If you’re a long-time fan of the region, a quick glance at the standings probably won’t surprise you much. G2 Esports and Fnatic are tied for first, nothing new there. Splyce, Origen, and FC Schalke 04 are right behind them – again, no surprises. But if you’ve been watching this season closely, through the Spring Split, MSI, Rift Rivals, and now the remainder of the Summer Split, you probably also know that the standings aren’t all that meets the eye.
As G2 Esports and Fnatic have been climbing their way to the top of everyone’s worldwide rankings, with the former winning MSI and the latter being 2018 Worlds finalists, the rest of Europe has been climbing, too. G2 Esports and Fnatic may be the constant titans, locked in a seemingly never-ending dance at the top of the standings split after split, but as they’ve raised the stakes, the rest of Europe has answered the call. This split, it seems, all three of those “middle tier” teams, if you can even call them that now, are this close to joining that dance.
With one or two changes, and in Splyce’s case, only some small tweaks, the conversation could change dramatically, and a battle for the top-two spots could be the featured storyline at the end of the split.
Beware the beast in the jungle
There’s an old saying, coined by German philosopher Friedrich W. Nietzsche in the 19th century, that says, “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.”
In the case of LEC junglers, however, becoming the monster they chase might actually be a good thing, because that would make them tied for the title of “best jungler in Europe.” That monster’s name is Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen, and he is an absolute terror of a man.
We’ve all seen the plays by now. The flawless tower dives. The impossibly impressive scorelines, game after game. Broxah is, at least currently, the high standard of jungling in the LEC. After what started out as an uncharacteristically poor year for him, resulting in Fnatic threatening his starting position with a sub, Broxah has risen above his former self to become what he is now. He is, dare we say, even better than 2018 Broxah, at least in present form.
It’s not often that a pro League of Legends player gets that close to the point of falling out of a team, and lives to tell the tale, let alone using it as fuel for whatever fire is burning within them now. Needless to say, it’s hard not to be impressed, and those teams in third, fourth, and fifth place currently need to pay special attention to him on Fnatic – not Martin "Rekkles" Larsson and not Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau.
So how do these teams play against him if he’s so good? Well, he’s good, but not perfect, and Splyce proved that he can be dealt with during their Week Four win over Fnatic. How, you may ask? Take away his early pressure. Broxah deals with the early game extremely well, but by taking away his early-game comfort picks (Elise and Lee Sin) and matching his aggression (even just by tracking him and hovering close by), these teams can throw a wrench in his usual rhythm.
In this crucial early play, Splyce were able to use the resources at their disposal (Teleport, crowd control, roam to match Fnatic) to match and crush Fnatic the second they saw Broxah finish his Recall. By the time Broxah even leaves the fountain with his items, Splyce were up two more kills. To upset Fnatic, don’t try to tilt Rekkles. He plays tilted 50 percent of the time anyway. Punish Broxah’s every move, because the second he’s left to his own devices, it’s game over.
The best in the West
Once upon a time, G2 held the title “The best in the West” due to their monster bot lane duo of Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez and Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and a mid lane powerhouse in Luka "Perkz" Perković. This terrific trio had grown a reputation for themselves by utterly dominating the EU LCS, but never reaching success internationally. Sort of like the Team SoloMid of Europe. Zing.
Now, however, G2 have regained their title. Except this time, they aren’t just settling for “best in the West.” They’re gunning for “best in the world,” and, as they’re the last team to win a major international event (MSI), some might argue that they are indeed that already. One player in particular certainly holds that best in the West title, and maybe even the best international player, too. And that player is none other than Rasmus “Caps” Winther.
Beating him is much more complicated than focusing on tracking Fnatic’s jungle, however. Why? Because Caps can be everywhere and do everything. He’s a midlaner, sure, but he can play (and win) in the top lane, while normal toplaner Martin Nordahl "Wunder" Hansen assumes the mid lane role. He can play assassins. He can play mages. He can play junglers. He can play marksmen. He can pick up any champion, slap it in the mid lane, and it’ll look like he’s played it a thousand times. Maybe he has played it a thousand times, who knows. The kid’s an enigma.
The top and bot lanes are just as complicated. Coming from a mid lane background, Perkz is just as versatile, and Wunder is among the best top laners in the world. If you try to deal with Caps, one of them will simply pick up the mantle and carry the game themselves. To figure out how to beat them, you have to look at their only loss of the split so far, which just happens to also be against Fnatic.
The secret, you may ask? Play what you want. That’s it.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense, we know, but hear us out. Fnatic’s biggest issue since losing Worlds has been a lack of identity. Without Caps on their roster, running the early game with Bwipo and Broxah while Rekkles takes time to scale, Fnatic had been in a state of limbo while trying to find their new dynamic. This split, they seem to have found their dynamic. Well, having Broxah go beast-mode doesn’t hurt, either.
G2’s goal, as a team, is to confuse you. By playing so well at so many, many different strategies, they force teams to attempt to adapt to very strange things. It’s a combination of raw talent and the shock factor. In this game, Fnatic said “K,” and just kept on playing like nothing had changed. Bwipo, for instance, locked in an early game carry, as he often does, and engaged on Caps in the top lane like he was any other top laner, killing him two minutes into the game and setting the stage.
Broxah played the same way. “Caps, who?” he asked, as he strolled up to the top lane to dive the tower as Gragas at three minutes, just like it was any other game. He got the kill, prepped vision in the river, and prepared the next play. At four minutes, Rekkles and support Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov roamed north to the mid lane to dive another tower, easily picking off Winder and going on with their day. They played exactly as they have been all split – Broxah sets the pace, side lanes follow early roams. Hylissang even got his hands on his fabled comfort Pyke. It was just like any other game for them, and they seemed totally unphased by G2’s shenanigans.
Sure, you can argue G2 didn’t play as well as they normally do, and Fnatic is still the only other team tied for first, but there’s a lesson to be learned here. Play what you do well, ignore the pomp and circumstance, and just focus on how you can make your own comfortable strategies fit against G2’s circus. A very successful circus, mind you, but still a circus.