The Way Things Were: Season 3 in the EULCS
Hello again! ScrapyardSavior here with a look back at the happenings of Season 3 in the European LCS. This is part 2 of the series. Part 1, an overview of Season 3 in the North American LCS, can be found here. I've made some changes to the formatting and style of writing, please let me know what you think in the comments! Without further ado:
Spring Split Opening Day Rosters
The inaugural EULCS split saw established teams such as Fnatic (FNC), Gambit (GMB), Schroet Kommando (SK), and Evil Geniuses (EG) joined by new blood in the persons of Giants (GIA), Copenhagen Wolves (CW), Dragonborns (DB), and Against all Authority (AaA).
-Final Record: 22 – 6 (1st place)
-Postseason Results: def. EG 2-1 in semis, def. GMB 3-2 in finals
-Key Roster Changes: None
(L to R: Yellowstar nRated, Cyanide, sOAZ, xPeke)
Fnatic entered the inaugural LCS split as one of the most highly regarded teams in Europe. Possessing top-level talent at each position, as well as former Season 1 world champions in midlaner xPeke and jungler Cyanide, they made it clear that they deserved every bit of that consideration. Behind the steady and unselfish jungle play of Cyanide, xPeke's excellent play on a variety of on and off-meta midlaners, and the versatility of top laner sOAZ, Fnatic cruised to a 22-6 first place finish in the regular season and proceeded to take the playoff crown as well with series victories over Evil Geniuses and Gambit.
-Final Record: 21 – 7 (2nd)
-Postseason Results: def. SK 2-0 in semis, lost 2-3 to FNC in finals
-Key Roster Changes: None
(L to R: Diamond, Edward, Alex Ich, Darien, Genja)
The great mystery of European League of Legends during Season 3 was Gambit Gaming. During Season 2, the Russian squad had risen to mythic status by having strong domestic showings in addition to being the only Western team to consistently take victories off of the Korean teams (i.e. the legendary IEM VII Katowice tournament). To this day, individual characteristics of each player remain memorable to the community- top laner Darien for his insane aggression and map pressure (and sometimes strange builds), Diamondprox for superior and innovative jungle pathing and strategies, Alex Ich for overall excellence, Genja for excellent positioning and outright odd item choices, and Edward for being the “support carry”. Gambit indeed backed up their status with a very solid 21-7 regular season record and 2-0 dismantling of SK Gaming in the playoff semifinals; a 2-3 defeat in the finals to Fnatic did little to dispel the aura around them.
-Final Record: 17 – 11 (3rd)
-Postseason Results: def. AaA in quarters (FF), lost 0-2 to Gambit in semis, lost 0-2 to EG in 3rd place match
-Key Roster Changes: None
(L to R: Kev1n, Nyph, Ocelote, HyrqBot, CandyPanda)
SK Gaming entered the LCS with a roster notable for both the consistency of its players and the emotional play/scarves of mid laner Ocelote. Although none of the individual members were consistently spectacular, all were capable of pulling their weight in top-caliber matches. In the unsettled (and uneven) world of Season 3 Spring, this translated into a solid 17-11 record (good for third place in the regular season). Top laner Kev1n emerged as a solid carry as the season progressed, and ADC CandyPanda showed the capability to put the team on his back occasionally. However, in a playoff environment, this balanced approach was not enough to produce results against the top-tier teams. After advancing to the semifinal round via AaA forfeiting the quarterfinal series, they were roundly dismantled by Gambit 0-2 and again 0-2ed by EG in the third place match.
-Final Record: 15 – 13 (4th)
-Postseason Results: def. CW 2-1 in quarters, lost 1-2 to FNC in semis, def. SK 2-0 in 3rd place match
-Key Roster Changes: None
(L to R: Yellowpete, Krepo, Wickd, Snoopeh, Froggen)
The Evil Geniuses roster for the first split of the EULCS, although widely acclaimed, showed several signs of aging and regression from their peak. During their heyday as Counter Logic Gaming Europe, mid laner Froggen and company took tournements off of some of the best teams in the world through their unmatched turtling, stalling, and teamfighting capabilities. One of the most famous series of all time, this CLG.EU roster against China's World Elite at the Season 2 World Championships, is famous for both the duration of its games and the methodical pace at which they proceeded.
