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G2 Esports and Fnatic have reached more domestic League of Legends finals than any other teams in Europe, making for such a prolific rivalry that even those who don’t follow the League European Championship have heard of it. Their struggle for dominance has continued since the EU LCS rebranded to the LEC in 2019, with G2 and Fnatic facing off in every playoff final to date.

However, after years of playing catch up, it seems a rogue player has entered the race for Europe’s finest.

Rogue, the plucky but unpredictable boys in blue, took a while to find their footing in the LEC. The team debuted dead last in Spring 2019 after winning just two matches out of 18, but have somehow managed to make every playoff since. Not only that, they bulldozed their way through Summer 2020 by earning a first-place finish in the regular season and taking G2 all the way to map five in the semi-finals of the playoffs.

While Fnatic are going through a transition period to deal with the loss of AD carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and integration of their new bot laner, Elias “Upset” Lipp, the current LEC standings are anything but the usual two-horse race. For a second consecutive season, Rogue are at the very top of the table, which means it’s time to consider an important question: Could Rogue become one of G2’s new rivals?

G2 and Rogue headed toward rivalry

G2’s mild-mannered support player Mihael “Mikyx” Mehel suggested as much himself. While he said a lot of teams in the LEC have improved, there is still a skill gap in the region, with G2 and Rogue on one side and everyone else on the other.

“We just kind of swapped from Fnatic being our main rival to Rogue,” Mikyx said. “But I’m pretty sure Fnatic is going to get better as they go through the split. I’m looking forward to the playoffs because it’s probably going to be between us, Rogue and Fnatic.”

However, while the G2 vs. Rogue matchup is quickly becoming one of the spicier, more competitive and entertaining ones in the LEC, these two teams have yet to meet each other in a grand final. That fateful meeting is something Kacper “Inspired” Słoma, Rogue’s jungler, feels is necessary if his team wants to cement a legitimate rivalry.

“I don’t really think we have a rivalry against them yet because, when we played our first splits, we were always getting stomped by G2. We didn’t really know what to do against them,” Inspired added.” “Although last split and now, when we play scrims against them, it feels way better for us. We are actually more confident in our plays and we don’t really feel confused anymore.”

Mikyx agreed that a rivalry requires battling over important moments, regardless of either side’s season. Even during years when G2 or Fnatic have struggled, the teams often end up facing off in the region finals, anyway. However, he added that there is a chance Rogue finally upsets the LEC’s status quo when it comes to a rivalry with G2.

“Last year in summer, [G2 and Fnatic] both barely made the playoffs, and then we were in the final anyway,” Mikyx explained. “That’s kind of where a lot of rivalries comes from, because both teams are always at the top. But, I feel like Rogue could take one of those spots now, this year.”

The making of a true rival

Just how have Rogue managed to reach this point? They limped their way to a playoffs spot last spring split, coming away with an above-average 9-9 record, and now they’ve managed to gain the respect of the greatest European League of Legends team of all time.

From an opponent’s perspective, Mikyx said he believes they’re a tougher team to play against now as a result of their roster changes in the off-season. While he said support Adrian “Trymbi” Trybus is underperforming on stage, he performs much better in scrims and is overall better than his predecessor. At the same time, Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu is an upgrade over Finn Wiestål in the top lane.

For Inspired, especially taking into account some of Rogue’s poor performances from a year ago, the jungler thinks experience has played a crucial factor in their progression.

“Back then, we didn’t have much experience playing in the LEC,” Inspired said. “It was our second split, at least for me, Larssen and Finn. We just couldn’t perform that well under pressure. But now, after all of this experience, like playing playoffs a few times and playing at Worlds, we don’t really feel the pressure anymore when we play, which I feel is the biggest difference.”

Inspired also spoke about his personal growth, explaining that being able to respect his opponents less over time has boosted his confidence.

“When I first came to LEC, I had a lot of respect for the league,” Inspired explained. “I thought everyone here is very good. But when I played scrims for around two months, I saw that I’m actually better than other players. … That gave me a lot of confidence and belief that I will be better than them because I’m just starting my LEC career, and I’m already even [with] or better than some of them, and with time I will only get even better than that.”

While Inspired wasn’t immediately a star player of the LEC from the outset, he is currently one of the best junglers in the entire league and has been one of Rogue’s major win conditions during the last 12 months. However, it doesn’t matter how good a player thinks they are G2 are almost always better. Mikyx clearly regards Rogue as a team that has the potential to rival him, but what is the secret to overtaking G2 in Europe?

“A part of it is probably down to experience,” Mikyx said. “All of us are experienced players, so we know how everything works and we perform better when games matter more. The most important part is just individual skill. I think we’re just better than most of our counterparts. The thing that people will have to do to beat us is finding new players that are better than us, which would be hard, but it’s probably possible.”

While G2 defeated Rogue during their first game of the 2021 season, their budding rivalry will continue during a rematch on March 5 at 4 p.m. EST.