European LCS in the Summer 2015
In this article I would like to present my views about the EU LCS teams in Summer 2015, how I see them develop and where they will end up at end of regular season compared to other teams. In other words, this is what many people would call, a “prediction article”.
First off, I realize that this kind of work may seem quite unnecessary to a lot of people, simply because there has already been a tons of texts like this, including written by the real journalists, who are known for creating remarkable pieces. I myself read at least 3 of those.
So what made me create this text despite that? This isn’t really about the specific predictions of other authors which may or may not match my personal views, because actually all the works I’ve read had some valid reasoning behind them. However to my surprise no one seems to be taking into account what for me should be one of the focal points of the whole debate, and that is: the overall environment, in which team grows and develops. This also includes the attitude of the players and their overall approach to the game and teammates. I believe that this factor should have an equal priority with the actual roster strength, together marking out the main criteria determining which teams comes out on top.
At this point some people may have reservations due to the fact that usually gaming conditions and relationships between the players aren’t known to outsiders. As much as I would like to agree with those concerns, I think it's necessary to at least try to gauge the team environment and infrastructure in order to help come to a more valid judgements. Please note that I don't want to potentially slander any organization by claiming something which in fact may not even be close to truth. To be honest opinions about team's environment [presented here] are often formed by combining information from other articles, interviews (with the players or people involved into the industry), social media, etc. and using them to reach fairly cohesive conclusions; so they should be taken with a grain of salt.
Please note that:
This article was supposed to be written before the start of the EU LCS Summer Split, but for the random reasons it didn’t happen.
The article was finished during the 2nd week of the LCS and took into account the results of the 1st week to slightly adjust opinions about the teams.
The following predictions are only for the regular season matches, they do not include possible play-off performances.
Descriptions and predictions
It’s really hard to say something that haven’t already been said about this team in social media. With the addition of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson to the roster all Fnatic’s weak spots seem to be patched. Furthermore many people would agree that there wasn’t that much stacked line-up in the European scene since Season 2. Not only they have the highest chance of winning the Summer Split, but also they are expected to have good results on the World’s stage. Also interviews with the players indicate that atmosphere and the structure within the team is very healthy, mainly because of strong leadership of Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, and mature coaching of Louis “Deilor” Sevilla. Simply putting, the future looks bright for the Fnatic organization in the League of Legends department, at least in 2015.
Unicorns of Love
Everyone knows the weaknesses of Unicorns, which are: the overall sloppiness in their gameplay and lack of clear strategy. However these weaknesses combined with their good sides such as: team synergy, skirmishing and teamfight abilities, gave Unicorns the unique style which allowed them to catch the attention of many fans around the World. No one expect them to change their style and that’s simply because they enjoy to play their own way, and this enjoyment is in fact the fuel that allows them to perform well on stage. They seem to be a pack of good friends together with their coach Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant (the former player of Unicorns) and because of that future roster changes will probably only occur if team decides that it’s an absolute necessity if they want to improve. That synergy is the source of their power but at the same time it hinders them from taking further steps to be a better team.
That's why I expect them either to stay on relatively the same level or be a bit better due to experience they’ve managed to gather so far. I’m calling 3rd to 5th place for them in the regular season mainly because at least few other teams in the LCS are going to get better, so even if it’s also the case for UoL it won't be enough; also Unicorns struggle in best-of-one format. Please note that many people actually considered this team to be the 3rd best team in Europe despite getting to the finals.
One of the most promising teams of last split. Many analysts describe them as just solid team all around with good players, teamwork, rotations and strategies. However important thing to note is that sometimes they just doesn’t play to their normal standards or they implode before the game even starts by drafting poorly. It’s really hard to pinpoint what may be the cause of this; I guess that’s where the coach Neil “PR0LLY” Hammad has to step in and identify the problem. Some interviews indicated that scrims aren’t taken as seriously as they should’ve been, which may be the part of the issue.
Aside from that the atmosphere within the team looks rather good, the players and coach seem to have healthy approach to the concept of rivalry and self-improvement. It may sound cliché, but it really depends if they’ll manage to fix their problem with consistency to make the next step to improve as a team. If they do, I expect a better version of H2k in the Summer Split, if not they will just stay the same. Overall I feel like they will end-up somewhere around 3rd place, where they’ve been before.
This team really puzzles me. SK is a well-known organization, respected by many people involved in e-sports. Yet, they seem to struggle with bringing the proper infrastructure to the team. As we know there has been disagreement among the players surrounding their star AD-carry: Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou, which consequently caused the implosion of SK in the second half of the Spring Split. Candy Panda as a “new” ad-carry is obviously a significant downgrade from FORG1VEN but this roster change may at least fix the team atmosphere, since Candy Panda is known to be a very easy-going person. People say that SK kind of turned back to where they’ve been in 2014, but that’s not exactly true, because Hampus “Fox” Myhre is a much better midlaner than Jesse “Jesiz” Le (despite choking issues in the play-offs).
