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Predicting the Champions: A 2014 Spring Split Retrospective


EULCSstandings

Today, we examine each team’s performance at the middle point (week five of 11) of the Spring Split and where they placed in the end of the Split.  To refresh some memories, here is the week five scoreboard then and now.

Standings 4

We, the spectators, want to figure out just how much weight we should give to present standings and whether there’s still room for shake-ups before the play-offs roll around.  Our ultimate aim is to guess at which teams will achieve their dream and make it to the world championship.  In the absence of any new information we will assume that it is still three teams per region.

Predictions are for final play-off placement.  Teams are listed by current standing.

Alliance

Alliance (10-2, 1st)

Spring Half Season: 6th (4-8)
Spring Full Season: 3rd (16-12)
Spring Play-offs: 4th place

Alliance aka “The Super Team” infamously started off as something of a flop.  As time went on they put together wins, and late in the season looked strong.  They did not however carry it to the end and ended up 4th.  This is rather ironically where the old EG squad placed in last year’s summer split.  Alliance initially had tactical problems and leaned heavily on their individual strength in victory.

That has changed.  Alliance, be it through coaching, black magic, or voodoo has acquired extremely decisive rotations and shot calling.  They often have a dominating early game and even when they don’t, their snap decisions have created winning situations regardless.  It’s not as if Alliance has never had a close game, but they don’t show consistent weaknesses from game to game like other teams do.  If they are there then other teams have yet to reveal them.

It’s called Froggen’s team for a reason but Tabzz and the rest of the team have all dictated games too.  Shook had a reckless side to him last split and that seems to be (mostly) under control.  Given what we can see now, it’s hard to imagine Alliance dropping anything more than a token few games.

Author’s Pick: 1st place.  Again, Alliance just doesn’t display any easily discernible weakness, and seem comfortable in all facets of the game early, mid, and late.  They have the best record of any team in either Split and there’s simply no reason not to expect them to continue their dominance.  They were supposed to be, after all, the team with the highest potential and they seem to have finally lived up to the hype.

Sk_logo

SK Gaming (8-4, 2nd)

Spring Half Season: 4th (6-6)
Spring Full Season: 1st (18-10)
Spring Play-offs: 2nd place

SK are the slow and steady tortoise of the European LCS.  They had some difficulty playing as a team following their initial re-building, but after some formative weeks they rose to the top of the league and have only been toppled by the equally impressive Alliance.  Their spring season was capped by an impressive 4-0 in the final Super Week.

As good as all of these things are, there is room for doubt at the end of the season.  In the play-offs, SK went 2-1 against Roccat and lost 1-3 to Fnatic in a one-sided affair.  While we only see two series here, I think it’s fair to question SK’s ability to adapt.  SK was a more well-rounded team than Roccat but still dropped a game. While they won a game against Fnatic it wasn’t as if they had them figured out. SK no doubt have excellent preparation for individual games but they did not definitively prove themselves in the last play-offs.

SK are fundamentally a reactive team.  They wait to see mistakes from their opponents and then counter.  These reactions are mostly pre-determined, as much as anything can be in League.  The problem with their style is that they sometimes encounter things that they don’t already know how to beat.  When this happens they simply lose; because they are not used to being the risky, proactive team and developing new plans on the fly.  Fnatic, the team they lost to, is their complete antithesis as they play a pick-oriented style that’s almost predictable in its unpredictability.

Author’s Pick: 3rd place.  SK are simply better than most teams in the league and will get to the semi-finals on that strength.  However, I don’t think that the flaws I see in their style are going to be fixed by the end of the season.  Their weakness is deep-rooted and almost part of what makes them such a consistent team in the first place.

Mil

Millenium (7-5, 3rd)

Spring Half Season: 6th (4-8)
Spring Full Season: 8th (9-19)
Spring Play-offs: n/a

In their rise from last place to third, Millenium is possibly writing a Cinderella story.  It should be noted that last split’s 4-8 put them in a three-way tie, so Millenium was fighting in the gutter for pretty much the whole of it. Millenium spent much of last split feeding Creaton and trying unsuccessfully to find team fights.  Their jungler Araenae benched himself voluntarily.  His replacement Kottenx was not immediately hailed as a world-class jungler, but seems to be growing into the role and puts up respectable numbers.

Today they show greater comfort in the meta.  Millenium doesn’t have to play the extended siege games of last season and can instead find the team fights they are inclined towards.  Millenium sometimes get outplayed tactically but in a 5v5 with even gold they’re one of the best teams in Europe.  Champion picks also seem to favour them – Kev1n especially has been monstrous on Irelia as of late.

