After a grueling 11-week journey through the European LCS Summer Split, the top six teams from the region are arrayed for one final series of battles. The 2014 EU Summer Playoffs will decide which three teams represent Europe during the 2014 World Championship. The semifinals and beyond will be held at Gamescom 2014, but the quarterfinals will be held at the main LCS studio in Cologne, Germany, starting on August 7, 2014 with a best-of-five match between the Supa Hot Crew and Team ROCCAT.
Alliance and Fnatic enjoy a first round bye, and automatically advance to the semifinals at Gamescom 2014, thanks to an impressive 2014 EU LCS Summer Split where they finished first and second overall. The other four qualified teams have been seeded for the quarterfinal round where the No. 3 seed (Supa Hot Crew) takes on the No. 6 seed (Team ROCCAT) while the No. 4 seed (SK Gaming) battles the No. 5 (Millenium). The winner of the SHC/ROC match will play Fnatic, while the winner of the SK/MIL match moves on to face Alliance. The losers, meanwhile, will face-off to avoid relegation in the 2015 Spring Promotion Tournament.
The winner of the semifinal matches will move on to the finals, and lock in a berth to the 2014 World Championship. All is not lost for the teams that lose in the semifinals, though. They fall into a third-place game where the winner there will earn the last spot given to Europe for the World Championship.
All of these series, including the fifth place series, will be best-of-five. The team with the higher seed gets to choose which side of the map they start on, and they’ll have that side for three of the five potential matches. All matches are draft-pick style.
Europe enjoys the longest history of sustained success of any region in League of Legends. The first major benchmark of that success came during the Season 1 World Championship in 2011. Not only did Fnatic win the tournament outright, but another European squad, against All authority, took second place.
Season 2 saw multiple teams joining the European scene and immediately winning tournaments throughout the run up to the World Championship. The most famous debut was that of the Moscow 5. M5 roared onto the international scene at IEM Kiev in January 2012 where they only dropped a single game to Team SoloMid en route to a victory. Their astonishing debut would be followed up with another win at the IEM World Championship in March.
Moscow 5 was not alone among new teams that came into the scene and immediately shook it up. Counter Logic Gaming sponsored a team (CLG.EU) that rolled off a victory at DreamHack Summer 2012. Their most impressive achievement, though, was not on European soil. The team was invited to participate in Champions Summer 2012 in Korea and they took home second place. To this day, CLG.EU’s second place is the only time that a non-Korean team has finished among the top four in any OGN League of Legends tournaments since OGN adopted a 16-team format.
M5 and CLG.EU entered the Regional Finals in Cologne with confidence, and it paid off for them. M5 won the tournament, and CLG.EU took third while another new face on the League of Legends scene, SK Gaming, secured second. All three teams earned a spot in the Season 2 World Championship by virtue of their triumphs at Regionals.
Moscow 5 entered the Season 2 World Championship among the favorites, thanks to their track record of blowing out opponents throughout the season. Unfortunately, it was not to be. European power was usurped by the Taipei Assassins from Southeast Asia, and Azubu Frost from South Korea. M5 and CLG.EU did manage third and fourth respectively.
The advent of the new LCS system for Season 3 cut down on the number of international tournaments that top European teams could play in. Domestically, Europe saw the resurgence of Fnatic. After failing to qualify for the Season 2 World Championship, Fnatic won both the Spring and Summer LCS playoffs in 2013. The teams that had come to dominate Europe during Season 2 such as Gambit Gaming (formerly Moscow 5) and the Evil Geniuses (formerly CLG.EU) were well represented near the top of the standings as well.
Europe was awarded three spots in the Season 3 World Championship and sent Fnatic, newcomer LemonDogs, and Gambit Gaming to Los Angeles to compete for the title. Unfortunately, the LemonDogs ran into the buzzsaws that were OMG from China and eventual winner SK Telecom T1 from Korea.
While LemonDogs had a tough time during the group stage, Gambit Gaming and Fnatic both flourished. Gambit Gaming took second in the other group by beating Korea’s Samsung Galaxy Ozone in a tiebreaker match, while Fnatic took first while only dropping a single game.
The bracket stage of the Season 3 World Championship proved too tough for Europe. Gambit Gaming fell in the quarterfinals to Korea’s NaJin Black Sword and Fnatic fell in the semifinals to China’s Royal Club.
