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As summer comes to a close and Worlds 2021 looms ever closer, Europe prepares for battle once more. The LEC playoffs have arrived and the journey starts on Aug. 13.
There are six teams and three nail-biting series, but only one team can win it all. While there are three seeds for Worlds, LEC teams will be first focused on the immediate task of winning the title of the best team in Europe. World domination can wait.
With such high stakes, here is Upcomer’s preview for the 2021 summer playoffs.
Rogue vs. Misfits
Last match: In week 5, Rogue won the game in 37 minutes despite Misfits’ best efforts.
The favorite: Rogue
Where’s the hype?: According to LEC guest caster Adrian “Jamada” Wharlton-Thorne, the intrigue in this match will start after the 20 minute mark.
“Rogue plays excellent LoL by the book for the first 20 minutes of the game, and past that, they seem to mess up a bit,” Jamada said. “The reason why that’s exciting? Misfits as a team are pretty exceptional in teamfights, sometimes through sheer mechanical prowess. If we have games that are within 2,000 or 3,000 gold of each other past 20 minutes, expect bloodbaths.”
Keep an eye on: The jungle matchup between Kacper “Inspired” Słoma vs Iván “Razork” Martín Díaz
The first series is, on paper, a stylistic mismatch. There is Rogue, first place in Summer regular season, the epitome of consistency, the connoisseurs of good macro and teamwork, and then there’s Misfits, who are essentially carnivorous bunnies, unafraid of any team and willing to fight to the last cottontail before yielding.
— Rogue (@Rogue) June 19, 2021
And boy Misfits are out for blood, especially since no one will let them live the infamous Crowstorm moment down. Rogue and Misfits have met in playoffs once before, in the spring of 2020. Rogue walked away triumphant, 3-1. Bot laner Steven “Hans sama” Liv and Oskar “Vander” Bogdan, who were united then, now stand divided.
This summer, Rogue have been widely praised for their immaculate early game form: + 2674 gold difference at 15 minutes, first blood in 61% of games, first tower in 83% of games and first team to three turrets in 89% of games. But Misfits are no slouches either. They have the second lowest total deaths (216) after Rogue, are tied in first blood rate and third in first to three towers (61% of games).
While this looks very Rogue favored due to their terrifying numbers, Jamada said they can’t forget the ‘Rogue Time’ meme circulating around. It is no joke, either. Past 20 minutes, their decision making becomes questionable. Still, it’s not as if they automatically lose the second Rogue Time kicks in.
Today from Korean communities:
Korean fans often like to speak of 로그타임 (Rogue Time) — A magical 20 – 30 min window where @Rogue decide to throw their previously positive gold difference and make mysterious objective-based decisions
— Ashley Kang #Worlds2021 (@AshleyKang) July 31, 2021
“Even though they do have what I would probably describe as a lackluster mid game, Rogue are still a fantastic team and play very by the book,” Jamada said. “So, it’s very hard to trump them.”
Jamada also gave praise to Misfits, who qualified for playoffs after not making it last spring. Particularly, their solo laners and the key man leading up to their success this season: Iván “Razork” Martín Díaz. Jamada believes they have what it takes to surprise.
“Against Rogue who struggles in the mid game, and in a meta that’s still so focused around the neutral objectives, if Misfits don’t fall too hard behind and find decent set ups, they can definitely shake Rogue,” Jamada said. “The key man is Razork in the early game. Whenever Misfits do get ahead, it’s normally because of Razork. They’ll need to do a lot to facilitate and set him up so he can set up the rest of Misfits.”
However, with so much importance placed on Razork, Rogue’s jungler, Inspired, is another player to watch.
“Inspired is, undoubtedly, the best jungler in the league right now,” Jamada said. “I think Misfits, as a team, I wouldn’t say they rise or fall based on what Razork does in the early game, but there’s a pretty strong correlation there. I’m not going to say we’re going to have a jungle focused series, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Rogue prepared it as a jungle focused series to shut down Razork, so Misfits struggle a lot more.”
