If you’ve ever stubbed a toe or jammed a finger, the moment of pain that follows can be extraordinary, particularly if you have a low pain threshold like myself. As an avid basketball player, I’ve experienced numerous finger jams and ankle rolls leading to blinding pain and wishes for anything that could take it away.
When I think about trying to accurately rank the European League of Legends Championship Series based on a two-game sample size, I feel the same way; I’d do anything for more data to come my way before these picks can be flung back in my face.
Soon, the swelling of our swift predictions will go down as the teams head into the meat of their regular season and cool our expectations. But until then, let’s get crazy and make some predictions and observations.
That’s half the fun, right?
1. H2k (2–0. Last week: 2. Change: +1)
H2k-Gaming provided clean, crisp, rotational play last week while looking like a team that has been playing together for ages. H2k has started the regular season about as cleanly as can be expected with a new roster. Its game plan for the week, centered around aggressive tower pushing compositions, shows the coaching staff fundamentally understands the meta and its team strengths. This roster of all stars came together and executed to near perfection.
While Giants Gaming may not be the strongest of opponents, H2k’s victory over Origen, a team that made minimal changes in the offseason, displayed a dominance that is hard to ignore. Boasting the second-quickest game time and highest gold difference in Europe at 15 minutes , H2k would quickly stifle opponents using its league-leading ward numbers to control the opponents’ jungle and slowly strangle their resources until there was nothing left. There were moments where members of the team, jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski in particular, would be out of position; however, the team was quick to collapse and turn mistakes into advantages.
Star AD carry Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou is dominating laning phase, posting a ridiculous 17.0 CS differential at ten minutes, first among AD carries and third overall. H2k has quickly established itself as the team to beat in Europe, but tough matchups against Fnatic and G2 Esports will show us how truthful that statement really is.
2. Fnatic (1-1. LW: 3. +1)
There are two sides to every story, and Fnatic showed both of them in its first week. Game 1 against Origen was everything Fnatic fans could hope for, as Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-jin looked like a perfect replacement for former top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon. Lewis “Noxiak” Simon Felix was controlling vision and peeling for his carries while Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon was terrorizing Origen’s laners.
Fast-forward one day: same composition, same Noxiak, same Spirit, different Gamsu. Gamsu looked out of sorts against Team Vitality, getting dove multiple times by Vitality’s jungler and top laner and putting him far enough behind that it was impossible to exert the top lane pressure that had carried the game against Origen. AD carry Martin “Rekkles” Larrson had almost no impact against Vitality, being held to no kills or assists, and outside of a few well positioned flanks, Fnatic had a hard time even getting onto Vitality’s carries.
Luckily for Fnatic, it’s only one week, and despite the volatile nature of the team, there’s plenty of time to work on consistency. Fnatic has the players and coaching staff. Now, it just needs to execute.
3. Team Vitality (1-1. LW: 4. +1)
Europe was quite weird this week, and Vitality embodies that as well as anyone. On Thursday, it lost to a ROCCAT squad that picked Taric. Then, on Day 2, Vitality pulled off the upset against Fnatic. Top laner Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet was nearly unstoppable against Fnatic after receiving two early ganks from Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema. Cabochard’s excellence on carry top laners has been well documented, but his laning skills were on display; he leads all of Europe in CS differential at 10 minutes with 21.0.
Vitality has shown a strong propensity for heavy split push and tower sieging compositions, and while picking Kennen against ROCCAT was questionable at best, its inability to play around heavy zone control compositions leaves questions about having strategies outside of feeding Cabochard resources so he can hard carry.
Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss and Raymond “kaSing” Tsang have been in control during their laning phase and have transitioned their leads into the mid game well, but the team’s overall lack of team-fighting ability diminishes Hjärnan’s talent as a clean up AD carry. The loss to ROCCAT leaves us with plenty of questions, but beating a world semifinalist is certainly a step in the right direction.
4. Origen (0-2. LW: 1. -3)
After a zero-win week against the top two teams in Europe, it’s not quite time to condemn last years feel good story. That said, after one week, there are fears the team has regressed across the board. Paul “Soaz” Boyer in particular has had trouble dealing with the aggressive rotational play that opponents unleashed on him. New acquisition Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage has been bullied in the laning phase and is among the worst mid laners in Europe in laning statistics. AD carry Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen has become the primary damage threat accounting for nearly 35 percent of the team’s damage compared to last summer’s 27.5. This trend has led the 2015 summer Rookie of the Year to die eight times, a third of the way to his summer total.
Origen’s biggest issue has been an obvious lack of preparation, evidenced by running a very out-of-meta double scaling composition that lacked wave clear, with the game against H2k being the most glaring example.
Soaz’s comments regarding the “useless” nature of coaching seems to be equally behind the times considering both of his Week 1 opponents are run by established coaches. It’s still too early to count out Origen, but starting out the year with so many negative trends while lacking a real strategic coach to fix them may be the team’s undoing.
5. G2 Esports (2-0. LW: 6. +1)
Aggression is the name of the game for G2’s Korean imports. They lived up to it nicely in Week 1. With an average game time of only 25 minutes, solid laning, and constant jungle pressure from Kim “Trick” Gang-yun, G2 consistently created leads it refused to give up.
