The first season of the 2015 League Championship Series (LCS) came to a close yesterday, and in Europe, it was a season for the rookies.
Fnatic took the title in Europe for the fourth time in five seasons, reclaiming the crown they lost last Summer to Alliance. But this version of Fnatic is quite different than the Fnatic that rolled off three straight championships after the inception of the LCS.
The only returning member of that lineup this year was support player Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, who built a lineup around him featuring challenger talent Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and two unknown Koreans, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin. With four LCS rookies surrounding Kim, it seemed unlikely Fnatic would replicate their usual success in the face of veteran teams like the defending champions Alliance, a newly powered up ROCCAT, and an SK Gaming with Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou.
But this season of the LCS was built for rookies. None of those preseason favorites ranked in the top three of Europe when the dust settled on Sunday. Trailing Fnatic were fellow upstarts Unicorns of Love and H2k Gaming, who featured just one LCS veteran, Raymond “kaSing” Tsang, between them.
The finals saw Fnatic go head-to-head with Unicorns of Love, a fan favorite team heading into the season after they survived their promotion series thanks to creative champion picks like Poppy. Unicorns followed it up with an upset win over Team SoloMid at Intel Extreme Masters San Jose.
Unicorns opened the finals with a new creative pick, using Varus in the mid lane on their star player Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage to surprise Fnatic and score a series lead. But Fnatic stormed back, taking the next two games. Unicorns would dominate game four in less than 30 minutes, but in the fifth game, Fnatic and their aggressive play style were too much.
While H2k made their mark this season thanks to their solid team play and strategy, SK simply brute-forced their way to wins with a team filled with some of Europe’s top stars. SK jumped to a 2-0 series lead against H2k, but the rookie team reverse-swept their foes. During the regular season, SK put up a 15-3 record, meaning they lost as many maps against H2k in this one best-of-five series than they did during the entire regular season, belying the potential roster issues seemingly plaguing the team. The series exposed SK’s one dimensional play style and failure to adjust.
That result made clear the changing-of-the-guard in Europe. The teams ranking in the top three of the standings only featured two players with LCS experience, and one of them, Tsang, only fit a few games under his belt last year on Supa Hot Crew.
While Europe’s veterans will undoubtedly recover for the Summer season, this split’s results make it much more likely Europe will have new players representing the region at the World Championships. Fnatic, Unicorns of Love, and H2k Gaming earned 90, 70, and 50 championship points respectively, putting them in the driver’s seat to earn a spot at the big dance. The winning team in the Summer Split and the highest point getter will both receive auto berths to Worlds. This result makes it much tougher for teams like Alliance to earn one of those guaranteed spots.
EU LCS Standings
- 1st 90 Fnatic
- 2nd 70 Unicorns of Love
- 3rd 50 H2k Gaming
- 4th 30 SK Gaming
- 5th/6th 10 Copenhagen Wolves
- 5th/6th 10 Gambit Gaming
Next season, Fnatic and company will be hard-pressed to replicate their results. The veteran teams will be hungry to show they can build off their 2014 success. The field is getting even tougher. Origen, the squad featuring the rest of Fnatic’s 2013 and 2014 championship players, is now in the LCS.
Of course, the new Fnatic players, Unicorns of Love, and H2k Gaming are now all LCS veterans themselves, and successful ones, at that. It’s a new era in Europe led by a new crop of talented players, and Europe will never be the same.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr