The EU Spring Split was practically impossible to predict. Excitement ramped up with every new story — 8-game win streaks by SK and h2k, a 7-game win streak from Gambit, Fnatic bloodbaths, and the Wolves taking a playoff spot ahead of both Elements and Roccat…to say nothing of practically every game the Unicorns of Love played. Then there were the playoffs themselves: back-and-forth play, a number of wild 5-game series including a reverse sweep, and the top three spots going to teams full of LCS rookies. Most recently, Fnatic delivered a proud performance at MSI, taking Faker and SK Telecom to a 5-game semifinal series and proving that Europe is once again ready to compete on the world stage.
Which of EU’s teams will rise to the summer challenge? A flurry of roster changes and the arrival of a new team (one full of old faces) shake up a region that’s already proven to be turbulent and exciting. This article looks at the upcoming summer split in broad terms, briefly outlining each team’s regular season chances, and will be followed up by weekly predictions based on the teams’ performances and results.
(Note: predictions are estimates for the regular season, not the playoffs, and do not necessarily match up to a clean 1st through 10th.)
Spring to Summer: A hard-fought split resulting in a quarterfinals finish left the Copenhagen Wolves comfortable but hungry for more. Continuing with their spring roster, the Wolves hope that their synergy plus offseason improvement will trump the player changes of their competition.
Analysis: Once more, the burden falls on Soren and Freeze. Their offseason improvement is vital to the Wolves’ success in the summer. A continuation of Unlimited’s spring success on versatile disengage supports (primarily Lulu, Braum, and Nami) with a broadening of Airwaks’ champion pool would go a long way toward creating a Wolves playoff run. Much of the burden will fall on Youngbuck to hold his own against increasingly powerful top lane competition. He might not need to become a threat if the Wolves’ improve their shotcalling to focus on more decisive dragon control and tower pushing…but it can’t hurt.
Prediction: 7th-8th. Quarterfinalists in the spring split by a hair (and swept by h2k in that series), the Wolves face even more of an uphill battle in the summer against strong, ever-innovating teams. Between the raw talent of Origen, FORG1VEN giving Gambit a boost, and the uncertain Elements overhaul, there are few “to-beat” teams for this lineup.
Spring to Summer: Harried through the spring by underwhelming performances, aimless passive play, and organizational instability, Elements overhauled almost their entire starting roster for the summer split. Only Froggen remains from the spring lineup, retaining his spot in the mid lane. Replacing Wickd in the top lane is Jwaow, formerly of the relegated Meet Your Makers. Tabzz (veteran of Worlds contenders Alliance and Lemondogs) and promisq (replacing a retired Krepo) make up the new bot lane, while dexter takes the jungle position from Shook.
Analysis: If Elements’ flaw in the spring was excessively passive play, this roster aims for the opposite. Tabzz is much more active in the laning phase than Rekkles, making for a more aggressive bot lane going for kills. Expect higher risk play in both teams’ jungles with a play-making dexter (so long as his teammates provide support, he can carry a laning phase). The greater range of threats should enable Froggen, the notoriously good farmer, to build himself quietly for an explosive mid and late game.
Prediction: 4th-8th — The Elements lineup once again boasts strong players, but “good on paper” netted the team a mediocre 7th last split. They have the pieces to aim for a high spot, but their spring weaknesses and huge roster shift have set them behind their competitors’ synergy in the run for Worlds.
Spring to Summer: Riding high on a proud performance at the Mid-Season Invitational (culminating in a 5-game semifinal series against the dominant SKT), Fnatic are looking better than ever. Yellowstar’s rookie squad have made names for themselves with flashy fights, aggressive champion picks, and map awareness well above their competition’s.
Analysis: This new Fnatic is nothing if not talented. With a skirmish-heavy style and excellent teamfighting, they succeeded against every strategy that the spring EU could throw at them. Huni is the best top laner in the West, Febiven is rapidly growing into a monster of a mid, and Reignover has proven he can single-handedly carry a game. Steeelback is a competent AD, but MSI’s international competition exposed his laning weaknesses. Rekkles’ return to AD should shore up this concern. Underwhelming though he was on Elements, Rekkles brings a veteran’s poise, stronger teamfight positioning, and excellent synergy with Yellowstar to a team that needs only a small boost to emerge triumphant on the world stage.
