European fans, unite! It’s time to brandish your flags and wear your country’s colours once again: the EU Masters is just days away from us and it’s going to be stunning!
…but you don’t know all the teams taking part in the tournament, right? Maybe you’re wondering when Origen plays? Or perhaps you’re curious if Forg1ven has snuck out of his IRL marksmen training to represent the LGC?
Fret not curious summoners, we’re here to clear that up and provide a quick guide to all the competing teams! The newly organised Regional Leagues for Europe this year is a massive step forward for the region but it also means 13 competing regions (7 major and 6 minor) with 20 different teams. That is quite a bit! You don’t have to read the whole thing (but we would really appreciate it if you did!), just Ctrl+F the teams or regions you want to know about! With that out of the way, let’s jump right into it.
First off, while indeed a success for its first edition, Spring Split EU Masters had a couple of flaws that resulted in a less then stellar viewing experience for fans of some regions: an exclusive Play-In format and regional overrepresentation. But with the coming of Summer, a new, improved format has been bestowed upon its eager watchers. Things are shaping up quite nicely and there are going to be a bunch of newly represented nations and circuits, such as Benelux (Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium), the Baltics and Greece/Cyprus! The UK and Ireland as well received some much needed assistance and thus the Forge of Champions was born, replacing the old ESL circuit.
So what other revisions should you keep an eye out for? Let’s analyze the new Play-In stage, completely revamped to be inclusive instead of exclusive.
In Spring, minor regions went through Play-Ins and losses excluded them from Main Event, thus denying minor regions the chance of being represented (…yes, one of us is from Italy.). The new Play-In is a 7-team single round robin (Bo1) group, but the 7 teams are the second place teams from each of the major regions (UK, Germany, Spain, France, the Balkans, Poland and the Nordics). First place directly qualifies for the Main Event. Second place battles fifth place in one more Bo1 match to determine the second advancing team; the same holds for third vs fourth, for a total of 3 teams qualifying for the Main Event.
In this new format, all regions (minor and major) are guaranteed representation in the form of at least one team in the Main Event and Play-Ins include 3 more teams from major regions. Just as it is for the World Championship, major regions get a chance to have multiple representatives on the Main Stage, but they have to earn it. Minor regions (now Benelux, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Czech Republic/Slovakia and the Baltics), represented by only one team, will now be seeded directly into Main Event, thus giving the smaller circuits a fairer chance at proving their worth. This solves the overrepresentation problem and provides incentive to overperform, ensuring an extra seed/better seeding for their region in the next Master’s event. UK/Ireland and Germany fans will reminisce not so fondly upon what it means to have too many teams (spoiler: lower teams got nuked out!).
But let’s get onto the main question: Who is going to play? Here are all the 13 nations, majors and minors, in alphabetical order!
Balkans — Esports Balkan League: ASUS ROG ELITE (Serbia) and Crvena zvezda Esports (Serbia)
ASUS ROG Elite are not KlikTech. But they would like to be; actually, all Balkan teams would, and Kliktech’s style from Spring is still strong in the region’s meta. The big warning is that not all teams play it as cleanly, and even the best Balkan team struggles with it.
To beat the Balkans, ROG Elite had to de-balkanize their playstyle: they tend to be calmer during the early game by absorbing pressure and dodging enemy ganks, only to take advantage with solid reactive plays in the midgame in case their opponents choose to dive them. At this point, jungler DoubleAim spearheads into the enemy jungle, denying vision along with support LiMiT and setting up dives (sometimes too aggressively!) with his carry and entertaining picks such as Nidalee. His Kindred is also terrifying. Sometimes for his own team, but mostly to his enemies: in the same game he aced his own team and then got a Pentakill. No wonder his name is “Double Aim”! ROG Elite are smarter than the average Balkan team but in all fairness have yet to be truly tested. Will this be enough to follow in KlikTech’s wake and live up to the expectations?
Player to watch: Von1. A flamboyant player, he likes to play in-your-face champions that can pressure or hard shove the lane and then roam or help the jungler with invades: semifinalists x25 Esports have been terrorized by his Cassiopeia play, and she was permabanned in the Finals. Beware of his Vladimir: the Hemomancer’s kit allows him to go full Balkan and he will not be scared to dive you and take your head home!
