This year’s Mid-Season Invitational left European fans starry eyed. With G2 Esports taking the title, it could very well blaze the trail for all of Europe at Worlds. And the crucible of talent that produces the stars of tomorrow? The EU Masters. It’s back once again for Summer, with the Spring edition introducing us to a plethora of top talent, and it was a roaring success as Misfits Premier ran the gauntlet to take the title. But for Summer, without either finalists in Misfits or SK Gaming returning, we could very well see a new overlord of the 13 regions.
For the first of the eight hopefuls, we present the crimson swarm from the DACH region, the back to back champions from France, the unstoppable Polish devils and the star of hope from the Balkans. Let’s dive in!
Germany/Switzerland/Austria – Premier Tour: mousesports (Germany)
Generally speaking, fans of the Premier Tour will recognize a DACH team miles away with a simple rule of thumb: the tendency to go the distance, with slow-paced, macro focused games and a low kill count. And the champions of summer, mousesports? The exact opposite of all that. Brash and dynamic, the new lords of the region aim to erase their failure of Summer 2018 in the EU Masters and seize the title.
Fast and furious, mousesports turn snowballs into avalanches with their quick, decisive play, starting by aiming to utterly dominate the early game. The Italian prodigy jungler Zhiqiang "Shadow" Zhao is pivotal to this stratagem and his versatile champion pool allows the duo sololaners of Niklot "Tolkin" Stüber and Ardian "nite" Spahiu to thrive, with Tolkin being especially deadly once he’s ahead (don’t give him Aatrox).
But the true highlight of this team is their long standing botlane of Patrick "Conjo" Jacobs and Norman "Gistick" Kaiser. A terrifying duo to fight or draft against, other than being a couple of very skilled individuals to begin with, they have an unfathomable arsenal of curveballs. Just to name one, their Swain/Taric combo has been almost undefeatable in their hands; the opponents unable to come up with a plan to counter this menace. Their dominance in lane allows jungler Shadow to assist the sololanes, invade or secure priority on key objectives.
But as the old saying goes, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. Despite the early game being their realm, where they never shy away from a dive or a mechanical outplay; it has also been their limit. Even with their usual strong macro play, as a team they often require a consistently snowballing set of advantages to seal a victory. It is nonetheless impressive how mousesports managed to make this impressive run to be crowned champions without a coach, having Alexander "Candyfloss" Cartwright only joining recently. Can they go far this Summer?
The game that sent mousesports to the Main Event. BIG faced not mice, but capybaras that day!
France – La Ligue Française: Team-LDLC (France)
Team-LDLC’s last foray in the EU Masters Spring was much like Napoleon trying to invade Russia. Spoiler alert: it didn’t go well. However, it wasn’t Waterloo just yet and “La Grande Armée” in blue and white were defeated, but unyielding. Their indomitable spirit and iron discipline saw them once again hold France in their jaws: dominating the region and once again setting sail as the undisputed Emperors of France.
The most interesting fact is LDLC didn’t change… well, anything. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said the foxes. LDLC are still very similar to their Spring form and style: a slow and steady march forwards doesn’t just win the race, it conquers nations. With longer time available and the same players for the split, they have developed a more complete playstyle. LDLC now involve top lane terror Shin "HiRit" Tae-min way more in skirmishes and teamfights, seemingly solving the communication issues from last split.
The backbone of Charly "Djoko" Guillard’s aggression and Pierre "Steeelback" Medjaldi’s playmaking champions such as Nautilus and Thresh remain their key to succeed starting from the early game: invading together and setting up tandem ganks and dives, while Jérémy "Eika" Valdenaire, Markos "Comp" Stamkopoulos and HiRit’s task is just to reap the benefits of their aggression and turn themselves into midgame menaces. Mid laner Eika has had another excellent split, but ADC Comp has really stood out this Summer, even winning the MVP award. Watch out for his pocket Jinx; he’s currently undefeated on her in 2019!
LDLC are now more cohesive as a unit and seem unafraid in taking more risks, as if testing the very limits of their champions and their team. At times they often take fights and skirmishes that would look disadvantageous and turn them around with their uncanny mechanical skill. And when things go south, they stall games long enough for them to find an opportune moment. Interestingly enough, they also are one of the few teams who have never used Yuumi and seem very confident in facing her, letting it through a number of times. Perhaps this will be their double edged sword?
