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.

credits

Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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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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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.

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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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

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

Unicorns of Love

Unicorns of Love may lose some members for 2018

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

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

H2K

H2K may lose players in the off-season

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

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

Fnatic

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

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

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

Misfits

Misfits' roster may change in the off-season

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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?

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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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Voting is open for the 2017 All-Star Event

My picks for the 2017 EU LCS All-Star team

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

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

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

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

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

Vizicsacsi

UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

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

Maxlore

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

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

Perkz

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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

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

Rekkles

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

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

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

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

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

IgNar

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

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

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

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


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Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

H2K

H2K played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

Mysterious Monkeys

MM played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

Splyce

SPY played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

Team Vitality

VIT played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

Roccat

ROC played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

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

Ninjas in Pyjamas

NIP played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

Overall

MSF played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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


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Unicorns of Love entered the EU LCS in 2015

A brief, heart-breaking history of Unicorns of Love

With the 2017 EU LCS Regional Qualifiers finished, Europe has chosen three teams to represent them at the League of Legends World Championships, and the Unicorns of Love is not one of them. This seems to be their destiny. UOL is always good enough to be a contender, but never good enough to be the champion. They have always had a shot at Worlds, but never reached it. They have made it into the gauntlet thrice, and lost out all three times. Here is a brief look at how the Unicorns got here, and why it is so heart-breaking.

2015

Unicorns of Love qualified for the EU LCS in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unicorns of Love entered the LCS in 2015 by defeating Millenium in the 2015 Spring Promotion tournament. UOL was promoted, while Millenium was relegated. Their roster included Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás top, Berk “Gilius” Demir jungle, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage mid, Pontus “Vardags” Dahlblom AD carry and Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov support. After Millenium took a 2-0 lead, the Unicorns were able to reverse sweep the series, winning 3-2. This was the beginning of the Unicorns’ legacy as wildcards in the EU LCS.

Coming into the 2015 Spring Split, UOL replaced Gilius with a new jungler, Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek. Kikis was known for his pocket picks in the jungle, such as Sion, Gnar or Shaco. In their debut split, UOL finished with a 9-9 record to secure fifth place and qualify for playoffs. PowerOfEvil was the only player in the league to be the weekly MVP more than once (weeks four and eight).

In Spring Playoffs, the Unicorns had to face fourth place, Gambit Gaming. UOL took them down 3-1, moving them into semifinals against number one seed SK Gaming. In a massive upset, UOL won that best-of-five 3-2. This win brought them to their first playoff finals within their first split, facing second seed Fnatic. The Unicorns took it all the way to five games, but fell short to finish in second place and tally 70 championship points.

UOL came into the 2015 Summer Split carrying momentum. They swapped Gilius back into the jungle role, while Kikis went to G2 (then Gamers2). In almost identical fashion, the Unicorns finished the split 9-9, but placed fourth. Gilius left the team going into playoffs, leaving Cho “H0R0” Jae-hwan as their starting jungler.

Summer Playoffs put UOL against Roccat first, who they defeated 3-2. The victory pushed them into an even tougher semifinals match-up versus an undefeated Fnatic. Getting skunked 3-0, UOL was forced into the third place match with H2K. A win here would send UOL to Worlds as Europe’s second seed, assuming Fnatic won in the finals. However, H2K crushed UOL in another 3-0, and Fnatic won the finals, sending UOL to their first EU LCS gauntlet.

Luckily, UOL’s 110 total championship points entitled them to a full bye in the Regional Qualifiers. Giants, Roccat and Origen would have to fight each other before meeting UOL in the final. Origen, a line-up that would go on to finish top four at the 2015 World Championships, made it to the gauntlet finals and took down UOL in a final 3-0. The Unicorns’ 2015 season would end there.

2016

Unicorns of Love replaced three starters for 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Coming into 2016, Unicorns of Love decided to replace three of their five starters. Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi signed as their jungler and AD carry, previously of Gambit. Hampus “Fox” Myhre stepped into the mid lane from SK Gaming. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang remained UOL’s top and support.

UOL went through the 2016 Spring Split like past splits. They finished with a 10-8 record, showing strength against teams below them and weakness against teams above them. Most of their problems revolved around the jungle position. Starting in week three, Diamondprox had to leave Europe, due to visa issues. UOL borrowed Millenium’s jungler, Charly “Djoko” Guillard, as a temporary replacement. In week four UOL brought in Rudy “Rudy” Beltran, an unknown player, who was replaced in week seven by ex-H2K Jean-Victor “Loulex” Burgevin. These jungle player rotations hindered UOL’s ability to compete against more stable rosters.

