The Dethroning of the LEC's Powerhouse Teams
- By JaiyoHD
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Riot had its first League of Legends European Championship in the Spring of 2013. This saw eight teams competing against each other including big Esport names like Fnatic and SK Gaming. Fnatic ended up winning that first split and in the years to come, we would see Fnatic win another 7 European Championships. We would only see two other teams win the LEC, those teams being Alliance and G2 Esports. Alliance won one split back in 2014, whereas G2 Esports has claimed 8 European Championship wins. This makes them the team with the most championships in Europe. Although G2 only began to compete in the LEC in the 2016 spring split they rapidly rose to the top with their unique playstyle. G2 Esports won the first split that they competed in along with winning the following three splits until they were beaten in the 2018 spring split by Fnatic. For the seven years that the LEC has been running, it has been dominated by these two powerhouse teams until this year.
In the 2021 Spring split we saw G2 Esports end the split tied for first place with Rogue both having a record of 14W-4L. G2 Esports claimed first place in the end due to beating Rogue twice in the regular split. The other 4 teams that ended up making playoffs were Mad Lions in 3rd place, with a record of 10W-8L, Schalke 04 in 4th place, with a record of 9W-9L, Fnatic in 5th place, with a record of 9W-9L and lastly SK Gaming, with a record of 8W-10L. G2 Esport’s first round was against the fourth seeded team Schalke 04. Schalke almost won the series in spectacular fashion with a reverse sweep (coming back from a 2-0 deficit). G2 was able to clinch the series in Game 5 moving on to the Upper Bracket Final which would secure them a spot in the Grand Finals. On the other side of the Upper Bracket we would see Mad Lions face Rogue in what seemed like a clear win for Rogue. Mad Lions had other plans for Rogue though, winning the series 3-1 and securing the other spot in the Upper Bracket Finals against G2. Meanwhile Fnatic was competing for a spot in the Grand Finals through the Lower Bracket. They won the first round against SK Gaming 3-1 in a commanding fashion. In the second round of the Lower Bracket, Fnatic would be coming up against Schalke. Schalke proved to be too much of a challenge, sweeping Fnatic 3-0 and ending their 2021 spring split. In the third round of the Lower Bracket we saw Schalke and Rogue, the original losers of the Upper Bracket matches, compete to play against the loser of the Upper Bracket Final. The Upper Bracket Final would see Mad Lions facing G2 Esports. At this point, G2 Esports were still the favorites to win this series. In the Lower Bracket Rogue would beat Schalke 3-1 to make it to the Lower Bracket Finals, where to everyone’s surprise, they would be facing G2. G2 had not been able to beat Mad Lions in the Upper Bracket Finals, being absolutely dominated 3-1. To make things worse for G2 they ended the Spring split 2021 losing the Lower Bracket Finals 3-1. Rogue controlled the entire series outclassing G2 in almost every manner.
At this point now the League European Championship would be seeing a new champion for the first time since the Spring split in 2016. Of course, this was when G2 Esports beat Origen to become an exclusive member of the European Championship holders club. At the time this exclusive club only had two other members. The Grand Finals began with Rogue dominating the first two games with better team comps. This allowed them to easily win the first two games of the series. This meant that Mad Lions needed to try something different and try a riskier comp which would allow them to snowball harder if they did get ahead. They decided to give Armut, their top laner, one of his better picks, the Monkey King himself, Wukong. This pick ended up being one of the turning points for Mad Lions. Mad Lions proceeded to win both the third and fourth game bringing the series to a draw. Either team could still win the 2021 Spring Split and join the ranks of G2, Fnatic and Alliance as European Championship winners. It all came down to the final Game of the series, Game 5.
Game 5 of the series saw a lot of standard bans. Rogue looked to ban out Carzzy, Mad Lion’s ADC, banning Seraphine, Jinx and Ezreal in their first rotation. Mad Lions opted to ban out Trymbi’s playmaking supports banning Thresh and Rell. As for their third ban, they chose to ban out Orianna, a standard third ban on Red Side. Rogue, having first pick, decided to pick up the Udyr. This ensured that they had a strong early jungle presence having a jungler with both a quick clear speed and a lot of early ganking potential. Both teams ended up picking both jungle and bot lane in the first three picks which is quite standard. The next bans for Mad Lions were Lucian and Tristana. This was to ensure that Larssen, Rogue's mid laner, would not be placed on a comfort pick that allows him to comfortably have lane priority in that mid lane. Rogue, on the other hand, decided to ban the Wukong after an incredible performance by Armut in both Games 3 and 4. Their fifth ban was Twisted Fate. This made a lot of sense due to Mad Lions having the first pick after the second ban rotation. Rogue did not want to allow Mad Lions to obtain Twisted Fate with the global presence that he possesses. At the end of the draft phase we see Rogue having opted into a team with a lot of global pressure with champions like the Ryze, Tahm Kench and the Senna. We see Mad Lions opting into a more team fight/dive orientated team comp with the likes of Gnar, Volibear, Viktor, Kai’sa and Rakan.
We saw the game begin with Mad Lions overcommitting on first blood onto Odoamne, Rogue’s top laner. Although they get the kill both Inspired, Rogue’s jungler, and Larssen are able to respond quickly and clean up the fight, killing both Armut and Elyoya, Mad Lion’s jungler. We saw Rogue in control of the early game with good map rotations and a good focus on objectives. It was all going well until the 26th minute. At this point, Rogue had taken down 4 of Mad Lions’ turrets along with three dragons meaning they were on soul point for the next drake as well as having built quite a hefty 7k gold lead. The game began to turn around when Mad Lions decided to engage a 4 vs 3 in the 26th minute in the mid lane. This immediately turned into a 5 vs 5 with the missing members from both teams teleporting in. This fight saw Humanoid, Mad Lions’ mid laner, pick up a massive triple kill. Rogue, by contrast, was only able to kill Mad Lions' bot lane. This allowed for Mad Lions to begin to bring back the gold deficit that had been built up by Rogue throughout the early game. 7 minutes later we would see both teams pushing the Baron pit with Elyoya beginning the baron for Mad Lions. Mad Lions however instantly turned their attention to Inspired catching him out. This was then followed up by a Flash Ult from Armut's Mega Gnar, knocking both Larssen and Trymbi into the wall and securing the kills for Mad Lions. This was the final nail in the coffin for Rogue with the rest of the members falling shortly after. Mad Lions had pulled off the reverse sweep and joined the exclusive club of European Championship winners.
In the next article, we will be looking to analyze in-depth the downfall of both Fnatic and G2 Esports as well as looking at the potential future of the LEC with teams like Rogue and Mad Lions exceeding expectations as well as taking a look at Schalke 04 which did manage to pull off some upsets in both the regular split and playoffs!