It’s power rankings season! Here are mine for Europe. (Look for my NA LCS rankings soon on theScore esports.)
These rankings are meant to project the final standings of the 2017 spring split, based on my expectations of how these rosters will perform over the next few months. My criteria include:
- The skill levels of the five players;
- How well the players’ strengths, weaknesses, and play styles fit together into a cohesive unit; and
- The players’ expected ability to communicate and coordinate their play, based on language, past team play performances, and quality of coaching staff.
This is how I see Europe playing out, with full explanations following the table.
|6||Unicorns of Love||Vizicsacsi||Xerxe||Exileh||Samux||Hylissang|
1. G2 Esports
Key Player: Trick, jungle
There’s little reason to think G2 will relinquish their spot at the top of Europe. From their overall skill levels to their flexibility to their continuing roster stability, G2 have everything going for them—except international results, of course.
Kim “Trick” Gang-yun is still the best jungler in Europe, and lost his closest rival with Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon’s return to Korea. Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez are still head and shoulders above any other bot lane pairing in the region, though they will have to keep working to stay ahead of the exciting new duos H2K, Vitality, and Misfits will throw at them.
The summer iteration of G2 was already good enough to win a championship, but this one-split-wiser version can be even better. Luka “Perkz” Perković has a chance to recapture his superior spring 2016 form through some improved self-discipline, and more time and experience should help Ki “Expect” Dae-han improve and be a more stable, integrated contributor. The team also expanded its support staff, most notably adding ex-TSM head coach Weldon Green as an assistant.
To lose their place as EU LCS favorites, G2 will have to shoot themselves in both feet.
Key Player: Jankos, jungle
The core pairing of Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu and Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski remains the soul of H2K. Even when Konstantinos-Napoleon “Forg1ven” Tzortziou was drawing so much attention, both on the Rift and in the media, it was Jankos who drove much of H2K’s success, while Odoamne quietly excelled in the top lane. With coach Neil “pr0lly” Hammad continuing to create the sound, innovative game plans that have staked H2K to so many early leads, all the tools are still in place to keep H2K trucking along.
There’s no denying that Sin “Nuclear” Jeong-hyeon and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho will have a hard time replicating Forg1ven’s relentless pressure in lane. That may make it more difficult for H2K to pull off the early-game macro that saw earn the highest first-to-three-towers rate in Europe last split (68%), especially if Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten doesn’t round back in form (which I think he probably will, to some extent). But even if H2K’s early game weakens, they will see gains in strategic flexibility now that they no longer have to dedicate themselves to Forg1ven’s PvE tendencies. On balance, that trade-off may hurt them in the short term, but I think it should help H2K balance themselves out as a team as time goes on.
H2K will probably spar with Splyce for first place in Group B all split, and it’s difficult to predict who will come out ahead, but I’m giving H2K a slight edge because the meta favours strong early games more than it punishes poor team fighting, which is likely to be a continued challenge for H2K this split.
Key Player: Trashy, jungle
Splyce have been on a growth trajectory since they joined the EU LCS a year ago. An offseason of stability gives them the chance to keep the momentum going as their still-young roster grows both as a group and individually.
Jonas “Trashy” Andersen’s measured, defensive jungling is still the core of Splyce’s success, ensuring that the solo laners can get through the early game and reach their mid-game comfort zones. Martin “Wunder” Hansen and Chres “Sencux” Laursen are skilled split pushers and constant mid-game threats, while Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup fills a vital anchoring role. With Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle adding an aggressive spark, Splyce have all the pieces for success. Last split, they put those pieces together well enough to reach the summer finals and attend the World Championships. Those achievements should propel them forward, though if they want to substantially improve it may depend less on their experience levels and more on their ability to address smaller mechanical and decision-making issues, like shoring up Sencux’s early laning and trimming down Mikyx’s death count.
The biggest factor standing in the way of Splyce’s success is the standard lanes meta. It’s a big enough concern for me to place them below H2K by split’s end.
Key Player: Hachani, support
The biggest issue with Vitality last split wasn’t their skill level. Rather, like a mini Longzhu Gaming, Vitality struggled to coordinate their talent and operate as a team. Given that issue, maybe the most dramatic thing Vitality have done is replace their long-time head coach, Kevin “Shaunz” Ghanbarzadeh. Their new coach is Heo “irean” Yeong-cheol, a Korean ex-pro whose previous coaching experience has been with the Saigon Jokers and Saigon Fantastic Five of the Garena Premier League. Vitality’s past team-play issues shouldn’t be pinned solely on their coach, but a new voice can help players see things in a different way.
The roster has changed, as well, with Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi joining early in the offseason and Raymond “KaSing” Tsang making a surprising exit in favor of the more aggressive Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan. Hachani will play a vital (ha!) role as an initiator and roamer to unlock Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet and Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm as the main carries, while Steeelback provides safe laning and solid team fighting. Vitality also agreed with me by finding their much-needed jungle upgrade in Charly “Djoko” Guillard, whose 70% first blood rate in the EU CS suggests that he’ll be right at home in a gank-heavy jungle meta. Lee “GBM” Chang-seok will be a wildcard as he explores his role swap into the jungle. In the best case scenario, GBM succeeds and helps Vitality win some games; in the worst case, he is a probably-expensive analyst who plays very few games but provides valuable experience and translation services to help out irean and Hachani.