It’s possible that Millenium will fall off and that their recent success is just consecutive good games for them.  However, it’s also possible that the champion meta, the roster change and just growing team work have aligned to make them one of the stronger teams in Europe.  They’re already very close to beating their wins for the entirety of last split.  It’s certain that there is some conscious improvement going on here.

Author’s Pick: 2nd place.  This is probably the second boldest prediction I’m making.  Millenium are not without their flaws, but such dramatic improvement means that this team has, for now, a good idea of how to improve.  If what they’re doing can yield still more improvement, then it only follows that they’ll take their momentum into the play-offs.

fnatic

Fnatic (6-6, 4th)

Spring Half Season: 3rd (7-5)
Spring Full Season: 2nd (17-11)
Spring Play-offs: 1st place

The spring split champions are a mixed bag at the moment.  This time last season, the team was 0-4 in their most recent games.  It was a rather surprising spree of losses considering their prior seven game winning streak.  Fnatic would go on to lose another three in a row, for mirror seven total, before poetically breaking the streak against Gambit, the team that started the string of losses in the first place.

Once past those seven consecutive losses, Fnatic had a solid second half of the season.  They also won the play-offs and looked dominating in their 3-1 victory over SK.  The story was that the losses were simply a blip, and Fnatic are just a clutch team that always gets it together in the end.

Fnatic has indeed shown that they are a resilient bunch, but does that mean they’re going to come back this season too?  I am personally skeptical.  Fnatic has, quite literally, broken even every week, going 2-2 in the opening Super Week and 1-1 every week thereafter.  They’ve certainly shown moments of strength and brilliance in their wins, especially early game, but how can they call themselves the best team if they can’t manage at least one clean 2-0?  They also have yet to beat Alliance or SHC, whereas last season they had beaten every team in the league.

Author’s Pick: 5th place.  This prediction may seem incredible but look at Fnatic’s plod through this season.  Fnatic, in the three play-offs they won, have always been first or second place for the season and thus seeded directly to the semi-finals.  It’s still a best-of-three, but the quarter-finals are different beast and a more level playing field.  Seeded teams get a free day of scouting, which is a huge advantage.  If Fnatic fails to overtake Alliance or SK, then they will go without this luxury for the first time.  People should also remember that Gambit, who are also supposedly a clutch team, got 5th place last season.

SHC

Supa Hot Crew (6-6, 4th)

Spring Half Season: 4th (6-6)
Spring Full Season: 7th(10-18)
Spring Play-offs: n/a

The Supa Hot Crew are the only team to exactly tie their performance from last split thus far  Last split led to a big slump, the blame for which has been directed at an unmotivated (and replaced) Migxa.  They also added the mid-laner Selfie, who has shown carry potential.  Their big performer from the start last split though was MrRallez.

I mention MrRallez because it’s important to realize that the SHC of the spring and the summer are two different beasts.  The spring SHC was much more reliant on MrRallez.  Migxa, for whatever faults he may have had, was an aggressive player and the duo showed up big with lane victories early in the split.  MrRallez would then rack up 10 kills end game.

This is no longer the case.  Migxa’s replacement wewillfailer was either not a strong laner, or other duos in the LCS have improved, and MrRallez frequently comes out of laning phase significantly down on CS.  I say was, because the news has just broken that Yerrow will be SHC’s new support.  This could be a good long term move, but it’s hard to expect SHC’s new face to shine in only half a split.

Author’s Pick: 6th place.  This isn’t the most generous prediction, but I think that SHC’s struggle get their marksman rolling is a tough problem to fix.  Selfie can be stunning but he’s also had his share of whiffed skirmishes, and the team as a whole is not a convincing picture of consistency.  SHC will bruise their opponents in the play-offs, but ultimately lose some heartbreaking series and face relegation again.

Roccat

Team Roccat (5-7, 6th)

Spring Half Season: 1st (9-3)
Spring Full Season: 4th (15-13)
Spring Play-offs: 3rd place

Roccat was for three weeks the best team in the Spring European LCS.  They had some difficulty towards the end, when teams started to ban and pressure their duo lane, but still managed to rally for a 3rd place victory in the play-offs.  Xaxus in particular showed up big on Jax, while Jankos made plays all across the map.  In the present day, their split record is not really comparable.

It should however be noted that Roccat is riding a respectable 3-0 win streak (likely a 4-0 had CW not given them a default win).  Overpow has recently managed to sneak Kayle through the ban phase and run amok with the champion, one of the first to bring him fame.  Jankos has also even in prior losses still looked like one of the best junglers in the league.

