We’re now halfway through the 2020 League of Legends European Championship (LEC) Spring Split and the league has proven to be extremely volatile and unpredictable.
It is safe to say that the power rankings presented prior to the LEC kicking off look drastically different from how the league has panned out so far; with one game remaining at the start of week five to complete the first round robin. The six teams at the top of the table are within one game of each other, making week five a pivotal and detrimental week as to where the teams will finish at the end of the season, especially when it comes to head-to-head records.
If G2 Esports were not at the top of the table, something would be seriously wrong, and although they are tied for first place on wins and losses, they sit second due to their head-to-head record with Misfits Gaming. Prior to week four, many were hopeful that G2 Esports could finally match Fnatic’s 2015 18-0 season as G2 took down Origen, Fnatic, and Rogue so far this season, all of which were considered to be the top teams in the LEC, but an extremely disappointing week four performance saw G2 lose out to Misfits and give Schalke 04 their first win of the split. Despite G2’s uncharacteristic week four record and poor individual performances from key players such as Rasmus “Caps” Winther, the expectations for G2 amongst the community is to return to winning ways while avoiding setting new death records, a record that Caps will definitely laugh about heading forward.
Out of all the smashed expectations, Misfits Gaming’s performance is the most notable, defying everyone’s predictions as many ranked them to be at the bottom of the table. Outside of their dire first-week performance, they are on a six-game win streak and sit atop of the LEC. Meanwhile, the hype surrounding the return of Erberk “Gilius” Demir and Konstantinos-Napoleon “Forg1ven” Tzortziou to the LEC with Schalke 04 has been a massive flop, with both members being benched from the roster.
The dark horse of the LEC, Misfits Gaming
Many journalists, analysts, and community members, including oneself, have had to swallow their pride when it comes to Misfits Gaming as many ranked them as a lower-tier team, but the dark horse of the LEC has surprised the entire community four weeks in.
The first week definitely did not come as a surprise as Misfits lost their first two games, suffering the quickest and most one-sided defeat of the split to Fnatic within 20 minutes. Many fans and analysts were not hopeful for Misfits after week one but their individual and team performances have been above and beyond the community expectations. Taking a closer look into Misfits’ performances, Iván “Razork” Martín Díaz and Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten have been their standout performers. Outside of Razork’s embarrassing week one performance where he failed to connect an E + Q combo on Jarvan IV versus Rogue seven minutes into the game, he has dominated the early game on Lee Sin and Gragas, whilst popping off versus G2 Esports with a 7.0 KDA on his signature Ekko jungle pick. For a rookie jungler, Razork has definitely made his presence known, averaging the second-highest number of kills a game at 3.1 kills, farming up a storm with the joint highest creep score per minute at 5.3, and playing five different champions across eight games.
With all succeeding junglers comes a succeeding mid laner. Febiven is arguably returning to the form he has been searching for since 2015 and for the first time in a while and he has been vocal about his current form on social media. His performances on Qiyana and Leblanc in week two versus SK Gaming and Excel Esports respectively showcased he still has the mechanical prowess to compete with the best mid laners in the LEC, as Febiven landed a stunning five-man ultimate on Qiyana to take the win over SK Gaming. Being the sole veteran on his team, Febiven needs to ensure he not only has top-class individual performances but also calls the shots and provides his rookie teammates guidance throughout each game.
Danny “Dan Dan” Le Comte has been a rock in the top lane for Misfits as of late, his performance from week one compared to weeks two, three, and four are not even remotely close. The top lane Nocturne pick versus Fnatic was definitely a gamble that did not pay off, potentially Andrew “Vedius” Day’s love for Nocturne baited Dan Dan to taking the eternal nightmare into Aatrox in the top lane, a matchup that on paper, is winnable by Nocturne. Of Dan Dan’s 15 deaths this season, 10 come from the first two games in week one, 6 of which come from his abysmal Nocturne game versus Fnatic, speaking volumes to Dan Dan’s consistency since week one, averaging the joint second-lowest average deaths per game in the top lane at 1.9 deaths a game, a statistic that is paramount for top laners globally as absorbing pressure whilst avoiding death is a skill on its own.
