EU LCS Week 2 Primer - Surprise and Sorrow
With week 1 of the LCS in the books, it is time to read the future in the tea leaves of a limited sample size, as potential bottom-feeders clash and would-be favorites try to make a strong statement going forward.
H2K (0-2) versus Meet Your Makers (0-2)
After an off-season marred by in-house drama that ended with the departure of Jungler Matthew 'Impaler' Taylor, MYM (formerly known as SUPA HOT CREW) got dealt another blow, just weeks prior the start of the LCS. Mid Laner Marcin 'Kori' (aka Selfie) Wolski reportedly would not start over disagreements on the direction of the team.
What followed were two rather one-sided losses at the hands of SK- and Giants Gaming; the former a 27 minute drubbing spear-headed by Mimer's valiant effort to recreate the famed feed-to win strategy of Darien's Renekton, the latter a methodical loss to an SK team playing the long con and winning of a 5th dragon and solid lane performance, never giving MYM much to work with.
Trying to fight their way out of the bottom seed in the EU standings, MYM will first face-off against fellow problem child H2K. Heralded as the best team not to play in the LCS for about 3 splits in a row, the first week was unkind at best to the reformed newcomers.
A disappointing loss to the Copenhagen Wolves, where the game - although it lasted almost 50 minutes - seemed decided after a wonky Pick-and-Ban phase left H2K with no hopes of late-game damage against the popular "Gnarvin" comp ran by the Wolves was followed by the misfortune of facing the the red-hot Fnatic lineup. Against former teammate Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten, H2K found themselves flattened by Hype Train of the current darlings of the EU LCS.
Going 0 and 3 over the first three games is obviously a rough start; even for two teams that had to expect a rocky road ahead for themselves after losing their star Mid laners. A win against the direct opposition would give much needed breathing room to the victor - and an even deeper hole for the loser.
Key Match-up: Cho "H0R0" Jae-Hwan vs. Jean-Victor "loulex" Burgevin
Where H0R0 would show flashes of his former self, the former Gambit sub had to take a beating for his teams shortcomings, dying a whopping 11 times (finished 2-11-13). Both have to work on their synergy with their Mid laners (Blizer and the Ghost of Ryu combined for a underwhelming 1.5 KDA - the EU average for Mid laners excluding the two is 6,23 per lolesports) , trying to ignite a spark of progress for two teams that could face a steep climb should they struggle again this week.
Unicorns of Love (1-1) versus Giants! Gaming (2-0)
New fan favorites Unicorns found themselves at a farm upstate after a thorough beatdown courtesy of Summer Split Champions Elements (formerly known as Alliance). Standout Mid laner Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage was reported to wander the premises as a lifeless husk after Elements Captain Henrik "Froggen" Hansen took his lunch money in a bot lane brawl. This was after UoL dispatched of the newly assembled Gambit Gaming, which had previously won IEM Cologne, in dominant fashion. A win against a team in turmoil and a loss against the reigning Champions leaves UoL in a state of uncertainty heading into Week 2.
The team that excited at IEM San Jose with a shocking win over NA LCS Champs TSM seems to struggle against teams that manage to play around the prowess of their rising Mid laner and creative Jungler Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek. PowerOfEvil in particular had a disastrous showing against Elements, missing Shockwave after Shockwave on Orianna and failing to contribute for a team that seems to be build around their young star making plays - which was most evident in their wins against TSM and Gambit, where he manhandled both TSM's Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg and Gambit's Sebastian "niQ" Robak to lead his rag to victory.
The Giants on the other hand are a pleasant surprise, with strong showings against the Copenhagen Wolves and Meet Your Makers. They currently sit pretty at Rank 2 in KDA and GPM and are in prime position to cement themselves at the top of the standings with a win against UoL. After plowing through the aforementioned MYM, Giants pushed for a 2-0 against the Copenhagen Wolves, who employed an unconventional double Smite comp that came short because they were rarely used in unison.
A bright Spot for the Spaniards was Top laner Jorge "Werlyb" Casanovas, who leads all Top Laners in KDA and GPM and held the upper hand - albeit with some roaming aid by Jungler Federico "Fr3deric" Lizondoà and Mid Isaac "PePiiNeRo" Flores - against LCS stalwarts Mimer and Youngbuck. Should he be able to keep up his production, his team could very well finish Week 2 at the top of the Standings; shocking teams and fans alike.
Key Match-up: Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage vs. Isaac "PePiiNeRo" Flores
This match-up might be decided at the champ select, so this extends to the coaching staff of Giants! Gaming as well. When the Unicorns were trampling their opponents, the common factor was a strong Pick and Ban phase, that would position their star on a play -making champion like Syndra or LeBlanc. When teams were carelessly leaving open Syndra at IEM San Jose the Unicorns would jump on the opportunity to pick her for PowerOfEvil.