In my opinion more worrying for the fans should be the lack of coach with the strategic knowledge. Previous coach - Joe “InnerFlame” Elouassi - admitted after he left SK that he wasn’t suited for this role, so we can assume that he also wasn’t much involved in planning strategies (that was probably part of players’ job), and was only taking care of all the issues outside of gaming, typical for managing position. Accordingly, nothing has changed in this regard since the new coach: Lucas Schenke, who’s educated in sports psychology, presumably have also limited game knowledge. So overall the logic behind this move seems to come down to the idea of working closely with the person who has abilities to solve the conflicts and puts forward new techniques of training, somewhat involved with psychology. Of course I respect and accept the importance of sports psychiatrists in e-sports organization, however in my opinion it should be the role of secondary coach who works closely with head-coach (who has a solid grasp of LoL strategy concepts), much like in the Copenhagen Wolves organization. Overall they still have solid players on almost every position – that should allow them to avoid relegation zone. I see SK Gaming either barely making or not making play-offs in this split, so 6th or 7th place would be my guess.
This team is one of the three that I would put in the category “very hard to predict”. On paper team with FORG1VEN over Kristoffer “P1noy” Pedersen looks much stronger. However it’s already been proven two times that team with FORG1VEN is much more likely to collapse, that's because he seems to be the trigger of discord within organizations. Furthermore team has to play around him to make the most out of him, mainly because of his stubborn style of play. Allegedly, in terms of infrastructure things are looking very poorly at the time being, as FORG1VEN said on his ask.fm, the players didn’t even have the access to the LoL clients in Berlin, so coming into to the first week of LCS they had almost no practice at all. To add to that Gambit still holds the tryouts for the head-coaching position so they don't have stable staff backing them up.
As of now it looks like Gambit organization is in a mess, which clearly showed in their first two Summer LCS matches. Some fans surely remember that Gambit faced similar problems in the Spring Split and they were solved only after around three weeks. If this time management won’t fix the issues sooner Gambit may not even have a chance to qualify for the World’s Championship, which is probably their goal, considering FORG1VEN’s ambitions (and not only his). Not knowing what to make out of this squad I think I will just put them somewhere in the same place where they ended up last split’s play-offs, and that would be in 5thor 6thposition.
I’ve seen opinions that the new ELEMENTS’ roster will probably end the season outside of play-off brackets, the reasoning was: too many unknown factors in the team – support taken straight from Solo-Q ladder (talking about Hampus “PromisQ” Abrahamsson here), Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp may turn out to be just washed-out veteran, Jesper “Jwaow” Strandgren is yet to prove himself in the LCS. However in this case I tend see more positive side of things, and I could distinguish at least two points here. The first one is the returning of Erik “Tabzz” van Helvert who is widely known for very good mechanics and reliable gameplay. The second one is simply the fact that by changing 4 out 5 players the team is in my opinion “refreshed” and I believe that’s exactly what they needed, so taking that into consideration it’s hard for me to imagine that they could play worse than before, which leaves only one way – upwards.
Nevertheless it’s also important to note that presumably ELEMENTS have major flaw in their infrastructure, which is: Henrik “Froggen” Hansen have too much saying in the team; I believe that this situation is suboptimal and may cause some serious issues in the future, especially if Froggen will drop-off in terms of skill and understanding of the game. For now the atmosphere in the team seems to be decent, if only Patrick “Nyph” Funke will develop as a coach and be able to step in in times of crisis, ELEMNTS will do just fine. I’m betting on 3rd- 7th place for them.
Another squad that couldn’t live up to the hype during the Spring Split. They definitely have a talented roster and rather solid infrastructure; their roster moves always seem logical from the outside point of view. I rate highly Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi as a coach, also I believe Etienne “Steve” Michels is good enough replacement to be regarded as an upgrade over Remigiusz “Overpow” Pusch. The biggest flaw in ROCCAT’s roster is their AD-carry Pawe? “Woolite” Pruski who is at the moment one of the worst players in his position in the entire league.
Rumors say that scrim-results have been satisfying since the beginning of the season, however they had never translated into the actual LCS matches. Therefore the biggest question still remains from the previous split: Will ROCCAT find the remedy to their choking issues? Much like with ELEMENTS I have a fairly positive feeling about this organization, I think they will show up this time and end up on 3rd-5th place.
