The 2019 season was a successful and historic year in establishing Europe’s finest as a true powerhouse and a fierce competitor on the international stage. Europe has now made back-to-back World Championship finals but fell at the final hurdle both times. Despite losing in the past two World Championship finals, European League of Legends is looking brighter than ever and heading into 2020, each player on every team possess the belief that Europe can go all the way this year, making the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) an even tougher league to conquer.
With G2 at the forefront of the international success, the LEC won its first international trophy since Season One (2011) at the Mid Season Invitational last year (MSI 2019). Ahead of the 2020 LEC Spring Split, which kicks off on 24 January, we’ll share our thoughts on the offseason along with a power ranking of how we expect the league to shape up. The power ranking is based on individual and team performances from 2019 alongside the roster changes made to each organization for 2020. For all the information on the new starting rosters for the 2020 LEC season, see our LEC roster tracker.
Each tier is ranked in order of power ranking (i.e. Excel > Mad Lions > Team Vitality).
All statistics used in this article are taken from Oracle’s Elixir.
G2 Esports has been fairly quiet over the offseason for an organization that prides itself on being outspoken and boisterous. They have retained their starting roster from the 2019 season and also decided to swap Perkz back to the mid lane and Caps to the bottom lane.
Luka “Perkz” Perković cemented himself as one of the great western League of Legends players of all time in 2019, retaining a fresh outlook and mentality on the game by role swapping to the bottom lane, demonstrating his sheer skill and game knowledge by dominating the competition as both a middle laner and bot laner in his inaugural year as a marksman. During the 2019 Spring Regular Season, Perkz netted himself the most kills, most assists, highest damage per minute, and highest average earned gold per minute as he effortlessly swapped roles and put up ridiculous performances week in week out.
Although Perkz’s performances were stellar, he did have the best support in Europe by his side, Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle. He has the minor edge over Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov for Europe’s number one support due to Hylissang’s inconsistencies. Mikyx is the perfect combination of mechanical skill and map awareness that you want in your support, he’s the only support in the league that could role swap to another lane, similarly to Perkz, and still dominate the LEC, especially on his mid lane Gragas.
Every member of G2 Esports in 2019 was considered to be the best of their roles in Europe and in the top 5 globally. Martin “Wunder” Nordahl Hansen, Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, and Mikyx were all shining lights on their previous team before joining G2 Esports. For Jankos and Wunder, their debut year at G2 was not their most successful year in terms of accomplishments as Fnatic won both EU LCS titles in 2018, albeit their run at the World Championships was something to be proud of. The ballsy addition of Caps and moving Perkz to the bot lane alongside Mikyx in 2019 was something many were skeptical about at first, but it sure paid off as each member on G2 Esports solidified themselves as the most individually talented players Europe has produced. For so long the “European Superteam” would never manage to make its mark, but individual performances from each member and the ability to carry from each role placed G2 Esports right at the top of the professional League of Legends scene, thus heading into 2020, we expect no less from this lineup.
Jankos’ 2019 season was by far the most historic and successful season for the Polish jungler. Racking up the Summer MVP award, two LEC titles, winning the 2019 Mid Season Invitational, and almost completing the ‘Grand Slam’ (winning both domestic and international titles) but ultimately finishing second in the 2019 Worlds Championship. For a jungler that prior to 2019 hadn’t won any ‘major titles’, 2019 was Jankos’ best year as he dominated the jungle in Europe, he put up some serious numbers with 73 kills, 166 assists, a KDA (kill, death, assist) ratio of 6.0 and an average gold difference of +171 at 10 minutes over his jungling opponents. If any player was going to make a role look broken, that is often criticized by the League of Legends community for lacking the potential to carry games and be the difference-maker, Jankos would be that player, regardless of how many experience nerfs Riot throws at the Jungle role. Jankos has always worn his heart on his sleeve, his passion knows no bounds as he even managed to pass out in celebration after defeating Fnatic in the LEC Summer playoffs final. Expect Jankos to continue to dominate the jungle in Europe as long as he stays dedicated and enjoys what he is doing as the Jankos under G2 is a different beast to the Jankos of previous years and organizations.
The only doubt that lingers heading into 2020 is what form of Rasmus “Caps” Winther will turn up in the bot lane? Especially given how smoothly Perkz transitioned from the mid lane to the bot lane. If Rasmus can channel his inner ‘Claps’ consistently as the new marksman for G2 Esports, they will speed run through the LEC similarly to last year. Alternatively, if Rasmus has teething problems adapting to his new role with Mikyx, ‘Craps’ is an almost certain caricature that G2 Esports do not want to see in 2020. Caps has played multiple AD carries in the past, most notably his Vayne mid lane that still gives Misfits nightmares to date. Considering Caps has such a ‘champion ocean’ at his disposal, we lean on the side that ‘Claps’ will turn up consistently throughout 2020 Spring, with maybe the occasions ‘Craps’ running it down on a weird Azir flex pick as Fabian “GrabbZ” Lohmann is notorious for his unpredictable nature in champion select, which to his credit, knows his players are capable of performing on such random picks.
