I think it’s hard for anyone to deny that this LCS off-season has been one of the most turbulent in the history of League of Legends. Doublelift leaving CLG for TSM, GBM leaving Jin Air for the new challenging NA LCS team NRG, xPeke stepping down to do management, making room for PoE and Cabochard+Edward announcing free agency, leaving the fairly promising team Gambit are just four examples of partly or fully unexpected roster changes. So far this year, 6 European players have left the region to go play in NA (with one not being announced officially yet). This emigration has been spoken about as the “EU exodus”, often compared to the many Koreans leaving LCK for well paid spots in LPL last season. But what does it really mean for Europe as a scene? What impact will it have on the second strongest region in the world?
With all these changes, one could think things would calm down and that the open slots in teams are filled, but we are far from finished. In NA, three teams have no players at all announced. In EU, all of Elements’ players, except Nyph, have announced free agency and there are big gaping holes in Giants, Gambit, ROCCAT and H2k. There is no doubt that we have a lot of announcements, discussions and uncertainty left.
The days of solid 5-man rosters are over.
A lot of people have tried making the argument that so many talented EU players moving to NA will leave EU mid/bottom tier LCS teams with lackluster challenger players that can’t compete against the already established world class players that represented the region at Worlds. This argument is likely to have gained more followers after UOL’s performance at IEM San José. This is a reasonable concern and a conclusion that is easy to draw when you see the news of talented players like Incarnati0n, Freeze and Svenskeren leaving to play in NA. But how well founded is this argument really?
Screenshot from /u/nierlaW‘s thread compiling the LCS roster changes.
There are 14 spots open in EU LCS teams, but if the rumors about Huni and Reignover are true, this number will increase to 16. This seems like a whole lot of spots and the fact that three NA teams are yet to be announced, more EU players are likely to be exported. This could at a first glance easily be used to support the argument made in the previous paragraph, but fortunately for the EU region, the pool of talented players is larger than most think. EU top tier teams still has the likes of Forgiven, Froggen, Tabzz, Cabochard etc. to feast on. A decade of experienced mid tier players are also free agents, coming from relegated teams CW and SK, as well as disbanded Elements and partly broken Gambit and Giants. While not all players can be considered world class, they are well suited for mid tier EU teams.
Gamers2 and Follow Esports (former Dignitas EU) are great additions to EU LCS and saves EU teams from having to pick up unexperienced challenger talent instantly. Already established LCS teams can look towards the players from the relegated teams to fill the holes left empty after the “EU exodus”. This also means that 6 new promising players from the newly promoted teams enters the LCS scene for the first time. Result is that EU gets new blood that gets time to develop while keeping the experienced backbone. A clear comparision can be made to Korea last year, when new soloq talent was introduced to LCK. It’s hard to know how well it will go for EU, but it’s not impossible that the players in Gamers2 and Follow Esports will successfully rise up to the challenge and effectively fill the holes after the old players.
EU as a region will remain competitive and the impact of the “EU exodus” has been seriously overstated by many. It has all the opportunities in the world to keep it’s grasp on being the second strongest region in the world and even has the chance of strengthening the region, would G2 and Follow Esports be ready.