Preseason ranking of the EU teams for LCS Spring 2016
The following is a ranking of the ten teams participating in the 2016 LCS Spring Season, and my prediction of where the teams will end up in the standings by the end of the playoff. This ranking is based off of the currently known rosters, and is subject to change should any of these rosters change prior to the start of the season. However, since all ten rosters are all but known, it is safe enough to speculate on their placement.
1 - Origen
Mid: PowerOfEvil / xPeke
Out of all of the teams in Europe, Origen has kept the most of their players, as well as adding a likely upgrade in PowerOfEvil, who was a bright spot on the Unicorns in 2015. This same roster, sans PoE, made the semifinal of the recent world championship. More recently, with their new addition, they rolled over the competition at IEM San Jose (which, to be fair, was pretty poor). Origen have strong players at every position, strong synergy between most of their roster, and while H2K's lineup looks incredible, I tend to put more stock in established results than in potential, which is why I believe Origen to be the better team. This should be the team to beat in EU come the start of the season.
2 - H2K
As I mentioned before, H2K's lineup looks incredible. This team has the potential to be the best lineup a western team has ever produced. There have been numerous articles written on the team dynamic between these players and how they compliment each other, so I won't go into too much detail, but in short, this should be exactly the lineup of players to allow Forgiven, one of the greatest Western AD Carries in history, to succeed. The only thing holding this lineup back from being placed at number 1 is the relative newness of the lineup and lack of knowledge on how this team will play out in practice rather than in theory. I simply can't put them above Origen's previously established dominance. However, I do believe that these are the top two teams in Europe, and should the bracket allow, I believe we will see them both in the final.
3 - Fnatic
This decision came down between Fnatic and Vitality for 3rd/4th. These two teams, and the two above, are quite clearly the best teams in the region. I chose Fnatic over Vitality partially due to the Fnatic organization's history within the game, and Vitality's relative lack of experience within PC gaming, but primarily due to team makeup, as I will discuss further in the Vitality section. Fnatic still has some strong pieces to their team. They've lost their crown jewel in Yellowstar, and this will definitely hurt them, but they've retained arguably the best midlaner in Europe, not to mention they've picked up one of the top 3 junglers in the world. I don't expect too much from Gamsu and Noxiak, and expect Yellowstar's absence to have a serious impact on their play, which is why I don't foresee them placing top two, but they've still got enough strength loaded in their roster to beat out many of the other teams this season.
4 - Vitality
As mentioned before, Vitality should be a top four team with the lineup they have. They've managed to snag the whole H2K bot lane, which has been notably self-sufficient in game, and have picked up a pair of superstars in their solo lanes. My main issue with this roster is with Shook. I've never been too big a fan of the player. During his time on Alliance/Elements, while he did have the occasional carry performance, it was far more the norm to see Shook play more timidly, farming up for teamfights rather than playing a gank-heavy style. This should be a worry considering his two solo laners. Cabochard was the main carry of Gambit during 2015, and much of that was due to the coordination between himself and Diamondprox. Gambit used nearly all of their jungle pressure on making sure Cabochard got ahead with constant ganks and presence. It seems unlikely that Shook will replicate this kind of pressure. In addition, Nukeduck is a player that, when given the right resources, can become an incredible carry force. However, much of Roccat's struggles in the Spring of 2015 came from Jankos having to babysit top lane, leaving Nukeduck to fend for himself, and rendering his strengths useless. This stylistic mismatch between Vitality's solo laners and jungler should cause them some issue, but I don't think it will be so pronounced as to drop them out of contention for top four. However, this is the primary reason I have them listed at the bottom of these four teams.
5 - Splyce
Now this may seem a bit odd, considering Splyce are a new team to the LCS, but I actually have some high expectations for this team. For one, they possess some talented players, in particular their solo laners. Wunderwear and Sencux remind me a lot of Odoamne and Febiven when they first qualified for LCS a year ago. In addition, the core of this team has been playing together for quite some time in challenger, with Trashy being their only new member. However, the biggest reason for me to include this team at number five is the fact that all of the other teams in the league look worse. I don't see Splyce cutting into the top four unless the aforementioned stylistic mismatch on Vitality causes them to fall apart, but I think this team will have no problem beating the teams in the bottom half of this list. I think Splyce will be a pleasant surprise this season.
