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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surprise

A surprise ending to the Spring Split

Week 9 of the League Championship Series came with a lot of hype, and it didn’t disappoint. Possibilities, predictions and guesses were everywhere. While just about every outcome was discussed at some point, some options were quickly brushed aside, and even laughed at. Everyone debated whether CLG had a real shot to make the playoffs, if Cloud9 or Echo Fox would come out ahead, or if Misfits could hold on long enough to continue their season. When the dust settled, two of the most surprising outcomes had occurred. 100 Thieves was the best team in the NA LCS, and H2K was headed to the postseason.

100 Thieves

In their inaugural season, 100 Thieves came out swinging, winning four of their first five games. After losing their next four games in a row, however, they fell off the radar for many people. For some reason, they seemed to stay there despite rebounding to end their season with a 7-1 stretch. With so much talk focusing on the battle for first between Echo Fox and Cloud9, and TSM, Team Liquid and CLG all fighting for playoff spots, 100 Thieves slid under the radar into third place after Week 8.

In Week 9, 100 Thieves dominated Clutch Gaming on Saturday in a 33 minute match. On Sunday, they continued their winning streak by one more. Facing an Echo Fox team that included two subs (Midlaner Tanner “Damonte” Damonte and Support John “Papa Chau” Le), 100 Thieves didn’t hold back. Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook was able to secure Ryze who had been banned against him 11 times during the season, and William “Meteos” Hartman punished the enemy on Zac. They took down Echo Fox to tie them for first place in the NA LCS with a 12-6 record.

Tiebreaker

In the first of four NA LCS tiebreakers, the two went head to head for the second time that day. The action started early, with Meteos (Skarner) invading the enemy’s Top Side Jungle. He caught Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett (Nocturne) at the Red Buff, and they dueled briefly before being joined by both Mid and Top Laners. Ryu, once again on Ryze, took down Dardoch for first blood. Lamonte (Azir) responded with a kill on Meteos, and Ryu eliminated Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon (Shen) before being killed by Lamonte. Both Mid Laners had earned a double kill before 4 minutes had passed.

Damonte played well for Echo Fox as the match continued, but the superior teamwork and experience of 100 Thieves paid off. They had better objective pressure, team fighting and shot calling. More than once they were able to use Realm Warp to catch the enemy off guard. Destroying the Nexus in just under 27 Minutes, 100 Thieves truly looked deserving of the first place spot in the NA LCS.

 

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Courtesy of LoL Esports

H2K

Over in the EU LCS, another team also turned around a dismal early season to find success this weekend. H2K was 1-7 going into Week 5. One of the older and more successful organizations in Europe, they were struggling to make things work. Unable to compete with team after team, they were easily the worst team in the EU LCS.

Desperate to end their losing streak, they made several changes. H2K tried subbing out Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer for Marc “Caedrel” Robert Lamont in the Jungle before finally settling on Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema in Week 5. This move, combined with putting Marcin “Selfie” Wolski in the Mid Lane turned out to be exactly what they needed. Looking like a completely different team, H2K went 6-3 in the back half of the split and put themselves in the position to decide their own fate. If they beat ROCCAT in their last game of the Spring Split, they would earn a spot in the playoffs.

ROCCAT took the lead early on as Shook (Sejuani) and Selfie (Kassadin) overextended to attempt to kill Jin “Blanc” Seong-min (Anivia). Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi (Skarner) and Kim “Profit” Jun-hyung (Sion) responded quickly, and it resulted in Profit getting First Blood on Shook. This set the tone for the next 30 minutes, and ROCCAT used this early advantage to control objectives. They took six towers, three dragons, and a Baron to earn a 7k gold lead.

The comeback

Though it may have looked like it, H2K was not done yet, and at 30 minutes they used superior positioning to allow Patrik “Sheriff” Jírů (Jinx) to put out impressive damage. He was able to get a double kill, leading to the teams first Baron of the game. They were able to push and take two Towers before repeating the play. Sheriff once again got a double kill in a prolonged team fight, leading to another Baron and the first significant gold lead for H2K.

Despite an Elder Dragon that allowed ROCCAT to get another inhibitor, H2K kept the gold lead for the rest of the match. At 52 minutes were able to use their third Baron buff of the game to crush the enemy Nexus. In one of the most impressive regular season comebacks in recent memory, H2K went from 1-7 to earning themselves a Playoff spot.

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: @buttsy11. For more of the best esports news, follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Featured image courtesy of LoL Esports

Dare the Unicorns of Love dream of playoffs?

Ever since their entry into the European League Championship Series in 2015, the Unicorns of Love (UoL) have been an eternal underdog team. From their explosive performance at the 2014 Intel Extreme Masters tournament versus North American darlings Team SoloMid, to their crazy playoff run in their inaugural split, and their second finals appearance two years later versus G2 Esports, UoL have always had the odds stacked against them. Without the resources or infrastructure of the bigger teams, UoL nonetheless managed to win the hearts of countless European fans by proving that they had what it took to survive alongside the teams at the top. More importantly, they knew how to do it in style. This is why many fans are in a strange position: for the first time ever, UoL doesn’t have a single member of their original core roster.