Roccat’s strong play-off performance last split tells us that they’re a tough team.  They showed up big considering their dismal end to the season.  This ability to recover, combined with recent performance, tells me that Roccat will once again overcome their flaws and pick up enough wins to get themselves securely in the playoffs.

Author’s Pick4th place.  Honestly, I think Roccat could on the right day place as high as 2nd, but I think their maximum potential is just a bit lower.  Roccat’s strength is more in their team work than individual play, and after two seasons of play their style is something teams are accustomed to.  They have made some adaptations this split but I don’t see them being quite as strong come play-offs.

gambit

Gambit Gaming (4-8, 7th)

Spring Half Season: 2nd (8-4)
Spring Full Season: 5th (14-14)
Spring Play-offs: 5th place

Gambit were sitting pretty in second this time last season, but they tumbled to 5th after a controversial remake stuttered their momentum.  Gambit looked even on the verge of relegation in the play-offs, before Alex Ich and Genja put together hard-carrying performances.  Alex Ich then departed the team and the mid lane role entirely.

Today, Gambit struggles.  Genja seems to be their sole ray of hope; the veteran has put together several strong performances in-spite of his reputation as a utility marksman.  Something worth noting from last split is that Darien, the legendary feeder, actually had several games with no deaths and large overall impact.  In today’s game however Gambit is choosing to prioritize their other members.  Left to his own devices Darien has seemingly reverted to dying randomly every game, while the rest of his team turtles and farms for late game.  This strategy has brought them only a handful of wins.

It’s possible that like TSM, the meta shift late last split hurt Gambit.  The game went from favouring conventional, symmetrical lanes to swapping.  The aforementioned Darien has always been considered a strong laner, and the transition from a stable early game to a very unpredictable one may be the heart of his problem.  The reason to bring this up is that a mid-season patch may be as or more important to Gambit’s fortunes than their own personal improvement.

Author’s Pick7th place.  Gambit seem stuck in a rut, and if they continue turtling instead of adapting it’s only going to bring them more losses.  Genja’s recent performance is admirable, but I think short of a meta shift that Gambit’s just a little too lost to put together consecutive wins.  Their extensive experience could help them in the play-offs, but that’s only if they even make it.

CWolves

Copenhagen Wolves (2-10, 8th)

Spring Half Season: 6th (4-8)
Spring Full Season: 6th (13-15)
Spring Play-offs: 6th place

The Copenhagen Wolves were a team in the middle of the pack (Phreak puns are contagious) all last split.  They did have one 4-0 run, but outside of that never looked like world-beaters.  In the play-offs they drew blood, but ultimately lost both of the series they played.  In time since, they’ve had major roster changes and seem worse for the wear.

They’ve had close games, including one against front-runners Alliance last week, but at the end of the day it’s about the wins.  The Copenhagen Wolves are in last place and doing worse than any team did in the spring split.  Their marksman Woolite is a delight to fantasy LCS players everywhere, and others have made big plays, but few would put any faith in them to turn the season around.

There isn’t much to support a CW come back.  Youngbuck had a stellar game against Alliance last week, but outside of that he and cowTard have rarely carried games and instead deferred that role to a marksman.  Feeding Woolite is not enough to get wins for the Wolves.  More often than not CW has been out-skirmished or out-rotated early game and never recovered.

Author’s Pick8th place.  I don’t discount the ability of players and team to improve, but at this time there is no basis to anticipate a good season for the Wolves.  Perhaps scrim results will tell a different story, but such things are rarely shared with the public.

Conclusions

The teams that were most dramatically different between the middle and end of the season were Alliance and Gambit.  One improved, the other crashed down.  Their ultimate placings were not far apart, but the way in which they ended the split said a lot for potential optimism leading into summer.  Last season was Gambit’s turn to fall as a pillar of Europe, is this season Fnatic’s?  The writing may be on the wall, or it could be that Fnatic will show up big for a fourth consecutive split.

The names SK and Alliance seem all but a lock for the World Championship.  If Fnatic falls, who takes their spot?  Millenium, Roccat, and Supa Hot Crew all clamour for a taste of dynasty.

To finish, here are my predicted play-off rankings in list form.

  1. Alliance (Worlds)
  2. Millenium (Worlds)
  3. SK Gaming (Worlds)
  4. Team Roccat
  5. Fnatic
  6. Supa Hot Crew (Relegation)
  7. Gambit Gaming (Relegation)
  8. Copenhagen Wolves  (Relegation)

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Abaxial

Is a Diamond 1 top main. He was an NCAA D1 swimmer and school record holder at UMBC. He aspires to reach Challenger and get involved in competitive League. He can be found on Twitter as @Abaxial_LoL .

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