The fifth week of the European LCS will kick off on Saturday, June 21st. These games will mark the halfway point of the season and will give spectators their first chance to take meaningful statistics and start making predictions for the playoffs. Next week’s article will take a look at how teams did halfway last season and where they ended up, so that we may compare them to the present split.
With that in mind, this week’s games are important. It’s only two games of the season, just like the week prior, but the clock is ticking and the time to fix mistakes and get a name out there for the World Championship is limited. Nobody’s out of the hunt in Europe, but the teams at the middle and bottom of the standings need to start showing results now because there isn’t much of a later.
(7-3) SK Gaming vs Alliance (8-2)
A top of the table clash to kick things off and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them carry that success into the playoffs towards the end of the season. Both teams have seemed just a step ahead of the current meta, where particular rotations in the early and mid game can create significant advantages. Credit is due to the investment these teams have put into coaching; today’s game requires quick decision making that can only be acquired through good training and planning.
The popular story with SK is that their success is built more out of team work than raw skill. The only player commonly given credit as exceptional is CandyPanda. This assessment is ungenerous, but their play style fits the description. SK plays a measured, reactive game where they wait for clear rotational or vision mistakes from their opponent. This often serves them well in the mid and late game, but SK’s lack of pro-activeness sometimes gets them into trouble early game.
More daring teams are able to create picks or set up for objective pressure while SK waits a little too patiently for a mistake instead of formulating plans on their own. This was seen in last week’s rather lopsided defeat to Fnatic. The men in yellow andblack took an early lead on the back of aggressive plays, and did not make enough errors for SK to capitalize on.
Alliance is almost certainly the strongest team in the league despite a rather curious loss to Gambit last week. Gambit out-picked Alliance and got to capitalize on several unforced errors from the current kings of Europe. The truth may be a bit more nuanced, but it’s not that hard to write off the loss as simply a bad game from Alliance.
That loss aside, Alliance have looked extremely strong, possessing both individual play making and clear evaluation of objectives. Like Cloud 9 in NA, Alliance always seem to get the better of an objective trade, regardless of whether they are ahead or behind. They were trailing heavily against Fnatic in their other game last week, but were absolutely decisive in calling an inhibitor push for a short and abrupt victory.
Author’s pick: Alliance. SK’s early hesitancy will cost them in the early game lane swaps. Alliance should hold an advantage in any conventional laning (particularly with Froggen in the mid lane), and in light of recent performances it seems unlikely that Alliance will make enough major mistakes for SK to take control of the game.
(5-5) SHC vs CWolves (2-8)
Supa Hot Crew tore out of the gates with several early victories in the season, but have since slumped slightly to the middle of the pack. The Copenhagen Wolves sit at the bottom of the league, but they are not without their talking points. In particular their replacement of star marksman Forg1ven has shown us a star in Woolite, who is putting up rather impressive numbers.
However, the team’s play style tends to be way too devoted to said star marksmen, be it Rekkles, Forg1ven, or Woolite. Cowtard rarely gets ganks and is often handed a losing lane match up to boot. Other teams are not letting Cowtard have Ziggs, the gold standard of “go-even” mid laners. He was subbed out last week, but in week 3 he had to play against Ziggs twice and got bullied out of lane both times. To be fair though, Copenhagen Wolves is definitely the team that had the biggest rebuilding process in the off-season, so it’s entirely possible that they still have a fair bit of room to grow.
Supa Hot Crew, at their best, have an explosive mid laner in Selfie and consistent performance from their marksman MrRallez. Their new support Wewillfailer has the interesting distinction of having both the highest kill participation and most deaths showing he’s not afraid to fight it out with the best. The duo do not appear to have a strong laning phase at this time, and struggle under jungle pressure, but Wewillfailer earns his pay check with aggressive initiations in the mid and late game.
SHC lost both of their games last week, and to different tactics, but they did show scrappy team fighting even while down a couple thousand gold. If MrRallez can find a way to stay even on gold in the early game, then SHC should be in good hands for the rest of the game.
Author’s Pick: SHC. Woolite shows strong team fighting, but his lane phase isn’t dominant the way Forg1ven’s was. If CW camps for their duo as they have in other games, then it’s pretty likely that Selfie will get an advantage of some kind and start tearing the game open. Expect Supa Hot Crew to start making some noise about the playoffs once again.
(6-4) Millenium vs Roccat (3-7)
These teams sit at third and seventh place respectively and Roccat have looked lost in prior weeks but put together a surprisingly strong objective game against Supa Hot Crew. They out-rotated Supa Hot Crew to a multi-turret lead and managed to snowball off it despite of some close team fights. It is only one game though, and that’s all spectators got to see last week due to a forfeit from Copenhagen Wolves.