Yet, in true scrappy Unicorns of Love fashion, after an abysmal record of a single win and eight losses which left them firmly at the bottom of the league, and with fans bemoaning the loss of Europe’s underdog darling, the comeback has begun. Over the last three weeks, UoL has managed to pull together for a crazy five game winstreak, leaving them tied with two other teams in sixth place: the lowest position at which a team can advance to the playoffs. Unfortunately for Unicorns fans, their struggles are far from over, as the final two weeks of the split will see UoL running a brutal gauntlet of four of the top five teams: Fnatic, G2, Vitality, and Misfits. To see if they can make it, lets have a look at how they earned their two victories this weekend, versus H2K and FC Schalke 04.

 

UoL V H2K – A new side to the Unicorns

Their previous game against a far weaker version of H2K was UoL’s only victory in the first half of the split, and they did not start the rematch strong, displaying lane deficits, desperate engages, and giving up an embarrassing first blood to a roam from H2K’s support while Unicorns of Love jungler Jonas “Kold” Anderson attempted to clear a ward. What salvaged them, however, was surprisingly astute shot-calling and macro play. A solid botlane gank from UoL towards the end of the early-game managed to deprive H2K of their toplaner’s teleport, and they utilised this advantage just a few minutes later. Using a well-placed deep ward and a fast collapse they turned a pick of their jungler into a counter-attack that let them snatch back two kills and seriously pressure for the first tower of the game.

Their real break came a few minutes later. Following the baron spawn, UoL made a concerted push for vision in H2K’s nearby jungle, using it to get a surprise pick onto H2K’s jungler. This allowed UoL to utilise their high-dps champions in Azir and Tristana to pivot and take an ineffectually contested baron at 22 minutes into the game. A baron which, in conjunction with the recently buffed item Banner of Command, UoL was able to use to take out H2K’s midlane inhibitor less than 2 minutes later, before H2K had lost a single sidelane tower.

From this point, UoL took firm control of the game. H2K was consistently unable to stop UoL’s pushes, often being too busy scrambling to answer sidelane pressure. When they did try to mount a straightforward defense, UoL’s usage of buffed minions allowed them to grind down towers while avoiding a fight. Though H2K would later in the game fight back with some well-coordinated engages, they were never able to entirely flip the game as at almost every point, UoL had cleverly set up side lanes to exert pressure that H2K had to answer. After having applied constant pressure for the majority of the game, UoL eventually managed to force an advantageous fight and snatch the win.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

What was interesting about UoL’s play is that after the initial baron, it felt like UoL should’ve been capable of winning teamfights at most points in the game, due to their scaling champions, strong peel and engage tools. Yet for most of the game, every straight up fight for H2K that did not start with an overstep seemed to go in their favour. UoL therefore did everything they could to avoid fights, or to make H2K’s teamfight wins too costly to do anything with, using macro to cover for their perceived inability to teamfight. At almost every juncture, UoL chose to disengage and rely on the map pressure that they were so effectively building up advantages with. What we saw was a UoL that seemed to understand their weaknesses and play very effectively around them; a quality that’s encouraging in a team coming out of such a poor early season.

The word that best describes their play this game would be ‘decisive’. The Unicorns of Love were not, in many senses, playing to the calibre of a top team, but they were playing with the confident shotcalling of one. After a passive early game, they always seemed to know what they wanted, and weren’t afraid to be opportunistic in getting it, using chance picks enabled by their strong vision game to pivot onto objectives like baron or vulnerable towers. Once they began, they were able to smartly use objectives and pressure to dictate the pace of the game and take the win. Most importantly of all, they proved that they had the ability to play a macro game, a skill which will undoubtedly be useful against teams good enough to not take poor early fights.

 

UoL v S04 – Return of the Unicorns of Old

After their previous game, one could reasonably expect to see UoL attempting to expand on their macro strategy, potentially while attempting to shore up their passive early game and teamfighting weaknesses. What one certainly couldn’t have expected, unless they’re a true unicorns fan through and through, was UoL entirely abandoning all attempts at map pressure and carefully established vision and getting down and dirty with FC Schalke 04, good old Unicorns-style.

Though UoL once again lost or tied their lanes in the early game, they did show a more proactive side. Kold abandoned his previous strategy of getting caught in the river in favour of some strong gank attempts, and helped UoL secure both first and second blood. However, unlike their previous game, where they were able to constantly prevent H2K from taking any valuable objectives, these ganks came at a cost. With Unicorns of Love midlaner Fabian “Exileh” Schubert roaming up to assist in a gank that was over by the time he arrived, this allowed Schalke to snatch an early uncontested infernal drake.

