I have a confession: Europe is really boring. Gone are the Russian overlords, who proved to be the West’s last great hope against the Korean powerhouses. Gone are the Spanish heartthrobs, whose ascension to ownership have taken them off the rift. Gone is the Anivia god, who brought bans and builds galore. Nostalgia has killed my interest.
I have watched competitive League of Legends since the first championship when Europe led the world in innovation and personality. Sure, North America had the “frat boys” of TSM, but Europe had style. CLG.EU would grind out its opponents, Moscow Five revolutionized the game, SK Gaming was pure emotion, and Fnatic was just clutch. Those narratives would drive the European scene for three years, but now they’re all gone.
Of course nothing can last forever. The last piece of the old guard has finally stepped away, but where there is nothing, something can grow. Europe can finally step out of the shadow of its past. Last year saw the ascension of a new empire, the return of two legends, and the creation of a new one. Despite the seemingly boring and repetitive storylines that Week 2 has provided, the future does look bright and perhaps we’ll eventually look back with the same reverence I hold dear.
All statistics are courtesy of Oracle’s Elixir.
1. H2k (3-1. Last week: 1. Difference: -)
Sure H2k lost, but did you see Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou’s damage?!? He DOUBLED the highest damage dealer on Fnatic. His 40 percent of team damage dealt is still five points higher than second, and his damage per minute stats are 30 points higher than second place. H2k may have bled, but FORG1VEN made Fnatic pay the iron price.
The loss to Fnatic was a back and forth affair, displaying two of the more objectively-oriented teams in Europe. Despite first blood, H2k would have to claw its way back into the game after a misplayed push in the mid lane led to a disastrous team fight. The biggest issue so far has been the slight decline in top laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu. With FORG1VEN taking most of the heavy carry load, Odoamne has been solely transitioned into a split push threat, but his inconsistency in lane and with his teleports, while minimal, is a cause for concern.
H2k, despite the slip up, is still the most talented and consistent team in Europe. Its grasp of early tower pushing has placed FORG1VEN squarely in the middle of a meta dominated by lane-control AD carries and allows for Odoamne and mid laner Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook to play a variety of styles that compliment their star. As the meta continues to shift the malleability of H2k will continue to be one of its greatest strengths.
2. Team Vitality (3-1. LW: 3. +1)
I *really* hate this team for the game against Splyce. Playing a slow methodical game is one thing; respecting Splyce to the point it took almost twenty minutes to get a kill is another. Vitality has established a slow, reactionary style to allow top laner Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet to control his lane opponent and transition into a split push and teamfight monster. Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema has continued the “Cabochard jungler” narrative by sacrificing CS in order to further his top laner’s advantage.
The rest of the team has focused on controlling and cleaning up team fights while playing a measured laning phase that neutralizes the potential advantages an enemy jungler could create in lanes. Vitality’s reactionary play
has allowed it to capitalize on opponents’ weaknesses and highlight its strength in Cabochard and extended team fights. H2k will prove to be the most difficult opponent Vitality has faced, and its ability to leverage Cabochard against a weaker Odoamne will one of the more exciting matchups to watch.
3. Fnatic (2-2. LW: 2. -1)
What has happened to Martin “Rekkles” Larsson? The star AD carry has quickly taken a step backwards since the departure of Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, and the impact has been massive. Although he made his presence known in both of Fnatic’s Week 2 games, Rekkles has largely fallen off with a severe downturn in damage output, a category in which he ranked second last split and is currently ninth. Despite being more involved in team fights this past week, it’s difficult to look past his 0/1/0 line against Vitality in Week 1 and his past history of focusing more on split pushing than team fighting.
Mid laner Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten has continued to improve upon his breakout rookie split, providing much needed utility to support his aggressive teammates. Febiven’s ability to fit any style allows Fnatic the kind of flexibility to pick almost any composition and rely on any of its players to carry.
Despite the two loses, Fnatic has been in all four of their games while boasting one of the more difficult opening schedules. Easier opponents will take some of the weight off the team and allow the players, Rekkles and support Lewis “NoXiAK” Simon Felix in particular, to continue to build their synergy.