Play-In: Crvena Zvezda Esports or Red Star Esports had high expectations entering the esports arena if the history of their associated club Red Star Belgrade is anything to go by. Finishing a terrible 7th (out of 8) in EBL season 2, they’ve since bounced back this season to be runners up in the EBL 3 playoffs, a commendable result. Their long, scrappy win vs runners up in the regular season WiLD MultiGaming of Hungary secured 2 Serbian teams to represent the region in the EU Masters.
Between the 2 Balkan teams, Crvena Zvezda is probably the more ‘Balkan’ one. They love a good punchfight. Showcasing a strong, proactive early game and focusing on skirmishes throughout, their jungler Ryuzaki is the main facilitator of this strategy. Favouring aggressive picks, he can often be seen helping their bot or mid lane get ahead early on. Cl0x also helps with this, his tendency to roam often secures early kills and assurance. Though, when the midgame arrives Crevena Zvezda seem to encounter moments of indecisiveness even if they taken the lead. This glaring trait led to the ELITES seizing victory after enduring an early hounding from the Red Stars.
But recent additions seek to overcome the team’s issues: it’s coach Emi, fresh from TCL Promotions, where he helped Besiktas requalify for the premier Turkish league, together with the new botlane of TasteLess and Lucker. Only Play-Ins will tell us if the recent additions are worth the effort. Will Crvena Zvezda keep their wild, rowdy style to the EU Masters despite the new members or will they innovate and try to go beyond ?
Player to watch: Pl0x. The Red Star’s hope in the bottom lane. Favouring Kai’sa the most so far, Crvena Zvezda often play around their bot as much as possible to get him going. And when Pl0x gets going, he goes. While he won’t always be mechanically outplaying the opponent in immaculate fashion, his sense of finding space and consistent DPS makes him a danger should he attain an advantage.
France — Open Tour France: Gamers Origin and Gentside
Fans of the first edition will probably reminisce fondly when they see GamersOrigin back into the EU Masters as France’s first seed. The crazy fights, the high tempo games, the wild picks from carry jungler TynX… and then, out of nowhere, the loss to eventual runners up Illuminar Gaming. Good news is, GamersOrigin are back with their chaotic and oppressive style, and they look hungry for vengeance. Qualifying as a firm first in circuit points after winning both Summer Split tournaments in Occitanie (June) and Metz (just yesterday!), no other team from France has been close in terms of consistency.
To describe GamersOrigin, think of a stubborn bull charging into a red cape over and over, even after missing countless times. That’s how GO like to play: aggression at every moment of the game; and if it fails it just means they’re about to try again with more run-up. The old adage goes “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”, and GamersOrigin seem to identify strongly with this. Even from behind they do not lose their confidence in themselves and will force plays over and over again. It’s almost as if they refuse to believe they will lose: no matter how high is the risk, the chance will always be in their favour. If they so much as sense a moment of weakness, you can be sure they will not hesitate of exploit it over and over again.
Everything starts with Tynx’s ambitions: be it a forced gank or an aggressive -often overaggressive- tower dive, he looks to make things start, even if they end up failing. His penchant for the botlane is undeniable, aiming not necessarily to get Toaster ahead but to rack up kills for himself and make structures crumble. Rinse and repeat for every lane. As soon as Tonerre is freed up from the midlane the solo assault mission turns into a deathball, engaging every opponent on sight. What makes the difference between their way and how their opponents is GO knows how to lose less than you for a failed play and earn more than you for a successful one.
A true ‘confidence team’, their signature aggressive style is the most accurate reproduction of the LPL teams, where skirmishes and teamfighting is a way of life. Give them an inch, they’ll take the whole 9 yards. For GamersOrigin it is go big, or go home and this time they will be doing everything they can to ensure if they do go home, it will be with the EU Master’s trophy firmly in their hands.
Player to Watch: Tynx. Surprised? Well, you will be as soon as you see him on the Rift: his mastery of hyperaggressive champions is rivaled only by his confidence to make brave calls, and the skill to make them happen tops both off. Be it Olaf or Kindred, Lee Sin or Kha’Zix, Taliyah or Nidalee, or his signature Graves: every champion capable of sending a shiver down your spine, Tynx plays it. With Kikis out of the stage, it’s no doubt that he’s coming to claim the title of best jungler in the tournament, if not the most fearless.