Despite many early attempts to make plays and earn kills, only some of which were successful, none of this proved enough to establish an early lead. While UoL picked up some clean kills, Schalke was able to ultimately establish an early game advantage. They did this with picks of their own, effective responses to failed ganks, eyes on objectives and winning or even lanes all contributing to Schalke sitting on a small gold lead and two infernal drakes at 18 minutes into the game.

This wasn’t enough to deter UoL though, who took advantage of Schalke’s long early-game ultimate cooldowns after losing a fight to force another one almost immediately. By combining a forceful teleport-aided engage, smart positioning, and a well-timed flank on a split team from Exileh’s Veigar to rout Schalke. Of course, just as for the original Unicorns, just because a fight is over doesn’t mean the fight is over. UoL determinedly dived deep into enemy territory with the power of Eun “Totoro” Jong-seop’s Tahm Kench, securing more kills, staggering Schalke’s respawn timers and pushing towers hard.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

In the old Unicorns of Love days, the word that defined their playstyle was ‘momentum’, and it was hard not to feel like the spirits of the old Unicorns were guiding the newer squad. This one teamfight win quickly turned into a first tower, which then turned into two more towers, which then turned into a masterfully executed teamfight outside the baron pit, which itself turned into an uncontested baron. By the end of this all, UoL had in the space of 3 minutes turned a small gold deficit and the terrifying prospect of facing a scaling team with two infernal dragons into a 5000 gold lead and utter control of the pace of the game. Just as in their win versus H2K, the baron proved to be the point at which UoL took control and refused to let it go.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

However, in every other way, UoL’s performance here was wildly different from their previous game. Where vision and map play were used to outmanoeuvre H2K, brute force and scrappy skirmishes were used versus Schalke. While UoL had previously played scared and favoured disengages, here used the full force of their gold lead to be constantly in Schalke’s face. The game ended shortly after UoL used their map dominance to take a second baron, following with a determined push bot simply never ending, breaking through the base and smashing Schalke’s feeble attempts to defend. The UoL of this game was a familiar one, a squad unafraid to fight and reluctant to ever stop. It was a UoL who embraced the style that has taken them so far in the past.

What’s the take-away?

What makes these games so interesting is how UoL won both in such different ways. With some teams, this could be taken as a promising sign of versatility, yet UoL used each game to show strength in exactly the area they showed weakness in. With one game being all about the macro at the cost of an ability to effectively teamfight, and with the other showing a UoL who could confidently fight, but had to use brute force to crack the base.

What promising similarities there were between the two games could be seen in their decisive and opportunistic shotcalls. In both games, UoL saw a chance and went for it without hesitation, using these critical windows to blow the games wide open. It’s also likely no coincidence that these windows both occurred near baron around the 20-minute mark. This, alongside the Unicorns of Love’s confident usage of Banner of Command in their first game, suggests that they had a good read of the meta coming into 8.4. UoL may have already played their hand for the 8.4 patch, however. As good as they may have looked, it’s hard to imagine next week’s opponents in teams Vitality and Fnatic willingly engaging in risky teamfights near baron, and they’re less likely than lower-tier teams like H2K or Schalke to slip up and provide those crucial openings.

The Unicorns of Love have earned themselves a real chance to make a claim to that last playoff spot. Their chief competitors in Giants and Roccat also have difficult schedules ahead of them, each playing three of their four final games against heavily favoured teams. In this chaos, they most certainly have hope: five-game winstreaks from previously bottom-tier teams tend not to happen by freak chance. They’ve begun to come together as a cohesive team, with players like Totoro and especially Exileh rising to the challenge. Nobody can say which version of the pink power ponies will show up in the next two weeks, but the finish line is in sight. It’s up to them to gallop over it. All we can do is hold our breath.

 

Featured image courtesy of LoL Esports.

If you would like to be updated with more esports content, feel free to follow me on Twitter @Elteras, and of course, The Game Haus Esports @TGHEsports.

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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Shook H2K

All Shook up

H2K’s Spring Split

It often takes a few weeks for teams to settle into their groove and start playing up to their potential. For H2K, it may have taken five. After going 1-1 the first week of the Spring Split, they have resided steadily at the bottom of the EU LCS. Losing their next six games in a row, it’s hard to imagine things looking much worse for H2K.

In Week 4, they attempted to stall the tailspin. H2K moved mid laner Marc “Caedrel” Robert Lamont to the jungle, and started Marcin “Selfie” Wolski in the mid lane. Somehow, this only seemed to make things worse. H2K earned a combined 1 kill and 24 deaths in two losses that week. Likely assuming that they had nowhere to go but up, they made another roster change going into Week 5. Sliding Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema into the jungle spot and keeping Selfie at Mid, H2K readied themselves to take on Roccat and first-place Vitality.