However , the Season 3 meta, favoring snowballing and assassins more than years prior, produced problems for EG. Nerfs and the rise of assassins made it difficult for Froggen to play his favored Anivia pick, while a brutal series of nerfs took top laner Wickd's favorite champion Irelia off the table. Combined with a jungle that had opened up to favor Snoopeh's tank choices less, this produced a mediocre and somewhat disappointing 15-13 final record for EG- barely above .500. To their credit, they did show some signs of life in the playoffs. After defeating Copenhagen Wolves 2-1 in the quarterfinal match, they lost a hard-fought 1-2 semifinal to eventual champions Fnatic before taking third place for the playoffs with a solid 2-0 showing over SK. Overall, though, this was certainly a step down from the expectations fans had before the season, and questions began to grow around the future of the team.
-Final Record: 13 – 15 (5th)
-Postseason Results: lost quarters 1-2 to EG
-Relegation Results: def. Samurai in Jeans 3-1
-Key Roster Changes: Bjergsen (mid) re-joined after Week 2
(L to R: TheTess, NeeGodBro, Deficio, Svenskeren, CowTard)
The first team to finish in the bottom half of the league table, Copenhagen Wolves was also the only all-Danish squad in the EULCS. Although their Week 1 roster featured midlaner cowTard (who also subbed as ADC during Week 2), he was merely a substitute player until wunderkind Bjergsen turned 17 and became eligible to participate in LCS matches. Although highly touted, he displayed the inconsistency and occasional vulnerability that defines many (if not most) LCS newcomers as well as young players in general. Additionally, the remainder of the CW roster (with the exception of support Deficio) were not widely considered to be particularly strong players- not bad, but certainly not capable of carrying Bjergsen through rough patches or games. All this added up to an average 13-15 record, roughly in line with expectations but clearly sending a message that the young star would need a better supporting cast.
-Final Record: 10 – 18 (6th)
-Postseason Results: lost quarters to SK (FF)
-Relegation Results: lost 0-3 to SNS/Lemondogs
-Key Roster Changes:
-Week 8-Replaced Karalius with Dioud (support)
(L to R: Fredy122, Nono, Karalius, ShLaYa, VirTu4l)
In Seasons 1 and 2, Against all Authority fielded powerhouse teams, capable of challenging the top squads from both Europe and North America (the Season 1 AaA team eliminated TSM from the world championships and would go on to take second place overall). However, those rosters had broken up by the time that LCS play began, and the Season 3 roster consisted of players assembled from teams such as Eclypsia and Sypher (mid-tier professional teams, a step below the CLG.EU and Moscow5/GMB tier). An additional problem facing them was that their original choice of jungler, Linak, had been banned by Riot before the spring qualifiers. Both his replacement, Virtu4l, and support Karalius were less proven in high-level competition.
The inexperience showed during a rocky start to the season, with a 6-12 start placing AaA near the bottom of the standings. Karalius was replaced by newcomer Dioud (support) after Week 8, which yielded a respectable 4-6 record over the last 3 weeks to place their final season record at 10-18. Unfotunately, they were forced to forfeit their quarterfinal match to SK due to a player needing to leave for a home emergency and being unable to procure a substitute. In relegations, AaA were solidly defeated 0-3 by a very strong Sinners Never Sleep (later Lemondogs) team.
-Final Record: 8 – 20 (7th)
-Relegation Results: lost 2-3 to Alternate
-Key Roster Changes: None
(L to R: Exter, Jimbz, Babeta, Samux, Morden)
Spanish team GIANTS entered LCS play after defeating mousesports 2-0 in the LCS Qualification tournament. Although generally not considered an extremely strong team, they had showed flashes of potential in the past- the same roster (minus ADC Jimbz) defeated Moscow 5 (eventually to become Gambit Gaming) 2-0 in the finals of the ESL Season IX tournament. However, their results in LCS left much to be desired. Overall, the players were generally a step below the rest of the competition, and their final record of 8-20 reflected that. Their most memorable moment of the season was likely being the victims of Forellenlord's mythical “3000 elo shockwave” in the course of their relegation series loss to Alternate.
