Coming into the 2019 Season, Splyce entered the first LEC split with a revamped roster, re-building around veterans Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup and Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir.
While the roster was mostly new, some aspects of the team hadn’t changed. Much like 2018 Summer, the new Splyce was a slow team and a solid playoff contender, but one that seemed to have hit its peak, unable to contest for a top spot. In Spring they ended their season in Round 2 of the playoffs, unable to make it past Fnatic to qualify for the Rotterdam Finals.
Summer seems to be a turning point for the team however and Splyce now find themselves in joint second place.
Xerxe: The rock that holds the early game
While Splyce aren’t a team that will consistently get huge leads in the early stages of the game, they usually get out of the early game without a deficit, averaging a 700 gold lead at 15 minutes, the third highest in the LEC.
A big reason why Splyce are able to have a stable early game is due to Xerxe. The Romanian jungler has a unique style focused on controlling the map and neutralizing the enemy jungler’s presence by finding him and covering for his lanes.
Splyce aren't a very bloody team in the early stages but when they do get kills on the board it’s frequently through Xerxe, as he holds a 50 percent first blood rate, third in the league for junglers.
On matchups where he has the faster clearing jungler, Xerxe will try to leverage the priority in his lanes to play for enemy camps, timing their respawns and consistently taking them to gain a lead. In their match up against SK Gaming, where after splitting the map with an invade, Xerxe plans his route accordingly to be able to be at the enemy raptors as they respawn. Using Olaf’s superior clear speed, he opens up a level lead on his opponent.
Similarly, in Week 5 against Misfits, Xerxe used his bot and mid lane’s priority to take both scuttle crabs to get him ahead and limit the opposing jungler’s impact on the map.
In Week 3 against Rogue, the roles were reversed as Xerxe is playing Jarvan into Skarner. Skarner is definitely the faster clearer, but isn’t as strong as Jarvan at ganking pre 6. After a three camp route, Xerxe goes for an early gank and blows Woolite’s flash, after that he sticks around bot side to get the rift scuttler and pop the scryer’s bloom, which informs him that Krugs are down. With that information, Xerxe will ping the camp a few seconds before it respawns, warning his bot lane that the enemy jungler should be in the vicinity, which prompts the bot lane to ward up the tribush and back off.
As Splyce’s bot lane looks to keep up the pressure to get more turret platings, Xerxe moves into the bot side again to put down some vision to give them more safety and to spot Skarner once he eventually resets after clearing his top side.
Mid Game Problems
While the early game usually goes well for Splyce, their mid game is a different story. Part of the reason why Splyce goes to late game more often than other teams in the LEC has to do with their champion preferences and player comfort. They will often draft several scaling elements which means slowing down in the mid game until carries can get their core items isn’t a bad idea, especially when Kobbe consistently shines in late game teamfights.
With that said, Splyce seem to struggle to create meaningful advantages after the laning phase is over, when turrets start falling and the map opens up. One of these issues has repeatedly been Kiss "Vizicsacsi" Tamás, who has struggled playing on the weak side of the map and has been caught out several times not respecting the opponent’s ability to move and create a 2v1 situation.
In their match vs Excel, with his bot lane and jungler on the top side of the map taking the turret, the Hungarian toplaner extends to go for a trade, not respecting the fact that he’s isolated in the weak side of the map in the bot lane with little information on the enemy jungler and with the opposing AD and support in the mid lane. This isn’t an isolated incident. In Week 3 versus Rogue he was caught in the side lane twice in a row, not respecting Corki’s reset with the package and later a predator gank from the opposing jungler got him killed twice.
Splyce have also had issues when setting up on multiple lanes, and teams have noticed they can punish this aspect in their play.
In their match against Fnatic, Splyce were looking to set up on three lanes, with Humanoid looking to extend his lead in the side lane while the rest of the team held the other two lanes. You can see what happens: Vizicsacsi is caught in rotation to the top lane and shortly after, the duo lane doesn’t respect the numbers disadvantage and get caught out in the mid lane. This 40 second passage alone meant Splyce’s almost 2,000 gold lead was suddenly gone.
In the Week 6 match against Vitality, Splyce made a series of good map movements, securing mid priority and holding it with the aid of Azir’s Sun Disc to then move to the top side of Vitality’s jungle, littering it with wards as they move to secure the tier 2 top lane turret.
As they reset and get back onto the map, Splyce decide to contest the Mountain drake. The issue is that for the minute prior to this they had been playing on the top side of the map, and that’s where all their vision was placed. In the meantime, Vitality had set up vision around the next drake spawn.
Splyce go for the dragon and get caught in a chaotic fight, where both of the opposing solo lanes surprise them with TP flanks. The fight ends with them securing the Mountain Drake but losing four members right as the clock turns to 20 minutes, giving Vitality access to an uncontested Baron and control over the match.
While their mid game is far from perfect, Splyce have been consistently picking up wins this split. One of the driving factors behind Splyce’s recent form and their potential to reach new heights lies in their rookie mid laner, Marek “Humanoid” Brázda. While he wasn’t a liability in Spring, he didn’t really stand out much either, and at the start of Summer things seemed to be more or less the same as he made relatively little impact in Splyce’s games, including a very forgettable Irelia performance against Schalke 04.
However, we got to see a very different player over the course of the last couple of weeks and the Czech midlaner has really stepped up, helping Splyce solidify a Top 3 position in Summer.
While his average CS@15 is down from the start of the split, this has much to do with a shift in his champion pool, playing Akali and Qiyana into more dominant laners, where it’s natural to have to yield farm and fall slightly behind to get through the laning phase.
With these champions, Humanoid has been more active in the mid game and the primary carry for Splyce post laning phase, an important mantle to take over as someone needs to step up while Kobbe is powering up to be the late game teamfighting monster.
And in the Corki Azir Meta? Splyce are happy to have him play that role too as Humanoid is widely known for his Azir. In his last three matches of the Azir vs Corki matchup, he has shown very strong performances, accruing CS leads and always coming out ahead at the 15 minute mark.
The stats show a massive step up in his performance. Humanoid has averaged almost a third of Splyce’s damage and has taken over as Splyce’s primary carry, while also leading the league in solo kills, with 13 total so far.
Splyce have been able to take down Origen and Fnatic and have won eight of their last nine games. The team is poised to fight for a playoff bye, as they sit in second place. But are they a top team? It’s hard to be sure, but if they can take down their main opposition in a best of five, they may just reach new heights.