While Rogue is looking toward Worlds qualification, last spring’s final is still probably fresh in their minds. For Jamada, he said they will be looking toward making it to finals as cleanly as possible and winning it. But before them stands Misfits and if Monty Python has taught anyone anything: Never underestimate killer fuzzballs!
“I think Rogue will probably take it 3-1,” Jamada said. “I would be surprised to see this go to five games or Misfits taking it. Even with some concerns on Rogue’s mid game, they are still a team that can execute. Realistically, these large leads that Rogue accrues in the early game are too big even for the best teams in the league to stand up to. I’m expecting Rogue to be ahead in the early game, every game, in this series.”
MAD Lions vs G2 Esports
Last match: In week 8, G2 Esports won in 35 minutes, but MAD Lions never gave up and kept it close despite the scoreline.
The favorite: Good question. Pick a side and flip a coin.
Where’s the hype?: According to current LEC guest caster Mikkel “Guldborg” Guldborg Nielsen, this is a clash of the titans.
“You are watching the defending champions right now going up against G2, who have been the champions of Europe for as long as anyone can remember,” Guldborg said. “This is the clash of two kings coming together.”
Keep an eye on: The mid lane and jungle matchups
Ah yes, MAD Lions vs G2 Esports in playoffs…again. It’s basically one of the checkboxes of any given LEC split at this point. It’s almost as if their destinies are intertwined.
— LEC (@LEC) August 12, 2021
Ardent LEC fans are, of course familiar with the usual storylines, including “old kings vs new kings.” So far the record is 2-2 after both teams have faced each other in playoffs since spring 2020. Their last playoff series was just last spring, where MAD won 3-1 and advanced on to become LEC champions, eventually making a great run in MSI 2021 as well.
However, the storyline this season revolves around MAD’s difficulties navigating burnout and extended quarantine, leaving many questioning if the Lions can defend their crown. Guldborg said people often forget that MAD never tends to be consistent during the regular season but instead ramps up toward playoffs.
“What I’m looking for MAD Lions now is the fact they finally have time,” he said. “The last week before playoffs, we see them ramping up in terms of them having the playstyle we usually know them for: the aggression and the ability to take over games.”
While MAD did lose to G2 in Week 8, the final week of LEC, they pushed G2 to their limits. That being said, Guldborg acknowledged G2’s form toward the end of the season as well where they went on a five game winning streak, looking like the dominant team fans had fervently yearned for when Martin “Rekkles” Larsson was announced.
“I think G2 had a really good second half of the season where they were finally starting to pick up games and getting back to form,” Guldborg said. “I’m most interested in Jankos. I think Jankos got exposed a lot for the flaws he had and G2 as a whole by Inspired last spring.”
This time around, though, Guldborg said Jankos has been the most consistent and best performing member of G2. So with both teams looking better and better as the season ended, it’s easy to see why this is an exceptionally tough series to call, especially since both teams have had histories doing better in best-of-five formats.
The key matchups, according to Guldborg, are in the jungle and mid lane. He previously mentions Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski as the best performing member and against Javier “Elyoya” Prades Batalla, who won the “Outstanding Rookie” award last spring. It’s a matchup that promises to excite.
For the mid lane, it’s a different story. Guldborg said Marek “Humanoid” Brázda has been a highlight player for MAD this season, and Rasmus “Caps” Borregaard Winther was in a bit of a low spot until recent weeks.
“Caps hasn’t had his best season and this is a good time for him to turn it around by going up against one of the best mid laners we have in Europe right now, and that’s crazy to say,” Guldborg said. “Caps used to be unrivaled in his position, but this time around, you actually get the sense that Humanoid can have an edge against him.”
Regardless of who wins this series, there will be much fanfare surrounding it. Will lions overwhelm samurais, like their playoff series in the spring?