Play-in: Gentside, a name that is relatively new to the French circuit compared to LDLC or Vitality Academy, managed to sneak into second place and snag a ticket for Poland. Ever since its creation this year, the consistent core of Xani, Brosak and Saken have achieved illustrious results, never finishing below 4th in all the Open Tour tournaments. Unafraid to go toe to toe with the big boys like GamersOrigin and Team LDLC, their first entry into the EU Masters now is expectedly met with a lot of eager eyes due to many phenomenal matches they’ve had over the season.
Rivals and fellow Masters attendee GamersOrigin as we talked about before, resembles a charging bull, relentless in their pressure to make the enemy cow before them. Gentside on the other hand, is more akin to a spider. Careful warding and timings, they like to set up their traps and wait for the right moment before going full on berserk. If you bite them, they bite back harder. Like a spider, they are in no rush to destroy the nexus when they know they’re in control. They toy with their prey to churn down their mental resilience before savouring victory, capable of amassing mind boggling numbers in their KDA like the French meta is so well known for.
Not shy to go in extremely hard on the opponent, their botlane duo of xMatty and TreatZ will scrap tooth and nail in the laning phase, confident in their 2v2 skills. Like a lot of French teams, Gentside also plays around their botlane fairly often with TreatZ leading their charge on dives and teamfights, relying on xMatty’s strong mechanical skill to carry them through later on. Bloody (replacing Xani, who is their coach now) lives up to his name sake, having a keen sense of when to countergank and often roams with the midlane Saken to skirmish. You might happen to see him less comfortable on tank champions (such as his favoured Sejuani): that’s because Gentside is trying to add more variation to their play, requiring Bloody to neglect his usual picks like Graves/Kindred/Nidalee. A bold transition and certainly uncomfortable indeed, but undoubtedly worth in the long term to diversify Gentside’s strategy. And Saken, the man in the midlane, is a real terror. Playing midlane champions who have very strong teamfight or dueling potential such as Swain, Ryze, Casseopiea etc. Gentside gives him the lion’s share of gold in the sidelanes, ensuring he is always ahead and a threat in 1v1’s or teamfights. Top laner Brosak can lane against them best, being the reliable top lane tank for his team.
Coming into the EU Masters, Gentside have attracted a lot of attention, since recently from circuit tournaments they’ve struggled a little with consistency. After a less than stellar showing at ESWC Metz this team will now have to face some of Europe’s finest, and it’s in their hands to show us whether the spider traps their opponents or be caught in the web which they spun.
Player to watch: Treatz. Ironically or not, the Swedish support is a treat to watch, and a threat to their enemies: his timely roams make him look like a magician, and every time Gentside attempts for a solokill or are about to get caught, he pops in from nowhere, turning the tides of the skirmish with his uncanny peeling abilities. Due to him often being the primary engager or peeler, Treatz’s champion pool is one to keep an eye out for. Favouring Rakan, Leona, Alistar, Gragas, Braum, Galio (yes, he has played Galio support) and surprisingly Soraka, teams who face Gentside will have a headache either way in draft and in game.
Germany, Austria and Switzerland — Premier Tour: Euronics Gaming and Mousesports
Euronics Gaming are way more than unique, and German fans know very well. A team built on the two famous streamers NoWay4u and Broeki, they relentlessly dominated the competitive split; not only that: they did so while scrimming less than other teams and improvising picks and compositions in clutch matches. Despite that, their style is so specific and far from the meta that no other team even managed to get close to their level: we like to call it “The Gustav Gun Style” (only difference is they actually get to use it).
It usually consists of a big meaty tank in Ventair’s hands to take the brunt of the damage or initiate, then Broeki and NoWay4u let it rain with their long-range arsenal of Xerath, Ziggs, Ezreal, Vel’Koz, Corki, Jhin you name it and they have it. Because of their odd style and champion pools Euronics Gaming have some of the most unique drafts, champions picks and compositions coming into the EU Masters. And they do this regardless of the current meta.
To make their unique strategy work, Euronics play one of the slowest and safest early games of all teams… except for the element of risk undertaken by Agurin, the true oddball, who plays incredibly aggressive to set up their midgame plays. Their style is usually defensive and reactive, waiting for the lategame powerspikes to set up their relentless sieges, prefering to fight and skirmish during or after the midgame. Only sometimes they overextend and get punished for it, especially after some of Agurin’s overly optimistic engages. If last split German fans left EU Masters with a bitter taste, do not worry again: the Gustav Gun is loaded and ready to fire.
