Tenacity: Part 2 in a review of YellOwStaR's career

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Even if a professional player never makes waves, he always experiences periods of downturn. Every League of Legends player in the history of competitive play has had moments where he doesn’t play well, where his form deteriorates. In the game’s infancy, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim excelled, he earned accolades, he could be referred to as one of the game's best. As a more sophisticated understanding of League of Legends developed, and more players acquired aspirations of “going pro,” the competition increased. As an AD carry shotcaller, YellOwStaR juggled his own performance against his team’s and found himself lacking — and then he found a way to change that.

“People were not playing as good as they are now,” YellOwStaR said in a 2014 Reflections interview with Duncan “Thorin” Shields. When asked if he thought he could perform as an AD carry again in 2014, as he had in early 2013, YellOwStaR said he didn’t think he could.

The swap and the mediocre support player

2013 EU LCS Spring regular season champion picks

Champion Games Wins WR (%)
Thresh 6 4 66.7
Sona 5 4 80
Draven 3 2 66.7
Leona 2 2 100
Fiddlesticks 2 0 0
Nami 2 1 50
Caitlyn 2 0 0
Varus 2 2 100
Lulu 1 1 100
Tristana 1 0 0
Twitch 1 0 0
Nunu 1 0 0
Shen 1 1 100
Ezreal 1 0 0

Fnatic went into the 2013 European League of Legends Championship Series having just won the first ever LCS split. High spirits followed the team, but steeper competition brewed on the horizon. Beginning as early as the playoffs, chatter of green squads rising and creating struggle for European giants like Gambit Gaming bubbled. Three new teams joined the LCS that summer: Lemondogs (qualified as Sinners Never Sleep), Team ALTERNATE, and Meet Your Makers.

During parts of the LCS that summer, both Lemondogs and Team ALTERNATE looked like the best teams in the league. Team ALTERNATE went undefeated in the five game super week of Week 1, beating staples like Evil Geniuses and SK Gaming. The team played a team fighting-oriented and aggressive style reminiscent of the Chinese league with tinges of inspiration from Oh My God as they drafted picks like jungle Hecarim.

By contrast, Fnatic lost three of their five initial games to Evil Geniuses, Meet Your Makers, and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Fnatic lost to an explosive invade from Team ALTERNATE in Week 2. In Week 3, they were defeated by an equally-struggling Lemondogs when support Bram "wewillfailer" de Winter had an improved roaming game over Fnatic’s Christoph "nRated" Seitz.

While some had previously called YellOwStaR a Top 3 AD carry in Europe, players new to the LCS like Erik “Tabzz” van Helvert, Jakub “Creaton” Grzegorzewski, and beginning in Week 3, Aleš “Freeze” Kněžínek exposed very obvious gaps between YellOwStaR’s mechanics and the new generation. Compiled with nRated’s alleged loss of motivation, Fnatic made the decision to execute what became one of the best role swaps in the history of the game.

Prior to Week 4, after losing six of 10 games in the first three weeks, Fnatic announced that they would add substitute AD carry, Johannes “puszu” Uibos to their starting roster and move YellOwStaR to support. As these changes coincided in timing with some of Counter Logic Gaming’s more egregious role swaps in North America, the initial declaration was met with skepticism.

Fnatic wanted to retain YellOwStaR’s vocal presence and motivation, but he struggled to keep up with other AD carries. LCS caster Martin “Deficio” Lynge, then the support for Ninjas in Pyjamas, recalled while describing Fnatic during the 2015 European LCS Final that when YellOwStaR was an AD carry, he would try to last hit and type cooldowns between CS. As YellOwStaR became more comfortable with the role in 2014, he said of his swap, “It's easier for me to pay attention to what we are doing on the map and shotcall.”

While his play as an AD carry in 2013 made it obvious YellOwStaR couldn’t keep up with flashy prodigies, his debut games as a new support were abysmal. In his first game against Meet Your Makers, YellOwStaR died twice in the first two minutes. His one-dimensional warding habits meant he over-warded, dropping greens in both lane bushes when far enough forward. He and puszu hugged turret and found themselves pushed back by MYM’s duo lane.

puszu, YellOwStaR's first AD carry lane partner

But they won, which was more than could be said for Fnatic’s earlier encounter with MYM that summer. In Week 4, Fnatic secured a 3-0 record over MYM, Lemondogs, and a Team ALTERNATE with Matti “WhiteKnight108” Sormunen subbing in the mid lane.

It’s difficult to say what worked for Fnatic immediately with YellOwStaR entering the support role. Perhaps his ability to focus more on the rest of the map in his new position freed up more of his faculties, and puszu’s hunger to advertise himself on the competitive stage made up for their depressingly lacklustre laning phase. puszu showed the same affinity for Varus as YellOwStaR had, and the two developed a rhythm of poking from afar on Sona and long ranged AD carry picks.

When asked about YellOwStaR’s transition, Deficio said, “His change to support was super clunky. It was during the Summer split and he got Puszu as ADC who was also new to the scene so facing them during the Summer Split was super easy. They were a teamfight focused bot lane who almost just ff'd the lane if you got 2v2 against them, but they got solid in lane and then did well outside of lane as a team during playoffs and Worlds.”