Week 5

Game 1

As they chose their Champions, it was difficult to be too optimistic about their chances, even with the experienced Shook in the jungle. Not only was their 1-7 record tied for the worst in the EU LCS, but their average team damage was equally poor. H2K averaged 1384 damage per minute as a team, compared to the EU LCS average of 1858 DPM. This is the lowest DPM for any team since the statistic was first recorded in 2014.

As the match progressed, H2K seemed to have forgotten how much the odds were stacked against them. Slowly but surely they began to play like they were ready to be done with their losing streak. After giving up first blood in the top lane, Shook (Zac) immediately responded with a gank, launching behind the bot lane tower. He provided enough Crowd Control to give Selfie (Orianna) the double kill. Within three minutes, Shook had shifted pressure to the top lane, securing both the Rift Herald and First Tower for H2K.

Though it was not an easy game, with each team taking a Baron and the gold lead shifting five times, H2K looked more in control than they had in a long time. They made solid team plays, focused the correct objectives and defended well when behind. Just after the 33:00 minute mark, H2k interrupted Roccat’s Baron attempt. Shook earned two kills and secured the Baron, and H2K pushed into the enemy base for the victory.

h2k Shook

Courtesy of LoL Esports

Game 2

The next day, the revitalized H2K faced Team Vitality. Despite being handed their second loss of the split the day before, Vitality was regarded as arguably the most dominant team so far this Spring.

Shook (Jarvan IV) started by invading Vitality’s Blue Side jungle, forcing Erberk “Gilius” Demir (Jax) out after stealing his farm. Vitality responded by ganking bot lane, with Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro (Ryze) using Realm Warp to teleport Gilus and himself behind Patrik “Sheriff” Jírů (Tristana) and Hampus “promisq” Mikael Abrahamsson (Zilean). Shook was there to respond though, and knocked up Gilius just as Marcin “Selfie” Wolski (Galio) used Hero’s Entrance. They chained the Crowd Control on the enemy jungler and secured first blood.

H2K remained in control for the next 20 minutes, only faltering briefly when they got caught out while attempting to take Vitality’s Bot Lane Inhibitor Turret. They rebounded quickly, however, and immediately responded by taking that tower, getting three kills, and ending the match. Chants of “H-2-What? H-2-K!” filled the arena as the Nexus imploded, just as it often had in years past.

Moving forward

Shook may have been a large part of H2K’s success this week, but that is not because he carried them with the most kills or highest damage. He did what a good jungler should, providing pressure, securing objectives and allowing his teammates to get ahead. Because of this, H2K will be more stable and harder to stop. Instead of having one person to shut down, opponents will have a cohesive team of five members to deal with, each able to punish them if left unchecked.

Although this week was an impressive one for H2K, it remains to be seen if they can keep winning in the remainder of the split. It seems clear however, that Week 5 was not a fluke. The team looked revitalized with Shook at the helm, ready to climb their way up the EU LCS ladder.

 

If you would like to contact me or keep up with things I like, find me on Twitter: @buttsy11.  For more of the best esports news, follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Featured Image Courtesy of LoL Esports

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

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Thanksgiving Free Agents: League of Legends Edition

League of Legends is having their first major free agency period since the start of franchising in North America. As with traditional sports, free agency is going to be a major time for teams to build their rosters for LCS’ new start. Instead of just giving you who some of the free agents are and where they might go, a holiday theme has been added for your enjoyment. (Note: As of the time this was written none of these players have signed officially)

Corn “Froggen”

Froggen has been consistent since the day he entered the LCS. Never overly flashy but a major part and sometimes the best part of his team. Corn like Froggen is never flashy but it is reliable and can be the best part of a bad meal.

Last year on Echo Fox, Froggen was the unchallenged leader of the team. Echo Fox finished in eighth, just outside of the playoffs the last two splits. This was due to many things, but rarely ever Froggen. There are plenty of new openings for Froggen. As an in-game and out of game leader, Froggen will be someone who is going to be brought on to do just that. His play is consistent but his leadership skills are what gets him his next position.

For this reason, Froggen will be going to a completely new squad in NA as some of the newer teams will be looking for a leader to help guide them through their first season. He did this with Echo Fox and maybe with a better and more consistent roster around him, Froggen will finally make NA playoffs this year.  With sources saying Akaadian has been bought out by OpTic Gaming it would make sense that they add arguably the two best players from Echo Fox.

Prediction: OpTic

Cranberry Sauce “PowerOfEvil”

Like cranberry sauce you either love PowerOfEvil or you strongly dislike him. He can be an absolute legend on the rift or look like he is lost. That being said PowerOfEvil is testing the waters of free agency hoping to be picked up by a NA squad.

Misfits made a surprising run in world this last year making it out of group stages. While the team played well as a whole, in most games until the end, PowerOfEvil had looked solid. He can make the flashy plays and keep up with many of the games top mid-laners when he is on his game. If he can find consistency there is no doubt that he can challenge just about anyone while in lane. For that reason I think PowerOfEvil will be a hot commodity for NA this free agency.