This season Copenhagen organization finally started taking League of Legends seriously by creating healthy environment for their players and backing them up with a decent infrastructure. It seems like Karl “Dentist” Krey is a good coach, however major issue with CW squad is that they’re just not skilled enough. At the very least they fully realize that this is indeed the case, so they try to play around their star AD-carry Aleš “Freeze” Kn?žínek to win as many games as possible. I admire the efforts of the Wolves, but they will probably land in the relegation zone at the end of the split.
Origen consists of four proven veterans and one young talent – Jesper “Niels” Svenningsen as an AD-carry. They are all very skilled players, however problem lies elsewhere, and that is the structure of the organization. Namely the star midlaner: Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez, who is not only the player but also founder and owner of Origen. A team where player is at the same time your boss is definitely not structured correctly and may cause serious discord in the future. It begs the question of who has more saying in team's strategies, drafting, scheduling scrims, etc. – the coach or the player.
Also keep in mind that in the previous season some players who used to be on Fnatic, had some discipline issues and didn't want to practice as much as the others. There wasn't exactly said who were those trouble-makers, however it is quite certain that YellOwStaR and Rekkles have always been dedicated to training - so what does that mean? I'll leave it at that since everyone can draw their own conclusions
Few months ago the toplaner Paul “sOAZ" Boyer in one of his interviews admitted that he isn’t convinced to the idea of having a coach (the interview was conducted by Joshua “Howspiffing” Raven). To me this indicates that internal conflicts will arise once the team atmosphere will deteriorate and that Will happen once the team starts losing games. I believe they will avoid conflicts only if they win the majority of the games and have overall good results in scrims.
Nevertheless their first LCS matches surprised me, especially in the 2nd day. I definitely didn’t expect them to beat H2k and in so one-sided fashion on top of that. However I’ll stick with my pre-LCS predictions and call them a middle-of-the-pack team due to structure issues in Origen.
Not too much to say about this team. The majority of the players are considered one of the worst in their respective positions. Last split they've barely avoided auto-relegation and if not for the MYM's internal issues they would probably finish their LCS journey with the end of Spring Split 2015. I would like to say something about GIANTS' coaching staff, but to be honest I have no basis, which I could use to draw even remotely valid opinion.
Nevertheless they've changed only the support during the off-season, who probably won't make greater impact on the overall picture (much like with PromisQ, it's a player taken from SoloQ) so I expect this team to stay relatively the same in terms of skills. The problem is that this split introduces seemingly upgraded league, so I can't imagine them struggling any less than previously. For that reason I am placing GIANTS! Gaming on the auto-relagation spot, fighting for the 9th with Copenhagen Wolves to avoid a miserable fate.
Broader picture of the League
To wrap this text up I would like to share my thoughts about the current EU LCS split, as well as few previous splits. Let's go back in time to Season 4. For me the most important factor that determied the overall character of the league back then was the fact that “the old guard” was the dominant force at the expense of “young blood”, who didn't find its way to the LCS and was kept back for another season in Challenger Series. Unfortunately the veterans, who were leading the EU meta, had a hard time fitting into the changes presented by Riot. That, together with other issues such as: some players being stubborn or poor infrastructure of the organizations, led Europe to being stuck in its ways and overall stagnation of the scene.
To have a broader view, let's compare this situation with NA LCS during Season 4. Most people would agree that NA did well on that time in terms of development of the American scene. In my opinion the main cause of this were existences of the two teams. One of them – the LMQ squad “refreshed” the league bringing some Chinese flavor and aggression which NA was unfamiliar with. The second one was Cloud9, who basically was just continuing to bring what they've already been bringing in Season 3 and that is: humble approach to their competition and self-criticism; ambition to aim further than just LCS title; strategic level of gameplay, which was nowhere to be seen before their arrival. Those two teams were the main incentives who enabled NA scene to achieve a whole new level of play.
Now let's go back to Europe to 2015 in which we welcomed many new teams and players, who couldn't make it to the LCS in the previous season, as well as few imports. Much like with NA, new blood brought new hunger, ambitions and fresh approach to the game. However that event occurred simultaneously with another, namely: the slump of veteran teams (except SK Gaming, who had issues only in the second half of the split), and that's why we've seen rookie teams coming on top of the competitions without much of resistance. That was the Spring Split, but I would imagine that the Summer Split is going be the time when teams like Elements and ROCCAT are displaying skills which should have been within them in the first place. Accordingly the competition in the league should be significantly better, by pushing each other and developing European scene as a whole. Future looks much brighter than in 2014 for Europe.
Now back to the topic. As much as I would like to avoid trying to call the exact standings of the teams, (and that's because the overall outcome seems to be especially hard to predict in this split), I must admit that in the “predicting” article actual “(exact) predictions” must be made. Therefore here are my bets based on what I've said above:
Unicorns of Love
This was actually my first article I have ever written. If you have any qestions or feedback please email me at email@example.com. Thanks for reading!