The 2016 competitive League of Legends season was a mixed bag for the European region. Former powers Fnatic and Origen took significant steps down in ability, but new teams like G2 Esports and Splyce burst onto the scene as some of the strongest in the region. While international success was limited, H2K was able to partly redeem the region by making it to the World semifinals.
Now Europe heads into the 2017 Spring Split with a brand new format. Gone are the best-of-twos, and gone is the 10-team, one league system. The teams have been split into two groups, similar to China’s LPL, and will play more games against the teams in their own group than the teams in the opposing one. The top three teams from each group will make the playoffs.
With all that in mind, here are my preseason power rankings for the 2017 EU LCS Spring Split. I have separated them by group.
1. G2 Esports
Lineup (bolded are new): Expect, Trick, PerkZ, Zven, Mithy
G2 ran a clean sweep through Europe last year, winning both the regular season and playoffs of each of its first two LCS splits. Now the team returns without any lineup changes, bringing back two-time EU LCS MVP Trick, the best bottom lane in the West and two young solo laners who have shown both signs of concern and encouragement. Despite the problems G2 has run into when playing internationally, for me, there’s no better team in Europe.
Lineup (bolded are new): sOAZ, Amazing, Caps, Rekkles, Jesiz
It’s the new-look Fnatic, committing to an all-European lineup with ... mixed results. sOAZ and Amazing join after a brutal split with Origen, and the level of play for this roster’s veterans may be the biggest question mark here — rookie Caps is one of the best mid lane talents in the region, and there won’t be any language concerns with this roster.
Lineup (bolded are new): Alphari, KaKAO, PowerOfEvil, Hans sama, IgNar
Misfits kept the three strongest parts of its dominant Challenger team and improved on it (in theory) by adding former Korean superstar KaKAO and one-time serviceable LCS mid laner PowerOfEvil. In what looks like a weaker Group A, that should be enough to grab a playoff spot in the team’s first LCS split.
4. Giants Gaming
Lineup (bolded are new): Flaxxish, Memento, NighT, HeaQ, Hustlin
With all-EU LCS first team mid laner NighT and promising top lane prospect Flaxxish, Giants probably has one of the most dangerous solo lane pairings in the region. It’s the rest of the team that remains a question mark -- Memento has performed well at the Challenger level but had mixed results with ROCCAT, and Estonian AD Carry HeaQ is mostly a mystery.
5. Team ROCCAT
Lineup (bolded are new): Phaxi, Maxlore, Betsy, Hjarnan, Wadid
There’s a lot to like about ROCCAT’s offseason -- Hjarnan used to be a top-level AD Carry in the region before taking last split off, and Maxlore performed well for Giants last split — but top lane and support remain question marks.
Lineup (bolded are new): Wunder, Trashy, Sencux, Kobbe, Mikyx
The surprise success story of the 2016 Summer Split, Splyce retained all five starters and enters this split in my mind as the clear Group B favorite. This team has fantastic synergy, and it shows in the mid-to-late game situations. With a strong laner in the top lane in Wunder, that’s enough for Splyce to win a lot of games, even in a stronger group.
2. Unicorns of Love
Lineup (bolded are new): Vizicsacsi, Xerxe, Exileh, Samux, Hylissang
This team won IEM Oakland with its old roster, and the new group looks even better. Say what you will about the AD Carry situation, which saw former Giants sub Samux replace returning starter Veritas (who left for CJ Entus) at the last minute, but Romanian prospect Xerxe is in my opinion a massive upgrade over Move. Couple that with two strong solo laners (Vizicsacsi is among the best top laners in the region and Exileh has been steadily improving), and you have a legitimate Group B contender.
Lineup (bolded are new): Odoamne, Jankos, Febiven, Nuclear, Chei
I’m lower on the Worlds quarterfinalists than mosts, but it’s hard for me to see this time as not being a downgrade from the H2K units we’ve seen in the past. Febiven has shown potential, but looks like a step down from Ryu (at least judging by last split’s performance), and while there’s promise in an all-Korean bot lane, H2K played so well with the Forg1ven and Vander combination last year. Without his Polish buddy in the bottom lane, will Jankos be as impactful in the jungle?
4. Team Vitality
Lineup (bolded are new): Cabochard, Djoko, Nukeduck, Steeelback, Hachani
Vitality was one of 2016’s biggest disappointments, first following up a strong spring regular season with an early playoff exit, and then suffering through a poor summer. Now the team brings in former KT Rolster support Hachani, Steeelback (who has led all EU AD Carries in kills in each of the past two splits), and a jungle duo that consists of Challenger prospect Djoko (previously with Millenium) and former Jin Air/NRG mid laner GBM (now playing jungle). If either jungler works out, this team could challenge the Group B pecking order. Either way, this team would be my No. 3 in Group A.
Lineup (bolded are new): Satorious, Wisdom, NaeHyun, Tabzz, Hiiva