Charles Dickens’ penultimate completed work, Great Expectations, depicts an orphan thrust onto different career paths — a suitable metaphor for the travails of Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez, who's made an abrupt and unwanted transition to the AD carry role just as his career as a League of Legends pro was winding to a close. Instead of continuing to take on more responsibilities as co-owner of Origen, xPeke again became a fixture of the main lineup, and expectations for him remain great. No matter what, he’s still one of Europe's favorites.
When xPeke assumed the ADC position, Origen framed it as a temporary change. The team continue to look for talent to take over the role, but members of the team have conceded that finding a replacement isn’t all that feasible. With the split almost halfway completed, and few viable ADCs available, the community is beginning to accept that this is the Origen we’ll be watching for the foreseeable future.
This Origen faces quite a few challenges. Since the team’s formation in European Challenger, they’ve leaned more and more heavily on AD carry Jesper “Zven” Zvenningsen, and with Zven heading to G2 Esports, they've had to backtrack — gold allocation to the ADC position has dipped from 26-28 percent of team gold over to past year to 24.5 percent this split (averaging across games played by xPeke and Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou-Napoleon). The average share of team damage coming from Origen's ADC has similarly fallen off, down from 32 percent in the 2016 spring regular season to 26.8 percent this split, a massive shift in dynamic.
xPeke has also struggled more with positioning in his new role. As a mid laner, he had an affinity for assassins that could dive forward quickly when the opportunity for a pick arose. This kind of play doesn’t transition well to the ADC role — as evidenced by his (and FORG1VEN's) average 22.2 percent share of team deaths this split, up from Zven's 18.4 percent share in the spring regular season.
Origen have grown accustomed to a reliable carry force in their bot lane, yet they now have to play around an AD carry who plays far forward and outputs relatively less damage. Their task is to find another player on the team who can occupy the high-pressure carry role, but the solution isn’t obvious.
Top laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer is very flexible, but prefers team-oriented roles. In the 2015 LCS Summer playoffs, when Gangplank became a priority pick, sOAZ dealt 22 percent of Origen’s damage, but has overall averaged about 18 percent. His preferred picks seem to be hybrid damage dealers and bruisers like Rumble, Poppy and Fizz, with the occasional tank like Maokai (and, of course, Lulu) as opposed to strict carries like Jax or Fiora.
Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage is the most interesting option. In 2015 summer, on Unicorns of Love, PowerOfEvil sat in the top four of the EU LCS in share of team damage dealt, at 33.3 percent. As Origen have struggled this summer, he's taken over some of the damage from their ADC, with a 32.4 percent share of team damage over the split.
But PowerOfEvil’s carry style isn’t easy to execute. His favored champions on UoL, like AP Kog’Maw, Varus, Orianna and Cassiopeia, required an investment of time to scale. Two of these champions have started to return to the mid lane meta (albeit moreso in other regions than Europe), but the more time Origen invest in getting PowerOfEvil to farm and scale, the more dangerous xPeke’s positioning can become with longer death timers.
Jungler Maurice “Amazing” Stuckenschneider has contributed more to Origen’s team damage, in part because of the carry jungle meta this year, but Amazing’s recent play is a reflection of Origen’s core problem. Without a strong side of the map to play to, Amazing has wandered into his own jungle and gotten caught by invades. If the enemy team can constantly push in the mid lane on a frantically farming PowerOfEvil, Amazing’s own jungle becomes more treacherous for him to farm.
Still, Origen’s situation is far from dire, and they shouldn't be written off. Four of five members have a long track record playing together, and though xPeke’s transition to ADC comes under less than ideal circumstances, some observers have pointed out that his presence in the mid lane last season had a "placebo effect" on the team — he made them feel more confident, regardless of whether they actually played better or not.
In their previous iterations, Origen arguably lacked a very clear role that generated early pressure. Zven eventually developed into a strong trading laner, but rarely did Origen’s players look to flat out dominate their opposition early or dive deep in teamfights. This usually makes it more difficult for an ADC to avoid getting targeted, or to just play safely and far back while putting out damage. Part of what made Zven’s positioning impressive was that almost everyone knew he was the threat going into the game.
That responsibility has shifted to PowerOfEvil for now, but if xPeke does start playing further back, PoE's job becomes harder. xPeke can either pull attention by making himself an easy target, or by dealing a great deal of damage and cleaning up in a secondary role with safe utility picks. His recent games suggest he's currently ill-equipped to fill the latter role. That doesn’t mean xPeke shouldn’t play Ashe or other utility-based ADCs; he probably should. But cautioning him to model himself after a cleanup ADC who plays safe and seems like it would take Origen in a less ideal direction.
With the talent they have, and with the rest of the EU LCS suffering from their own early split woes, Origen should be able to string together a serviceable dynamic to take them to the playoffs. xPeke’s experience could help him moderate his play eventually. Moreover, in recent months strong teams all over the world have managed to perform well domestically with less pressure on their AD carry, and in some cases, with dynamics eerily similar to Origen's.
