What we can expect from the EU LCS this spring
With all team rosters being completed, and scrims on the way, we are all anxiously awaiting the start of the EU LCS. A lot of things happened during the off-season, and we now have a radically different league from what we saw last season. We now have 10 teams competing in LCS, the latest additions being H2K Gaming and Giants Gaming, the winner and runner-up of the Expansion Tournament that took place this winter. Some big players have retired or are no longer part of any team’s roster, like, for example, Cyanide, xPeke, sOAZ, CandyPanda, kev1n or Tabzz. Europe also followed the general Korean hype, so this split we will be seeing Korean players in the roster of three teams, alongside the fresh new faces from the European challenger scene.
Just like the other two European teams that participated at the World Championship, Alliance failed to make it out of the group stage, after a very disappointing loss in their second game against KaBuM! E-Sports. On the 24th of October Tabzz leaves the team, opening a spot for the ad carry position that will later be filled by former ad carry of Fnatic, Rekkles. Swapping the second-best ad carry in Europe with the best ad carry may seem, at least on paper, the best move they could have made. While there is no doubt this is a team packed with talent and skill, they still have a very passive, late-game oriented style that seems to be their downfall against the best teams in the world. We had the chance to be witness to this at IEM San Jose, where they lost 2-1 against Cloud 9. Their main carries, Froggen and Rekkles, seem to be reluctant to take chances when engaging the enemies, sometimes even when they have a considerable lead. This almost too passive style may pose some problems, especially when looking at some of the very talented and “hyper-carry” oriented players, like Nukeduck and FORG1VEN, that rejoined the league this season. Despite this few issues they have, this recently renamed Elements team has a very strong roster and remains the principal contender for this splits number one position.
At this moment Fnatic seems unrecognizable from the team that won 3 consecutive LCS splits. The definitive losers of the off-season, Fnatic lost most of its all-star roster, managing to keep in the team only YellOwStaR. Following Cyanide’s retiring, xPeke leaving to form his own team, Rekkles leaving to join what is now the Elements team and with rumors of sOAZ not wanting to stay, YellOwStaR was named team captain, and the reconstruction of the team began. All those that expected big names to be picked in forming the new team were gravely mistaken, and were instead met with a roster of three unproven players and one player with a half of pedigree. The latter is Febiven, former mid laner of H2k Gaming, a young and talented player but with a known history of “choking” under the pressure of high stake games. For the ad carry position they picked SK Gaming Prime’s Steelback (even if proven ad carries like Tabzz and Candy Panda were available), for the top lane they chose Huni and finally in the jungle we will see Reignover. All three are mostly unknown players, albeit young and probably talented, with no achievements under their belts. We have no way of knowing what to expect of them as a team, but I think a reasonable expectation is to see them as a middle-of-the-pack team, at most. Fnatic will be hard pressed for results, and at present I don’t see them repeating any of their successes from the past year. However, if they did manage to find the perfect young talents they will undoubtedly be the biggest sensation of the season.
With Jesiz moving across the Atlantic to join Team Coast, and Candy Panda leaving to find a new team, SK Gaming brought in Fox (formerly known as watdefox), from SK Gaming Prime, and FORG1VEN, former ad carry of Copenhagen Wolves. There’s not much to say about Fox; he had a decent run in the challenger scene, but whether or not he will perform, next to the best teammates he could hope to have, remains to be seen. The best addition however is that of one of the best ad carries in Europe, making this FORG1VEN’s chance to shine, next to one of the best supports, nRated. His “hyper-carry” style will give SK the opportunity to snowball early leads, and will probably synergize very good with Svenskeren’s aggressive jungling style. Having fredy122 in the team, who is a very strong top laner (probably the best in Europe) that is able to do well in lane even under a lot of jungle pressure, will allow Svenskeren to prioritize ganking mid and bottom lanes more often. If Fox will manage to have a reliable performance, SK Gaming may have on their hands the team that will finally win them the LCS crown.