-Final Record: 6 – 22 (8th)
-Relegation Results: lost 2-3 to Meet Your Makers
-Key Roster Changes:
-Replaced Brokenshard (illness) with Malunoo
-Week 5- Replaced Spontexx with YamatoCannon (top)
(The original Dragonborns lineup, with Brokenshard instead of Malunoo)
Dragonborns qualified for the Spring Split by defeating mousesports 2-0 in the Qualification tournament. Although this was not a widely-predicted result, and the team shortly thereafter lost original jungler Brokenshard to illness, it was thought that a decent LCS run was still possible. With a roster featuring well-regarded players such as Malunoo in the jungle and Season 1 world champion Shushei in mid, DB began with a respectable 4-4 start to the season. However, that was the absolute high-water mark for them.
The losing began innocuously enough, by dropping a game to SK to conclude a 2-3 record in Week 4. Week 5 saw them go winless, and Week 6 as well despite the additions of YamatoCannon to replace Spontexx in the top lane and Dexter for Malunoo in the jungle. Week 7 was barren, as was Week 8 despite the return of Malunoo. Although a Week 9 win over GIANTS stopped the bleeding, it did little to salvage their season. That absolutely brutal 13 game losing streak was part of an overall 2-18 collapse to close out the schedule. Although their relegation series against Meet Your Makers was closely contested, in the end a 2-3 loss removed Dragonborns from the LCS.
(S3 Summer can be found past the page break)
Summer Split Opening Day Rosters
Of the four teams sent to the Promotion/Relegation tournament from the Spring Split, only one made it back: Copenhagen Wolves (newly rechristened Ninjas in Pajamas). The three new teams- Lemondogs, Alternate, and Meet Your Makers- came in with varying expectations following their ascendancy. The infusion of new blood produced a league table in which virtually every team found similar results and successes, and a spate of mid-split roster changes further altered the landscape of the EULCS. When the regular season came to a close, a 4-way tie at 15-13 for second place (as well as a sixth-place tie at 13-15) resulted in an incredible cycle of tiebreakers. Going into the Season 3 Worlds, European fans could be very confident indeed that the teams they sent would be of similar skill.
-Final Record: 15-13 (4th)
-Playoff Results: Lost 0-2 to LD in semifinals, def. EG 2-1 in third place match
-Key Roster Changes: Replaced Edward with Darker
-Week 8- replaced Darker with Voidle.
(Gambit's Worlds roster. L to R: Voidle, Genja, Alex Ich, Diamond, Darien)
The legendary Moscow 5/Gambit roster which had terrorized the competitive world for so long was broken up for the first time after the spring of Season 3. Edward took the money and ran all the way to North America's Team Curse, and the team selected Russian support Darker to replace him. Gambit as a team appeared to lack something of their legendary ferocity for much of the split. There were whispers of the league system taking a massive toll on the team's ability to practice and prepare, with the location of their gaming house necessitating a full day's travel both to and from Cologne (site of the EULCS matches). Whatever the cause, the Russians could not find the dominant form of yesteryear, and even a support change from Darker to the Estonian Voidle did not improve their fortunes (5-5 record after the change). Their eventual 15-13 finish placed them among the four teams involved in the second-place tie.
During the tiebreaker, Gambit lost to Evil Geniuses before taking down NiP, but were once again defeated by EG to end up in fourth place overall. In the playoffs, they were disposed of 0-2 by Lemondogs in their semifinal series, but managed to exact revenge on EG in a hard-fought 2-1 series to secure their spot at Worlds. Once there, Gambit acquitted themselves well. Although they lost twice to rivals Fnatic, Gambit took care of business against the bottomfeeders of the group, going a combined 4-0 against NALCS' Vulcun and Southeast Asia's Mineski. Gambit also split their group series games 1-1 with Korea's Samsung Galaxy Ozone. At the end of group stages, Gambit and Ozone were tied, but Gambit prevailed in the tiebreaker to eliminate Ozone entirely. In the bracket stage, Gambit were defeated by Korea's NaJin Black Sword 2-1 in a quarterfinal series. However, this strong showing as compared to their lackluster regular season showed that perhaps the old bear still had some fight left, even without one of the founding members.
