Can you feel it? The air shakes, the waters break and the ground quakes. A chorus of thunder and passion heralds the return of Europe’s newest and most exciting competition: The EU Masters. From the Atlantic shores of Portugal to the eastern Baltic border; from the sunny lands of Greek gods to the frostbitten winters of Finland: the finest teams have once again converged in the arena of stars, ready to lay claim as the best team and region in all of Europe.
Not every fan has the ability to keep up with Europe’s vast competitive landscape, however. Therefore many arrive knocking at the resplendent gates of the EU Masters with compelling yet unanswered questions: How will my region fare? Is Spain still good? Are my teams better than Italy? How will the French armada do against the Polish army?
So many questions; so little time. Fret not curious summoners, for we are here to lift the foggy veil. This guide to the EU Masters in three parts will erase your worries and uncertainties. Start brandishing your flags and prepare your country’s colours, we’re just days away!
Up first: the Nordics, the DACH circuit, Poland and the Baltics. Let’s go!
Nordics – Nordic Championship: Ventus Esports (Denmark) and NYYRIKKI White (Finland)
Denmark and producing talents of renown, name a more iconic duo. Considered a superteam in the Nordic circuit, Ventus Esports rose all the way to the top of pack on the backs of their talented roster, sweeping all before them. Echoes of great teams past in Nordic history then comes to mind, such as Team Atlantis and Ninjas in Pyjamas. How do the Danish Dragons stack up alongside them?
Truthfully…it’s complicated. Star ADC Krislund (changed from Pinoy to show off his Danish pride) has mentioned Ventus had trouble scrimming, thus used matches in the regular season as scrims instead. This has led to a team that first and foremost embraces the chaos of solo queue as their main style. Often times unpredictable, Ventus relies on the engine that is Majd for ignition. He’s complemented by the skills of his solo lanes in Sleeping and Priskornet, both extremely talented but often volatile. Look out for them to go to side lanes later on to snowball their leads (...or get inevitably caught out). Bot lane of Krislund and Quixeth are an experienced duo, but they have shown flashes of inconsistency. When the duo are in the zone they can easily take control of the game, but the opposite is also true when they aren’t.
Absolutely fearless even when behind, this team will find all sorts of creative engagement angles till something clicks. Despite their tendency to overreach in frequently picking bad fights in bad moments, Ventus’s roster are still stacked with talent that allowed them to get away with questionable decisions in the Nordics. The EU Masters will be a different test altogether. More experienced, disciplined teams will not let these shenanigans go unpunished. However, Ventus are blessed with an early finish in the Nordics, allowing them a head start in their preparations to begin in earnest. Europe, take heed: Poke the sleeping dragon and you just might rouse it.
Player to watch: Sleeping. The Finnish toplaner makes you do anything but. Capable on both carries and tanks, Sleeping is very mechanically gifted and can shut down the north of the map on his own if left alone. Look towards his pocket pick as he slashes, dashes and bashes his foes into the dirt. Incredibly confident, even if he is consistently ganked he plays like he is ahead!
Finland. Home to snow, reindeers and famous F1 drivers. At least that’s what you think of right? But for this Spring, Nyyrikki White will add their name to that list. Named after the Finnish God of Hunt, this team is out for blood and scalps in their first ever foray into the European Masters.
As Finland’s first team to ever qualify for a European competition, not many would expect much from them. Slower and more controlled than Ventus, their style tends to focus around controlled skirmishes and running 1-4 comps. With superstar midlaner Yameru, nicknamed by casters “The Finnish Faker”, Nyyrikki aims to enable him while jungler Kenapil applies pressure around his lanes and toplaner StenBosse plays a variety of champions to suit the team. Another ace up their thick sleeves is the rotating roster of eight players, formed by part of their sister squad Nyyrikki Blue. However, so far they have only consistently swapped between Selfway and Tiara, their rotating supports who have both shown strong proficiency on Thresh.
Suomenlinna aside, the Flying Finns are not without weaknesses. Their tendency to tunnel on Baron is one of them; the other is ADC Azitor’s careless mistakes even on safe champions such as Ezreal. For better or worse, Nyyrikki never hesitates to sacrifice one or more members if that means to gain a slight advantage, or if they are behind, to keep themselves in the game. A risky strategy fit to honour the God of Hunt. Will they bring this indomitable spirit of the freezing north to the EU Masters, or will the hunters become the hunted?
Player to watch: Yameru. The casters routinely refer to him as the Finnish Faker; we just call Faker the Korean Yameru. His sturdy figure is only matched by his prowess in the mid lane, playing a variety of champions such as Vladimir, Corki, Syndra, Orianna as well as a terrifying Ahri.
