After a wild Season 5, where both Europe and North America got a chance to brag about their relative success at some points of the competitive season, the fourth season of the LCS was expected to be exciting. The NA LCS expanded on investing money into the industry while the EU LCS has mainly focused on reshuffling. The past three months have turned out to be explosive, and the battle for the slots at MSI in Shanghai has just begun!
After the 0-10 second week performance at the World Championship, the historically weakest premier region have decided that it’s the time. Huge investors came into the scene which resulted in the formation of Immortals, NRG, and Echo Fox. International star players Huni, Reignover, and Froggen jumped the Atlantic while GankedByMom crossed the Pacific to ply his trade in North America. The old dogs from Cloud 9 signed the 2015 NA LCS MVP Rush to boost the team's results. Meanwhile, Reginald’s Team SoloMid shook up the scene by signing the long-standing symbol of CLG, Doublelift, and the captain of the dominant Fnatic, Yellowstar. What a magnificent beginning to the season, and yet North America found a way not to improve.
While Reignover was able to lead Immortals to a 17-1 record due to his synergy with Huni and his ability to exploit NA jungers' inferior pathing, outside of the dominant number one, the NA LCS wasn’t looking too hot. The best of the rest, CLG have used the same old tricks of snowballing games through their superior lane swapping and abusing team's inability to react to Darshan's constant split push pressure. Cloud 9 looked completely lost without Hai, but even with him, they weren’t suddenly a calculated team either. They won most of their games through out-skirmishing their opposition as well as Jensen outclassing the enemy mid laner. After those three, however, the NA LCS devolved into complete chaos.
Piglet’s insane performance this season, alongside the exceptional performances of rookies Dardoch and Matlife, was enough to get TL to their predestined fourth place. While TL slowly rose from the ashes, the star-studded NRG and TSM lineups were falling apart. NRG is still one of the best teams in the league to play from behind, but that doesn’t negate their horrendous early game (9th place in the league, 1,5k gold deficit at 15). TSM, on the other hand, struggled to close games and with poor shot calling in the mid-game and a lack of synergy across the board and it doesn’t spell anything good for them against Nicolaj’s Cloud 9 in playoffs.
Echo Fox and Renegades' seasons are hard to evaluate, considering that Echo Fox struggled with visa issues for the first half of the split and Renegades looked way better with their final roster which included former TDK players, Ninja and Seraph. Team Impulse were expected to go 0-18 but Gate winning games in the three different roles prevented that from happening. Dignitas showed glimmers of hope for their fans as they were often in positions to win games and yet the quintessential Baron throws had them end the season in last. All-in-all, it was a mess, but next season will be surely better?
A New King In The Mid Lane
Since his arrival to the TSM empire in 2014, Bjergsen was the king of the hill. At different times, Hai, Link, and Pobelter all looked capable of challenging for his throne, but the Danish prodigy kept ahead of the chasing pack and managed to pull his team to victories they didn't deserve. But after the Mid-Season Invitational -- where TSM was knocked out at the group stages -- something changed. Bjergsen became a mere shadow of his former self, taking a step back, despite still being one of the greatest laners in the world. The aura of invulnerability had shattered, and blood was in the water. The king was weak and a newcomer, a fellow Dane even, was going in for the kill
When Jensen (then known as incarnati0n) had just arrived at C9, he struggled. Meteos, who'd long played with a blatant disregard for the mid lane when Hai was on the team, wasn't able to unlock Jensen's abilities, As such Nicolaj was getting pressured by nearly everyone and the criticism rolled in. Something had to give, and Hai’s return at jungle, Jensen got his wings. After performing admirably at Regionals, he followed it up with some standout performances against some of the World's best mid laners at Worlds. Nowadays he's simply crushing the opposition mid laners. Once hailed as the assassin-king and the Lulu re-inventor, Nicolaj is leading all mid laners in the league in kills and is a key factor in Cloud 9’s success this season. In the league with three prime Danish mid laners, it’ll be fun to watch the next split unfold, when Froggen gets to play a full split.
