Love and hope in LEC Summer week three – League of Legends

It was an interesting week in the LEC as the regular league came to an end and we had to say goodbye to two teams. The pressure was on as teams fought to take their fate into their own hands, looking for the chance to fight for high placement in best of three series and aim for a spot in the season finale.

Can Fnatic find their form?

Some rosters rose and others fell this weekend, Fnatic teetering on the edge of the latter category. The team is by no means performing poorly, and compared to previous splits this year, they have much to be proud of. That said, this week was a chance to prove their renewed dominance and show a consistent style – something they failed to do. In fact, this week was probably Fnatic’s worst of their three regular season shows, which could disrupt their momentum in groups.

Although the entire team had great mechanical shows over the weekend, especially Razork’s Viego (D1G4), they are not firing on all cylinders. In their first match against BDS, Fnatic pumped three kills into an out-of-the-game Olaf, piloted by Adam, allowing their competition to convert a Baron pick. One Baron steal and two Elder Dragons against them later, Fnatic managed to scrape out a win from a defeat they had manufactured.

Their match against Team Heretics (D2G3) was a decent showing against a team that looked strong, but at key moments Fnatic pushed too far, played too sloppy and got picked off. Players of Jankos and VetheoThe caliber of is the minimum level with which this roster should compete, and if they make it to the World Cup, these mistakes will be punished much more severely.

League of Legends
Riot Games, Inc.

Fnatic’s loss against SK was a disappointing end to the week and the regular season for the team. It was close in the middle game, with SK having advantages at the top of the map, both mid laners performing well and Fnatic having the bot lane advantage. This came off when SK snuck a Baron away from Fnatic, and executed their front to back draft well to take the win.

The team’s main weakness comes down to poor play around goals. This is an aggressive, mechanically dominant team that likes to fight for the sake of fighting, using a number of advantages to secure neutrals instead of proper planning. This is something they have to work on sooner or later, because they will find out and they will lose when teams stop playing into their traps.

I do see some hope for the side. By finishing second in the regular competition, Fnatic was able to select their first opponent for the group stage, choosing between MAD Lions and SK. Despite a comical moment of Razork trying to pick XL, Fnatic chose to take on SK in a revenge match instead of the (5 loss series and counting) MAD Lions. With three out of four deaths for Noah this weekend against this SK roster, some of the pressure may be off and the team can focus on revenge in dominant fashion. It’s a bold statement and we’ll have to wait and see if it succeeds.

SK’s core comes to life

Looking back at the turning point for SK Gaming in the LEC, Markoon and Sertuss herald the beginning of the team’s new era. But to reach the highest heights, this is an organization that means business after all. Picking up the tried-and-true bot duo of Exakick and Doss from the dominant 2022 LDLC OL roster, they have found a fair amount of success in both previous splits, though they struggled a bit over the summer as their rookies have been focused and punished.

Irrelevant has been anything but. Certainly under the radar, SK’s top laner has been a loyal addition, able to gracefully lose the job on the weak side and take over with just a little attention from Markoon. Aside from their loss to Astralis (D1G1) this weekend, which I personally think is largely due to their choice to run Poppy in the jungle when it would have been a better matchup in Renekton, he has provided an excellent foundation for the rest of the team to shine.

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SK mainstays Markoon and Sertuss finally stepped up as a duo to lead the team to the group stage. In their matches against MAD Lions and Fnatic, both players went deathless and worked as a lethal duo to secure advantages in the early game and enable brilliant, front-to-back team battles in the mid-late game. With KDAs of 11/0/21 and 13/0/17 for Markoon and Sertuss respectively in these matches, this is a pair to watch in the group stage.

League of Legends
Riot Games, Inc.

KOI go Rogue when it counts

KOI had an interesting weekend and placed in the group stage despite some initial stumbles. Things did not look good for the squad, as they scraped out a win from a faltering Vitality side that looked superior to them for the entire match (D1G2). Seemingly dead and buried were Rogue’s days as KOI were unable to execute the distinctive style of lane dominance and macro-choke of their predecessors against an in-form G2 (D2G2), who outplayed them.

In a crucial final match against Astralis (D3G3), things did not look hopeful for KOI, who seemed a shadow of the success these players are capable of. Something seems to have clicked behind the scenes, however, as KOI returned to form, won their lanes, played steady in the middle game and looked impeccable in team battles in the late game – perhaps this roster’s first truly dominant showing of the summer. Larssen broke 1000 LEC kills when he went 6/1/11 on a Neeko pick that, combined with Comp’s 10/0/9 Sivir, seemed unstoppable. Mass CC and lighting fast engages caused widespread damage by the ADC’s ricochets, and KOI seem to have their style sorted for groups.

XL lock on third place

I don’t have much to say about this roster that I haven’t done in recent weeks, but I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Excel’s performance. Having clearly found their style, Excel managed to come back from two tragic splits and take third place in the regular season. Odoamne deserves a special shoutout for the diversity he exhibited in his performances against Astralis (D2G1) and Team Vitality (D3G1).

