“It wasn’t just that this team threw a bunch of names together at the last minute and just happened to get a good team. This team was constructed through a logical set of moves and every step of the way wasn’t just the right decision but the best decision a small organization like this could make. As a result I think they’ve won the off-season.”
ROCCAT is a team defined by an identity crisis. Following their moderately successful debut season, ROCCAT has fielded new rosters that were met with high expectations but despite having all the winning components, the winning formula was never there. As an outspoken fan and believer in the Old God killer Nukeduck, I have to say I found myself disappointed and let down on more than one occasion in spring, only to have my hopes briefly renewed in the summer.
I have to say that unlike many, I was disappointed by the initial changes to the ROCCAT roster. The first five of Xaxus/Jankos/Overpow/Celaver/Vander had finally found their own in the Summer 2014 Playoffs. Though their map control left much to be desired, Jankos’ had perfected his early game to an art and Celaver had turned from a potential liability into a credible threat. This was particularly shown in their semifinals performance against Fnatic, taking the three time LCS champions to the full five games with standout performances from every member.
That first five had begun with issues, but they worked through them and came out the other side stronger. Each player had finally found their niche within the team and their stronger teamfighting and tighter control around neutral objectives reflected that. None of those removed from the roster would find that synergy again. Celaver went from carrying what was arguably the game of the split, to being stuck at the lower end of the Challenger Series. Xaxus met a similar fate.
Of those left, Jankos and Vander were expected to become star players in their own right to finally meet their potential. In a region that infamously lacked abundant support talent, Vander had begun 2014 as an up and comer with his Thresh play earning him the nickname Vanderlife. Limiting his champion pool to purely pick potential in Spring, he expanded in the summer to include Leona, Nami and Braum alongside his revered Thresh and Morgana.
Jankos had no such issues. Jankos was able to play every meta jungler at the time and began to develop a reputation as the ‘First Blood Machine’. Rather fitting for an Elise main, a champion that excels in early dives and mid game pick potential. In tandem with Vander, the pair would dictate the game for ROCCAT. Overpow at this time would often aid Jankos in applying pressure around the map, compensating for his inability to match up in raw skill to his opposing mids (two CS records were broken against Overpow). Mid game, the dual pick potential of Jankos and Vander would set fights perfectly in ROCCAT’s favor and allow them to push forward to a victory.
This very binary playstyle was figured out and exposed. For the roster to find themselves by the Summer 2014 playoffs was to be applauded. The roster collapse shortly thereafter was disappointing. It was very unlikely they would find such synergy again. The problems they had developed and fixed would potentially appear again. If they were going to let go of this two year long project, they’d better have a damn good roster in mind. They did.
Rookie of the split, Woolite, would replace Celaver. I was particularly sad to see Celaver go due to the aforementioned game of his life but happy that Woolite found a place. The Copenhagen Wolves was already developing a lineage of AD carry players starting with Forg1ven, and Woolite was a good place to continue it. For the Copenhagen Wolves, he was a positional AD carry, very consistent, a seemingly safe bet but far from a pure carry in his own right. If we went by the idea of Rekkles/Forg1ven/Tabzz being at the height of their respective styles, Woolite would be a Rekkles.
Overpow was getting replaced by Nukeduck. This is the big one. To have a strong positional AD carry in the bottom lane, you need to have somewhere else to transfer. From the outset Nukeduck looked perfect. A true veteran of the scene, Nukeduck had fallen on hard times after his ill-fated departure from Lemondogs to the seemingly cursed organization of Ninjas in Pyjamas. Being surprised and upset by KMT in the relegation match (who would ironically go on to become ROCCAT), Nukeduck spent season four in the Challenger Scene, failing again to go forward to the LCS after bowing out to Millennium in a full five game set. However, Nukeduck in his own right was seemingly still Nukeduck. He who stood up to the Old Gods of Europe and took the regular split of Summer 2013 and dominated solo queue to this day. A prodigy of the school of Incarnati0n. This was surely the carry mid laner through and through that would send ROCCAT to a top three spot in the LCS.
Unfortunately, Overpow was moved to top.
An immediate criticism of this move was obvious from Overpow’s playstyle. He was not a strong laner at all. His strength in 2014 was to buff up the pressure Jankos applied around the map. He would avoid the mid lane all together against his stronger opponents and who could forget his Spirit of the Spectral Wraith Ziggs that emphasized his capitalization of jungle camps to stay up in cs. Now, he was expected to hold the top lane. He doesn’t have the option of roaming here. Perhaps a good lane swap could mitigate the issue, but Overpow had been maining Irelia to an almost Wickd extent. Moreover, in spite of being new to the role, Overpow had begun to pick a new champion every game and you could generally begin to predict if ROCCAT did well by Overpow’s KDA.