If everything clicks, Vitality are definitely finals contenders. If Djoko struggles and Hachani’s wandering gets punished the way it sometimes was in Korea, they should still be a playoff team.
Key Player: Caps, mid
How do you solve a puzzle like Fnatic? Martin “Rekkles” Larsson is the only returning player from last split; Paul “Soaz” Boyer and Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider are decent but neither is a game-breaker at this point; Jesse “Jesiz” Le is returning to competitive play after a fairly long hiatus; and Rasmus “Caps” Winther is a rookie. You could fill multiple feature-length articles with the storylines of this roster (I wrote one and barely scratched the surface!), let alone trying to project their performance.
To be successful, Fnatic will need Caps needs to carry hard, because Rekkles hasn’t looked comfortable in a primary carry role for a couple of years. Amazing will likely direct most of his attention towards the solo lanes, securing Caps’s laning phase and continuing his existing synergy with Soaz. With Rekkles playing the secondary role in the bottom lane and Jesiz hopefully adding a playmaking spark, it’s not a bad roster setup. The amount of experience throughout the roster bodes well, too.
Yet I still have nagging doubts. It’s incredibly important to take the first tower in this meta, and the bottom lane is the easiest place to do that. Solo lane-oriented teams may be weakening their early game relative to the meta. Caps could turn out to be a very good player, but he has to refine his positioning in the setup for team fights and prove that he can hold his own in lane against EU LCS-level mids. Who can predict what will happen with the Jesiz experiment?
I’m playing it safe and slotting Fnatic into the middle of the pack for now.
6. Unicorns of Love
Key Player: Xerxe, jungle
I’ve expressed my appreciation for Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss and Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov in the past, and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert has been blossoming more and more as a leader of Europe’s next generation of powerful mid laners. With that core, the Unicorns are set up pretty well to maintain their spot in the playoff hunt.
After a history of so much player turnover, it’s unfortunate to see the Unicorns having to deal with Kim “Veritas” Kyoung-min’s departure late in the offseason. Samuel “Samux” Fenández Fort will be thrust into a difficult position, and there isn’t much reason to put faith him in, given his thin resume. Still, the real power of this team lies elsewhere so Samux only needs to keep his head above water while he acclimates to the LCS level of play. Elsewhere, Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir should be a modest upgrade in the jungle, which was the Unicorns’ weakest position last summer.
On the whole, I see the Unicorns being a dark horse (no pun intended) by the time the playoffs roll around. If Samux doesn’t get exploited too badly, and if Xerxe can become a real threat (or unlock even better things from his solo laners), the Unicorns may even have enough firepower to threaten for another semifinals berth.
Key Player: IgNar, support
Depending who you ask, the Misfits are either the next Origen or the next first-split Splyce. I fall into the latter category.
There is clear talent on this roster. Steven “Hans sama” Liv and Barney “Alphari” Morris are two of the strongest rookies enter the LCS, in either EU or NA, this split. Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun is probably the best player on the team, from his playmaking to his versatility to his leadership.
But Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon is a complete wildcard at this point in his career. And while Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage can be better than he was with Origen—especially now that his ADC offers meaningful threat—it’s unlikely that he’ll climb to the top of the positional power rankings.
As for the rookies, there’s room for both hope and doubt. Hans needs to round out his champion pool a bit more before I’m fully sold on him. In the Challenger Series, I really liked what I saw from his Lucian, with great team fighting and timing on his forward movements, but his play on less mobile champions like Ashe, Sivir, and Jhin didn’t hold up quite as well. Alphari had some big carry performances, but he and his teammates need to work hard to improve his inefficient use of Teleport and set up better map control so they can make real progress in split push scenarios.
The Misfits may face a macro gap against Europe’s better teams. In the Promotion Tournament, even Origen, a generally disorganized team, had crisper rotations and objective play than them. If the Misfits can learn to play from ahead more efficiently, they’ll eventually end up in good shape. I’m just not convinced they’ll get there in their first split.
Key Player: Betsy, mid
I’m a fan of Felix “Betsy” Edling, and I’m glad Roccat were able to hold on to him to build their next roster. But I think team management had higher expectations for who they’d be able to sign to complement their star mid laner. They’ve ended up with some serviceable veterans and a very inexperienced top lane rookie, and they’ve taken another long shot on a low-tier Korean import with Kim “Wadid” Bae-in at support. It’s less than I’d hoped for, but might be good enough to at least avoid the relegation slots.
Key Player: NighT, mid
Na “NighT” Gun-woo burst onto the scene last split and was the core component of the Giants’ run to a third-place regular season finish. He’ll have to be even better if he wants his team to replicate that success, because the roster around him has gotten weaker, on paper at least.
Key Player: Wisdom, jungle
It’s unfortunate to see Origen continue to take steps backwards ever since their 2015 run to the Worlds semifinals. All of their core talent has slowly bled away, and now they’re counting on Kim “Wisdom” Tae-wan and Erik “Tabzz” van Helvert to lead three rookies into relevance. The best case scenario for this team is a possible climb into eighth, but even that won’t be easy.