Giants are currently tied for second in the 2018 EU LCS

Giants Gaming: EU LCS contenders or pretenders?

Going into week five of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split, Giants Gaming sits tied for second place. Their 5-3 record puts them level with G2 and Fnatic, and above other perennial favorites, such as Misfits and H2K. Fans of the Spanish esports organization may be getting their hopes up for finally having Giants towards the top, but this hope may be misguided.

Giants Gaming has rarely found itself in this position in the past. Despite originally qualifying for the EU LCS five years ago, Giants has only qualified for LCS playoffs twice. The organization has been sent to the Promotion Tournament five times, and relegated out of the LCS twice. Anyone who follows Giants most likely subconsciously considers them a bottom-tier team. An overview of organization’s LCS history easily contextualizes this view.

From Spain to the Main Stage

Giants Gaming entered the EU LCS in 2013

Babeta, Exterminare, Morden, Samux and Motroco

In 2012, Giants Gaming created their first League of Legends team. The roster, consisting of Babeta, Exterminare, Morden, Samux, and Motroco, competed in Dreamhack Valencia and ESL’s Go4LoL. Motroco left in October, but was replaced by JimBownz, who competed with the team at The Siege. Giants finished top four at each event, and went on to Dreamhack Winter, but finished 0-3 in their group.

Due to their relative success, Riot Games invited Giants Gaming to compete for a slot in the premier season of EU LCS in 2013. Along with Fnatic, Copenhagen Wolves, Against All Authority, and Dragonborns, Giants finished in the top five. They instantly qualified for the LCS, making the organization one of the first teams to ever participate in the European league.

Once there, Giants’ momentum subsided. The Spaniards took their first week 1-1 to start in fourth place. They continued to have losing streaks over the 10-week split, finishing seventh place with eight wins and 20 losses. Giants was forced into the first ever Summer Promotion Tournament to defend its place in the league.

The First Worst Loss

Alternate Attax relegated Giants Gaming from the EU LCS in 2013

Kerp, Araneae, ForellenLord, Creaton and Jree

The format of the Promotion Tournament was different in 2013. Teams from three different qualifier tournaments faced off against the bottom four LCS teams in one best-of-five, with the winner earning the LCS slot. Giants Gaming was set to battle Alternate Attax, a German esports organization made up of Kerp, Araneae, ForellenLord, Creaton, and Jree. By winning 3-2, Attax relegated Giants from the EU LCS for the first time.

The Challenger Series had not been developed yet, which meant Giants Gaming was back in the amateur scene. They entered Gfinity London, finishing third-fourth behind Copenhagen Wolves and Eternity Gaming. Gfinity London was the only contest in which they competed for the rest of the year.

Getting Back on the Horse

Throughout 2014, Giants Gaming continued to prove that it was worthy of competition. By April the organization put together an all-new roster, consisting of Reven, Naruterador, Pepiinero, Zigurath and Dave. These five competed in Gamegune in Spain, taking home fourth place.

Giants must not have been happy with that performance, because three months later they brought on Werlyb, Fr3deric, Adryh and Rydle. This was Giants’ second roster overhaul of 2014. This definitely worked out, as they rounded out the

Giants Gaming played in the amateur scene during 2014

Paris Games Week 2014

amateur scene with two gold medals. At Paris Games Week, they took down seven teams including Gamers2, a team Giants lost to at Gamegune. They also won the Liga de Videojuegos Professional, the Spanish regional league.

By becoming so competitive, Giants Gaming was able to move up the European solo queue ranked ladder. And since they were in the top five at the end of 2014, Riot Games once more invited Giants to fight to earn their spot in the EU LCS. They introduced an expansion tournament, which included competitors from the Promotion Tournament, the Challenger Series, and the five-versus-five ranked ladder. Through two stages of gameplay, Giants Gaming took down Reason Gaming to qualify for the 2015 Spring Split with H2K.

Deja Vu

In similar fashion to their first LCS split, Giants Gaming started 2015 with a bang. Pepii and crew had a 2-0 week one, placing them at the top of the standings. H2K and Unicorns of Love took Giants down a peg in week two, dropping the team to fourth. Another 0-2 in week three put Giants into a free fall, slipping down to seventh. Fast forward seven more weeks, and Giants Gaming finished the split with a 5-13 record, tying MeetYourMakers for last place. Luckily, Adryh’s late-game Sivir pick was able to come online and win Giants the game, saving them from auto-relegation.

Another Spring Split and Giants faced another Promotion Tournament. Coincidentally, they met Reason Gaming in a best-of-five to defend their slot. Just as they had in the expansion tournament, Giants took down Reason 3-1 and reclaimed their LCS spot. This qualification marked three times in three years.

