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In search of the Elements Tier

by theScore Staff Feb 2 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of EU LCS / lolesports flickr

One may recall that, in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of teams in the European League of Legends Championship Series, I gave Elements their own tier at the bottom of the list. One may also recall that Elements were part of the five-way tie for first place at the end of the second week of games.

Though Elements have since lost to both Unicorns of Love and Origen, I promised an article detailing Elements’ strengths if they performed better than the last place team. While one shouldn’t describe Elements as an enigma, it does take some digging to understand them. Thus begins the exciting quest for the true nature of the ‘Elements Tier.’

The first thing one notices about Elements is their terrible early game. Elements have failed to secure a proper lead in the first 10-15 minutes of any of their games. As a result, despite sitting in a three-way tie for fifth place with both Fnatic and Origen, Elements average the largest 15-minute gold deficit at -1377.

Jungle-Mid disassociation

Elements’ tricky early game first became apparent in their first match against G2 Esports. G2 used mid lane like a battering ram to pound through Elements and constantly reaffirmed their own strength in the matchup. While G2's rookie Luka “PerkZ” Perković has had a remarkable laning phase against even the most veteran mid laners (in part thanks to the support of his team), Elements' Jérémy “Eika” Valdenaire has lost in creeps in nearly every game. Eika sits in the bottom six for CS at 10 minutes with an average of -9.7.

It's not all down to Eika's weak laning — part of the problem is the lack of support he gets from his team. His tendency to play low-mobility mid lane champions like Viktor, Lux, and Ryze makes him an easy target for ganks. Mid lane in general has become a popular early game gank target as a result of frequent lane swaps, but Elements jungler Berk “Gilius” Demir seems more fond of sending his attentions to top and bottom lane.

Gilius is the jungler in the EU LCS who wards the least, at .63 wards per minute. To put this in perspective, junglers in the top four EU LCS teams all place at least .9 wards per minute (together, Charly “Djoko” Guillard and Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov averaged .96 wards placed per minute in six games for UOL). As a result, Eika is actually the mid laner who wards the most in the EU LCS at .60 wards placed per minute. Between Gilius's lack of lane pressure and vision coverage, Eika has to put himself even further behind to compensate. While Eika's lane may not be the lane to gank, Gilius assisting in vision coverage could make his mid less likely to give up first blood or fall behind in creeps.

Gilius also tends to fall behind his lane opponent in farming in the first ten minutes, but he does so with more gank attempts or by participating in the lane swap. Few junglers actually participate in the 3v0 fast push lane swap, as their attention can be better spent farming or warding, given that the top laner only participates because of the reduced experience from jungle follow. In the cases where Elements send Gilius to push, it’s usually a misplay.

On teams he played for in the past, Gilius seemed most comfortable ganking the top lane, and Etienne “Steve” Michels’ stability has helped Elements perform. The team's tried to give Steve more of a carry role, and he's played Fiora most often in the LCS. Some of the components of scaling picks like Fiora or Tahm Kench mean that Elements tend to play for late game.

Elements fall behind when other teams take easy opportunities to gank mid or get ahead in lane swaps. Gilius has attempted a few more risky ganks, for example in the Origen game where he went to gank top against Origen's 2v1 without vision of the enemy jungler. Misappropriation of pressure or slow lane swap play has been a thorn in Elements’ side.

Flipping all the switches at once

Elements’ strengths begin to emerge after the early laning phase. They've taken to drafting impressive wombo combo compositions including Kalista or Alistar whenever possible. Their mid lane picks also tend to complement group fights. When Elements get back into a game, it’s because they group up earlier than other teams and take every opportunity to force a skirmish with an advantage in numbers and a better team fighting composition.

During the chaotic early-to-mid game phase of a match, players typically move to lanes to catch CS or push on their own. On weaker teams like ROCCAT, Splyce, and Giants Gaming, they do so with poor vision coverage, which has given Elements their opening. For example, in Elements’ game against ROCCAT, the entire team roamed to the bottom lane 2v2, allowing Elements to set up for Lux’s ultimate and take two kills.

Elements’ predilection for surprising team fights also led to success against Origen's confused communications. In the Baron fight, part of Origen leapt the wall to fight Elements, but Elements — who are almost always grouped — mowed down the engaging members, leaving Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider alone in the pit.

The back-and-forth nature of Elements games makes them long games to watch. Their average game time is 34.6 minutes, among the top three longest of the EU LCS. Even in games Elements managed to secure a mid-game lead and ultimately win, they rarely did so with complete control. Against both ROCCAT and Splyce, Elements took the lead but then lost several fights, and came back to win with late game Baron fights and pushing. Both games seemed winnable by either team.

Even when winning fights, Elements’ successes have been somewhat limited by champion picks. In all three of their winning games, Elements managed to secure either Kalista or Thresh for their bottom lane.

Alistar was the only pick with which Hampus "sprattel" Abrahamsson managed to win games in the 2015 EU LCS Summer Split. Kalista turned out to be the Team ROCCAT trump card against Unicorns of Love in the summer playoffs. After tying up the series, Unicorns banned Kalista away from Rasmus "MrRalleZ" Skinneholm and shut down ROCCAT. The combination of Kalista and Alistar has a win rate of 61% in all major leagues except the LPL as a duo lane, and Kalista and Thresh, another combination Elements have won with, has a win rate of 69%.

MrRalleZ and sprattel executing the Kalista and Alistar combo against ROCCAT was beautiful to watch, especially when Eika followed up with Lux's ultimate. Unfortunately that seems to be one trick in a limited bag at Elements’ disposal.

Elements’ early game shortcomings, and their recent dismantling at the hands of Unicorns of Love, suggest that I wasn’t too far off-base when I decried Elements’ perceived flaws. Against teams with poor vision, Elements stay in the game simply by grouping more and engaging effectively. Their tendency to group as five minimizes their chances of getting picked off relative to their peers. Until they really examine their early game, the buddy system is all they have going for them.

While Elements are not the worst team in the EU LCS, the Elements Tier still sits near the bottom of the league; it’s just that perhaps Elements aren’t alone in occupying their tier. There’s room for at least Splyce and ROCCAT, with Giants Gaming and their winless confusion trailing ever so slightly behind.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter to complain about her rankings.