After an incredible LEC Summer Final in Athens, Greece, we’re now ready for the Regional Finals to kick off. Also dubbed the Gauntlet, it’s the last chance for Europe’s top teams to qualify for Worlds. This year, the European region is using a slightly different rule-set than before. In previous seasons, the team with the most Championship Points would automatically qualify as the second seed.
While Fnatic have already secured their Worlds ticket, they still have to play the Gauntlet winner (FC Schalke 04, Splyce or Origen) to secure the second seed. While all four teams have had their ups and downs throughout the year, they’re all ready to compete for a place on the world stage – here’s how they’re shaping up.
Origen: Time for redemption
It’s been a rollercoaster year for Origen. During the Spring Finals in Rotterdam, they took down Fnatic, which secured them a top two finish for the split. Yet, coming into Summer, expectations for this team were high – but they couldn’t quite deliver. Origen’s macro has always been near perfect. They rarely make rotational errors, and they always seem to have a good grasp on the meta – but Origen’s problem is that they fall apart when it matters the most. They ended the Summer Split with an eighth place finish, which locked them out of play-off contention. What happened to the team that brought Fnatic to their knees in Spring?
The first few weeks of Summer went reasonably well for Origen. While they lost to Fnatic and G2 Esports, they still managed to beat teams that were placed around the middle of the pack. Problems started to arrive in the middle of the split, however. Origen started throwing away games that they should have won. Most of their weeks were one win and one loss – which should solidify a team as middle of the pack. Splyce, G2 Esports and Fnatic seemed out of reach for Origen, as they struggled to maintain their position for play-off contention.
Then Origen fell, hard. The Spring runner-ups lost against SK Gaming and Rogue in the same last week of the regular season; kicking them out of play-off contention in the process. Did the other teams manage to catch up to Origen’s knowledge of the game? Was their read on the meta wrong? One thing is for certain, they failed to meet their expectations. This weekend, Origen will have a chance for redemption, and to prove that their Spring placement wasn’t a fluke.
Splyce: Always running late
How do you beat a team that has one of the best late game team fighting in the LEC? You beat them like Rogue did in the playoffs. Rogue is like a mini G2 Esports in a sense; they will never back away from a fight. With early game rotations, Rogue were able to dismantle Splyce in the first round of Summer playoffs with a straightforward 3-0 victory. Splyce’s strategy, fair to say, was full of holes. Losing to Rogue not only kicked them out of the playoffs, but they also showed off a few weaknesses to the other teams that have to run the Gauntlet.
Splyce’s opponents for the first round of the Regional Finals are Origen. On paper, this should be an easy match-up for the team that took third in the regular season. Yet, there are doubts. If Rogue was able to exploit Splyce’s early game weaknesses, why wouldn’t Origen be able to do the exact same thing?
Both Splyce and Origen have had weeks to prepare for each other. If Splyce manages to focus on their early game plays, and be more proactive in the midgame, they will be able to defeat Origen. The key player that needs to step up for Splyce is their jungler, Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir. He needs to make sure that his team gets the vision and the counter ganks that they need in order to not fall behind early. Origen will definitely have early game plans to get ahead, yet if Splyce come out of the mid-game on even footing, their super-star ADC will carry the team to victory.
FC Schalke 04: The bounce back
Schalke 04 made it all the way to Athens, only to be swept 0-3 in a very one-sided series against Fnatic. Despite that, Schalke 04 only got better and better over time. Near the end of the regular season they solidified themselves as a solid team capable of competing with the higher end of the table. Their star ADC, Elias “Upset” Lipp, is definitely one of the best ADCs in Europe, but is he good enough to beat Martin “Rekkles” Larsson? In Athens, he wasn’t. Rekkles got the better end of the lane in all three games.
Their jungler, Kim “Trick” Gang-yun, is the backbone of the team, he provides vision, and his creative pathing keeps the enemy jungler guessing. In a way, Schalke 04 is like Splyce – a late-game focussed team. They win their matches through great team fight set-ups with flanks provided by their top laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu. The biggest problem that Schalke 04 have is that they struggle to come back from early game deficits – and that will be key for them during Regionals.
Luckily for them, they only need to win a single series to secure their Worlds spot – but they have tough match-ups in both Origen and Splyce. In a best case scenario, facing Origen would be optimal. Schalke 04 does what Origen wants to do, but does executes it almost in a much better way. Origen’s ideas might be good, but they often fail on execution, which Schalke 04 will be able to exploit.
Splyce and Schalke 04, however, are a lot closer to each other in terms of strategy and playstyle. Splyce loves front to back team fighting with their ADC on a strong late-game team fighter, while Schalke 04 prefers team fighting through flanking. There’s no doubt that Schalke 04 vs Splyce will be a very close and exciting match to watch – but whether Schalke can bounce back from their defeat in Athens is yet to be seen.
Fnatic: Overcoming heartbreak
Fnatic played their hearts out during the LEC Summer Finals in Athens. Yet, they fell just short of the trophy. They suffered a heartbreaking 2-3 defeat to G2 Esports, and yet, they still have more games to play. Will they be able to overcome their defeat to secure the second Worlds seed?
The difference between Fnatic and G2 Esports might be small, however both teams are clearly miles ahead of the rest of Europe. Fnatic’s early game focussed style helped them crush the opposition in the regular season. This team struggled adapting to the new early game meta in the beginning of the season, and now they are the best early game team in Europe.
Through smart level 1 and 2 plays, they try and get a small advantage in the early game. They then try to snowball this advantage through roaming plays. You will often see Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov make early visits to the midlane on champions like Rakan and Pyke. Rekkles, however, is able to survive by picking champions that can farm from a safe distance – Xayah and Karma, for example – creating multiple pressure points for Fnatic, which forces mistakes from the enemy team.
On paper, Fnatic should be just fine against all the other teams that are in the Regional Finals. They have dominated Schalke 04 before, Splyce is weak against early game teams and Origen is weaker than Fnatic in every aspect of the game. Yet, almost anything can happen on the day – and as we’ve seen before, Fnatic aren’t always perfect. With less on the line, Fnatic will be much more comfortable than the opposition – but will they let their guard down as a result? Stay tuned.