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League of Legends

The West’s Last Hope: How Rogue Can Make a Run at Worlds 2022

Zakaria Almughrabi

In League of Legends esports, there is a concept known as “the gap.” This refers to the difference in skill and success between the eastern regions and the western ones. Besides season one, every single Worlds has been won by an eastern team. There have been seasons where the west came close, notably in 2018 when three of the top four teams at Worlds were from the west. For a while, we had the narrative that “the gap” was closing. Now at Worlds 2022, that gap seems wider than ever. North America just had their worst performance in Worlds history. Europe started off strong in week one of the group stage, but a 1-9 week two nearly knocked out every single team from the region. Worlds 2022 would have been the first all eastern top eight ever if not for one team, Rogue.

Rogue Worlds 2022

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

Who are Rogue?

The core of top laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu, mid laner Emil “Larssen” Larsson, and support Adrian “Trymbi” Trybus were together for the 2021 competitive year. Alongside ADC Steven “Hans sama” Liv and jungler Kacper “Inspired” Słoma, Rogue fought their way to second place in the Spring Playoffs and third in the Summer. They qualified for Worlds as EU’s third seed, but didn’t make it out of groups.

Coming into 2022, Rogue saw Inspired and Hans sama both leave the squad and head to North America. Many saw this as a major step back for the team, saying that Rogue had lost their two best players. For their replacements, Rogue brought in Markos “Comp” Stamkopoulos at ADC and Korean import Kim “Malrang” Geun-seong at jungle.

As it turned out, these changes worked out wonderfully for Rogue. They finished first in the Spring Regular Season before falling to G2 Esports in the finals. In Summer, Rogue won their first ever LEC championship over G2 in a dominant 3-0 sweep. As the Summer champions, Rogue also earned the privilege of being Europe’s first seed at Worlds 2022.

Rogue’s Group Stage

The Rogue Worlds 2022 campaign started in Group C. They were matched up against the likes of DRX, Korea’s fourth seed, Top Esports, China’s second seed, and GAM Esports, Vietnam’s first seed. Based on the relative strength of the group and the faith afforded by crushing the LEC playoffs, many were hopeful for Rogue to advance to the Knockout Stage.

What they didn’t expect was a flawless 3-0 week one for the European representatives. Their drafts were incredibly similar for all three games. Odoamne was on a tank, Malrang had an AD skirmisher, and Larssen had a control mage in mid. Rogue’s playstyle revolves around playing an aggressive lane in bot that can keep priority. They did this with Lucian Nami in game one and Kalista in games two and three.

Week One Domination

In game one against DRX, Comp and Trymbi were able to first blood DRX’s ADC Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu at four minutes in. DRX weren’t pushovers however, and the game remained close. Comp’s Lucian picked up multiple kills along the way, helping Rogue win crucial fights at objectives to close out the game.

Game two against GAM also featured some bot lane domination out of Rogue, as their oppressive lane poke led to an easy dive at 3 minutes in. Once again though, Rogue had some troubles transitioning their early lead into a strong finish. GAM were able to farm up on a scaling composition and make a strong case for winning the game. Knowing they needed to force soon, Rogue started up a 36-minute Baron flip. The ensuing fight went completely in their favor, allowing Rogue to go 2-0.

Their match against TES was also a close game throughout. Once again, Rogue played around their bot lane in the early game. Despite giving first blood to Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-bo’s Varus, they kept up the pressure. At about eight minutes in, Rogue set up a phenomenal counter-gank to take Varus down. Rogue was also winning on top side, as they found multiple early kills onto the enemy Gnar.

The gold in the mid-game was near even when a massive fight broke out in the top lane. A teleport from Odoamne and some great play out of Malrang’s Lee Sin helped Rogue win it two for one. They then started Baron, forcing TES to try and stop them. The result was two more kills and Baron in the way of Rogue. From this point, Rogue had the game on lock, winning in 33 minutes.

Rogue Malrang

Malrang has been Rogue’s central play maker both domestically and here at Worlds 2022. (Image Credit: Riot Games | Lance Skundrich)

Faltering in Week Two

Rogue’s first game back was against GAM. This match was very much in the same vein as all their three previous games. Rogue drafted a Lucian Nami for their bot lane, Azir for Larssen, and Jarvan IV for Malrang. The only difference was a Gnar for Odoamne to help him negate a Renekton pick. The Gnar got targeted early on, with both the enemy Graves and Galio taking trips topside. Rogue was keen on letting Odoamne eat the pressure so that they could play bot as usual.

This time however, GAM didn’t fall for Rogue’s usual counter-gank bait. The game continued in a stalemate, until a bad decision to reengage at Rift Herald cost Rogue the objective, two kills, and a third Dragon. They did manage to salvage back some gold with a pair of kills on GAM’s retreat though. And with a huge CS lead building on Larssen, Rogue had some insurance for late game.