Prediction: 1st-2nd. Fnatic’s performance at MSI was a world-class improvement over an already-strong split. If the addition of Rekkles pans out and they can consistently beat UoL (their regular season silver bullet), Fnatic are looking at an easy title and a trip to Worlds.
Spring to Summer: A struggling start, a 7-win surge, 4th place in the round robin, and a demolition in the quarterfinals marked Gambit’s wild spring. Heading into the summer, they opted not to repeat the full roster shuffle from the end of the 2014 season, choosing only to acquire SK’s AD, FORG1VEN.
Analysis: FORG1VEN. On the one hand, it’s a name that speaks to Gambit’s chances. P1noy was a capable AD who could make a difference in teamfights, but FORG1VEN brings levels of mechanical skill, lane aggression, and player discipline that few of his competitors even approach. He’s a formidable addition to any team, and Gambit’s no-holds-barred playstyle will suit him perfectly. On the other hand, he’s hardly the team’s only threat. Cabochard, Betsy, and Diamondprox all posses significant carry potential: the spring saw each at least once as finalists for MVP of the week, with Diamond taking the title for Week 5. Support GoSu Pepper, formerly “Edward”, once again brings his years of international experience to the table.
Prediction: ???. No, really. Gambit were a wildcard in the spring, splitting games with nearly every team. This summer, they face even stronger top- and mid-tier teams, but they do so with a powerful new AD and play-making carries in every role.
Spring to Summer: Having easily avoided relegation against Reason Gaming, GIANTS! Gaming dives into the summer split looking for revenge against pretty much everybody. Their 9th place tiebreaker finish in the spring means the team from Spain has a lot to prove if they want to remain competitive in the LCS.
Analysis: A lack of roster changes generally bodes well for synergy, but the shotcalling must improve if GIANTS! want to avoid relegation. PePiiNeRo posted respectable numbers on Ahri and Leblanc even in defeat; his roaming capabilities will be critical to any success GIANTS! have this season. Werlyb and Fr3deric have proven they can perform, mostly on Jax and Vi respectively. If they wish to have an impact on the summer scene, they’ll need to have greatly expanded their viable champion pools during the offseason. Strong counterjungling might serve their playstyle well, or at the very least throw off opposing teams.
Prediction: 10th. Unless their play drastically improves as the summer progresses, the Giants squad will be battling the Wolves and Roccat to avoid relegation…and will probably lose.
Spring to Summer: After a slow 2-4 start, H2K went on an 8-game tear that saw them hand SK a second loss, break Gambit’s 7-game win streak, and launch into 3rd place in the standings and eventually overall. Needless to say, the rookie LCS team recovered quickly from Febiven’s pre-season departure. They come into the summer with no roster changes, a great deal of momentum, and high expectations.
Analysis: H2K’s success in the spring rarely came from a single carrying player, though Ryu and Odoamne occasionally shone in the solo lanes. Rather, their map control and sheer adaptability gave them a leg up on most of their competition. Ryu was once one of the strongest mid laners in the world, and he’ll need to return to that form against Europe’s impressive array of talented mids. Pressure will be on kaSing and Hjarnan — a strong enough duo, but not known for dominating their lane — to hold their own against the new bot lanes of the EU’s middle tier.
Prediction: 3rd-4th. If PR0LLY’s squad can replicate and innovate upon the strategic play they adopted after picking up kaSing, they have a real shot at making Worlds. The deciding factor will be individual player skill, especially in the bot lane: against the influx of veteran talent, surviving through the laning phase will be that much harder.
Spring to Summer: A clear favorite in the EU Challenger Series, Origen enters the summer with high expectations. Four of their five starters — xPeke, sOAZ, Amazing, and Mithy — have Worlds experience, and of them only Mithy wasn’t in a top team during the 2014 LCS. xPeke and sOAZ, both long-time veterans who have often dominated their respective roles, have almost three full years of playing on the same team, while Amazing comes in as one of NA’s stronger junglers from Season 4.
Analysis: Until we’ve seen Origen play it’s hard to gauge whether their Challenger Series results will extend into LCS competition, but by the numbers we can expect a lot. They ran through their challenger opponents with only a single loss, turning most contests into a slaughter. With what will almost certainly be top-of-the-region threats in both solo lanes and the jungle, eyes will be on bot lane to see how it can hold up. How Niels (supported by Mithy) will perform against his LCS counterparts is not clear, but EU’s general lack of outstanding ADs favors the Danish newcomer. The EU’s spring tendency toward heavy skirmishing favors this talented, aggressive team.