Baltics - Baltic Esports League: eNsure (Lithuania)
2013 was an epoch ago in esports terms. Veteran fans however, will remember the name of GamingGear.EU, the all-Lithuanian super team that went to Worlds. A stunning achievement, however the team disbanded after, leaving us only fleeting memories. Six years later, Lithuania has assembled another super roster, and it’s ready to shake the very foundations of the EU Masters.
eNsure’s original name was literally “On Our Way to EUM”. An arrogant claim, but perhaps not misguided as they made the Baltics bow before their raw skill. eNsure’s most powerful piece lies in the bot lane: Xavieles and Yashiro eat, sleep and breathe aggression. It doesn’t matter if their champions need time to scale, all that matters to them is total annihilation of the bottom side (and later, everything else). Jungler Agentas never says no to a gank, even if it means stepping into lane as a lv2 Karthus. With the option to switch between two very strong top laners in Dreampull and ChosenOne, eNsure ensure they keep their opponents guessing. Last but not least, the recently added midlaner Zoiren, who replaces Domas, has hit the ground running faster than Usain Bolt. From Orianna to Zed, Vladimir to Zoe, he is a pressure machine and everything that can roam to help the side lanes is his bread and butter.
Their high mechanical ceiling makes them an almost smug team when they play, taunting their opponents with hyper aggressive positioning, goading them to fight. Because eNsure knows they will win, if you give them free reign they will choke you out. Of course, this air of arrogance is a double edged sword. eNsure’s overeagerness in trampling their foes gets them caught in many unnecessary situations. eNsure have honoured their previous name by getting there, but will they remain or be renamed “On Our Way Back from EUM”?.
Player to watch: Yashiro. Yashiro is eNsure. He and his tyrannical support Xavieles are the terror of the Baltics and will fight anyone. As caster CmodeDaniel described them, they are “a bot lane worthy of Mordor!”. The teams places their full trust into funneling this terrifying ADC, and Yashiro delivers. His stats are stellar: Best CSPM, highest KDA and most DPM in the league. He fears nothing and will take you on any time, any place on the Rift. If you give this man Lucian, well...prepare to get culled.
Germany/Switzerland/Austria - Premier Tour: Berlin International Gaming (Germany) and SK Gaming Prime (Germany)
Berlin International Gaming (or BIG) have once again arrived at the shores of the European Masters – exactly one year ago where they failed to make it past Play-ins. Theirs is a story long time coming, a tale of persistence and hard work to finally reach the top of the circuit. BIG have utterly dominated the last two months of Premier Tour and look to equal or better Euronic Gaming’s stunning Top 4 finish last EU Masters.
BIG are a resilient team and don’t break easily even with their backs against a wall of spears. A fluid unit who are not afraid to rotate or teleport and sacrifice their lives for one another, BIG are very much like a well made Volkswagen car: they won’t always be the fastest, but they will be efficient, reliable and sturdy. Much of their success comes from two former EU LCS players: WhiteKnight in the top lane and SirNukesALot as support are the true rocks of the team, providing the much needed stability with a sprinkle of clutch plays when it matters. Jungler Don Arts never leaves any man behind even if it means he gives his life so that the dual carries of ZaZee in the mid lane and ADC Carzzy, who have recently been on fire, can carry. ZaZee especially has had incredible performances despite some blips. His Zoe, Ryze and Irelia dancing circles around befuddled foes.
BIG play very methodically, very rarely taking ‘big’ risks such as tower dives or forcing fights. They favour skirmishing throughout the game before taking on big teamfights, looking for picks onto unsuspecting enemies and swiftly rotating towards the next big objective available. Although, there are times when BIG falters as well, especially if the shotcaller Don Arts is rendered useless or his midlaner ZaZee is heavily set behind. But when it comes down to the wire, this team will dig deep and give 120%, devoting everything to achieve ultimate victory.
Player to watch: Don Arts. The soul of the team, renowned jungler and meme-master Don Arts is the frontman and backbone of BIG. From 1:25 invades and gank-heavy, selfless pathing, the young German has evolved into a top-tier shotcaller, able to direct the team and always spot the right play. His arsenal of champions is especially unique: Sylas, Lee Sin, Kindred and his vintage Nunu make Don Arts a pain to draft against.
As German PT fans say, “BIG is Don Arts”.
Returning to the highest level of competition was always on the cards for SK Gaming, an organisation with such a long and storied history within the European scene. SK Gaming Prime, their academy roster, displayed a slew of strong showings but have never been able to win it all.
According to coach Brokenshard, SK are a different team altogether when they play offline, explaining the team’s duality woes. While last split German teams were the epitome of playing it slow (remember the Gustav Gun, Euronics Gaming?), SK Prime on their good day are nothing like that. We like to think of them as ‘the Blitzkrieg’. They play a fast early game and force you to dance to their pace, showing controlled but relentless aggression. Jungler Phrenic tends after the bot lane of Keduii and Doss who never turn down a duel. Midlaner Jenax’s large champion pool and reliability, along with toplaner Sacre’s variety of carry champions give SK a scary duo of solo laners. Moving to the mid game, SK Prime are always keen on finding fights, kills are their leitmotiv and reason to live. This can often lead to disregarding objectives, and when they can’t find fights SK then look almost skittish and indecisive. But when all else fails, the team can count on their quick, decisive calls in a fight to end the game swiftly.
