The League of Legends European Championship (LEC) is taking a breather. After four weeks of competition (four-and-a-half technically, since the first weekend had one extra play day), a much needed, one week break has arrived. As it turns out, virtually everyone’s predictions meant nothing heading into the Split. The seemingly untouchable giants that are G2 and Fnatic were toppled, and new stars rose to prominence.
This LEC Summer Split offers the best odds for any team to make it to the League of Legends World Championship, as Europe, like China, received a fourth slot for the event. If you don’t make it to the Playoffs, your chances of going to Worlds are zero. What was thought to be a clear-cut case where, realistically, one or maybe two of those slots could be contested for, was thrown into chaos. Every team had surprising wins and, on the flipside of that, the./re were massive upsets. Let’s recap where each LEC team stands, how they got there, and where they might go.
From mighty three to mediocrity
G2 and Fnatic are the undisputed best teams in European League of Legends history. For a while now, Origen were seen as the only team that could truly contest them. Though they majestically fell from grace in the 2019 Summer Split, in the 2020 Spring Split they looked revamped and once again back in the saddle, as they finished the regular Split with the same record as Fnatic. Unless something went catastrophically wrong, these three teams should cruise to the World Championship.
However, something did go catastrophically wrong for all three of them. G2, once fan favorites to win the 2019 World Championships, perhaps experienced the biggest swings up and down. An exciting first-match win against MAD Lions in the opening weekend was quickly followed by losses to Origen (can happen) and Vitality (an upset for sure). G2 then bounced back defeating Schalke 04 and Rogue, and looked to be back on track. In week three, however, G2 lost to SK Gaming (big question marks there), only to absolutely wipe the floor with Fnatic. The perceived stronger opponent Misfits was defeated in the fourth week, but they stood no chance against bottom dweller Excel Esports and ended with a 5-4 record.
However, something did go catastrophically wrong for all three of these teams. G2, once fan favorites to win the 2019 World Championships, perhaps experienced the biggest swings up and down. An exciting first-match win against MAD Lions in the opening weekend was quickly followed by losses to Origen (can happen) and Vitality (an upset for sure). G2 then bounced back defeating Schalke 04 and Rogue, and looked to be back on track. In week three, however, G2 lost to SK Gaming (big question marks there), only to absolutely wipe the floor with Fnatic. The perceived stronger opponent Misfits was defeated in the fourth week, but they stood no chance against bottom dweller Excel Esports and ended with a 5-4 record.
The same cannot be said of Fnatic and Origen. Granted, in Fnatic’s first match against Misfits they did impressively bounce back. And Fnatic did finish the opening week with a 3-0 score. But that match against Misfits was about the only real counter pressure they received in that week. When in the subsequent matches Fnatic faced true opposition, the cracks in the team became clearly visible. Debutant Iván “Razork” Martín Díaz and veteran Martin “Rekkles” Larsson were pulling the weight, while Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek and Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau held the team back with remarkably poor performances overall. Ending the first half of the Split with a 4-5 score, even giving dead-last Schalke 04 their only win in nine games, is nothing short of terrible. Fnatic need to find unity.
Origen on the other hand did show unity, but did so by displaying indecisiveness in unison. Against a poor G2 and Fnatic Origen stepped up and snagged up victories. Those would be good signs, weren’t it for the steep drop-off in week three and four. Only against Schalke 04 did the team, led by André Guilhoto, win. Origen are playing a poor version of traditional Korean League of Legends. They play slow, avoid fights, and try to control the game. But not only is that method outdated, their execution is also poor. Team members wander off alone and get caught out. When the opponent makes moves, Origen stand still scratching their head. They, too, end the first half with a negative scoreline: 4-5.
Positive surprises came from elsewhere. Amid the chaos of the Summer Split, two teams with far less experienced players rose to the occasion. MAD Lions, the magical rookie squad who had finished third in the Spring Split Playoffs, appeared to head for a convincing #1 spot for weeks. Closely following them in their trail was Rogue, who had mixed results in the Spring Split.
For MAD Lions, the performance seemed a mere continuation from a steadily, quickly climbing upward trend in the Spring Split. Whereas they could only play a few styles in Spring, they now had broadened their spectrum of champions and play styles. Coherently and precisely they navigated around the map, banking on an absurd amount of individual skill in their players. Every single member of MAD Lions has stepped up in the first four weeks to lead the squad to victory. A particular standout, however, was Marek “Humanoid” Brázda, who in the Spring Split at times had looked shaky, but now contested for best mid laner in the region. The consistency was somewhat disrupted towards the end when MAD Lions lost against Misfits, but they still finished with an impressive 7-2 scoreline.
