Here's what we learned from the first week of the 2016 European LCS
The first week of the European League Championship Series (LCS) is in the books, and it’s taught an important lesson: to temper expectations.
After the most tumultuous offseason in League of Legends history, it looked like we’d launch into the new split like a rocket ship—with explosive matches between all-star lineups, and superstar players crushing their foes left and right.
Instead we learned something we should’ve already known—that this is just the beginning of a long year of competitive League, and it’s going to take time for teams to adjust to a vastly different competitive landscape.
One of the biggest changes this split is that the average game time is around 30 minutes, a lot faster than the 35 minutes we saw last season. Teams that built early leads managed to build those leads much faster and more methodically than in past years. We also saw the typical shifts in meta champions thanks to the plethora of changes introduced by Riot every year. New champions like Kindred were staple, while Poppy saw multiple games and even Vel’Koz got into the action.
The play was sloppy at times, as teams don’t have a great grasp on the metagame yet, but it was still League of Legends. Here are some thoughts after the first week of play.
The Undefeated: H2k Gaming, G2 eSports, Unicorns of Love
Three teams exit week one without a loss. H2k Gaming is hardly a surprise, they entered the season with one of the strongest individually-talented lineups Europe has ever seen. But newcomers G2 eSports (with their two Korean imports), and the Unicorns of Love (who lost the only real star of their 2015 team, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage), weren’t expected to sit near the top.
Part of that is scheduling. G2 eSports played Elements and ROCCAT, two teams you may reasonably expect them to beat—but they also showed they could be dangerous. Kim “Trick” Gang-yun only has a small track record from his time on CJ Entus in Korea, but he looked like a top-notch jungle carry in both games, posting a 6/1/21 KDA. And despite moving from the jungle to the top lane Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek didn’t look outmatched—though he only played one tank champion, Tahm Kench.
The most exciting team was H2k Gaming. At IEM Cologne the team showed potential, but needed to figure out how to mesh all their talent into a cohesive unit—something they couldn’t do ahead of the event with just days of practice. Apparently it didn’t take much. Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski looked like the first blood master of yore, and Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou showed that he’s still a superstar player, dishing out 34 percent of his team's damage.
The .500 teams: Fnatic, Vitality, ROCCAT, Elements
Vitality lost their first game to ROCCAT, a team of retreads and unknown talent, showing that they may need to work on understanding the new meta and organizing as a team. But after one night they fixed many of their issues, surging yesterday to beat Fnatic with an astute draft, using Morgana to counter Poppy, and playing solidly across the board.
The new-look Fnatic team scored an impressive day-one win against Origen, using Poppy as support to help them secure the win, and kick off the season the right way. New top laner Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-jin—a player with plenty of questions surrounding him after a lackluster year in the NA LCS—posted a 9/1/3 KDA on Olaf, showing he has potential to pull off Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon-like performances. But in game two Fnatic ended their undefeated run in the LCS regular season (which lasted over a season thanks to wins at the end of 2013), with a loss to Vitality. Noh Yeong-jin looked ineffective against Vitality's Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet, showing that there are still plenty of questions surrounding Heo Seung-hoon's replacement.
ROCCAT and Elements are the odd teams, both sitting at 1-1. ROCCAT—offseason losers in every sense of the word—saw the core of a team they re-signed during Worlds last year leave the organization, instead of ROCCAT signing the super team they hoped to build. And Elements nearly sold their franchise before picking up a roster of rookies and retreads. Both teams picked up wins, with Elements knocking out Splyce and ROCCAT beating Vitality, but it’s hard to see that being a trend once other teams get more settled into the LCS schedule and current metagame.
The Losers: Origen, Splyce, Giants Gaming
One of these teams is not like the others. In fact, based off preseason expectations, one is as far away as you can get. Most predictions placed Origen as the favorite entering the season, bringing a lineup that just reached the semifinals of the World Championships into a league without their biggest 2015 rival, and with an upgrade in the mid lane by signing Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage. But Origen is 0-2.
The team faced the toughest schedule of the week, Fnatic followed by H2k Gaming, so their result isn’t too surprising. Especially when they apparently had internet problems that prevented them from properly practicing this week.
As for Splyce and Giants Gaming, both teams look like squads that will need every win they can get. For Giants Gaming that was certainly expected entering the season, but Spylce’s performance was a little disappointing. Youngsters Chres “Senucx” Laursen and Martin “Wunderwear” Hansen had to wait a year to join the LCS due to their age, and both had a lot of hype going into their debut. But the LCS kicked them square in the face. While they will certainly learn from the experience and bounce back, Splyce needs to play better to avoid the relegation zone.
All in all, the European LCS was about what you’d expect from the start of a new season. Teams with new lineups, playing in an unfamiliar metagame, with new support staffs, and sometimes only a few days of practice, didn’t play the best League of Legends games we’ve seen. But it was still competitive League—replete with skilled play, creative drafting, and interesting strategy.
Every team in the league has a long way to go, but that’s all right. We’re only one week into the season.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr