“I have an opinion.”
Overwhelmingly, this is the response of pundits to any lolesports list article. lolesports have a habit of publishing controversial rankings of “best players” or teams. Their recently released LCS Spring Split awards prompted some of the most intense head-scratching to date. One of the primary reasons for this was that these awards were delivered as a result of counted ballots. When votes are compiled to select an aggregate winner, it’s difficult to find consistent reasoning as to why individuals are chosen for their awards.
I was the only person from theScore esports to participate in the lolesports voting, and I was only asked to submit votes for “MVP,” “Rookie,” and “Coach” awards. I only chose to submit votes for the EU LCS. Since I far and away prefer the opportunity to lay out my thoughts transparently to aggregated votes, I’ll reveal the votes I cast here as well as my choices for the other categories.
Most Valuable Player: Kim “Trick” Gangyun
I should first clarify what I mean when I say MVP. The Most Valuable Player is a player who most contributes to the team’s wins. This means both that this player has performed well and that his team has positioned him to best utilize his strengths and compensate for his weaknesses. Winning the MVP means both that you’ve done well and that your team has played exceptionally around you. You have defined your team's playstyle.
It doesn’t mean that the winner of the MVP award is the best player in the league or even the best player on his team.
In choosing an MVP, it’s difficult to look outside the top two or three teams. If a team hasn’t reached the height of the league, their team hasn’t best utilized their players’ strengths, and it’s difficult for the MVP of a league to properly represent his league if his team cannot reach the top.
It’s with all these factors in mind that I chose Trick as the MVP of the European League of Legends Championship Series. G2 reached the top of the league despite lower expectations with a strategy designed to emphasize the strengths of the jungle and mid lane. In this relationship, I see mid laner Luka “Perkz” Perković as the facilitator and Trick as the star. G2’s style is built around jungle invades that allow Trick to farm heavily and assist in carrying in the late game.
Yet Trick doesn’t just farm. Trick denies camps from the enemy jungler, ganks frequently, places the highest wards per minute of any jungler to play more than one week for his team, and is tied with Lee “Spirit” Dayoon for second highest percentage of team damage to champions among junglers at 17.8 percent. From my perspective, G2’s playstyle is almost entirely about setting Trick up to succeed, and he defines them.
In many ways, PerkZ and Trick are difficult to separate. Their synergy is surprising, and much of their action is also facilitated by support Glenn “Hybrid” Doornenbal. This is why PerkZ made my first runner up by constantly keeping the wave in mid in position for invades.
For my other two MVP candidates, I looked to H2K Gaming and Team Vitality. H2K’s defining playstyle was difficult to pin on just one player, but I decided upon Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu. As with G2, I didn’t pick the player I considered the best on the team, but the player who seems to define the team’s playstyle and takes opportunities to succeed. I see H2K succeeding by and large off lane assignments and vision control, which usually means Teleports are pivotal. As a result, Odoamne is a huge motivating factor in H2K’s success.
Vitality had several candidates for MVP, but when I considered Vitality’s performance throughout the split, I saw a lot of their wins stem from Vitality’s improved lane swapping and giving Raymond “kaSing” Tsang the opportunity to roam. kaSing started an easy trend of buying a high amount of pink wards. This opened up the map for Vitality considerably and allowed them to reign in some of Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema’s awkward decisions with more information. Vitality have also executed a high amount of strategies that have relied upon kaSing’s individual skill, as with the Tahm Kench and Kog’Maw composition or the Zilean and Bard composition. kaSing was my fourth choice for MVP.
Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet was another obvious choice that I didn’t include, but while Cabochard is often the instrument of Vitality’s top side, his struggles when he didn’t get ahead were severe earlier on in the split. Freeing up kaSing and Shook to create other opportunities on the map truly allowed Cabochard to open up.
Rookie of the split: Perkz
This is where the “best player” aspect becomes more relevant than MVP. Perkz is likely the best player on G2. He’s consistently able to find a matchup advantage as well as roam with Trick for early kills and ganks. Perkz synergized well with Hybrid and the duo controlled a heavy portion of the map as a unit.
The rookie award came down to G2's mid and support, but Perkz ultimately appeared more fundamental to the team’s success. Earlier on in the split, when Hybrid was still trying to get the 2v2 lane with Kim "Emperor" Jinhyun to work efficiently, G2 could still execute their style. Perkz was easily the standout rookie this season.
Coach: Neil "PR0LLY" Hammad
I considered not even voting for this award. I think it’s extremely difficult for an outsider to judge the role a coach plays on a team. One has to go by firsthand accounts or behind-the-scenes whispers to understand a coach’s style or effectiveness. Yet I still believe it’s important for an award like this to exist to recognize support staff.
To this end, I based my choices for this award both on accounts of a coach’s effectiveness by staff as well as consistency of draft. H2K and Vitality had some of the strongest and most consistent drafting strategies of the split, so it was easy for me to vote for PR0LLY and Kévin "Shaunz" Ghanbarzadeh from this perspective. Vitality's approach of understanding the enemy team's style and developing a draft to counter it was enjoyable to watch. But at times, though creative, Vitality’s execution of their drafts collapsed, which gives PR0LLY a slight edge.
Overall, G2 had a strong sense for draft, but also came out with more instances where their pick priority confused me or their team didn’t seem completely confident in executing their selections. G2 brought out the Corki, and this was an important change for EU, but otherwise their style remained fairly set and didn’t evolve as much as the other two teams’. Their strategy was effective and improved, but Emperor still feels disconnected, and the team feels much more about mid and jungle than the other teams in the top three who play as a strategic group of five.
