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The European Masters is finally here for the summer edition, even if it’s just the play-ins first. In true summer fashion, things are about to heat up as the first EU Masters match begins on Aug. 16.

While the main event is viewed as the prestigious stage of the competition, the play-ins are just as exciting with upsets, fiestas and general chaos all around as qualified European Regional League teams fight tooth and nail to make the knockout stage. The top two teams from each group will then face off in a best-of-three series to see who makes the main event.

With that in mind, here is Upcomer’s overview of the EU Masters 2021 summer Play-Ins.

Group A

EU Masters Play-Ins
EU Masters Play-Ins Group A team. | Provided by Riot Games

Who are they?

  • White Dragons: Liga Portuguesa League Of Legends  runner-up
  • GOEXANIMO: Baltic Masters runner-up, first EU Masters appearance
  • Team Phantasma: Greek Legends League runner-up, first EU Masters appearance
  • Sector One: Belgian League champion

Group favorites (probably): Sector One and Team Phantasma

Group A has no major ERL teams, so all four teams here from the minor ERLs can duke it out to their heart’s content to prove which minor region is superior.

Despite coming in as the second seed, White Dragons can easily upset the group. The LPLOL spring champions are essentially a LPLOL superteam and White Dragons actually came close to making knockouts last spring, with a comeback that left LPLOL caster Cláudio “Guerreiro” Nunes breathless. Can their dominant bot lane duo of João “Alternative” Parada and Nuno “Slayer” Moutinho bring them across the finish line this time around?

GOEXANIMO comes in as the biggest underdogs among underdogs. This is the first time the Latvian organization has made EU Masters, and with some upsets caused by the Baltics last spring, GOEXANIMO may be inspired to do the same here by bringing the chaos of the Baltics to bear. Watch out for support Edgars “bAZZILISKS” Salmiņš’ interesting picks.

Team Phantasma from Greece had a great season in the GLL, where they had to run the playoffs gauntlet to the finals, ultimately falling 3-0 to champions Anorthosis Famagusta Esports. The Greek teams have generally had successful forays in EU Masters, and Team Phantasma will be looking to continue that with their often explosive playstyle. Teams might not even get the chance to call the Ghostbusters on Phantasma.

Sector One are Belgian giants who have made EU Masters almost every season since the Belgium League was formed, and they’ve made EU Masters again by overcoming the odds. While they don’t play as wild as their previous iterations, look forward to their promising jungler Phil “Albetrayber” Qin to set the pace. Sector One have come close to making the main event before, and this time they will look to do so once more.

Dutch & Belgian League caster Diede “Dino” Baeyens said he believes there are no clear-cut favorites for Group A. This gives him hope for Sector One to make it out once again, since Belgian teams have made Knockouts four times in a row from past EU Masters editions.

“As a Belgian League caster, it’s a group that gives me hope. Our representative Sector One likes to play around strong lanes, with top laner Benjamin “Zhergoth” Sánchez as a high impact damage threat, they play for early control and ride that out to your nexus,” Dino said. “Can we finally make the main event? If Zhergoth top gaps in his first EU Masters like he does in Belgium, we definitely can!”

Group B

EU Masters Play-Ins
EU Masters Play-Ins Group B teams. | Provided by Riot Games

Who are they?

  • Movistar Riders: LVP SuperLiga third seed
  • mCon esports Rotterdam: Dutch League champions, first EU Masters appearance
  • Iron Wolves: Baltic Masters champion
  • Fnatic Rising: Northern League of Legends Championship runner-up

Group favorites (probably): Fnatic Rising and Movistar Riders

Group B on paper should have a clear top two, so mCon and Iron Wolves have nothing to lose but all to play for.

Movistar Riders come in as somewhat of a surprise to the EU Masters Play-Ins. Finishing first in the regular season, few expected them to fall against Vodafone Giants in the playoffs. Along with Fnatic, Movistar Riders are undoubtedly favorites to top the group. Led by veteran jungler Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian, Movistar are a difficult team to break down once they get going. They will most certainly be looking to go all the way to the main event.

MCon esports Rotterdam are a welcome surprise. This is their first time in the EU Masters and they got here by running the lower bracket in the Dutch League, eventually defeating favorites PSV Esports 3-1. Dutch teams have not managed to match the legacy of Defusekids, who qualified to the main event in the past. MCon are a team that thrives in chaotic situations, and maybe that is enough for them to claim one or two big upsets.

Iron Wolves come in as the Baltic champions. Led by experienced mid laner Saulius “Saulius” Lukošius, he aims to give the Baltics an epic send off with one last hurrah into the EU Masters. Of the four teams in the group, they are definitely the underdogs, which could work in their favor on their quest to upset this group. Underestimate them at your own peril.

Fnatic Rising are a familiar name in the ERL circuit. Even with the retirement of legendary mid laner Fabian “FEBIVEN” Diepstraten, replacement Oliver “Dajor” Ryppa has more than held his own in NLC playoffs. Last spring, Fnatic Rising fell at the final hurdle in knockouts. For summer, they are aiming to take it one step further. With some stellar performances from bot laner Louis “Bean” Schmitz, will it be enough to realize their dreams?

Baltic Masters host Carmen “Carmeline” Junquera acknowledges Fnatic Rising and Movistar Riders as the undoubted favorites to top the group. She also believes the key for Iron Wolves to have a good showing will be for them to play as a team.