A Glimmer of Hope

G0DFRED joined Giants Gaming in 2015

G0DFRED joined Giants Gaming in 2015

Leading into Summer Split marked the first off-season where Giants’ roster remained mostly intact. G0DFRED joined as a rookie support, but everyone else stayed. Together they were able to get through the regular season 8-10, tied for fifth. ROCCAT won the tie-breaker, but Giants still made it into playoffs for the first time since its inception.

H2K skunked Giants in the quarterfinals of the Summer Playoffs. They took the series 3-0, and the longest game was 30:19. Giants garnered enough Championship Points to qualify into the Regional World Qualifiers. ROCCAT shut them down 3-0 in the first round, as well. Nonetheless, Giants had a somewhat successful first split back. They avoided the Promotion Tournament and made it into their first playoffs ever. They even had a slim chance to go to Worlds. It seemed like a great place to start Giants’ new time in the LCS.

Another Spring, Another Let-down

Spring Split 2016 rolled around, and Giants Gaming looked a little bit different. Werlyb and Fr3deric changed teams, and Giants brought in Atom and K0u as replacements. After starting the season 0-4, K0u was benched in favor of BetongJocke, H2K’s substitute jungler. They followed up with another 0-4 streak for weeks three and four, before finally getting their first win in week five versus ROCCAT.

Giants floundered their way through the rest of the split. Smittyj, Wisdom and S0NSTAR moved onto the starting roster in week eight, and Hustlin came on in week nine. Despite all of these changes, Giants finished the 2016 Spring Split in dead last with a 3-15 record. They had to enter their third Promotion Tournament.

As fate would have it, Giants had to face two Challenger teams with former roster members: K0u on Copenhagen Wolves and Werlyb on Huma. After a 3-2 and a 3-1, Giants Gaming re-qualified for the EU LCS. This was their fourth time re-entering.

Giants’ Best Split to Date

Giants Gaming in the 2016 EU LCS

Before coming back into the LCS for Summer Split, Giants took a long look in the mirror. The final member of the original cast, Pepii, left, and NighT, a Korean player from Ever8 Winners, joined. They also brought on a rookie jungler, Maxlore, to replace Wisdom. Smittyj remained in the top lane, S0NSTAR and Hustlin composed the bottom lane.

Giants started the split 0-3, leading many to write them off yet again. But a couple of wins in weeks two and three kept them competitive. A 2-0 win over Fnatic in week five, and a 2-0 over H2K in week six elevated Giants to a new level. Through the 10 weeks, Giants compiled an 8-3-7 scoreline, placing them third overall.

For the first time in its history, Giants Gaming entered the Summer Playoffs quarterfinals as favorites. They also kept the same roster throughout the whole split, which was new for them. Unicorns of Love eliminated Giants from the playoffs by winning 3-1, putting Giants in a fifth-sixth finish for the season. Like the year before, they had enough Championship Points to try the Regional Qualifiers. However, they met Unicorns of Love, yet again, who took the 3-0 win to move on and knock Giants out.

Fool Me Twice, Fool Me Thrice, Fool Me Four Times

Flaxxish and Memento played for Giants Gaming last year

Flaxxish and Memento played for Giants Gaming last year

Despite their Summer Split success, Giants entered the 2017 Spring Split with three more new players. HeaQ and Flaxxish were rookies, while Maxlore traded to ROCCAT with Memento to Giants. NighT and Hustlin stayed as starters, and S0NSTAR moved to a coaching role.

Riot introduced the group system to the EU LCS in 2017, which turned out to be a death knell for Giants. They found themselves in Group A with G2, Misfits, Fnatic, and ROCCAT. Giants began with a pair of 2-1 losses to G2 and Misfits, then followed with a 2-1 win over ROCCAT. They would not get another series win until week seven versus Origen, heading into week eight 2-7, and finishing the regular season 2-11.

For the fourth time in four spring seasons, Giants faced relegation in the Summer Promotion tournament. Origen was the only team that split with a lower win rate, so Giants easily took that match-up 3-0. However, a hungry Fnatic Academy swept them back with a 3-0 of their own. And for the second time in history, Giants Gaming was knocked out of the EU LCS.

The Recent Past

Giants spent the 2017 Summer Season in the EU Challenger Series, playing against Origen, Schalke 04, Paris Saint-Germain, Red Bulls, and Wind and Rain. In the mid-season they decided to scrap their entire roster and rebuild. Jiizuke, Gilius, Minitroupax, Jactroll and Ruin joined the team with LCS ambitions.