PR0LLY ticked all the boxes I mentioned, so I selected him as my first choice and Shaunz as runner-up. I didn’t pick a backup choice, but likely should have selected Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool to at least acknowledge the success of the team’s support staff in pulling through to first place with a new team.
All Pro Team
To reiterate, I wasn’t invited to vote for the All Pro Team in lolesports’ awards. For my list here, I’ll try to choose players I judge as most effective, but also players I consider the best in their positions objectively. The criteria will be similar to that which I used for my MidSeason awards.
Though I chose Odoamne for best top in my Midseason picks, since then we’ve seen Cabochard’s diversity improve. Instead of just playing carry picks and having his team rely on him to get ahead to sustain any minion-shoving strategies, Cabochard has expanded to the likes of Nautilus and considerably improved his Teleports. He still has a ways to go in this regard, but with Odoamne showing some limitations in carry picks, I believe that, though Odoamne is still my MVP pick from H2K, Cabochard is the better player when considering the entirety of the LCS split.
This choice should be relatively obvious after I praised Trick in almost all statistical dimensions of jungle play. My other option is Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski who has made steady improvements from the first half of the split where he spent much of his time hovering lanes instead of ganking. His vision is also incredibly strong among LCS junglers. Yet he still only bests Trick in wards cleared per minute and, more recently, gank activity. Overall, Trick is a more complete package.
For the “hipster” vote, one could look at Team ROCCAT’s Karim "Airwaks" Benghalia, who has the solid makings of a carry jungler on Kindred. He’s taken ROCCAT into many positions they had not right to be in. Yet Airwaks always feels like he’s still “developing” and lacks consistency. There are only so many splits where one can say a player is developing before it seems that he will never actually go anywhere.
As always in Europe, the award for best mid is a difficult competition. It’s rare that I believe the top three mid laners are on the best teams, but Perkz, Erlend "Nukeduck" Våtevik Holm, and Yoo "Ryu" Sangook have all performed exceptionally this split.
Perkz's constant ability to find impact is not that of a rookie. Perkz seems to always find the best point of entry in a team fight and is undeterred by low health. Nukeduck took more of a back seat to his team, but he was often difficult to shake in team fights as well. His style has become more patient and calculated. Looking earlier into the split, Nukeduck died rather frequently and didn’t always seem to have optimal map awareness or positioning.
Ryu benefits from having self-sufficient play and creating opportunities for H2K, but he still isn’t their central figure. It’s also unfortunate that Ryu spent so many weeks outside the LCS, so he hasn’t played as long as Perkz and shouldn’t receive the same recognition for a sustained period of power over the mid lane role.
Finally, after so many mentions in “runner up,” an H2K player breaks through. Though far from defining H2K’s playstyle or even being optimally utilized with H2K’s teamfight-aversion, FORG1VEN still put up ridiculous damage numbers. As he was constantly seen in side waves pushing turrets, one has to wonder where he even found the enemies to whom he dealt 31.7 percent of his team’s damage.
FORG1VEN may well be the strongest player in the west. Even when H2K isn’t about him, he still manages to demonstrate his power. I considered Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen a worthy rival of FORG1VEN’s despite Origen’s struggles for most of the split, but Zven has since begun to play less reliably. He’s gotten caught out in several of Origen’s games toward the end of the split and has looked less like the pillar that keeps the team afloat.
Though I wouldn’t choose Pierre "Steeelback" Medjaldi as my first or second choice for best AD carry in Europe, he has played a very similar role on Unicorns of Love to Zven on Origen. With junglers constantly changing, Steeelback has remained the constant carry force of the Unicorns. When games go long and Unicorns’ decision-making drops off, they win their games simply by supporting Steeelback’s late game plays.
As a result of H2K’s playstyle, it’s still difficult to call a single player on that team the best playmaker in his role. H2K love to out-maneuver by avoiding a situation where a single player out-performs another directly. Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan has excelled alongside Jankos at vision denial, but the playmaking support for me that made Vitality one of the strongest teams in Europe is kaSing.
kaSing’s ward placement and ability to back up Shook or find opportunities has transformed the way Vitality operates. As already mentioned, Vitality rely extensively on kaSing’s ability to execute a variety of champions that aren’t the most popular in the European meta. This has highlighted kaSing’s strengths considerably and allowed him to stand out.
My runner-ups aren’t VandeR, or Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov, the winner of my Midseason award, but Hybrid and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez. Even when Zven struggled, mithy made valuable plays, like denying Baron steals or keeping a 2v2 lane from sinking. mithy is Origen’s most stable presence and deserves recognition for the team’s entry into the playoffs.
Hybrid’s skill is in keeping vision coverage on Perkz’s lane and roaming or accompanying Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek’s Teleport plays. Hybrid hasn’t worked as well in the 2v2 with Emperor. Though this is the result of a lack of strong synergy between the two rather than a personal failing of either, it keeps him from the top of the support standings.
As with most of lolesports’ lists, I believe their Spring Splits Awards are an exceptional tool for discussing valuable players in a league, and I’m glad I submitted a ballot. Ultimately, however, awards are still more meaningful if consistent reasoning follows their distribution.
All statistics in this piece are drawn from OraclesElixir.com.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.