4. G2 Esports (3-1. LW: 5. +1)
After a fast-paced opening week, G2’s struggles in the early game showed when taking its foot off the gas pedal. Giants were able to catch support Glenn “Hybrid” Doorenbal on early rotations, but were unable to capitalize on them as G2 began to find a groove in the mid game.
Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek has been inconsistent in his transition to top lane. His play on tanks has been passable, but his usage of Lulu in the game against H2k was lackluster. Kikis’ laning in particular was poor, leaving valuable gold and experience on the table against a rather passive laner in Odoamne. His ultimates were also often mistimed and on the wrong target. The farming deficiencies can be forgiven, but the lack of champion knowledge is something that must be addressed to prevent target bans.
Jungler Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun on the other hand, has continued to impress while showcasing multiple styles. His Udyr pick against H2k, though lackluster, showed a willingness to look outside the box and catch an opponent off guard. G2 has shown multiple styles of play across its four games, which is encouraging considering how the meta shifts, but it’s clear that the preferred style is an all-out blitz, heavily ganking and invading the enemy jungle. If G2 just focus on that one style, the sky’s the limit.
5. Origen (1-3. LW: 4. -1)
Under-prepared, lacking a real strategic coach, didn’t actually upgrade its mid lane, yadda yadda yadda. Am I repeating myself yet? Origen’s problems are pretty obvious after four games and, outside of AD carry Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen’s continued improvement, the team taken massive steps back following an impressive summer.
Top laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer has been one of the greatest offenders. After a truly impressive IEM San Jose, sOAZ has once again fallen into bad habits. His laning has taken a hit and his poor game sense has allowed opposing junglers to catch him out of position when he greeds for farm to try and catch up. That, paired with mid laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage’s need for jungle pressure, has forced Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider into predictable jungle paths.
The improvement of Zven has been the lone bright spot during Origen’s disappointing opening weeks and the stacked early schedule has taken its toll. But, as the competition weakens in the coming weeks, a surge in victories is expected.
6. Unicorns of Love (3-1. LW: 6. -)
*Pours a vodka on the rocks* Listen children and you will hear, a tale of fantasy and failure to procure German work visas for Russian League of Legends players. On Monday morning, the Unicorns announced that Russian natural and starting jungler Danil “DiamondProx” Reshetnikov would be returning to Russia for the near future as the organization deals with visa issues. The news comes early enough in the split for UOL to find a suitable replacement but runs all its improvements into a brick wall. *Discards glass and takes swig from the bottle*
Diamond was in the middle of a resurgence following a disappointing 2015. He leads all junglers in kills, gold difference at 10 minutes and damage per minute, while placing in the top three in CS difference at 10 minutes, CS per minute, percentage of team gold and damage, as well as earned gold per minute. His early-game aggression makes him one of two only players in North America, Europe, and Korea to boast a 100 percent First Blood Rate, which has led to a jungle CS control of 54.3 percent, second in Europe. His rapport with Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás, has helped turn the once-mocked top laner into a stalwart, bodying lesser foes and going toe-to-toe with Fnatic’s Gamsu.
The loss to Origen notwithstanding, UOL looked poised to contend for a playoff spot and had even surprise preseason favorites in the later rounds. Unfortunately, the indefinite departure of Diamond now leaves a 20-karat hole in the team’s strategy. With the dearth of jungle talent in Europe well known, all UOL can do is try and ride out the storm and hope the eligibility issues can be solved quickly. *Finishes Bottle*
7. Elements (3-1. LW: 8. +1)
Origen and UOL’s misfortune might soon be Elements’ gain, as the season’s biggest surprise faces both teams this week. The team has sacrificed early camp control and early CS to play a safe, methodical early game while prepping and setting up for tower dives and team fights around the 10 minute mark.
Top laner Etienne “Steve” Michels has flourished against weaker competition, and though he was ceded CS early in the laning phase, his teleports on tower dives have given him enough gold and experience to quickly swing his lane back and place him second in assists for all European top laners. Steve’s improvements alongside support Hampus “Sprattel” Abrahamsson, have turned Elements into a team fighting menace in the mid game, freeing up Rasmus “MrRalleZ” Skinneholm to clean up team fights.