But for now, all hail Nicolaj.
The CLG Mystery
On paper, CLG just can’t be a contender. Stixxay is nowhere close to CLG Doublelift, and Huhi isn’t Pobelter, even though both aren't horrible either. However, CLG is in second place, equaling their record last year and getting a bye through to the semifinals.
Many people say that Darshan, formerly known as ZionSpartan, is a glorious carry, who is going to lead CLG to promised lands. It’s not true. Darshan is still the same, insanely limited top laner, who can split push and play Jax and Fiora. At IEM, he was hard countered by Fnatic, who banned Fiora and put Gamsu on a Rammus with a Banner of Command. Darshan didn’t have an answer for that, and with his TP usage lacking, CLG got eliminated earlier than most expected.
Aphromoo and Xmithie are the guys holding it together. Be it the signature basic CLG lane swap, which NA teams just can’t figure out, even after one and half years. Be it the mid-game dragon fight, where CLG never excelled. Be it the “raising the Darshan” strategy, which is followed by executing the perfect 1-3-1. Xmithie will always be there, peeling for his carries and protecting the gameplan while Aphromoo will lead the charge, navigating Stixxay, Huhi and Darshan through the dark bushes of the Summoner’s Rift.
It’ll be miraculous if CLG wins the championship again. But they’re still the only team to make Reignover and four appear mortal.
After their successful campaign at the World Championship, where both Fnatic and Origen made the semifinals, Europe has seemingly rebounded after the Season 4 fumble. The offseason began with Origen dominating the competition at IEM San Jose, H2k assembling a star-studded roster and Spirit joining the newly rebuilt Fnatic, most people expected Europe to solidify themselves as the number two region in the world this year.
The Wild Challenger Contender Appears Again
For a few years at this point, newly promoted Challenger teams have been able to perform admirably in European LCS. Lemondogs in 2013 followed by 2014’s KMT/ROCCAT Polestack followed by the Unicorns of Poke comps in 2015. In 2016, it was the Gamers 2 turn.
Getting to the LCS wasn’t easy, but after beating Denial in a controversial game, and following it up with a defeat of SK Gaming, G2 finally got into the premier league. SmittyJ and Jesse (formerly known as Jesiz) left, Kikis switched to his old position in the top lane while former CJ Entus jungler Trick and globetrotter Emperor joined the squad. Both became essential to G2's success, providing the team the aggression that now defines the team.
The rookies, Perkz and Hybrid, were expected to make waves in the EU LCS. The latter was seen as a hope for one of the most shallow positions in the Western scene. Perkz was known as the Azir/Jayce player during his times in the Challenger scene but came out roaring in the regular season by playing nine unique champions. He led the EU LCS mid laners in regards to kills and assists per game. Both lead the team - Hybrid in terms of providing vision for his team, working in sync with Trick, leading the league in clearing wards, while Perkz is playing the roam-focused style, always showing up for those skirmishes that G2 thrives in.
Lemondogs got first in the regular season but weren’t able to claim the title. Gamers2 are still not the favorites, but they have already achieved what many dream of.
The Worlds Trinity In Flames
Both Origen and H2K were believed to be contenders at the beginning of the split their roster changes. Meanwhile, Fnatic's roster raised some question marks, but their play was what stripped them of their aura of being near-untouchable in EU. Febiven looks like a mere shadow of the player we saw dominate at Worlds, and both of their supports this season appeared to be lost at sea. Rekkles hasn't been able to step up and carry the team while their new Korean duo of Spirit and Gamsu also struggled early in the season.
