When the 2020 League of Legends European Championship (LEC) Summer Split concluded two weeks ago, it looked as though a new era had begun in EU LoL esports.
Young, homegrown rosters Rogue and MAD Lions secured the top 2 seeds in the post-season, and Rogue’s first-place finish made it the first team to qualify for the 2020 World Championship. Household names G2 Esports and Fnatic had played second fiddle at best to MAD and RGE all summer long, and it looked as if the Summer Playoffs would feature more of the same.
If the reign of EU’s old guard ended before the Summer Playoffs, someone forgot to tell the old kings they were stepping down. G2 Esports defeated MAD Lions 3-1, looking every bit the final boss of EU that it had been for the past few years. Fnatic swept Rogue the very next day in an even more dominant fashion.
It’d be simple enough to chalk up the wins of G2 Esports and Fnatic to veteran experience carrying more weight in the best-of-five format of playoffs when compared to the best-of-one of regular split, but that would be an oversimplification of Europe’s most decorated teams returning to form in trademark fashion.
Lion tamers: G2 rediscovers its strengths
It was expected that any trouble G2 had with MAD Lions before would end with Rasmus “Caps” Winther and Luka “Perkz” Perković role-swapping back to their usual positions. Instead, MAD Lions reached a new level in summer and held first place for the majority of the split.
MAD Lions fell off towards the end of summer, but still managed to secure the 2nd seed. G2, on the other hand, hit its stride and went 6-0 in their final season games to then take a 3-1 win over MAD in the playoffs in a game, whose drafts and compositions in their wins as opposed to their loss stand out as the main talking point.
Caps has put together an MVP caliber performance this summer and continued to put up strong numbers throughout the series, but even more crucial is how G2 built its compositions around the star mid laner.
In G2’s three wins in the series, top laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen played Neeko twice and Gangplank once. Both champions are relatively self-sufficient in the side lane but have more and more ways to help the rest of the team as a game goes late. In G2’s loss to MAD in the series, Wunder played Shen, a champion that is excellent at helping out teammates, but doesn’t necessarily pose its own threat in an individual context the same way Neeko and Gangplank can.
Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski has been named MVP in the last two splits of the LEC, but G2’s jungler didn’t reach his peak by utilizing high-level mechanics like his younger years on ROCCAT. More often than not, Jankos serves as a reliable frontline for his team and pushes the limitations of champions like Sejuani due to his phenomenal early game.
G2 won both of Jankos’ Sett games, as well as a game of Sejuani, where the First Blood King outclassed MAD Lions’ Zhiqiang "Shad0w" Zhao. Both Sett and Sejuani allowed Jankos to stay beefy for his backline while decisively going forward. The game G2 lost? Jankos was on Lee Sin and fell behind in the jungle for the only time in the series.
When looking towards G2’s picks in the bot lane for the series, a similar trend to top and jungle appears. Senna and Kalista aren’t incredibly similar champions aside from both being marksmen, but both picks allow Perkz to have some type of teamfight agency from the backline in the form of either champion’s ultimate ability.
In addition, both picks pair excellently with the playmaking support champions that Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle has made a name for himself on, and he continued to do just that in outclassing LEC Summer Split All-Pro Support Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser.
In G2’s three wins, Perkz and Mikyx played the duos of Kalista/Nautilus, Senna/Nautilus, and Senna/Braum. The one loss featured the bot lane duo on Ezreal/Yuumi, a duo with little to no crowd control that indexes entirely toward scaling.
This isn’t to say that G2’s players can’t play the aforementioned champions individually on a solid level, or that they could never win with this type of composition. However, G2 found success against MAD Lions by playing towards individual comfort picks that enabled the team’s most familiar strengths as a unit, and the execution of the compositions played in the series speaks for itself.
Fnatic brings Animal Style to 2020
Since the ‘Animal Style’ era of 2017, Fnatic has always pulled itself out of slumps with a few trademark adjustments when turning things around:
- Draft priority on individual comfort picks
- A significant uptick in early game aggression
- Innovation to the meta that will throw the opponents off.
Fnatic’s sweep of Rogue featured all three of these factors on full display.
Fnatic’s drafts throughout the sweeping series against Rogue relied on individual stability on both side lanes. AD carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson played one game of Ashe and two games of Senna, and while neither champion is known for being early game monsters, both have very safe laning phases that also allow Rekkles to support his teammates from a comfortable individual position as they continue to scale.
Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov played Thresh before switching to Nautilus on Rekkles’ second game of Senna in game 3, but both picks gave him the choice to split the difference between his trademark roam-heavy style and maintaining a strong presence in lane in the earliest stages of the game.
Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau played three different champions in the top lane for Fnatic, but aside from varying degrees of durability, there is something else that Urgot, Ornn, and Sion all have in common: a strong laning phase on both strong and weak side. Urgot was a laning maven even before his rework, and one would be hard-pressed to find other pure tanks that match the early game presence of Ornn and Sion.
All three of these picks allowed Bwipo to play to his individual strengths early on without risking heading into the later stages of the game without some semblance of a reliable frontline.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a resurgent Fnatic if there wasn’t some new flavor sprinkled into the recipe. Fnatic’s jungler Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek sandwiched his first professional Karthus game of 2020 between two games of Evelynn.
Karthus has been seen in the jungle before, but not in the hands of Selfmade, and a true magic damage threat coming out of the jungle in all three games freed up mid laner Tim "Nemesis" Lipovšek to play marksmen in the mid lane without the team's compositions boasting a suboptimal damage spread.
On Evelynn, Selfmade’s viability as a legitimate magic damage threat was only buffed by Rogue being completely caught off guard by the pick. RGE AD Carry Steven “Hans Sama” Liv looked completely baffled by the pick on a competitive level, which was only exacerbated by the increased pace Fnatic brought into the series against the methodical Rogue.
It’s worth mentioning that Fnatic entered the post-season in a different context than G2 Esports. G2 finished 3rd place at 11-7, but won its last six games. Fnatic finished 9-9 and didn’t lock in a playoff spot until two-thirds of the way through the last day of the Summer Split. G2 looked poised for a resurgence, Fnatic did not. It’s hard to fault Rogue for not expecting to be on the backfoot against FNC for the entirety of the series — no one else expected it, either.
The road to the World Championship
While G2 and Fnatic set at the highest point of the LEC Summer Playoff bracket, both guaranteed top 3 finishes and fighting for top 2, Rogue and MAD Lions are still very much alive in the post-season. MAD faces off next against FC Schalke 04 in an elimination series to play against Rogue. The winner of the Rogue series will play against the loser of FNC and G2, and the winner of that series will go to the finals against whichever team remains undefeated on the winners side of the bracket.
With the inclusion of a 4th LEC seed as part of the 2020 World Championship Play-In, it’s likely that MAD ends up representing Europe internationally alongside Rogue, Fnatic, and G2 Esports. However, the #1 seed is reserved for one of Fnatic and G2 Esports after both sides of the EU old guard have re-established themselves as legitimate contenders throughout the 2020 LEC Summer Playoffs.
For more LoL Esports news and content, head over to our dedicated League of Legends section!
Find full schedules, brackets, and more for your favorite esports on Juked.gg!