A great squad for PowerOfEvil would be Flyquest. With Flame reportedly signing there and a solid bot-lane of WildTurtle and Stunt, bringing on PowerOfEvil would make a nice splash for FlyQuest. For PowerOfEvil he would be able to play with teammates who can help guide him in his first year in NA and allow for him to learn from his mistakes he will probably make early on. If they get the PowerOfEvil we saw during group stages and during Mistfits’ run in EU championships, then FlyQuest could have a very strong squad next season.

Prediction: FlyQuest

Sweet Potatoes “LemonNation”

Sweet Potatoes are classic when talking about Thanksgiving dinner. They are sweet and almost like desert before actual desert. Lemonnation is a classic NA support who can surprise people by quietly being solid throughout the game. (Also both are orange/red) Lemonnation has been a consistent and overall solid support since he came into the professional league scene. He does his work and helps lead teams to being better than many people would have thought.

Last year on FlyQuest, many people felt that they would be a joke because it was made up of players who had not played in the pro-scene in awhile. They came out and surprised everyone by making playoffs their first split and barely missing playoffs their second split. Lemonnation came back with a vengeance and showed that older players in the scene can still play and has maybe changed everyone’s opinions about what a “old” player really is.

While Ignar and Aphromoo are higher on teams’ lists, there are still openings for supports especially on new teams. You could reasonably argue that once the other two have signed, whoever else has an opening would sign Lemonnation. With that in mind 100 Thieves looks like a good place for Lemonnation to end up. Ssumday and Meteos (both of whom are on this list) are rumored to be signed with 100 Thieves and Ryu has been confirmed. With Pr0lly as their coach this group could add Lemonnation and have a very reliable team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Green Bean Casserole “Meteos”

Some years it’s there, some it’s not. Sometimes you dislike it, sometimes you love it. Like “Dark” Meteos green bean casserole comes back after missing some time at family events and you’re afraid of what is coming next. It is put on your plate against your will and you are told to try it. This time you like it and oddly want more.

Meteos was a mainstay with Cloud9 for many splits. He has a solid following and thus every time he’s filled in for a team people have been very excited. After spending different parts of the year with Phoenix1, who went from playoffs to last between Spring and Summer split, Meteos is ready to be a starter again. With the many opportunities it is likely that he will get a chance to show he is a top level jungler at the professional level.

It is being reported that Meteos will be signing with 100 Thieves. If this stands, with Ryu and Ssumday, it looks as though 100 Thieves could have a very interesting roster to start of League of Legends franchising.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Biscuit/Corn Bread/Rolls “Febiven”

Any type of bread is needed with any Thanksgiving meal. They help to fill you up and are a go to if you’re not ready to try something new. Febiven in NA would be that. He is a solid mid-laner who brings consistency to any team. He may not be the mvp on his team but he is needed and a safe pickup for any team.

Febiven brings that feeling of a stalwart in the middle of the rift for any team. For H2k this past year Febiven brought composure to an already winning team. He got his start with Cloud9 Eclipse and many speculate he is testing free agency in order to go back to NA. Febiven can bring a lot to one of these new franchising teams and it is likely that he would have a nice payday doing so.

According to sources Golden Guardians only have their coach so far, Locodoco. It is also rumored that Shiphtur might be signing with them. While Shiphtur is a good mid-laner, the Golden Guardians would be making a big time acquisition by signing Febiven. He would not only attract fans but also players. If they know they have someone like him holding down the middle of the Rift then players will feel more comfortable around him. Also wouldn’t it be fun to see Bjerg, Jensen, Pobelter, Huhi, Ryu and Febiven battling it out in mid next season?

Prediction: Golden Guardians

Stuffing “Ignar”

On the outside, if you have never had stuffing before you might think, “I dont know what to think about this”. Then you try it and realize it’s solid and brings the meal together. In many ways this is Ignar. The All-Pro support had some questions coming over to Misfits and showed this year that he is the stuffing to any Thanksgiving meal.

After a quick stay with KT Rolster Ignar found a home with Misfits. He was exactly what you would want in a support. He is able to speak Korean and getting better at English, and he is able to help get bot-lane ahead. His aggresion mixed well with his lanemate, Hans Sama, as he played champions like Rakan, Blitzcrank and Thresh. He is a playmaker and with that will come many offers from teams for a support who can do more than just keep their ADC alive.

There are rumors that Ignar is looking to head back to the LCK, possibly even with SKT. If this doesn’t happen and he heads to NA, there is no doubt that he will land a starting roll. OpTic would be a good match with Ignar. Sources say that Arrow has already signed and thus Ignar would have another Korean ADC. This would eliminate a language barrier and give OpTic another nice pickup.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming

Gravy “Aphromoo”

If you don’t like gravy, what are you doing with your life? If you don’t like Aphromoo the same question should be asked. The man is one of the best supports in NA and, like gravy, he is liked by mostly everyone. Gravy is also what you put on everything in order to help it taste better. No matter what team Aphromoo joins, he will make them that much better.

