With the LEC summer split kicking off tomorrow, will the new blood of MAD Lions and Rogue continue to find success? Or will the old guard, Fnatic and G2, shut down the upstarts?
With a relatively successful MSI trip completed, Europe's LEC marks the last of the major regions to begin play when they kick off this Friday. Opening the split will be a huge clash between Spring champions MAD Lions and traditional favourites G2. Ahead of the split, where do teams stand? Who will we see challenging for the title? And who still has a long way to go?
The LEC Summer 2021 title favourites
For a long time, MAD Lions and Rogue lived in the shadow of G2 and Fnatic. They had plenty of talent, but never seemed to be able to break past those two. That is, until this year, when MAD Lions were crowned Spring champions. They were the first team not named G2 or Fnatic to win the top-level European circuit since 2014, when Alliance took home the summer title. And they’ll look to repeat their success here.
MAD Lions are coming off an MSI trip that saw them take a solid top-four finish. While it wasn’t the big international breakthrough for Europe that some had hoped for, they took Korean champions DWG KIA to five games and didn’t really underperform either.
The duo of Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság and Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser has been the class of Europe ever since they debuted in the LEC last year. The two offseason additions of İrfan Berk “Armut” Tükek and Javier “Elyoya” Prades Batalla also worked wonders for the team. Mid laner Marek “Humanoid” Brázda also took massive steps forward in Spring, transitioning from a solid mid-table player to possibly Europe’s most feared mid. Watch for Humanoid to continue to establish himself as MAD Lions look to repeat their spring success.
The other big up-and-coming team, Rogue challenged MAD Lions very closely during spring. The five-game grand finals series is emblematic of that. Like MAD, Rogue have had great success with off-season additions, namely top laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu and support Adrian “Trymbi” Trybus.
A bit less like MAD Lions, though, Rogue’s big strength is their longtime mid-jungle duo. Kacper “Inspired” Słoma was Europe’s premier jungler in spring, shutting down fans who criticized his champion pool and playstyle and forming a great partnership with Emil “Larssen” Larsson. Rogue should be aiming for the LEC title again in summer, and those two will be a big part of it.
Finally, we come to G2. Europe’s most high-profile roster uncharacteristically struggled in Spring. Whether it was the addition of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson or various internal issues, they took third place to the surging Rogue and MAD. This roster has enough talent to be considered a favourite, but they have a ways to go if they want to catch up.
G2 were the only one of these top 3 teams to make a shift in their team in the break between splits, adding former LNG Esports coach Sng “Nelson” Yi-wei as a strategic coach. Whether or not it’s his addition, or a shift in playstyle, that will make the difference for G2, something has to. They’re still one of Europe’s most skilled rosters, but it will take some effort to make them number one again.
Challengers: Can they, can't they?
Vitality are coming into summer with a fully revamped roster. The bot lane of Juš “Crownshot” Marušič and Labros “Labrov” Papoutsakis is all that remains of the team that played in spring. In the top lane, Enzo “SLT” Gonzalez has been brought in. Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek will be the team’s jungler, coming over from Fnatic, and Adam “LIDER” Ilyasov will be playing the mid lane.
Vitality are one of the most interesting rosters around. LIDER has long had the skill to play in Europe’s top league, but has always been criticised for his champion pool - he excels on assassins, but has tended to struggle on control mages. With a few more ERL splits under his belt, he re-enters the LEC looking to prove the doubters wrong.
As regards the other additions, Selfmade is still one of Europe’s best junglers, but had a somewhat poor performance in spring. And lastly, SLT has been a promising, if overlooked, ERL talent for a long time.
If everything comes together for Vitality, they’ll be incredibly dangerous. There’s a possibility this team can challenge for the title, and certainly for a Worlds spot. If things fall apart, we might see a mid-split implosion given the personalities on the lineup. No matter what the result, it’ll be entertaining to watch.
Fnatic made one of the strangest moves League of Legends has seen in a long time this break. Out is Selfmade, to the aforementioned Team Vitality. EU Masters spring champion Adam “Adam” Maanane is the team’s new toplaner, while Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau has roleswapped to fill the jungle spot.
Releasing the team’s most high-impact player, and bringing in a somewhat struggling top laner to roleswap and fill his spot, is odd to say the least. And while this is still a Fnatic lineup that has talent, it’s likely to set them quite far back. Fnatic only managed a fifth-place finish in Spring; it’s looking likely that they’ll end up in a similar spot in summer. Unless Bwipo turns out to be a jungle superstar in hiding. But that’s highly unlikely.
Underdogs: A mountain to climb
If Fnatic made one of the strangest moves ever, SK might take the title. Support Erik “Treatz” Wessén has roleswapped and will be the team’s new jungler, while their coach, Jesse “Jesiz” Le, will take his support spot.
Yes, that’s not a typo. Another roleswapped jungler will be starting in the LEC this split. And while Jesiz is a former pro, its hard to imagine there weren’t ERL talents SK could have signed. But the biggest difference between Fnatic and SK is that Fnatic were starting from a pretty solid roster. SK squeaked into playoffs in Spring, losing 3-1 to Fnatic in the lower bracket.
Perhaps the LEC teams know something we don’t. Maybe Treatz is a jungle star and we never knew it. Perhaps Jesiz is not only capable of playing in Europe’s top league, but is actually a top 5 or 4 support in it. But again, it’s doubtful. SK have shot themselves in the foot, and will likely be regretting it when all is said and done.
One of the most famed names in all of esports, Astralis have failed to impress since officially stamping their brand in LoL earlier this year. They placed 9th in spring, only beating out a dysfunctional Team Vitality lineup, and didn’t make any roster changes during the break.
It’s tough to even find a top-5 talent on this team. Nikolay “Zanzarah” Akatov is entertaining, and might be the only saving grace for this team. SoloQ star Carl Felix “MagiFelix” Boström has been fine since joining the team midway through spring, but not the mid lane star the team badly needed. Simply put, Astralis have a very long way to go if they even want to dig themselves out of the bottom two.