After 180 regular season games, two tiebreakers and 16 playoff games over four series, we arrive at the beautiful Polish city of Kraków, ready to crown the EU LCS summer split champion. Europe’s two best teams will face off in the Tauron Arena, Kraków, on Sunday at 17:00 CEST; G2 Esports, the EU LCS spring split champions attempting to make up for their failure at MSI, and Splyce, relegation candidates in the spring split and now regular season runners-up. Two teams made up of some of the best talent Europe has to offer, with a couple of stellar Korean imports, ready to represent Europe on the Worlds stage. But first, we must crown one of them EU LCS champions!
MEMES TO DREAMS
For an existing title-holder, drawing the ire of an entire region is a tough task, yet that’s exactly what G2 managed to do following their shocking performances at MSI in Shanghai. When you’re on the hook to represent an entire region, with real consequences on the line for poor performance, and you don’t put your all into it… you’re in for a rough time. G2 had to endure ridicule the entire split, yet here they are in the final once again.
They already locked in a spot representing EU at Worlds 2016 in the U.S. no matter the outcome of this week’s final. That won’t stop them from giving their all, however. This team has a lot to prove, despite retaining only two members of the roster that competed at MSI 2016; fans expect a top-tier performance from EU’s #1 seed at Worlds, especially since two of the current roster reached the semifinals of last year’s tournament. For the players on G2, the desire to win comes not just from personal ambition, but to right past wrongs.
If there’s any team in Europe that can reach the heights of Fnatic and Origen at Worlds 2015, it’s G2. After dropping former bot-laners Kim "Emperor" Jin-hyun and Glenn "Hybrid" Doornenbal, G2 picked up former Origen bot-laners Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "mithy" Aguírre Rodriguez to strengthen the squad, keeping intact the mid and jungle spine of Kang-yun "Trick" Kim and Luka "Perkz" Perković. They also added Dae-han “Expect” Ki to the top lane, though questions still remain over his ability to perform at the highest level. The current roster is undeniably stronger, and European fans expect big things from this team..
The vibe from G2’s new roster is one of determination and the will to succeed, most evident in mid-laner Perkz. Despite his jokey persona and meme-laden mannerisms, Perkz is a talented player who wants nothing more than to prove himself among the best. Zven and Mithy left Origen for the strongest team in Europe, showing their ambition to go beyond what they achieved with Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez and crew. Once you get a taste of success on the Worlds stage, the desire to achieve even better results grows, and anyone would consider a semifinals finish in their first split a success.
Before they reach Worlds, however, they must come face-to-face with the team they could not beat during the regular season, netting draws in both matches. The Danish wonderboys of Splyce (featuring a Slovenian) will provide G2 a far tougher test than Origen did in the spring split final, and G2 must be at their very best if they are to claim first prize in Kraków. Every matchup in this series is key, as it should be when the two best teams in a region clash.
DANISH WONDERBOYS (FEAT. MIKYX)
Going from relegation candidates to potentially the best team in the region is all the rage in 2016, as any football fans who watched Leicester last season would know. But while the Foxes led the pack for most of the season, Splyce couldn’t quite make a move on G2 in the regular season. Should they defeat G2 in the EU LCS final in Kraków, however, their win would be just as impressive as Leicester’s.
Splyce struggled to adjust to life in the LCS last split, as many teams do when coming from Challenger (not all teams can be Cloud9 or Origen), but their growth this split shows the level of talent on their roster. Adding Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle to the bottom lane did not change this team from relegation material to potential EU LCS champions, but it does feel like he was the final piece of the puzzle, the catalyst for the team’s transformation. Other factors include some of the younger players having a split of experience under their belt, and we’d be remiss to forget coach Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi.
YamatoCannon came close to reaching Worlds in 2015 summer with Roccat, losing 2-3 in a close series against Origen, who famously went on to reach the semifinals that year. Now, with Splyce, he has his best chance yet to coach a team on the biggest stage in League of Legends esports. With a Coach of the Split award under his belt for leading Splyce to second place in the regular season, it’s now far more likely we’ll see him at Worlds as YamatoCannon, coach of talented EU LCS team Splyce, as opposed to TomatoCanyon, Worlds analyst-desk jockey.
Splyce’s Worlds spot is not yet guaranteed, however. The EU LCS final against G2 will be their toughest challenge yet, and though G2 qualified for Worlds after beating Unicorns of Love, they will be just as determined as Splyce to win the EU LCS trophy. Splyce must win this incredibly difficult series if they want a guaranteed spot at Worlds. If they don’t win, and H2K beat Unicorns of Love in the third-place playoff on Saturday, Splyce will have to run the gauntlet and win the European Regional Qualifier and potentially face a rebounding Fnatic.
TRICK OR TRASH(Y)
Every matchup in a final is key, but none more so than the jungle matchup between G2’s Trick and Splyce’s Jonas “Trashy” Anderson. Trick earned the EU LCS MVP award in the spring split, and looks likely to be a repeat winner summer. His consistency and ability to carry G2 through any game, even if they’re playing from a deficit shows why he is the best player in Europe right now. Trick will be key to keeping Splyce from winning lanes against G2.
Trashy’s improvement this split became evident in Splyce’s series against G2. Trashy felt after the series that he’d figured out Jankos, not an easy task. Even Da-yun “Spirit” Lee, once regarded as the best jungler in the world, had an awfully tough time against Jankos in the quarterfinal, where Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski carried his team (along with Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu) to a resounding victory. Trick must be wary the same doesn’t happen to him, because if Splyce successfully neutralise Trick, they could handily overcome the rest of G2.
That’s a scary thought considering the talent on show. The return to standard lanes on patch 6.15 gives us the opportunity to see Splyce’s revitalised bot lane of Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup and Mikyx take on arguably the best in Europe, Zven and Mithy. Both Mithy and Mikyx play Bard proficiently, but expect Tahm Kench to be the priority pickup for both supports. Meanwhile, Kobbe and Zven will fight over Sivir as the most desirable marksman in the current meta.
In the mid lane, friends and fellow memers Perkz and Chres "Sencux" Laursen will do battle: Croatian wonderboy versus Danish wonderboy. Both players place high priority on Taliyah, particularly Sencux against whom Taliyah was banned for most of the split. The champion pools of both players could be a deciding factor between these players: H2K banned Aurelion Sol in all five games against Splyce, but Unicorns did not ban it against G2 nor did Perkz pick it. Similarly, G2 banned Kassadin in three of the four games against Unicorns of Love, indicating they don’t play the champion, but Sencux does.
Finally, the top lane. If Trick is G2’s win condition, Martin "Wunder" Hansen is Splyce’s. Wunder carried multiple games in the series vs H2K, his Gnar particularly fearsome. Meanwhile, Expect looked shaky, and Gnar hard-counters Gangplank, one of Expect’s favourite champions. Wunder demonstrated his ability to easily deal with that pick in the semifinals, and he’ll...expect (heyo) to win that matchup against Expect once again.
One final series to cap off a rocky season for EU, but one that highlights the talent on show in this region. For fans of the EU LCS, this is the series we’ve been looking forward to all split. The chance to see who will represent Europe at Worlds, who will restore Europe’s reputation as one of the top regions in League of Legends esports. It’s only fitting that G2 should fight to rebuild that reputation, but a performance from rookies Splyce would be just as good. Tune in on Sunday at 17:00 CEST as we crown the 2016 EU LCS summer split champion!