The Moo has been one of the best, if not the best, supports in NA since he arrived on the scene. His ability to get his ADC ahead by whatever means necessary has made him a lanemate that any ADC would want. While he still can go back to CLG if he wants to, it is interesting that he is testing free agency. It may help drive up the money for his contract wherever he signs, including CLG.

While it would be interesting to see another team pick up Aphromoo, it is likely he stays with CLG. They will give into giving him a large contract and that should bring him back. He is already familiar with the team as most of his teammates, Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay have all already signed with CLG.

Prediction: CLG

Mashed Potatoes “Ssumday”

Mashed potatoes are one of the best parts of the entire Thanksgiving meal. Is it really Thanksgiving without them? Nearly everyone loves them and sometimes if the other parts of the meal aren’t good you can always turn to mashed potatoes to be the best part. Ssumday will be this for which ever team he signs with. Everyone is going to want to bring him on and when others may not be as good around him, you can turn to him and know he will show why he is one of the best top-laners in the world.

Ssumday did not live up to the hype during his first full year in NA, but was still very good. Coming over from KT Rolster everyone believed Ssumday was easily a top 3 top-laner in the world. Dignitas fans were ecstatic when he signed on. Dig went to the playoffs both splits in their first full season back, but unfortunately were not chosen to go forward with franchising. Now Ssumday is again looking for his next home to show he is a top tier top-laner again.

Originally it was thought that Ssumday would be looking to go back to the LCK this season. Then sources came out claiming that 100 Thieves is looking to sign him. While the team has not confirmed it yet, if he were to sign there 100 Thieves, it would have a very nice start for their team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Pumpkin Pie “MikeYeung”

Pumpkin pie is what everyone wants even though they are already full, it is that good. It can be the only part some people care about. MikeYeung is the new, young jungler that everyone is going to be going after. He is the pumpkin pie at this Thanksgiving dinner, every team will be giving him a look.

MikeYueng made a splash in NA during his first split with Pheonix1 by winning Rookie of the Split. He showed that he can be an impact player at every phase of the game, especially when he got ahead. The problem was when he didn’t get ahead or his team struggled, he lacked the experience to bring them back. Now that he has played a full split he will be looking to show anyone who signs him that he is the real deal.

Sources are saying that TSM is likely going to sign MikeYeung. After a disappointing year with Svenskeren, it is not a huge surprise that TSM would be looking at someone with the potential of MikeYeung. With Bjerg and Hauntzer most likely staying, they will be able to help bring Mike along and help him to reach his full potential. Also, with sources saying that Zven and Mithy have come over to TSM, this squad could have an incredible 2018.

Prediction: TSM

Turkey “Peanut”

The main course, the bird that represents all of Thanksgiving is the turkey. Turkey is what people spend days prepping to make sure it looks and tastes amazing. Shows and movies constantly show people fighting over the last available turkey. Thanksgiving dinner is not Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Peanut is someone people can build a team around. He is the turkey of this Thanksgiving meal.

Many people were surprised when Peanut announced that he was a free agent. He instantly shot up to the top of teams wishlists, as he is considered by many to be the best jungler in the world. Every team that has a jungle opening should be looking to sign someone of his talent level. He made his name on ROX Tigers and then signed with SKT this last season. While they didn’t win Worlds he was still a major part, along with Faker, of getting this team to Finals.

Peanut is the prize in this free agency and if he heads to NA, every team will want him. If it wasn’t likely that TSM was signing MikeYeung, it is probable that they would be in the mix. Counting them out, there are three teams who will likely be vying for his service: FlyQuest, Golden Guardians and CLG. CLG has a very good squad especially if they bring back Aphromoo. OmarGod had a solid first split after Dardoch left but, if CLG want to be a contender for Worlds, they need to sign Peanut. With him on their team CLG could easily be vying for a top spot in NA and could make a huge run at Worlds.

Prediction: CLG

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

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.


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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


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Schalke 04 joins the EU LCS in 2018

2018 EU LCS changes helping or hurting Europe?

Riot is rolling out big plans for European professional League of Legends, according to a recent report from ESPN esports. Jacob Wolf’s sources outlined a new format for the EU LCS starting in 2018, which includes “the league…[splitting] into four regions… 24 total teams,” “a number of group stages and a double-elimination playoff bracket,” and “a multi-year license from Riot Games.”

These updates come in response to several instances of dissatisfaction from organizations that own teams in the EU LCS. Top-tier European teams applying to join the NA LCS in 2018, and H2K’s recent public announcement to the community are two recent, high profile examples. These organizations cite financial unsustainability and insecurity as primary causes of strife within the EU LCS.

Maintaining the current promotion-relegation model creates an environment of uncertainty and risk for LCS teams, which scares sponsors from making high-value investments. European organizations also suffer from a more fragmented, regional market, when compared to those in North America. Without more certainty for organizations, and without the possibility of larger investment, the value of EU LCS slots has stagnated.