In Week 4, Team ALTERNATE gave way to Lemondogs in the running for upstart team of the year. Creaton suffered an injury, and substitute WhiteKnight108 moved to the AD carry position in Week 5. Coincidentally, one of YellOwStaR’s greatest rivals in 2015 entered the LCS the same week in which he transitioned to the support role. Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez replaced wewillfailer on Lemondogs, and over time, many attributed their surge to first place in the regular season to that roster change.

Tabzz and mithy ran an exceedingly aggressive lane (for the time). mithy debuted with Fiddlesticks support, and was able to find key locations to hide in fog of war and spring traps on Fnatic. YellOwStaR finished his first deplorable competitive Thresh game with missed skillshots and 10 deaths, clearly outclassed by Europe’s new support talent.

But, again, Fnatic still won.

Over the course of the 2013 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split, YellOwStaR learned support in front of stream spectators. Some of his initial flaws beyond predictable warding included strict adherence to the 2v2, uncoordinated back timings with puszu that opened opportunities for the player left behind to die 1v2, and playing scared and far back in fights in order to avoid getting caught out and dying so frequently.

xPeke and sOAZ were Fnatic's stars in 2013

It’s ridiculous to consider how little YellOwStaR’s individual performance mattered to Fnatic during the 2013 Summer split and the team’s subsequent World Championship run. Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez were one of the most threatening solo lane packages, and their supremacy was seldom in question.

Perhaps by focusing less on CSing, YellOwStaR was able to aid the development of Fnatic’s team-play. During this time, they became known for several signature strategies in Europe: the “Fnatic death bush” or hiding in the bush on the top right side of the map for comeback ambushes, borrowing mid lane Teleport use to constantly chip at outer turrets and look for picks, and early group pushes, as in the team’s game against Gambit in Week 6.

In Week 7, Fnatic expressed an increased sense of confidence and flexibility as a unit. sOAZ and YellOwStaR swapped positions for one game. YellOwStaR, known to enjoy playing Shen, and sOAZ, a fan of selecting Blitzcrank, lead Fnatic in a heavy roaming game with frequent picks and dives. sOAZ roamed as a support considerably more than YellOwStaR, leading to a faster game. From that point on, the team seemed much more aggressive and comfortable with YellOwStaR and puszu.

In Fnatic’s third game of the split against Lemondogs, they executed an invasion strategy with YellOwStaR playing Thresh. mithy seemed to have a larger abundance of wards, and YellOwStaR ended the loss with eight deaths instead of 10. Lulu turned team fights in mithy’s hands later in the game.

Relative to mithy, YellOwStaR bad begun execute more overzealous engages. When their initial matchup was reversed, and YellOwStaR played Fiddlesticks, he refused to leave his team in grouping phase to find a flank from fog of war, and he could get easily picked off.

mithy tended to use more pink wards than YellOwStaR — though pink warding in general was still undervalued — and he placed them more often in the enemy jungler, while YellOwStaR favored far more defensive warding. mithy’s ability to secure vision in enemy territory allowed his lanes to play further forward.

Throughout the season, YellOwStaR continued to make steady improvements. By the time of the final game against Gambit, YellOwStaR placed fewer wards in lane and tended to allow wards up river to guard the team’s laning phase efficiently. By then, he also seemed to work out proper positioning on Sona in team fights and had game-changing Sona ultimates to seal Fnatic’s spot in second place in the regular season.

mithy entered the LCS the same week YellOwStaR transitioned to support

Fnatic’s 2013 season culminated in a final series encounter with Lemondogs. Both teams had secured a place at the World Championship by defeating their semifinal opponents. As with Gambit the previous split, Fnatic entered the series with a 1-3 record against their fellow finalist, but they reversed the standings by triumphing over Lemondogs. Though mithy still laid deeper vision, aggressive play in Game 2 up the lane allowed Fnatic’s bottom lane to start off the game with a rare double kill. At this point, it became obvious that even with a lead, puszu and YellOwStaR didn’t have the best concept of how to pressure a lane. mithy traded for a double kill of his own.

Despite this, Fnatic was still entirely the sOAZ and xPeke show. Jungler Lauri “Cyanide” Happonen had very high lane presence, making it easy for Fnatic to snowball, and then they simply ran Lemondogs around the map. Fnatic secured the World Championship's first seed and their second consecutive playoff victory.

Royal Club and the Leona

2013 World Championship champion picks

Champion Games Wins WR (%)
Leona 7 4 57.1
Zyra 6 4 66.7
Sona 1 0 0
Shen 1 1 100

YellOwStaR made a much larger dent in the bracket in his third World Championship appearance than he did in his second.

First seed into the World Championship for Europe amounted to very little in 2013 as, having placed last at All Stars, Europe lost their first seed quarterfinals bye, and every team had to play in the group stage. Fnatic evaded the group stage heavyweights of Group A in SK Telecom T1 and Chinese team Oh My God by placing in Group B with third place European team Gambit Gaming, Korean team Samsung Ozone, North American Team Vulcun, and Philippines hopefuls, Mineski.