After the most historic year for any European organization in League of Legends history, it would be wrong not to have G2 Esports at the top of the list. G2’s ability to flex every champion between all their members gives them an edge no team possesses within the LEC, although Fnatic gives them a run for their money when it comes to flexing. If we see the same G2 Esports we saw in 2019, we are in for a treat in Europe. Although we’re not sure we will see the likes of Kha’zix and Soraka top lane for Wunder this year, we’re sure they will continue to strategize niche picks that will catch teams off guard in the best of one format.
During the offseason, Fnatic’s internal issues were widely known amongst the community, especially given the manner of which Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen departed the LEC to join North America’s Team Liquid. Replacing Broxah is the young, mechanically skilled Polish jungler, Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek, who has previously played alongside Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek in the SupaLiga Orange (SLO), providing Fnatic with an existent mid-jungle synergy heading into the 2020 season. Losing Broxah is definitely a huge blow for Fnatic, as the perception of his role to the community was not just a jungler, but a pseudo coaching staff as his mental resilience and calm nature aided his team to overcome internal disputes. Heading into 2020, the coaching staff and players must adapt their method of providing constructive feedback to each other without affecting the team’s performance as Fnatic have multiple players that are outspoken, which can be troublesome in certain rosters. Fnatic has shown in the past that once things get rough, it can be difficult to claw back from, as Fnatic started 0-4 in the first LEC split during Spring last year.
Retaining Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, and Hylissang, who all were top 3 in their respective roles during the 2019 season will be vital for Fnatic’s success in 2020. Bwipo’s season was almost a carbon copy of his former teammate, Caps, as Bwipo either ran it down top or single-handily carried his team through Bo1’s and Bo5’s, albeit an argument can be made in favor of Bwipo as he is given the least amount of resources on his team, often left on an island to survive and play damage control whilst Rekkles and Nemesis take the majority of the farm. Despite the coinflip nature of Bwipo’s 2019 season, he ended his year on a high, winning the One vs. One tournament at the 2019 All-Stars event. Winning the One vs. One tournament is something to be proud of and a metric that can be used to judge individual theory crafting and mechanical skill on a one-on-one basis, but the All-Stars tournament has to be taken with a pinch of salt as it is a tournament design for entertainment rather than competition.
Hylissang proved himself to be a potential weak spot for Fnatic in 2019, often running it down and dying completely isolated from his team for no reason what so ever. His bloodthirsty nature can be both a blessing and a curse to Fnatic but with the addition of Selfmade and Mithy, the support-jungle synergy will be a vital win condition for Fnatic as they have previously strived off Broxah and Hylissang making proactive plays in the early and mid-game. That being said, Hylissang’s Pyke is something that teams would never want to play against as we’ve never seen a support be able to so convincingly ‘1v9′ a game in the fashion Hylissang does on Pyke.
Nemesis’ first regular-season during Spring wasn’t the start we imagine he would have wanted, but heading into the Summer regular season, Nemesis was back with a vengeance. Dying the least out of all mid laners in the league with 32 deaths, obtaining the highest KDA ratio of 5.3 and receiving the second-most assists of 101, behind Abbedagge’s 115; as well as having some serious highlight-reel moments. His performance at the World Championship was something every Fnatic fan could get behind as he was single handily Fnatic’s best player during the entire tournament, pulling out his signature control mage Veigar to beat SKT in a dominating fashion to then beat RNG and qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament. With Caps moving into the bot lane, 2020 is the perfect time for Nemesis to cement himself as the best mid laner in Europe, but Perkz will be right behind him every step of the way to assert his dominance in his mid lane kingdom.
Selfmade made a serious mark on the inaugural year of the LEC, beating Fnatic ‘three times’ with SK Gaming and bringing the Fast and Furious Tokoyo drift onto Summoners Rift with some disgusting Sejauni’s ultimates. Prior to joining SK Gaming and competing in the LEC, Selfmade was one of the best junglers in the Supaliga Orange (LVP, Spanish league), playing under the Mad Lions banner (before they joined the LEC this year) winning multiple titles such as the LVP SLO 2018 Summer playoffs, the Iberian Cup 2018, and most infamously, the European Masters in 2018. We have very high expectations for Fnatic’s new mid-jungle duo as their prior experience competing together and friendship outside of competition is something that can be valued very highly. Expect Fnatic to return to playing around the mid lane with Hylissang roaming to team up with Selfmade and Nemesis, leaving Rekkles to fend for himself, which he has shown the ability to do in the past as his map knowledge is probably that best out of any AD carry in Europe.
