Domestic League of Legends seasons opened in China, Korea and Oceania this past week, but this week sees the start of the LCS Summer 2016 split, with seasons opening in Europe and North America.
It all starts on June 2 with a rematch of the EU LCS finals, Origen vs. G2. The two teams made some roster swaps this offseason, with Origen's star bottom lane of Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez moving over to G2. The signings were a big coup for G2 after a poor MSI for the European champions, and the team enters the Summer Split as the likely favorite to repeat.
Zven and Mithy is one of four new star-studded bottom lanes in the EU LCS, as literally every team in the league made at least one roster change. Fnatic's old reliable duo of Martin "Rekkles" Larsson and Bora "YellowStar" Kim has been reunited, H2K signed Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek to join Oskar "Vander" Bogdan and Origen replaced Zven and Mithy with former H2K AD Carry Konstantinos "FORG1VENGRE" Tzortziou-Napoleon and former G2 support Glenn "Hybrid" Doornenbal. Those four teams are likely in a tier above the rest in EU.
The games this split will be played on two different streams and in two different locations: the EU LCS Arena, which has been the previous stage for EU LCS events, and the new EU LCS Studio. EU LCS Arena games will be streamed on the EULCS1 Twitch stream, while EU LCS Studio games will be streamed on EULCS2. All games will still be streamed on YouTube, and the Riot Games Twitch stream will rotate dependent on matchups.
For example, here's the first week's schedule (all times Eastern):
Thursday, June 2
EU LCS Arena (EULCS1):
- Origen vs. G2 Esports - 11 a.m.
- FC Schalke 04 vs. Unicorns of Love - 1 p.m.
- Fnatic vs. Giants - 3 p.m.
EU LCS Studio (EULCS2):
- H2K vs. Roccat - 11 a.m.
- Splyce vs. Vitality - 1 p.m.
Friday, June 3
EU LCS Arena (EULCS1):
- Splyce vs. Roccat - 11 a.m.
- Giants vs. G2 Esports - 1 p.m.
- H2K vs. FC Schalke 04 - 3 p.m.
EU LCS Studio (EULCS2):
- Unicorns of Love vs. Origen - 11 a.m.
- Vitality vs. Fnatic - 1 p.m.
The teams and players
Tier 1: the favorites
|Top||Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek|
|Jungle||Kang-yun "Trick" Kim|
|Mid||Luka "Perkz" Perković|
|ADC||Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen|
|Support||Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez|
|Sub (Top)||Ki "Expect" Dae-han|
In: Zven, Mithy, Expect
Out: Emperor, Hybrid
G2 was the best team in Europe last split, winning its first split in the LCS after qualifying from the Challenger Series. Now, the team has made some upgrades.
Gone are Emperor and Hybrid, a bottom lane that served G2 fairly well in EU but collapsed in international play at the Mid-Season Invitational. In are Zven and Mithy, who have made two straight EU Finals with Origen (and one world semifinal) and are arguably the strongest bottom lane in the West. They'll join reigning EU LCS MVP Trick and reigning EU LCS Rookie of the Split Perkz in what is inarguably the strongest starting five on paper in Europe.
Also in is Expect, from the LSPL's 2144 Gaming. Kikis will likely remain G2's starter in the top lane, but don't be surprised to see Expect sub in for a few games -- with Emperor gone, G2 has an extra foreign spot available in its starting lineup.
|Top||Noh "Gamsu" Yeong-jin|
|Jungle||Lee "Spirit" Da-yoon|
|Mid||Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten|
|ADC||Martin "Rekkles" Larsson|
|Support||Bora "YellowStar" Kim|
|Sub (Top)||Jorge "Werlyb" Casanovas|
|Sub (Support)||Johan "Klaj" Olsson|
In: YellowStar, Werlyb
That's how many EU LCS titles Fnatic won with YellowStar, in just six splits. The European powerhouse had never missed an EU LCS final, in large part due to the consistency in play and shotcalling coming from the support position.
But when YellowStar left before last split to join TSM in North America, Fnatic tumbled out of the top two and finished in third place. Now YellowStar is back, and while superstar Koreans Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon and Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin remain in North America, this Fnatic squad certainly looks stronger than last year's edition.
|Top||Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu|
|Jungle||Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski|
|Mid||Yoo "Ryu" Sang-ook|
|ADC||Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek|
|Support||Oskar "Vander" Bogdan|
|Sub (Jungle)||Johan "Hulberto" Johansson|
|Sub (ADC)||Jesper "Knugen" Rundberg|
H2K's gone through a rebranding this offseason, with a new logo (did you know it stood for Hard 2 Kill?) and a new AD Carry. Gone is Forg1ven, the brash Greek star who left the team still without a playoff series win in his storied career. In is Freeze, a talented Czech marskman known for performing well on bad teams.
With one of the best jungle-support combinations in the West, talent in the mid lane and consistency up top, H2K should be one of the top performers in EU this summer.
Tier 2: the playoff contenders
|Top||Paul "soAZ" Boyer|
|Jungle||Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider|
|Mid||Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage|
|ADC||Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou|
|Support||Glenn "Hybrid" Doornenbal|
|Sub (Mid)||Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez|
In: FORG1VEN, Hybrid
Out: Zven, Mithy
Ever since qualifying out of the Challenger Series before the 2015 Summer Split, Origen has been one of the most successful franchises in Europe. The team has made two straight EU finals and made a surprise run to the Worlds semifinals last fall.