Vulcun started the group with an aggressive invade on Fnatic. Level 1s had gotten Vulcun two of the three prized wins against North American favorites, Cloud9, that summer and a Level 1 invade gave Vulcun a spiral to win over Fnatic. Lyubomir "BloodWater" Spasov demonstrated warding technique that would become standard at Worlds with invading to set out three wards and buying an early Oracle’s Elixir.

Fnatic rebounded against the wildcard team, Mineski, and catapulted into Samsung Ozone. The “dade award” for underperformance at a World Championship originated from Bae “dade” Eojin’s play at the 2013 World Championship. His champion pool had been stunted by a patch change, and he and most of the rest of Ozone showed abysmal form due to having failed to properly prepare. Gambit Gaming gave Ozone their first loss of the group, and Fnatic gave them their second.

During the World Championship, the support triumvirate of Zyra, Thresh, and Sona reigned, but YellOwStaR had different ideas. He has become known for his Leona play, though perhaps in a somewhat comical fashion. Leona wasn't heavily favored at the World Championships because of her lack of range, and the fact that she couldn’t help take down turrets in lane swaps or harassing. Fnatic and other teams (especially the Chinese squads) compensated by executing very early turret dives with Leona’s engagement instead.

More aggressive play allowed YellOwStaR to gather a 1/0/3 scoreline in the first 10 minutes of their rematch against Vulcun. Fnatic obtained the first seed from Group B into quarterfinals and drew North America’s first seed, Cloud9.

Despite YellOwStaR’s increased aggressive play in the group stage as Leona, he still warded primarily defensively within Fnatic’s own jungle when Tier 1 turrets fell. Against supports Daerek “LemonNation” Hart of Cloud9 and especially Pan Kan “Tabe” Wong of Royal Club Huang Zu, who tended to place more invasive words, this contrast caused Fnatic to make more misplays.

Fnatic’s series against Cloud9 was a close one. A game went into each team’s favor before Cloud9’s duo lane was caught out, resulting in a very large snowball for Fnatic that won them the best-of-three. After Royal Club Huang Zu defeated their fellow Chinese team, Oh My God, YellOwStaR would once again drop out of the World Championship as a result of “Chinese aggression.”

Though Leona didn’t conform to the World Championship meta, Tabe brought forth an even more outlandish pick that demanded bans: Annie. Tabe and Jian “Uzi” Zihao found success bringing the duo lane mid with Annie’s stun threats as capable backup while their jungler invaded. If a team tried to counter this aggressive style, Tabe would collapse with an Annie stun.

Supports performed much more actions in the first 10 minutes in this series than YellOwStaR had in his games in the European LCS. By toning down some of their over-active play, Fnatic could actually use YellOwStaR’s defensive wards to punish Royal’s over-extensions. The one game Fnatic won, puszu fell back on Varus, and Fnatic relied on the utility of counter-engage of their bottom lane with Leona and Varus to actually turn fights.

In an explosive Game 4, Fnatic let Annie through, opening Royal’s preferred style of play. This was the most back-and-forth game of the series, but Royal managed to find objectives after they won teamfights and ultimately advanced to the final over Fnatic.

Outside just the bottom lane matchup, Royal’s mid laner Pun Wai "Wh1t3zZ" Lo expressed a wider champion pool and decimated xPeke in farm totals by counter-picking him. This series loss gave Fnatic a lot to mull over, and a very different team would appear in the 2014 European League of Legends Championship Series the following year.

2014 and the time Fnatic lost the LCS

Fnatic had advanced little as a team in order to participate in one of the least satisfying interim international events following the World Championship, the Battle of the Atlantic. Cloud9 got their revenge, and Fnatic underwent changes before the new season began.

2014 EU LCS Spring champion picks

Champion Picks Wins WR (%)
Leona 6 2 33.3
Morgana 6 5 83.3
Karma 4 4 100
Thresh 4 1 25
Annie 4 3 75
Lulu 2 1 50
Alistar 1 0 0
Nunu 1 1 100

2014 was not a particularly good year for European League of Legends teams or Fnatic, as they lost their only split in three years, but it was a very important year for YellOwStaR. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson had turned 17 and could start for Fnatic in the first week of the Spring LCS. Immediately, commentators noted the drastic upgrade to Fnatic’s bottom lane, but Rekkles wasn’t the only one dropping jaws.

YellOwStaR adopted the Annie pick that had bested Fnatic at the World Championship. Changes to the support role in the preseason made Annie even more viable, and she worked her way into the champion pools of supports internationally. YellOwStaR and Rekkles began playing further up in lane than puszu and YellOwStaR ever had. Fnatic went on a seven game win streak, and their bottom lane lead the KDA ratings.

YellOwStaR finally understood the power of a support’s threat zone and dictated the pace of the lane the way he never had in 2013. Fnatic suddenly didn’t have to find creative ways to maneuver around the map; they could perform much better in team fights with an AD carry who could position well enough to secure kills and add onto the damage provided by sOAZ and xPeke. This slowed some of their strategic advancement, but made them more threatening in a skirmishes and team fights.

Then things went very, very wrong.

Fnatic's win streak came to an abrupt end against Gambit Gaming. Vision changes meant a general reduction in vision placement by European teams, and Gambit quickly learned to abuse the meta growing pains with an Evelynn rework. Gambit themselves began maximizing their pink ward placement, but Fnatic's map was very dark by contrast.