-Final Record: 15-13 (2nd)
-Playoff Results: def. EG 2-0 in semifinals, def. LD 3-1 in finals.
-Key Roster Changes:
-Week 4- nRated out, Puszu to ADC, Yellowstar to support.
(Post-roster change Fnatic. L to R: Yellowstar, xPeke, Cyanide, sOAZ, Puszu)
As with Gambit, Fnatic seemed to have lost something in the brief break between the spring and summer. Sitting at 4-6 after the first three weeks of the split, Fnatic elected to make a significant roster change. Benching long-time support nRated, they moved ADC Yellowstar to support and brought in ADC Puszu, formerly of mousesports and H2K. Their 11-7 record the rest of the way indicates that there was at least some positive benefit to the move, and their 15-13 final record was good enough to place them in the 2nd place tiebreaker gauntlet, which they came out on top of by defeating NiP and EG.
This momentum continued in a major way during the playoffs, with an easy 2-0 defeat of Evil Geniuses in the semifinals followed by a 3-1 victory over Lemondogs to retain their championship crown and secure themselves a spot at Season 3 Worlds. Fnatic's journey at that tournament began with a shocking loss to North America's Vulcun. However, Fnatic quickly righted the ship and ran the table through the rest of the group stages, not dropping a single game other than that and defeating Korea's Samsung Galaxy Ozone as well as Gambit Gaming twice along the way. In the bracket stages, Fnatic defeated North America's Cloud 9 2-1 in the quarterfinals before falling 1-3 to eventual runner-up Royal Club, of China. Their strong showing at Worlds left fans happy and a general feeling of their consecutive EULCS crowns being well-justified.
-Final Record: 13-15 (7th)
-Relegation Results: def. SHC 3-2
-Key Roster Changes: None.
(This is what barely avoiding being relegated looks like)
Heading into the spring split, SK had reason to be optimistic: the same squad that had put up a 17-11 mark in the spring split was intact, while a significant portion of the league was comprised of new teams and one of their largest rivals (Gambit) appeared vulnerable after losing their support. However, when the games started, SK wilted in the summer much like Gambit and Fnatic. Instead of being near the top of the standings, SK started out just 2-6 on the way to occupying last place for the first 5 weeks consecutively. Even though they played back into near-contention at the end of the split, their 13-15 final record only qualified them for the sixth-place tiebreaker, which they lost to Alternate. Placed against Moopz's SUPA HOT CREW XD (SHC), SK came out weakly and quickly went down 0-2 in the series. With their backs against the wall and pride on the line, SK clawed back to a 3-2 series victory, but such weakness in the face of an opponent so inferior on paper signalled a true need for changes to the SK roster.
-Final Record: 15-13 (3rd)
-Playoff Results: lost 0-2 to Fnatic in semis, lost 1-2 to Gambit in the third place match.
-Key Roster Changes: None
(The closest EG got to S3 Worlds)
Evil Geniuses once again failed to live up to the name they had made for themselves during their glory days, compiling another 15-13 record during the regular season. Continued regression from Snoopeh saw him subbed out for Shacker during Weeks 6 and 7, while the Yellowpete-Krepo bottom lane also did not seem sharp. Shacker did not have an extraordinarily large impact, with the team's 3-2 record in games he played representing only a marginal improvement at best. A 4-1 Week 10 (with Snoopeh back in the jungle) was enough to lift them into the second-place tie at 15-13. Although they managed to show up when it counted, taking third place in the tiebreaker gauntlet, overall the Summer Split was just as much a disappointment for EG as the spring. The playoffs brought further disappointment for Froggen and company, with a disappointing 0-2 results against Fnatic followed closely by a 1-2 defeat against Gambit that denied their Worlds bid. This kicked the rumor mill into overdrive, with whispers of an impending “superteam” beginning before Worlds had even begun.
