The EU LCS spring playoffs has just started, and the six best European teams will clash this weekend in Berlin, Germany, for the LCS title, the opportunity to prove that Europe is still a highly competitive region at the MSI and, of course, for the chance of being one step closer to at least a 2nd seed at the World Championship. However, there is one team that will be watching the playoffs from home, wondering why they are not there, in the spotlight: Elements.
Elements is a hard team to analyze properly, mostly because of the various small, but persistent internal and external issues that exist, from their creation as the “European superteam”, in the spring split of 2014 until now and other stylistical issues that they’ve bumped into, dating back from their time as CLG EU, back in season two.
The first thing you have to look for when analyzing a team is the core component: the players themselves. Because of the many roster swaps that Elements had this season, the best way to examine the team is by taking their first composition(the one from the beginning of this spring split) to get an insight on their most recent style of play.
When Froggen formed Alliance, before the 2014 season, they had tryouts for the top lane and Wickd was chosen to play for them.
It looked like a sound choice, because not only Wickd is a veteran in the scene, but he had also played with Froggen previously, in CLG EU. But this was actually almost a desperation pick, as there was basically no other available toplane superstar at that time.
Ever since he entered the scene Wickd’s main problem has always been his very limited champion pool. While he tried many times to add new picks to his repertoire, unless the champion is a bruiser he usually won’t be able to have an impact on the game; that’s just who he is. This basically meant that he would try to play Irelia almost every time the champion was available, making him an easy target to “ban” out of the game, as shown at Worlds.
A more subtle issue of his is his personality: he would sometimes try to go for strange unconventional builds on champions when there is no need to, because of his strong beliefs in his own abilities and maybe a secret need to show that he can still be imprevisible in the game. Which, in general, is a good thing. In this scenario however, it was actually in the detriment of the team; while he always had a reason and a logic to go for a certain build or champion, if the method proved wrong or inefficient he will stay strong by his beliefs and won’t accept that his strategy is not good, affecting the team chemistry. Because of this, he might sometimes be very good and dominate his lane, but other times he will just be a non-factor for the entire game.
When Shook was brought into Alliance, he was a soloque superstar jungler, aggressive and very talented. But his problems began when placing him in a LAN environment, such as the LCS, where he will sometimes crack under the pressure.
Shook’s biggest problem is his consistency: you take away his Lee Sin, and if he isn’t in the right mindset for the game, he will usually resort to either a very passive farming jungler or he will try to make desperate plays that don’t work out. So, by teaming him up with Wickd, you have a high inconsistency rate: sometimes they are really strong and dominant, like they were in their win against Najin at Worlds, or they won’t be able to have the impact their teams needs them to have.
To be honest, the only player that can’t be blamed for Element’s fall is Froggen. Whenever his team is playing badly it feels like the only one still in the game is him as he is almost unable to completely shut down; a single kill for him can lead to another, and another, and so on.
Whenever they had a big win over a tough opponent, no matter the era, Froggen was the main carry. Also, almost every single time they had an amazing comeback or almost managed to come back from a huge deficit it was due to Froggen getting a bunch of kills and carrying his team.
Coming off from a disappointing Worlds performance, former Fnatic star adc joined Elements at the beginning of the season, in hopes of making a dominating team. However, after just one week there was a statement from him on ask.fm, saying that he isn’t happy with the team and their results. Which is true; Elements struggled all throughout the season, but it’s not like it wasn’t Rekkles’s fault too. While he still is a strong mechanical player, his problem has always been(in Fnatic too) his inability to have an impact on the game itself, even when he is very fed. There was a certain match where he started with a 7/1/3 scoreline(or something like that) and finished with 7/4/4. Why? Because he is a very passive player, meaning he will just leave the fight if he thinks that they will lose it, and let his teammates die.