Over five weeks, Giants won four of five games and lost once to Schalke. Their 4-0-1 record placed them first in the standings–Giants’ first first place since 2014. This new line-up looked poised to go into promotions, and they did. Giants took down WAR 3-0, which entered them into the 2018 Spring Promotion tournament with Schalke, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and Mysterious Monkeys. By taking a 3-1 over NiP and a 3-2 over Schalke, Giants re-qualified into the LCS. The cycle of qualification-promotion-relegation came full circle for the second time.

In the Present

Giants Gaming is tied for second in the 2018 EU LCS

Giants Gaming is tied for second in the 2018 EU LCS

All of Giants’ members, except Ruin, moved to Team Vitality for the 2018 Spring Split. Giants brought on Djoko and Steeelback from Vitality, Betsy from ROCCAT, and Targamas, a rookie. Preseason predictions put Giants towards the bottom of the field, yet they currently find themselves tied for second. The first four weeks have been a success.

Right now there are analysts and audience members who may want to believe in Giants Gaming. They may think this is their year–that Giants can do better than ever before. But remember to keep this long history in mind. Giants have finished bottom seven every Spring Split in which they have ever competed. Two of those four splits resulted in relegation out of the LCS.

But twice they have come back and reclaimed their spot. Giants has successfully defended its spot two times, as well. This split could be the split to change minds. Giants will need to overcome its past shortcomings, and win the hearts of EU LCS fans by making it into playoffs and making a deep push in this split.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, GosuGamers, Leaguepedia, Millenium.org, WindandRain.org

Historical Data: Leaguepedia

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Upset will be a rookie for the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Meet the rookie class of EU LCS Spring 2018

Riot Games recently announced that the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split will begin on January 19. The league will no longer be split into two groups, and matches return to best-of-ones. FC Schalke 04, Misfits Gaming, Team Vitality, Fnatic, Splyce, Team ROCCAT, Unicorns of Love, Giants Gaming, G2 Esports and H2K are the competing teams.

Like past years, the 2017-2018 off-season was filled with roster changes. Only 14 players will be on the same team in Spring 2018 that they were on in Summer 2017. Febiven, PowerOfEvil, Zven and Mithy transferred to teams in North America. With so many players changing teams and leaving the region altogether, new faces will fill the void left behind.

12 rookies have joined teams in the EU LCS for Spring Split. This is about half as many rookies as the 2017 Spring Split (roughly 21), but more than North America’s 2018 crop (roughly eight). The newcomers are distributed across top lane (two), mid lane (three), AD carry (three) and support (four). There are no starting rookie junglers this split.

 

Ruin will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

GIANTS – RUIN

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, Giants Gaming

Summer statistics – 4.0 KDA, 61.8% participation, 22.5% damage

One of the only rookies to remain on his Challenger qualifier team, Ruin is the top laner for Giants. He helped Giants qualify into the LCS through the EU CS Summer Split last year. His best performances were with Gnar, but he also played Jarvan IV, Cho’Gath and Poppy. Jungle-top synergy will be Ruin’s biggest adjustment for 2018. Giants replaced Gilius with Djoko, a much less aggressive jungler with poor 2017 performances.

 

WhiteKnight is a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from Leaguepedia

UNICORNS OF LOVE – WHITEKNIGHT 

Most recent experience – European Challenger Series, Paris Saint-Germain

Summer statistics – 1.2 KDA, 41.4% participation, 16.3% damage

WhiteKnight is the other top lane rookie for Spring 2018. His Challenger team, Paris Saint-Germain, performed much better in the 2017 Spring Split than Summer Split. Nautilus is the only champion that WhiteKnight played more than twice, maintaining a 60 percent win rate. With Unicorns of Love spiraling downward at the end of 2017, and rebuilding in the off-season, WhiteKnight should look to simply learn and grow as much as he can in 2018.

 

Caedrel is a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K – CAEDREL

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, FC Schalke 04

Summer statistics – 6.2 KDA, 71.9% participation, 28.4% damage

With all of their 2017 members released, H2K is rebuilding for 2018. Caedrel joins to replace Febiven as mid laner from S04. He finished the EU CS Summer Split with the most kills and assists of any mid laner. While it will take time for all five new H2K players to gel, Caedrel has potential as a rookie. His best performances were with Corki, Orianna and Leblanc.