A lot of things happened at ROCCAT during the off-season. They kept their jungle and support players, Jankos and VandeR, who were obviously the best players of the team last year, moved Overpow from the mid lane to the top lane, where his vast champion pool and conservative style of play will help them a lot (we also did see he is much more comfortable up top, at IEM Cologne), and signed two new players for the mid and ad carry positions. Their new ad carry is Woolite, former ad carry of Copenhagen Wolves, a slight improvement over Celaver. Undeniably, their most hyped transfer is that of Nukeduck, former star mid laner of Lemondogs. Nukeduck is a very mechanically skilled player, and his aggressive plays gave him a lot of 1 vs. 1 kills (and now he has alongside him the “king of first blood” Jankos), but he also has a lot of hubris, and from my perspective ROCCAT has a lot of work ahead of them in toning it down a little. This year's team looks very impressive, and a serious contender for first place.
After managing to retain their place in the EU LCS, after the Spring Promotion tournament, Gambit looked like a team on the ropes, but has managed, since then, to make some great changes. The most important news regarding Gambit is the return of Diamondprox. His recent form looks very impressive, as he showed us at IEM Cologne. Also their new top laner Cabochard looks very strong, P1noy (formerly known as Krislund) seems to have become a very aggressive ad carry and niQ, their mid laner, has a very consistent games. The entirety of Gambit seems to be a very cohesive and competitive team. It’s very improbable though, that we’ll see them returning to the form of the old Moscow 5 days, but nevertheless they will be a force to be reckoned with on the rift.
Early December, MeetYourMakers acquired the roster of SUPA HOT CREW, and made their re-entrance in the LCS. They retained three of the original players: Mimer in the top lane, Selfie in the mid lane and MrRalleZ in the ad carry position. As new players they picked up H0R0, former jungler for SK Telecom T1 S, after he failed to qualify in the LCS with Millenium, and for the support role they chose Nisbeth, a young but rather unknown player. The level of the team seems to be the same as it was last year, especially since with the addition of H0r0 they will be prone to communication issues. Taking into account all the strong competitors they will have to face this season, MeetYourMakers will have a tough road ahead of them, even in maintaining a middle-of-the-pack position.
The roster of Copenhagen Wolves looks very similar to the one we last saw last in their games against H2K Gaming, at the Spring Promotion tournament last year. Managing to hold to their spot in the LCS, the only change they made was for the ad carry position, where they had to replace Woolite that went over to Roccat, by signing Freeze, former ad carry of Ninjas in Pyjamas. We can expect them to have a similar performance as the one they had last year, occasionally challenging top teams that underestimate them, unless they have a change in play style, or Freeze proves to be a top level ad carry.
Unicorns of Love
After defeating Millenium in a five game match, Unicorns Of Love went on to have a great performance at IEM San Jose, defeating Lyon Gaming and, more importantly, TSM, both with a record of two games to zero. Their unorthodox picks (like Poppy top and Twisted Fate jungle), brought them a lot of fan points and have the chance to stun a lot of team that are unaccustomed to this kind of shenanigans. Even if they did have two great games against TSM, we must take notice that TSM itself played badly in both games, so this kind of style may not always work. We were witness to this in their three games against Cloud 9, a team that played more cautiously and calculated and even if at times Unicorns Of Love seemed to have the advantage, the gap in strategy and skill was too big for them to surmount. Unicorns Of Love is a young team that given the proper guidance has the chance of becoming a great contender.
After dominating the challenger scene for a year, and failing for two times in a row to qualify in the LCS, H2K Gaming’s big break was the Promotion Tournament, where they went on to defeat all their opponents without losing a single match. However, after this achievement, their star mid laner Febiven left the team to join Fnatic, leaving them little time to find a replacement. They settled on Ryu, former KT Rolster Bullets and Millenium mid laner, who also played as a sub for Roccat at IEM Cologne. This change, coupled with their tendency to choke under pressure, may cripple their chances to have a good performance this split, and may require their other two stars, Odoamne and Hjarnan to step up their game. H2K is a team that shows a lot of promise and will surely delight us with a lot of great games, and it’s definitely a pity we will not see the original line-up participating in the split.
A former acquaintance of ours from the EU LCS, having participated in the very first split of the LCS back in 2013, Giants Gaming managed to grab the last available spot for this split. They had a great run during the Expansion Tournament, having defeated Millenium, one of the favorites of the tournament. The roster they have now is completely different from the one they had in 2013, but whether it’s a better one remains to be seen. The players that stood out, and are a must to watch, are jungler Fr3deric and mid laner Pepinero. For all five players this will be the first time competing against top level teams on the LCS stage, so whether or not they will be able to perform under this kind of pressure is still an unknown.
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