The passive play style issue:
An interesting fact is that before Rekkles joined the team, Elements had Tabzz. While he might be mechanically inferior to Rekkless, he had a very aggressive style of play that synergized well with Nyph, their support at that time(now their coach). Which made sense, as Froggen itself is a passive player. However, since the roster change, Elements now have two passive players. The problem is that both are their primary carries, and they both have the same mentality of “leave the fight if something goes wrong, or the engage is not good”, meaning Wickd and Shook might be left alone in the middle of the enemy team after a bad engage or when the teamfight seems lost for them. Rekkles said that he is trying to become a more aggressive player and have a bigger impact on the games, but, at least for now, it’s simply not happening.
The support and indecisiveness:
Towards the end of the spring split, Elements decided to make Nyph the coach of the team, and they brought in Krepo. Now, the change has some logic to it, because Krepo was their support in the old CLG EU days, and he is a bit better than Nyph mechanically, so maybe he will synergize better with the team.
But Elements don’t need a “better” support. Their main problem, since the very beginning, has been indecisiveness. If you can pressure Elements into making a decision, no matter which one is right or wrong, they might end up not choosing anything, which is (always) by itself a wrong decision to make. Look at this example for instance; and bear in mind that this is Elements last chance to get to the playoffs, so they are theoretically trying their best to win:
Basically, it goes down like this: Fnatic have a big lead, and they are heading towards the baron. Meanwhile, in the bottom, a huge wave of super minions is heading towards the inhibitor,which just respawned and the minions start attacking it.
Bear in mind that Wickd had TP, so he could just go and clear the wave and then teleport for the baron fight. Meanwhile, Fnatic start the baron and Elements look like they want to contest it. No one clears the wave, and the inhibitor is almost down. They decide to send Rekkless to clear the wave, but It’s too late, and the inhibitor had fallen. Meanwhile, Fnatic took the dragon, pushed their advantage and won the game.What did Elements do? They just stayed with four guys on mid, doing nothing.
This is a prime example of their biggest issue; indecisiveness, and we could see it in almost every single game this season, especially in the previous example or this one:
For the first example, they had a choice: a.send Wickd top to clear the wave and then tp for a baron fight.
b.commit to a full 5 on 5 baron fight
c.defend the inhibitor and try to fight Fnatic with baron buff
What did they choose? They choose d. Don’t do any of those, lose both inhibitor AND baron,then lose the game.
The same thing can be said about the Giants match; they had a HUGE lead, yet they commited to a 3v5 defense in the botlane that ultimately costed them the match,showing their incoordination as a team.
So, what does this have to do with Krepo? Well, when he was brought in he was hyped as this mechanically great player and great shot-caller that has the experience with Froggen and Wickd and can help Elements fix all of their problems. Which is wrong on many levels; first of all, Krepo has NEVER been an in-game leader;in Evil Geniuses, Snoppeh was the in-game leader and in CLG.EU he wasn’t the leader either.
So why do people think he is? Probably because they saw him in the various analyst desks doing a great job, and they think that he can translate that same analysis live, in the game. Which, as proved, he can’t, meaning Elements have yet to find a good stable in-game leader.
Yet another issue is their picks and bans phase. They seem to always choose a comp that simply doesn’t make sense, or which is not even that good against what the enemy team is doing, or sometimes pick a team composition that requires them to either get a very strong early lead or hold the game off until the very late game, which they just can’t do.They also seem to prioritize the picks for Rekkles which is not worth it, if he can’t deal enough damage for his team.
The great mobility from Gambit’s team comp means that Catalysts, Glacial Storms and Equalizers can be escaped from very quickly and easily.
So why was Alliance the best team in Europe at some point? Because if you look at the games they’ve played in the summer split last year, the same mistakes, the same inconsistency and the same indecision WAS there. So why couldn’t we see it, and why didn’t the teams exploit all of those weaknesses?