 

Blanc will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from Leaguepedia

TEAM ROCCAT – BLANC

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, Paris Saint-Germain

Summer statistics – 2.7 KDA, 73.5% participation, 36.3% damage

The other rookie from Paris Saint-Germain, Blanc joins Team ROCCAT to replace Betsy in the mid lane. He was a standout while in the EU CS, with solid laning statistics and damage. Blanc also has experience as a starter for Jin Air Green Wings in the LCK, and substituted for G2 during their first series of Summer Split 2017. He will be a pivotal figure for a completely rebuilt ROCCAT line-up.

 

Jiizuke will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

TEAM VITALITY – JIIZUKE

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, Giants Gaming

Summer statistics – 6.5 KDA, 72.2% participation, 31% damage

Jiizuke is the only Italian player in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split. He joins as Vitality’s mid laner, along with three other members of Giants’ CS roster. Jiizuke drafted mostly Orianna and Leblanc during Summer Split, but also mixed in five Ekko games. Previous synergy with his teammates is a huge advantage that Jiizuke will have over the other rookie mid laners.

 

Upset will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

FC SCHALKE 04 – UPSET

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, FC Schalke 04

Summer statistics – 8.2 KDA, 14.4% death, 29.4% damage

Upset is the other player remaining with his promoted Challenger organization. S04 rebuilt their entire roster around the rookie AD Carry. Unlike some of the other 2018 newcomers, Upset will be surrounded by veterans at every position, which should allow for an easier transition. He has shown proficiency on a wide range of marksmen, and he is well-rounded at every stage of the game.

 

Sheriff will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from 5mid.com

H2K – SHERIFF

Most recent experience – 2017 Turkish Promotion League, Besiktas Esports Club

Summer statistics – 3.3 KDA, 53.8% participation, 20.9% gold

Sheriff enters the EU LCS after a stint in the TPL this summer where he helped Besiktas finish second place. He joins H2K as their rookie AD Carry, along with Caedrel, Santorin, SmittyJ and Sprattel. The veterans of H2K’s team have been relegated to Challenger leagues for a while now, so they will need Sheriff to execute in order to succeed. Kalista and Ashe were his best champions during Summer Split.

 

Minitroupax will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

TEAM VITALITY – MINITROUPAX

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, Giants Gaming

Summer statistics – 10.7 KDA, 10.1% death, 27% damage

One of the most anticipated rookie additions to the EU LCS for 2018, Minitroupax is the ADC for Vitality. He finished the EU CS Summer Split with stellar statistics and helped Giants qualify for the LCS. Minitroupax mostly played Caitlyn and Kalista, but he also showcased high marks on Xayah, Tristana and Jhin. Ex-Giants support, Jactroll, is also joining Vitality, making them one of two bottom lanes staying together from 2017 into 2018.

 

Targamas will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from Twitter

GIANTS – TARGAMAS

Most recent experience – 2017 Challenge France, GamersOrigin

Summer statistics – Unavailable

Targamas will be the player with the least experience in the EU LCS this spring. He enters the LCS from Challenge France, the French national league, joining Giants as a rookie support. With supports like Jesiz, Chei, Klaj and Noxiak without LCS starter positions, Giants must see something worthwhile in Targamas. He joins Steeelback in the bottom lane.

 

Norskeren will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

TEAM ROCCAT – NORSKEREN

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, FC Schalke 04

Summer statistics – 5.9 KDA, 17.8% death, 64.4 participation

Norskeren will duo with HeaQ in ROCCAT’s bottom lane this spring. The Norwegian rookie support played for S04 last split to help qualify into the LCS. A fiendish Tahm Kench player, Norskeren put up solid performances in EU CS last year. Luckily, Schalke’s jungler, Memento, will join ROCCAT, as well. The synergy and utility of these two players will be the main hope of weaving together Profit, Blanc and HeaQ into a winning team.

 

Jactroll will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

TEAM VITALITY – JACTROLL

Most recent experience – European Challenger Series, Giants Gaming

Summer statistics – 5.3 KDA, 21.2% death, 69% participation

Giants’ Summer Split support, Jactroll, joins Vitality for 2018. Playing mostly Braum and Thresh, he prefers play-makers over enchanters. Jactroll enters the LCS with three of his four Challenger teammates, which should make the transition that much easier. With only five of 10 LCS supports carrying over from 2017, this position is ripe for a rookie to take over.

 

Totoro will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from Unicorns of Love App

UNICORNS OF LOVE – TOTORO

Most recent experience – 2017 League Champions Korea, bbq Olivers

Summer statistics – 2.7 KDA, 19.3% death, 65.1 participation

Totoro is a “rookie” out of the LCK, joining Unicorns of Love as a support. His previous team, bbq Olivers, maintained a 28.9 percent win rate, and Totoro played for ESC Ever prior to that. He mostly played Braum and Rakan during Summer Split, but also drafted 11 different champions over 45 games. As a rookie Korean import, Totoro is the polar opposite of Samux’s previous support, Hylissang, which will take time to adjust.