6 - Giants
This was a pretty close call between Giants and Unicorns, but I've chosen to go with Giants as the last playoff team for a couple of reasons. The Giants have never been a team with notable players, save for their star midlaner Pepiinero. Even with Godfred doing pretty good last season, the team was still essentially just Pepii and friends. And they still made the playoffs. With Werlyb and Frederic on their roster. I never bought into the hype in 2014 that Kou would be some big name star, but he is at least an upgrade over Frederic and may even grow into a powerful player over time. I know absolutely nothing about the supposed new top laner Atombomben, but if he can reliably play at least two champions at a consistent level, he will be an upgrade over Werlyb. I'm betting on Giants making playoffs off of Pepii's ability to hard carry, the team being a strict upgrade over their last incarnation, and the rest of the teams simply looking worse. I then fully expect them to be beaten by one of the better teams on this list in the quarterfinal.
7 - Unicorns of Love
I actually had high hopes for the Unicorns during this offseason. Then PowerOfEvil left and all of that hope went down the drain. The Unicorns' performance at IEM San Jose was nothing short of wretched. They played less like a team and more like a group of solo queue players randomly matched together. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang played their typical aggressive, engage-heavy style while Fox and Steeelback, their two primary carries, played passively, failing to go in on their teammates' engages. Fortunately for them, they've made a significant improvement in the jungle with the signing of Diamondprox, who's veteran presence should be a boon for the team, however they still have the issue of lacking any real carry threat. Fox and Steeelback seem like a far weaker version of the infamous Froggen and Rekkles duo from Spring 2015's Elements lineup. Unless one of them can step up and become a reliable carry, or Vizicsacsi explodes into Huni 2.0, I foresee this team struggling mightily this season.
8 - G2
G2, like Splyce, are a new team to LCS, but one that I have much lower expectations for. This is primarily because of the amount of roster shuffling that G2 has been through between qualifying and actually playing in LCS. On top of losing two of their players to Dig, G2 has also role-swapped a player and followed the highly risky fad from last year's offseason of importing a pair of Koreans. While Kikis could be a strong jungler at times during his tenure with the Unicorns, I cannot expect him to perform up to the same standard after suddenly taking on a new role. I have no context on the English skills of the team's Korean duo (yes, Emperor played in NA, but TDK used Korean as their primary communication), which adds an additional hurdle for the team to work around. The only player that I can really see as being an anchor for the team is Perkz, and that's if he can live up to the expectations put on him as the rising star midlaner he's been predicted to be. Frankly put, I feel this team has too many issues to work through too quickly for them to have too much of a chance here. In time, perhaps this could be a strong lineup, I just don't see it happening now.
9 - Roccat
Support: Gosu Pepper
Roccat drew the short end of the stick this offseason. Despite re-signing their three star players early on, all three of them were (presumably) bought out of their contracts and moved to better lineups. This basically left Roccat without a roster, which resulted in them piecing together a lineup consisting of the leftover parts of the other orgs. The only bright spot on this roster looks to be their bot lane, as Jebus has been a hyped talent for quite a while now, and Gosu Pepper, though no longer a star, is at the very least consistent. This bot lane will have to hard carry if Roccat want to survive this season. The rest of the lineup looks mediocre at best. These aren't unproven players either, all three of these players have a history of below average play in LCS level competition. This team should struggle to maintain their place in the LCS, and it is likely their hope will be to simply make it through relegations and bolster their team with some new players during the mid year offseason.
10 - Elements
Roccat may have gotten the short end of the stick, but Elements almost didn't even have a stick. The ownership reportedly tried to sell the team, but couldn't come to an agreement and missed the deadline, forcing them to scrounge together a roster in a few weeks. Their roster was supposedly a challenger team that they bought, and like the Roccat roster, is mostly made up of players with a record of mediocrity. The only player without an LCS history is midlaner Eika, who's been thrown around as a possible up-and-comer, though he was actually dropped from G2 in favor of Perkz. I feel as if he will wind up being more of a Fox than a Febiven or PowerOfEvil. Both this roster and Roccat's are admittedly bad, but what makes me tip the scales in favor of Roccat is the lack of any real player that can reliably carry games. Roccat at least have the Jebus/Gosu lane that should at least give them something. Elements simply have mediocrity across the board. MrRallez has had his moments, but in four seasons of LCS now, he's failed to become a consistently strong player, and Eika is just too low on the prospective midlaner totem pole for me to justify hyping him as a legitimate carry. The final nail in the coffin for Elements is the ownership. At least Roccat are still invested. Even after having their stars stripped away from them, the management maintained that they would stick with their team and try to construct a new roster. Elements's ownership tried to quit, failed, and only stuck around because they would've lost out on a large asset if they didn't. I just don't see the Elements management being invested enough in this team, and we will likely see them dissolve following their autorelegation at the end of the season.