Later at 25 minutes with the gold dead even, GAM overforced on Rogue in their blue jungle. A counter engage courtesy of Odoamne’s Gnar and Larssen’s Azir helped the European side clean up four kills. Baron buff in hand, Rogue found their fourth win in the Group Stage. Little did they know, it would be their last.

Rogue’s Gameplan Dismantled

The theme of Rogue’s gameplay was incredibly similar in every match. Draft a strong early game bot lane, a control mage to keep priority in mid, and utility/skirmish power for top side. Try to get your bot lane ahead early, sacrificing top if needed. Use whatever edge you gain to try and win mid-game fights. Take Baron and end the game once you do win a fight hard enough.

That plan worked out in their first four games just fine. But what would happen if teams tried to throw a wrench in it? That’s exactly what DRX and TES did in their rematches against Rogue.

DRX immediately threw down the gauntlet in draft phase, pulling out the Ashe Heimerdinger bot lane duo. These two champions have tons of range and poke, demanding that their opponents give them lane priority. Rogue had Kalista already locked in, who would have been food in this matchup. Their response was a highly experimental Nasus support pick to try and counter Heimerdinger with an E max.

In short, this did not work as planned for Rogue. Comp and Trymbi found themselves permanently under tower and nursing a CS disadvantage. Because DRX’s bot lane had so much pressure, they could focus on top lane and snowballing their Aatrox. Desperate to try and find a lead, Rogue tried a gank on the bot lane. Heimerdinger’s turrets output so much damage that the gank turned sour for Rogue.

With that play failed, Rogue had no legs to stand on in this game. DRX were able to take anything they wanted and choke Rogue out of the game. The gold lead grew to 10k by 27 minutes, ending with a Baron push at 29.

Nearly Knocked Out of Worlds 2022

Seeing DRX convincingly crush the group leaders, TES took a page from their book. They responded to a hyper lane-focused Caitlyn Lux lane from Rogue with Draven Blitzcrank. JackeyLove immediately said “screw your strategy” and flashed in at level one for a first blood trade. At level two, Ling “Mark” Xu flash hooked Comp’s Caitlyn for a second kill on Draven. A great Hexflash hook on Trymbi at six minutes in gave Draven his third kill. You get the picture by this point.

JackeyLove’s Draven went the rest of the game unkilled and ended with a 9/1/1 score line. Rogue got stomped, losing the game in under 25 minutes. Rogue’s final game score was 4-2, which did guarantee them a spot in the semifinals. However, there was a very real chance that it wouldn’t have.

If TES won their earlier game against GAM, they would have also finished with a 4-2 record, forcing a three-way tiebreaker game. They were incredibly close to winning that game too, just a couple auto attacks away from destroying GAM’s Nexus. Based on how Rogue’s earlier games against TES and DRX on the day went, it’s probable that Rogue would have been knocked out.

How Rogue can Fix their Issues

The biggest reason for Rogue’s week two collapse after a 3-0 start is due to top teams figuring out how they like to play. Bot lane priority is everything in Rogue’s game plan. When DRX and TES punished them with overwhelming range and crazy aggressiveness respectively, Rogue’s identity fell apart. There’s no doubt that JD Gaming, China’s number one seed coming into Worlds, knows exactly how to target Rogue in this aspect.

If Rogue wants to have a chance at winning an international best-of-five against one of the best teams in the world, they’ll need to have multiple modes of play ready. If they show up in game one with Lucian Nami or Kalista and get put in the dirt, running the same strategy back will only end in heartbreak.

Scaling bot laners like Kai’Sa and Aphelios have been favored by many teams. If Rogue finds themselves lacking proper presence or counters in their other roles, allowing Comp to fall behind early and play for later could be a nice change of pace that pays off in the long run.

Rogue Comp

Comp has been the focal point for Rogue’s game plan. Will he adapt his picks based on his opponent’s counterplay? (Image Credit: Riot Games | Lance Skundrich)

Larssen is a stable presence on control mages, and they seem to be far and away the strongest mid lane class at Worlds with the exception of AP divers (Akali and Sylas). As long as he can flex to whichever of the two fits draft better, he’ll be fine.

Malrang is known as a supportive force in the jungle. His carry potential comes via playmaking, not taking resources to deal damage. That said, picks like Graves and Karthus have popped up multiple times at Worlds and are viable ways to find a carry out of the jungle. If Rogue wants to keep priority in their lanes, a farming jungler can greatly benefit.

Lastly, Odoamne has shown his best performances on tanks. He’s been a weak side player for most of his career and that won’t change overnight. While you could ask him to try and play things like Aatrox, Fiora, or Gangplank, prioritizing Maokai or Ornn will give Rogue a solid frontline and engage threat to base the rest of their comp on.

The Rogue Worlds 2022 Quarterfinals match against JD Gaming begins on October 20 at 5pm ET. We’ll see if they have what it takes to make a case for taking home the Summoners’ Cup.