Overpow had, in effect, made himself a win condition on a team with Nukeduck.
This presented issues. The way Nukeduck/Jankos was supposed to run was simple on paper. The First Blood Machine would feed the original solo carry early kills and the bane of the Old Gods would take over the game. Instead Jankos had to continue to concentrate on side lanes like he did the previous season out of necessity. If he did not find success then the team as a whole would find failure. This complete ignorance and skewering of ROCCAT’s win conditions would spell death for a team that many considered would be top three on paper.
It is a true shame because coming into a team with the dual pick potential of Jankos/Vander should have yielded Nukeduck the exact type of atmosphere he wanted. On his assassins, Nukeduck should have found pick after pick in his opponent’s jungle in tandem with Jankos or ended mid game fights before they began with Vander. Instead, the picks never came and Nukeduck was not allowed to become the carry everyone expected of him. Due in large part to an identity crisis ROCCAT brought upon themselves.
Instead, it appears Woolite decided to step up. Gone was the safe, positional AD carry of old and onwards and upwards was the new and re-tooled Woolite. Woolite was already known for being more aggressive in lane than his positional teamfighting would otherwise indicate, but he took that to epic proportions. Frequent appearances of Jankos topside would not spell good things for the Woolite lane, let alone Nukeduck. Woolite in teamfights became far less patient, seemingly looking to be the playmaker they had lost in the mid. His late game decision making became infamous, frequently backing in places he had no business backing.
To enter the Summer Split, the arguably star studded team of ROCCAT had to defeat the Copenhagen Wolves Academy in promotions. This was an incredible low for the team whose final LCS match had been a loss to the auto-relegated and controversy-engulfed Meet Your Makers. This time, the need for change was apparent to all. Coach Ducky was replaced with MYM’s outgoing YamatoCannon and Overpow was finally removed in favor of a career top laner, Steve.
This iteration of ROCCAT didn’t hit the ground running. An early victory against Gambit, who were themselves struggling with new addition of Forg1ven and a lack of coach, was all they would find before a perfect storm arrived in the form of Origen. Messing up the draft phase, Origen gave ROCCAT their opening and ROCCAT took teamfight after teamfight against Origen’s distinct lack of hard crowd control. This was the final game Woolite played with the team before MrRallez came on board.
MrRallez was a more intelligent Woolite. I’ve often classed MrRallez as the Tabzz-echelon of AD carries and this is often excellent with a mid laner who requires a lot of attention. MrRallez can transfer his power into other lanes and retain a positional role in teamfights. ROCCAT didn’t gel immediately, but took off in the second week with their first 2-0 since week three of spring 2015. Jankos was finally taking mid priority with the attention of sidelanes no longer a constant need and Nukeduck was given a comfortable position to carry from. He took the mantle of Varus, a mid game poke champion that had the carrying potential he needed.
This new ROCCAT gave so much hope and was far from a bottom three team. They went on to take out H2K Gaming with Nukeduck stepping up on Viktor for an 8-0-6 scoreline. They took out Origen again in their next meeting with a very aggressive Yasuo pick mid, like the Nukeduck of old. Steve had settled into a cycle of Maokai and Rumble, either peeling for his carries or zoning to facilitate them. Both were also low economy champions that did not require excessive attention to become a factor mid-late game.
The Highest Note
It is sad when the highest peak a top three roster achieved was to finally make playoffs. ROCCAT went the full five in a series against the Unicorns of Love. The Unicorns have always been an underrated series team and the acquisition of H0R0 gave them an unprecedented early game impact. Watching the Unicorns’ consistently take the gold lead at fifteen minutes is a terrifying sight to behold, but nonetheless ROCCAT endured. They picked a mid-game focused composition and swept games through brute force before the Unicorns could scale and react.
In the final game, the mental fortitude of the Unicorns of Love came through again.
In the end it wasn’t a draft, it wasn’t a setup and it wasn’t necessarily a strategy that would be the downfall of ROCCAT. It was synergy. It was the one thing the old team had finally developed, only to be traded out for fool’s gold in the promises of a paper perfect roster. The Unicorns of Love were able to split them up and through sheer will, Viziscacsi split pushed to victory. It’s the mindset that has always been the Unicorn’s greatest asset. It’s one that was never ROCCAT’s. It’s one that needs to be developed over time.
There is time yet. ROCCAT have finally snapped the pieces together. If ROCCAT play with Steve but iron out the weaknesses of their playstyle, or if Dart can continue the low economic playstyle of Steve and facilitate their carries, ROCCAT have a strong chance at taking games. Perhaps through another miracle they can take it all. Even if they don’t, they finally have a formula, and all that is left is to refine it.
Michael “Veteran” Archer was an avid worshipper of the Old Gods but has since been corrupted to worship the Killer What Hates Barbers. You can follow him on Twitter.