Welcome back, true believers! After much trial and heartbreak, the European 2014 Spring League Championship Series will be on us in less than two hours. As we prepare to jump into Week 1, let’s take a quick look at the eight participating teams and their performance leading up to now, as well as the potential strengths and weaknesses we might see emerge over the Series. The following article has a larger focus on recent performance, but does not rule out the past performance of these teams.
EU LCS Team Preview
Battle of the Atlantic (2-0 vs. Team Dignitas)
Don’t let their lack of a team photo on the LCS website fool you– as their name indicates, Alliance is a newly minted team consisting of veteran European pros who have left their former teams for various reasons. The members of Alliance are all outstanding in their respective positions, having proven themselves skilled in professional play over the last few years.
Ex-Evil Geniuses members Wickd and Froggen seem not to be affected by the loss of their three former teammates. Froggen, who is considered by some to be the strongest mid laner in a region known for its strong mids, showed the world that he still has the right stuff at the Battle of the Atlantic, pulling out his old friend Nidalee in the first game to great effect. In a recently released video, Froggen has expressed the sentiment that his talent was not being allowed to reach its full potential in EG, and that he wanted to craft a superteam in which he could take the world. Well, Alliance is that superteam. Wickd, thriving in the current tanky top lane meta, was able to make decisive (if not always flashy) plays for his team. His champion pool has remained largely unaffected; he is also one of the very few people to play Malphite top competitively. The true hero at the Battle of the Atlantic, however, was ex-CW Shook, whose impeccable sense of timing and effective counterjungling on Elise controlled the pace of both games. Shook, who is considered one of the best junglers in Europe, is a natural (some might say the only) option for Alliance. Working together with substitute player Kazmitch, Tabzzz picked up double kills in 2v2 bot lanes in the early stages of both games to rapidly become a force of destruction. As Nyph did not participate in BotA, it is unclear at this stage how strong his play may be, but as a member of SK Gaming, he helped bring his team to first place finishes in week 15 of the EUWCS and DreamHack in November.
The excitement surrounding Alliance isn’t just for show. Their commanding performance at Battle of the Atlantic demonstrates that they have sound synergy and teamwork despite their relatively short time together as a team. There is no doubt that the all-star lineup of Alliance will be one of the biggest threats in the coming weeks.
Alliance will play against the Copenhagen Wolves, Fnatic, Supa Hot Crew XD, and ROCCAT in the first week.
Spring 2014 EULCS Qualifiers (3-1 vs. Meet Your Makers)
The current lineup of Copenhagen Wolves, excluding Amazing and Forg1ven, has made a strong showing over the last few months, taking first place at IEM Cologne’s amateur tournament and beating out Meet Your Makers in the Spring EULCS Promotion Series.
CowTard has shown to draw upon many champions at mid, including champions currently favored by the meta, champions favored in the past, and at least one completely unexpected pick (Zyra). In CW’s match against SK Gaming at IEM Cologne, cowTard continuously drew out targeted bans and appeared mostly unaffected; in the first game of the match, cowTard picked Zyra into an opponent Riven to great effect, securing a surprise first blood with plants under the enemy tower.
The loss of Shook back in October set the team back, but Amazing has been pulling more than his weight with his solid jungle play. Forg1ven’s long standing at the top of the EU Challenger ladder speaks to his mechanical ability. Whether Forg1ven can fill Rekkles’s shoes or not has yet to be seen.
Copenhagen Wolves will play against Alliance, Gambit Gaming, SK Gaming, and ROCCAT in the first week.
Battle of the Atlantic (0-2 vs. Cloud 9)
Longtime European powerhouse Fnatic has seen better days than its most recent performances at IEM Cologne and the Battle of the Atlantic, where the team gave a feeble show against a revitalized Gambit and the consistently strong Cloud 9. The team has blamed those losses on a lack of practice, but as we come up onto the start of the Spring LCS, such lapses in dedication can no longer be tolerated, as newer teams rise to challenge the old guard.
It may sound like we’re talking Fnatic down– they did make it to the finals of IEM Cologne, after all, beating CLG in a 2-0 match. Fnatic’s perceived weakness appears so glaring in particular because they have been such a strong team in the past.
Despite their poor performance at the end of the year, Fnatic’s play during Worlds and the Summer LCS cannot be looked down upon, and their legendary rotations cannot be denied. Their performance throughout the majority of the year was very strong, showcasing Fnatic’s ability to adapt and overtake tricky opponents.
sOAZ’s quirky champion pool may not do him a lot of good in the current shallow tanky top lane meta, but time will show whether patches or shifts will enable him to pull champs out of a hat in the future. Much of xPeke’s champion pool has fallen out of the meta (Twisted Fate) or fall under the umbrella of must-bans (Kassadin), but he remains a powerful mid laner. With rest, realignment, and the practice the team needs, Fnatic still has the potential to be the unstoppable force they have been in the past.