This inconsistency came to a head in the Spring Playoffs when fourth seed Origen defeated the Unicorns 3-0 in the quarterfinals. UOL’s split ended in fifth-sixth, granting only 10 championship points. It was a disappointing placement that demanded change for the Summer Split.

In the mid-season, Unicorns of Love brought in two Korean imports to play jungle and AD carry. Kang “Move” Min-su came into the EU LCS after most recently playing for Gravity in North America. Kim “Veritas” Kyoung-min had played for Vortex, a North American Challenger team. UOL also signed Fabian “Exileh” Schubert, a mid laner with history on several European Challenger teams. Riot also changed the EU LCS regular season to a best-of-two format.

These changes did not seem to affect Unicorns’ consistency much. If anything, it hindered their performance. UOL finished the regular season Summer Split in sixth place with a 6-5-7 record. This line-up was clearly better than tenth through seventh places, but also a step below first through fifth. The Unicorns would go into playoffs as underdogs.

Once there, UOL was able to take down third seed Giants 3-1. Moving into semifinals, UOL had to face an undefeated G2. The Unicorns lost 3-1, which sent them into their second third place match against H2K. Winning 3-1, H2K pushed UOL into the Regional Qualifiers for the second year in a row.

With only 50 championship points, Unicorns of Love found themselves in a difficult position. Giants, Fnatic and Splyce stood in their way of going to Worlds. UOL defeated Giants and Fnatic 3-0, propelling them forward into the gauntlet finals again. 2016 looked like UOL’s redemption. Sadly, Splyce took the series 3-2, keeping the Unicorns out of Worlds for another year.

2017

Unicorns of Love signed Xerxe and Samux for 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This third year has been Unicorns of Love’s third opportunity to go to Worlds. In an off-season full of roster swaps, UOL made some questionable changes. Bringing in European veterans in Spring 2016 did not bring the success they wanted. Korean imports in Summer 2016 was not fruitful, either. For Spring 2017, the Unicorns brought in two low-profile Europeans, Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort. Xerxe had played for Dark Passage in the TCL, but could not participate in the International Wildcard Qualifiers, due to his age. Samux had played once in the LCS in 2012, but was quickly relegated. He only played in the Challenger Series after that.

Riot further changed the EU LCS format to have two groups that play best-of-threes each week. This format seemed to suit UOL, as they finished the Spring Split in first place for Group B with an 11-2 record. Topping their group afforded UOL a first round bye in the playoffs. They were met by Group A’s second seed, Misfits, who the Unicorns defeated 3-1 to qualify for the finals. This was their first playoff finals over five EU LCS splits. They met defending champions G2 and lost 3-1. UOL was granted 70 championship points.

For the first time since entering the LCS, Unicorns of Love did not change their roster between splits. The team seemed confident coming into the Summer Split with Vizicsacsi, Xerxe, Exileh, Samux and Hylissang. But the summer regular season was slightly worse than spring, mostly due to problems surrounding Exileh and the mid lane. UOL put up a 9-4 record, placing second in Group B behind H2K, based on game score.

Quarterfinals did not look to be much of a problem, as the Unicorns would face Group A’s third seed, Misfits. Unfortunately, UOL could not take a single game, and lost 0-3, ending their playoff run earlier than expected. UOL’s 90 total championship points put them behind Misfits and Fnatic. Unicorns would go to their third straight regional gauntlet.

The Unicorns sat in the second notch of the Regional Qualifiers, after H2K versus Splyce, but before Fnatic. H2K took the victory over Splyce, which meant they could face UOL in a critical moment, once again. In a nail-biter series, H2K secured the 3-2 win, spoiling the Unicorns’ chances of representing Europe at Worlds this year.

2018

 

What will Unicorns of Love do in 2018?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

What will Unicorns of Love do between now and the 2018 season? Every member of this roster has shown promise in 2017. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang have been with this team since their induction in 2015. Coach Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant and manager-mascot Romain Bigeard have been staples, as well. Xerxe and Samux have solidified themselves as LCS talents. Exileh may have had a rough Summer Split, but his high points are unquestionable.

Like splits past, Riot has already announced major changes to the EU LCS format for 2018. The LCS will be split into four domestic leagues with a greater league running parallel. UOL has claimed their slot in Berlin, as reported by ESPN, with Roccat and Schalke 04. The current two-group format has treated the Unicorns well during the regular season. Maybe this update will too.