Player to watch: Jenax. It is perhaps with some irony that Jenax is arguably the most consistent member of SK considering he had the reputation for being just the opposite last year. Still possessing his signature aggressive nature, he is not one to sit around to wait for an opportunity with his varied champion pool of utility mages and assassins. Last year Jenax failed to make it past play-ins with Mousesports; this year he aims to erase that memory and stamp his name among Europe’s best.
Poland - Ultraliga: Rogue Esports Club (Poland) and devils.one (Poland)
Poland had a torrid time in the last EU Masters: touted as one of the strongest regions, both representatives crashing out in groups proved anything but. From the ashes rises Rogue Esports Club, an unrelenting powerhouse that has absolutely mauled the Polish scene, leaving trails of bodies and broken dreams in their wake.
Banking on veterans of the amateur scene such as Larssen and Inspired, Rogue have assembled a mighty roster. Not afraid to play multi-threat compositions, Rogue just has carries everywhere on the map: from the aggressive bot lane of Woolite and Vander, to the ultra instinct jungle and mid duo of Inspired and Larssen, to toplaner Finn’s carry champions (especially Kled!). They employ a strong, punishing playstyle with the individual strength of their players giving opponents no room to breathe. This results in a controlled, risk-averse early game, minimising skirmishes and responding to – and outplaying – enemy activities with timely roams and counter-dives. Finn is usually given a safe lane where he can accrue a lead for later in the game where he becomes a massive threat. Inspired and Larssen have formed a enviable, wicked partnership with the Swedish midlaner still strutting his skills from the last EU Masters. Woolite and Vander, despite playing very aggressively, have managed to avoid gifting enemy bot lanes unnecessary kills. Vander has also developed great cohesion with Inspired and they both can be seen making frequent roams, punishing even the smallest missteps.
Rogue has thus far dominated and no one in Poland has forced them to unveil any new weapons. Perhaps the most understated piece that fits this formidable puzzle is coach Blumigan, who lead the Swedish organisation of Ninjas in Pyjamas to a second place finish in the last EU Masters. Coming into this edition, the Polish Champions are definitely one of the teams to keep an eye on as they aim to rob your Nexus blind with a roguish smile.
Player to watch: Inspired. A name fitting for the young prodigy, the 17 year old Polish jungler has been around European scene longer than you might think – since he was 15 – but here he is truly shining. Inspiring, efficient and possessing an incredible sense of when to gank or countergank, he follows in the wake of great Polish junglers such as Kikis, Jankos and Selfmade, ready to finally show the awaiting eyes of Europe and beyond why he is touted as the next big thing.
Did we say nobody in Poland could challenge Rogue? Well, devils.one did. Formerly known as EPC or Esports Performance Center, the team rebranded to devils.one with one goal in mind: to conquer Poland and beyond. Finishing runners up and knocking out former EU Masters representative Illuminar Gaming, devils.one now aim to show Europe what happens when you make a deal with the devil.
Experienced coach Hatchy assembled a powerful roster, acquiring the services of an experienced all Polish roster. They play the usual patient, macro focused Polish meta but prefer to utilise a quick and proactive early game to get their snowball rolling. Devils.one generally place a strong focus on getting top laner Agresivoo and his carry picks ahead for he is sheer terror later on. Jungler Cinkrof facilities this strategy with his relentless dives and invades, never afraid to take risks and trade lives. With the reliable Matislaw holding down the mid lane, the pressure generated in the top and mid lane allows one of the best bot lanes in Poland to flourish. Left alone, Lucker and Erdote become an incredible menace in the late game, with Lucker weaving expertly between enemies abilities, wasting their initiative and leaving them dead or bewildered.
When the mid to late game approaches devils.one slow things down a little, often using Agresivoo and Matislaw to form a potent 1-3-1 before setting up collapses or tower dives on outnumbered opponents. In their extremely close finals match against Rogue, devils.one showed they can adapt and play a very controlled, patient game – briefly turning into ‘rogue.one’ – instead of their usual style. However, as the old phrase goes, “the devil makes work for idle hands” and sometimes they can be very fidgety during slower periods, Agresivoo and Cinkrof especially tending to try and find or force a pick. Nevertheless, with their strong teamfighting and individual skill, they head into the EU Masters play-in stage with all eyes trained upon them warily. Devils.one will look to prove they are here on their own merits and not with the luck of a certain fallen angel.
Player to watch: Agresivoo. Whatever could his name mean, hmm? Bold and aggressive, Agresivoo draws a ton of pressure top side for devils.one and with good reason. With his variety of carry champions such as Sylas, Jayce, Kennen, Irelia and especially his Jax, Agresivoo is a threat at any stage of the game. After his first visit to EU Masters with Szata Maga last Summer, his return to the stage only means one thing: he’s coming for the trophy.