As a result of stagnation, Fnatic then went about losing to every single team in the LCS after having already beaten them. They topped their seven game win streak by going on an eight game losing streak. High Fnatic KDAs shattered, and they began to grasp for strategies that would work. The public mocked sOAZ's Lulu top fixation, but no single player seemed at fault for the collapse.

Even with a slacking form, Fnatic managed to make the finals of the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship. They bested Millenium, Cloud9, and an Invictus Gaming barely treading water before being utterly humiliated by a lagging KT Bullets in the final.

Eventually, Fnatic found an answer.

Fnatic changed their luck in Week 7 against Gambit Gaming, the team that started them on their losing streak. Fnatic built a poke and disengage composition that allowed them to move around the map quickly with Sivir. They applied the disengage power of a new support popularized by rising Polish squad, Team ROCCAT: Morgana. Gambit could't keep up with the speed of Fnatic's composition and promptly lost.

Despite struggles with Fnatic and Team ROCCAT's initial rise, Fnatic's main 2014 Spring rivals were SK Gaming. SK developed an intelligent approach to the game that focused on setting up fights around dragon by herding teams into the pit and creating space for AD carry Adrian "CandyPanda" Wübbelmann to take advantage. Though CandyPanda didn't stand out, his team had means of impaling the opposition on his Vayne, and they developed a flavor for split-pushing.

Having rewatched games closely, I believe the 4v0 meta of 2014 Spring had a huge impact on YellOwStaR's playstyle. YellOwStaR seemed to lose some confidence around Week 9, as he and Rekkles reverted to more passive laning, but the evolution of the jungle-duo lane-top laner push meta opened up the map much more. In order to lane after taking down outer turrets, more jungle vision was required, which kept YellOwStaR roaming frequently. He picked up support Karma to move more fluidly around the map and started to fall into place as the roaming and vision-oriented support we’ve come to know him as.

After overcoming their hump, it seemed Fnatic engaged with the game much more creatively. During semifinals, Fnatic ran a series of entertaining compositions, including the Soraka/Kayle/Janna composition that served as a maddening counter to Alliance’s catch and Karthus composition.

Despite these advancements, Fnatic were wholly unprepared for the blunt objects that knocked in their teeth at All Stars in Paris that year. By once again winning the LCS in 2014 Spring, Fnatic were invited to the All Stars tournament to compete with the top teams in the five major regions.

Fnatic lost to every single team except the GPL’s Taipei Assassins. It became clear that the Chinese and Korean teams had developed a counter to the 4v0 meta that allowed them to freeze the minion wave top to get an advantage on the AD carry. Completely lacking an advanced concept of wave control, Fnatic fell hard against SK Telecom T1 and got run over by the team fighting prowess of Oh My God.

Perhaps in one of the most memorable humiliations in League of Legends eSports history, SK Telecom T1 fielded a roster of their World Championship skins, despite those champions not synergizing particularly well nor being in meta.

Like KT Bullets, SK Telecom T1 hadn't been performing well in Korea, but they demolished every opposing team at All Stars, demonstrating the full extent of Korean dominance. Sure, the game wasn't a stomp, but given how poorly those champions fit in the meta at the time, Fnatic should have won.

2014 EU LCS Summer champion picks

Champion Picks Wins WR (%)
Morgana 11 8 72.7
Thresh 11 8 72.7
Nami 3 2 66.7
Braum 1 0 0
Zyra 1 1 100
Alistar 1 0 0

Following All Stars, Fnatic returned to the European League of Legends Championship Series and picked up their first analyst in Alvar "Araneae" Martin Aleñar to contend with having fallen behind strategically. Yet Fnatic had even bigger problems in Europe.

Alliance, the super team that only managed to acquire two-fifths of the initially proposed roster, had finally begun to look like a dominant force. Fnatic lost to Alliance and SK Gaming in the first week of the summer split, foreshadowing events to come.

Of Fnatic, Henrik "Froggen" Hansen, the central figure of Alliance, said "Fnatic would rather go between lanes and get kills than focus objectives." This proved to be a very apt description of how games between Fnatic and Alliance would play out.

In response to YellOwStaR roaming more often, Rekkles began to follow. YellOwStaR got picks on champions like Morgana or Thresh, and Rekkles eliminated them with Lucian or Twitch. Alliance held lanes, pushed out, and use hyper scaling champions to chip at turrets and avoid direct confrontation until late game. Kog'Maw was favored by Alliance AD carry Tabzz and seemed to appear in every match against Fnatic to punish their lack of objective focus.

All summer, Alliance relied on other teams making mistakes. Very few squads took it upon themselves to force anything from Alliance, so they simply waited for openings. YellOwStaR himself said that he believed Alliance really capitalized on Fnatic’s mistakes (see video above). Alliance shut down Fnatic 3-1 in the LCS final that summer, handing Fnatic their only LCS loss in six splits to date.