Prediction: 3rd-4th or 6th-7th. Their results are more likely to be on par with last summer’s Alliance than this spring’s Elements, and anything less than 4th in the standings will be a disappointment.
Spring to Summer: With their playoff dreams rent asunder by tough losses to the Wolves and Meet Your Makers, Roccat easily sweep back into the LCS over Copenhagen’s academy team (formerly the LowLandLions). Still, from a team that finished 3rd and 4th in the 2014 splits, the dismal 8th place result (only a single win above the auto-relegation tiebreaker) came as a surprise.
Analysis: Roccat has strong, proven players — their fatal problem is failing to capitalize on small/possible advantages. Winning lane is a must if they are to snowball carries like Nukeduck and Overpow. Jankos posted strong games on Sejuani and Gragas in the spring; with his capacity to grab first bloods for his team, he will be crucial to maximizing Roccat’s chances with pressure across the map. Where Roccat’s bot lane stands against their competition is not yet clear, but they lack the play-making capacity that might win them critical advantages. They will have to hold their lane as best they can against the more aggressive teams.
Prediction: 8th-9th. Roccat will need an incredible push to even make playoffs. Improvements in shotcalling and team-wide map pressure in the offseason, along with greater consistency from Woolite, are vital to avoiding a repeat of the disappointing spring.
Spring to Summer: Splitting their spring into masterful 8-0 and 7-3 runs, SK Gaming were primed for an easy title. With skilled players in every role, they barreled through most of their competition but fell in the playoffs, dropping series to two of the teams they’d lost to in the regular season (the third, Fnatic, took the spring title). They enter the summer surrounded by uncertain but hopeful expectations.
Analysis: The loss of FORG1VEN will hit SK hard, but perhaps not hard enough to sink their summer split. There’s hope in the return of SK veteran AD CandyPanda, who helped guide the club to last year’s Worlds. If he does not live up to expectations, however, pressure will fall on Fox and Svenskeren to create early advantages. SK’s incredible regular season success in the spring was due largely to masterful dragon control and the relentless snowballing of small leads. The individual talent is there, but SK needs stronger chemistry to dominate teamfights against the top teams. H2K pulled a reverse sweep against SK in large part by repeatedly singling out FORG1VEN; if SK can’t pull together, their best bet is to snowball to the point where teamfights don’t even matter.
Prediction: 3rd-5th. SK has talented players and incredible map awareness. If the offseason has improved SK’s teamwide synergy, they may yet become an unstoppable frontrunner once again. Gambit, Elements, and H2K are the must-beat teams if the SK squad hopes to compete once more on the world stage.
Unicorns of Love
Spring to Summer: Oh, Unicorns. A 9-9 finish in the spring…splitting games with both SK and MYM. The only team to win two games over Fnatic, while sweeping no other team. Taking SK and Fnatic both to 5-game playoff series. Off-meta picks, hyper aggressive play, and the kind of innovation that improves an entire region. Throughout the spring, the Unicorns (and their fans) injected a sense of fun into every game. Their lack of roster changes comes as no surprise.
Analysis: Each of the Unicorns have carried an early game (except perhaps Vardags, who builds his advantages off of Hylissang or PowerOfEvil), but shutting down UoL’s mid lane is a must for their opponents. Despite his incredible Baron steal with Orianna ult in the series against SK, PowerOfEvil excels at mages like Ahri, Cassiopeia, and, of course, Syndra. He and his damage are the lynchpin of UoL’s success. Vizicsacsi’s tanks and Kikis’ off-meta jungle picks (and talent within the meta) can’t be discounted, though. Hylissang must ramp up his consistency and will need to consider disengage supports — he played only Annie, Leona, Morgana, and Thresh in the spring, winning no games with the latter — in the summer if he and Vardags are to survive the brutal bot lanes they’ll be facing.
Prediction: 2nd or 6th. Could we have predicted that the 5th place, 9-9 Unicorns would go into the playoffs to smash 4th place Gambit, upset 1st place SK, and take 2nd place Fnatic to 5 games? They are a team that forces the European teams to think outside the box and keeps them on their toes. The real question is, can they ride the wave of innovation that their playstyle forces?
That’s all for now! Check back in early next week for EU Week 2 match predictions.
The 2015 EU LCS Summer Split begins in approximately twenty hours.