Regardless, the pink-and-white have made their mark on the EU LCS since joining in 2015. Despite falling short of Worlds year after year, UOL has cemented itself as a top contender in the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet. European teams fear this organization as a competitor, because they know that UOL is destined for greatness. 2015 may not have been their year. 2016 may have been rocky. 2017 may have been heart-breaking. But who knows what 2018 may bring? Will falling short remain Unicorns of Love’s legacy, or will Love finally conquer?


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Names, dates, etc.: Leaguepedia

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SPY Trashy is an MVP of EU LCS quarterfinals

Recognizing the MVPs of the EU LCS quarterfinals losers

This year’s LCS playoffs have officially kicked off, with the quarterfinals in the books. This first stage of the tournament has turned out much different than anticipated in Europe. Misfits dominated Unicorns of Love Saturday morning, finishing the series 3-0. G2 closed out their series with Splyce 3-2, grinding it out every inch of the way.

Many of these games were in favor of the underdogs at some point. UOL did not take a single game off of Misfits. G2 was one bad call away from giving their semifinals spot to Splyce. Most expectations involved Unicorns of Love easily qualifying for semifinals, while G2 would put up a solid fight against Splyce.

Misfits and Splyce brought their A-games in a major way, which has made playoffs that much less predictable. Fnatic and H2K should be a bit more nervous about their semifinals opponents. Misfits and G2 have tested their mettle and made it through to the next stage. They deserve every bit of praise for their performances.

However, there is a player from each team that deserves recognition for stepping up in quarterfinals. These are players who kept their cool, and helped their teams out the most, despite everything going south in the end. Here are two players that proved to be most valuable to Unicorns of Love and Splyce during the first round of playoffs.

UOL Samux

UOL Samux is an MVP of EU LCS quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While none of Unicorns of Love’s players looked spectacular, Samux was the only player that performed remotely close to expectations. Despite other members of the team practically feeding kills to Misfits, Samux did his best to damage from a distance.

In game one, Samux was extremely limited from the start. UOL drafted Trundle, which ended up going to Hylissang as support. Misfits answered with a Blitzcrank for IgNar. This pickup ended up being crucial, as several picks came from IgNar’s hooks and Hylissang’s inability to affect fights. Samux was drafted Xayah, and was constantly zoned by the threat of Blitzcrank and Maxlore’s Zac. 

In game two, UOL re-drafted Xayah for Samux against Hans sama’s Tristana. He even got an early kill in the bottom lane without jungler attention. However, Exileh sacrificed four deaths to PowerOfEvil’s Lucian within the first 17 minutes, which allowed Misfits to snowball very fast. IgNar and Maxlore heavily pressured Samux again this game, with the crowd control combination of Rakan and Poppy. Hylissang and Vizicsacsi drafted Braum and Shen, picks with more utility, but it was not enough to keep Samux safe.

Finally, in game three, UOL switched Samux onto Sivir with a Tahm Kench for Hylissang. The movement speed and utility of these champions’ kits should have helped Samux stay safe. However, similar issues plagued UOL. Xerxe was unable to pull off the engages necessary for a successful Zac. Exileh tunneled in on the back line, despite IgNar, Hans sama and PowerOfEvil’s peel potential. Vizicsacsi barely influenced the game, fighting off Alphari’s split-pushing with Jarvan IV.

In almost every situation, Samux is completely dependent on the engage, peel, and reliability of his teammates. Since his teammates, particularly Xerxe, Exileh and Hylissang, were unable to fulfill their roles, it made it virtually impossible for Samux to output damage on short range AD carries. That being said, he did his best to remain safe when fights turned south. Samux only sacrificed 13.3 percent, 15 percent, and 15.8 percent of UOL’s deaths in games one, two and three, respectively.

SPY Trashy

SPY Trashy is an MVP of EU LCS quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Splyce’s jungler looked much more effective during quarterfinals against G2 than virtually all of the regular season. His pressure around the map, especially in the early game, is a primary reason that Splyce was able to take G2 all the way to the bitter end of their best-of-five series. Trashy deserves recognition for stepping up in playoffs.

For example, 12 minutes into game one, Trashy had 100 percent kill participation, including two kills each for Wunder and Sencux. He is partially to blame for Trick’s Smite-steal at Baron around 27 minutes, but his play around objectives for the rest of the game was great. Trashy excelled at teamfights, though, where he helped fully lock down Zven and Perkz with Wunder’s Camille and Sencux’s Galio. He even finished the game with 95 percent kill participation and only 17.6 percent of Splyce’s deaths.