-Final Record: 15-13 (5th)
-Playoff Results: lost 0-2 to Gambit in the quarterfinals, lost 2-1 to Alternate in the fifth place match
-Relegation Results: lost 0-3 to KMT
-Key Roster Changes:
-Week 3-NeeGodBro, Svenskeren, TheTess out, extinkt (top), Malunoo (jungle), Freeze (ADC) in
-Week 7: extinkt retires, replaced by Mimer
(NiP after all extinkt's retirement. L to R: Mimer, Malunoo, Bjergsen, Freeze, Deficio)
The former Copenhagen Wolves entered the Summer Split fresh off a 3-1 victory over Samurai in Jeans during the relegation tournament. However, it remained evident that midlaner Bjergsen was on a higher level than the rest of the team, and prior to Week 3 the team pulled the trigger on a massive change. Top laner NeeGodBro, jungler Svenskeren, and ADC TheTess were released from the squad, and top laner extinkt (formerly of Curse.EU), jungler Malunoo (formerly of Dragonborns) and ADC Freeze (of Samurai in Jeans) were brought in to replace them. Extinkt in particular had been considered one of the best in Europe (and potentially the world) at his peak, and making a move of this caliber signalled an “all-in” philosophy for NiP. Just 2-6 and tied for last place when the move was announced, NiP promptly went 7-3 over the next 4 weeks to rise to one game behind LCS leaders Alternate.
Amidst this hot streak and growing positivity, extinkt announced his retirement from the game after Week 6. Top laner Mimer, a soloqueue star with multiple accounts in challenger, was selected as his replacement. Although Mimer proved himself capable of holding his own in a LCS setting, and NiP went a respectable 6-4 afterward to close out the regular season, their dimished team chemistry became apparent during the tiebreaker gauntlet. Facing a difficult 1-2 punch of Fnatic and Gambit, NiP were defeated in both games to drop to fifth place. From that fifth place seeding, NiP continued to drop down, losing an 0-2 series in the quarterfinals to Gambit and losing again-this time 1-2- to Alternate in the fifth place match, sending them to relegations.
As a sixth-place team, NiP were expected to handle their opponent relatively easily, and being matched against the relatively-unkown Polish Kiedys Mialem Team(KMT) only increased fan confidence. However, KMT proved to have developed an excellent strategy to exploit the passive, methodical play of NiP, and the Ninjas simply failed to adjust. When the dust settled, they had acquired a humiliating 0-3 defeat and lost their spot in the LCS.
-Final Record: 18-10 (1st)
-Playoff Results: def. Gambit 2-0 in semis, lost to Fnatic 1-3 in finals.
-Key Roster Changes:
-Week 3- wewillfailer out, Mithy to support.
(Lemondogs: Worlds edition. L to R: Tabzz, Mithy, Nukeduck, Dexter, Zorozero)
New kids on the block Lemondogs surprised the EULCS by putting together an extremely strong finishing kick to end the season a full five games ahead of the second-place tie. Although they had slaughtered AaA 3-0 to qualify for the tournament, after Week 3 Lemondogs' record stood at a middling 4-6. Prior to Week 4's matches, the decision was made to bench support wewillfailer and replace him with Mithy. The results of this were seen immediately and powerfully- a 14-4 record the rest of the way and a 2-0 dismantling of Gambit in the playoff semifinals, before falling 1-3 to Fnatic in the finals. Although this was an anticlimactic ending to LD's Cinderella run through Europe, they remained a formidable opponent. Top laner Zorozero was a strong carry in both splitpushing and teamplay, and the synergy between mid laner Nukeduck and jungler Dexter was strong as well. The addition of Mithy propped up the shotcalling and pick/ban phase of the team, as well as providing strong mechanical and tactical support play which enabled ADC Tabzz to grow into a threat in his own right.