Player to Watch: Pandar. After watching some replays of their games, a puzzled German fan inquired: “Are you sure you want to put Pandar as their player to watch?”. The botlane of Broeki and Pandar struggled a lot at the start of the season, but as they built experience they turned into a solid couple. Pandar’s game sense is very keen, roaming at the right moment instead of NoWay4u and peeling savantly for his backline. Every gun needs its artificer to make sure it works, and he’s the man for this task.
Play-In: Mousesports’s style is less easy to define compared to their teutonic companions. Adhering to a slower playstyle than most European teams participating, Mouz tries to swim upstream by being proactive early, forcing unfavourable trades and taking control of neutral objectives as well as the enemy jungle.
One of the biggest strengths of the team is the duo of rotating junglers: Inspired and Lamabear can apply pressure to all lanes and tag-team to take the upper hand in a long series. Specifically, Inspired brings more aggressive early plays while Lamabear’s speciality lies in clearer communication and more decisive calls. Gistick is key to their plans as he prefers to help his jungler and/or midlaner during roams ensuring they outnumber the opponents and kill them or prevent getting jumped on.
Mouz’s style would be described as standard and safe, so the hardest challenge for Mousesports will be working on refining their own style to face teams with more distinct playstyles.
Player to watch: Jenax. While admittedly a very inconsistent player, Jenax doesn’t like to sit on his behind and wait for an opportunity to come to him. If there is a chance he can kill someone but he dies himself, you can be sure he’s going for it. He’s made for the plays and likes to be aggressive, and his champions (Talon, Ahri, Zoe, Aatrox, Sion even) enable him to make his enemies disappear. Or himself, depending on the day!
Nordics — Nordic Championship: Team Atlantis (Denmark) and Ninjas in Pyjamas (Sweden)
Team Atlantis has a complicated relationship with junglers. After little success in EU Masters Spring, the team rebuilt completely after Aesthetic’s departure. Taking his mantle was Kronos, from rival Swedish team PPK, who was a core piece in the team’s alchemy together with veteran botlane of P1noy and Wendelbo. Another dominating split culminated in a hard fought victory against NiP, also thanks to the efforts of Spanish midlaner Lvsyan.
Everything revolves around the botlane for Atlantis, but in a different way than most teams: if the usual approach would be to gank or dive the enemy duo lane repeatedly, the Swedish representatives prefer to pressure the sololanes and invading repeatedly. This way the botlane is completely isolated and P1noy and Wendelbo can freely 2v2. Moreover, Darlik seems to be an unflinching toplaner, capable of tanking through the hardest of matchups without giving up too much and still being able to roam and outpace the enemy laner.
Unfortunately, after the Grand Finals win Kronos left the team and Atlantis have big shoes to fill: his fast and pressuring style was instrumental in setting up the team’s early plays and rotations, which then prompted the game-ending snowballs. That’s why their choice ended up falling upon Shadow: the young Italian-Chinese prodigy checks all the boxes Atlantis need and then some. His flair of brashness and his arsenal of aggressive champions (Gragas, Xin Zhao, Nidalee, just to name a few) will definitely make up for the missing Kronos, it’s just a matter of adapting their playstyle to his flamboyant actions! But the main carries are still there, hungry to prove their worth and put the Nordics, a true cradle of skilled League players, up where they deserve to be.
Player to watch: P1noy. After all this time? Always. We bet you liked Caps’ midlane Vayne or Uzi’s playoff performances on the champion, but what if we told you that P1noy has been doing this whole split? The man still has it: never afraid to jump forward or to make high-risk, high-reward plays, the Danish ADC incarnates the team’s playstyle: either start well and pop off or overcommit and die. Which of the two will show up?
Play-In: Ninjas in Pyjamas return to the EU Masters, this time not by being gifted a spot but earning it through a season of consistent play. An old and storied organisation, most fans will remember their many attempts over the years to acquire consistent rosters but ultimately disbanding. Despite all this the Ninjas are back, and they have a lot to prove.