As reported by TheScore esports, EU LCS viewership is on the decline, especially when compared to the NA LCS. While Riot has developed and announced plans for franchising in the NA LCS next year, fans and players are worried that the EU LCS will suffer without serious change. The newest report shows Riot EU is looking to bring needed changes in the following areas.

BUSINESS & FINANCES

Misfits Academy sold to Mysterious Monkeys for $400,000

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

First and foremost, these changes aim at improving the economic environment of the EU LCS. Growth and excitement in esports, professional League of Legends included, revolve around money. Viewership, audiences and fans create opportunities for advertising, which allows developers, like Riot, to monetize the broadcasting of their games. Business organizations, such as Roccat or Splyce, view esports events as opportunities to advertise their products by sponsoring teams to compete. Players and coaches see esports as opportunities to make a living.

The decline in EU LCS viewership and the maintenance of the promotion-relegation model, coupled with the immense potential of an expanded, franchised NA LCS, present problems for European League of Legends organizations. While other regions and esports are taking major steps forward to increase revenue opportunities, the EU LCS is lagging behind. For example, while North America’s most recent LCS slot purchase (FlyQuest) clocked in at $2.5 million, Europe’s (Mysterious Monkeys) only sold for $400,000. Mysterious Monkeys was relegated within one split of entering the EU LCS, demonstrating the riskiness of such a venture.

From a financial perspective, the most compelling portion of Jacob Wolf’s’ report states “Participating teams will be granted a multi-year license from Riot Games to compete in the league, but a hard date on those licenses has not been established, sources said. This means teams won’t have to fear the possibility of relegation from their domestic leagues.” Doing away with relegation boosts the security for teams within the league, which, in turn, makes them more attractive as investment opportunities. This change removes the risk of a team, like Mysterious Monkeys, entering and exiting the LCS within a split or two.

Another element that should affect the business side of the EU LCS is the localization. Since there will now be four domestic leagues centered in Berlin, Paris, London and Barcelona, companies and organizations with more ties to specific locations may be more likely to invest. Spanish businesses may be drawn to sponsor a team in the Barcelona league, while French agencies might invest into Paris. Assuming this localization is more attractive to European investors, splitting parts of the LCS should be a beneficial move.

A final, less direct benefit of these new changes is the fact that Riot EU has tangible plans for next year. Financial backing is impossible without clear, executable strategies for the future, especially when organizations are targeting investments that may not return over several years. Once Riot unveils more detailed plans, organizations, team owners, sponsors and investors can begin to seriously consider their financial future with less uncertainty.

The only possible problem with the new EU LCS league format would be the need for more overall investment in a short period of time. There are currently 10 teams in the LCS and six teams in the Challenger Series. The reported 24-team league would require eight additional professionally funded organizations. This would mean each localized region would need to find two additional major organizations to enter the league from scratch. It is unclear if this is feasible. However, Riot EU has most likely analyzed the market to a point to determine this as a realistic goal for 2018.

COMPETITIVE INTEGRITY

Fnatic Academy sold to Ninjas in Pyjamas for $500,000

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When talking about professional sports and esports, the competitive environment is of utmost importance. No one wants to watch matches that are excessively one-sided or low overall quality. The EU LCS has not struggled too much with these two problems up to this point, but the new reported format could have an impact.

Riot will break up the EU LCS into four regional leagues. The  increase in overall league size will bring in at least 40 new players to the big stage, most likely more. This will have an effect on competitive integrity by drawing in a larger pool of players, which may not be impactful immediately, but it will train a mass of players as professionals.

The second part of the reported formatting that will affect the competition is this:

“The top two teams of each domestic league will automatically qualify into the greater league, which will run alongside the competitive seasons of the domestic league, similar to the Champions League, according to sources. The third- and fourth-place teams will compete in a play-in, while fifth and sixth places will play in an open qualifier. The greater league will house a total of 16 teams, with a number of group stages and a double-elimination playoff bracket.”

Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and London will now have their own domestic leagues with six teams representing each. These teams will play within their locality first to qualify for the greater league and the play-in. This format will create competition by having all teams competing to get into the greater league, rather than having only the bottom two LCS teams facing off against the top two CS teams for slots.

The major downside to this is that there will most likely be even more striation within localities than what currently exists in the EU LCS. For example, during the regular season this year, Group A created clear first, second, third, fourth and fifth place teams with Fnatic being a couple of wins ahead of G2, G2 a couple of wins ahead of Misfits, etc. Imagine this concept stretching to four groups, and that layered effect may be more extreme.

On the flip-side, this may create more competition, just more often at a lower level. Unicorns of Love may be able to crush all of the teams in the bottom four, but maybe the fights for third through sixth within the Berlin locality would be closer. Maybe the greater league will have closer match-ups more frequently between the bottom 10 teams, while the top six continue to duke it out for championship points.