Although Fnatic has acquired a more aggressive, proactive jungler, we rated them just below G2 Esports as in 2019 they took down Fnatic in two best of five series. Both of the best of five matches were nail-bitingly close, G2 showed the mental edge and that team cohesion and synergy came up trumps. On top of that, the team spirit and the natural friendships that exist in G2 will always provide them an edge over a team that has rebuilt its coaching staff and added a new player. That being said, I’m praying that we see the same level of competition between these two historic organizations this year as the ending to the second game between these two titans in Spring was an ending that is difficult to forget.
Origen’s disappointing performance during the 2019 Summer regular season was a bitter end for their 2019 run, finishing 8th and missing out on playoffs due to head-to-head records with Team Vitality and SK Gaming. During the offseason, Origen’s roster changes are undeniably direct upgrades, which will help them climb back up the standings. Their roster swaps consists of replacing Jonas “Kold” Andersen with Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir, Patrik “Patrik” Jírů with Elias “Upset” Lipp and finally, replacing currently retired player, Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre with the up and coming rookie from the Oceania Pro League (OPL), Mitchell “Destiny” Shaw.
First and foremost, Xerxe was easily one of the top three junglers in Europe last season, showcasing stellar performances in Europe and also reaching the World Championship quarter-finals vs. SK Telecom T1. Xerxe has one of the deepest champion pools for junglers in Europe, arguably the best as he effortlessly picks up new champions and perfects them before the rest of the league. His individual performance on Splyce for the past two years has earnt him a position in an organization that can compete with the top dogs of Fnatic and G2 Esports. His statistics during the 2019 Spring speak for themselves, achieving the highest amount of assists with 145, the highest KDA of 5.5, third in KP (kill participation) with 73.3%, second-lowest death percentage of 15.9%, highest GD (gold difference) at 10 minutes with 180 gold and the highest XP (experience) lead at 10 minutes with 321xp.
The German marksman, Upset, has been ranked amongst the best AD carries in Europe for multiple seasons now, averaging the lowest death percentage in the league during 2019 Spring Split with 8.2% and the highest KDA with 8.1. Despite his individual performances placing him at the top of Europe’s marksmen, he’s never had the firepower behind him to truly succeed despite reaching the finals with FC Schalke 04 vs. Fnatic in 2018. Of all the seasons Upset has competed in European play, this year is the most important as he is on a team that could easily go all the way, building up a good synergy with his new support over the offseason is paramount as they need to come into the new season and make a bold statement. Upset has always prided himself off having a dominant laning phase and super reliable late game but in the past, he has been known to overstep his bounds during the mid-game, but with experienced players such as Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holmand and Barney “Alphari” Morris by his side, I can’t see him making similar mistakes this year. Alphari had consistent performances throughout 2019, more so in Summer than Spring, and was the one player on his team who could consistently provide himself a lead through the laning phase as during the Summer regular season Alphari had an average gold lead of 305 gold (equivalent to one kill) at 10 minutes over his lane opponent. Although his laning phase proves consistent, his individual performances in the latter half of 2019 weren’t enough to claw Origen back from the brink and into the playoffs.
The ‘year of the duck’ phrase has been tossed around almost every year in Europe and for Nukeduck, there has to be some form of pressure attached to the community narrative as Nukeduck’s performance during the summer split was not up to his usual standard as even though he could rack up the highest CSD (creep score difference) at 10 minutes. He would often sit on his lead and not utilize it to its full potential but has shown he has the mechanical prowess consistently since Season 3 to win lane and win the game, if Nukeduck can get back to top 3 mid laners in Europe this season, Origen will have 3 strong lanes to play around with a jungler that is more than capable of playing through and enabling each lane.
Our expectations for Origen heading into the new season is their rise back to the top of the league, they have unified some of the strongest players on ‘weaker’ teams and have a very high skill ceiling, anything outside of top 3 in the 2020 Spring regular season would be a disappointment for Origen. Alphari has displayed and proved on both Misfits and Origen that he can compete with the likes of Bwipo and Wunder — and with the addition of Xerxe, who is able to play around every lane, can enable Alphari to unlock his full potential heading into 2020. Xerxe will have a lot of pressure on his shoulder within this Origen lineup, his early game pathing is one of the reasons I rate Xerxe so highly amongst the likes of Jankos and previously Broxah. If Xerxe is able to build up a good rapport and synergy with newbie Destiny, Origen on paper will have both a strong early and late game team, but if their mid-game issues still linger despite the roster changes, teams will be able to capitalize on their mistakes with a good mid-game draft and Origen could be in trouble.
Rogue’s late-season surge in 2019 Summer was something we personally did not expect. From being rock bottom in the Spring split, only winning 2 games and losing 16, not many fans expected Rogue to make playoffs and 3-0 a Spylce team that was in good form in the first round of playoffs. Each member of the Rogue lineup throughout the summer split had some form of highlight-reel play, plays like Vander’s iconic cross-map Taric ult which gave Rogue a strong footing in multiple games throughout the season. Although Rogue had teething issues with their roster during summer, struggling to decide if they should start Kim “Profit” Jun-hyung or Finn “Finn” Wiestål in the top lane, or Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa over Paweł “Woolite” Pruski in the bot lane, the addition of Finn in week 7 produced better overall performances going 3-2 between weeks 7 and 9 (excluding the Fnatic game as it was a ‘show match’ due to the outcome of the game not having an impact on the standings) and qualifying for playoffs. If Rogue continues to ride the wave they were on during the end of their 2019 campaign, they will come into 2020 strong.