Fnatic will play against Gambit Gaming, Alliance, SK Gaming, and Millenium in the first week.
Battle of the Atlantic (2-0 vs. XD.GG)
With the return of support EdWard from across the pond, Gambit Gaming is back in ancient godlike form. They gave the world a dominant performance at IEM Cologne, where the team swept each of its best-of-three matches handily to win the cup that bears their name. Soon after, despite a lack of practice with mid laner Alex Ich (who had been recuperating from a recent surgery), Gambit beat NA team XD.GG at Battle of the Atlantic in two games with off-kilter, crowd-pleasing champion picks– EdWard surprised the crowd with support Amumu in the first game, and not to be outdone, Darien elected to play Warwick in the second. Many argue that XD.GG were not a talented enough team for Gambit to go all-out against, but Gambit has insinuated that they don’t build specific strategies against opposing teams.
The shifts in the meta seem not to have bothered the memetically indomitable Darien. He has been doing less feeding to win and more proxy farming on indestructible champions such as Shyvana. Like Wickd, the shift to a defensive top lane meta seems to suit Darien just fine, although it’s difficult to tell what he’s thinking at the best of times.
EdWard has stated that he has some mystery pocket supports prepared for the LCS. One may very well be the Amumu he tested at BotA, and another may be the Kennen he’s been experimenting with in solo queue. Will the Thresh Prince of Armenia branch out into Suppordle Territory?
The changes to jungle gold will almost certainly affect Diamond’s play and champion choice. The change to Spirit of the Elder Lizard forces all junglers to change their Evelynn builds, for instance, although the change to vision somewhat mitigates the pain in the Widowmaker’s case. Never one to be constrained by conventional wisdom, we’ll have to wait and see if Diamond pulls yet another jungler out of his hat (hopefully one that enjoys more success than Karma). Diamond’s legendary teamwork at mid with Alex Ich is a threat to opposing mid laners everywhere– Alex Ich’s champion pool is comfortably situated in the current meta.
The chaotic and unpredictable Gambit has broken new ground for the game as a whole many times in the past, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll stop– or, at the very least, that they’ll stop trying.
Gambit will play against Fnatic, Copenhagen Wolves, Millenium, and Supa Hot Crew XD in the first week.
(as Alternate) Battle of the Atlantic (2-0 vs. CLG)
Millenium picked up the roster of former Team Alternate in early January. Alternate’s up-and-very-down performance in the Summer Split was the last we heard of them until the Battle of the Atlantic, where they surprised the crowd and casters by soundly beating Counter Logic Gaming 2-0. Alternate’s roster as it currently stands only dates back to December of 2013, when Kerp moved to mid to make space for Kev1n. Kerp seems to have blossomed in mid lane, as Millenium opponents have lauded Kerp’s play as some of the best in the scene. Kev1n’s strength at top is formidable.
Despite a lackluster showing throughout the year, they proved at BotA that they are a team that knows how to capitalize on the mistakes of an opponent even in the face of a disadvantageous team composition. Veteran jungler Aranae is looking to prove himself and his team after a long time spent without victories. Can they pull it off?
Millenium will play against SK Gaming, Gambit Gaming, ROCCAT, and Fnatic in the first week.
(as KMT) Spring 2014 EULCS Qualifiers (3-0 vs. Ninjas in Pyjamas)
Upon KMT’s qualification into the EULCS, the roster was snapped up by ROCCAT, providing them with (hopefully) funding and other resources to improve the lives and ability of the players.
The all-Polish ROCCAT roster is less than a year old, but took second place at DreamHack Winter in November of 2013 and first place at EPS VII. Their 3-0 performance against strong team Ninjas in Pyjamas at the promotion stage of the qualifiers was a surprise to many after the curious losses to fellow new teams STO and SHCXD in the Bo1 challenger stage, but consistent and overpowering play from each of their members proved that they are no pushovers. Mid laner Overpow has received a lot of popularity for his play at mid, especially his choice of Kayle versus NiP.
ROCCAT will play against Supa Hot Crew XD, Millenium, Copenhagen Wolves, and Alliance in the first week.
