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Up until recently, Rogue Esports hadn’t won a regular split game against G2 Esports in the League of Legends European Championship. But, on Feb. 5, Rogue headed into the game with an 8-0 record, hungry for the ninth win.
They quickly had G2 on the ropes. At the 15-minute mark, Rogue had accumulated a lead of over 2100 gold. By 20 minutes, the lead had ballooned to almost 6000 gold. Another five minutes later, G2’s Nexus exploded and Rogue closed out the 2022 LEC spring split’s first half with a perfect 9-0 record.
It is the fourth LEC split in a row that Rogue are performing excellently during the best-of-one stage. With different lineups and playing through different metas, Head coach Simon “fredy122” Payne continues to find success with his formula. But, what is in the formula that keeps delivering results?
At the base of the equation stand the players
The very core of fredy122’s formula is rooted in his players. They are the fixed values that have to be determined as soon as possible. If the players carry over from the previous season, it saves a lot of work.
“Knowing what kind of style fits them, what their personality is in-game, comes with time,” fredy122 explained. “It can really affect how they play.”
The player that fredy122 has worked longest with is mid laner Emil “Larssen” Larsson, who joined Rogue’s LEC team in the 2019 summer split. This was just one split after fredy122 started coaching. The young Swede has been praised for his ability to play mage champions well, and his coach acknowledged Larssen’s prowess on them.
“I think he grew up in the era of Azir, Corki and Orianna,” fredy122 said. “So, it’s natural that he’s a specialist on those champions.”
However, to Larssen’s visible annoyance during an LEC broadcast interview in Week 2, he is often regarded as a mage-only player. Fredy122, however, says he can rely on Larssen to play other champions as well.
“He’s moving towards other champions ever since Worlds , where he experienced the power of Asian mid laners and meta shifts,” the coach argued. “He plays LeBlanc and Ryze very well. These are not typical mages. These are champions that have a lot of influence on the map. Last year, we picked Lucian mid for six weeks.”
"oh no, @Larssen00 is gone" 😢
OR IS HE?
— LEC (@LEC) January 28, 2020
A veteran in the LEC and a part of Rogue since 2021 is top laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu. While Odoamne has gained renown for his play in losing matchups — he carries the title “weak side king” with pride — fredy122 has no problem giving him other champions. In the aforementioned game against G2, for example, Odoamne got his hands on the mobile, ranged champion Akshan.
“I imagine it can be kind of confusing to the outside when everyone regards him as an Ornn player and then we lock in Akshan, but he actually plays a lot of ranged champion well,” fredy122 said. “I’m very comfortable giving him those, if it’s a good matchup.”
What Odoamne brings to Rogue is immense stability and reliability, fredy122 explained.
“His wave management is played well in every matchup,” he said. “If he has a naturally winning matchup from the draft, he will execute on that matchup. He doesn’t do anything crazy. He’s just gonna win by default.”
On the other side of the map, Adrian “Trymbi” Trybus roams in the support role. Fredy122 acknowledged the flexibility of Trymbi. When he debuted in the LEC in 2021, he played 12 different champions in his first 18 games. In 2022, Trymbi’s champion pool has only grown larger.
“There are so many champions that Trymbi can choose from that it’s usually not even decided what he plays in prep meetings,” fredy122 said.
What sets him apart from other support players at the moment, fredy122 explained, is that Trymbi simply isn’t scared to play champions like Lux and Nami. “I think a lot of supports in Europe are really dropping the ball when it comes to these ranged supports,” fredy122 said. “Trymbi has the balls to just lock in a Lux versus a ganking jungler. That’s huge.”
Adding new variables
The basis of Rogue’s formula was bound to change heading into 2022. In the offseason, the organization parted ways with jungler Kacper “Inspired” Słoma and bot laner Steven “Hans sama” Liv. In finding a new bot laner, fredy122 chose someone with a similar playstyle to Hans sama’s in Markos “Comp” Stamkopoulos.
“I always saw him as an aggressive laner. The core fundamental is having a strong laning phase and being aggressive,” fredy122 said. He added that he already saw that quality in Comp when the bot laner first played against Rogue during his Team Vitality days. With that aggressive style, Rogue’s bot lane would not have to change drastically.
“Immediately, you can see that he would fit better into our team than, let’s say, even a Rekkles, who is more passive in the lane,” fredy122 explained. “We’ve been playing with an aggressive bot laner for two years, right? So, that’s an instant slot in the team. It fits.”
While Comp fit the equation with his aggressive in-game style, fredy122 was still surprised by him. The bot laner boasts enough confidence that he doesn’t blink an eye at switching between playing strong side or weak side.
“That’s pretty rare, from what I’ve seen,” fredy122 said. “Most players want to play strong side or, if they’re uncomfortable, weak side. But he’s comfortable on both and knows that he’s gonna do well.”
The biggest change in Rogue’s formula, and therefore their identity, has come through Kim “Malrang” Geun-seong. The South Korean jungler was brought in from DWG KIA, where he was a substitute jungler, after Marcus “Blumigan” Blom, head coach of Rogue’s academy team AGO Rogue, recommended him. The two had worked together briefly in Turkey on Royal Bandits.
“It was a risky decision, there is no hiding that,” fredy122 said. “It wasn’t easy to scout, but we put a lot of trust in Blumigan.”
In Malrang, Rogue looked for a jungler who would offer something different from what Inspired had brought to the team, fredy122 explained. With Inspired, Rogue played for jungle timings and jungle tempo. In Malrang, they wanted someone who would sacrifice their own resources to help out the lane.
