If you recall, I published a lengthy primer for the European League of Legends Championship Series. It's difficult to completely assess what I predicted incorrectly, but a look at what teams are beginning to do well or where they can improve upon is the first task of this year's European League of Legends Championship Series roundups.
The Fnatic and Origen rivalry continues
Despite the absence of Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim and the universal prediction by theScore eSports staff that Fnatic would take time to perform while Origen would gel naturally, a dominating performance by the Kings of LCS opened the new season. Let's first look at what Fnatic did well, beginning with one of the most intimidating new additions to the European league.
One key point in Fnatic's draft was the Olaf pick, which does a really good job of negating Lissandra's and Trundle's kiting in getting to the back lane. It's also quite strong in a meta where top laners are still incredibly important because of the priority on turret-taking and split-pushing (as well as the tank buff from Last Whisper's changes).
Then Lee "Spirit" Dayoon got a slight advantage from bottom lane leashing his red buff, allowing him to begin pressuring Origen's jungler, Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider, away form his camps as early as four minutes in. Fnatic could track Amazing's movements, so though Origen acquired first blood, Spirit and Gamsu quickly reacted to allow Fnatic to win the trade with two kills.
These small advantages on a jungler who will be involved in much of the action and a top laner who can have high pressure due to Teleport don't aid Fnatic in isolation. The fact that, following the acquisition of these advantages, Fnatic continued to make proactive moves on lanes or when Teleport came off cooldown, shows an understanding of how they want their team to play this season. Even the bottom lane of Martin "Rekkles" Larsson and Lewis "Noxiak" Felix showed increased aggression. Fnatic want to control the pace of the game, and in games that snowball quickly off turrets and early Barons, that's key.
Origen, meanwhile, lost control in small exchanges. Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage over-extended mid without flank wards on multiple occasions made him an easy target and Amazing's highlighted attempt at an engage on Gamsu after missing his Sonic Wave actually made me laugh out loud. Origen have committed these small mistakes before, but two things made them more punishing: a general lack of focus, probably resulting from extra time off, and the accelerated pace of the game. More ambient gold, turret changes, and longer death timers mean Origen can't afford as many laning phase transgressions. They should tighten their play with more time.
The PerkZ of G2
Elements played as anticipated. The early attempt at a gank top fits Berk "Gilius" Demir, but mid laner Jérémy "Eika" Valdenaire used his Teleport for it without a payoff. Unfortunately, putting one's self behind against Luka "PerkZ" Perković, G2 Esports' main carry, can spell disaster. G2 Esports is used to propping PerkZ, so it wasn't difficult for them to identify an advantage to pressure.
Unlike POE, PerkZ used a small creep advantage to buy double Doran's Ring and wards to place vision on his flanks and continue pushing hard against Eika. So while Gilius continued to pressure top and obtain First Blood, PerkZ took the opportunity to solo kill his disadvantaged opponent.
The unfortunate thing in the two solo lane matchups is that Tahm Kench can scale pretty easily, even with deaths. Since Fiora doesn't necessarily outpush Kench, Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek remained even in farm and rushed Dead Man's Plate, allowing him to be effective. Meanwhile Ryze found himself easily pushed in, and heavy river ward coverage made it easy for G2 to pull Gilius mid and acquire double kills.
It's not that G2 didn't make mistakes. An awkward attempt at a dive bottom could have been better punished by Elements. It's simply that G2 had a much better understanding of where their strengths lied and how to snowball that advantage. Steve didn't exert anywhere near the same amount of pressure PerkZ did with his advantage. Both teams made sacrifices to get solo laners ahead, but PerkZ did considerably more than Steve, making the approach more successful.
Steve doesn't necessarily seem like the type of player who has made use of advantages as a carry in the past. It will be extremely difficult for him to adapt to this new role, so Elements want to at least prevent a change in Gilius' stubborn ways.
H2K "don't play solo queue"
"I think we played like 15 games together as a team so far."
—Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu
H2K Gaming's match against Giants Gaming represented one of the most dominant out-macros we've seen so far this season. Though Giants showed they could fake out H2K with a top invade and plan a trap for Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou-Napoleon that forced him to blow both summoner spells, they failed on the follow-through.