It is also possible the concentration of high-profile players will decrease if the team market expands. Instead of having several star players within a few rosters, and less notable players meshed together for Challenger teams, perhaps more teams will be able to sign one of the very best and build around them with lower-profile and rookie players. 

FAN EXPERIENCE

Origen may rejoin the EU LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Esports are nothing without an audience. This is where the cycle of monetization begins, and a major factor in the success of professional League of Legends. Making headway with EU LCS fans is vitally important to the future of the league. As stated earlier, viewership for the EU LCS has been on the decline, so investors, organizations, teams and players are looking at Riot to make changes to address the issue.

However, Wolf’s report does not really touch on this part of the conversation, leaving many questions unanswered. With so many more teams, there must be many more games. How will this affect streaming? Will Riot schedule simultaneous broadcasts in Paris, Berlin, London and Barcelona? Will they be in their native languages, or English for all? Are these going to be best-of-ones, twos, or threes? Are these the only changes directed at gaining more viewers?

Audiences have expressed dissatisfaction with best-of-ones and best-of-twos in the past. The two group format for 2017 has also been underwhelming. Splitting even further into four groups may make everyone even more fractured, causing viewership to further decline. If fewer of the match-ups are of higher competitive quality, then viewers may elect to spend time watching other regions, rather than Europe.

There is also the question of production staff. Can Riot get enough casters and analysts to effectively carry four different domestic leagues? Will the quality of the overall production decrease in response to the increase in the total amount of production? The EU LCS already has less week-to-week content when compared to the NA LCS. Will stretching those resources across more broadcasts affect this disparity?

Hopefully, more information will come to light to address these concerns. While it is understandable that Riot may be primarily focused on the health of organizations and the financial future of the league, they cannot completely forget about the fuel for esports: the viewers. Creating opportunities for investment into the league is not enough. Viewership has to scale with the investment, or else it will all be a sink.

PLAYERS’ & COACHES’ WELL-BEING

Paris St. Germain may join the EU LCS in 2018

Image from http://lol.esportsmatrix.com

The EU LCS is not the EU LCS without its players and coaches. These are the individuals that train day in and day out to achieve peak performance and beat all opponents. Professional League of Legends, and esports as a whole, would be nothing without them. Organizations sign contracts with these people to provide them enough resources to get on stage, play the game and gain viewers. Investors have no business in the EU LCS without these talents.

Of course, there is a bit of cyclic nature to professional esports athletes. Money and material gains are the incentives that bring high quality talent up to create professional teams. High quality players need to exist for audiences to watch regularly. But the players may not play if the financial incentives are not high enough.

It is unclear how these changes for 2018 will affect players and coaches in the EU LCS. Will most players’ and coaches’ salaries go up due to an overall larger pie, due to investment? Will the top players and coaches maintain the same pay and benefits, while only nascent teams bring in new money? Is it possible that the top players and coaches already make too much money, and they may see a decline, as the market expands into four separate leagues with more teams and players available to choose from?

The report also does not mention anything about revenue sharing or players’ associations, akin to the announcements for the NA LCS. While owning organizations and teams may be gaining more investment opportunities, there is no guarantee that players, coaches or other staff will actually benefit. Players and coaches should expect higher salaries and more resources, but that may be naive thinking. Some investors may simply view these updates as a chance to recoup losses before expanding their costs in any meaningful way.

OVERALL

Challenger teams may join EU LCS in 2018

Image from http://windandrain.org

These reported changes do seem to be overall beneficial for the EU LCS in the grand scheme. Creating four district leagues that compete alongside a greater regional league seems to address European investors’ issues with the small, localized markets. Removing relegation and introducing multi-year licenses should ease organizations’ fears of the risk-reward nature of the league. Formatting the LCS to include more teams may create a healthier environment for developing more European talent, upping the overall competitive spirit.

There are some concerns with regards to the logistics and quality of broadcasting, as well as the effects on players and coaching staff. These should be addressed more in-depth in the near future. More steps may need to be taken by Riot EU to ensure that these increased economic opportunities are not lost on the individuals that make esports work at the end of the day, audiences and players. Higher investment ceilings only mean so much if there are no consumers to drive the advertising and monetization of the broadcast.

Finally, organizations have been rather quiet in response to Wolf’s report. This silence may be due to non-disclosure agreements with Riot EU. However, considering how vocal owners and organizations have recently been, one would expect more public announcements expressing thoughts and feelings on the subject.

In the report, Wolf mentions “other teams with ventures in League of Legends, such as Paris Saint-Germain, Origen and Red Bulls, have expressed interest in participating.” Misfits’ owner, Ben Spoont, gave some brief insight on Reddit, and former H2K manager, Chris Kalargiros, wrote an opinion piece for Blitz Esports. However, not much else has been heard from the rest of the professional League of Legends community. This may turn out to be a critical moment for European League of Legends. The community is waiting for more clarity from European organizations.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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