But the main problem and the problem that simply can't be ignored is their drafts. The Most Valuable Coach of 2015, Deilor, was never famous for his pick/ban phases, often putting Fnatic into games with inherent disadvantages and forcing them to overpower teams with their superior mechanics. This year that hasn't happened and Fnatic have suffered because of that. Fnatic had their moments in some signature comeback wins and at their Jhin-enhanced performance at IEM Katowice, but defeating Vitality looks almost like an insurmountable task at this point.
H2k’s star-studded lineup was destined to be great, with a roster including a top laner can in Europe, Odoamne, the Polish duo from ROCCAT in Jankos and Vander and the best AD Carry in the West, Forg1ven. Add a Korean veteran in Ryu to that Eastern Europe mix and on paper that should be a cohesive juggernaut filled with calculated aggression and highlight reels.
At the start of the season, H2k were just that. Slowly but surely, however, cracks appeared in their armor. The loss of Ryu in the middle of the season hurt their momentum the team in the early game. Jankos rediscovered his role as the "First Blood King" constantly invading the enemy jungler due to the pressure from Forg1ven and Vander, but still hasn't quite found the perfect rhythm. H2k’s team fighting, however, is a total disaster. Odoamne looks like a Quas circa 2015, not being able to find proper engages and often teleporting to his death. H2k lost a lot of games that they were in prime position to win, and if they don't manage to win this split, Forg1ven’s dreams of winning gold might be put on hold again considering he has a mandatory military service incoming.
Origen remind me a lot of Cloud 9 last season. One of the top domestic teams goes into the new split with their long-time mid laner being replaced by a mid lane prodigy. Nothing works out, team synergy disintegrates, and the player makes a miraculous return. The key difference is that Cloud 9 invested into Nicolaj and sacrificed Meteos while Power of Evil has seemingly run out of credit. The worst part is that with xPeke, Origen suddenly looked like they were in 2015 again, with Amazing and mithy working together and Niels regaining his will to live. If Origen happens to play Gamers2 in semifinals, it’ll be an interesting matchup. Not only due to xPeke and Ocelote's long history but due to Perkz being rumoured to join Origen before 2016. Perkz is the new alpha wolf, PowerofEvil’s career in Origen seems to be almost over, and xPeke going against the new kid on the block who was supposed to replace him and spearhead Origen to new heights. Truly a glorious storyline.
With how Steeelback has developed after coming back from North America (and taking more power from deathbed-ridden, mancloud), it’s sad to see the Unicorns of Love not finishing in the top-4 in the regular season. With Diamondprox on the team, the Russian jungle king was able to work together with Hylissang, securing vision to allow Fox and Vizicsacsi to carry games. Then visa issues struck, and Rudy came in. Then Rudy was kicked, and Loulex stepped in, and while the former was straight up carried by Hyllisang, the latter is pretty much the same Loulex from Summer 2015 H2k and sadly, not the one from Spring. Oh, also Djoko made a cameo in the rolling sideshow that is the UOL jungle position, but two games is a pretty small sample.
Now Unicorns of Love look like a shadow of their earlier season. Steeelback is arguably the best marksman in Europe right now, and Hylissang plays well, but that’s about it. Vizicsacsi finds a way to die in even more unnecessary situations that sOAZ does; Fox hasn’t looked good outside of his signature Zed, and his Viktor. And Loulex, well, it’s not Spring split H2k Loulex either, sadly enough.
Alas, Diamondprox’s UoL might be one of those “what ifs”, plaguing esports for the past two decades and beyond.
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|G2|| 3rd place match|
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|IMT|| 3rd place match|
While Liquibets are being rigged by 739 and Zess for a third season in a row (someone save us!), this season it’s time to play a game for bragging rights and to expose the staff members in predictions. Winner takes all. At least, this time, Jongalt will only suffer one loss at the hands of his undying love for TSM.
JonGalt (3-1 if POE)
739 (3-2 if POE)
Zess (Everyone Loses)
|JonGalt (3-1 if xPeke)|
739 (3-1 if xPeke)
Zess (Everyone Loses)
|739 (3-2) |