In 2018, European League of Legends had its strongest year to date. Team Vitality knocked Gen.G out of the world championship during the group stages, G2 Esports scored possibly the biggest upset in League of Legends history with a victory over Royal Never Give Up, and Fnatic reached the finals -- a first for a Western team in the LCS era. In fact, that era has closed, as franchising has arrived in the region.
Enter the LEC, and the craziest offseason in Europe to date. Top-tier South Korean players have arrived, but so have emerging mid laners. Meanwhile, a player nobody thought would move has indeed moved elsewhere. Overall, Europe has improved, and yesterday's playoff-bound teams have a lot more competition this time around.
Misfits Gaming: A+
Judging by the offseason moves they made, Misfits Gaming were livid after missing worlds. In 2018, despite fielding strong team players, the pieces never quite gelled. Queue a Pat Riley style 'core cracking,' and the craziest roster moves in LEC: enter Paul "sOAZ" Boyer, Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten and Kang "GorillA" Beom-hyeon. Suddenly, Misfits looks like one of the the strongest teams in Europe on paper.
Make no mistake: Misfits may endure a lengthy adaptation period. As such, their endgame isn't to swing strongly off the bat, but to reach worlds and create magic there. However, it wouldn't hurt to score a home run early and reach both the Mid-Season Invitational and Worlds. Indeed, the squad has the firepower to that effect, and cohesion should be their sole roadblock. Should the players maintain a high level of motivation, only G2 will be able to stop them.
G2 Esports: A
G2 Esports had a strong showing at worlds with a semifinal appearance. That alone had allowed them to surpass their group stage exits at worlds in 2016 and 2017. However, they sought to reach an even higher mark in 2019, leading to crazy offseason moves. For instance, they parted ways with their reliable bot lane duo, Petter "Hjärnan" Freyschuss and Kim "Wadid" Bae-in. Furthermore, they moved their mid laner, Luka "PerkZ" Perkovic, to the bot lane. By acquiring top talent from the League of Legends Masters Series, Suning Gaming put together the best offseason in the Chinese league. Here's how the rest of the rosters look. It's tough to imagine any League of Legends team having a better offseason than SK Telecom T1 did, but there were some other impactful moves in South Korea. We're kicking off 2019 with our League of Legends preseason global power rankings. Which squads are looking good on paper? Let's find out.
By acquiring top talent from the League of Legends Masters Series, Suning Gaming put together the best offseason in the Chinese league. Here's how the rest of the rosters look.
It's tough to imagine any League of Legends team having a better offseason than SK Telecom T1 did, but there were some other impactful moves in South Korea.
We're kicking off 2019 with our League of Legends preseason global power rankings. Which squads are looking good on paper? Let's find out.
The move went against the grain, considering the performances of the three players at worlds at their positions. However, their signings of Rasmus "Caps" Winther and Mihael "mikyx" Mehle more than compensate for that bout of madness. In addition, they retained the services of Martin "Wunder" Hansen and Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski. As such, besides other top teams, G2's biggest threats in 2019 are slumps as well as PerkZ, should he adjust too slowly to his new role. As far as the latter is concerned, there is a low chance of that happening.
We can define Origen's re-entry into the LEC and their offseason with one word: refreshing. Judging by the lineup, they came prepared to take on the best teams in the region. Within a few days, they assembled strong individual talent and excellent communicators in one squad. In terms of firepower, Patrik "Sheriff" Jiru, Erlend "Nukeduck" Holm and Barney "Alphari" Morris are enough. It wouldn't hurt to add the savvy Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez and the underrated Jonas "Kold" Andersen.
In fact, Kold is the key to Origen's success, as he brings cohesion to the lineup in-game. Should the coaching staff use his skillset to the fullest, mithy would then take over later during the game. In the meantime, Nukeduck, Alphari and Sheriff could focus on their gameplay and feed information, maximizing efficiency at all fronts. All in all, Martin "Deficio" Lynge and Andre "Guilhoto" Guilhoto built a front runner for 2019.
Fnatic went into the offseason knowing that it had much to lose. There was little doubt that Paul "sOAZ" Boyer would leave the team after a tricky 2018 tenure, especially as Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau took over the starting spot. However, Rasmus "Caps" Winther's departure was more than a blindside. Despite having the best year a Western team ever had in the LCS era, Fnatic had lost their best performer. However, they didn't lose the core of their lineup.
Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov and Martin "Rekkles" Larsson's contracts weren't due, so they returned. So did Bwipo and their best player, Mads "Broxah" Brock-Andersen. Broxah's development since 2017 has granted Fnatic much flexibility in their game plans, and he was impactful regardless of the lineups the team fielded in 2018. As such, Tim "Nemesis" Lipovsek's arrival will be a matter of plug-and-play more than anything else. Of course, he will need to develop if Fnatic are to compete for the top.
Team Vitality: A-
Team Vitality surprised onlookers at the 2018 World Championship with a noteworthy run despite their group stage exit. Had you stated their possible status as a Group B contender back then, you would have received funky looks at best. As it is, Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet, Daniele "Jiizuke" Di Mauro, Amadeu "Attila" Carvalho and Jakub "Jactroll" Skurzynski stuck together for good reason: they make a great team. However, they will come to miss Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek's contributions on Summoners' Rift.
At least, they signed Lee "Mowgli" Jae-ha, a familiar face from previous boot camps they held in South Korea. However, Mowgli needs to communicate with his teammates as well as Kikis did. Should he succeed, one could expect Vitality to resume their trouble making antics in the LEC and abroad. The last part is especially important as the players have tasted everything in the LEC, save for a title.
Splyce's offseason was painful to watch initially: they went from nearly missing out on the LEC to hurriedly assembling a roster. By the time they returned to the LEC, their players and coaching staff had fielded offers. Gone were Raymond "kaSing" Tsang, Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu and, more importantly, Yasin "Nisqy" Dincer. However, Splyce's newly assembled squad is hardly what you'd call damage control. Although the LEC has leveled up tremendously, Splyce may be a darkhorse.
Individual performance will not be an issue on Splyce -- not with Toer Hoel "Norskeren" Eilertsen, Tamas "Vizicsacsi" Kiss and Marek "Humanoid" Brazda on the lineup, neither will communication with Humanoid and Vizicsacsi on board. Still, the pressure will be on the two junglers, Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir and Sebastian "Tierwulf" Mateluna, to synchronize efforts across the Rift. Splyce's ability to retain their top-tier coaching staff was cause for hope by itself, but the lineup inspires more than that.
FC Schalke 04 Esports: B
FC Schalke 04 Esports are the enigma of the LEC. On one hand, they have solid players in every spot, and they have the caliber to take on stronger teams. On the other, the lack of familiarity Schalke 04's players have toward one another may cause a slow start. Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu, Jonas "Memento" Elmarghichi, Felix "Abbedagge" Braun and Lee "IgNar" Dong-geun will spark action all over Summoners' Rift, but doing so in a coordinated way will require a lot of work from newly appointed head coach Dylan Falco.
On the other hand, their ceiling is higher than Rogue's should they coordinate. On a mechanical standpoint, Schalke are even or better in most lanes. However, a lack of coordination or a few coin-flip decisions could doom them. As such, Falco's performance as a coach would be key: he needs to develop a leader within Schalke 04, and to develop his players to become flexible.
Looking back, Rogue have drawn unwarranted criticism for their offseason signings. Following the adage "there is no I in team," they signed hard workers with a knack for cooperation across the board. You see, Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek works best when his teammates match his work ethic. As it is, there is little doubt that Kim "Profit" Jun-hyung, Chres "Sencux" Laursen, Martin "HeaQ" Kordmaa and Kim "Wadid" Bae-in will match that.
Rogue are building upon the foundations Team ROCCAT laid, with HeaQ and Profit at the center of communication. Kikis's arrival provides an additional edge in the early game, and the current roster has players willing to sacrifice for the greater good. As much as individual talent may be Rogue's limit (outside of substitute Emil "Larssen" Larsson), they are the team likeliest to gel fast, making them a potential threat early on. Should teams underestimate them, they will be in for a world of hurt -- and lose a playoff spot, or series to them.
exceL Esports: C+
exceL Esports have had an intriguing offseason after their last-minute entry to the LEC. Leave it to them to make the most of it when they had no assets to speak of beforehand. For one, they took Raymond "Kasing" Tsang away from Splyce. Then, they signed the talented Jesper "Jeskla" Klarin and Ki "Expect" Dae-han of G2 fame. To complete the lineup, they had two curious pickups: Marc "Caedrel" Lamont and Fabian "Exile" Schubert.
How are Jorge "Werlyb" Casanovas, Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek and Jus "Crownshot" Marusic supposed to communicate with Choi "Pirean" Jun-sik -- and vice versa? How does Han "dreams" Min-kook factor in all of this? What strength will the lineup have, beyond Werlyb's intriguing champion pool, Selfmade's solid play and Crownshot's reliable skillset when not under pressure? Their coach, Fabian "Sheepy" Mallant, will have to find that out, and fast.
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