Their playstyle relies a lot on Maxi, the relentlessly aggressive jungler, who likes to target the enemy sololanes to put all the team’s money on midlaner Larssen and toplaner Doxy. Specifically, Doxy is the honorary guest during NiP’s drafts: the team prefers having him on either a power pick or a comfort champion such as Aatrox or Kennen, since succeeding on his splitpush-focused picks is key to their victory. What hurts them, though, is not always being able to plan their early game well enough to ensure him a safe lane and if Doxy receives too many visits from the enemy jungler or midlaner, it’s hard for him to come back. ADC XDSmiley also tends to misposition quite frequently, often forcing his teammates to concede objectives and tempo, but given time and resources he has proven he is effective at his role at cleaning up for the later teamfights. He would enjoy more stability from his support Hiiva, which in turn offers him very unpredictable plays, some effective and some… not really.
But despite some flaws, the Ninjas know how to punish mistakes and once they secure a solid advantage they can turn it into a win thanks to the unstoppable Doxy and Larssen teamfighting. If the adventure in the LCS hasn’t been fruitful in 2017, Ninjas in Pyjamas are still set on building a legacy — and it all starts here.
Player to watch: Larssen. The young Swedish midlaner has shown his prowess in LCS under H2K’s banner and guess what: he’s ready to pop off again. If provided the necessary resources, the man can straight up carry games on his Vladimir and we all want to see NiP focus more towards setting him up. Beware his pocket pick Kassadin and Fizz too, many a opponent has suffered from it! In a region of great midlaners and opponents, Larssen could be what makes the Ninjas stand out.
Poland — ESL Mistrzostwa Polski: Illuminar Gaming and Szata Maga+6
Illuminar Gaming have very big shoes to fill. EU Masters fans will fondly remember their less than stellar group stage performance to a remarkable run to the Finals, eventually finishing 2nd place to an impressive Origen. Now with Origen out of sight, you would think they’re next in line to wear the EU Masters crown.
Unfortunately, things are not looking quite as hopeful for last split’s finalists, since their main pillar Kikis left the team for Vitality and replacing him is the rookie Shlatan. Shlatan politely speaking is definitely not Kikis. The reason why Illuminar tend to play pretty safe early is also because stylistically, Shaltan acts more like a ‘lane guardian’ in comparison to his more aggressive predecessor. This has resulted in some of Shaltan’s occasional aggression being hard countered by more experienced opponents. Fortunately for the young jungler, the famous duo of IceBeasto (and more rarely Delord) pick up the slack for him and roam to Sebekx’s lane to provide much needed assistance. Another wildcard, in all possible ways, is the veteran ADC Woolite. Viewers familiar with him know his plays are definitely polarizing, either being clutch and saving the game in dramatic fashion or just jumping to his own death. To prevent this from happening but also to enable him, Illuminar puts him on scaling mobile ADCs such as Tristana or Kai’Sa and make sure the enemy never visits the botlane, Delord sticking close to protect him on Braum or Alistar.
When games go down the wire, the team can still resort to their better lategame teamfighting, which saved them multiple times even in dire situations. If patience is a virtue then Illuminar has it in spades, and they are ready to pounce when they smell blood. The team as a whole place a lot of trust on the individual skill and experience of their members, and stepping in EU Master’s territory they will need it. With so much expectation riding on them, will Illuminar surprise once more to challenge for the crown or fall hard with the loss of Kikis’s presence?
Player to watch: IceBeasto. Already making a case for the best toplaner out of LCS in Spring EU Masters, the so-called “Polish Mini-csacsi” is not only ready to dominate the northern side of the Rift but literally take up the duties of his jungler by snowballing midlane. And before you ask why he has that nickname… just wait for him to bust out his Poppy.
Play-In: Szata Maga+6 does not look like a Polish team. Actually, taking away the nametags, you couldn’t tell them apart from an NA team: hence the nickname “TSM+6”. What inspired us to think of this description is jungler T4nky’s fixation on the midlane, where he looks to gank repeatedly to set up Roison for success. In exchange, Roison will obliterate his lane opponent and then proceed to snowball other lanes and obliterate them too. Quite a simple plan, right? It helps when Szata Maga as a team likes to skirmish and pressure their opponents in the early/mid game as much as possible. Their real issue however lies in the botlane, where Defles and Erdot tend to do alright early on but struggle to hold their own later and require other lanes to win as hard as possible or fail to make an impact as the game goes on. However the Play-ins for the EU Masters showed a different side of Defles, especially when he got his hands on Ezreal and even Tristana. It’ll remain to be seen how good he is when he faces even tougher opposition in the Main Event.
