Halfway through history in the LEC – League of Legends

It’s been a long road, but the first year of the LEC under its new format is coming to an end as the Season Finals have begun. With teams around the world having already secured their Worlds spots, EMEA’s top prospects have been fighting for the right to join them. Let’s take a look at the upcoming competition and how the teams fared after Summer.

Already locked in teams such as Gen.G and T1 who will compete on their own field and a powerhouse JDG-roster who is looking for the golden road after winning the LPL Summer Split will give tough competition to anyone who qualifies. The LCS is also looking for challenge, with a powerful C9 roster looking to reach new heights and Golden Guardians blocking the door to Worlds -access for the fourth series head of the LEC.

Death from afar and death in a ball

At the beginning of the summer finals weekend was a winner takes all matchup between Team Heretics and Fnatic, with the winner holding Season Finals and the loser unable to sneak over the margin of points needed to qualify. In the end, it was Fnatic who emerged victorious, as they changed their strategy after a D1G1 loss and a shaky D1G2 win thanks to Hextech Soul. Switching to a poke-oriented strategy, Fnatic was able to find an identity and take the series 3-1, but failed to turn this strategy into success against XL, with the only notable pick in their 3-1 loss against their British brethren razork’s unexpected Kindred pick in D2G3.

Controlled by Noah, lethality Varus made his return to the LEC stage alongside Humanoid’s Jayce in both game three and game four for Fnatic. After weathering the storm of Jankos and Vetheo’s exceptional wanderings in the laning phase, the long-range damage of these two champions in the middle of the match could make battles and goals hopeless for their opponent. Jayce in particular was a high priority in pick/ban all weekend among all of our top four teams.

Fnatic seems to be shaking things up so far in Season Finals from this strategy, but it has not been without bumps in the road. Continuing this poke strategy against Excel, Fnatic found some success, but seemed too reliant on Ivern, Jayce and Kai’Sa, all champions who are highly contested in pick/ban.

So they seem to have made the switch from death from afar to death in a ball and are playing a style much more similar to that of the LPL and that we saw in the Spring split of the LEC, taking victories in games four and five of their elimination series versus XL in Season Finals, and successfully claiming revenge for Summer. Centered around picks like Taliyah and Tristana who can be flexed between roles, it offers the team some more draft versatility and high team-fighting damage. I also want to highlight Trymbi’s Nautilus pick, which scored early kills for Fnatic and helped them through some otherwise shaky laning phases.

League of Legends
Riot Games

Han(d)s Gorge

G2 executed a similar strategy against XL in their 3-0 final sweep, placing an extremely high priority on drafting Kai’Sa, who they bent between Caps and Hans Sama. Hans in particular looked threatening on the pick in D3G1 and D3G3, with a combined KDA of 20/1/17 over the series. G2’s ability to bend this key pick around allows them to fill the gaps in their lineup with other strong picks like LeBlanc and Kog’Maw to successfully match and counter the opposition’s lineup in the second round of picks.

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The most notable example of G2’s drafting excellence is shown in D3G2, where G2 blocked the meta-threat bot lane of Rell / Kai’Sa first and second, blindsided a strong top lane pick of Jax for Brokenblade third and then completely flipped the script on XL by bending these champions into jungle and mid lane roles respectively and locking down their proven Braum / Kog’Maw bot lane.

For the most part, G2 seems happy with this style and has continued their unorthodox designs, but it’s not just random, carefree picking. Brokenblade has held down the fort on tanks like Poppy and an unorthodox but effective Kled pick, and Yike seems to be experimenting with carry picks again, like his Evelyn pick in W1D2G2 vs. BDS. In addition, Kog’Maw and Braum remain a high priority for the team, with Braum in particular being overrepresented in pick/bans in the G2 series while other teams experiment with the pick to deny it from them. They are certainly ones to watch as they race to the first-ever season finale crown.

Returning faces

MAD Lions, our Spring split champions, suffered quite a fall from grace and bombed early in the Summer split. That said, their championship-winning run earned them the right to revenge in the Season Finals, it’s an opportunity they clearly hungered to take.

