With days away from 2017 World Championship, it’s about time we reflect and look back on some of the high and lows of the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split. As always, the season was long and arduous, yet certain things emerged to the surface. Things that might matter for the upcoming worlds and the next year.
G2 Esports – Undisputed Bo5 Masters of EU
When it matters, G2 are at the top of their game. It’s somewhat of a recurring, established pattern by now.
G2 really looked dismal at the start of the summer group phase. Attribute that to MSI burnout or whatever else, it really looked like we might have been in for a shift after all.
The bot-lane duo Zven and mithy looked nowhere near their full power. The Koreans were largely unnoticeable. Perkz had a bunch of questionable performances in the middle.
Both Fnatic, who looked absolutely fantastic up until those dreaded playoffs semifinals, and Misfits were ranked above G2 half way through the group phase. Everything pointed out to a major meltdown.
However, soon after the infamous Rift Rivals debacle, G2 started their climb back into relevancy. They took over #2 spot from Misfits, finding their match in none other than their group leaders, Fnatic. In fact, of all the teams in the second half of the split, G2 appeared to be the closest ones to match Fnatic 1 for 1.
It doesn’t surprise then that they successfully rode through the playoffs to retake their rightful place at the throne. GG champs, make a killing at worlds!
Misfits Finally Going to Worlds!
Misfits have finally grown into their near-full potential this summer. Midlane powerhouse PowerOfEvil consistently led the team to many victories. Rookie jungler Maxlore completely filled the void left out by the departure of KaKAO.
Hans Sama, while somewhere in the middle of the pack stat-wise, was a key part of maintaining the control of Misfits’ games. Alphari and Ignar carried their part of the load and responsibilities as well.
Basically, the whole team looked really smooth together, amounting to much more than the sum of their parts in most games.
With this in mind, their unexpected wins against clearly dysfunctional Unicorns of Love and quite one-dimensional Fnatic in EU LCS playoffs don’t look nearly as surprising.
However, their “luck” ran out in the finals. G2 Esports made quick work of them. Misfits have major weaknesses they need to work on prior to worlds.
Fnatic – Apex Killers with Soft Bellies
Despite winning the gauntlet and qualifying for worlds, Fnatic’s performances this year have revealed glaring issues. When Fnatic’s opponents engage them at their game, Fnatic regularly entertain us with surgically executed slaughterhouses.
However, whenever faced with teams employing somewhat unconventional strategies and tactics, they often get caught up unable to respond in a timely manner. This issue gets exacerbated when they underestimate their opponents, as evident against ROCCAT and Ninjas in Pyjamas.
The team is still not at their peak though. Jungler Broxah and midlaner Caps are relatively young, inexperienced players with a lot of room for growth.
Team captain and one of the few EU’s true stars Rekkles is the one carrying most of the pressure in the spotlight. He’s been instrumental in Fnatic’s dominating teamfights this summer.
While not that apparent, a lot depends on sOAZ drawing the heat in the toplane as well. His masterful and timely teleports and ganks from the top tipped the scales in Fnatic’s favour in a bunch of games.
However, this tendency to get clumped up all together, with marked focus on killing and roaming deep into enemy lanes, leaves Fnatic vulnerable to backdoor attacks.
This is exactly what Ninjas in Pyjamas and ROCCAT capitalized on against them. Fnatic kept murdering everything in their path, but these bottom-tier underdogs simply walked into Fnatic’s base and destroyed the Nexus.
Misfits also proved they can successfully work around Fnatic’s lack of flexibility and continuous use of obvious patterns.
If Fnatic have any intention of making an impact on the international stage, they’ll have to increase the variety of their plays and come up with strategies and plan B-s for when their main modus operandi fails to work.
Rekkles – A True EU MVP
If there was one player regularly stealing the spotlight and performing highlight-reel plays this summer, it was Rekkles. Sure, without the rest of his team, he wouldn’t be nearly as effective. First of all, sOAZ was as steady as a rock on top lane. Broxah and Caps had stellar performances in jungle and mid lane respectively. Jesiz carried his support workload like a true teamplayer.
However, Rekkles as Fnatic’s ADC is truly in the class of his own. If we ignore the playoffs blowout, he’s been in the top 3 across multiple categories. KDA, total kills, CS per minute & total CS – all crucial stats for a world class ADC like him.
He’s always been one of EU’s best, but this summer he seems to have finally grown into the proper team leader. It became painfully obvious how hurt he was when presented with the MVP reward. He barely held tears at bay when asked about missing the finals and having to go through the gauntlet. He took responsibility for Fnatic’s playoffs shortcomings. That’s a mark of a true leader and team captain.