Wether or not to leave on of his trademark mages open will be the most deciding factor for the Giants. On the other side, PePiiNeRo showed a lot of eagerness in both games, yet his feast or famine playstyle appeared a bit over the top - at times bordering on carelessness. This might just be a fresh player trying to adjust to the LCS pace by trying to stay ahead of the game, the weeks to come will have to show where PePiiNeRo falls in the murderer's row that is the European Mid lane.
Prediction: Giants! Gaming
Fnatic (2-0) versus Team ROCCAT (1-1)
To nobody's surprise the freshly formed Fnatic lineup enters week 2 as if nothing ever happened this off-season. After the departure of everyone but All-Star Support Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim, the community was ready to write off a roster filled with Challenger players and a Korean cast-off. Now after two wins in impressive fashion the hype train has left the station at full speed; ready to run over doubters and opponents at the same time.
AD Carry Pierre "Steelback" Medjaldi, of SK Prime fame, invoked the Spirit of the Immortal Score, going deathless over both days and racking up a massive 37 KDA, outshining his predecessor Martin "Rekkles" Larsson in a head to head confrontation. Former Incredible Miracles Jungler Kim "Reignover" Ui-jin ran over the opposition; even gracing the Western League of Legends World with two rarely seen things: Good Rengar play and a win on Olaf. Newcomer Seong "Huni" Hoon Heo bombed atomically in his debut, playing remarkably aggressive on both Lissandra and Rumble and being the spear of Fnatic's relentless attack that amassed a league-leading 50 Kills in the first week of LCS. Febiven racked up kills and scripting accusations for his immaculate Xerath play that rival Fnatic's very own CS:GO squad, gaining an 18 KDA, first among Mid Laners. The one shining brightest is the one who remained with the organization and was crucial in assembling this roster: YellOwStaR. Hailed as one - if not the - best Supports in the western League scene, YellOwStaR formed a roster that hit the ground running and appears to be primed to fight for the top in what promises to be yet another confusing Split of EU LCS.
While the Fnatic hype train is going full throttle, Roccat's own appears to have encountered some initial problems, as the team many thought to be the top contender to Alliance' throne saw themselves struggling against the rebuild SK Gaming roster. LCS-returnee Erlend "Nukeduck" van Holm especially performed lackluster in his outing against SK's Hampus "Fox" Myhre, who previously manned the Mid lane for SK Gaming's Challenger Squad, SK Gaming Prime. Nukeduck came up short on his LeBlanc, falling behind Fox's Kassadin and getting no kills over the entire course of the game. Although he rebounded on Friday in a solid showing against the hapless Gambit Gaming, the game showed that Roccat might have a problem in a place where they felt safe. After getting smacked around by SK Gaming's Bot lane duo Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou and Christoph "nRated" Seitz on Thursday, the pair of Pawe? "Woolite" Pruski and Oskar "Vander" Bogdan saw themselves on the wrong side of a beatdown again! The Poles struggled mightily against Kristoffer "P1noy" Pedersen and Edward "Edward" Abgaryan, who managed a 6/7/12 stat line in a losing effort while keeping their Roccat counterpart at an underwhelming 5/8/23. In two games they gave up a 6.14 KDA to their opponents (including a shocking 5/0/20 to SK) whereas Roccat's bot duo performed at a dismal 1.875 KDA ratio.
Key Match-up: Steelback and YellOwStaR versus Woolite and Vander
After the rather scathing last paragraph it would be disingenuous to pick any other match-up as the deciding one. If Roccat wishes to have any hope against the new Fnatic they have to pray that they can put a dent in a duo that looked unshakable in their first two games. Given that their only win came against a team that might contend for the bottom seed in the league should they not sort out their issues, I have serious doubts that the spark that reignites the Roccat hype train will come against Fnatic.
SK Gaming (2-0) versus Gambit Gaming (0-2)
The third team to go 2-0, SK Gaming, seems to have struck gold with both their new signings. After the departure of Adrian "Candy Panda" Wübbelman and Jesse "Jesiz" Le question arose whether or not SK could recreate the success that brought them to the World Championship. Although 2 games is way too small a sample size to proclaim the newly minted SK Gaming a sure thing, both Games saw the new team dominate. While it is tempting to chalk up the wins to the glorious return of FORG1VEN, both contests saw impressive outings by all 5 members, from Simon "fredy122" Payne's bruising style up Top that commanded the complete attention of his enemies, to the map-control won by Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen and nRated, that enabled an impressive objective-based win against Meet Your Makers. Fox, who got called up from SK Prime, put up a solid display, racking up a 8/2/7 line over two games, including the above-mentioned game against Roccat, where he impressed against a household name like Nukeduck. Going into Week 2, SK looks poised to fortify their claim to a top spot in the rankings.
Looking at Gambit's standing in the rankings one might speculate that the problems the famed team faces stem from their new acquisitions, that the team has yet to gel together to a cohesive unit before it can try to regain its former glory. Although it is obvious that the team has some growing pains to work through, the new parts actually appear to be clicking just nicely. Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet and P1noy both impressed in their first two LCS games, sparking some hope for the future of Gambit with solid play.
It is the old parts that appear to have caught some rust. The most troubling patient is All-Star Jungler Danil "Diamondprox" Reshetnikov. Once considered the best jungler in the world, Diamond appeared completely lost in Week 1, managing a putrid 2/9/9 score with a horrid 0/5/0 showing against the Unicorns of Love. It is troubling to watch someone who defined the very essence of Jungling get pushed around by people who probably learned the ins and out of it by watching him play. Him and Edward are the last active remnants of the fabled Moscow 5 squad that dominated the opposition in 2012 and although it is foolish to sing the swan song for heroes of days long gone, every Gambit fan - hell every League of Legends fan - has to feel a certain dread after watching him play. After a split that saw him get benched for loulex only to get reinstated the next week, people were hoping that the stars would align for Diamondprox and Co. to get back to (or at least in spitting distance of) prior heights.
Key Match-up: freddy122 versus Cabochard
Both games that SK played, freddy managed to cause confusion among his opponents, playing far up to attract Jungle attention, thus freeing up his teammates to carry. Even though he only sports a 3.75 KDA, his worth for the team far exceeded this rather pedestrian number. SK has no real reason to change their approach, seeing that Diamondprox struggled heavily in his first two games. That leaves the brunt of the work up to Cabochard, who might find himself in a position where he has to handle an aggressive freddy122 without help, so that Diamond might focus on the rest of the map. Given their Jungler's early season woes and niQ's rather uninspiring performance that ended up as the 3rd worst among EU Solo laners by KDA, it is hard to imagine Gambit upsetting the well oiled machine that SK Gaming appears to be.
Prediction: SK Gaming
Elements (1-1) versus Copenhagen Wolves (1-1)
The last game of the night features the re-branded Alliance and the Copenhagen Wolves. After a sudden name change - announced with perhaps the most hilarious press statement ever - saw the Summer Champs trading their grey/black jackets for the best in-game tag in the business and adding the Summer MVP Rekkles to their ranks and expectations soon went through the roof. But in spite of assembling the most stacked roster in the history of the EU LCS, Elements struggled out of the gate. Against the new Fnatic old demons seemed to still haunt Froggen's squad. Ilyas "Shook" Hartsema and Mike "Wickd" Petersen had a ghastly night against Fnatic, combining for a 4/16/11 line; getting punished for every false step into enemy territory. The same headless drifting that fell Alliance at times in the prior splits seems to still be a part of a team, for that everything but a repeat championship has to be considered a failure. Out of all the European teams, Elements is the one that without a doubt has to go 2-0 this week; not for their overall chances for a high seed, but to squash any doubt over their roster decisions. Over the last two splits they gained the reputation for being slow starters, taking some time to get into a rhythm that is comfortable for them. This is time they probably will not be given this split, after friends and foes alike expect nothing but greatness from a team that was built only with that purpose in mind. The only way to silence any "Why would they take Rekkles over Tabbz?" talks in their infancy is to rush to a top spot in the rankings. And even though they dispatched of the Unicorns of Love in commanding fashion, featuring a vintage Froggen performance, what people will mostly remember from Week 1 is yet another frustrating loss.
In the way of their redemption are the Copenhagen Wolves. After fending off Challenger powerhouse H2K in the Spring Promotion tournament 3-0, this could have been a split to establish the longtime LCS squad in the upper echelon of teams in the freshly expanded EU LCS. After two so-and so games, it remains unclear where this squad stands right now. Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool had two poor games, going 2/9/15 on Gnar in a valiant effort to make the Stone Age Yordle seem balanced. Karim "Aïrwaks" Benghalia jungled his team to victory against the 0-2 H2k, racking up an impressive 5/0/12 line, only to then crumble against Giants! Gaming in a reverse 0/5/4 performance. Aleš "Freeze" Kn?žínek appeared to take off right where he left, but the coming weeks will have to show where his ability may take the team or how the uncertainty surrounding the other members of the pack may or may not hinder them.
