Kelsey Moser's EU LCS Finals Preview: The new generation in the war for Europe's title

by theScore Staff Apr 14 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

El Clasico was a name bequeathed to soccer rivals Real Madrid C.F. and FC Barcelona. The classic rivalry has evolved to encompass more than just the match, and its identity has changed and altered until its almost difficult to remember how it started.

The esports community borrowed the title and applied it to the many matchups between SK Gaming and Fnatic when both teams were identified as powerhouses in Europe. For the League of Legends teams, as rosters changed and time dragged on, these two teams became marked by their Spanish mid laners, Carlos “ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago and Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez, figureheads of their organizations, yet both have since left to start their own teams.

In a much less recognizable form, El Clasico lives on. ocelote’s team, G2 Esports, will collide with xPeke’s in the Grand Finals of the European League of Legends Championship Series. ocelote’s G2 sit primed to take the title as the only top-three team left in contention. Yet recent improvements from Origen in the playoffs demonstrate that one of their greatest assets in the upcoming series is unpredictability. G2 will play how they have always played, and Origen have a much smaller sample size for success from which to draw conclusions.

As always, a lot of attention will drift to the mid lane. The roles are swapped, as G2’s mid laner, Luka "PerkZ" Perković, is much more the star, and Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage on Origen more the enabler. The ways in which mid lane interacts with jungle will become incredibly important, and this has also been a source of Origen’s recent improvements.

Top laners on both teams have also benefited considerably from a more tank-oriented meta, and while it’s expected that G2 will have more control in jungle and mid, bottom lane is Origen’s way through the door. Both teams bring different styles of play to the table. Understanding how they interact is the best way to predict the result.

Two halves of the jungle

There are two approaches to the aggressive jungle meta, and Origen and G2 have demonstrated one each in the playoffs. With marked improvements against H2K Gaming, Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider has been playing much more of a gank-oriented style that sacrifices certain farm amounts and doesn't necessarily aim to team fight in the late game.

Kim "Trick" Gangyun has spent playoffs emphasizing more of a farm-oriented style primed for late game fights. While he still ganks frequently, he doesn't get involved in first bloods as often as Amazing, and his style revolves slightly more around controlling enemy camps. This sets Trick up to be much more of a damage and carry threat.

EU LCS Playoffs statistics for Amazing and Trick

Statistic Amazing Trick
KP% 57.8 76
FB% 38 25
CSPM 4.5 5.1
DMG% 15.5 23.2
Gold% 18.7 21.5
WPM .86 .76

This sample is obviously limited, especially for G2 who have only played one series in playoffs. Yet given the difference in Amazing's role in the team, it's more relevant. Even between the semifinal and quarterfinal, Amazing's early game presence is much more pronounced, while for G2, Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek was more likely to be involved in first blood plays, which was also the trend for G2 in the regular season.

One key factor that has lead to Amazing's improvements is PowerOfEvil's comfort in the meta. With champions like Orianna, Karma and Varus enjoying play, PowerOfEvil can play much more like PerkZ does in that he can keep control of the mid lane. PowerOfEvil is very proficient on certain mage picks, and he's able to nimbly push out the mid lane, which has given Origen much more control with a stable mid lane option and POE's ability to back up Amazing when he places wards or sets up ganks from the enemy jungle.

Origen have also begun prioritizing scuttle crab control more. In Origen's first game against H2K Gaming, Amazing actually prioritized controlling both crabs. This gives OG much more control over river for early skirmishes and easy access into the opponent jungle as well as better setup for ganks.

Given G2's propensity to use PerkZ to push out mid and have Trick invade, I can see Trick snowballing a lot with this style, especially with Kikis controlling a lot of pressure through Teleports. Amazing could play more to top side to gank the lane with the Teleport, but this depends a lot on lane swap scenarios and cuts out Origen's preferred carry lane. G2 are also much more practiced at controlling mid lane, which could make it more difficult for Origen to consistently execute.

It is worth noting, however, that Trick has placed fewer wards per game in G2's playoffs series than he did on average in the regular season. This is down to his one skirmisher's sabre purchase on Kindred, an option he forewent most of the regular season. While more emphasis rests on farming and carrying with some high damage jungle picks, G2 have relied heavily on Trick's warding in the past, and the team has suffered when he warded less, throwing advantages due to poor mid-game vision coverage.

The swap factor

Outside the jungle matchup, a major factor in the match against G2 and Origen is the way the semifinal lane swap approaches differed for both teams. When Origen and H2K Gaming lane swapped, they often chose to continue the push in cases where they had an advantage or were ahead of the team in the lane swap. This lead to extensive turret trading, in some instances all the way to the inhibitor turret.

In the Fnatic and G2 Esports series, when G2 gained an advantage by finishing the Tier 1 turret swap early, they would often rotate to Fnatic's opposing duo lane and set up a turret dive. This gave advantages to G2 in that the team could get kills in addition to extra turret leads and also keep their own turrets up. Much of these counters functioned as a result of Teleport pressure from Kikis. Fnatic responded by swapping in a similar fashion in Game 2.

This second type of swap is difficult to predict and execute. G2 seemed slightly ahead of Fnatic in their swaps, partly because they were willing to pull their jungler to fast push when necessary. If Origen don't fall for the same trap, then after initial turret trades, the game should temporarily revert to standard lanes. It seems likely that Origen may opt into some of these skirmishes instead, especially if they can use them to snowball Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen.

Rookie of the year

After Zven's World Championship performance, he became an obvious candidate for rookie of the year with Fnatic's Fabien "Febiven" Diespstraten serving as the other option. For the first half of 2016, PerkZ is the clear candidate.

Even with improvements to Amazing's role on the team and better coordination with top laner Paul "sOAZ" Boyer, Zven still dealt 32.7 percent of team damage in Origen's playoff games. I've written features on how Zven serves as Origen's main carry and how PerkZ's playstyle enables G2 to function. Both these factors will come to a head this Sunday in the final.

Especially if Lulu is a pick opened up to Origen, Zven can control the late game with well-timed ultimates from Origen's mid laners. G2 haven't excelled with Lulu in the past, which may make it a ban-worthy pick, freeing up other high powered selections. A war for Maokai and Ekko should ensue to get the most out of a top lane tank brawl.

G2 will move a great deal of pressure from their side lanes to support PerkZ and allow him to keep pushing out. A strategy for Origen would be to pick a lot of wave clear and make PowerOfEvil self-sufficient while avoiding aggressive invades and instead applying pressure on side lanes, especially top lane to avoid Kikis' Teleports.

Origen vs. G2 is the new face of the El Classico, as both xPeke and ocelote have evolved since their time on Fnatic and SK Gaming. It's hardly recognizable in its current form. Yet it's clear that both mid laners have given a lot to League of Legends. A new generation is finally starting to take over the game. Let's hope they make it a good one.

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