The advent of the 2014 Season saw much the same in Europe’s LCS. Fnatic went on a long winning streak, followed by a slump, and then pulled themselves together in order to take home their third straight LCS crown. Their win qualified them for the most recent international tournament, 2014 All-Star Paris.
2014 All-Star Paris was an unmitigated disaster for Europe. Fnatic appeared completely disheveled throughout the group stage and only managed a single win against Southeast Asia’s Taipei Assassins. While the single win did qualify Fnatic for the playoffs of the tournament, Korea’s SK Telecom T1 K snuffed out any hope of a run from Fnatic in a decisive 2-0 shellacking of the European Champions.
The destruction in Paris put Europe at a crossroads. If the region wanted to its lost luster, it would have to change. To Europe’s credit, teams responded to the events by using it as motivation to change several notable deficiencies, particularly the supporting infrastructure around the players. The added coaches and analysts have raised the level of play throughout the region and that has translated into a highly contested 2014 EU LCS Summer Split.
Armed with more infrastructure, as well as the motivation to wipe the sour taste from the region’s collective mouth after All-Stars, the region has seen an evolution in style. Top teams such as Alliance and Fnatic showed a deeper understanding of win conditions, and the region as a whole has shown an innovative streak throughout the Summer Split.
The metagame is forever changing in League of Legends thanks to regular patches. There is an argument to be made that the assassin metagame that was the hallmark of Season Three is coming back due to the number of Ahri and Zed picks that have happened all over the world, including in Europe. As is, though, the meta is full of compositions that put a premium on waveclear, and a single decisive engagement to win games past the forty minute mark.
One of the results of this metagame shift is that a gold lead isn’t nearly as important. There have been multiple games where the team that is losing badly in total gold has managed to eke out a teamfight victory and then utilize long death timers to win the game. That is a hallmark of understanding a win condition.
A win condition is the sum of things necessary for a team to pull out a victory. For example, a pick composition wants to generate a kill in order to take objectives and win the game. The win condition of the aforementioned waveclear comp is to hold on, and look for that single decisive moment where a massive burst can force a decisive win.
That understanding was on display in the Alliance/Team ROCCAT game during Week 11 for the EU LCS Summer Split. Team ROCCAT was beating Alliance all over the map, and had managed to secure the lion’s share of objectives. But Alliance’s composition had enormous waveclear from Froggen’s Xerath and Tabzz’s Kog’Maw and that kept ROCCAT at bay for 45 minutes. ALL finally got an engagement they wanted after the prolonged period of stalling, scored multiple kills, and won the game despite being 10,000 gold down. It was a case of fulfilling a win condition.
As League of Legends continues to develop as a sport, copycat strategies emerge. If a certain champion or composition works in one region, it will quickly get tested in another. Europe has shown that they’re willing to copycat, but also that they can innovate, which is a step in the right direction as the region gears up for the melting pot of styles that the 2014 World Championship will bring.
Europe’s recent innovation has centered on the top lane metagame, particularly the emergence of Maokai. Maokai was first played by Team ROCCAT’s Xaxus during Week 10 against Gambit Gaming to secure a victory. Since then, Maokai has turned into a hotly contested pick all over the world. Samsung Galaxy Blue’s Acorn went on a tear with him against Samsung Galaxy White in Korea and the Twisted Treant was frequently picked throughout both the NA and EU LCS Super Week.
Alliance - No. 1 seed
Alliance has been the gold standard for Europe throughout the Summer Split. They began the season on top of the standings, and didn’t vacate that position throughout all 11 weeks. They finished up with a record of 21-7, but have suffered three defeats in their past 10 games.
Their dominant run stands in stark contrast to Alliance’s troubles in the Spring Split. The team formed shortly before the 2014 Spring Split, and was hailed as the “Super Team.” Alliance had proven veterans at every roster position, and they were expected to immediately compete for top honors in the EU LCS. That didn’t pan out during the Spring Split, as the team struggled to find consistency, and only managed a fourth place finish.
All of that changed with the start of the Summer Split. Thanks to a new analyst the team brought onboard shortly before the split, ALL’s objective control and map understanding have taken a large step forward. There are still occasional relapses, but their overall ability to play the map in order to secure objectives as well as implement both tactical and strategic decisions are second-to-none heading into the 2014 Regional Playoffs.
Fnatic - No. 2 seed
The kings of the European LCS took a little while to get going during the Summer Split, but the arrival of Alvar “Araneae” Martin as coach in week 5 got the team back to their winning ways. From week 7 on, Fnatic only dropped two of the fourteen games that they played. Their hot streak earned them a 19-9 record during the summer. One of the primary reasons for this record is that the Fnatic bottom lane has ascended to arguably the best in the West. AD carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and support Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim have combined to earn three of six MVPs given out over the past month and a half.