Key Match-up: Airwaks versus Shook
Both Junglers have to improve upon a shaky start in Week 1 and seeing them go try that against each other should be the among most intriguing things in this game. Taking a page out of the Elements PR book, Shook's play style is best described as volatile; an ingenious attack that at times will crush the opposition and other times self-combust in spectacular fashion. This week he has to be more feast than famine in order to achieve stability for a team that will need it going forward this year. Airwaks will want to show himself that the performance against H2k is the one fans should expect from him, not the one against the Giants. Seeing that Elements has it in them to gain an edge over their opponents by simply outlaning them, it will be on Airwaks to stem any potential bleeding and keep them in a contest where they will be heavy underdogs; though it is tough to envision him succeeding against a team that is hell-bent about erasing any doubts about them.
Gambit Gaming versus Fnatic
Day 2 starts off with a match-up of hype against horror, as Gambit tries to get some footing against surprise-frontrunner Fnatic.
Key Match-up: niQ versus Febiven
After niQ's aforementioned blunders in Week 1, it will be paramount for Gambit's success that their Mid laner holds his own against the likes of a Febiven. Should he be allowed to do as he pleases, the flailing Gambit will be in a world of hurt. I fear it might be wishful thinking to see them do it this soon against a Fnatic team that seems hell bent to return to the heights their former squad reached in prior splits.
Giants! Gaming versus H2K
Game 2 will see the Spaniards of Giants! Gaming square off against an H2K that could even out their score depending on their Day 1 performance.
Key Match-up: Werlyb versus Odoamne
For a long time now H2K's Odoamne carried the reputation of being one of the Challenger scene's best Top laners. He will have his work cut out for him when he squares of with Werlyb, who played superb over the first two games. It will be interesting to see what else he has in store and if H2K is willing to play against his trademark Jax or if they want to force him on a different champion. What is certain is that Odoamne will have to carry the lion's share of the work to see his team emerge victorious.
Prediction: Giants! Gaming
Elements versus Team ROCCAT
The marquee match-up this week pits two off-season favorites against another in what could be a strong indicator for the current condition of both teams.
Key Match-up: Froggen versus Nukeduck
After what amounted to a mediocre game against Febiven and a strong display of skill against PowerOfEvil, Froggen could give his team some much needed stability heading into the coming weeks with a solid showing against Roccat's Nukeduck. The Norwegian Mid had two games that put some doubts into people's minds wether or not him and Jankos had already established a strong rapport, something that is essential for Team ROCCAT's success. Should they wish to have any hope against the reigning Champs, Nukeduck will have to look like his old self and be the player Roccat hoped they acquired for this split.
SK Gaming versus Unicorns of Love
The second high-quality game in a row on Day 2 will see a clash of styles, as the strategic prowess of SK faces of against the free-flowing attack of UoL.
Key Match-up: Svenskeren versus Kikis
Svenskeren beat up on his opponents in Week 1, wreaking havoc all over the map and setting his lanes up for success in both games. His map-opening play is a key cog in the plans of SK and disrupting him should be of utmost importance for the Unicorns. Kikis will be forced to lean on Support Zdravets "Hylissang" Galabov to help him against the roaming duo of Svenskeren and nRated and deny SK the room to maneuver they had in their first two games. UoL might be best advised to swap out of the 2v2 match-up and give Pontus "Vardags" Dahlblom a safe lane; shielding him from the red-hot returnee FORG1VEN and giving Kikis a freed-up Hylissang to create map pressure. It will ultimately fall on Kikis to keep Svenskeren in check, but given SK's track record with preparation, it seems unlikely that any hijinks UoL might pull could fluster them, or Sven in particular.
Prediction: SK Gaming
Meet Your Makers versus Copenhagen Wolves
Somehow the last game of Week 2, MYM will battle the Wolves, with each team bent on exceeding low expectations people might have for them.
Key Match-up: MrRallez and Nisbeth versus Freeze and Unlimited
The roster of MYM was formed around their standout AD Carry, so putting the headlights on him in a match against direct bottom-competition seems fair to me. Whether or not they face off directly early on is always unclear, but if MYM wants to prosper in the LCS - or even just this game - MrRallez has to step up from his middling performance of Week 1 (a 3/3/3). Freeze played rock solid, but his team's Solo lanes could not match his production (combining for 14/16/20) and it will fall on him (and his Support Unlimited) to be a reliable, consistent force for the Wolves, who are in dire need for a Freeze that can live up the potential people attributed to him for almost two years now.
Prediction: Copenhagen Wolves