These are the rookies for the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split. All 12 of these individuals will shape the professional League of Legends landscape this year. One of these players may become the next European superstar. One of these players may not handle the pressure. Nonetheless, it will be exciting to watch these rising talents mesh with their respective teams and coaches and grow throughout the Spring Split.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, Leaguepedia, 5mid.com, Twitter, Unicorns of Love App

Player and Champion Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracle’s Elixir

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Thomas!

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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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Pridestalker moves from Misfits Academy to ROCCAT

EU LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

Roster updates have filled the space between the EU LCS Spring and Summer Splits. Teams swapped players. New organizations purchased academy teams. Challenger players were promoted to LCS, and LCS players dropped to CS. Here is a summary of what is known so far.

NEW ORGANIZATIONS

Ninjas in Pyjamas

Ninjas in Pyjamas purchased Fnatic Academy's LCS slot

Image from NiP.gl

Fnatic Academy qualified for the Summer Split by beating Giants Gaming in the Summer Promotion tournament. Since an organization is not allowed to field more than one roster in the LCS, Fnatic was required to sell their slot. Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) has purchased the slot, but the entire roster has been overhauled:

2017 Spring Split

Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek

Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneide

Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer

Rasmus “MrRalleZ” Skinneholm

Johan “Klaj” Olsson

Kublai “Kubz” Barlas

2017 Summer Split

Kim “Profit” Jun-hyung

Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema

Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon

Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa

Hampus “sprattel” Mikael Abrahamsson

Nicholas “NicoThePico” Korsgaard

Profit comes to the EU LCS from LCK’s SK Telecom T1 (SKT), and Nagne comes from WYDream in the LSPL. Shook last played for Team Vitality in the 2016 Summer Split. HeaQ was acquired from Giants Gaming, and Sprattel from Paris Saint-Germain in the CS. NiP’s coach, NicoThePico, was most recently the head coach for Fnatic’s LCS team before stepping down in March.

While Team Envy (NV) in North America signed Nisqy as their mid laner, it is unclear whether or not Fnatic will maintain the rest of the roster as substitutes. Several of the players have expressed dissatisfaction towards the situation. It is also unclear if Kubz will remain the assistant coach for the organization.

Profit, NiP’s top laner, is arguably their highest profile acquisition. Although he only played nine regular season matches, Profit maintained the highest KDA among all LCK top laners, 8.7. SKT utilized him more frequently as a tank player, mostly drafting Nautilus. Profit joins G2’s Ki “Expect” Dae-han and Mysterious Monkey’s Park “Jisu” Jin-cheol as the third imported Korean top laner in the EU LCS Summer Split.

Mysterious Monkeys

Mysterious Monkeys purchased Misfits Academy's LCS slot

Image from Mysterious-Monkeys.de

The other Challenger team to qualify for the EU LCS Summer Split was Misfits Academy. They defeated Fnatic Academy in the Summer Promotion tournament. Since they also already have an LCS team, Misfits was forced to sell their slot, which has been purchased by Mysterious Monkeys.  They have maintained almost the entire roster:

2017 Spring Split

Park “Jisu” Jin-cheol

Milo “Pridestalker” Wehnes

Sofyan “CozQ” Rechchad

Florent “Yuuki60” Soler

Han “Dreams” Min-kook

Petar “Unlimited” Georgiev

2017 Summer Split

Park “Jisu” Jin-cheol

Leon “Lamabear” Krüger

Sofyan “CozQ” Rechchad

Florent “Yuuki60” Soler

Han “Dreams” Min-kook

Petar “Unlimited” Georgiev

With the departure of Pridestalker, Lamabear returns as Mysterious Monkey’s jungler. Lamabear was the starting jungler for Misfits Academy coming into 2017. However, he was suspended for four months due to unacceptable in-game behavior. Prior to his suspension, Lamabear played for Misfits in the 2017 Spring Promotion tournament to qualify into the EU LCS. The organization ultimately replaced him and Kim “Wisdom” Tae-wan with Lee “KaKAO” Byung- kwon for the Spring Split.

All of the members of Mysterious Monkeys will be rookies in their respective positions, including the coach. The MFA roster averaged 1,291 gold behind at 15 minutes during the regular season of the CS Spring Split and had a 40 percent win rate. However, they had the second highest mid-late game rating, according to Oracle’s Elixir. Yuuki60 averaged the highest damage per minute and lowest death share of all CS players.

