When the hype trailer for this year’s EU LCS Summer Finals came out and we saw the feathery black wyrm spewing fire, we couldn’t have predicted the weather outside the TAURON Arena Kraków would feel just as blistering. Fans braved the heat to have a walk around the League of Legends community village, then wisely made a tactical retreat into the shade beside the stadium to wait for the doors to open. This was the scene as we walked around the arena on both days for a chance to meet some of the fans who’d travelled to Kraków for the main event.
KING OF THE JUNGLE
With the 2016 Summer Finals marking the EU LCS’s first trip to Poland, local fans were out in force to cheer on the Polish pros competing. Nikodem, who plays under the Summoner Name “NikusDzik” on EUNE, travelled to Kraków with his family from his home in northern Poland to catch the Finals. The journey took between six and seven hours by car, but was well worth the effort, he tells us.
“It was my dream to see Jankos and Vander, and see the Finals of LCS,” says NikusDzik. “I can see the best players in Europe and see how they play, and enjoy the atmosphere. I can be excited...or maybe sad if H2K lose. Some people have the opinion that esports isn't sport because there are computers, but it's the same atmosphere here as a football match. Many guys have dreamed to go to Barcelona and see FC Barcelona when they play. And I've had the same dream about the LCS and H2K.”
Like his hero Jankos, NikusDzik mains jungle and has a similar affinity for Gragas. After mentioning the Rabble Rouser, he opens up his backpack and produces a Gragas figurine that he’d just purchased from the merch tent (“Since it’s my main, I thought I had to have it in my collection”). It was by watching Jankos that he learned how to get an early-game snowball going through pulling off level-3 ganks effectively on champs such as Gragas and Elise. After all, you don’t get to be the King of First Blood by hanging out in the jungle hard-farming all day.
It wouldn’t be a proper esports event without a bit of cosplay, of course, and Swedish fans Kathlynn “Frozen Tearz” (left) alongside her friend and travel companion Linda “iCrystalization” (right) brought good vibes with their popstar costumes. Frozen Tearz pulled together an amazing fan design she calls 'Popstar Annie'.
“I made the Tibbers myself, which is just furry cloth and a lot of cotton stuffing,” she says of the homemade bear. “I usually make my cosplays myself. Last year at the Stockholm Finals I was Dragonblade Talon. I made a female version. I decided to pick Annie this year because I'm so short, it's easier. I wanted to go to the Finals again because it was so much fun meeting people and watching the games with a crowd.”
Her friend iCrystalization wasn’t planning to cosplay but Frozen Tearz talked her into it. “She was like, 'you have to!’” says iCrystalization, “and I was like 'I'm not going to have the time'. So she was like, 'then just buy something!' So I bought a bunch of pieces. The tails came in orange so I had to buy like five cans of spray paint and be at home just spraying everything. It's still orange but looks a bit pink in the light. It's fun to cosplay. I bought it because it was a last-minute thing, but in the future I probably wanna try and make my own costumes because, I don't know, it probably makes you feel a bit closer to the cosplay community.”
It’s iCrystalization’s first time coming to a League event so she figured she might as well cosplay as her favourite champion. Popstar Ahri also happens to be the only skin she owns so it holds a special place in her heart. Frozen Tearz tried to get her to tag along to Stockholm for the previous year’s Summer Finals but her powers of persuasion didn’t work on that occasion.
“I wasn't as into LCS in the past,” admits iCrystalization. “I don't know why because I've known about the league, xPeke and all those big moments, and I feel like I should be into it, but I just wasn't that into it. So when [Frozen Tearz] said, they're coming to Stockholm, I was like ok, whatever. But then after that I started watching more and I realised that it's fun to watch a thing that you know about. You know the rules and what's going on. Then if my mom comes in, she's like, 'what are you watching?' I'm like, 'They just did that, and that!' and she's like 'I don't know what you're talking about'. So this year I had to attend Kraków to be a part of something big.”
Standing outside the TAURON Arena a few hours before the Finals gets underway, local fan Pawel “Mesheq” (picture above in the middle) seems just a tiny bit conflicted. He’s got a G2 tattoo on the right side of his forehead, after all, and a Splyce tattoo on the left. “I really enjoy the style of play of both teams,” he says, “they're really interesting and I can't decide who I want to cheer for more. So I just put both on my forehead.”