“Iron Wolves have an extra asset with two junglers, being able to switch between Jeppe “Julbu” Reinicke for a more supportive style and Tomas “Jaunatis” Janaudis for the opposite,” she said. “Similarly, we can’t forget about the solo laners Julius “zty” Kursys and Saulius “Saulius” Lukošius who alternate between carry roles. In any case, the Lithuanian team’s games are always spectacular, so enjoy it!”

Group C

EU Masters Play-Ins Group C teams. | Provided by Riot Games

Who are they?

  • SINNERS Esports: Hitpoint Masters runner-up
  • aNc Outplayed: PG Nationals runner-up
  • Karma Clan Esports: LPLOL champions, first EU Masters appearance
  • Crvena zvezda Esports: Esports Balkan League runner-up

Group favorites (probably): Outplayed and Crvena zvezda Esports

Like Group A, the absence of any major ERL team will probably have no clear favorite and fans could expect bloodbaths all around.

SINNERS Esports return to the EU Masters as the Hitpoint Masters second seed, losing to rivals eSuba once more in the Hitpoint Masters finals. They will want to erase the 0-6 memory of last spring and aim to do better this summer, but their path is a thorny one. If their players like bot laner Lukáš “PiOk” Lőrinc shows up big on the day, there could be an underdog story for them to write this summer.

ANc Outplayed are the original ‘hopium’ Italian team. They were the first ever team from Italy to make top eight in EU Masters back in 2018 summer and now they are back to where it all began with an aggressive and fearless roster, led by the mid-jungle duo of Sven “Dehaste” Vidović and Dušan “Lotus” Nedeljković. Italy has been steadily improving their results in recent years, can Outplayed honor their legacy and give Italian fans hope once again?

Karma Clan are a team that has made a fairytale run to EU Masters. This is their first time here and they made it by winning their first ever LPLOL title in a stunning reverse sweep. However, EU Masters is a different competition and historically, the Portuguese teams have struggled. With a reputation of clutching games, this could be the key for them to continue their Cinderella story all the way to knockouts.

Crvena zvezda Esports, or Red Star Esports, are finally back in EU Masters after a long absence. They have fought tooth and nail to make it back through the EBL playoffs and they won’t want to squander their chance here. The Balkans have recently been improving their results in EU Masters and Crvena zvezda will want to capitalize on that. Can their young Greek mid laner Vasilis “Tsiperakos” Lalas help the Red Star shine brightly once more?

LPLOL caster Rafael “Ahnyfar” Oliveira sees Group C as probably the weakest group, and Karma Clan’s mental fortitude as unafraid to take risks could very well help them progress in a best-of-one setting.

“Francisco “Heroic” Ribeiro and Christian “Infinity” Hernando San Jose seem to be the key to success, as this mid/jungle duo took advantage of the current meta to work in unison to obtain leads. The rest of the team is also very like-minded, and that makes them take the biggest risks against even the strongest competition,” he said. “However, even if Karma Clan seem to be clear favorites, some problems might arise as the third seeds from the best ERLs, stationed in Group D, will be waiting to face them in the knockout stage.”

Group D

EU Masters Play-Ins Group D teams. | Provided by Riot Games

Who are they?

  • Vitality.Bee: Ligue Française de League of Legends third seed
  • mousesports: Prime League third seed
  • eSuba: Hitpoint Masters champions
  • AGO ROGUE: Ultraliga third seed

Group favorites (probably): Vitality.Bee or mousesports or AGO ROGUE, flip a coin

Let’s not beat around the bush: This is the group of death. How fitting for it to be ‘D.’ Three major ERL teams in one group? It’s going to be a fight to the finish.

Vitality.Bee were here before last spring, in the same manner. They got the third seed by losing the Misfits Premier 3-1 in the playoffs this summer, exactly the same as it was in spring. Last spring, Vitality were eliminated in the knockout stage. They certainly don’t want a repeat of this for summer. Can the young mid lane prodigy Dimitri “Diplex” Ponomarev help the aggressive bees in Vitality to change their fate?

Mousesports has been a staple in EU Masters and they have fielded strong rosters on paper in recent times. Last spring, they finished top four with current Team Vitality mid laner Adam “LIDER” Ilyasov. For this summer, they will no doubt look to advance further, and with experienced jungler Milo “Pridestalkr” Wehnes leading the charge, they very well just might.

ESuba are the Hitpoint Masters most successful team and historically have almost always participated in EU Masters. But this time around they have drawn the shortest straw and fans are already pressing F for them in the chat. Despite going 1-5 in play-ins last spring, Czech and Slovakian fans will remember eSuba making the main event in 2020 spring after a resolute run through groups and knockouts. Hope springs eternal!

AGO ROGUE are Polish powerhouses, renowned for their dominance in the Ultraliga, except this season where they finished a surprising third despite placing first in the regular season. While they are still considered a big threat in this group with some big names on the roster, their tendency to not close games despite getting big leads in recent games have been concerning. This will be something their rivals will look to exploit.

Coach and Prime League analyst Josef “blackgator” Kolisang said this is indeed the group of death, but believes mousesports’ strengths – which lie in their early-game aggression – could help them navigate this tricky group.

“Mousesports are playing well around former EU LCS jungler Pridestalkr and allow him to pressure the enemy jungler with early invades,” he said. “Another strength of mousesports is that their botlaner Ilya “Gadget” Makavchuk can stylistically play just about anything. I am hyped to see them face Vitality.Bee, because Vitality heavily relies on early skirmishing with their jungler, Duncan “Skeanz” Marquet. Mousesports can definitely make it out of groups but they have the hardest path to the main event.”