Trashy’s early game ganks backfired twice in a row in game two. Trick was able to effectively counter-gank for Expect to secure kills. Perkz was also able to snowball on Leblanc. Mikyx and Wunder accounted for 12 of Splyce’s 18 deaths, equal to 66.7 percent, while Trashy only contributed two of 18, or 11.1 percent. Game three was not as impactful in the early game, for better or for worse. Trashy’s Elise did not contribute much until post-20 minutes, and it took a few completed items before he could really teamfight at all. And even then, Elise has a hard time if she does not get ahead from the start, especially without a high-economy tank.

Once back on Sejuani in game four and Gragas in game five, Trashy brought the heat. He finished the last two games with 18 and 8 KDAs, respectively. These champions’ combination of crowd control and tankiness were perfect for assisting Splyce’s carries to survive G2’s engagements, while enabling them to melt down G2’s tankier members. Their game five loss amounted to two lost teamfights around Baron, which is not entirely Trashy’s fault. Most of it chalked up to G2’s players outplaying Splyce as a team, rather than any individual mess-ups. Trashy only sacrificed one death in the whole fifth game, which is only 6.3 percent.

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Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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The Clash of Clowns is trending up in EU LCS week 10

Trending in EU LCS: Week 10

The final week of the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split regular season was one of the most dynamic yet. There were match-ups with pride on the line, and others with no real consequences. Most draft phases looked familiar, as many champion priorities remained the same as week nine. It is difficult to put too much stock into each team’s gameplay this week, because the standings were already locked after week nine. However, there were clear “serious” games and “fun” games between teams in week ten.

Taking all of these elements into account, there are some clear winners and losers coming out of week ten. Trending in the EU LCS is back with your weekly dose of Europe’s ups and downs on the Rift.

TRENDING UP

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing after week 10 of the EU LCS. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put the team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

Underdog upsets are trending up in EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Underdog Upsets

Thursday and Friday’s games were full of upsets. Roccat beat G2 2-1; Ninjas in Pyjamas beat Fnatic 2-0; and Team Vitality beat Unicorns of Love 2-0. H2K was the only one to take down their lesser opponent in the first two days. As mentioned above (and outlined in Kelsey Mosers recent article for Slingshot Esports), it is unclear how serious these losses are for the top teams.

Nonetheless, these match-ups did appear to be legitimate wins for the underdogs. G2, Fnatic and UOL did not seem to hold back against Roccat, NiP or Vitality. It was a bit exciting to see some semblance of parity within the EU LCS, since most of the split has felt more stagnant in the standings. Roccat’s bottom lane, NiPs Profit, and Vitality’s solo laners proved why they have received praise at various times throughout the Summer Split.

Another layer of significance pertains to the EU LCS promotion tournament, which began Thursday. NiP will enter their series against Giants with momentum from their victory over the top team in Europe. Meanwhile, Mysterious Monkeys enter the promotion tournament with only five total game wins, finishing week 10 with a 0-2 loss to H2K. The last week of the regular season could be a preliminary indicator of how these teams will defend their LCS slots.

“Clash of the Clowns”

On a less serious note, some series in week 10 amounted to show matches, as the standings were fully locked in after Friday’s match-ups. Roccat and Misfits kicked off these “Clash of Clowns” games by locking in Heimerdinger, Master Yi, Kayle and Draven. The players also role swapped. For example, Wadid tried his hand at Lee Sin in the jungle, and IgNar drafted Kled. Game two included a Malphite-Yasuo combination against a Nasus, Karthus and Vayne.

Splyce and Vitality picked up the torch on Sunday by playing jungle Bard, Fiddlesticks, Garen, Shaco and jungle Twitch in game one. Their second game involved Mikyx’’s mid lane AP Gragas, Steeelback’s AD Thresh and Djoko’s support Pantheon. The casters were quite disappointed with Trashy’s choice of Ardent Censer Lulu, but spirits were high throughout the series.

These types of exhibitions are always immensely fun for the fans. Seeing professional players let loose and go full solo queue style is refreshing when compared to the high stakes of the Summer Split. Since G2 played Fnatic and H2K played UOL in the afternoons, these lighthearted games acted almost like true clown fiestas to preface more serious match-ups.

Janna is trending up in EU LCS week 10

Image from boards.na.leagueoflegends.com

Janna

Within the serious games of week 10, Janna saw a rise in priority among supports. Rakan, Alistar and Thresh have had the highest priority over the last few weeks, but Janna rose to fourth priority last week. Since the inception of patch 7.15, Janna has maintained a 35 percent draft presence with seven picks and four bans. Out of the 14 “serious” matches in week 10, Janna was picked five times and banned twice.