Despite both teams being our weakest this split, it remains fair to say that both Finn and Photon have been standout top laners and are not pushovers to deal with. By playing Sion in Finn with extremely minimal losses, and continuing with Kennen against Photon, Odoamne seems to be finding his niche in the roster and showing the variable high-level performance that made him such a threat on Rogue and throughout his extended career. I look forward to seeing how this team forms in the best of three series on a new patch.

League of Legends
Riot Games, Inc.

Let’s do the Time Warp

We are taking a break from the LEC next week, but on the return of the competition we have two patches pushed forward, and inevitably this will have some ripple effects on the meta. Statikk Shiv will be nerfed, and it is likely that Kraken Slayer will rise in his place. Ivern and Rell will be enabled and could shake up some bot lane and jungle matchups. Rell in particular could be a powerful choice for teams like Excel and MAD Lions that have skilled Engage support players.

In preparation, it looks like our big three may already be on their way out. K’Sante was absent from four pick/bans this week, leading to 73% representation and minimal success in picking. Many teams have prepared counter games, or just don’t seem afraid of the pick anymore, so it may fall further into groups.

Yuumi was picked five times over the weekend, and despite some strong showings did not look like the free win lock-in it should be. Blitzcrank has emerged as a strong counter-candidate for the Cat, with hooks capable of raking in a two-for-one deal among Tower when the book-riding feline is attached to a teammate.

Milio was chosen six times over the weekend, probably as teams tried to test counter games ready for the group stage, or to let it through to blue side to use its strength in lane and team battles. This is a choice I don’t suspect will go anywhere, with a record of 5W1L in week three. Skirmish-heavy engage support picks like Nautilus, Braum, and Pyke were tested as lane counters – and seem promising for the most part – but lack the amount of utility Milio offers in mid-late game.

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Which picks can rise in priority?

Starting with support picks, it seems likely that tanky engage supports like Rell, Nautilus, and Blitzcrank will remain solid choices. Able to trade well in lane, roam for picks, and CC down in team fights, they are useful in all stages of the game and can turn games around. Braum has an excellent matchup in many engages, able to take CC in place of allies and strand these immobile champions after an engage, making them easy prey for re-engages, and so it is very likely that Braum will become an important choice to watch.

Gragas is, and in my opinion will continue to be, a solid flex pick. Able to be played in the upper lane, jungle and even in the middle lane, Gragas can be flexed into the support role as the support meta becomes more engage-heavy, with excellent release tools in his Body Slam and Explosive Cask skills. Xayah could become an even more frequent choice for similar reasons. Able to peel itself with Featherstorm, and with Rakan on the edge of meta-relevance, it could even become the premiere ADC pick.

Azir has emerged as a premiere mid lane pick, capable of being a massive magic damage source paired with attack damage and offering a key pressure point away from the bot lane that cannot be ignored. Alternatively, Tristana has risen in priority as a double-up attack damage pick, and also as a flex in the bot lane. Especially when lined up next to Milio, this pick has unpleasant range and a lot of damage to automatic attacks.

Finally, Poppy. I cannot overstate how good this pick is and how much better I think it is likely to get. Poppy offers a strength in and out of the gap that few other champions do because it is a pick that can affect how the opposition lines up. Flexible in the top lane and jungle, ridiculously good at frontlining and zoning, and capable of shutting down any dashes, I think this pick is highly unlikely to go anywhere.

League of Legends
Riot Games, Inc.

Saying goodbye

Now for the goodbyes. Astralis and Team Vitality fought hard this weekend, but failed to qualify for the group stage, finishing ninth and tenth, respectively – a result that both teams will be very disappointed with. Astralis showed some great highlights over the summer, but I think in their case – as the saying goes – too many cooks spoil the broth.

Astralis are a team that likes to draw strange, likes to be creative, loves teamfight and skirmishes. This meta does not allow them to do that. With tanks, utility mages and enchanter supports dominating, Astralis was at a stylistic disadvantage from week one and could not adapt. One controversial pick per game tends to work, throw off the opponent and be a force for the roster to rally around, but two or even three off-meta picks per game just leads to weaker composition overall, and some difficult games.

As for Team Vitality, there is a lot of work to do. Not hating on Daglas, he was perhaps the best performing member of VIT this week, but I think it was just the wrong time to sub him. Bringing in a young LEC newcomer at a crucial time for the team simply does not seem like the right decision. Training and cohesion with teammates must have been minimal and the pressure must have been enormous. Vitality has excellent mechanical pieces – all their players have the potential to be the best in their roles, but they don’t have a cohesive style. For example, Bo is a carry jungler and Upset is a carry bot laner – the rest of the team is more flexible and should play around these two pressure points. Vitality can’t possibly expect to win in every matchup and funnel resources to every player, and so you have to take a long look, talk and choose how they want to develop as a team and who they want to put their trust in. They can still make the season finale, and if they do, I sincerely hope their exceptionally talented five-man squad has become a team.

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