One can make the argument that Europe just endured the most important week in its entire League of Legends history. Fnatic are an unstoppable juggernaut and are sitting at a perfect 14-0 on the season. Yet in this momentous occasion (and likely the cementing of their flawless record in this split) Europe has been shown to be far closer than previously thought.
The playoffs are no longer a cut and dry event. The future is not certain. Here is a rundown of a reborn Europe, one that is immeasurably improved for the presence of it’s current king.
1) Fnatic (14-0)
They are the best team that the west has developed so far. Lest the legions of TSM and old C9 fanboys misunderstand what I am saying, allow me to restate: this is the single greatest team in the European and North American LCS ever, to date. A staggering 14-0 record. At the 12-0 point they looked entirely unbeatable. After this last weekend we now know they are mortal and teams are catching up.
The vulnerabilities of Fnatic lie within their own individual talent. The weaknesses of their rivals are in their performances as a set of five. Once Origen and H2K patch these out they could well soar far and above Fnatic, but this golden age of Europe will have occurred on Fnatic’s back. TSM eat your heart out. These are the true Legends of season five.
2) Origen (10-4)
Meet your grand finalists. If any team is to take out Fnatic, it would be Origen. Origen took over the map like no other team has against Fnatic. They hit hardest where it hurts them the most: sidewaves. This control led to Fnatic making their biggest strategic error of the split. Origen’s weaknesses are far more prevalent than Fnatic’s though.
Their draft phase is inconsistent to say the least, even coming in with their solid game plan against Fnatic they allowed themselves to fall into almost exclusively AP picks. In their first loss against ROCCAT they held no hard crowd control and lost for it. Sejuani when Evelynn is open. Listless errors. Their game plan is typically binary too, though they diversified against Fnatic and have shown great progress. Origen could be Europe’s great hope yet.
3) H2K Gaming (9-5)
Tilt is the only reason they aren’t running neck-and-neck with Origen and it may well cost them coming into playoffs. H2K are one of the three I hold with a running chance of surpassing Fnatic, and any hope at taking first place in the playoffs relies on you being able to pull off the victory against them. I have spoken about Fnatic so much in the top three that you can really understand how high the bar is set by them.
H2K have no weaknesses in lane, but their jungler lacks. In terms of early pressure he has a lot to work on, but snowballing these advantages in the mid to late game with co-ordinated dives and picks ensure loulex has had a role to play in his team’s victories. The throw to Fnatic may call into question just how far H2K can feasibly go with this inconsistency though and the remaining few weeks may be critical to loulex’s future.
4) Giants Gaming (7-7)
Giants, how I wish I could say you are my dark horse for playoffs. But alas it is not to be. I love you G0DFRED, I really do. The team has made immense strides since your addition. Your roles as a shotcaller and their now very unique style of vision control has taken them higher than any of us could have predicted. WerlyB, how wrong I was. You are not a player that will remain stuck in a Morsu-esque role of split-pushing forever. You stepped up in the Galio game to no end.
Even you, PePii, with your builds and rune pages that make no sense whatsoever. When your team recognised an OP you took it, ran one AD quint and all MPen thereafter and hard carried against that great bulldozer of the west Fnatic. But alas I do not believe that is enough for a full playoff run. Fear not for this is not on any specific individual. All of you have overperformed. You have grown as a team and exceeded all expectations. You took everything I condemned your team to and threw it out of the window. You have proved me and all of your detractors wrong and have won my respect like no other team has.
Giants have a lot to be proud of. I will be eagerly watching them until the end.
5) Unicorns of Love (7-7)
It’s going to be a 9-9 again isn’t it? Or is it.
The Unicorns of Love have undergone a roster change. It was pretty much a public assumption that this was a group of friends but the change itself is actually rather commonplace for this team: the jungle. Former UoL jungler Dan from their early reign of the challenger scene was first earmarked, but instead another former UoL jungler, Gilius, is returning to replace his own replacement. Changing junglers is not a new deal for the Unicorns, but their fans who were introduced to them at the voting list of San Jose may well be in shock.
The Unicorns ran this even score right up until the playoffs last time, and this time I will say exactly the same thing: this is one of the best series teams in the west. I will never count out the Unicorns of Love, though a large amount of that was due to their mental fortitude - a larger amount was due to their draft phase. They set up baits within baits throughout the series. Daring, bold, brave. Hopefully Gillius doesn’t interfere with that. He’s no Kikis, after all.
