“There’s no talent in the amateur scene.”
That’s a mantra players and fans in Europe and North America repeat ad nauseum to lament the potential their scenes have to break out on the world stage. But when you look at the results of tournaments like the European Expansion Tournament, which will decide which two teams join the eight professional squads in the League Championship Series next year, you have to wonder if people really know what they’re talking about.
Millenium, H2k Gaming, Reason Gaming, and Gamers2 all looked like easy favorites heading into this weekend. Qualified for the expansion tournament through their Challenger series performances last split, featuring rosters packed with star talent, LCS veterans, and high profile international imports, how could some of the smaller and less-funded European squads stand against them?
But only two of them survived.
H2k Gaming and Reason Gaming took care of business, if you can call it that—H2k advanced after a forfeit from Meloncats after technical problems prevented jungler Erberk “Gilius” Demir from continuing after losing one game to H2k. Polish team Reason Gaming, featuring some LCS veterans in Jakub “Kubon” Turewicz and Paweł “Celavar” Koprianiuk, took out Different Dimension with little trouble.
Millenium and Gamers 2, however, were another story.
Entering the event, no team was as hyped as former LCS squad Millenium. They looked like a playoff contender for much of the Summer Split before falling out of the league, and while they lost their jungler and mid laner in the offseason, they replaced them with talents from Korea, Ryu Sang-ook and Cho “HoRo” Jae-hwan.
Millenium took the first map against Spanish team Giants Gaming, who qualified for the expansion by ranking fourth on the EUW ladder. But the Spaniards fought back to seize a 2-1 victory. Mid laner Isaac “PePiiNeRo” Flores in particular looked great, despite laning against the Korean Ryu. Flores posted a 9/2/3 KDA on Xerath in game two—his ultimates so on target some fans accused him of scripting—and followed it with a 6/1/10 Ahri game in the decider.
People who think xPepii is scripting have honestly never seen him play before…
— Ram Djemal (@d_Brokenshard) November 30, 2014
“We tried our best and worked hard,” Millenium top laner Kevin Rubiszewski said in a post on Facebook. “But sometimes there are things you can’t change to the optimal in the given time, may it be synergy, communication or handling pressure.”
That communication and synergy may have been no more obvious than in game three, when Millenium lost a key team fight due to the failure to properly combo their Rumbler ultimate and Orianna shockwave. Whether stronger communication between Rubiszewski and Ryu could have made the difference we’ll never know, but the Polish top laner remains upbeat.
“Even if I lost I still don’t regret any decision I made in my esports career,” he said.
Giants Gaming actually has an LCS history, competing in the first season of the league in 2013 before falling out due to relegation. The current lineup is entirely different, but seeks to reclaim some of that LCS history. Now they are just two wins away from a return.
But one Spaniard who will not be joining them there is Carlos “ocelote” Rodriguez Santiago, captain of Gamers2. A staple of the Challenger series through 2014, Gamers2 looked poised to put the fiery Ocelote back into the LCS with a talented lineup featuring players like young jungling talent and former Ninja in Pyjamas Tri Tin “k0u” Lam.
But the team fell to underdogs n!Faculty in a 2-1 series that seemed to expose a Gamers2 lack of teamwork. The team’s bottom lane struggled against the German duo of n!Faculty, Tarik “Sedrion” Holz and Patrick “TheMountain” Dasberg, and they couldn’t make up that disadvantage on the other parts of the map.
The European Expansion Tournament continues on Dec. 18 with the live portion of the event. Reason Gaming and Giants Gaming will face off while H2k Gaming battles n!Faculty to open a double elimination bracket. Two series victories will send a team to the LCS, while two losses signals elimination. The final portion of the tournament will also feature the newly released Season 5 preseason patch, so the games we will see in December will be nothing like the ones this weekend.
Whichever team adapts the best will earn the chance to continue their careers as professional League of Legends players in the top league in the world.