Speaking of heading into 2020 strong, the addition of Steven “Hans Sama” Liv from Misfits is a HUGE upgrade for Rogue and is one of the sole reasons I’ve placed Rogue in A Tier on their own. Replacing both Woolite and HeaQ is a huge win for Rogue in the offseason, both of which never made a mark on the European League of Legends and have struggled in their careers consistently, both dropping down to national leagues from the EU LCS/LEC as they underperformed on multiple rosters. Woolite managed to get the most deaths in the 2019 summer regular season out of all AD carries while playing 3 games less than all the starting AD carries.
Not only have they replaced HeaQ and Woolite, but they have replaced them with another superstar European AD carry, one that has been on a similar level to Upset over the past few years. They have replaced them with an AD carry that took SK Telecom T1 to the full five games at the 2017 World Championship, back when Korea dominated every single inch of League of Legends. Although Hans Sama has been at the top of European play in the past, last year was not his best year on Misfits — we didn’t even consider him as a top-five AD carry last year. None the less, we have to take into account that Misfits arguably had their worst calendar year of European League of Legends to date as both in Spring and Summer their rosters failed to find any form of cohesion and style as they continuously moved their chess pieces around in a desperate attempt to win games, which ultimately, cost them even more losses. Combining Hans Sama with a talented, and eager roster in Rogue, we believe Hans Sama will be able to get back to his previous form, and with an experienced, knowledgeable and still mechanically talented support in Vander next to him in the bot lane, they have the tools to compete with the best heading into the 2020 season.
One of the strong points for Rogue last year was Emil “Larssen” Larsson, his debut onto the LEC stage definitely did not disappoint, he came into the league with the promise of being a new, up and coming European super midlaner, most notably known for his performance on Ninja’s in Pyjamas in the Ultraliga (Polish league). His performances in the 2019 Summer regular season made it tough for us to rank him either the third or fourth-best mid laner in the LEC as he racked up the second-highest number of kills, second-lowest deaths, third-highest gold difference at 10 minutes, highest creep score difference at 10 minutes, and second-highest damage percentage of his team amongst all mid laners. Despite all the positives, Larssen made one huge mistake during the Summer playoffs vs FC Schalke 04, in a game that ultimately decided the outcome of the series, a failed Corki package to kill enemy AD carry Upset which resulted in an ace for Schalke and a loss for Rogue in the third match of the series, a mistake that will follow him throughout his career but his acceptance and joking nature around the mistake will only help him improve as a player. Larssen has definitely learned from this pivotal mistake and will think twice before Corki packaging into the enemy fountain this year.
We’ve rated Rogue as an A-Tier team as they’ve kept the core identity of their team from last year while replacing the deadwood with players who can perform and play at peak European level. Rogue has only strengthened its team heading into 2020 and not achieving playoffs for them would be a failure as we expect them to sit just outside the top three.
FC Schalke 04
2020 marks the return of ‘Godgiven’ and ‘GodGillus’ to the European League of Legends. On paper, this team is filled with experience, talent, and superstar names. The acquisition of Han “Dreams” Min-kook from SK Gaming (who single handily won SK multiples games in 2019) makes FC Schalke 04 a potential dark horse for the top of the table.
Konstantinos-Napoleon “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou left the League of Legends ecosystem in 2016 to fulfill his military services for the Greek army. After a heartful departure — a message that resonated with the fans, his friends, family, and works colleagues at the LEC studio in Berlin — FORG1VEN didn’t compete in any competitive League of Legends from 2016 to early 2018, when he competed and won the European Masters tournament with Origen in April 2018. If you’re new to the League of Legends esports scene and you don’t yet know about the legendary FORG1VEN, take my advice and educate yourself on the Greek AD carry god that is Konstantinos Tzortziou as he is ‘by far’ one of the most influential AD carries to grace European League of Legends. FORG1VEN’s history within the European League of Legends consists of competing under Copenhagen Wolves, SK Gaming and most notably, H2K. FORG1VEN brought pure aggression and proactive plays into the bot lane which is why we are extremely excited to see the legend that is FORG1VEN returning to compete in Berlin. If Konstantinos can return to the form he was in before attending his obligatory military services in 2016, he will go down in League of Legends history, as no other player has taken a break from League of Legends for such period of time and returned to dominate.