More troubling than Fnatic’s lost summer split was the fact that they didn’t even look like the second best team in Europe. Fnatic barely bested Team ROCCAT in a five game series, and SK Gaming’s close games that met Alliance in objective prioritization made them look better than Fnatic. They secured the second seed into the World Championship, but Fnatic looked like only the third best team in Europe.

2014 World Championship champion picks

Champion Picks Wins WR (%)
Janna 2 1 50
Thresh 2 1 50
Nami 2 0 0

Following the 2015 European League of Legends Championship Summer final, sOAZ told theScore eSports in reference to 2014, "I've said it many times before, but the atmosphere on the team was really bad for the month leading up to Worlds. I was a bit down, but I still tried to focus on what I could." It certainly showed.

It's remotely possible YellOwStaR has an even year World Championship curse because, just as he did in 2012 with SK Gaming, YellOwStaR fell from the tournament in the group stage. During the World Championship, Fnatic displayed both a high ceiling and a disastrous low. Fnatic's highlight moment was their definitive dismantling of Samsung Blue, likely the strongest team in the world for most of the year in 2014. They simply hit the go button from spawn time, Rekkles ended with an impressive Lucian KDA of 8/1/5, and YellOwStaR a score of 0/1/9 on Thresh.

On the low end of the spectrum, Fnatic participated in one of the most strategically void games played at a World Championship against OMG. I haven't actually counted the number of bad trades of an inhibitor for Baron, illogical backs, or canceled auto attacks, but it's actually just bad, and in the end, Fnatic lost.

Naturally, lolesports awarded that game "Game of the Year" in 2014. It's fun to watch if you suspend critical thinking.

Despite the disaster of Fnatic's 2014 World Championship, I think of it as a unique time in YellOwStaR's career up to that point in which he was the single best performing player on his team. Even in the series against OMG where his teammates made terrible misplays every which way, YellOwStaR could make a highlight reel of Nami disengages.

Some would reflect and call Rekkles the best performing member of Fnatic at 2014 Worlds, but he really only excelled on Lucian. Even in losses, YellOwStaR landed the right Thresh hooks and used the right skillshots on Janna and Nami. While xPeke, Cyanide, and sOAZ struggled depending on the game, YellOwStaR maintained a powerful form and ended the tournament having out-warded every support he faced in the group, including Samsung Blue support, Lee "Heart" Gwanhyung.

By the end of 2014, YellOwStaR, a player who had never been a truly elite AD carry, despite the accolades he received, had become an elite European support. Yet Fnatic was in shambles. YellOwStaR had overcome his own battle for relevance after finding himself unable to compete as a shotcalling AD carry. Unfortunately, despite the high level of skill on the Fnatic roster, the team of sOAZ, Cyanide, xPeke, Rekkles, and YellOwStaR had reached a point where it had begun to tear at itself.

Many in the public sphere knew of the discontent within the Fnatic roster. Changes were coming. In the coming months, YellOwStaR would have to make a decision.

Kelsey Moser is staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.

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NicoThePico and Wolle join Fnatic as assistant-coach and analyst

by 6d ago

Nicholas "NicoThePico" Korsgård has joined Fnatic as an assistant-coach, and has brought with him analyst Wolfgang "Wolle" Landes, the team announced Thursday.

"Today we welcome Nico and Wolle to the LoL coaching staff here at Fnatic," Fnatic team manager Finlay "Quaye" Stewart said in the statement. "They bring with them a wealth of game knowledge and ideas that we believe will be essential to our preparations going into playoffs. Both of them are high elo players with analytical minds and strong perceptions of the game."

Earlier this month, NicoThePico was replaced as Origen's head coach by Alvar “Araneae” Martín. NicoThePico was given the position in April after working for the team for a month as an analyst.

RELATED: Origen confirms Araneae as latest head coach

"I am thrilled to join Fnatic as the League of Legends Assistant-Coach," Nico said in a statement. "I have great respect for the players and staff already here. I am honored to join their ranks and to have the privilege of representing Fnatic as a whole!"

Wolle was previously an analyst for SK Gaming and worked with NicoThePico at Origen. "I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work under Deilor as Fnatic's Analyst," he said in a statement. "My experience with previous LCS teams has showed me how important a healthy environment is. Therefore, I'm excited to join the most professional one Europe has to offer."

Fnatic is set to face off against Splyce today at 11 a.m. ET on Twitch.tv/eulcs1.

RELATED: Sugar, Splyce and everything nice: EU LCS Week 8 staff picks

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter, it'll be great for his self-esteem.

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Sugar, Splyce and everything nice: EU LCS Week 8 staff picks

theScore esports Staff 6d ago

theScore esports' League of Legends experts have tapped into their inner oracle for the eighth week of the European LCS Summer Split and offer up predictions for each of the games.

2016 EU LCS Summer Season Records: Emily Rand (25-45), Kelsey Moser (27-42) Tim Sevenhuysen (26-44).

THURSDAY RAND MOSER SEVENHUYSEN
 FNC vs. SPY Split Split FNC
H2K vs. VIT  H2K H2K H2K
OG vs. GIA GIA GIA Split
G2 vs. UOL G2 G2 G2
S04 vs. ROC S04 Split S04
FRIDAY RAND MOSER SEVENHUYSEN
H2K vs. SPY SPY SPY Split
GIA vs. VIT GIA GIA Split
G2 vs. S04 G2 G2 G2
UOL vs. ROC ROC Split UOL
OG vs. FNC FNC FNC FNC

Fnatic vs. Splyce

Rand: I picked this as a split set since I find it impossible to ever truly count Fnatic out, but if it goes with one team over the other, Splyce will likely take it. Since their first meeting in Week 3 — a 2-0 victory for Fnatic — Splyce have been one of Europe's more consistent teams, gelling in time to make a strong playoff push, and have yet to be swept since that Fnatic set.