Roccat were something of an enigma last split. They bring out some unorthodox picks while having their own brand of map movement. Some strategies that emerged for dealing with Roccat are attacking Celaver’s champion pool (“weak” individual play, reliant on Caitlyn/Lucian for lane phase) and attempting to bottle up Overpow in mid via shoving or ganking him. Jankos has been called one of the best junglers in the league, but when teams tie down Overpow’s sneaky roams he doesn’t have the same impact.
Millenium are sitting in third place at this time, and should they hold on to their spot it could be a dramatic turnaround from last split. They’re coming off a 2-0 week where they defeated also-resurgent Supa Hot Crew and Gambit. Against SHC, they soft-countered a Twitch duo lane with Twisted Fate ganks. Kerp went on to become a dominating force in the game despite Selfie’s excellent farm on Kayle.
Strong solo lane performances carried them to a win against Gambit as well, and seem to be the hallmark of Millenium’s recent success. In particular, the emergence of Irelia seems to be a huge boon for the team. The champion is one of Kev1n’s favorites, but the real reason it’s so good for Millenium is because Irelia is great at diving the back line in hard engage team fights. Millenium is one of the most aggressive European teams, which hasn’t worked for them in the past, but they’ve found a way to get comfortable in the current meta.
Author’s Pick: Millenium. Kerp is on top of his trackball game and is going to convert an lane advantage into kills somewhere be it in a 2v2 skirmish or a roam to the bottom lane. Jankos will make a mark somewhere, but based on recent performances one could reasonably expect Roccat to lose every lane outside of jungle pressure.
If Roccat is to win this game, they need to play on a different strategic level than Millenium. Millenium have improved lately, but are definitely not the strongest team when it comes to early game lane swaps. Roccat may indeed find an early lead, but Millenium’s individual strength seems too strong to be denied here.
(4-6) Gambit Gaming vs Fnatic (5-5)
This is one of the great rivalries of Europe, a duel between storied teams that have commanded respect on the world stage. In the present though, those days seem far away. Gambit lost a star and founding player in Alex Ich while there are questions abound about Fnatic’s work ethic and ability to adapt. Both teams have bounced back from slumps and strain before, but does that mean they can do it again?
Fnatic comes into this game a small favorite. They are a game up on the season and have shown flashes of strength in their losses, but they nonetheless have many losses. Some people look to Soaz’s public frustration with the current state of top lane and say that Fnatic can’t play the current meta. The truth is more subtle. Fnatic is actually very strong in the early game, even getting a lead on Alliance last week, and frequently generates kills or other small leads for themselves. Their problem is one that they’ve had in past eras as well – an inability to turn kills into objectives. Fnatic is very good at finding kills across the map, but they fail to set up minion waves or move Rekkles appropriately. This is something tricky to get right, because it’s very important for a marksman to freeze and farm for much of the early game, but it’s also very easy to tunnel vision and miss the ideal moment to start moving (“Rekkles farms too much”).
Fnatic has been the best team in Europe for three seasons running, but it’s not as if these are new flaws. They generate leads using champions with strong lane phases and pick potential. This often comes at the expense of team fighting ability, so when Fnatic fails to take objectives early, they resort to making picks in because they lack the ability to force fights. Lately, Fnatic has been branching into poke compositions, partly due to Nidalee receiving some indirect buffs, but also because it gives them a way to take objectives in the later part of the game while still staying within a style of play they’re comfortable with.
To talk about Gambit, we must of course talk about their new mid player niQ. Gambit seems most comfortable placing niQ on relatively passive/reactive champions that don’t need help. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s incapable of “carrying”. It is instead a symptom of Gambit playing for their duo lane.
Gambit’s best performer this split is ironically their most scrutinized. Genja has had his champion pool, mechanics, item builds, and even his motivation questioned at various points, but for all his flaws (real or imagined) Genja has turned in several strong performances this split.
It makes sense then, that if the marksman is the best performer, then Gambit wins by taking games late. Most of Gambit’s victories have involved a fair bit of turtling and stalling while Genja accumulates farm and the occasional kill. Diamond’s preference for Evelynn jungle fits this style well. Evelynn can farm while still having map pressure (due to invisibility), so Diamond can protect his bot lane while still scaling into the late game. It may appear on the outside that Diamond is just farming and throwing Darien to the wolves, but really Gambit as a whole is just placing their trust in Genja. This is why niQ is playing things like Kayle, Ziggs, and Nidalee – he’s picking champions that don’t require babysitting so that Diamond doesn’t have to show mid and expose Genja to risk.
Author’s pick: Fnatic. Darien is likely to give them a feast early game, Rekkles will get Twitch in champion select for free (Genja doesn’t play it), and niQ will likely go even but get out-roamed by Peke.
Gambit managed to successfully turtle in their first meeting, but it was partly because Fnatic had a poor composition for ending the game. Fnatic can get ahead early against anyone in Europe, and as long as they don’t take too long to start hitting turrets they can probably avoid another turtle from Gambit.