A New Horizon for EU
Today marked the final series of the EU Promotion tournament, with Fnatic Academy and Giants Gaming fighting for the last spot in the EU LCS Summer Split. To everyone’s surprise, Fnatic cleanly swept Giants, paving their way in as the 10th team locked in for the next split. Coming into the promotion tournament, I was sure that at least one of the challenger teams would make it in due to Origen’s season long poor form, but to see the LCS teams dispatched in such a manner was something else. What began as a 1-3 and 0-3 losses for the LCS teams, continued with Origen losing their redemption series against Giants in a series of dragged out games, sending them back into the Challenger series that they had previously graduated from back in 2015. Meanwhile in the other bracket between the two LCS sister teams of Misfits Academy and Fnatic Academy had a five-game-long series against each other, with both of them looking strong, even in their losses. At the end of the week, it only seems fitting that the two teams that fought the closest series, both made it into the LCS.
Focusing more on the individual teams, the first team eliminated from the tournament was Origen, the organization who came in with only 2 game wins under their belts. During the tournament, they still felt lost, the team captain “xPeke” had difficulties showing performances close to his legendary form from a few years back, and the rest of the team looked just as lost. Their first series loss against MFA send them to the losers bracket, pushing their backs against the edge of a cliff, leaving them face to face against Giants in a deadlock to see which of the teams would still have a chance at re-qualifying. In a situation where they had everything to lose, they still played in the same style as they always had, tripping over the same hurdles as they had before. Origen lacked the tempo to keep up with macro plays, and there were some serious individual misplays happening, such as “xPeke” revealing himself to the enemy team while they were going to pass by the bush he was in. Taking into consideration of the road that the organization has taken, they were a fan favorite EU LCS team from exactly two years ago, when their squad of veterans and a rookie qualified and made their run to reach the semifinals of the Worlds Championship Tournament later that year. The following year, they made it to the finals, only to fall short during the final series against G2, after which, their troubled road started. After the Spring Split of 2016, the duo of “Zven” and “Mithy” left the team to join the team that had beat them during the finals, G2 Esports. Their substitutes failed to live up to their predecessors as the team was forced to swap players around in a constantly. If the team had kept out of the relegation zone, they would still have had a chance of qualifying for Worlds through the EU gauntlet, but they ended up in 8th place. The team fought their way back from the relegation tournament, only for the teams remaining two veterans and new midlaner to part ways with the team, leaving only “xPeke” as the last outstanding member. And now we witness the end of the Origen that made its way through the Challenger series in order to challenge the best teams around the world, leaving the EU LCS as a different team than what they once were. Origen has yet to announce any future plans since losing their series against Giants Gaming.
Shifting attention to their LCS competitor, Giants Gaming, who are a team who have been through multiple relegation matches, yet remained a constant presence in the EU LCS since early Season 3 (2013). Giants have always been a team on the verge of staying in the LCS with a few highlight-worthy runs in the regular splits. While never reaching the same heights as Origen, Giants remained consistent over the years, with their Summer 2016 run remaining the teams finest. They took 3rd place during a tumultuous season in which we saw older organizations falter and newer teams prosper, Giants were able to create a strong roster that was able to take games off the other teams. But when push came to shove, the team was unable to make an impact in the play-offs, falling to the Unicorns of Love 1-3. During the off-season, the team made drastic changes to their line-up, only retaining a few players in “Hustlin” and “NighT“, and when the EU LCS began once again this spring, the team failed to find enough ground to keep them safe during the regular split. At first, they looked like a team that could fight off the relegation spots of 4th and 5th, but following the unbelievable run from ROCCAT, they fell down to the 4th place in the standings. As for the Promotion tournament, the first series Giants played was against their opponent of choice Fnatic Academy, a series which they lost 1-3, something that the teams jungler “Memento” was quick to point out that they weren’t performing to the usual standard. The came back to defeat Origen cleanly, sending them back down to Challenger in a 3-0 sweep, but they still looked shaky as the games dragged on deep into the late game. And as I mentioned earlier, their rematch against Fnatic Academy would end in a heartbreaking 0-3 for the Giants organization.
While the two “Academy” teams may have qualified for the LCS, due to the rules laid out by Riot Games, neither team can actually participate in their current form, as two teams owned by the same organization cannot play in the same tournament. This means that both Fnatic and Misfits are going to be selling their newly qualified teams to other interested organizations. This could potentially lead to other European sports organization investing in the eSports scene like Schalke 04 and Paris Saint-Germain have done during the past year. As for the players on those teams, their contracts are still tied to the specific organisations, while it can be assumed that any potential buyers would also retain the contracts of all of the players, it could be feasible that Fnatic want to retain some of the contracts as the players have proven themselves valuable to the organisation. Meanwhile, for Misfits, they could also keep some of the players and move them to become substitutes for their main team, as the players seemed to have different strengths compared to their sister team counterparts, which would round out their roster even better. There is a lot to look forward to during the off-season after organizations within the EU LCS have been shaken up as potential buyers come forward and start to form new rosters to face the other 8 teams in the LCS.