Not only has one ‘god’ returned, but two. Teaming up with FORG1VEN and returning back to the LEC is Erberk “Gilius” Demir. Similarly to FORG1VEN, Gilius is famed for his trash talk nature and has competed on a multitude of teams over the past six years, most notably Elements, FC Schalke 04, and Team Vitality. Erberk had to take a back seat from the highest level of European play at the end of 2018 and all of 2019 as he was unable to find a spot on a LEC team, resulting in him competing in the TCL (Turkish League) with Beskitas and most recently, in the Meisterschaft league (German League) with Ad Hoc Gaming. His inability to find a LEC team heading into 2019 definitely fueled Gilius’ drive to return to the LEC and show all of Europe what he is capable of, we expect Gilius to be a top-five jungler this year and make a statement during his return to ensure he never misses out on a starting roster again.
Felix “Abbedagge” Braun didn’t have the best year in 2019 — he struggled to find his foot in with Schalke, often dying isolated from his team and giving the opposing team an avenue back into the game that should otherwise be over. Until Abbegaddage can round out his inconsistencies, he could be a potential weak spot for Schalke in 2020. Gilius may be able to aid the development and growth of the young mid laner as he is a jungler more than capable of playing around the mid lane in early skirmishes, as opposed to last season when Abbedagge had Kim “Trick” Gang-yun by his side who predominately played around the bottom side of the map to enable and unlock Upset on the rift.
Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu has had some high seasons and some low seasons — his 2019 season wasn’t his best on Schalke. His performances throughout the Spring regular season were definitely better than the Summer regular season, even though his team failed to qualify for playoffs in Spring but did qualify in Summer; with some standout performances on his infamous Kennen. Comparing Odoamne’s individual statistics from Spring and Summer highlights some of the laning difficulties he ran into, as in Spring he had +168 gold difference at 10 minutes and +8.3 creep score difference at 10 minutes on average over his lane opponents, whereas, in Summer, he averaged -159 gold difference at 10 and -4.2 creep score difference at 10. That being said, you have to put some respect on Odoamne’s name, his 2016 season was probably his best season with some insane Kennen and Gnar plays both on the European stage and World Championship stage. With the return of two giants to the European scene, if Odoamne, FORG1VEN, and Gilius can all return to the same form they have showcased in the past, this Schalke roster has a much higher ceiling than the roster of 2019.
Schalke could easily slot into the A+ Tier and be competing with Origen for the top three, but the main reason we have placed Schalke as an A Tier team and below Rogue is due to the uncertainty of how the returning members will perform. The first few weeks will be pivotal for this roster to gather momentum. We’ve seen previous rosters in the past combine big names that fail to materialize the way the organization would hope for, such as the Misfits Spring 2019 roster. There are also a lot of big personalities within this roster so it’s hard to predict who will be the main shot caller in-game for Schalke, maybe this roster will take a more shared approach to shot-calling but big personalities can definitely clash hence why we think getting a few wins on the board will be vital for Schalke early on in the season.
Excel’s 2019 year was not a year they would like to remember, finishing 9th and 10th during Spring and Summer respectively. As William “scarra” Li once said about Team Coast, “up until they lose the game, they were winning” as Excel always seems to be in the driving seat of so many games during the 2019 season… until they throw their lead in a catastrophic manner. Their week three performance against Fnatic in summer was the most prolific example of such statement as they had a 7000 gold lead, two infernal drakes and a mountain drake over Fnatic and still managed to lose the game due to individual mistakes. An argument can be made that they were facing Fnatic, who are difficult opponents to face regardless of the game state, but with the advantages Excel has had over their opponents in the past, they should not have lost so many games. In an attempt to rectify their issues from 2019, Excel has gone all out in the offseason, signing the ‘Six Star general’ himself from Fnatic, Joey “Youngbuck” Steltenpool and former Origen performance coach, Fabian Broich to their coaching staff, bolstering the brainpower behind the scenes to help their young, talented players succeed. The addition of the new coaching staff should be the missing piece of the puzzle to solve their disastrous shot-calling around the middle portions of the game.
Not only did Excel upgrade their coaching staff, but in our opinion, all their roster swaps were direct upgrades to their former lineup. Patrik “Patrik” Jírů replaced a consistently underperforming Jesper “Jeskla” Klarin Strömberg and newly named Tore “Tore” Hoel Eilertsen, (previously known as Norskeren) replaces Patryk “Mystiques” Piórkowski. I personally think Patrik was criminally underrated last year and is a huge upgrade over Jeskla, an upgrade that can definitely solve some of Excel’s mid-game issues, similarly, Tore had some great performances on Splyce during 2019 but often went a bit too deep, over-extending on his signature Nautilus pick. If Youngbuck can address the issues that their new players displayed on previous teams then this Excel roster can climb the rankings.
The only question mark surrounding Excel’s offseason is their choice of mid laner, their decision to start Son “Mickey” Young-min over Joran “Special” Scheffer may come back to bite them in the second year of the LEC as Mickey has struggled in both North America and Europe since leaving the ROX Tigers back in 2017. On the other hand, Special has shown some promise as a young, Dutch mid laner, winning the ESL Premiership (English league) Spring playoffs in 2018 with Excel’s academy team and also had some good performances on the LEC stage when called up to the main roster in 2019, but he definitely has some room for growth if he is subbed in to start over Mickey in 2020, which we fully expect to happen if the Spring split doesn’t start well for Excel.
