The season is coming to an end as Worlds has arrived in Europe and the region itself has perhaps never been stronger. The LEC was extremely competitive this year but can G2 Esports, Fnatic and Splyce handle the pressure?
This is the moment that League of Legends players dreams of. Every pro works tirelessly just for the chance to compete on the World Championship stage. For some, that is a regular occurrence, while others have had to wait for the majority of their careers before finally getting an opportunity.
Europe's top three seeds, G2, Fnatic and Splyce will welcome the world's best teams to their region and will hope to finally bring the Summoner's Cup back to the West after an eight-year wait. Following a strong performance from Europe last year, there will be heavy expectations on all of the LEC teams. Let’s take a closer look.
Splyce: A twisting path
The Summer Split has been full of mixed emotions for Splyce. For the majority of the regular season, they appeared to be genuine title contenders and pushed Fnatic all the way to the final week in the race for a top-two finish.
But the roster tailed off towards the end of the split before they eventually crashed out of the Playoffs in the first round, shockingly falling 3-0 to their chosen opponents Rogue. From there, the team faced an uphill battle and had to run the Gauntlet to keep their Worlds dreams alive.
“Splyce did not stop fighting; an attitude that accurately reflects a lot their players’ careers.”
Splyce hardly covered themselves in glory during the first match of the Regional Qualifiers with a messy five-game series against Origen. Yet, just a day later, Splyce miraculously regrouped and systematically picked Schalke apart in a 3-0 win to secure the organisation’s return to Worlds for the first time since 2016.
Splyce did not stop fighting; an attitude that accurately reflects a lot their players’ careers. It feels like an eternity ago, but support Tore "Norskeren" Hoel Eilertsen shocked Europe last year when he revealed on Twitter that he still hadn’t found a team, with little time before the free agency period closed. He was given a chance by Splyce, and has now repaid their faith by securing his spot at an international tournament in just the second year of his career as a full pro.
It seems that I will unfortunately not be playing in the LEC next split.— Tore Hoel Eilertsen (@norskerenlol) 27 November 2018
Currently exploring options from other leagues, still hungry and motivated
Playing in the LCS was the best thing to ever happen in my life, and I will make sure I'll work as hard as I can to return.
Though it has been an even tougher route for toplaner Tamás "Vizicsacsi" Kiss. It took the Hungarian a staggering 1,696 days since his professional debut to finally qualify for a World Championship. Vizicsacsi fought through 31 Gauntlet games to reach the big stage, but he will have to continue grinding to truly get there. He and Splyce will battle through the Play-Ins later this month in hopes of reaching the Group Stage. At this point, they’ve already battled against greater odds, so none of their players should be phased.
Fnatic: So close, yet so far
Excluding Rift Rivals, it has now been over a year since Fnatic last lifted a trophy. The storied organisation won the 2018 Summer Split and continued their domination internationally by decimating EDward Gaming and Cloud9 to reach the Worlds final, where they would take on Invictus Gaming – a team they had already defeated multiple times in the Group Stages.
They had already made European fans proud, but a 3-0 thrashing in the finale left a bad taste in the West’s mouths. It took a while, but Fnatic have regrouped and look like a team capable of taking on the world yet again.
“All of Fnatic’s players live for trophies, it’s in the organisation’s DNA.”
Similarly to Worlds last year, we knew that Fnatic could beat G2, yet once again in the LEC Summer finals, they fell at the final hurdle, losing the exhilarating five-game series by the narrowest of margins.
But all of Fnatic’s players live for trophies, it’s in the organisation’s DNA. While that loss was undoubtedly excruciating, it will only light a fire under the team. The tears and pain the players have endured will simply serve as a reminder why, in their eyes, they have to win the next one.
While G2 had returned home and were taking a chance to relax, Fnatic were back in the LEC studio pummelling Splyce 3-0 to secure their second-seed status and skip the Play-Ins. Young Tim "Nemesis" Lipovšek was a monster in that series and wowed fans with outstanding performances on Cassiopeia and Twisted Fate. The stress Fnatic fans felt when Rasmus “Caps” Winther left the team has long disappeared, as they now have a cold-blooded Slovenian assassin in the midlane who is perhaps more reliable. On his day, Caps is unplayable, but has struggled to consistently stick to that level. Meanwhile, Nemesis appears to only get better and better every time he takes to the stage, and has shown not even an ounce of nerves in his debut year.
Going into the biggest tournament of the year, on home soil with a crowd which will undoubtedly be dominated by Fnatic fans, some players may crumble under the pressure, but all signs appear to suggest that Nemesis will thrive. The entire Fnatic team will likely flourish; they always show up for the big stage – but one big question still remains: can they go all the way this time?
G2 Esports: Writing history
Not enough can be said about the incredible year that this iteration of G2 has had. Two domestic titles, multiple records broken and Europe’s first-ever Mid-Season Invitational title – that’s quite an impressive list of accolades. Yet, you could bet your life savings that all five players would trade all of those accomplishments away if it meant lifting the Summoner’s Cup.
Just a couple of years ago, we were talking about how South Korea were miles ahead of the rest of the world. For five years, LCK teams dominated the World Championships with multiple tournaments finishing in all-Korean finals. Western fans would desperately hold on to any glimpse of hope, praying that the gap was finally closing. Until last year, where the Korean empire crumbled and the throne was vacated.
All of Europe’s teams impressed. Team Vitality picked up multiple wins against some of the tournament favourites; Fnatic reached the final and G2’s roster, which was considered somewhat weak at the time, reached the semi-finals for the first time in the organisation’s history.
Before that, G2 had dominated Europe but failed miserably on the international stage. In their first two years, G2 went into Worlds as the Summer Split champions but were eliminated in the Group Stages. Now, the organisation is back on top but with an even stronger set of players who have already proven they can compete with anyone on the planet.
Yet, we have also seen this year that G2 are not invincible. For two best-of-fives in a row, Fnatic pushed them to their absolute limit. G2 managed an impressive victory over SK Telecom T1 at MSI, but have still never beaten reigning World Champions Invictus Gaming – who will attend Worlds once again.
Nobody can take away G2’s achievements but none of that will mean much if they can’t cap off the year with the Summoner’s Cup. To truly become legends, to be immortalised as the best team in the world, they will have to bring out their true potential and lift the World Championship trophy in Paris. The pressure, to say the least, is on. Can they thrive?