One possible answer is the meta itself. Europe is known for ignoring the eastern meta, and playing it’s own, with it’s specific champion picks that you don’t see in other regions(the good’ol heimerdinger top for example). Why was it good for Elements? Mostly because everyone played the same exact style that Elements(Alliance at that time) wanted to play: very slow paced, low kills games, in which having the better team fighting ability and having a good idea of what to do and when to do to win the team fight won you the games. Having strong bruisers in the top lane helped Wickd, as he was able to bring champions that he is good on, for example Irelia, Renekton or Shivana to the table. But the biggest impact on the meta was on Shook. Shook is inconsistent, but he definitely has some champions that he wants to play, and on which he is able to have a huge impact on the game, like his Lee sin or Vi; just look at the Worlds game vs Najin, in which he just went HAM and snowballed every single lane with Lee Sin, giving Alliance almost a guaranteed win.
Another aspect that helped Elements win the summer split were the teams itself: SK Gaming didn’t have Forg1ven to rely on to be the superstar of the team, so they had to play a passive objective-based style in order to have the advantage, something that Elements was very good at that time.
Fnatic, the 2nd best team in Europe, had some problems with the teamfights; sometimes it felt like they just don’t want to commit to a fight, and they’d rather splitpush. So, when they did have to teamfight, they would lose to them.
Also, Roccat was a team that was single-handedly carried by the duo of Jankos and Vander, and only because of them was Roccat able to reach the 4th place that split. The lack of superstars basically meant everyone had to play the same way that Elements wanted to, which gave them the advantage, since they had Froggen, a real superstar.
In contrast, this split is full of teams with fresh, new stars: Fnatic has Febiven and Reignover, SK Gaming has Forg1ven and H2k has Odoamne and Ryu, and you can see the difference between the splits: the most dominant teams in this era rely on their superstars to give them an advantage early on, then they group up, press their advantage in kills and transform it in turret and dragon advantage, and so they are able to gather a big gold lead before the 40 minute mark, which leads to a very fast and “clean” victory; and Elements simply can’t (at least at the moment) play this style with the same success, because of their internal issues with their players. Until something changes, we probably won’t see them at the top of the board anytime soon.
How to fix Elements?
When things started to go south, Elements tried a bunch of roster swaps, but it seems like they didn’t yet find the solution to their problems.
If I were in charge of player management, I’d keep Froggen and Rekkles. Why Rekkles? Mostly because he still has the urge to become the best and definitely has the skillset to do so. If he can also have a more aggressive style and be able to deal more damage in the teamfights, he is still worth to keep.
Jungle: However, I’d change Shook. The problems with Shook have been persistent ever since the beginning, and there is still no improvement. Now, in an ideal world, I’d try to get Jankos into the team. Yes, he did have a bumpy split, but his level didn’t drop that much, as it was rather his team’s play style that costed them the matches.
As for the toplane, I’d swap Wickd for Zorozero, a very mechanically strong toplaner in the challenger scene. He
previously played for Lemondogs and Ninjas in Pijamas, so he does have the experience necessary. Also, his play style made him almost unable to completely shut down from the game. Since the Kevin experiment didn’t work, I’d try my chances with him.
Support: while it’s too early to say whether Krepo coming to Elements helped them or not(but I’m not yet impressed), if this was a perfect world I’d get Vander, the support and shot-caller from Roccat. Again, just like Jankos, his level didn’t drop down that much from his old self, and it seems like Roccat’s passive play style that costed them the split was rather forced by their coach. Still, I’d be very surprised if Roccat would just let their two best players leave, and the only way I can see such a move happening is if Roccat falls in the relegation series.
The only other solution I can think of would be gambling on Korean imports, but I don’t think it would work because having a Korean in Elements simply doesn’t feel right for them, at least at the moment, especially since communication already is an area they lack in.
All in all, I would definitely go for a change, at least on the upper side of the map and jungle. Wickd and Shook both had more than enough time to show some improvements, yet they still disappoint. Also, having Shook playing champions such as Rek’Sai or Jarvan isn’t really a thing you can rely on.
For now, the story of the promised European superteam that could challenge the best teams in the world, like Moscow Five and CLG.EU did in their era, has been a tragic one, but hopefully almost going into relegations made them understand that changes have to be made in order to survive in the forever-changing European LCS.