Excel should finally climb the ladder and reach playoffs this year which would be a huge accomplishment for the organizations, especially after signing an exclusive partnership with British Telecom (BT). Their roster and coaching staff upgrades, in theory, should be the missing ingredients the British organization requires to get out of being rock bottom of the league. I’ve taken a huge gamble in placing Excel so high in my roster power rankings, some may call me foolish, but if Excel is going to perform and reach playoffs, this is their year. They could get completely stomped by the new rookie talent entering the league and if they do, we will happily swallow our pride, but our expectations for this roster is much higher than those of the new additions to the league, hence why we’ve ranked them a lot higher than we would have in previous years.
To provide context on Mad Lion’s entrance into the LEC for anyone that is unaware, we covered the rebranding of Splyce into Mad Lions in a previous article.
We’re not sure where we stand on Mad Lions going into the 2020 LEC season. They have retained Marek “Humanoid” Brázda and used him as the centerpiece of their new roster while bringing in a bunch of rookie talent from multiple European Regional League’s (ERL’s). For someone that has only competed at the highest level of European play for a year, Humanoid will be the most experienced player on his team heading into 2020, which may affect his individual performance in the mid lane as a lot of pressure will be placed on Humanoid’s shoulder. Accompanying Humanoid from last years Splyce roster is newly promoted Head Coach James “Mac” MacCormack, previously the Head of Player Development at Splyce, his new role as the Head Coach for Mad Lions sees Mac endeavor into new depths, Mac will have a full plate throughout this year as he needs to develop and manage a completely new team filled with rookies.
Out of the new rookies, Andrei “Orome” Popa is the only player to have some form of LEC experience even though it was only one game with Splyce in 2019 Spring when Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss fell ill. Given the small sample size of LEC experience, it’s hard to judge how Orome will perform on a regular basis but of the sample size we do have, he managed to gain a +16 creep score difference at 10 minutes on Aatrox vs Finn’s Urgot and a +25 creep score lead at 20 minutes. The game was fairly isolated for both top laners as Splyce more or less won the game before Orome could get involved, but Orome showed his ability to play through his team’s advantages and fend for himself on the side lane. Outside of his one showing in the LEC, Orome has competed on teams such as Wind and Rain, Splyce Vipers and most recently, Mad Lions (prior to the organization joining the LEC in the Spanish league), winning the SuperLiga Orange Spring playoffs with Mad Lions vs Origen’s sister team, “Origen BCN” in one of the most intense endings to a ERL competition I’ve seen in recent years.
Another positive that can be easily identified for Mad Lions is the support-jungle synergy Mad Lions possess between Zhiqiang “Shadow” Zhao and Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser previously known as “Gistick”, who both used to compete under the mousesports banner together prior to joining Mad Lions. Both Shadow and Kasier won the Premier Tour 2019 summer playoffs vs BIG in a close series ending 3:2 but then proceeded to get knocked out by BIG in the European Masters a month later. In a meta that heavily revolves around making early, proactive plays through the jungle and support role, Mad Lions should look to utilize their members that already have plenty of game time and experience together, playing to their core strengths as they’re entering a new level of competition in the LEC whereby no mistake goes unpunished. Joining Mad Lions with two of his previously rivals from the Premier Tour league and the one player we expect to perform on the LEC stage is the EU Masters winner, Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság. Out of all the new additions to Mad Lions, Carzzy is the one player that’s caught our eye, his performances on BIG has earnt him a position at the highest level of professional play. Aged only 17, Carzzy is already very familiar with winning titles as he won a total of 7 tournaments in 2019 and is coined to be the future European superstar AD carry.
As Mad Lions is stacked with four rookies heading into 2020, it would be unfair to rank them amongst the likes of Schalke and Rogue. This team is a borderline playoffs team and could give teams like Excel a run for their money. They have managed to scout and combine multiple players from ERL leagues that have won domestic titles one level below the LEC. For the future of European talent, we’re incredibly excited to see Mad Lions play this year as we think out of all the organizations that have recruited fresh blood from the ERL’s, Mad Lions have signed the best up and coming talent.
