Reddit, as always, is flooded with predictions as to who the top three European League of Legends Championship Series teams will be and are all derived from a single week of play. Projections sit proudly and insistently when the reality is much harder to bear.
The reality is that none of your favorite European League of Legends Championship Series teams are good. The mistakes are critical, dragon priority is inconsistent, the concept of deep vision has been seemingly forgotten, and the Teleports are questionable at best. None of the EU LCS teams are good right now — but that’s all right because they don’t have to be yet.
Discomfort and awkwardness is to be expected. Nearly every team in EU underwent a major roster change, and the patch has drifted drastically to favor a meta outside the comfort zone of what most teams were playing in 2016 LCS Spring Split. Favoring dragon and team fighting has hit EU harder than North America, Korea, or China because, outside of G2 Esports, very few teams last split played to that style. Now, even G2 are struggling to grasp early game control despite sitting atop the standings as the lone undefeated team.
As usual, fans are quick to saddle a new player with blame, but many of the biggest blunders stemmed from team coordination. Karim "Airwaks" Benghalia’s repeated forced attempts at jungle invades both speak to a lack of cooperation from side lanes, and a lack of understanding regarding his opponents’ cooldowns (which is rooted in communication). Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek pushing out the bottom lane during a mid lane siege attempt by Schalke 04 was a mismanagement of priorities rather than a direct reflection of H2K’s new AD carry.
Some teams have also struggled to adapt to placing more value on dragon, though it’s clear they’ve been thinking about it. The 2v2 top blind lane swap is becoming more common as teams wish to avoid a position in which their opponents send their duo lane top while their own duo lane is bottom. In this scenario, the team with their duo lane in the bottom will rotate away from the dragon after taking the first turret
A couple of more creative solutions have included H2K’s hybrid lane, but it seems that the type of champion that can be run with a top laner and support in the bottom lane 2v2 together is even more restricted than the type of champion that can work in lane swaps generally. While Gnar’s range made him ideal for a hybrid lane style, Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu had less of an impact in the late game in setting up ultimates, while champions like Swain could easily abuse the “just-walk-at-you” strategy.
Another style of lane swapping was a simple single first tier turret trade, but in many cases, top laners are starved and this strategy appears less ideal. As European teams pride themselves in strong lane swap play, this dynamic will be interesting to watch evolve as many other regions have simply defaulted to standard lanes or 2v2 top. In the meantime, this setup favors teams like Vitality, who camp towards Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet side of the map. This adherence to bot side won them their second game against Splyce.
Besides focusing the first dragon, deep vision has been the most egregious culprit. Many LCS teams, complacent in controlling side lanes, have slacked on invasion-based vision and taking over the jungle. This allows teams with more initiative to get the red side blue buff jungle and set up for dragon almost for free.
ROCCAT have abused this strategy with Jhin. As Jhin requires more setup, he almost only works if a team has sole control of vision in the area or a team has optimal time to poke before engaging. His stationary nature in ultimate means he’s easy to isolate and eliminate, and as other teams shore up their deep jungle vision game, we’ll see increasingly fewer successful Jhins.
Jhin players aren’t the only ones that seem a little behind. So far Fnatic have only succeeded with picks that seem outdated. Their Kalista composition allowed them to get the jump on the dragons, but Kalista has been hit hard by the nerf hammer and seems to struggle more in the early game against favored AD carries like Sivir and Caitlyn. Zed doesn’t work as well against beefier compositions.
Origen have been — albeit somewhat expectedly given their slow start last split — the first week's greatest disappointment. Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider seems even more lost without Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez, and though Origen managed to get a lead against G2 Esports in their second match, communication appeared to completely shut down in team fights with Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou detached.
Many of these problems are fixable in the short run. A retooling of priority to dragon control and invasion-based play will give the EU LCS a boost. Teams like Fnatic appear coordinated, but have made a few too many individual mistakes and need to brush up on drafting. mithy’s early game struggles against Giants are things that will abate when he acquires more synergy with Kim "Trick" Gangyun.
Others are more troubling. H2K can still get lane swap advantages, but their lane assignments in the mid-to-late game is a problem. Though this forced one of the best plays of the week from Yoo "Ryu" Sangook, he cannot be relied upon to hit the Azir ultimate that wins the 4v5 under the sun turret every time H2K make the wrong call, as evidenced by their overall 2-2 week against ROCCAT and Schalke 04.
I will, however, argue that H2K’s teamfighting has already improved. Though Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski’s all-ins have the same inconsistent tinge to them that they did in the playoffs, H2K’s follow up and crowd control chaining is smoother. This says good things about this roster’s ceiling if they avoid tunnel visioning on a single strategy the way they have in the past.
As with H2K’s slightly noticeable team fighting improvements, not everything about the EU LCS was a string of mistakes. Swain and Vladimir priority, an ability to adapt in a best-of-two, hybrid lane experimentation, a definite trend toward dragon, the opening of the support meta, and answering Nidalee with Lee Sin highlight EU’s improvements and dogged approach to tackling changes. This week was especially good for players like Hampus “Fox” Myhre. He demonstrated exceptional play after an underwhelming 2015 Summer and 2016 Spring Seasons.
But it’s right to expect more from EU LCS teams. It’s fair to criticize them. They’re capable of faster adaptation and better communication. That’s exactly why any predictions we make based off this week are likely to be upended.
Your favorite EU LCS teams aren’t good right now — but with perseverance and a bit more time, they will be.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.