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The Next Big Thing: Misfits headline the EU Challenger playoffs

by theScore Staff Jul 11 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Misfits

The Misfits have stomped their way through the 2016 summer split of the European Challenger Series, dropping just one regular season game and making waves with both their play and the names on their roster. That kind of dominance draws comparisons with past Challenger champions like G2 Esports and Origen, and while there’s no guarantee that the Misfits will follow in those teams’ footsteps and win a spot in the EU LCS, there’s good reason to follow the Misfits closely and be excited about what they can accomplish.

The Misfits came together as a sort of salvage project. Previously known as Renegades: Banditos, and serving as a sister squad for North America’s LA Renegades, the team was granted autonomy after the Renegades organization was banned from participation in the LCS or Challenger Series. Taking up the Renegades’ old “Misfits” branding, the team rebuilt the roster, initially holding on to AD carry Soler “Yuuki60” Florent and top laner Barney “Alphari” Morris but bringing aboard new faces in the other three roles.

Those new faces included some familiar names, like Marcin “Selfie” Wolski, formerly of MeetYourMakers and most recently a substitute for H2K-Gaming in the spring, and Kim “Wisdom” Tae-wan, a veteran Korean jungler who spent time with the ROX Tigers in 2015 before briefly joining Giants Gaming to close out the 2016 spring split. Later, the team would add Steven “Hans Sama” Liv and Korean support player Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun, an alumnus of the LCK’s KT Rolster, moving Yuuki and previous support Han “Dreams” Min-kook to a substitute role, finalizing their summer roster.

With the lineup of Aphari, Wisdom, Selfie, Hans, and IgNar the Misfits have looked very impressive so far. Compared to past Challenger champions who have debuted well in the EU LCS, the Misfits stack up well, looking much stronger than G2 Esports and holding par with Origen, even exceeding them in some metrics.

Team Record Kill-to-Death Ratio Gold Spent Percentage Difference Gold Diff. at 15 Mins Jungle Control 
Misfits Summer 2016 9-1 1.81  +16.7%  +1 999 60.0%
G2 Esports Summer 2015  8-2  1.29  +7.6%  +552  49.9%
Origen Spring 2015  9-1  1.99  +21.0%  +1 753  58.1%

Challenger Series regular season, in the season they qualified into the EU LCS.

Those numbers are compelling, but the names on the team are equally attention-grabbing. Wisdom and IgNar are part of a wave of experienced Korean talent that has been flowing into Europe and North America over the past year or two. Unlike some of the “Korean solo queue stars” that other teams have signed, these are players who have competed at the very highest level in the world, against the world’s best players, and that brings extra value to their new team.

As with any team that mixes local talent with imports like Wisdom and IgNar, there have been some bumps in the road as the team learns to communicate and work together. Head coach Hussain Moosvi, formerly of the LA Renegades, told theScore esports that “the integration [of the Korean players] has been good.

“Since our Koreans are in the jungle and support role, they can work together well to set up our carry laners to succeed. It makes our vision and roaming game easy to develop. The tougher situations such as complex strategy and after-game hypothetical discussions can take some time, but it’s getting easier as time goes by.”

IgNar has played a key role in bringing the team together, according to Moosvi, and has been “developing into a sort of in-game leader for [the] team.” Outside of the game, IgNar has also provided a valuable voice, and has been easy to work with. Moosvi said, “Most of the time we end up agreeing on the ‘correct call’ or the specific map movement for any given moment, and when we disagree it’s easy to discuss and figure out what the best call is.”

IgNar’s development as a communicator and leader is very encouraging for Misfits, especially given that these were the exact qualities IgNar felt he needed to improve on most when he was back in the LCK. In a broadcast interview given in February, following the only match he played in that season, IgNar said, “My teammates are very nice to me but there’s still some awkwardness. I need to address it quickly in order to gel with the team. I have a lot of trouble personality-wise just starting conversations with people. The coaching staff are very worried about that.” IgNar vowed to work on his communication with his teammates, and though it may not have come to fruition in time for that LCK split, the results of that work are shining through.

With IgNar’s leadership and the team’s talent across the board, the Misfits have developed an aggressive, versatile style with three strong lanes that can each create their own leads and punish enemy mistakes. That has allowed the team to vary their strategies and assign different players to carry and supportive roles in different games.

The players’ natural aggression has come with some pitfalls, though, according to Moosvi. “Like any powerhouse rosters that are formed,” he said, “the confidence of the players (and rightfully earned confidence) could also become their biggest weakness if they didn’t learn to harness their strengths and focus it towards team play.” The team has been working on that aspect of their play, and Moosvi specifically pointed out that the team is building up the synergy between their jungler and their laners.

Expectations

The worst thing a first-place team can do is become complacent and take their wins for granted. That said, the Misfits have good reason to be confident going into the Challenger Series playoffs. “I think if we play our game, we should take first place in playoffs,” said Moosvi. He’s more concerned about his team’s internal threats than anything else, specifically their mental toughness and ability to respond positively to any future losses.

The team sees these playoffs as just one of the stepping stones they have to cross in the coming months. Losing in the playoffs would be a failure, but winning will only get them part of the distance towards their intended destination. The team’s task for now, according to Moosvi, “is to keep improving our gameplay and reminding ourselves that playoffs is just a pit stop. It would feel nice to win it, but for us, the real goal is much bigger.”

That real goal, of course, is the LCS, and not just qualifying, but performing well in their first split. Moosvi explained that his coaching has been focused on building strong foundations that can eventually translate into “a solid LCS debut.” That has been a stiff task for many new qualifiers into the LCS in both Europe and North America. Teams like Splyce, Enemy and the LA Renegades have struggled to find relevance in their inaugural seasons, though as noted earlier, there have also been success stories, especially in Europe, where Origen came one win away from beating Fnatic in the finals in their first split, and G2 Esports one-upped them by taking home a title.

Before worrying about living up to the examples of Origen and G2, though, the Misfits have to overcome some hurdles in the Challenger playoffs. That starts with a semifinal best-of-five on Tuesday, July 12, against Epsilon Esports, a team that features three players with LCS experience. The Misfits took care of Epsilon with a 2-0 win in Week 3, and will look to repeat that victory en route to facing either Huma or Millenium in the finals.

If all goes well, the Misfits will take part in the Promotion Tournament later this summer, where they’ll need to fight through a bracket that features three LCS teams. That’s something neither of the top two European Challenger teams was able to do last time around. Teams like Roccat, Origen or Vitality may await, depending how the last few weeks of the EU LCS split play out, but Moosvi isn’t concerned about who his team might end up facing. “At the end of the day,” he said, “making LCS is a lot more about the stability and consistency of your own play, rather than concerning [yourself] with what the opponent does.”

With the promise the Misfits have shown, and their blend of experienced Korean veterans and talented young Europeans, it will be very exciting to watch them work towards their goal of unseating an LCS franchise and climbing into Europe’s top league.

Tim "Magic" Sevenhuysen runs OraclesElixir.com, the premier source for League of Legends esports statistics. You can find him on Twitter, unless he’s busy giving one of his three sons a shoulder ride.

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