With the first LCS split of the year just around the corner we would like to introduce you to our resident League of Legends analyst: Mike "DarkCrawler" Smith. DC's been following EU LCS longer than most of us have been on solid food and a glowing review from him has been behind many a new client for TESA UK.
To start things off, we're taking a look at the runners and riders at the start of Spring Split - who's got a shot at the title and who's just along for the ride? Over you to, Mike:
EU LCS 2018 - My Thoughts and Predictions
With the start of the EU LCS Spring Split now only a week or so away, here’s a run-down of how I think things are likely to shape up this split.
With the changes to the format coming in, and the move to single-league Bo1, everything is likely to be very different to the past year. Many teams seem to suffer in a Bo1 format, as those that prioritise the ability to adapt get little opportunity to do so. Plus, with the reworking of the NA LCS franchise, and the departure of a number of EU players such as PowerOfEvil, Zven, Mithy and Febiven, all of whom were major performers in Season 7, there is a whole host of new talent now available in EU, and I for one am very excited.
The Return of Giants and FC Schalke 04
After a disappointing run in the 2017 Spring Split, Giants found themselves in the unfortunate position of demotion to Challenger after 2 defeats to Fnatic Academy in the Summer Promotion tournament. There they joined Schalke, who were completely dominant in Challenger Spring Split, going undefeated in the regular season.
The two teams then utterly destroyed the rest of the competition in Challenger Summer Split, with both teams having an 80% win rate, Schalke not dropping a series, and Giants only defeat coming at the hands of their rivals.
The two then defeated Ninjas in Pyjamas and Mysterious Monkeys to reclaim their places in the EU LCS and will be hungry to prove themselves this split, both having picked up some big names since their promotions.
With G2 seeing a full rebuild with the exception of PerkZ in the preseason, how are they shaping up for the Spring? PerkZ is a huge talent, and will be looking to keep his lane kingdom alive, but with this much changing around him this split, will he be able to pull everything together and get the mass of talent to gel as a team? Only time will tell, though one thing is for sure, departure of Head Coach YoungBuck will certainly make this more of a challenge for him. Stacked with well-known names from the EU LCS, they’ll be looking to keep their win streak alive, and match Fnatic’s record of 5 EU LCS titles.
Speaking of Fnatic, they have the most consistent roster coming into 2018. With only one change, which is slipping support Jesiz into a bench seat whilst EU LCS mainstay Hylissang comes in from Unicorns of Love. The team were pretty dominant in Summer 2017, with an 11-2 record, including 2-0 and 2-1 victories against current champions G2. Despite a slow start to the year for the team, they made it to Worlds, through the Gauntlet, as Europe’s third seed. This squad, with two players new to the international stage then performed a record-breaking comeback in groups to make it through to the quarterfinals, where they ultimately made their exit.
Importantly, Head Coach Dylan Falco is still with the team, and his influence made a big difference when he came in to the organisation. Add in YoungBuck, former G2 Head coach as Team Director, and the support staff of Fnatic is as packed with talent as the squad itself.
Splyce are looking in pretty good shape this split, having picked up former H2K toplaner Odoamne, veteran kaSing and a host of other talent. After a fantastic performance in 2016, and a solid 2017, Splyce have the support staff in place to make a potential run at worlds if the team is in place.
H2K have had a complete roster swap this split, so their position is completely in question right now. The roster looks good on paper, but the org failed to reach worlds in 2017, and with a complete change, it’s unknown how they will perform as a team.
Misfits have kept the core of Alphari and Hans Sama, along with Summer Split and Worlds jungler Maxlore, meaning they have a solid core to build around. However, without All-star players PowerOfEvil and IgNar, who knows how they’ll shape up?
ROCCAT have also had a full rebuild coming into 2018. Despite losing long-term midlaner Betsy, they’ve managed to pick up former SKT T1 toplaner Profit. They have a roster of players hungry to win, and planning on proving themselves worthy of the title of LCS champions.
Unicorns of Love are desperate to prove themselves this season, after making a minimum of quarterfinals of the EU LCS for every split since they joined the LCS in 2015, but never managing to take the title. Having kept, in my opinion, the single most underrated player from 2017 in Samux, along with midlaner Exileh, UoL look to be in a solid position for 2018.
Vitality are on totally unknown ground for 2018. Whilst they’ve managed to hold on to toplaner Cabochard, who is a core point of the team, the rest of the roster is either untested other than jungler Gilius, whose last appearance on the LCS stage was 2016. It is yet to be seen how they’ll perform, while they may have raw talent, the team is yet to be blooded and proven.
So, how do we think that this will end up?
It seems clear that given what evidence we have, Fnatic are likely to end up at the top this split, with a consistent roster, and an ever-strengthening roster of support staff, the team looks set to reclaim the LCS title. It feels like this is theirs to lose.
However, hot on their heels are likely to be talent-packed Splyce, FC Schalke 04, Unicorns of Love and Misfits. All of these teams are looking to be pushing for the top spot, and I think the top half of the table is going to both interesting and flexible this split.
G2 look like they could be strong, but with so much of the roster changing, and the loss of YoungBuck, they could struggle, at least to begin with. ROCCAT are in a similar boat, plenty of very strong players on the team, but a full roster change and a new coach might bring in some issues.
H2K, Giants and Vitality are not looking as strong this split. Whilst they all have some strong points, they also all have players untested on the big stage, and major overhauls to their rosters. Whilst they could well perform, I think it is too early to look at any of them as contenders for the top spots this split.
Thanks for reading and I hope you stay tuned to this page as the next split unfolds. Feel free to comment below with any questions and I'll do my best to answer!
Mike “DarkCrawler” Smith