Moser: Fnatic have managed to exert a great deal more pressure in the early game since adding Kikis to the roster. This happens, allegedly, due to increased communication flow creating more opportunities for the team to make plays through Teleports or other moves, avoiding a stagnant early game. This is important given the tight ability to close on a lead Splyce have demonstrated. The previous Fnatic roster, unable to exert early pressure and get a lead, would not fare well against Splyce, but in this scenario, I think Splyce make enough mistakes setting up their mid game lane assignments that Fnatic can get the lead in at least one game.

Sevenhuysen: Splyce is on a tear, only dropping a single game in their last five series. Their schedule has been relatively soft, though, aside from their 1-1 split with G2 Esports. Fnatic is their next real challenge, and to have a chance in the series, Trashy will need to bottle up Spirit, no small challenge. Fnatic takes 54.3 percent of the jungle CS in their games, on average, best in Europe, and Splyce is just fifth at 50.5 percent. The jungle should be a key area of advantage for Fnatic, which is why I’m calling for them to win 2-0.

G2 Esports vs. Unicorns of Love

Rand: Again, my Unicorns of Love curse will probably rear its ugly head here — when I pick them to win, they lose, and when I pick them to lose, they win — but I'm still going with Europe's top team, G2, over UOL.

Moser: Unicorns of Love reacted extremely well to some of Giants' weaknesses last week, but G2 don't have the same problems. They aren't easily set back by reckless and proactive moves, and could instead punish a lot of what the Unicorns like to do. I still get the sense that G2 are taking a more relaxed approach to their Game 1s, so Unicorns getting a first win isn't out of the question, but I must predict based on my assessment of the teams overall, and I see a 2-0 for G2.

Sevenhuysen: The Unicorns deserve credit for being 6-2 over their last four best-of- twos, but the only really noteworthy win was the one game they took off Fnatic, and that was before Kikis arrived. G2 is a different beast, and I don’t see the Unicorns standing up to the challenge. I’ve been impressed by Hylissang’s play, but Zven and mithy are the best duo lane in Europe. For G2, I want to see continued improvement from Perkz as we approach the playoffs. He still hasn’t gotten back to the form he displayed in the spring split.

H2K-Gaming vs. Splyce

Rand: For me, this series is a question of momentum. I don't doubt that H2K have the talent and wherewithal not only to split this set but to win it outright, yet their continued struggles and lack of coordination hint at internal confidence issues. Meanwhile, Splyce is on the rise, and even if they lose outright to Fnatic on Day 1, I think they'll be able to overcome H2K.

Moser: H2K-Gaming have lost pep in their step. Splyce have managed to take their 1-3-1 to another level that relies less on the jungle to work independently and have up and down agency. Splyce feel more like a unit when they play, and though their drafts may be less conventional than H2K's, I believe this will be the most important factor.

Sevenhuysen: It’s worth noting that H2K’s 2-0 losses last week came against G2 and Fnatic, the two best teams in the league. There are some signs of frustration showing through, possibly because they’ve shown minimal progress in fixing their long-standing teamfighting issues. That said, H2K still has enough going to take a game off Splyce, if they can keep their discipline and punish Splyce’s relatively weak early game.

theScore esports compiles staff picks for different leagues weekly. Let us know what you think by tagging our Twitter or liking us on Facebook.

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xPeke to start as ADC for Origen in Week 8 match against Fnatic

by 5d ago

Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez is starting as Origen's AD carry in their Week 8 match against Fnatic.

xPeke starts in place of recently signed ADC Augustas "Toaster" Ruplys, who was meant to replace the mid laner in the starting ADC role. Toaster started in Origen's Week 7 matches, as well as in their first Week 8 match against Giants.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Kelsey Moser's EU LCS Review: Champion select and the Top 3

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The EU LCS Coach’s Week has come and gone once again. For the week's matches, coaches lent their insight on the desk during the draft, and their interviews provided a glimpse into the coaching philosophies of some of Europe’s most celebrated League of Legends leaders.

To start the week, I investigated regional differences in pick priority, but to close the week, I want to examine how Europe’s Top 3 — Fnatic, G2 Esports and Splyce — create their compositions. EU's top teams seem to value aggressive jungle picks and a strict circle of top lane champions, along with their counters.

Yet even with these similarities, each team approaches their games with a unique style. Splyce generally gravitates towards more 1-3-1 style play, with their top laner choosing somewhat unconventional picks. G2 favor early skirmishes and teamfighting, with emphasis on their bottom lane and jungler. Fnatic tend to play much longer games. We can learn a lot about what makes each team's approach work by looking at the champions they value most and how they construct their drafts to make sure they can win games.