Though Mesheq has tattoos representing both teams, he’s not afraid to commit to one favourite player competing in the Finals. “It’s gotta be PerkZ,” he says immediately without needing extra time to ponder. “I like watching players who go all-in. He's always going all-in, he's very aggressive but he's very skillful as well and he can do magic.”
And how well does he feel PerkZ has bounced back from G2’s disappointing showing at MSI?
“Every player can have these big slumps,” he says. “We've seen it in other sports and we've seen it in the LoL scene, players who go down in their form and then they start to perform better and better until they're performing even better than they were at the beginning. So I see the same with Perkz, he's playing great right now.”
Mesheq attends the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice every year and played League for the first time all the way back in Season 1. “I had a big pause because my PC broke for like three years,” he tells us. “But I was still watching the scene grow during that time so it's really nice to see that it's finally here in Poland so we can all enjoy it!”
Anna, who plays under the name “Sanshi” on EUNE (that’s her above in the pink wig), travelled from Warsaw with friends to watch the Finals. They were only able to attend one day and hoped H2K might make it into the 1st-place match so they could see their favourite Polish players Jankos and Vander live onstage. Even though that didn’t work out and they had to watch the H2K-Unicorns series from home, she still has a good reason to be cheering for G2 in the Final.
“H2K's my favourite team because I'm Polish,” she says, “and what they did yesterday was really amazing carrying the Polish flags and stuff. I was like, yeahh! Now I'm rooting for G2 because if they win, H2K will go to Worlds.”
Adding a bit of extra festiveness to the occasion, she threw together a quick-and-easy Riot Girl Tristana cosplay. “It's a little bit of a light cosplay,” says Sanshi, “because I knew that it was going to be really hot. I decided not to paint myself in violet and make myself purple just for the sake of it. I just wanted to do some cosplay for today. It's Riot Girl Tristana, hence the pink hair and the goggles and all the stuff. I tried to make it as comfy as possible, that's why I decided not to make a weapon or something like that. This is my first cosplay ever!”
Fourteen-year-old Bertil “Berten”, an AD Carry main currently in Gold III, travelled from Denmark to Kraków with his dad. It’s the first time they’ve taken a trip like this, just the two of them, so they arrived a few days early to enjoy some sightseeing together. When I find Berten just outside the arena, he’s wearing a Danish flag tied around his neck like a superhero cape. He’s here to cheer on his fellow Danes on Splyce competing in Sunday’s Final.
“A fun thing I like to say is there is always a Danish player in the Finals,” says Berten, “and this time there are four between both NA and EU. It's pretty cool actually. I kind of cheered for Unicorns of Love yesterday because Splyce would get out to Worlds automatically if they won, but then all the Polish people started to sing for H2K. The only real Unicorn fans in the arena were two guys who dressed up as unicorns, but they were sitting pretty close to us.”
Berten is still relatively new to the game. He’d been putting off checking it out (“the graphics on the old Summoner’s Rift didn’t grab my attention like the new one does), but some of his friends invited him to play so they were able to help get him up to speed. “I I was very tryhard when I started,” he laughs. “I'm actually happy that I really wanted to play the game and learn the game because now I can stand here only one and half years later and understand as much as people who've played since Season 1. My life was like, after school and a little bit of football, just League of Legends.”
Through playing League he got introduced to content creators like Sp4zie and started watching the streams of LCS pros. He watched NA mostly at the start because he likes Cloud9, but he also cheered for EU’s Copenhagen Wolves. “I started thinking, maybe I can get that far in a few years because I heard about Santorin,” says Berten. “He's extremely good now and he started in the start of Season 3 and that's really good to get so far in such a short time. So I thought I could do it too.”
Does Berten have his own dreams of going pro in the future?
“No, not really.” he replies. “I realised it's not the most healthy lifestyle because it takes a lot of your time. You only have a few people to talk to, and that's your teammates, because you live in a house with your teammates, not just for practice. But I've thought about the possibility a long time. During Season 6 I had a plan about getting to Gold because you get some nice skins and stuff.”
Whether or not Berten ever graces an LCS stage, he’s already achieved his dream of going Gold. And, beyond that, he’s followed in the footsteps of his hero Sp4zie and set up a YouTube channel to keep track of some of his best League moments. We’ll leave you with a clip of Berten rampaging through the enemy team’s base to pick up a sick Pentakill on Vayne.
GGWP to all the fans who made Kraków a Finals to remember!