then they can definitely take games off of other Group A teams. Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren, in particular, should be able to continue drafting lane bullies such as Gnar, Fizz, and Renekton, which he played well in the final weeks of last split.

Roccat’s spring momentum did not carry over much into Summer Split. This team continues its arc as the most inconsistent performer in the EU LCS. Roccat finished the Summer Split with 1-1 records against every team in Group A, the only one to do so. The Cats also lost every cross-group match-up, except Unicorns of Love. It is strange that the same team that is taking series off of Fnatic, G2 and UOL is also dropping series to NiP, MM and Vitality.

Pridestalker actually pressed himself into the EU LCS in his debut split. Generally starting ahead in CS and gold at 15 minutes, Roccat’s jungler was one of the only players happy to draft Warwick and Kha’Zix over tank junglers throughout the split. Pridestalker also participated in First Blood in 27.3 percent of games.

Phaxi and Betsy were highly inconsistent this summer. The solo laners could never seem to hold pressure in their lanes against other European teams. Meanwhile, Roccat’s bottom lane was solidly top five in the LCS (in my opinion, Wadid deserved recognition as an All-Pro support). Like Vitality, a roster overhaul will be necessary if Roccat wants to reach the next level of competition. While no one would necessarily expect Roccat to suddenly become a title contender, many analysts were probably hoping for more from them after their end-of-split streak in spring.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

NIP played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: While this team will most likely be the Spring 2017 Origen of Summer Split, it could also come together as an unexpected surprise. If Shook can manage to find synergy with Profit and Nagne, and HeaQ and Sprattel can grow together, then they could find upsets in Group A. This could also be Coach Nicholas “NicoThePico” Korsgård’s shot at redemption, as well. If they can all put aside their past failures, then they just may find success.

It’s safe to say Ninjas in Pyjamas was better this summer than Origen was in spring. They had a stiff early game, often gaining large gold leads by 15 minutes. NiP showed some signs of strength, such as their win over Fnatic in week 10. As expected, the Ninjas finished last in Group A with a 2-11 record. The team never seemed to synergize in the mid-late game, often missing opportunities to pressure turrets or neutral objectives. Sprattel and Shook were unable to engage or peel effectively for Nagne and HeaQ to carry, which made Profit’s split-push strategies fall flat.

At the end of the day, NiP was not ready for the LCS. This team did get relegated in the promotion tournament by losing to Giants and Schalke 04, but reported 2018 changes may make that insignificant. Like Mysterious Monkeys, NiP may return to the domestic leagues of the EU LCS. If so, they will need to take a hard look in the mirror and make adjustments. NicoThePico did not add much to his resume on this one, but, again, it is hard to tell how many of NiP’s issues were from the roster or the staff. 

Overall

MSF played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While hardly any of the teams in the EU LCS played to pre-split expectations, the on-paper breakdown of the split was fairly usual. Splyce, Misfits, H2K, UOL, Fnatic and G2 qualified for playoffs. Mysterious Monkeys and NiP fought, and lost, in the promotion tournament. Vitality and Roccat were somewhere in the middle. G2 took home another domestic victory. Fnatic is attending Worlds. Rekkles was voted Europe’s MVP.

This Summer Split will be remembered as the last one with two groups and one professional-level league. If the reported changes for the EU LCS come through in 2018, then we will be looking at an entirely different ecosystem. It will be home to 24 total teams with 24 rosters and 24 different dynamics to keep up with. The lines between S tier, A tier, and so on will become more blurred, and placements between organizations should become more nuanced.

Expectations going into Spring Split next year will be so up in the air it may not even be worth writing about. So as we move into the 2017 World Championships, take some time to reflect on your experience with the EU LCS. As you cheer for G2, Misfits and Fnatic through the event, preserve these Summer Split memories so we can talk more in 2018 about the future of League of Legends in Europe.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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