A major concern that is undoubtedly looming over the fans for Misfits Gaming is consistency. Historically Misfits has started the first round of the double round-robin with a bang but has struggled to perform at a high level throughout the season. During the LEC 2018 Summer split (previously known as EU LCS), Misfits won their first nine games in a row and sat atop the LEC until they suffered their first defeat to Fnatic. In the second half of the round-robin of the 2018 Summer split, Misfit’s form fell dramatically as they finished the split in the fifth position with a record of 11-7. If Misfits can maintain their current form, they are on track to produce one of the best cinderella storylines in the history of the European League of Legends as no one expected this level of play from a team which on paper, did not have the best team heading into the 2020 season. Misfits have so far shattered the expectations placed upon their team so far and with their upcoming schedule, facing MAD Lions and Rogue in week five could claim a spot at the top of the LEC in sole possession of the first place.
Hotly contested middle of the pack
The middle of the table is a contested area of the LEC, with MAD Lions, Fnatic, and Rogue all on five wins and three losses, all of which are one win off the top of the standings. Excel Esports currently sits just outside the top six with a record of 4-4. The rise of Misfits Gaming means that one team will lose a spot in playoffs, which during the offseason would be a huge disappointment for any of the organizations sitting in the middle of the pack.
MAD Lions’ new talent from the European Regional Leagues is demonstrating they are not here to take part but are here to take over. The newbies on the block entered the scene with an explosive first game against G2 Esports, gaining an impressive 3.9k gold lead during the early game over the former World Championship finalists, but ultimately, blew their lead in scrappy skirmishes during the mid-game.
Although their first game was a loss, there were a lot of positives to take out of their first defeat. Building upon their strong showing versus G2 Esports, MAD Lions have since won five games and lost two, beating the likes of Fnatic and Rogue. As the underdog in both matchups, MAD Lions had nothing to lose but everything to gain, taking down Rogue through utilizing the overpowered unicorn in the top lane, Soraka, as Andrei “Orome” Popa finished with a scoreline of 0/1/14 on the unorthodox top laner. Most recently, the MAD Lions took down Fnatic in the week four ‘Match of the Week,’ as MAD Lions’ support player, Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser, dominated every inch of the map, neutralizing what could have been a disastrous early game with a two-man knock-up on Rakan to deny a tower dive from Fnatic. Although MAD Lions have lost to the likes of Origen, G2, and Excel, they have proved their young rookies are here to stay and can compete with the best Europe has to offer.
Fnatic’s and Rogue’s split so far are almost identical as both teams have lost to G2 Esports, Origen and MAD Lions whilst besting Misfits in the first week of the LEC. Both organizations had high expectations set on them for this year as Rogue strengthened their roster during the offseason, building upon their late last-season surge in 2019 to become a top team within the LEC, replacing their inconsistent AD carries with one of Europe’s most consistent AD carry, Steven “Hans Sama” Liv. Rogue’s solo laners and jungler, Kacper “Inspired” Słoma have a plethora of highlight-reel plays that send the Twitch chat into meltdown and leave the audience stunned at what just unfolded. Rogue possesses similar traits to G2 Esports in that no matter the deficit they are in, they have the ability to win a game-changing team fight. In week three clash of Rogue versus G2, Inspired pulled off an insane team fight on Lee Sin to keep Rogue well and truly in the game. Although Rogue lost to G2 in the end, they demonstrate on a regular basis that they are among the most mechanically gifted players in Europe.
Fnatic introduced Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek to the jungle and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez as the new Head Coach in an attempt to finally topple G2 Esports from their throne. So far both Fnatic and Rogue have shown signs of brilliance but also signs of weakness, specifically for Fnatic, they need to work on reeling in their top laner, Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau, and support player, Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov as their tendency to die completely unnecessarily occurs way too often. Although Bwipo overextends and dies too often for Fnatic’s liking, Bwipo’s aggression does pay off as well, as Bwipo is currently miles above all other LEC top laners with the number of solo kills he has acquired so far with 7 to his name. Fnatic and Rogue face off against each other tomorrow and the outcome of the middle of the table clash will indicate the current power level of both teams.