LCS ACQUISITIONS

Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian

Maxlore acquired by Misfits

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits acquired Maxlore to fill the void left by KaKAO in the jungler position. This spring he played for Roccat (ROC). Although ROC had a poor early start to the split, Maxlore was a major factor in their late-split run for playoffs. He maintained an 83 percent win rate on Graves, and a 71 percent win rate on Rengar. Despite ROC’s 45 percent overall win rate, Maxlore had mid-high statistics for total assists, first blood rate, CS difference at 10 minutes, damage per minute, and wards cleared per minute. Giants Gaming seemed to utilize him better in 2016, so it will be interesting to see how Misfits incorporate him.

Milo “Pridestalker” Wehnes

Replacing Maxlore on ROC is Pridestalker. This spring, Pridestalker was the starting jungler for Misfits Academy. He played a major role in qualifying them for the EU LCS. During CS Spring Playoffs, Pridestalker maintained the highest KDA of all players, and during the Summer Promotion tournament, he had the second highest overall. Pridestalker also secured first blood in 50 percent of his games throughout playoffs and promotion. Only time will tell if he will be an upgrade over Maxlore.

Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan

A perennial EU support player, VandeR returns to the LCS after a short time on FC Schalke 04 (S04) in Challenger. He joins Team Vitality (VIT) to replace Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan and Baltat “AoD” Alin-Ciprian. VIT had horrible issues in the support position throughout the Spring Split, so this should be a huge pick-up for them.

S04 tore through the competition in CS regular season, maintaining a 10-0 perfect record. VandeR was a huge cog in that machine, averaging a 14.4 KDA and 11 assists per game. However, S04 dropped the ball in the CS Spring Playoffs, losing 3-1 to Misfits Academy. Several players and the coach have left the team. The most likely cause is disappointment.

Dylan Falco   

Dylan Falco acquired by Fnatic as coach

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Most recently acting as coach for NV in the NA LCS, Dylan Falco has been appointed the new head coach of Fnatic. Dylan has worked with several other organizations previously, including TSM, Immortals, and H2K. Former coach NicoThePico had stepped down mid-split, and Finlay “Quaye” Stewart acted as coach temporarily. It is difficult to judge coach Falco’s impact on NV’s gameplay. Fnatic’s roster has more collective veteran LCS experience and does not contain any Korean imports. These differences may be beneficial for him.

Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi  

One of the most shocking reveals this mid-season was the departure of YamatoCannon from Splyce. It has since been announced that he will be the head coach of Team Vitality this summer. Both Splyce and Team Vitality seemed disappointed by their performances this spring. According to YamatoCannon’s announcement video, his leaving Splyce was a mutual decision. While his persona as a coach and analyst will be hard to separate from Splyce’s organization, hopefully this switch will elevate Vitality’s performance.

LEAVING LCS

Olof “Flaxxish” Medin

Team Kinguin acquired Flaxxish from Giants Gaming after Giants’ relegation from the EU LCS. Kinguin is currently participating in the 2017 CS Summer Qualifiers tournament, which will decide if they play in the CS Summer Split. Flaxxish had a terrible Spring Split with Giants, starting with IEM Gyeonggi.

Flaxxish finished the regular season tied for fifth lowest overall KDA. He also averaged the most CS behind, third most gold behind, and ninth most experience behind at 10 minutes. Flaxxish only contributed 302 damage per minute and 18.7 percent of his team’s damage, both lowest among top laners. The pool of top laners in EU LCS is stronger with him in Challenger.

Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi

Memento acquired by Schalke 04

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Memento is another Giants Gaming player to be acquired by a Challenger team for the summer. S04 adds him to their roster to replace Jean-Victor “loulex” Burgevin. Despite Giants’ rough Spring Split, Memento had the second highest kill participation of all EU LCS players, and contributed 18.2 percent of Giants’ damage (highest among junglers). He also secured first blood in 50 percent of regular season games. Giants was able to take first dragon in 50 percent of games, due in large part to Memento.

On the other hand, Memento generally fell behind in gold, experience, and CS at 10 minutes. Almost all of his metrics got worse during the Summer Promotion tournament, which should theoretically be an easier pool of players. S04 had an excellent regular CS split, so Memento will need to play up to his potential if they are to maintain dominance this summer.

Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan

Team Vitality has rid itself of Hachani as support. Arguably one of the worst performers of the Spring Split, Hachani has been acquired by Ever8 Winners in Challengers Korea. During his time on Vitality, Hachani was among the bottom six players in KDA, kill participation, and death share. He also averaged four deaths per game, second lowest among supports. Vitality should be ecstatic to have him gone.