“3-2 either way, and it will most certainly go to five games,” Guldbord said. “I’m going to go with the safer choice and say…this is a tough one. I’m going to bet on G2 here, but I think it’s extremely close between these two teams.”
Fnatic vs Team Vitality
Last match: In week 5, Fnatic floored the pedal and won in 31 minutes.
The favorite: Fnatic
Where’s the hype?: According to LEC guest caster Georgia “Troubleinc” Paras, this series will be action packed as both teams will probably be fighting a lot.
“Easy, Fnatic and Vitality are probably the most bloodthirsty teams on the Rift! Fnatic is a team that loves to brawl and Vitality is the team that will take you on if you want to brawl,” Troubleinc said. “I think this is the big solo-queue moment we’ve all been waiting for, wrapped up in a beautiful best-of-five package!”
Keep an eye on: The top lane matchup between Adam “Adam” Maanane vs. Mathias “Szygenda” Jensen
The first series of the Lower Bracket is perceived as a crucible of blood. Both teams love to fight (or get involved in them) and have rightly earned their reputations for being explosive. Fnatic’s skirmish/fight heavy style, especially early on, shows in the statistics. They have the highest total kills (307) and second highest gold difference at 15 (+1676) among LEC teams.
But there is more than just the promise of a bloodbath in this series; there also promises to be the settling of bad blood. Coming into summer, Fnaitc and Vitality were the talk of the town after Fnatic made a roster swap that shocked Europe. Former top laner Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau switched over to the jungle and the team signed rookie top laner Adam from Karmine Corp. This sent their star jungler, Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek, to Vitality.
The #LEC's worst-kept secret is now official.
— FNATIC (@FNATIC) May 26, 2021
Vitality on the other hand not only signed Selfmade, but they also revamped their roster around assassin maestro mid laner Adam “LIDER” Ilyasov, with rookie top laner Enzo “SLT” Gonzalez and the experienced and steady bot laner, Juš “Crownshot” Marušič. For LEC guest caster Georgia “Troubleinc” Paras, Selfmade going up against his former team can’t be ignored, especially since Vitality are 0-2 against Fnatic in the regular season.
“I feel like it’s his redemption arc to show he doesn’t need Fnatic to make playoffs or be on his way to qualify for Worlds,” she said. “Obviously you don’t play alone, but for him specifically, it can be a way he can prove that he can beat his previous team.”
Despite Fnatic being seen as the favorites, both teams’ styles of play going into the final weeks showed why they are wielding double-edged swords. Fnatic went from a five game win streak to a four game loss streak. Vitality were the opposite, going from a four game loss streak into a three game win streak.
This trend also exemplifies why the top lane matchup of Adam and Szygenda (who has since been subbed in for SLT) is Troubleinc’s choice to keep an eye on. Other than her slight bias toward their EU Masters to LEC storylines, their contrasting playstyles currently make for an interesting focus.
— FNATIC (@FNATIC) July 17, 2021
“They both have a very specific role to fill in their teams. Szygenda has been the more stable player, he’s had to learn how to play weak-side, he has to make sure he’s stable and doesn’t fall to ganks. He has to be the rock in the top,” Troubleinc says. “ But Adam, due to the versatility of Fnatic’s compositions, can play carries in the top lane but can also play a bit more laid back with champions like Mundo or Sett. I think this is going to be the fight of the two top European Regional Leagues top laners that made LEC, after their win in EU Masters.”
For Fnatic, this series is a must win. To be Fnatic is to be the best, and in recent times, that hasn’t been the case in League of Legends. For Vitaliy, they come in with no pressure, nothing to lose and all to gain in their first playoffs run since 2019. Which team will reap the rewards of taking one step closer to Worlds 2021?
“Vitality went 3-0 in the final week despite prior struggles and we haven’t seen this Vitality in a best-of series yet,” Troubleinc said. “If Fnatic manage to mental edge Vitality, which is quite possible, it could be a straight 3-0. But if Vitality manages to take one game early on, I could see this series going all the way to five games with any team taking it.”