Framing Europe: The New Narratives of the EU LCS [Part 1]

Europe is a region in flux. The Old Gods are broken. Alex Ich is in America, fighting through the Challenger scene. xPeke has removed himself for a season, recuperating one tier below with new allies and old friends.

Europe is a region in flux.

The Old Gods are broken. Alex Ich is in America, fighting through the Challenger scene. xPeke has removed himself for a season, recuperating one tier below with new allies and old friends. Froggen, the master of Mid Lane, has bled, his standing left in tentative doubt after defeat at the hands of Cloud 9.

The Old Gods are broken.

Sound needlessly dramatic enough for you? Good, because narrative is one of the most beautiful ways to experience League of Legends as a newcomer. Spring Split is the calm before the storm that Summer will bring, with the foundation of upcoming events being laid out as new blood faces off versus unlocked potential. With so much change occurring in the off-season a lot of new eyes rest upon the often written-off region between North America and China. The board is set and the pieces are moving.

Time to understand what’s at stake.

The Jungle Unleashed: Jankos vs. Svenskeren

“Jankos is the best jungler in Europe. Hate to break it to those who were unaware until now.”

– Thorin on Jankos

If there were two teams that could be said to have been utterly defined by one player, it was Roccat and SK. Though Overpow garnered much of the spotlight with his unconventional picks, and Vander farmed much of the praise with his Thresh play (even earning the nickname Vanderlife), a more ferocious beast was emerging within their ranks. Jankos, delivering solid performances in Spring, reached new stellar heights in the Summer becoming the king of First Bloods, culminating in his crowning Playoffs performances where his sheer dedication to pressure allowed the individually tested players of Overpow and Celaver to deliver incredible numbers.

Jankos hit the spotlight in a huge way following that showing. Touted as the ‘Best Jungler in Europe’, hype for Jankos reached critical levels following his victory on Summoning Insight. All aboard the hype train was his organisation, with the contract to keep him quickly rushed out ensuring no sudden loss of their star player. But if the pressure Jankos exerted was able to keep his current carries ahead of the game against their often superior opponents, what could the jungler do with more aggressive, more dominant players?

ROCCAT decided to find out. Nukeduck, a snowballing legend who had fallen upon hard times after his ill-advised trip to NiP’s cursed lineup, seemed like the obvious choice for the First Blood King. Woolite, a hyper aggressive ADC from the Copenhagen Wolves, was paired with a rejuvenated Vander who had sorted out his previous champion pool difficulties. Overpow, friend and former mid laner, was moved to Top, where he has apparently found success in scrims. A new lineup that could take the early advantages a player like Jankos gave and snowball a victory? What could stop the apparent king of the Jungle now?

Perhaps his most immediate rival, and my personal choice for 2014’s Best European Jungler, Svenskeren. Following the capitulation of SK Gaming’s former roster, Svenskeren was drafted along with Fredy122, Jesiz and nRated into a team that was a shadow of it’s former self. Veteran SK player Candypanda himself was considered to be falling out of his prime, particularly with the hype surrounding incoming ADC prodigy Rekkles and the return of lone Lemondogs survivor Tabzz. With one of the weakest Mid laners in a region dominated by Mid talent, and an as-of-yet unproven Top, it appeared Svenskeren would have to undergo a similar journey to the one his fellow Jungler Jankos had – and he did.

In about a week.

From the word ‘go’ Svenskeren mirrored his opponent, out-pressured him, out-dueled him, kept Jesiz safe, won lane for Jesiz, gave Fredy122 breathing room that would eventually make him the best Top laner in Europe, and generally dominate the entire early game of SK Gaming until the rest of the team was able to group and win with excellent teamfight calls and initiations. Svenskeren didn’t just help SK Gaming’s winning strategy, he was their winning strategy for the first 20 minutes. SK shot up to first place in the regular season, eventually coming second in Spring to Fnatic (a team that has made an art out of cheesing EU LCS Playoffs). In Summer they would achieve the same feat again, this time coming third, losing to the team that would go on to win the entire tournament.

It could very well be said, given the circumstances of their loss, that SK were a Top 2 European team twice in a row, despite having a roster that boasted no real star players. The fluid motion of SK Gaming’s strategy held together despite buying some of the fewest wards of any LCS team. The importance of Svenskeren, the monstrous levels Fredy122 had developed into were not so apparent until Worlds when disaster struck. An ill-advised mockery of his hosting Taiwanese resulted in a ban for Europes perhaps unappreciated Jungler for the first three games of the most important tournament of their lives. The result? SK Gaming lost the first three games of the group stage. Jesiz was exposed, his lane being open ground for enemy gold. The passivity of the bottom lane was intensely capitalised upon by their opponents. Fredy122 finally reached his final form, putting up incredible numbers on his Mundo and going down fighting, making Europe proud. In the absence of Svenskeren, their substitute Jungler Gillius was simply not up to par, with questionable decision making even on his signature champion Jarvan IV.

The return of Svenskeren to a demoralised and unpracticed (as five) lineup was enough to bring one last ray of  light for Europe. Taking on the already victorious TSM who were looking to avoid the juggernaut Samsung White in the next round, SK Gaming made a valiant last stand and came out on top. Europe took what victory it could on the backs of SK, and the lineup, with it’s weaknesses exposed, was cast under the microscopic eye of the community for another off-season. What could be changed?

A lot.