STATUS UNKNOWN

Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon

KaKAO is currently a free agent

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

With the announcement that Maxlore would come onto Misfits’ roster, KaKAO’s status for Summer Split remain unknown. As a free agent, he may be fielding offers from other organizations. He may be returning to Korea. He may be changing to another region, such as China or North America. Maybe he has decided to retire once and for all. Regardless, KaKAO’s spring performance exceeded expectations, and did not seem to be problematic for Misfits’ team. It will be surprising if a team does not sign him.

Origen

Since Origen’s relegation from the EU LCS, they have not discussed the status of the team. The organization did announce on Facebook that their entire roster (except Enrique Cedeño “xPeke” Martínez), including the coach, has been released as free agents. However, that has been the only talk for almost a month. It is unclear who will replace these players, but Origen has implied that they will be participating in the Challenger Series.

Giants Gaming

The other roster mystery lies with Giants Gaming. They, too, were relegated from the LCS and have yet to make any announcements about a new roster. Their AD carry, jungler, and top laner have all been signed elsewhere. There have been no updates regarding Na “NighT” Gun-woo or Morgan “Hustlin” Granberg.


MSI Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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IEM Gyeonggi: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This season’s third leg of Intel Extreme Masters, taking place in Gyeonggi, was one of ups and downs. “Uncertainty” is a word that comes to mind; there was uncertainty in which League of Legends teams would compete after several qualifiers declined to participate. The quality of each roster after many teams underwent massive overhauls in the off-season, and the players’ individual skill level coming back from vacations into a somewhat new meta is unclear.

The announcement of Samsung Galaxy, Immortals, Team Liquid, Kongdoo Monster, Giants Gaming, J Team, Vega Squadron, and Dark Passage left many fans wondering how these teams would match up. Will Samsung be able to show, yet again, that they truly are a top international team? Have Immortals’ and Team Liquid’s roster changes better prepared them to face non-North American competition? Can Kongdoo Monster follow up on their showing at the KeSPA cup?

Of course, fans and analysts alike knew that the teams coming into this tournament would look a bit unrefined due to new players having limited practice with one another and a lack of preparation time since most pros are coming off of a break. Setting these variables aside, as the matches progressed, there were clear strengths and weaknesses visible within all of the organizations. Here are the players who truly stood out, for better or for worse, at IEM Gyeonggi 2016.

The Good

courtesy of Riot eSports

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett

Although his KDA was middling, Dardoch had the highest Kill Participation of all Junglers at the event: 77.2%. It was apparent during Immortals’ games that he was calling the shots. He visited lanes frequently, taking advantage of enemy blind spots and over-aggression. The high points that come to mind are games 1 and 2 of the Semifinals versus Kongdoo Monster. In the first game, Dardoch locked in a surprise Gragas pick. He enabled kills in all three lanes and Immortals took the Infernal Drake within the first 10 minutes. Kongdoo did come back to win, but there was nothing more to ask for from a Jungler. In game 2, Immortals put Dardoch on Hecarim and he proceeded to go on a rampage. A 5.33 KDA, 5.68 CS/minute, and 88.9% Kill Participation — I would award him the MVP of that game, and of Immortals’ roster at IEM Gyeonggi.

Jin-sol “Ssol” Seo

The only ADC that stood out to me at the tournament, Ssol put on an Ezreal clinic. Overlooking his one silly over-aggression of the entire showing, the Kongdoo Monster marksman showed strong mechanics and understanding of his damage. His overall KDA for the tournament was 4.54, but when only focusing on the seven out of ten games he played on Ezreal, that KDA goes up to 5.77. Pair that with a win-rate of 71%, I am surprised this pick did not get banned away from him more. Although, he did go 17-2-8 against Giants in the Group B Winners match while playing Jhin. I am looking forward to watching Ssol play against other LCK bot lanes this Spring after his performance at Gyeonggi.

Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong

The most impressive player at IEM Gyeonggi was Ambition. It is no coincidence that Samsung Galaxy was able to take home the trophy at the end of the day. This squad proved to be dominant in their games and a lot of it had to do with Ambition’s veteran experience and true control of the map. I cannot find any stellar statistics to back up my claim, so I guess you will have to just go watch the games. He went five for five on his Lee Sin, and put up a 5.67 KDA on a pocket Kha’Zix for Game 2 of the Finals. The Samsung Jungler did not skip a beat in matches against Dardoch, Son “Punch” Min-hyuk of Kongdoo, and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin of Liquid. Ambition allowed his laners, especially Lee “Crown” Min-ho, to truly shine against their opponents.

