I want to preface this article by mentioning that I am not an EG hater. Having said that, I am no fanboy either. I personally find EG’s style of play fairly uninteresting to watch, but at the same time respect them and their achievements as a team. I don’t want people to think that I’m launching an attack on EG or that I’m riddled with bias.
If you had said to me a year ago that Evil Geniuses would be scraping the bottom on the EU LCS standings in the Summer Split, I would have called you mad. How could one of the historically greatest EU teams struggle so much? EG’s fall from grace will have come as a shock to most, but it is a great example of the power of the meta – specifically meta shifts.
EG (or CLG.EU as they used to be known) were one of Europe’s top teams. There was always a wrestle between M5 (now Gambit Gaming) and EG as to who was the superior European team, and the matches between the two were often epics. They were a clash of two polarised playstyles: on the Russian side, a flourish of aggression and energy. On EG’s side, a much more slower and controlled game. Dreamhack Summer 2012 birthed one of, if not the greatest, comebacks in competitive League history.
Finishing second at The Champions Summer to Azubu Frost after an amazing finals that saw EG take a 2-0 series lead only to lose 2-3, EG then rounded out the Season by qualifying for worlds as the third seeded European team behind GG and SK. Despite losing to SK 2-0 in the qualifiers, EG were far and away regarded as the stronger European team. EG and GG were the two big threats coming out of Europe; the only two Western teams who were considered able to stand up to the wave of Asian powerhouses. EG played well at the World Finals, but were once again overcome by previous rivals and eventual finalists Azubu Frost. That would arguably be the last time we saw the dominant ex-CLG EU.
The team decided to take a break in the offseason for some much needed R&R. Consisting of 4 nationalities between the 5 players, the team were geographically split for a relatively long time. Their next few LAN performances were mixed outcomes, achieving both Top 3 results alongside Group Stage defeats. Their inconsistency and sometimes disappointing results were chalked down to a lack of practice from the offseason, with no real thought given to it.
Fast forward to the Season 3 LCS Spring Split. Considering their previous success and European dominance over all except GG, EG were favourites to succeed alongside the Russians and a resurged Fnatic squad. However, the disappointing performances from the offseason carried over in to the LCS, and EG posted a less than impressive 15-13 W/L record, putting them fourth out of a total eight teams. The team that looked world-class only a few months prior suddenly seemed very mortal.
The playoffs went well for EG, and they finished 3rd behind (no surprise) Fnatic and GG. However, the real problems have started to kick in for EG. For the start of the LCS Summer Split, EG have posted a poor 5-8 W/L record- that’s enough to have them sunk to rock bottom of the LCS standings alongside SK.
So what went wrong? Is it time for the panic button?
I want to try and analyse the differences between CLG EU and EG, and why they’re doing so poorly relative to their previous success.
Firstly, their style of play is less effective now. EG always benefited from a slow paced game- they were renowned for drawing games out as long as possible, where their superior coordination, patience and late-game team comps would slowly overwhelm opponents. As the meta has shifted in Season 3, this style of play is much less effective. Teams are applying much more pressure early game in an attempt to asphyxiate the teams that try to draw games out–a great example of this is the 2v1 lane swap. The idea behind it is to give a free farm lane to your AD while pushing down a tower extremely quickly, giving you increased gold, exp, and map pressure that will enable you to snowball early game.
In addition to this, assassins are much more popular now than in Season 2. The reason why this hurts EG’s playstyle is because assassins are great at snowballing games – as soon as they get an advantage, they will shoot you up and eat your still, beating hearts. There are multiple reasons why we are seeing more assassins: first and foremost, more assassins have been released such as Zed and Kha’zix who weren’t prominent in Season 2; the new or reworked items such as Blade of the Ruined King and Black Cleaver benefit them; new calculation for penetration makes assassins overall more effective; and also quite simply a shift in the meta–AP casters were popular mid, and (in general) assassins counter casters.
Finally, people have got used to playing versus the passive strategies and have learned how to counter it. Whenever a playstyle is adopted that is extremely effective, teams will be working on a way to adapt and beat that playstyle. Eventually, people learn how to beat it. Moscow 5 was completely dominant when they first appeared at IEM Kiev with their heavy-aggression counter jungling strategies, but in time their immortality status was broken by teams that had simply adapted.
But it’s not just their playstyle- it’s their players too
Froggenivia is the most talented member of EG. In Season 2 he was widely regarded as the best midlaner in the world. This title is nowadays dubious, but Froggen is still an amazing player. A huge reason for his fall from glory is the ineffectiveness of his bread and butter champion pool–champions such as Lux and Anivia are not as effective in the current meta. Both those champions have poor early wave clear and as such cannot deal with hard pushes. They also lack any form of mobility, something that is of huge importance compared to last Season; a lot of new champions have great mobility and those without that mandatory luxury find themselves at a huge disadvantage. Take a look at a list of the most recently released champions and see how much mobility there is:
Of course, Froggen’s champion pool extends beyond just Lux and Anivia. However, whereas the playstyles of AD Caster/assassin champions may suit Froggen, they don’t suit EG. Early aggression is key with those champions, and rarely is that executed.