Team-LDLC’s signature resilience and stalling style were enough to overturn a bleak game, which enabled them to sweep the finals after.
Poland – Ultraliga: devils.one (Poland)
Last Spring was an utterly disheartening split for devils.one. Runners-up against Rogue in a close series and falling at the last hurdle of the EU Masters play-ins, the devils cloaked in black saw their intricate plot come to fruition this Summer: snatching the crown from Rogue and taking their rightful place on the throne of the Ultraliga. After conquering Poland, the devils incarnate are now ready for their demonic howls to be heard in the EU Masters and as they conduct utter mayhem.
Their philosophy for the Summer Split was if you can’t beat them, nurture them! Fielding a 10 man roster that is not dissimilar to an academy team, the fiendish brigade have gathered their dark apostles to take on Europe’s finest. Like their Spring form, devils.one love hitting their foes hard and fast, preferring to snowball off their early game to bring down the hammer in the mid to late phases.
Creative and aggressive, jungler Jakub "Cinkrof" Rokicki is a man of CaptainFlower’s own heart with his love for picking Skarner. And for this split he has carries in all lanes: Tobiasz "Agresivoo" Ciba once again is a terror on his carry champions and Mateusz "Matislaw" Zagórski with his steady performances. But devils.one have also introduced two new faces in top laner Jakub "Sinmivak" Rucki and mid laner Mateusz "Czajek" Czajka, giving them multiple ways to devise their devilish schemes. The driving force and standout performances of the team once again lies in their botlane: the storied duo of Damian "Lucker" Konefał and Robert "Erdote" Nowak have torn the Ultraliga asunder; Lucker especially saving the devils when times looked bleak with mind-boggling outplays, effectively becoming the best botlane in the region.
As a team their grit and unity is admirable, as displayed by their grueling 15-game run through the playoffs. But the devils do stumble at times. Like last split, when the game slows down, devils.one sometimes get impatient and try to force unnecessary fights, with Cinkrof and their sololaners particularly guilty of this. They also have inconsistent performances during the mid game, sometimes tunneling on fights or looking for one so hard they forget about the important objectives to cover or defend. Still, they’re raring to go, and could be in with a chance of taking home the trophy.
You can beat them early on but you can’t dominate the devils. Lucker goes on to show why he’s so feared in the Ultraliga.
Balkans – Esports Balkan League: Crvena zvezda Esports (Serbia)
Ever heard of third time’s the charm? That’s the Crvena zvezda story. They have reached the grand finals of the EBL (Esports Balkan League) three times, finishing runners-up twice but they would not be denied thrice. With MAD Lions now out, Crvena zvezda now also tie the Spanish pride with the most appearances in EU Masters’ history. The red star of hope has never shone brighter for the Balkans.
Their past performances in the EU Masters have not been awe-inspiring, even the last edition was a thoroughly forgettable affair. However, this might be where their path to greatness starts. As a team, CZV utilise controlled and calculated aggression to pressure their opponents in the early game. And from the mid game onwards, if there’s a chance to let loose, be it an objective or a skirmish/teamfight, CZV are not afraid to go ‘full Balkan’. With the addition of veteran Serbian jungler Aleksa "DoubleAiM" Stanković, who has made it as far as top four in EUM, he is their captain and stalwart. His Kindred and Taliyah are still terrifying with the former being an almost must ban. Sololaners Markus "Quinncidence" Tobin and Török "Meight" Máté love their pool of aggressive picks and aim to pressure their opposition as much as possible, giving DoubleAim room to wreak havoc. Returning ADC Miljan "Plox" Mandić and LCL support Arthur "Skash" Ermolaev make up a formidable, steady botlane aimed mostly at being CZV’s mid/late game insurance. Teams who don’t focus Plox down early especially regret it much later.
But even the light of hope casts a great shadow beneath; CZV are a team of many faces: DoubleAim, for example, is exemplary on carry junglers but sometimes can’t find the same impact on tanks. Top laner Quinncidence too, by nature is very feast or famine, displaying very uneven performances depending on the flow of the game. When it comes down to the wire, Plox and Meight are the stabilisers: their performances always steady and the team can rely on them when DoubleAim doesn’t pop off.
KlikTech still lingers as a fond memory to this day for all Balkan fans, but the Red Stars want more. They desire to forge their own legacy, setting themselves apart from that very EU Masters split they missed. As an old, storied club filled with history of glory behind them, CZV now are the Balkans' beacon of hope. Can they succeed?