How can you NOT respect him after that?
Unicorns of Love Disappoint
Unicorns of Love, a team that, on paper, has every prerequisite to be one of EU’s three representatives at this year’s worlds, have been eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Sure, Misfits were a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs, so losing against them is not that much of a shame. However, for a team of UoL’s calibre, a team that took the mantle for entire EU at Rift Rivals and carried it to the best of their ability, this has got to hurt.
What’s even worse, as much as G2 was improving as of late, Unicorns appear to have been gradually declining as the weeks went by. They completely fell apart in the playoffs and in the gauntlet, losing to H2K in the end.
On the other hand, missing worlds might not be that bad for Unicorns. They’ll get to watch from the sidelines, observe other teams from a cool-headed perspective and prepare for next year.
Because next year, everything will be different.
H2K – Perennial Gatekeepers
H2K played like a top-half team this summer, consistently beating the teams in the middle and the bottom. However, they got stuck somewhere in between the middle-of-the-pack and the top-dogs.
It might even be a psychological thing now. They seem to “choke” in important series more than they should. We’ve often seen them performing way worse than their optimal capacities.
They DID break one curse in the end though. In the second gauntlet round, they finally defeated their rivals Unicorns of Love. A consolation price at best, they should take it as proof that they’re capable of being more than a gatekeeper team acting as a granite barrier to the top of team standings.
Monkeys and Ninjas Not Ready Yet
The two newcomers short-cutting their entrance into EU LCS turned out to be a completely botched experiment for both teams.
Keeping the existing roster (Mysterious Monkeys == Fnatic Academy) or disbanding it and bringing a bunch of vets and Koreans onboard (Ninjas in Pyjamas) proved to be largely irrelevant.
Mysterious Monkeys actually had quite decent early games in most of their series, even against the likes of H2K, UoL and Fnatic. However, these early games leads quickly waned off in the mid and late game.
On the other hand, Ninjas looked out of place in most of their matchups. Outplayed and outclassed, they were cannon fodder for teams like ROCCAT and Team Vitality to pad their win-loss records and secure their stay in the league.
The discrepancies were made painfully obvious recently, when the duo from the bottoms got outplayed by Schalke and Giants in the promotion tournament.
The outcome might not matter that much in the end though. Next year, the “money talks” rule will be in full effect. 4 smaller regional leagues in London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin will provide ample opportunities for teams with deeper pockets to prove their worth in Riot’s bold plan to mimic Europe’s soccer competitions.
All Monkeys and Ninjas will have to do is buy-in again.
Old Names Re-emerge Back Into the Spotlight
With Ninjas and Monkeys relegated into the (now-defunct?) Challenger Series, Schalke and Giants Gaming are back in EU LCS again.
The two veteran teams have displayed dominance in Europe’s lower competitive tear this summer. However, their path, as well as the rest of the EU’s top teams, is still not entirely clear.
Financial Disputes – Systemic Changes Next Year
For all their troubles this season, Schalke and Giants Gaming won’t be fully compensated. In the midst of core, systemic restructuring of EU’s LoL Esports ecosystem, Schalke, as a native German brand, have chosen to stay in Berlin’s regional league, while Giants Gaming will join H2K Gaming in Barcelona, Spain.
Most likely, EU LCS will get to live in some way. Riot plans to have a continental league running in parallel with local/regional leagues. This model mimics Champions League and local leagues in EU’s favourite sport soccer.
All that is cool, fine and dandy, but the turmoil and discontent in the ranks of EU teams is growing by the minute. Feeling jaded and left out in comparison to lucrative franchising model implemented in NA LCS next year, H2K’s management released an open letter to the public recently. They expressed frustrations with Riot’s perceived lack of transparency, vision and strategy for EU LCS.
Amongst other points, it was stated that most LoL teams lose money while Riot reaps a lion’s share of annual profits. H2K claimed to subsidize Riot in excess of €2,000,000, resulting in annual losses of more than €1,000,000. Therefore, the management threatened to leave EU if Riot doesn’t provide a more profitable alternative.
If all this is true, then hopefully, Riot’s new 4 regional leagues + “Champions League” (EU LCS?) hierarchy involves some kind of restructured monetary deals as well. The teams will need money now more than ever. The financial injection will help them invest in new talent and keep growing, improving and feeding the rest of the ecosystem.
Otherwise, teams and players will start leaving EU for that sweet, sweet American dream.