The team enters with confidence off of all of their recent victories, but there is some cause for concern should Fnatic make it into the finals against Alliance. One of Fnatic’s recent losses came to Alliance in Week 10 of the Summer Split. It was a game of inches, and Alliance was able to secure enough small advantages by taking away the attacking style that Fnatic prefers.
Supa Hot Crew - No. 3 seed
Third-seeded Supa Hot Crew enter into their match with Team ROCCAT with a 16-12 regular season record, and they have won six of their past ten games. The Supa Hot Crew are an aggressive, tempo-based team that are at their best when they’re playing a pick composition. Middle laner Marcin “SELFIE” Wolski has an excellent Yasuo that has drawn multiple bans, but his Ahri is similarly devastating.
The knock on SHC coming out of the Week 11 Super Week was that they appeared listless in two games, including against their first round opponent Team ROCCAT. They closed the week with blowout wins over Millenium and the Copenhagen Wolves, though.
The Supa Hot Crew cannot afford that level of inconsistency. They have to be able to settle into their game against Team ROCCAT, and be the aggressor. If they are able to take their series one game at a time, the Supa Hot Crew has a shot to not only get by ROCCAT, but secure a coveted berth to the 2014 World Championship.
SK Gaming - No. 4 seed
SK Gaming come into their match against Millenium with a 15-13 record, but have only won four of their past 10 games. What makes SK threatening is their tenacity. They are used to having a poor laning phase stemming from overall mechanical weakness, and mounting a comeback through superior decision-making in the middle and late game. In the event that SK does have a solid laning phase, they are the best closers in Europe. They are adept at snowballing an advantage out of control, and winning a game in a hurry.
Entering Summoner’s Rift against Millenium, a team that loves to fight, is a dicey proposition. There are certain to be a large number of kills, particularly in the early game as junglers interact with lanes. The river of gold that those early kills provide can jumpstart an SK snowball, or put the team so far behind during the early parts of the game that the famed SK comeback is an untenable proposition.
Millenium - No. 5 seed
Millenium is one of the most bloodthirsty teams in Europe. They bring their bloodthirsty ways to their series against SK Gaming after a 13-15 regular season. The biggest killer of them all is middle laner Adrian “Kerp” Wetekam. Kerp has a vicious Fizz to complement a Ziggs that was frequently banned away after he dominated opponents with the Hexplosives Expert throughout the beginning of the Summer Split.
That is not the only weapon in MIL’s arsenal, though. Top laner Kevin “kev1n” Rubiszewski and AD Carry Jakub “Creaton” Grzegorzewski are among the best in Europe at their respective roles. Creaton ended the Summer Split with the fourth most kills, only four behind his teammate Kerp in third.
Unfortunately, Millenium’s bloodlust is a double-edged sword as seen by a 4-6 record during their last ten games. Any sort of overextension can be punished by a competent team with solid vision control. That said, if MIL is able to get a lead, the Rift will run red as they utilize that edge to secure a win.
Team ROCCAT - No. 6 seed
The most Jekyll-and-Hyde team in Europe, Team ROCCAT comes in to the Summer Playoffs with a 12-16 record, having lost six of their past 10 games. ROCCAT is maddeningly inconsistent. They have the ability to execute at an extraordinarily high level in one game, and then forget that they’re playing at all in the next game. It is a bad formula for success in a best-of-five.
The engine that makes ROCCAT go is their jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski. He earned an MVP in week 8 following ROCCAT’s 2-0 run, and the general rule of thumb with the team is if Jankos gets a good early start, they will perform. Jankos is adept at getting early kills, particularly First Bloods, to help get his team jumpstarted and moving in the right direction. Otherwise, it’s like looking into an 8-ball.
At the beginning of the season, shortly after the All-Star Paris debacle, Millenium’s Creaton said, “In my mind, I had one question--why can't I play here (All-Star) next year or the world stage. Everything is up to me. I need to work hard for it.” Millenium and five other teams have put in the work to get to Regionals. Now all that stands between them and the 2014 World Championship are a few best-of-fives. Who is going to make it? The action begins Thursday August 7th, 2014 with the Supa Hot Crew battling Team ROCCAT.
Keep an eye on lolesports.com for more information and updates on EU Regionals!