G2’s dismal performance at MSI in Shanghai left a lot of European fans and players disappointed with how the region was represented on the international stage. With members of the Spring split exodus, including fan-favourite YellOwStaR, returning to Europe for the summer split, along with an influx of Korean imports, Europe is in a solid position to replicate its success from the back-half of 2015. However, in Week 1 of the EU LCS Summer Split 2016, the focus is on a grudge match that goes beyond bragging rights; a match between the determined upstart and the wounded animal: Ocelote’s G2 Esports versus xPeke’s Origen.
G2’s 2-8 choke at MSI was a shock to many. The Spring Split champions looked dominant in the LCS regular season and playoffs, seeing off Origen with a 3-1 victory at the finals in Rotterdam. The newly promoted team, having picked up Korean players Trick (jungle) and Emperor (AD carry), were on nobody’s radar at the start of the season. However, the performances of Rookie of the Split Luka “Perkz” Perković and MVP Kang-yun “Trick” Kim led them to a 15-3 record in the regular season. In the playoffs, G2 saw off serial finalists Fnatic as well as xPeke’s Origen on their way to lifting the EU LCS trophy in Rotterdam
Origen only managed to finish 4th in the regular season after making it to the semi-finals at Worlds in 2015. The addition of Tristan “PowerofEvil” Schrage to the midlane has not elevated the team’s performance as hoped, and they struggled to adapt to the meta throughout the 2016 season. Nevertheless, with strong leadership from the team’s veteran members, their play improved drastically come playoff time. They would take down Unicorns of Love and H2K on their way to the finals. There they met G2 who simply proved too strong for them in the end.
MUCH TO PROVE
Fast-forward to the post-season, and the drama has approached NA LCS levels: Origen’s star bottom laners Jasper “Zven” Svenningsen (AD carry) and Alfonso “Mithy” Rodriguez (Support) have defected to G2. Origen, with little time to find able replacements, picked up former G2 support Glenn “Hybrid” Doornenbal and former H2K AD carry Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou.
From G2’s perspective, this new bottom lane is a significant upgrade over Emperor and Hybrid, who were crushed at MSI. Zven and Mithy were the stars of Origen’s showing at Worlds 2015 and were the shining lights of what was a lacklustre regular season for Origen. They’re looking to shoot past regional domination and prove themselves on the international stage again.
Origen was left in a tough situation: find a bottom lane that could keep them in contention for the EU LCS title in the Summer split, and more importantly, aid them in making it to their second World Championships. FORG1VEN had originally intended to sit out the Summer Split after parting ways with H2K, but Origen’s offer to play for them and potentially make it to Worlds (something FORG1VEN has never done) was one he couldn’t turn down. Hybrid, meanwhile, tried out for NA LCS giants TSM after MSI, but ultimately decided to accept the offer from Origen.
It remains to be seen how either move will work out in the long run, though it’s easier to be optimistic in G2’s case. For Origen, it’s hard to imagine if they could have done better on a short time schedule when it comes to their pickups. They aren’t without risks, however. While FORG1VEN is undeniably talented (many would have considered him the best AD carry in the west during his time on SK Gaming in 2015), questions remain over his mentality when the chips are down. He’s had major chances on SK Gaming and H2K to live up to his potential, but always seems to falter at the last hurdle and has never made it to a Mid Season Invitational or World Championship, despite multiple opportunities.
From Ocelote and G2’s standpoint, this roster move represents a significant statement from the management and star players of G2: they aren’t content with domestic domination, they want to compete internationally too. To do so, however, they’ll need to move past their performance at MSI. The organisation explained their performance as the result of taking a vacation before the tournament, rather than bootcamping in Korea like other teams. If Zven and Mithy swapped sides due to a lack of motivation, that kind of poor preparation won’t jibe.
THE NEW CLÁSICO
The history between these teams is hardly limited to the current rosters though. In fact, it goes all the way to the top of these organisations. Longtime League esports fans will remember the battles between (now-owners) Ocelote and xPeke. Ocelote as former captain of SK Gaming and xPeke as former captain of Fnatic have clashed many times in the past. SK famously knocked Fnatic out of contention for the World Championships in Season 2, while xPeke got his revenge on SK and Ocelote with the now-legendary Kassadin backdoor play at IEM Katowice 2013. These matches between SK and Fnatic became affectionately known as “El Clásico” of the EU LCS.
It’s all going to come to a head on Thursday, June 2 as the EU LCS summer split kicks off. Everyone has something to prove: Zven and Mithy will want to prove they made the right choice leaving Origen, Hybrid will want to prove his former teammates wrong, and FORG1VEN will want to definitively prove he’s a world class player and make it to Worlds 2016. Whatever the outcome, let’s hope this match births a new EU LCS Clásico.