The opening week of LCS play in both North America and Europe has concluded, with plenty of surprises in all directions. We've got winless teams that no one expected to be there (Origen and Counter Logic Gaming), undefeated teams that likewise come as big surprises (Team Envy, Apex Gaming, FC Schalke 04) and an evolving meta that has seen Vladimir and Swain emerge as two of the highest-priority picks.
If you want to check out the VODs and results from the week that was, here's EU Day 1, EU Day 2, NA Day 1, NA Day 2 and NA Day 3. But you don't need to watch all the games to know what happened: let's talk about the week that was and the five things you need to know.
1. The undefeated
This offseason, defending European champions G2 Esports made one major move, bringing in Origen's star bottom lane of Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez, pretty much unanimously considered the best duo lane in the West. Adding those two to a lineup that already included reigning EU LCS MVP Kim "Trick" Gang-yun and reigning EU LCS Rookie of the Split Luka "Perkz" Perković gave G2 a superstar lineup widely expected to be the best in Europe.
That's been the case so far, as G2 swept Origen and Giants Gaming to stand alone on top the European standings at 2-0. Only two other teams in Europe have not yet lost a series: Fnatic, who many also expected to be here after bringing back Bora "YellowStar" Kim at support, and FC Schalke 04, the surprise success story of the first week of European play. Both teams have one win and one draw.
Schalke 04's great week was boosted by a superstar performance from jungler Berk "Gilius" Demir. Here's nearly seven minutes of Gilius bullying Kang "Move" Min-su, the Unicorns of Love's new Korean jungler.
In North America, four teams won both of their best-of-three series. Spring Split runners-up Team SoloMid is the only team that remains truly undefeated, with an unmarked 4-0 record in games thanks to an excellent performance from its new bottom lane duo. New support Vincent "Biofrost" Wang more than held his own in his LCS debut against defending champions Counter Logic Gaming and world-class support Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black, helping lead TSM to sweeps against CLG and Team Liquid (including this sweet Bard play).
The other 2-0 team that won't come as a surprise: Immortals, who went 17-1 in the regular season last split before collapsing in the playoffs. It wasn't a very clean week for the squad, dropping a game to Cloud9 and struggling in its first game against Phoenix1, but the team is still sticking to its unconventional team composition strategies (rarely, if ever, picking tanks) and is now at least winning its best-of series.
There were two surprise teams that ended the week 2-0, both of them new to the NA LCS. Team Envy opened play Friday with a near-perfect game against NRG, and a fluke loss in Game 2 of that series thanks to an ungodly late-game performance from Lee "GBM" Chang-suk's Vladimir is the only thing between Envy and an unblemished record. Still, Envy emerged out of the week a perfect 2-0 after sweeping Team Liquid, with starting top laner Shin "Seraph" Woo-yeong earning player of the game honors in three of his team's four wins.
Finally, Apex Gaming stands at 2-0 after the first week, as the former Challenger Series winners have made a big mark since qualifying for the NA LCS. An opening-series sweep of NRG didn't raise too many eyebrows, as NRG looked awful this week, but Apex pulled out a shocking 2-1 upset of CLG in the last day of play. Starting top laner Jeon "Ray" Ji-won has looked like an absolute revelation, while support Alex "Xpecial" Chu appears to have recaptured the form of his peak LCS days.
2. The winless
What's going on, Origen? After the team signed Konstantinos "FORG1VENGRE" Tzortziou and Glenn "Hybrid" Doornenbal to replace Zven and Mithy, Splyce head coach Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi told me the team might struggle to adjust to its new lineup with so many strong personalities. Sure enough, the first week was a disaster, as Origen was swept by both G2 and the Unicorns of Love (a team that had just been destroyed by FC Schalke 04).
It was so bad that Origen owner Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez subbed in for Tristan "PowerofEvil" Schrage in the mid lane after PowerOfEvil built Athene's Unholy Grail (now an item primarily for supports) on Orianna against G2.
Im sorry for my performance today :(— Tristan Schrage (@PowerOfEvilLoL) June 3, 2016
Cheer for the boys pls.
Even worse for Origen is the middle-to-bottom of the European table looks better than ever: ROCCAT, Splyce and Giants Gaming (the other winless team) all look improved, and if Origen can't even beat Unicorns of Love it's going to be a long split.
In North America, two-time defending champions Counter Logic Gaming face a similar problem: the team is 0-2, with losses to another power (Team SoloMid) and an unexpected upstart (Apex), and with the NA LCS looking deeper than ever, the team has to turn it around quickly. But CLG is not alone at the bottom of the standings: NRG and Phoenix1 look like the two worst teams in the league so far, and Team Liquid had an awful first week even after subbing in suspended jungler Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett midway through their second series.
3. Import top laners shine
ESPN's Tyler Erzberger tweeted this out Sunday:
Ray, Huni, Seraph, and KFO have been four of the best players so far.— The Esports Writer (@FionnOnFire) June 5, 2016
Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, what do they all have in common?
Yes, all four of those players are Koreans, but they're all also top laners. Throw in Cloud9's Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong, who also had a great Week 1, and you have five excellent Korean top laners who took North America by storm this weekend.
Here's how they all performed this week. For fun, we'll throw in TSM's Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell, who had a great week despite being born in (GASP) the US of A.
*kfo technically played one game in the mid lane, as he and Henrik "Froggen" Hansen switched roles for Game 2 against Cloud9, but we've included his stats from all five games here.
**Earned Gold Per Minute. Stats via Oracle's Elixir.
4. Pick and bans tendencies
Much of the meta that we saw at the Mid-Season Invitational has remained the same: Nidalee, Kindred, Ryze, Lucian and Ekko are the highest priority champions (all picked or banned in at least 92% of games in both LCS regions, with Nidalee, Kindred and Lucian at 100% in both), while the support pool has seen some tanks but a lot of ranged champions.
Some new picks have emerged as high priorities, however. Karma was the most popular support in North America this week, being banned or picked in 21 of 24 games, while Zyra was picked or banned in 12. In the mid lane, Swain has emerged as top pick in NA (21 out of 24) but not so much in EU (4 out of 20), while Vladimir (15 out of 24 in NA, 17 out of 20 in EU) is a high priority in both regions.
We've also seen one interesting trend that has differed from many previous metas: teams, especially on blue side, are often waiting to pick their support until the third rotation. Often, teams pick supports early on in the draft, saving their solo lanes for later to counter pick, but the support champion pool is so wide right now that you can often counter an entire team with just one pick, as Mithy explained:
5. Week 2's biggest matchups
In Europe, Friday has a pair of intriguing matchups. In the second group of games, H2K will face Fnatic in a series between two European heavyweights. The last series of the European week will see struggling Origen face off against red-hot FC Schalke 04 in a series that will give us a better idea of where both teams stand.
The second series of North America's week will see the two 2-0 upstarts square off, as Apex Gaming takes on Team Envy Friday. Saturday, two struggling powers will play when Team Liquid faces off against Counter Logic Gaming and Sunday we're treated to what should be one of the best series of the split: Team SoloMid vs. Immortals.