Out with the old, in with the new, Schalke 04
Prior to week four, Schalke was heading into the second half of the double round-robin with the daunting prospect of not picking up a single win. Due to poor performances and internal issues in the first three weeks, both Gilius and Forg1ven have been dropped from the S04’s starting roster, bringing in Lukas “Lurox” Thoma and Nihat “Innaxe” Aliev as their replacements from their sister team, Schalke Evolution. The return of the trash talk kings definitely didn’t pan out the way Schalke 04 would have liked, with the departure of Forg1ven being an extremely controversial one. Prior to the departure of Gilius and Forg1ven from the main roster, it was obvious to the entire community that Schalke clearly lacked any form of direction in-game as Schalke would continuously fight over objectives without pressure on the side lanes that would not provide them a clear avenue back into the game. Watching Schalke was extremely painful as a neutral viewer thus their team collapsing not even halfway through the season does not come as a surprise.
Outside of Schalke’s new members running into performance issues, both Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu and Felix “Abbedagge” Braun are proving to be way too inconsistent for the German organization. Abbegaddge’s issues from last year of dying isolated from his team are reoccurring this split, as he currently has the highest average number of deaths per game amongst all LEC mid laners at 3.8 deaths a game. It is only a matter of time until Schalke have to give Abbedagge the same treatment as they did with Gilius and other underperforming members unless he steps up big time. Of all the members on the sinking ship, Odoamne has definitely been the best performer but standing out amongst this current team is not a hard task. Odoamne is still average +215 gold over his lane opponent at 15 minutes but is struggling to snowball his minor lead into a major lead to help carry his team, but in Schalke’s only victory this split, against G2, Odoamne was an absolute monster during the mid and late game. The shining light for Schalke fans this split is beating G2 Esports, they outclassed them in skirmishes throughout the entire game, obtaining 27 kills over 41 minutes, but were pulled across the map from G2’s side lane management and sneaky 20-minute baron with Aphelios’ Crescendum and Calibrum combo. Heading forward Schalke needs to build upon the positives and aim to construct strong foundations for the Summer split as reaching playoffs is more or less an impossible feat at this point.
The French revolution is yet to come for Team Vitality
Team Vitality has seen high highs and low lows in the past few years; unfortunately for the French organization, this is their lowest low, sitting at the bottom of the LEC with a record of 0 and 8.
Their issues began before the LEC even started as their starting mid laner, Aljoša “Milica” Kovandžić, is still awaiting his work visa to compete in the LEC. Stepping in for Milica is the Vitality Bee mid laner, Lucas “Saken” Fayard, who previously has stepped in for Vitality’s main squad but has struggled on the main stage this split with some poor performances, especially in the early game with minus 9.6 creep score, minus 536 gold and minus 407 experience differential at 15 minutes. Along with his poor early game statistics, Saken has also attained the lowest gold per minute of all mid laners at 346 gold and lowest damage to champions per minute at 339 damage.
Even Vitality’s signature player, Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet, has struggled to find his footing in the LEC this split and for an organization that has put all their eggs into Cabochard’s basket, this is a worrying trend for Vitality. Alongside Vitality’s veterans underperforming, their rookie jungler, Duncan “Skeanz” Marquet has struggled to make an impact on the big stage, only participating in 12.5% of first blood kills, a not so healthy statistic for a jungler.
The one positive we see for Vitality heading forward is Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi replacing Jakub “Jactroll” Skurzyński. Maybe a fresh mindset and outlook on the game from a player with heaps of experience under his belt can work wonders. Steeelback’s first game back at the highest level of European play was on Pyke versus Misfits Gaming, and although they lost, Steeelback displayed signs of proactivity and willingness to make plays. It is still unsure as to when Milica will have his work visa approved to start competing in the LEC but with Vitality facing Schalke 04 this weekend, it will be their best chance to put their first win on the board as going 0-18 is a real concern for Vitality fans at the moment.
The League of Legends European Championship returns tomorrow, February 21, where Misfits Gaming faces off against MAD Lions in the first match of the day, rounding out with Rogue vs. Fnatic at the end of the day.
Adam is a master's degree student studying esports at Staffordshire University. He is originally from Manchester, UK, and possesses an unrivaled passion for everything esports.