But while the team survived the transition from xPeke to PowerOfEvil in the mid lane, doing the same in the bottom lane won't be so easy. Zven and Mithy were the core of this team all the way back to the Challenger Series, and while Forg1ven and Hybrid have both had high highs, they're a duo that does not have nearly the resume of the pair they are replacing.
Still, Origen will probably make the finals, because they do that every year apparently.
|Top||Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet|
|Jungle||Kim "Mightybear" Min-su|
|Mid||Erlend "Nukeduck" Våtevik Holm|
|ADC||Park "Police" Hyeong-gi|
|Support||Raymond "kaSing" Tsang|
|Sub (Jungle)||Ilyas "Shook" Hartsema|
|Sub (ADC)||Petter "Hjarnan" Freyschuss|
In: Mightybear, Police
Vitality was formed before last split as a so-called "super team," taking star players from H2K, Copenhagen Wolves, Team Roccat and Gambit Gaming. The team played very well at the start of the season, and stayed in the running for the No. 1 playoff seed til the last week, but a poor performance in the squad's first best-of-five sent Vitality home early.
Now the team adds to Korean starters to the mix in Mightybear, a highly-touted solo queue player, and Police, a less-highly-touted player last seen with Apex in the NA Challenger Series.
Unicorns of Love
|Top||Tamás "Vizicsacsi" Kiss|
|Jungle||Kang "Move" Min-su|
|Mid||Fabian "Exileh" Schubert|
|ADC||Kim "Veritas" Kyoung-min|
|Support||Zdravets "Hylissang" Galabov|
In: Move, Exileh, Veritas
Out: Fox, Steelback, loulex, Diamondprox
Frequently a high-performing team despite rosters without overwhelming star power, the Unicorns of Love kept just two players from last year's starting squad, and this year's team is a significant unknown. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang are two strong anchors, and Move performed well with Gravity in the NA LCS last split, but this is a significant step up in competition for Exileh (previously from the EU Challenger Series) and Veritas (NA Challenger Series and the Oceanic Pro League).
FC Schalke 04
|Top||Etienne "Steve" Michels|
|Jungle||Berk "Gilius" Demir|
|Mid||Hampus "Fox" Myhre|
|ADC||Rasmus "MrRallez" Skinneholm|
|Support||Hampus "sprattel" Abrahamsson|
|Sub (Jungle)||Marcel "Dexter" Feldkamp|
|Sub (Mid)||Jérémy "Eika" Valdenaire|
In: Fox, being FC Schalke 04
Out: Being Elements
Previously known as perennial seventh-place finishers Elements, this team was purchased by German Bundesliga club FC Schalke 04, with a complete rebrand and only one roster change. Former Unicorns of Love mid laner Fox replaces Eika as the team's starter, but the real player to watch for is Gilius, who made maybe the cleanest Lee Sin play I've ever seen:
|Top||Martin "Wunder" Hansen|
|Jungle||Jonas "Trashy" Andersen|
|Mid||Chres "Sencux" Laursen|
|ADC||Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup|
|Support||Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle|
|Sub (Jungle)||Jesper "Gripex" Terkildsen|
|Sub (Support)||Jeffrey "Vizility" de Vries|
Splyce entered the EU LCS last split as a young Danish team hoping for growth. It showed: there were highs (wins over Fnatic, Elements) and lows (swept by all the other top teams, including UOL), but the roster showed promise, especially in the solo lanes with Wunder and Sencux.
The team is no longer an all-Danish lineup: Slovenian support Mikyx (previously a sub for Fnatic) is replacing Nisbeth.
Tier 3: Hoping to avoid relegation
|Top||Lee "Parang" Sang-won|
|Jungle||Karim "Airwaks" Benghalia|
|Mid||Felix "Betsy" edling|
|ADC||Pierre "Steelback" Medjaldi|
|Support||Oh "Raise" Ji-hwan|
|Sub (Top)||Simon "fredy122" Payne|
|Sub (Support)||Vytautas "extinkt" Mėlinauskas|
In: Parang, Steelback, Raise
Out: Tabzz, Noxiak, Edward
Another team with wholesale changes, Roccat kept its two top performers from last split (Airwaks and Betsy) and added former Unicorns of Love and Fnatic AD Carry Steelback along with a pair of starters from Korea's Challenger League: Parang and Raise. It's hard to know where this team will end up, but somewhere between 7th and 9th seems right.
|Top||Lennart "Smittyj" Warkus|
|Jungle||Nubar "Maxlore" Sarafian|
|Mid||Na "NighT" Gun-woo|
|ADC||Son "S0NSTAR" Seung-ik|
|Support||Morgan "Hustlin" Grnaberg|
|Sub (Mid)||Joran "Special" Scheffer|
|Sub (ADC)||Samuel "Samux" Fernández Fort|
In: Maxlore, NighT, Special
Out: Wisdom, xPePii, G0Dfred
Giants has been hanging on to the bottom of the EU LCS for some time now, and while Maxlore and NighT both seem like promising additions (and moving on from xPePii will allow the team to play in different ways), it's hard to imagine this roster finishing too far from the bottom of the table.