The Bad

courtesy of Riot eSports

Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin

Piglet looked mediocre at this tournament. A 4.2 KDA is not bad; it is middling. 62% Kill Participation is a similar statistic. But his CS Difference at 10 minutes averaged -5.4. That ranks him tenth worst out of all players at IEM Gyeonggi and second worst among the ADC’s, specifically. In Team Liquid’s series against Dark Passage, Piglet finished his games 7-1-8 and 14-1-4. He made those games look easy. Giants’ bot lane, however, seemed like a more even match-up. The preliminary Best-of-1 and the later Best-of-3 showed Piglet’s inconsistency: 1-5-5, 8-4-6, and 7-0-13. I would even argue the third match-up was completely enabled by Matt “Matt” Elento’s aggressive Thresh plays. Finally, Piglet seemed completely out-matched against Samsung Galaxy, going 3-3-5 and 0-6-2, which knocked Liquid out of the tournament. I don’t think many expected such dissonance from this veteran AD Carry.

Olof “Flaxxish” Medin

Honestly, all of Giants Gaming did not look too hot at this tournament. But, of all the players on Giants, Flaxxish looked the worst, especially when compared to Na “NighT” Gun-woo and Elias “Upset” Lipp. Leaving IEM Gyeonggi with a 1.8 KDA, 44.4% Kill Participation, and 7.4 CS behind on average is pretty bad. Add to that the several solo deaths he had in the top lane and it does not paint a pretty picture. Part of the blame should be put on Kim “Mightybear” Min-su, but he was only playing these few games on loan from Team Vitality. Hopefully, the Jungle-Top synergy gets better when Giants sign someone else. Either way, Flaxxish needs to do better if the team is going to find success in the 2017 EU LCS.

Cody “Cody Sun” Sun

You know how I said Piglet had the second worst CS Difference at 10 minutes among ADCs at IEM Gyeonggi? Well, Cody Sun was the worst–an appalling -6.8, or 7th lowest of all players in the tournament. Formerly known as “Massacre,” Cody Sun came into Gyeonggi with the rest of Immortals’ new roster. To be fair, this was his first international competition, but it just was not there for him. His Support, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, did seem to over-extend regularly and did not seem to be on the same page, but Cody Sun looked afraid to fight at all. This bot lane was a glaring weak spot for the Immortals’ roster. Hopefully, more time, practice, and experience brings these players together in a more cohesive way.

The Ugly

courtesy of NListe.com

Evgeniy “Drobovik” Belousov

Although neither Wild Card team won a single game, Vega Squadron did have the more difficult group. Regardless, Drobovik had a tough time in the mid lane. He finished with a 1.0 KDA, -9.3 CS Difference at 10 minutes, and 26.2% Death Share over 3 games. Seemingly out-classed by Crown, Pobelter, and Chieh “FoFo” Li, there are no highlights from Drobovik at this tournament. J Team even gifted the 100% pick-ban Syndra to the Russian mid laner, but FoFo was still able to go 5-0-8 on Ekko. If this team wants to stand a chance in the LCL in 2017, then they will certainly need to shore up their play around Mid.

Furkan “Immortoru” Tekeş

If Drobovik stood a chance against any mid laner at IEM Gyeonggi it would be Immortoru of Dark Passage. Viewers could not help but feel sorry for this guy. Playing Mid for the Turkish squad, he finished at the bottom of the barrel with a KDA of 0.4 and averaged 450 gold behind his opponents at 10 minutes. Competition within Mid in Group B was not easy. Lee “Edge” Ho-seong of Kongdoo Monster, Team Liquid’s Goldenglue, and Giants’ NighT all had solid performances at various points in the tournament. But this was another case of a player looking a tier below the rest of the field. Dark Passage better hope the other teams in Turkey sport lesser mid laners or there will be a tough road ahead.

Anıl “HolyPhoenix” Işık

Rounding out the “Ugly” portion of IEM Gyeonggi is HolyPhoenix, also of Dark Passage. The ADC finished the tournament with the lowest KDA, 0.5, and Kill Particiption, 56.3%. Compared to his stats from the 2016 TCL Summer Split, the Turkish marksman struggled against the international competitors. This was particularly apparent in their two games against Team Liquid in the Group B Losers bracket. Piglet, who looked shaky against other opponents, popped off in both games by dominating HolyPhoenix and Rogue in bot lane. Finishing 0-6-0 and 2-7-3, HolyPhoenix’s performance was devastating for his team at this event.

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