In addition, when Froggen was the world number one, it took huge pressure off of his other laners. Yellowpete and Wickd were both given an easier time in their lanes because the enemy teams were extremely cautious of letting Froggen get out of hand, where he would easily carry a game by himself. Now that Froggen is dethroned, this puts more pressure on his teammates and it obviously impacts their effectiveness. You can see further proof of this when Bjergsen joined ex-Copenhagen Wolves, TheTess on ADC had significantly more impact on games because he had some breathing room afforded to him by Bjergsen’s stellar play and subsequent focus from enemies. Similarly, opponents don’t need to reserve 2 bans for Froggen anymore and can take away some other important picks from EG.
There are those that have dubbed Snoopeh “worst jungler EU.” It would be foolish of me to not recognise Snoopeh as the scapegoat for EG’s shortcomings, however I think a lot of that blame and hatred is unfair.
I always feel that you can learn a lot about a team by how their jungler plays. Diamondprox is aggressive and makes a lot of plays, as is characteristic of his team Gambit Gaming. Meteos forms calculated aggression (evidenced by his low death counter and high kill participation stats), similar to how the methodical Korean-esque Cloud9 team plays overall. EG, on the other hand, have always been passive and Snoopeh manifests that. When that passive playstyle starts getting walked over, the Scot unfortunately finds himself in a lot of trouble and it makes him look worse than he actually is.
Snoopeh’s playstyle and champion pool was very effective back in Season 2 – Maokai, Nautilus, Cho’gath, Amumu, etc – the tanky-support junglers as opposed to the Bruiser-carry junglers that are popular now. As a result, he played a lot better back then. In Season 3 however, these champions are not only unpopular but also wildly weaker compared to alternatives such as Jarvan, Nasus, Xin Zhao, and Elise.
Having said all this, Snoopeh has always been the weakest member of EG. That was really more of a compliment to his teammates than a dig at Snoopeh himself, and despite being the “weakest,” he was never really a weak link. Moreover, what Snoopeh experienced in Season 2 is the same as what Saintvicious is currently experiencing here in Season 3. Like I previously mentioned, the meta used to heavily favour Snoopeh’s champion pool and playstyle, as the current meta does for SV. The big difference is, however, that SV is considered the best (or one of the best) junglers in his region. Snoopeh was never considered one of the best in EU, and now the meta has shifted he is seen as quite the opposite.
Snoopeh desperately needs to adapt his champion pool or find a way to make his old favourites work again. I’m aware that he plays other champions such as Sejuani and Nasus who are good in this meta, but his performances on them are not quite up to par yet.
Wickd was another dominating factor of EG from Season 2. His current impact in games is not amazing, but let’s not forget he was one Nunu-top-cheese away from representing Europe in Shanghai. Still, the Wickd of old died when lane swaps and 2v1 became more popular- such has been the fate of most top laners. Even “Brickd” can’t dominate a lane when up against two people. Whereas this holds no fault with the giant Dane himself, it still limits his ability to carry games. His champion pool has suffered slightly (with the obvious example being the nerfing of his beloved Irelia) but his positive ability to adapt has been displayed in the past and EG will benefit when he can master the likes of Kennen. On the other hand, Wickd has never been very good on AP champions (outside of Elise). As the similarities between Mid and Top grow ever closer, Wickd’s inability to play a solid AP champion handcuffs Froggen or forces the team in to playing a zero-AP comp, which is focused heavily around early game snowballing and does not play in to EG’s strengths.
Yellowpete & Krepo
Europe is not known for its amazing botlanes, but as far as it goes these two are one of the best pairings. The 2v1 lane meta often benefits Yellowpete as he is able to freely farm up as an AD, however he tends to suffer from ‘Crs Cop Syndrome’–that is, he rarely carries a game. Being on EG has meant that he never really needed to carry as Froggen or Wickd would always have it covered. As a result, Yellowpete was the definition of reliable and consistent and it worked very well for the old EG. In Season 3 however, more focus is being put on the ADC to carry games and Yellowpete is struggling to step up. His champion pool has never been amazing, but in the past bans were rarely targeted towards anyone but Froggen and Wickd, meaning Yellowpete’s champion pool was not an issue. That’s not necessarily true anymore and it occasionally forces him out of his comfort zone.
I personally see little difference in Krepo from Season 2 to Season 3. He’s a solid player, much like Yellowpete, who perhaps suffers a little at the hands of targeted bans. On the times he does get Thresh though, he can be very effective as long as the team is on the same page.
“What happened to EG?” The strange answer is this: nothing. They haven’t changed. But that’s their problem. The game has changed and they need to adjust. Easier said than done of course, and I hope it’s just an issue of transitioning. It would be a total shame if one of the most successful EU teams was forced to have a roster change. Hopefully they can resolve issues before that becomes necessary. Having said that, time’s running out, and people have been replaced for less…