Rogue, on the other hand, didn’t have an upward trend from the Spring Split to continue to set in the Summer Split. Instead, everything just clicked for them in the past weeks. Their macro play was arguably the best of any team in the league. Much like the case was with MAD Lions, every single member on the team was able to stand up and carry. Oskar “Vander” Bogdan, the often underappreciated support player of the team, managed to play so consistently stellarly that it was almost demanded he receive a Player of the Game reward (which he ultimately did). Rogue may not play as explosively as MAD Lions, and perhaps they’re not on that level yet, but the results speak for themselves. They too ended with a 7-2 scoreline.
To put Misfits on the same platform as MAD Lions and Rogue would be a disservice to the latter two’s performances, but they do deserve to be among the welcome surprises. Misfits, ending sixth overall in the Spring Split, played very well against Fnatic. They lost their way here and there, but still won against the likes of Origen and MAD Lions and finished with a 5-4 scoreline, tied with G2.
Different shades of a grey area
SK Gaming, Vitality, and Excel all have the same 4-5 scoreline as Fnatic and Origen. It truly paints just how open the competition in the LEC still is. SK Gaming have gone back and forth with their performances. They held their own against G2, Origen, and Misfits, but then lost against the likes of Vitality and Excel. It’s hard to argue that their individual level of play will carry them to the Playoffs and perhaps even Worlds, but their team coordination exceeds that of some of the more renowned teams.
Vitality experienced a steady decline in results and performances during the first weeks. They shocked everyone with their victory over G2 in the opening weekend, but had some especially rough showings against MAD Lions and Misfits. Yet, as appeared to be the common theme this Split, right when it all seemed to be going downhill they struck. On the very final play day Vitality rose against Origen, ending the first half with a victory.
For Excel Esports, the results only improved. A disastrous 0-3 opening weekend turned out to be merely some engine trouble due to a heavy schedule: they played against Rogue, MAD Lions, and Fnatic to kick off the Split. In the subsequent weeks, Excel turned it around and went 4-2 with victories over SK Gaming and, ultimately, even the titans of G2 in dominant fashion. Their steady stabilization is one of the few consistent stories in the Split so far.
But the most consistent performance goes to Schalke 04. It hasn’t been a happy story. The roster, which picked up some wins as the Spring Split progressed, completely collapsed in the first four weeks of the Summer Split. Only at the very end did they seem to have found their footing, when both their bot lane and their support lane were swapped (again), and fielded their Academy team rosters. Nevertheless, with a 1-8 scoreline overall, it’s safe to say that Schalke have been the greatest disappointment so far.
A chaotic climax awaits
It’s almost impossible to predict who will make it to the LEC Summer Split Playoffs and have a shot at representing Europe at the World Championship this year. The safest bets are MAD Lions and Rogue. They may not have the raw power of a team like G2 or Fnatic. However, they are navigating in the current meta so comfortably that it seems unlikely they’ll give up their positions unless something goes as catastrophically wrong as it did for Fnatic and Origen. G2 have proven too resilient of a team in the past to be left out as well. With the break and a mental reset, the team is expected to walk back on stage revitalized and composed.
Origen and Fnatic face deep integral issues. Whereas G2 showed flashes of greatness at times, Origen and Fnatic have consistently performed shakily, even in their wins. These two might have the talent to make Worlds and represent the LEC, but without leadership and navigation they’ll continue to fight an uphill battle. Fnatic and Origen join an incredibly long list of potential Playoffs and Worlds candidates. Misfits, Vitality, Excel, and SK Gaming all are part of the six-team ‘middle of the pack’. It’s corny, but you cannot count any of these teams out yet. Not when you keep in mind how the first half of the LEC Summer Split progressed.
Someone has to be last, in the end, and Schalke 04 are doomed to be that team in the LEC. The 10-man roster strategy may have resulted in a somewhat solid team composition now, but too many times the squad has looked uncoordinated.
The first half of the LEC Summer Split did not bring the best League of Legends play Europe has ever seen. To be a contender at Worlds, all teams need to drastically step it up and, frankly, quit messing around. If you can win against G2, for example, you cannot afford to lose against lesser opponents. That said, it’d be a grotesque lie to say the Summer Split hasn’t been entertaining so far. Upsets and clown fiestas are a feast for the fans, and the second half of the Summer Split has a lot to live up to.