Last year was a year all Vitality fans weren’t too happy about, especially after such a poetic, historic run in the 2018 World Championships, although they dropped out at the group stage, they ignited a fire in the Western teams to play their own style and beat their Eastern rivals on their own terms, rather than adapting and perfecting their methodology. Key players like Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro, Amadeu “Attila” Carvalho, and Jakub “Jactroll” Skurzyński all had a bad year despite making playoffs in both Spring and Summer, their individual performances were not up to the standard the players have set themselves in previous years. Both Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro and Amadeu “Attila” Carvalho have departed the LEC for the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) and SuperLiga Orange respectively. The Vitality roster for 2020 revolves around promoting the academy talent Duncan “Skeanz” Marquet to the main roster and bringing in Aljoša “Milicia” Kovandžić and Markos “Comp” Stamkopoulos from Vodafone Giants and Team LDLC respectively. Ever since Vitality replaced Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek with Lee “Mowgli” Jae-ha I feel they lost a lot of team cohesion and synergy, at the time of the roster swap occurred we had serious doubts for Vitality, and unfortunately, the roster swap didn’t turn out the way they would have hoped as Vitality regressed on their progress made in 2018.
As the LEC continues to evolve there has been more and more emphasis on developing European talent, with only 6 Koreans competing in the LEC as of 2020. Our hope for Vitality is that they use their newly promoted academy jungler, Skeanz, as their starting jungler and considering we are in an age where buying players doesn’t reap instant rewards such as winning every domestic tournament…unless you’re competing in North America and your organization is called Team Liquid. Skeanz competed on Vitality Bee in the La Ligue Française (LFL, French league) and is widely known for his signature Lee Sin pick. Although Skeanz has mastered the blind monk, his champion pool can be criticized to some extent which needs to be expanded in 2020. Skeanz definitely has the ability to play other champions as showcased in the LFL (Gragas, Elise, Olaf, Sejuani), but wherever or not they are up to the standard of other junglers in the LEC is questionable. As we don’t rate Mowgli that highly I’d much rather see Skeanz and Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet build up their French synergy and provide the 19-year-old the platform to expand on his champion pool and gain the much needed professional play experience.
A focal point for Vitality this year is Jactroll, Jactroll has to step up big time in 2020 as he had a mediocre year in 2019 and he has the Greek AD carry, Comp, joining his side in the bot lane. Comp dominated the LFL last year, winning everything there was to be won while being the best AD carry within the league. Comp may be the saving grace for Vitality and provide the AD carry insurance that Attila seemed to have lost in 2019. If Vitality is going to funnel resources into any player this year, Comp should be that player, which stresses the importance of Jactroll improving his play even more.
If all else fails for Vitality, there is always Cabochard. Cabochard has been such an influential name in the European ecosystem for many years, competing professionally since 2013, making a name for himself on Gambit Gaming then representing Vitality ever since. Cabo has never shied away from picking something wacky in the top lane, including his signature Graves and Lucian pocket picks (although we don’t see that as much nowadays). Cabo has always been rated highly despite never winning any titles or dominating any regular seasons which speaks volumes to the caliber of player he is. For Vitality’s sake, he needs to perform this year, top lane must be a win condition for Vitality in every game as when Cabochard gets going, he typically snowballs the game.
SK Gaming has definitely gone down in our rankings over the offseason, losing two of their standout performers from the 2019 season in Selfmade and Dreams. Considering SK Gaming lost their best players during the offseason, acquiring Trick from FC Schalke 04 is a good replacement for SK even though the jungling styles of both junglers are vastly different as Trick is more of a control jungler whereas Selfmade is a more proactive, aggressive jungler. With SK Gaming’s roster moves over the offseason being direct downgrades, we don’t have high hopes for this team and expect them to finish at the bottom of the table alongside Misfits.
Dino “LIMIT” Tot is the second player to join the LEC from previously competing with Ad Hoc Gaming in the Meisterschaft league, replacing Dreams and accompanying Juš “Crownshot” Marušič in the bot lane. Our overall expectations for this bot lane aren’t too high, Crownshot was a middle of the pack AD carry throughout 2019 with some highlight moments. Crownshot could definitely grow to become a more prominent figure but with a support that has yet to compete in any major tournaments or leagues, they could get bullied in the bot lane by the more veteran duos in the LEC. As well as potential issues in the bot lane, SK may run into troubles in the top lane as Toni “Sacre” Sabalíc was one of the weaker top laners during the 2019 Summer campaign of the LEC. As Sacre only competed on SK’s main roster during Summer and not Spring (as Jorge “Werlyb” Casanovas Moreno-Torres was their starting top laner in Spring), we have to cut Sacre some form of slack.
Janik “Jenax” Bartels was the starting mid laner for SK Gaming in the latter half of the 2019 Summer regular season after Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik was benched in an attempt to claw their way back into the playoffs, winning four games and losing two, to ultimately lose to Vitality in the tiebreaker game, thus narrowly missing out on playoffs. It was evident that Jenax was a massive improvement compared to Pirean as over 12 games Pirean averaged -308 gold difference and -10.1 creep score difference at 10 minutes, adding to Pirean’s continuous struggle in Europe which ultimately ended up in SK Gaming parting ways with Pirean, who joined Sengoku Gaming. The departure of Pirean enables Jenax to become the starting mid laner which is definitely a win — and as previously stated, we think the way forward for developing organizations and players in Europe is focusing on home-grown talent instead of importing players which pose certain issues such as language barriers and cultural clashes.