Despite its success in the mid game, best in Europe according to Oracle’s Elixir, Elements’ deficiency or decision to cede lane control in the early game and rubber band off of one or two team fights is risky. It has yet to play against H2k, one of the best laning teams in the league, and against ROCCAT (This will make sense later) needed massive team fights in the mid game to pull out the victory. Better coordinated teams will be prepared for Elements’ attempts to tower dive, and as G2 Esports showed, mid laner Jérémy “Eika” Valdenaire can be continually punished for positioning mistakes in lane.
But fixing those early-game issues could quickly make Elements this year’s surprise playoff team.
8. Splyce (1-3. LW: 10. +2)
Finally, mid laner Chres “Sencux” Laursen was unleashed. After being invisible in Splcye’s first three games, Sencux has shown a glimpse of why analysts hyped the young Dane in the preseason. His performance on Arhi was a glimpse into the talent that Sencux displayed in the Challenger Series, securing picks and helping control his lane opponent.
The rest of the team also picked up the slack, showing a decisive game plan keeping the game close until a pick led to ROCCAT’s middle tower falling and opened up the map for Splyce’s composition to freely move around. This is a massive improvement compared to the disorganized and disjointed team seen in Week 1, but one game does not prove consistency. The victory is certainly a starting point, but improving the shot-calling and rotational play is imperative to long-term success.
9. ROCCAT (1-3. LW: 7. -2)
Let’s play a game: Which team has the largest gold differential at 15 minutes? Go ahead take a minute, I’ll wait…
Yeah, it’s ROCCAT. The 1–3 ROCCAT. Up until Friday’s loss to Splyce, it happened with exclusively late-scaling team compositions: Ryze, Ezreal, Mundo, Zac, etc. It’s just weird. But beyond the failed team fights and spotty shot-calling, glimmers of hope exist. Karim “Airwaks” Benghalia has shown a strong and impactful early game, holding top-three jungler spots in most early-game statistic differentials. His control over the enemy camps and objectives helps slingshot ROCCAT into leads, but the team’s lack of consistent shot-calling and understanding of compositional matchups have lead to poor decisions later.
The other bright spot has been mid laner Felix “Betsy” Edling, who’s improved laning has fit right in with Airwaks map control style. Betsy’s lack of laning skill hampered his ability to excel on a Gambit team where Cabochard would constantly call on DiamondProx to gank for him, leaving the young mid laner on an island. His death rate is about the same as last year, but most of his deaths are coming at the end of the long, drawn-out team fights ROCCAT desires. His LeBlanc game against Splyce left much to be desired, bringing up more questions about his champion pool. As the team continues to find its late-game shot-calling groove, those early leads will begin to translate into wins, and with a reeling Origen on the docket this week, ROCCAT might get to see them sooner rather than later.
10. Giants (0-4. LW: 9. -1)
Unlike ROCCAT, Giants do not have any statistics to point out any potential run. The “sexy” dark horse from last summer’s playoffs have failed to match those expectations and, according to The Daily Dot’s Jacob Wolf are already making a roster change. Gone is jungler Tri “kou” Tin Lam, whose statistics point to a player not ready for the LCS. He’s replaced by former H2k substitute Joachim “BetongJocke” Rasmussen. Yep, the Giants have decided to turn to the jungler who couldn’t supplant H2k’s Jean-Victor “Loulex” Burgevin last summer.
Unfortunately for the Giants, a far bigger issue seems to be the stalled growth of mid laner Isaac “xPePii” Flores. His laning has deteriorated and his damage as fallen off considerably following a breakout 2015. The most obvious offender would lie in his small champion pool. His reliance on long-range poke champions would be a perfect match for the AD carry mid — Corki and Ezreal in particular — meta, but the team has yet to place him on either,instead feeding him a mishmosh of control mages.
The bottom lane duo of Adrián “Adryh” Pérez and Oskar “G0DFRED” Lundström has been the bright spot, with Adryh embracing a FORG1VEN-style level of damage output. Despite visually playing tighter early games and staying in even step for portions of games, the decline of xPePii and failure of the team’s offseason acquisitions are quickly dooming any thoughts of a repeat playoff run.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games