Invictus Gaming: The heavy gank approach
Invictus Gaming has been one such team that have had to deal with both a role swap and a weak AD carry, and could serve as an interesting study for Origen. While iG haven't had a stellar performance in the LPL this year, they have exceeded expectations.
xPeke is already a better ADC than An “Rain” Hyeonguk, who hardly deals damage, doesn’t react well to trades, doesn’t position too far forward so much as he just positions awkwardly, and seems to frequently fumble skillshots. Observing iG's bottom lane provides a lot less value than watching how they use their other lanes. Former iG ADC Ge “Kid” Yan has done well in his new role as jungler, largely because of how solo laners Liu “Zz1tai” Zhihao and Song “RooKie” Euijin coordinate with him. Zz1tai and RooKie repeatedly hold the minion wave in the center of the lane, inviting jungle pressure from both sides. RooKie is able to time his ability use in lane to contest creeps and hold the wave in the ideal position for ganks. Kid, who almost exclusively ganks top and mid lane, has a much easier time of getting RooKie ahead, which helps make up for Rain's weaker contributions to iG's games.
RooKie in general tends to play much more aggressively than PowerOfEvil, which usually allows him to control his lane, but general mid-jungle synergy in gank timings is something that could help Origen deal with their weakness in the bot lane. Last split, Amazing spent a great deal of his time playing toward the bottom side of the map; varying his positioning to focus more on solo lanes as iG have will be a challenge. Positioning creep waves for ganks in solo lanes — something Origen probably already are comfortable doing — could make the transition more bearable, but it might seem like an odd choice for them when most teams are looking to push out waves and dive opponents.
Flash Wolves: The ADC with the target on his back
An alternate model for study comes from Flash Wolves, another team with a less reliable ADC. As splits pass, it's a wonder that a team with ADC Hsiung “NL” Wenan not only continues to place Top 2 in a major region (at the moment, the Wolves are undefeated in 2016 LMS Summer), but looks better as time progresses.
The team go out of their way to give a lot of gold to NL. He's in the top six LMS players by share of team gold, as well as top four by share of team deaths. Flash Wolves farm NL, put him on long-range carry picks, devote a great deal of peel to him from their support, and force the enemy team to focus on him if they want to take him down. The result is the enemy team will scatter when they try to target him, allowing the rest of Flash Wolves to take advantage.
With Origen’s patience, this is a tactic that could suit them, especially given the team’s predilection to playing around their bottom lane. Yet it requires a mid laner willing to seek opportunities. It could work when PowerOfEvil plays a mid laner with an extremely powerful ultimate, which does suit his style, but investing a lot of resources in xPeke is still a risky proposition.
Unicorns of Love, 2015: The split-push distraction
Following Unicorns of Love's formula to the letter can only end in regret. Unicorns rarely had a game plan, as illustrated by their inconsistent gank patterns and frequent Baron throws. Nonetheless, Origen’s current dynamic has a lot in common with that of Unicorns in the 2015 EU LCS Spring Final.
Kiss "Vizicsacsi" Tamás brought versatility to the forefront for UoL, but seemed most comfortable playing as a backup threat with emphasis on bruiser or tank play, much like sOAZ. Amazing’s pathing sometimes gets him caught, which was also a problem for UoL's members. And supports Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov and Glenn "Hybrid" Doornenbal both excel most in an engage meta.
PowerOfEvil is PowerOfEvil, and Unicorns’ formula is still the best in recent memory for playing around his peculiarities. But a comparison between xPeke and Pontus "Vardags" Dahlblom may be hard to swallow. Vardags’ tendency to get caught out was damaging for Unicorns of Love, and the team could never rely on him in a damage capacity. Origen should avoid this pitfall with xPeke, but he could still easily serve the same function as Vardags — he could be the best possible version of Vardags.
One of Unicorns' most successful strategies was using Vardags to stall. He played Sivir primarily, pushing side lanes quickly and drawing enemy attention to one side of the map. This allowed Hylissang to put wards down around top lane and create a safe place for Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek to farm.
In Origen’s recent Game 1 against Splyce, xPeke took Ezreal, giving him an escape if he pushed too far forward, and focused on pushing waves in conjunction with sOAZ, giving the team an early lead. This distracted Splyce from PowerOfEvil's farming until he could become an imposing threat, while still allowing Origen to keep up in turret trades.
Because of the popularity of mid lane Teleport, 1-3-1 setups currently favor wave clear AD carries with split-pushing top and mid lanes. If xPeke remains split-pushing near the objective in play (either Baron or dragon), however, he should still be able to react well in a 1-3-1 setup to contest.
Using xPeke as a split-push threat also suits his style. When he used to split-push on Kassadin or Twisted Fate while playing for Fnatic, the team split attention on the map well to distract the enemy team and slowly chip advantages before a major confrontation. They often did this in 2013 with a bottom lane liability as Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim grew accustomed to the support role, but the same strategy could be employed to allow a mid laner to farm.
With this strategy, the fact that xPeke’s an ex-mid laner doesn’t have to be a weakness. He and sOAZ are used to splitting the map and playing 1-3-1 strategies. If xPeke positions too far forward or pushes too far forward, he can draw attention from Origen’s main threat while he farms.
Meanwhile, Origen can begin using more of the Cassiopeias and the Varuses that have found success in regions like Korea and North America. As long as Hybrid and Amazing move vision with the split-pushing line that sOAZ and xPeke create, this is a strong foundation for the team to build a strategy on.
If xPeke doesn’t learn to position more safely, or can’t increase his damage output in team fights, Origen will still have a handicap. They likely won’t reach the same heights they did with Zven and Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez, but there are many strategies and dynamics besides the ones listed here Origen can try out in their quest for a new identity. In the end, they may outpace what they ever could have achieved with FORG1VEN.
This final, ambitious leg of xPeke’s career doesn’t have to end in dashed expectations.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.