SK lacked a team identity and team cohesion in-game through 2019 and this may continue into 2020. Last year the team often won games from a split-second decision or a moment of brilliance from players like Selfmade, but right now, we’re unable to identify who will be the main player to step up when it matters. Jenax could be that player in 2020, but for a player that has only competed in a handful of games on the LEC stage, the pressure to consistently make that game-changing play might be a hindrance to his individual play.
We don’t have very high expectations for Misfits in 2020. From one end of the spectrum to the other, Misfits invested heavily into their 2019 roster, spending large amounts of money on the Korean support, Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyun, which to their demise, failed to reap any rewards as he left the European side halfway through 2019 in July. Misfit’s roster was heavily stacked heading into the 2019 season, consisting of players such as Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten along with Hans Sama and GorillA in the bot lane, but poor player management and the lack of understanding how to use the skillsets of the players at their disposal ultimately resulted in Misfits self-destruction. Misfits changed their starting roster in 2019 more than TSM changes their jungler and they struggled to find the perfect composition of players right until the end of the year.
Of all rosters prior to the 2019 LEC season starting, Misfits was the one roster we didn’t expect to be an utter flop, on paper this team was built to compete with the likes of G2 and Fnatic, it had almost everything you can ask for in a perfect roster; experience, a shot caller, extremely gifted AD carry, veterans, the lot. But for one player, he was returning to Europe in an attempt to put himself back at the top of European mid laners after leaving H2K in 2017 to join Clutch Gaming, Febiven. Febiven peaked on Fnatic in 2015 and 2016, especially vs SKT during the 2015 MSI tournament, but since returning to the LEC, it seems to me he has never managed to regain his confidence on the LEC stage as he struggled throughout 2019, gaining himself the largest gold difference at 10 minutes of all mid laners in Spring (+161 gold) but failed to convert his lead into a larger, more meaningful advantage for his team as Misfits finished 8th in Spring with a record of 8-10. Summer was the polar opposite for Febiven, as his individual play was not up to par and after only starting in 6 of the 18 LEC regular-season games, was replaced by Adam “LIDER” Ilyasov who was promoted from Misfits Premier to the main LEC team due to poor individual performances from Febiven.
One of the positive notes for all the Misfits fans is Ronaldo, and before you think I’ve written a typo, no, it’s not the Portuguese, greatest of all time footballer player, but Misfits’ second mid laner who will share the mid lane role with Febiven, Ronaldo “Ronaldooo” Betea. Former Fnatic Rising mid laner and support Ronaldooo competed in the UKLC, winning summer regular season and playoffs, playing alongside the likes of Felix “MagiFelix” Boström and Matthew “xMatty” Coombs, who could compete in the LEC.
As a result of their lackluster year in 2019, it has left their roster filled with younger players from the European Regional Leagues that have yet to play on the big stage. Misfits have kept Febiven and Danny “Dan Dan” Le Comte from the 2019 campaign but dropped all other players. Replacing their vacant roles, Misfits has acquired the 19-year-old Spanish jungler Iván “Razork” Martín Díaz from Giants Gaming, Ju “Bvoy” Yeong-hoon and Petr “denyk” Haramach. This new lineup struggled against Excel’s 10 man roster in the recent Neosurf cup, although the best of five series ended 3-2 in favor of Excel, Misfits used their full roster every game (switching out Febiven and Ronaldooo) while Excel rotated out their academy and LEC players. We were not overly impressed with Dan Dan’s performance during the last 10 games of the 2019 Summer split either as we feel he sits towards the bottom end of the top laners we have in Europe. Misfits need to find some form of identity and fast if they want to not finish 10th place, utilizing Razork and denyk to their full potential could be their main win condition for Misfits as they need to transfer their experience on Giants Gaming in the LVP to the LEC. It would be naive to rank Misfits any higher than C tier and bottom of the pack as I think their roster heading into 2020 as a result of miss-management from 2019, but the underdog narrative is always a strong narrative that may be one of their greatest tools in the LEC.
One of the persistent issues with power rankings is where to place rookies and considering teams such as Misfits, Team Vitality, and Mad Lions have heavily invested into new talent ahead of the 2020 LEC season, you have to take power rankings with a pinch of salt as some rookies can burst onto the scene and instantly make a mark, whereas other rookies can come and go.
Last year, the LEC was one of the most stacked years in terms of competition, and with the return of the European legend FORG1VEN, spicy roster changes such as Upset joining Origen and Hans Sama joining Rogue, and the overall strengthening of multiple rosters, we expect the competition to be even more fierce this year despite losing signature European players such as Broxah and Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup. The LEC returns this weekend on January 24, with G2 Esports facing off against Mad Lions in the first game of the day and closing out with Fnatic vs. Origen.
TL:DR – Power ranking follows as G2 Esports, Fnatic, Origen, Rogue, FC Schalke 04, Excel, Mad Lions, Team Vitality, SK Gaming, Misfits.