During Spring, Carzzy and Chasy showed incredible form, and so they were the ones I had to keep an eye on for this roster. It was a big if, and although Chasy had some struggles in MAD’s series vs. Excel, Carzzy is sure to have another spring in his step. With Hylissang in form, Carzzy is able to use his abilities to the fullest, finding early leads and being a huge source of damage for his team in W1D1G1, as well as reclaiming victory with a clutch quadra kill in game two of the same series. Elyoya has resurfaced, and it’s no surprise why with his contract nearing an end – let’s see if this time the MAD Lions can finally cut their teeth on an international competition.

French giants Team BDS struggled for a long time to find momentum in the LEC, but have grown by leaps and bounds since the return of the current roster of its ERL team. They appeared en masse in Spring, showed summer promise, but could not reach the same heights. Nevertheless, it has been a year of firsts for this organization, and they are on track to achieve another after making the LEC’s top four in Season Finals.

Nuc, a pick that many questioned as the franchise player of BDS, has consistently appeared in the team’s success and looks like a real threat in the mid-majors, especially on aggressive mages like Cassiopeia. Moreover, Sheo has been an outlier all year and has found his niche within the squad again, coordinating the team during mid-game. Although Adam currently appears to be the team’s Achilles heel, underperforming against both BrokenBlade and Irrelevant, if he can learn to play weak and the team is able to play for an in-form Crownie (who looked monstrous in BDS’ W1D2G2 victory over G2), it could be time for a BDS breakthrough like never before.

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Farewell to two

Despite being stomped – for lack of a better word – in the finals by G2, there are many positives for the XL squad that grew by leaps and bounds individually and as a team over the course of the Summer split and Season Finals. With an identity still centered around aggressive team fighting and rift herald control, XL showed much more pick diversity and some members in particular shined.

The veterans of the roster, Odoamne and Abbedagge, both had some monstrous showings in XL’s run to second place in Summer. Peach is also finding his niche within the roster, playing much more proactively and chasing leads for his laners to help XL through any early game stumbling blocks. This is a selection that has gone from back-to-back tenth finishes to five games against an in-form Fnatic superteam. I hope that being beaten by the current Kings of Europe in 3-0 by G2 in Summer Finals and the MAD Lions in Season Finals doesn’t shake the team’s resolve, and I remain hopeful for the future of this roster.

Finally, SK Gaming remain as they were – a roster filled to the brim with promising talent led by their experienced jungler Markoon – but still unable to quite break into the upper echelons of the LEC. If one team had something to prove, it was them, but this dark horse of the LEC was unable to make a big statement by punching their ticket to Worlds.

Markoon will be key in guiding his team to success in the future, and I especially zoom in on how he handles Sertuss. At their peak, the two are a terrifyingly deadly jungle-mid duo, and with champions like Akali and Sylas returning to contention, SK’s shares may be on the rise.

League of Legends
Riot Games

Choose Patrol

Rell remains the LEC’s first choice, with 100% representation in Season Finals so far. Followed closely by Tristana, Renekton and Xayah, all with nearly 100% representation.

The ADC pool is currently large and varied in the LEC, but popular backup choices include Kalista, Draven, Kai’Sa, Zeri and Ezreal.

Ivern and Taliyah are still common, with the latter often banned for its ability to be bent between jungle and mid. Other mids such as Maokai and Sejuani are pushed away in an oversaturated jungle meta, unlike Poppy who has found a new home in the upper lane as a decoupling tank, much like Alistair’s popular support pick.

Azir and LeBlanc are additionally poised as popular mid lane picks, but the pool is quite varied in this role due to flex picks and the occasional Neeko making a surprise appearance.

LEC Season Finals continues today, culminating in the grand finale next week in Montpellier. You can watch on the LEC’s Twitch or the LoL Esports site, and as always we’ll bring you full coverage of the twists and turns of the competition.

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