“After talking with him, we knew that Malrang would provide that,” fredy122 said. “It has really paid off.”
Cracking the meta
Having a roster that is in sync and plays to each other’s strengths is evidently a massive part of Rogue’s continued success. But in a game like League of Legends, where the meta constantly shifts and new strategies emerge, that isn’t enough. The team must figure out which champions and compositions will allow them to dominate their enemies.
Although Rogue have been successful in cracking this issue for many regular splits in a row, it isn’t as easy for them as it may appear.
“I’ll be honest, at the start it’s a complete mess,” fredy122 said, laughing. “No one knows what’s going on and it’s hard to identify what’s going on. I think it’s something that you work out over time.”
To find structure in the chaos, fredy122 communicates with his players. They play solo queue on the highest level on a daily basis and feed information about their experience to the coaching staff. Using that information, Rogue starts creating a list.
“It starts with: what are the actual overpowered champions on this patch?” fredy122 said. “From there, you start working down the list. What happens when these OP champions are not available? Those champions will always define what the meta is. That’s been our formula for working out the meta.”
The data fredy122 and his team receive is analyzed over and over again. If a champion wins a certain matchup, was that because of the champion balance? Or was it simply one player being better than the other?
To take more factors into account, fredy122 also watches high-level tournaments that take place before the LEC season starts.
“We do watch stuff like KeSPA Cup as well. You always check out the tournaments to get an impression of what’s happening,” he said.
In the draft phase, push comes to shove
The last but most visible part of Rogue’s formula is the draft phase. They have established what their players are good at and they have figured out which OP champions are going to dictate the meta. With that information, Rogue must play a brief but crucial game in the pick-and-ban phase to give the team a composition that will lead them to victory. This is where fredy122 has clear rules for his team.
“I’m pretty strict when it comes to the OP picks. There is no way around them. You must play them,” he said. “For example, in this patch, if my mid laner wants to lock in Orianna when Corki is available, it’s not gonna happen. It’s completely illegal.”
Fredy122 was relieved to say he doesn’t need to deal with player egos. They’re accepting of the rules he has drawn for the champions that are considered the strongest. None of Rogue’s players have the illusion that they can just give their lane opponent one of the OP champions and then pick a counter into it.
“I’m pretty blessed in this regard,” fredy122 said. “Either that, or I’ve worn them down over the years. I think the players are also quite intelligent about draft in their own lane. They don’t want to self-sabotage.”
When those OP champions have either been banned away in the draft phase, or have been locked in during the pick phase, fredy122 gives his players more freedom.
“It’s not just me, right? It’s the entire team and the rest of the staff as well,” the head coach remarked. “I need their input for that. What do they think is actually best in that case?”
The answer to that question changes every week, with every opponent. Teams respond to what they’ve seen succeed on-stage in the LEC and in scrims. Moreover, during the split, the LEC plays on different patches. Thus Rogue must adapt as well. The sooner, the better.
“If you have the formula of the draft ready early in the week, practice is more efficient,” fredy122 said. “In some regards, the current meta suits us very well.”
Can Rogue finally succeed in best-of-fives?
The 2022 LEC spring split may be the fourth regular split in a row in which Rogue are thriving, but one big hurdle remains: playing best-of-fives in the playoffs. In the 2021 spring split finals, Rogue were reverse-swept by MAD Lions. In the 2021 summer split playoffs, they barely won against Misfits Gaming and qualified for the League of Legends World Championship 2022. Then, Rogue went 0-3 against both MAD Lions and Fnatic in the subsequent series.
While fredy122 acknowledged that Rogue’s meta read wasn’t the best, he said the biggest factor of the team’s failure was the human side of the equation.
“We had some issues where people’s behavior changed around playoffs last year,” he said. “I think it’s no secret that stress got to some of us during those playoffs. That really threw us off in-game and outside of the game.”
Comparing this year’s roster to that of 2021, fredy122 doesn’t believe the team will run into the same issue. He explained Inspired’s absence will likely have a positive impact on Odoamne, Larssen and Trymbi. The jungler was vocal about what he disliked when things went awry. But fredy122 is quick to add nuance to the situation.
“It shouldn’t be that someone is blamed for everything. It’s not such a black-and-white situation,” he said, explaining that friction is bound to happen when rosters stay together for a long time.
For Inspired, and for Hans sama on his own volition, it was time to move on. “These guys worked together for two, three years. They just had to experience something new,” fredy122 said.
With Rogue’s roster changes came a renewed love to play alongside each other. Fredy122 has learned from past years, however, and is building a safety net for when the playoffs come around.
“This year, what we’re really trying to focus on is that we’re gonna do in the playoffs what we do in Week 4,” he said. “Everyone needs to behave the same, everyone needs to communicate the same inside and outside of the game. We’re trying to create systems that we can always fall back on.”
To anticipate different champions and become more adaptable for the playoffs, fredy122 will allow his team some more wiggle room in the drafts in the second half of the regular spring split. The team has virtually locked in a spot in the spring split playoffs already, with its 9-0 record, so some leeway is allowed. Rogue’s formula can be tweaked prematurely to see what the effects are.
“We’ll open up a little bit,” fredy122 said. “We practice a lot of stuff that is against what we actually play on the stage. We don’t want to end up playing Corki nine more games, for example. That won’t be very useful for the playoffs. We want to have deep champion pools coming into the playoffs. That’s the goal.”
Tom fell in love with esports in 2015 and has been reporting on multiple scenes since. In his spare time, he dwells on the Howling Abyss in League of Legends, or on the vast oceans in Sea of Thieves.