To pressure the burnt summoners, it may have made sense for jungler Tri "k0u" Tin Lam to start his red buff and move bottom for an early gank on FORG1VEN. Unfortunately, it seemed Giants expected a lane swap from H2K after they blew the summoners and reacted by starting k0u on blue and sending their own duo lane top. H2K reacted immediately by sending Odoamne to the duo lane to initiate a fast push, in keeping with H2K's usual playstyle and the lack of desirability of jungle follow since the camp experience changes.
Unfortunately, Giants reacted poorly and initiated a jungle follow before realizing their mistakes and responded with their own fast push. Giants then looked for a multi-Teleport mid lane play that backfired when Yu "Ryu" Sangook escaped and H2K could get farm and wave push advantages in both side waves. From there, H2K intelligently transitioned their duo lane across the map to pick off exposed turrets while Odoamne split and maintained minion flow on other parts of the map. The only real action occurred as a desperation play mid that backfired, granting H2K more gold in a 2-for-1 trade.
Giants failed to show good understanding of wave control or turret pressure in this game, losing to H2K's tight control, despite their reported lack of practice together. Any plays they did take didn't result in kills, and they failed to identify the lane swap. Perhaps if they had not made that crucial early mistake, this could have been a different game. Continued mistakes and misattribution of pressure, however, seem to indicate that Giants have a lot to learn if they want to make a run. It's "unlucky."
Wunder — where?
Despite the lack of Day 1 success with Ryze, the pick still has a fair amount of power. It just requires more emphasis on preserving and propping up Ryze's lane to succeed. By picking Varus and allowing the Unicorns of Love to make a mid lane counterpick, even more emphasis went onto Martin "Wunderwear" Hansen's shoulders.
Despite ineffectual movements to the top lane by both junglers, Kiss "Vizicsacsi" Tamás' lane against Wunderwear became the obvious target for early pressure. Since Ryze needs early support to prevent the game from snowballing against him, and Vizicsacsi seems like the clear player to snowball in absence of PowerOfEvil, top laners were priority targets. At five minutes in, Danil "Diamondprox" Reshetnikov identified the correct lane and earned his team first blood.
From there, things just got worse for Splyce. Diamondprox made the duo lanes his next target, giving his own scaling carry, Pierre "Steeelback" Medjald's Ezreal, an advantage and a way to back and acquire an early Tear. Hampus "Fox" Myhre used his matchup advantage to punish Chres "Sencux" Laursen, and the game went into the Unicorns' advantage.
Splyce's problem was a misidentification of their strengths. Putting most of the pressure into Wunderwear's pocket left him with a 0/4/0 score line when both other lanes have more carry potential. Meanwhile, Unicorns made sure to get their own strong point, their top laner, ahead first. Delegating Sencux to a stronger champion instead of wave clear duty is a better option for Splyce.
All Shook Up
Despite coming out even in the early swap, Vitality very strangely kept attempting to send their jungle, top, and duo lane together to push turrets. ROCCAT constantly responded with a free man defense, leaving either their top laner or AD carry to farm creeps on the other side of the map, resulting in a creep score lead for Karim "Safir" Tokhi in particular.
To make matters worse, Ilyas "Shook" Hartsema decided to take his red buff on the bottom side of the map while Vitality's duo lane traveled top. With no vision on ROCCAT's jungler, who had just set up invasion vision while Shook was pushing with the team, he was able to create a counter play with Safir and earn first blood. These advantages and continued pressure in the proper lanes gave ROCCAT the game.
Vitality just seemed to show a general confusion for how to react to pick up turrets in the early game. A more methodical approach or looking for a gank rather than four-man pushes probably would have made more sense. Shook's nonchalance in invading the jungle is also puzzling, but Karim "Airwaks" Benghalia should be praised for maintaining strong vision control and constantly staying ahead of Shook throughout the game.
As I perviously predicted, it might be hard to find stability for Shook and to find a strong system for Vitality. Looking more at early game planning might help them find what works for them instead of resulting in another failed — I won't even say it — team of promising talents.
The major takeaway of the first day is that teams that already understand their strengths have an easier time making a powerful early game plan. Almost every successful team went into the game confidently and either capitalized on a mistake by their opponent or had a clear understanding of their own dynamic. If teams keep this in mind, they can succeed this season, but otherwise the pace of the game will be punishing.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.