Lemondogs came out swinging in the playoffs, crushing Gambit 2-0 and advancing to face the previous champions, Fnatic, in the final series. Although Fnatic came out on top 3-1, Lemondogs had effectively silenced any remaining questions about their legitimacy, as well as ensured their place at Season 3 Worlds. Placed in a brutal Group A, LD split their two games against North America's TSM and failed to take a single one of four from the top two teams in the group (eventual World Champions SKT T1, from Korea, and China's OMG). Although this did not qualify them to move on to the bracket stage, it was nevertheless a reasonable showing from a young and inexperienced team under the brightest lights, on the biggest stage.
-Final Record: 13-15 (6th)
-Playoff Results: lost 1-2 to EG in quarterfinals, def. NiP 2-1 in fifth place match.
-Key Roster Changes:
-Weeks 5-8- WhiteKnight substitutes for Creaton (injury)
(Alternate, in happier times, L to R: Kerp, Jree, Araneae, Forellenlord, Creaton)
Alternate punched their ticket into the EULCS by narrowly (3-2) defeating a GIANTS squad which was widely considered to be fairly weak. Even though 3 members of Alternate finished among the highest-ELO (ranked) players in Europe during Season 2 (Forellenlord, Kerp, and Creaton), their teamplay had not been judged to be especially impressive. However, judging by the first few weeks of ATN's LCS results, it seemed like that assessment might have been wrong. After a perfect 5-0 record in Week 1, Alternate followed with good results in Weeks 2 and 3 to move their record to 8-2.
Bizarrely, mid laner Forellenlord elected to take a week off at this time, with Finnish player WhiteKnight subbing in for him in mid. When Forellenlord returned, WhiteKnight moved to ADC to sub for Creaton- because Creaton had managed to get his hand broken by a door. By the time Creaton returned in Week 8, the team record had dropped to 11-9. Although Alternate managed a 2-1 record in Week 9, Week 10 was not nearly so kind. A 0-5 freefall during the last week of the season not only removed them from contention, but also dropped them into a tie for sixth with SK.
A victory over SK saved them from an automatic trip to the relegation tournament, but the damage already was done. Amid questions about Creaton being able to regain his previous form and Forellenlord's commitment to the team, Alternate seemed to be facing a bit of a crisis. This only deepened further when Evil Geniuses took a 1-2 series from them in the playoff quarterfinals. Although this was somewhat redeemed by a 2-1 victory over Ninjas in Pajamas to avoid a trip to relegations, the cloud of questions around the team continued to linger.
-Final Record: 8-20 (8th)
-Relegation Results: lost to CW 1-3, lost to SHC 0-2
-Key Roster Changes: None
(L to R: Kubon, Mokatte, Czaru, Makler, Libik)
Meet Your Makers entered the LCS via a scrappy 3-2 series victory over the formerly-last-place Dragonborns. Although considered to be a very weak team by virtue of that unconvincing performance, MYM theoretically had team chemistry to rely on: their five starters (Kubon, Mokatte, Czaru, Makler, and Libik) had been playing together since February of 2012. Indeed, much like their fellow newcomers Alternate, MYM impressed out of the gate, with a 4-1 Week 1 performance. MYM's success, though, was much more short-lived. After treading water with a 2-3 record across Weeks 2 and 3, the team nosedived- a 2-16 record the rest of the way. A lack of adaptivity was at least partially to blame- although they developed a unique strategy of midlaner Czaru taking teleport instead of an offensive summoner spell and using it to create map pressure and quick ganks, it was soon adapted to and adopted by some other LCS teams (Fnatic in particular), and without that wrinkle the weakness of MYM was exposed. Other than Czaru and perhaps Mokatte, none of the members of MYM proved themselves LCS-worthy. In relegations, MYM lost a convincing series to a Copenhagen Wolves team featuring talent such as Forg1ven at ADC, and also lost their unlikely second chance series against Supa Hot Crew 0-2.
I hope you've enjoyed and perhaps learned something from this. Please feel free to leave comments or criticism, as always. The next piece I'll be working on is an overview of Season 4 in the NALCS- look for it to be ready some time next week!