Overview

To establish a team's pick priorities, we combine the champions they ban, the champions banned against them, and the champions they pick. The assumption is that whether a team is picking or banning a champion, they place a high priority on it for some reason.

Opponents' bans similarly indicate the champion is important to a team, but opponents' picks aren’t necessarily high-priority for the team, so they are excluded. This is an imperfect measure, since opponents' first picks could be denial picks, but they could also be strong champion picks or neutral picks intended not to reveal a strategy, so there's no way to draw a simple distinction.

Only data from Patches 6.12 and 6.13 are used to avoid having to account for drastic shifts in the meta. As a result, only four weeks worth of data, 16 games per team, can be considered. These sample sizes aren’t robust and are only intended to provide a snapshot for further examination.

The top five picks for Fnatic, G2 Esports, and Splyce are listed below. Each champion's prioritization is expressed in a percentage of games played where the champion was picked by the team, banned against the team, or banned by the team.

Highest priority champions among the Top 3 EU teams

Champion FNC G2 SPY
Azir 88 75 56
Bard 38 44 69
Irelia 50 44 63
Karma 75 69 81
Nidalee 88 88 75
Olaf 81 88 44
Sivir 44 75 19
Vladimir 81 56 63

It appears G2 and Fnatic put much higher priority on aggressive jungle picks Nidalee and Olaf (with Olaf having the ability to flex to the top lane), and Splyce is happy to take Rek'Sai or other jungle champs instead. Fnatic highly values the Azir pick, much more than Splyce in particular. Splyce has a much lower value on Sivir, and a strong preference for Bard and Irelia. Fnatic have also kept a very high Vladimir priority, while G2 and Splyce value Vladimir much less, especially in the most recent week of the LCS.

Fnatic have a much stronger preference for wave clear mid lane champions, which is what we've seen in their games. This also means they'll favor Karma or Braum (who can counter enemy wave clear) more than Bard. Splyce favors Bard the most of the three, and G2 favors Bard more than Fnatic. We can see Splyce and G2 working much more off of picks and plays made earlier on in the game by their support players. Fnatic also have a slightly longer average game time than G2 or Splyce, though not considerably, which likely corresponds with their preference for wave clear mids.

An Irelia priority for Splyce reflects a lower tendency to pick tank top laners. Martin "Wunder" Hansen's duelist style is much more suited to the 1-3-1 approach, which means one might expect them to favor a wave clear AD carry like Sivir. Splyce instead have a higher priority on Caitlyn and use her traps to stall pushes mid lane. Top and mid lane usually carry the team through mid game while Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup scales, making them more willing to pick Caitlyn's weak mid game than G2 or Fnatic.

G2's high Sivir and Olaf priority reflects their tendency toward collapse compositions. As a team, G2 like to hit hard-and-fast. They also use Sivir to push out waves aggressively to create passive side lane vision, invade the jungle, and look for opportunities through jungle control.

Comparison of champion priorities among the Top 3 EU teams

Red (1): The team picked, banned, or had this champion banned against them in more than 75 percent of games they played.
Yellow (2): The team picked, banned, or had this champion banned against them in 50-75 percent of games they played.
Green (3): The team picked, banned, or had this champion banned against them in 40-50 percent of games they played.

Expanding the scope to examine all champions Fnatic, G2, or Splyce prioritized in at least 40 percent of their games on Patches 6.12 and 6.13, we can see which champions have unique priority among the Top 3 teams. Those champions are Braum, Elise, and Gnar for Fnatic, Ryze for G2, and Caitlyn and Taliyah for Splyce.

Gnar can duel and teamfight, allowing Fnatic to both stall lanes and win battles. Ryze benefits a lot from Sivir, so though he has largely fallen out of favor in the EU LCS, he still works well with other picks G2 like to play, and the style of collapse they like to use. Splyce's preference for Caitlyn over Sivir comes through more clearly (though they will also play the likes of Lucian for a similar reason), and they enjoy using Taliyah as a flex pick given Wunder's unique champion pool. Taliyah can provide pressure globally and works in their 1-3-1 style.

Highest priority champions by draft rotation

Team Last ban First pick First rotation red side Last pick
FNC Elise; Shen; Braum Nidalee; Vladimir Azir; Gnar; Jhin; Nami Braum
G2 Azir Karma Karma; Olaf; Rek'Sai; Sivir N/A
SPY Shen; Azir; Irelia; Ryze Karma Rek'Sai Gnar

Given the small sample size, the pick frequency of each champion in the blue-side first pick, red-side first rotation or last-pick phases won't be very high. Picks are included if they are the most frequently picked, or picked one less time than the most frequently picked. In the eight games played by G2 on red side, the team picked a unique champion each time, so they were not included.

G2 and Splyce seem to prefer to last-ban Azir, rather than play the champion. While Azir gives Fnatic the high-wave clear they prefer, the champ requires setup and doesn't synergize very well with the collapse style of G2, or the double-Teleport and split-push style of Splyce.

Fnatic's tendency to first-pick Nidalee again shows the emphasis they put on their jungler. Lee "Spirit" Dayoon's somewhat selfish carry style and heavy farming synergize well with Nidalee. Fnatic are also willing to pick Gnar or Azir early in red-side first rotation, in addition to the typical bottom lane or jungle picks. G2 favors high-mobility choices early, which often gives away their game plan, but also reflects the general strength of those champions.

