During the 2017 Spring Split, Team Envy gave us an answer to a difficult question. How far can a team really get with the best jungler in the league if the rest of their roster just doesn’t quite work? Based on their performance last split, it seems the answer is not very far.
The history of Team Envy in League of Legends is a strange story, the convoluted conclusion of strange rules, workarounds and surprising events. The team started life as two distinct and different teams, one an LCS side in relegation, Renegades, and the other a Challenger Series team that was just moving into the promotion tournament, Team Dragon Knights.
These two teams were matched together, based on seeding, to play each other. However, just before the series, two of Team Dragon Knights’ players — top laner Seraph and mid laner Ninja — were traded to Renegades, who promptly won the promotion series 3-0 and re-qualified for the LCS.
After the series, Riot released a competitive ruling, stating there had been a number of rule infractions committed by both Team Dragon Knights and Renegades, including the pre-promotion tournament trades. This resulted in a competitive ban for both teams, leaving both rosters out in the cold.
This is where Team EnvyUs came into play. The organization, based in North America, is most famous for its French Counter Strike: Global Offensive team, and has competing interests in a variety of other esports. In a bid to break into the competitive League of Legends scene in North America, EnvyUs bought the LCS seed of Renegades and pulled elements from both, now disbanded, rosters.
Team EnVyUs came in last place during the 2017 Spring Split, but for the first time in the NA LCS they weren’t last because they couldn’t win games: it was because they couldn’t win series. Ultimately, Team EnVyUs would finish the season with a record of 14-31 in overall games, but just 3-15 in series play.
The story behind Envy’s struggles last split read almost like a mystery when looking back at the stats. In the first half of games, Team EnVyUs was one of the best teams in the NA LCS. Highest percentage of first towers taken, top three in First Blood, Gold Difference at 15 minutes and CS differential at 15 minutes, Team EnVyUs on paper look like they were in a prime position to win most of their games. The problem was Envy played games that were, on average, almost 39 minutes long.
The engine to Team EnVyUs’s early game success was LirA. One of the league’s best junglers, LirA had the highest CS and gold per minute of any jungler, all while maintaining the highest First Blood percentage at nearly 50 percent, on a team that finished in last place. The good news for Envy is they are bringing LirA back for the Summer Split while dropping Ninja, by far the team’s weakest link.
There’s no question that this roster is going to be entering the split built around LirA. The question will be whether or not they have done enough to support him. Last split made it more than clear that one outstanding player simply wasn’t enough to make it into the top six of the NA LCS.
However, the additions of new mid lane duo Pirean and Nisqy could be enough. A meta that will free up Apollo to play offensive AD Carries and Seraph to split push could open up more solid win conditions for Envy as well. This plays directly into another of the struggles that plagued Envy last year: their shotcalling.
If the 2017 Summer Split provides Envy with a more open meta, it’s easy to see how their shotcalling weaknesses could be hidden behind well drafted compositions and more clear win conditions. That won’t be enough to make playoffs however. If Envy are going to succeed they will need an in-game leader who understands how to best leverage the advantages that LirA is able to create for the team in the early game, and turn those into objectives as the game gets later.
Going into last LCS Split, no one quite knew how good LirA could be, so it is easy to see how Envy could have missed the opportunity and built the wrong kind of team. However, this time there is no mistake. When you have the best jungler in the league you don’t have a choice but to make sure your team can take full advantage of his talent.