Svenskeren is now equipped with the tools to get the job done. An aggressive bottom lane with the infamous Forg1ven, and Challenger Mid WatDeFox as an upgrade to Jesiz, retaining the now world-class Fredy122 for Top; Svenskeren is finally able to return to his true love: counter jungling.

Svenskeren and Jankos were junglers that defined their teams standings and placed them on top. With standout players, these standout junglers are finally able to play to their full capability. Already the best in their role while carrying the slack of lesser men, it is time to decide who can hold the title. There is no weight now. The shackles are off.

The EU LCS Spring Split will finally decide who is the real King of the Jungle.

Marked: Forg1ven vs. Rekkles

“Really happy that someone as good as Forg1venx247 will be taking the spot as a AD Carry for Copenhagen Wolves, he is probably the first player after Puszu that has beaten me several of times in a row invidually, which I see as a motivation to play more and practice harder.”

– Rekkles on Forg1ven

Forg1ven is feared.

The conundrum of bottom lane in the EU LCS throughout it’s history has always been good Carrys and good Supports paired with the wrong people. Europe had good bottom lane players, just rarely (until now) good bottom lanes. Therefore, ask any AD Carry in Europe which bottom lane they most feared and Forg1ven’s name would always pop up. This man applied pressure like he was on your Nexus already, a stream of controlled aggression that never let up. Yet at the same time this hyper aggressive out-trading didn’t prevent him from out-farming you at all stages of the game. Forg1ven broke records during his tenure in the Copenhagen Wolves, where he was paired with Unlimited, arguably one of the worst players to grace the role in Europe. It didn’t matter. The CW bottom lane was the bottom lane every player dreaded facing, the lane that caused the most issues to all.

Including Rekkles.

Rekkles has been prescribed many terms. Consistent. Passive. Carry. Safe. What can never be denied is Rekkles was very rarely, if ever, the reason his team lost, and in every victory he could be seen to make a huge impact. Even when Fnatic were in the midst of their now infamous eight game slump, Rekkles was still the player to have on your Fantasy LCS. Yet his ability to put up numbers from behind did little to address his issue with playing from behind, or even getting behind. Rekkles, despite the name, was passive by nature. He played the AD Carry role safely. He played things by the book. And Forg1ven had caused him trouble.

Forg1ven caused many people trouble. During IEM Hanover, Forg1ven’s teammates were telling of the man’s ability to dominate bottom lanes on an international level, facing off against North American equivalents and China’s World Elite. Astonishingly, Forg1ven was the only one being attributed these victories. His one split in the EU LCS gave him the Highest Gold Per Minute, Highest Total Gold, Highest CS Per Minute and the currently standing EU LCS record: 658 CS in 54 minutes against Millenium. He had played ten total AD Carry champions on a professional level before and after the LCS. As a player, Forg1ven impressed on every level.

Meanwhile the Rekkles/Yellowstar bottom lane ended their first week in the LCS with a combined KDA of 33-7-77, going 26-0-20 on Jinx across three games. By the end of Summer Rekkles’ stats were booming, boasting a 65 KDA with Vayne, averaging less than one death per game across all his champions while leading the league in kills. He was one kill away from defeating Meteos’ now legendary NA LCS Summer 2013 KDA stat in the unarguably stronger EU LCS of 2014. The rookie had hit the ground running and never broke from his spring, despite the dips and downs Fnatic faced Rekkles was a shining beacon of consistency that inspired awe in all that were watching. What could the future hold for this bright young spark, surely at the start of a long and prosperous career?

Forg1ven was dropped from the Copenhagen Wolves roster amid much controversy. The player recanted his desire to play professionally, sometimes indicating he would move to Counter Strike should the opportunity for League glory forever fade. Challenger Scene was not good enough to hold Forg1ven, a player with the arrogance of an already-proven player backed by the observations of analysts and the praise of his laning peers. Rekkles managed to qualify for Worlds, finally facing off against his Korean counterpart Deft, outshining him significantly in their first showing (as, indeed, did most of Fnatic to their counterparts) and ending the World Championships in the group stage amid an intense and somewhat infamous ‘close’ game against OMG.

After a very public and very controversial split from Fnatic into Alliance, Rekkles rounded off the year with another solid performance against Cloud 9, this time making significant plays to bring his team ahead and out from behind, displaying a level of controlled aggression that many spectators were waiting for.

Rekkles ended the year cementing himself as the best AD Carry in Europe. Forg1ven never got the chance to replicate his dominating Spring Split performance and solidify his claim to the throne.

With SK Gaming looking to solidify their regular season results in the Playoffs, Forg1ven’s performance against Elements’ Rekkles will be crucial to the outcome of the game itself. Forg1ven is a monster so powerful he becomes his own win condition, a phenomenal AD Carry that lacks in none of the areas that often plagues his peers, having developed a mastery that even the staunchest of veterans find far out of their reach. If ever there was a time for him to make his name, to shine as one of the best, to become the world class contender many (myself included) often tout him to be, now is the time.

For Rekkles, it is time to break the mould of the passive laner, the safe player, and ignite the torch that flickered into existence during his IEM San Jose showing. His drive is unchanged. He is a player that is not here to settle, not aiming for anywhere but the top and is not about to let the Greek challenger take it lightly. Time will tell what manner Rekkles chooses to go about the immense task before him, adaptation will be key in this battle of titans. There is no greater test in the bot lane.

Next Time: Proving Grounds as new blood enters the EU LCS, and a look at The Oncoming Storm as Korea makes it’s opening moves.