Splyce's fondness for Rek'Sai in early rotation just shows the jungle champion is safe. Though Jonas "Trashy" Andersen has gained recognition, he doesn't get pick priority for either first or last pick, and Rek'Sai is a well-rounded jungle pick that won't necessarily do as much damage as Nidalee or Olaf, but will provide a lot of utility and still clear well.

There isn't a lot of data to make the last pick datapoint robust, but last-picking the Braum reflects Fnatic's willingness to give up Karma and try to counter fast-push or simply play a safe laning phase generally. Braum can also bait enemies into choosing assassins or other champions with combos that can be countered by Stand Behind Me.

Splyce's last pick Gnar only shows their preference for last-picking top lane.

The above graph reflects the percentage of blue-side games in which each team will first-pick their top, jungle, mid, AD carry or support champion. Again keeping the small size of the sample in mind, one can see Fnatic's willingness to take jungle first. This is either when Olaf is available and can be flexed, or when the enemy team leaves Nidalee open, a champion Fnatic highly prioritize.

G2's frequent first-picking of support both reflects how highly they value Karma and their trust in Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez to make the pick worthwhile. In all four instances in which Karma was first picked for G2, it was used as support. In this case, it has less value as a flex pick. As the patch changes and melee supports become popular again, G2 may still favor a first-pick support.

Splyce also first-picked Karma as a support every time, but were also willing to first-pick both Sivir and Caitlyn. Kobbe's willingness to first-pick an ADC means Splyce can deny opponent ADCs their preferred picks. Splyce may prioritize Sivir even more highly in coming weeks, given that she also serves the mid lane wave clear function well, and Caitlyn has fallen in popularity due to her mid-game weaknesses and vulnerability to flanks.

The most noticeable variation between teams in the distribution of red-side first rotations is that Fnatic have a fairly even distribution among all roles of top, jungle, mid, AD carry and support, while G2 and Splyce heavily favor picking their jungle in red-side first rotation. Since a lot of emphasis is placed on making Spirit comfortable, Fnatic will pick his jungle champion early in the draft if it's Nidalee, but will otherwise wait for a counter-pick later and even be willing to choose a solo lane in first rotation instead. This opens them up to counter-picks or the enemy team reading their strategy.

All three teams tend to save their top lane for last-pick more often than mid lane, diverging from the general trend in the EU LCS. Since the sample size for the league as a whole is much larger than that of individual teams, the apparently negligible difference between last-picked top lane versus mid lane in EU LCS as a whole could potentially account for roughly the same number of total games as the difference for the individual teams. Yet Fnatic, especially with Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek, look for top lane counter-pick frequently to be able to pressure a 1-4 split-push advantage. G2 will last-pick top lane when they can secure Irelia for Ki "Expect" Daehan, which has had mixed results. Because of Wunder's unique champion pool, Splyce will also try to put him into an advantageous position, and if they do choose Taliyah early, they can flex it into the mid lane and still counter-pick the top lane last.

The mid laners of Fnatic, G2, and Splyce are incredibly versatile. They are willing to choose a wave clear mid and hold the lane (like Fnatic's Azir) or a more niche mid lane pick and pressure the appropriate advantage when it arises. Meanwhile, the EU LCS top lane meta has evolved in such a way that strict counters exist to some of the favorite picks like Irelia, Gnar and Trundle. Choosing one of these champions first with their counter up can sink a team's win conditions, so picking a top lane champion last may have, at least in part, contributed to the success of EU's top teams.

Patch 6.14 will hit the EU LCS next week. Support champions like Leona and Sona have been heavily altered, and Ryze received a complete rework. From this data, one can guess that G2 — with the value they place on mobility and support flexibility — will react well. Ban priority might shift a lot to include the new Ryze, meaning that some of the last-banned champions may get through more often.

G2 and Fnatic will likely continue to prioritize their desired jungle picks. Top lane counters will remain powerful. A lot of these identities will be retained. As the split develops, revisiting and building upon conclusions on the champion selects for G2, Fnatic, and Splyce will be worthwhile, since it will let us assess whether or not G2, Fnatic, and Splyce have remained true to their identities from Patches 6.12 and 6.13, and understand better why pick priorities are shifting. This will give a more complete picture of how the teams operate within their dynamic and what they'll look for when they draft against teams internationally.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.

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Rekkles on Kikis joining FNC: 'Gamsu didn't really have the same drive as everyone else on the team'

Karina Ziminaite

Fnatic wrapped up their series against FC Schalke 04 with a tie, keeping a hold on their second place spot with only a few weeks left to go in the EU LCS Summer Split.

theScore esports got the chance to meet up with Fnatic's AD carry Martin "Rekkles" Larsson to discuss his team's Week 7 result, why he thinks motivation issues was the deciding factor in adding Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek and why Lee "Spirit" Da-yoon was feeling down after the departure of Noh "Gamsu" Yeong-jin.

For more video interviews and highlights, be sure to subscribe to theScore esports on YouTube.

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