Against Elements, Trick was able to snowball mid laner Luka “Perkz” Perković’s Ahri, while AD carry Kim “Emperor” Jin-hyun and support Glenn “Hybrid” Doornenbal were able to constantly push onto their lane opponents and scare them off towers. In Game 2, G2 switched gears, playing a passive laning, “protect the AD carry” composition that, despite a shaky early game, was able to shred through ROCCAT’s tanks and abuse mistakes in the late game. Better teams won’t make the same mistakes, but the rotational play in both games was surprising for a multi-lingual team fresh out of the Challenger Series.
Trick’s ability to play multiple jungle styles will bode well as the team continues to find its stride. H2k will be their first true challenge, and if G2 can keep it close, the playoffs may very well be within reach.
6. Unicorns of Love (2-0. LW: 7. +1)
Finally freed from camping top and controlling the jungle game after game on Gambit, Danil “DiamondProx” Reshetnikov can do what he loves best: secure first bloods for top lane Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamásr.
All jokes aside, DiamondProx and Vizicsacsi have quickly developed synergy that allowed Diamond to return to the heavy ganking and invasion style he pioneered back in Season 2. Although it’s only been two games, UOL is controlling nearly 57 percent of total jungle CS while clearing 42.5 percent of opponents wards. UOL’s slow, methodical play — which resulted in the longest average game time in Europe — has displayed an intelligent and cautious shot-calling approach that helps make up for the decision-making deficiencies shown by carries Hampus “Fox” Myhre and Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi.
UOL has shown a proficiency on the more popular split-push style compositions, and Vizicsacsi has shone against weaker competition. Origen and Fnatic are no Splyce, however, and all the gains made in Week 1 could disappear in an instant. Fox showed some interesting decisions while split-pushing by walking back and forth in the enemy jungle trying to decide whether to join his team or not, and Steeelback relied on “Blue build” Ezreal to provide self-peel and quick blinks out of positioning mistakes. The real regular season for the Unicorns starts now.
7. ROCCAT (1-1. LW: 8. +1)
Let’s get this out of the way: the victory over Team Vitality was truly outrageous. ROCCAT’s ability to control the game by simply walking toward Vitality was a silly, but rather effective, strategy. Simon “fredy122” Payne, Karim “Airwaks” Benghalia, and Edward “Edward” Abgaryan all provided control over team fights with their tanky champions, allowing Felix “Betsy” Edling and Karim “Safir” Tokhi to dance around the edges of the fight while dealing damage. The early lead that it acquired was easy to translate into a victory against the squishy utility carries Vitality drafted.
Unfortunately, the same strategy fell flat against G2. ROCCAT showed a distinct lack of understanding compositional deficiencies, and after poorly thought out team fights, ROCCAT allowed its lead to slip away. ROCCAT has another week of favorable matchups against Elements and Splyce, and jumping out to an early lead in the standings could help keep it in the playoff picture even when the tough matchups start coming.
This team has a little “No one believes in us” magic, and with the expectations as low as they are, Vitality might not be the only team it catches off guard.
8. Elements (1-1. LW: 10. +2)
While not quite the dumpster fire many expected, Elements is still not a very good team. Mid laner Jérémy “Eika” Valdenaire is likely still suffering from nightmares of Trick’s Graves ganking him from the jungle, and the bottom lane pair of Rasmus “MrRalleZ” Skinneholm and Hampus “sprattel” Abrahamsson are an extremely passive duo in lane that allowed positioning mistakes from Emperor to go unpunished.
Game 2 went much better, as jungler Berk “Gilius” Demir was able to get top laner Etienne “Steve” Michels a lead and engaged in team fights with well timed, albeit sloppy, Lee Sin kicks to separate Splyce’s carries from the rest of its team. Despite their success on Day 2, Eika and Sprattel still have yet to show LCS caliber skill, and even Gilius had to rely on flash to land his kicks as opposed to ward hopping. Against weaker opponents, Steve may be enough to help carry the team to victory, and this week boasts two reasonable matchups. Starting the season 3–1 may help put some distance between Elements and the tenth spot I predicted in the preseason, but the playoffs seem like too much of a stretch at this point.
9. Giants (0-2. LW: 9. -)
Despite an 0-2 start, Giants Gaming played better than its record indicates. Hanging tough with H2k and UOL is certainly a start, and outside of top laner Peter “Atom” Thomsen, each player had bright spots. Tri Tin “K0u” Lam was able to apply some early pressure, and the bottom lane tandem of Adrián “Adryh” Pérez and Oskar “G0DFRED” Lundström is getting better with more experience playing together on an LCS level. Mid laner Isaac “xPePii” Flores’ propensity for poke style mid laners was on display in the second game, pulling out a pocket pick Vel’Koz for moderate success. Unfortunately for Giants, UOL was able to last-pick Zed and establish 1–3–1 split-push that Giant’s composition was unable to handle.
Playing close with upper level teams may seem like a step back for a team that made the playoffs last split, but integrating Atom and K0u is more important for the organization’s long-term success. Atom has yet to prove he’s ready for the LCS, so a replacement may be required for this team to reach its potential, but much like G0DFRED in the Summer, K0u could turn into a nice signing.
10. Splyce (0-2. LW: 5. -5)
After one week, the potential looks bleak.. Splyce looked lost in both games, and there was little sign of improvement against Elements on Day 2. Despite picking a simple split-push composition, Splyce continually failed to execute it, instead picking ill-advised team fights after taking poke damage from the combination of Viktor and Corki. That displayed a worrying lack of understanding of how to best play to its win conditions. The players are clearly talented enough to earn an LCS spot, but their in-game decision making and shot-calling leave way too many questions to consider them playoff contenders unless something drastic happens.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games.