Spring 2014 EULCS Qualifiers (3-2 vs. SHCXD)
SK Gaming as it exists now is much changed from its past incarnations. The loss of ocelote stands out the most, as the outspoken Spaniard was the face of SK for most of the team’s existence. With CandyPanda as the only remaining member of the former SK lineup, there aren’t many conclusions that can be drawn about the strengths and weaknesses of the modern SK except from their play at the LCS Qualifiers. After being forced into five games versus rookie team SHCXD, things were looking rough for SK, having fallen from glory into relegations. In the end, they did manage to pull off a victory, promoting them to the LCS, where thanks to a series of unfortunate events, they’ll have to face SHCXD yet again. nRated’s return to the competitive scene after his break may inspire some rivalry between SK and nRated’s old teammates on Fnatic.
The current roster is not weak, but they have not yet shown themselves versus serious competition during this season.
SK Gaming will play against Millenium, Fnatic, Copenhagen Wolves, and Supa Hot Crew XD in the first week.
Spring 2014 EULCS Qualifiers Tiebreaker (2-0 vs. Meet Your Makers)
What can be said about the outrageous team that calls themelves Supa Hot Crew XD? A team created in October 2013 with the sole intention of qualifying for the LCS, the loss of experienced founding members Svenskeren and fredy122 looked to spell an early end for SHC. Instead, the team rallied to make it through the second promotion qualifier and to the promotion series, where they advanced to the final stage by the skin of their teeth with a 3-2 record. Losing in a 2-3 upset to SK Gaming, it appeared to be the end of the line for SHC, who was given another chance in the placement tiebreaker brought about by Lemondogs’s failure to qualify. Beating MYM 2-0, the determined (perhaps even plucky) Supa Hot Crew now gets to compete on a professional stage, despite the lack of a single official sponsor.
As the team is so young, there’s not much that can yet be said about their talents. Moopz made the unusual but very rewarding choice to bring out Morgana at mid lane during the promotion series, landing clutch Dark Bindings in three victorious matches, drawing out Morgana bans in the two games they lost.
Jungler Amin is too young to participate in the LCS, so it seems that SHC will continue to field substitute player Impaler as Jungler.
Supa Hot Crew XD faces ROCCAT, Alliance, SK Gaming, and Gambit in the first week.
Powerhouses: Alliance and Gambit Gaming
Alliance‘s power cannot be denied. Formed of some of the strongest players Europe has ever seen, it may at last be time for Froggen to release his true potential. Although Dignitas was not the strongest team for Alliance to prove their talent against, the sheer domination we saw at Worlds– combined with the past records of the players– sets up Alliance as one of the biggest threats in Europe, and perhaps even the world.
Gambit Gaming had their pride bruised in the S3 World Championships, where they finished below fourth place in a tournament for the first time in their entire existence. Undeterred, and with the return of EdWard, their resurgence has been overwhelming, shutting out Fnatic in the Cologne finals and showboating in the Battle of the Atlantic. The season four changes look to be good for Gambit, with increased income for jungle and support players. The Russians are back, and they’re looking to conquer.
Strong Teams: Fnatic, Copenhagen Wolves, and Millenium
Fnatic has seen better days, but remains one of Europe’s stronger teams. Rekkles, with the exception of the match against Gambit, has proven himself more than worthy over the last few months, displaying some of the best ADC mechanics in EU and shutting down enemy teams. Fnatic has been known to falter at the beginning stages of competition only to surge back in the middle. Here’s the question, though: can Fnatic surge back from choking before the competition begins? We certainly hope so.
Copenhagen Wolves hopes to make a strong stand this year, as they are fresh out of a victory at IEM Cologne’s amateur bracket. They’ve been enjoying success in moneyed qualifiers and minor tournaments, and are aiming to prove themselves this year by succeeding in the LCS.
Millenium stomped CLG at Battle of the Atlantic, kicking things off with an outrageous brush cheese in the first game. Is that talent, or capitalizing on CLG’s poor decision making? Some would argue those two things are the same.
Contender Teams: SK Gaming, ROCCAT, Supa Hot Crew XD
SK Gaming has had a rough time of it over the last few months. They had a scare in the qualifiers when they almost lost to SHCXD despite having more experience. How far can this club go without ocelote?
ROCCAT may be the strongest of the ‘weak’ teams. Overpow and Celaver have stronger play than opponents expect, each drawing target bans during their promotion matches. Their true potential is at this time unknown, but the addition of a sponsor may help them improve.
Supa Hot Crew XD: if this were a baseball movie, SHCXD would be the plucky last-place team that surpasses all odds to win the championship. However, real life is rarely so narratively kind, and this rookie team will have to really work at it to succeed. Are you feeling lucky?