Janna currently keeps a strong presence in solo queue. According to OP.GG, Janna has a 55 percent win rate with a 22 percent pick rate. This trend is bleeding into the EU LCS, as she has a 57 percent win rate right now. Her uptick in professional play can be attributed to the current strength of Ardent Censer, an item intended for healing and shielding supports.

Ardent Censer has been in the spotlight lately, as analysts have computed the massive power spike for enchanter supports after finishing the item. During one of G2’s games versus Fnatic, the EU LCS broadcast team was cued into the race between Mithy’s Janna and Jesiz’s Karma to finish Ardent Censer. As long as the item remains in its current state, expect Janna to stay towards the top of the support champion tier list.

TRENDING DOWN

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week 10 of the EU LCS. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past. These elements are downward trending in the EU LCS.

G2 is trending down in the EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2

Fans and analysts alike expected the top teams of Group A to battle it out as the “Kings of Europe.” However, G2 fell flat in week 10. Not only did they lose 2-0 to Fnatic, but they also lost to Roccat. For a team with hopes for Worlds, G2 did not look convincing at all. In their series against Fnatic, Perkz and Trick simply fell flat. Perkz’s Galio lacked impact, and Fnatic completely punished his Lucian pick.

More important than individual performances, G2’s overall team gameplay seemed off. Soaz, Caps and Rekkles drafted Gnar, Orianna and Ashe in both games, and G2 could not avoid the crowd control in the later stages. Fnatic was sure to answer every lost objective with an objective of their own. However, this loss felt more like a faltering from G2, rather than an out-classing from Fnatic.

Zac

Zac has been the most contested champion in the EU LCS for the entire Summer Split. He has maintained an incredible 93 percent pick or ban rate and a 71 percent win rate. Most teams ban him in the first round just to take him off of the table for the rest of the draft. However, week 10 was a little bit different.

Zac was picked four times out of 14 “serious” games in week 10 (28.6 percent), and he was banned eight times (57.1 percent). Altogether, this amounts to an 85.7 percent draft presence. More importantly, though, teams that drafted Zac only won once out of four matches (25 percent). Jankos showcased one win, but lost two others. Trick was the other jungler to give Zac a shot, but he also fell short.

Riot has hit Zac with changes every single patch since the tank update in patch 7.9, yet he has continued to be a mainstay for professional junglers in Europe. Zac’s unique combination of long distance engage, sustain and clear speed puts him above all other junglers. His weak presence and performances in week 10 raise the question, “Are junglers still practicing Zac?” It is possible that he has become more balanced and teams just have not been able to gauge it. It is also possible that Zac is still strong, but no one is actually playing him in scrims, because he is permanently banned.

H2K is trending down in EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K

On that note, two of the losses involving Zac came at the hands of H2K. Their win against Mysterious Monkeys was fully expected, but their loss to Unicorns of Love was a tough blow. Game one of the series went extremely well. H2K secured an early couple of kills, which snowballed almost perfectly. UOL ended the game with just six kills, two turrets and one dragon.

Game two was different. By 21 minutes into the match, H2K was over 2,000 gold ahead. They had secured four turrets and a Cloud Drake to UOL’s single turret and Rift Herald. This all came crumbling down when the Unicorns grouped in the mid lane and activated the Rift Herald.

H2K grouped in response, lost their turret and poorly engaged onto Xerxe’s Poppy. Jankos pulled Xerxe into the rest of his team with Zac’s ultimate, which triggered H2K to focus him down, including Syndra’s ultimate. However, Xerxe responded by snap-casting Poppy’s ultimate, knocking up Jankos, Nuclear and Chei. Exileh flashed in, and the rest of UOL moved in, to assassinate Nuclear’s Tristana, kill Odoamne’s Gnar and chunk the other members to a point where they could not contest a Baron attempt.

That is the moment that tilted H2K beyond return. The Unicorns pushed down two turrets, took another Baron, and ended game two. In game three, UOL almost skunked H2K, who only finished with six kills. They did not secure a single turret, dragon, Baron or Herald. Being the last series of the regular season, this is an uninspiring note on which to end. Luckily, H2K earned Group B’s quarterfinals bye, so they will have adequate time to decompress, strategize and adapt for playoffs. They still have a tumultuous road ahead, if they are to qualify for the World Championship.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, League of Legends boards

Video Highlights: TheGameHaus Vibby

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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