6) Gambit Gaming (6-8)
This is my dark horse for playoffs. Gambit stumbled upon the formula to beat Fnatic two weeks prior to the H2K/Origen gauntlet and were two decisions away from carrying it through to the end. The latter ended in some of the greatest tilts I have ever seen, but regardless Gambit are on their way.
Seeing the strategical evolution of Gambit Gaming from a team struggling to win a single thing to a team able to contend with the best in the west has been incredible.I can only imagine what Gambit fans have felt at this progress. Their laners are some of the greatest individual talents in Europe right now. Cabochard, Forg1ven, even Diamondprox are all star names or soon-to-be star names. Betsy is arguably their weak point, but mechanically he is incredibly proficient.
If he and Gambit as a whole can make one or two less bad decisions before they crumble into tilt, they have a serious shot at playoffs.
7) Team ROCCAT (6-8)
ROCCAT. ROCCAT, ROCCAT, ROCCAT. You give us such hope at the start of every season. Well not anymore me I’m a born-again cynic. I’ve learnt my lesson. You could import Faker and I’d expect you below fifth place now. That way maybe, just maybe, I won’t be disappointed.
But you’re bringing it back. Nukeduck is getting the control he needs, the island he wants. MrRallez is working out wonderfully. A smart, positional ADC not afraid to take a more strategic role in the early-mid game. A lesser Tabzz, perhaps, and he is working so well. You’re doing it again ROCCAT. You’re giving me hope. If you’re going to give me hope, please don’t mess it up again.
8) Elements (5-9)
The last Elements fan is dead.
Elements have problems. This is obvious if you just look at them. While the vast majority of teams will be playing to a specific identity (GIANTS’ sidelanes, Fnatic’s wave control, Origen’s ignorance of turrets) Elements don’t seem to play towards any such thing. They just play their lanes, try to win it, and hope for the best. There is no specific strategy to an Elements game. They are just played out like a high level solo queue game and sometimes their comps make sense.
This is a team that nobody would care about were it not for it’s superstar mid laner. A team with Froggen on it is automatically going to garner a fanbase, hope and pride. He is one of the most prestigious faces in the League of Legends scene but his experiment has faltered. Times were good once, but the weight of the world and the changing meta have proven too much. If Elements change with the world it won’t be on roster swaps, it will be on fundamental restructuring of the way the team is run.
9) SK Gaming (4-10)
How the mighty have fallen.
SK Gaming make one roster change and everything falls. Arguably the Cinderhulk patch was a suffering for Svenskeren, a player most at home when he lives in his opponent's jungle. Yet he was still carrying in playoffs with his Lee Sin and this split has still made a case for himself as the best jungler in Europe. If a lane is a win condition, he controls both halves of the jungle around it and makes it his.
The loss of Forg1ven was supposed to bring the strong mental fortitude the SK of season four held. That is not enough. Though Candypanda himself is doing well, SK as a whole have not won a single game without nRated on Lulu, a support that provides effective disengage and safety and generally allows her team to make up for mis-positionings and misplays. Perhaps it also makes up for the player himself.
SK have problems. Their mid laner Fox was a driving light and though he frequently tops damage boards and has made it onto Fantasy LCS toplists, none of it seems to be enough. If you want to see the style of the SK of season four, look to H2K now. For the joy of ‘as five’, look to Fnatic. But this SK is neither their spring split self nor their season four band of brothers. It is a broken team, a broken org and all that is left is to ensure it’s players are not left broken in it’s stead.
10) Copenhagen Wolves (2-12)
The Copenhagen Wolves made it to playoffs last split, but they are now coming off a series of Riot rulings which has seen the team near-collapse. Lenny may well get the award for the worst debut in the history of the LCS, allowing Cabochard to get the Cabochard Horizon named after him (approaching triple Lenny’s CS, over 200 more). A terrible lane swap can be attributed to poor communication yes but the ability to freeze a lane is all on the laner, as is the decision to.
Things haven’t looked up for the Copenhagen Wolves since. They remain even for maybe 10 minutes, at most 15, and then the sheer inexperience of their new players and the lack of practice the roster as a whole have had is made all too obvious. The rumoured complete collapse of SK may be a godsend and a blessing, but the Wolves have to win two more games to get to that tiebreaker, and it doesn’t look at all likely.
Michael “Veteran” Archer is an EU expert, analyst, professional writer and robin enthusiast who thinks Korea will lose to Europe at Worlds in a best-of. You can follow him on Twitter.