Like Illuminar, Szata Maga has also lost 2 members from the time they qualified for the EU Masters in May. Losing their Jungler Inspired to German powerhouse Mousesports and ADC Puki Style to Polish rivals Pompa Team. As such, they are heavily reliant on their solo lanes, and this includes their top laner Agresivoo (wonder where he got the name from). Preferring to play carries, Agresivoo is an aggressive -surprise- laner who tries to draw as much pressure as possible. Given time and resources, the toplaner has also shown he can be an incredible playmaker for the team (watch out for his Jarvan IV!).
As with our moniker for them, team “T4nky Solo Mid”’s story goes on, because most (if not all) the action that the team wants to happen is centered around the midlane: if it’s elsewhere, they disengage or play much less confidently unless Roison comes up big with his usual prodigious roams. Szata Maga also have shown resilience and patience similar to Illuminar: lategame teamfights, as is with their rivals and most NA teams, are always an ace up their sleeve: even if the early and midgame goes horribly wrong, they can always hope to turn it around with a well-timed brawl… provided it’s taking place in the midlane!
Player to watch: Roison. The centerpiece of the team. Roison has a lot of his team’s responsibilities on his shoulder, much like a Polish Bjergsen. If he wins his lane, he will never allow the enemy midlaner to reconnect again, forcing him back or to the graveyard every time possible before roaming and impacting toplane and then botlane. Even if he doesn’t get ahead early, you can be sure he’ll be roaming with T4nker and Agresivoo later on. Fear his Vladimir: if he’s allowed to dive and have multi-target damage abilities, he’s going to be a threat for the whole game.
Spain — Superliga Orange: MAD Lions and Vodafone Giants
MAD Lions are starting right where they left off. Huge favourites to win the Spring edition of the EU Masters, Origen got in their way and they had their run sadly postponed. A mediocre regular season in the Superliga meant they had to face first place and national rivals Movistar Riders, which took the defending champions five games to defeat. After that, the Grand Finals against Vodafone Giants was just a formality to clinch first place.
With their strong early game as their signature, Lions like to get a headstart and control the game right from the beginning, transitioning to the most solid mid game out of all teams in the competition thus far. Patient predators they are, Lions don’t instantly kill their prey but prefer slow and scaling compositions that enable their ADC Crownshot to reach peak potential. The only warning flag that the Spanish kings need to pay attention to is focus: from time to time they lose track of their teamfighting plan and end up forcing or even conceding unnecessary kills and advantages to the enemy team.
And let’s not forget the true veterans of the squad: toplaner Werlyb -and his signature Jax- along with coach Araneae are the leaders of the most successful team in Spain. The Lions now roar loud and clear, their message deafening. They are here for the EU Masters trophy and will not be denied till they can grasp it in their claws.
Player to watch: The spine of the team is the Polish jungler Selfmade, who really is the mastermind and chessmaster of Lions’ early plays. His carefully planned pathing leads him always in the perfect place at the perfect moment and when Lions are on a roll, one single gank from Selfmade can decide the game: Vodafone Giants know that very well.
Play-In: Vodafone Giants qualified off of a relatively fortunate turn of events: they ended up in the opposite bracket of MAD Lions and Movistar Riders. They still had to fight through thick and thin, since KIYF Esports gave them a very hard time, and in the end fell in the Grand Finals.
Giants’ style is quite different from the majority of the teams: they seem very inclined to play around their star toplaner Yoppa, who can very well carry games on his own, but not always to a good extent. It can happen that both his jungler Razork and midlaner Kashtelan tunnel too much towards the north side and end up disregarding the botlane or their own lane. But their best moments are indeed the teamfights: Giants love teamfighting, even when they’re behind, and sometimes risky engages pay off and net them unexpected wins. Will it be enough to show they deserve to be on the spotlight instead of the fan-loved Movistar Riders?
Player to watch: Deadly. No name was chosen more wisely: the young brit is indeed deadly, half of the times for his enemies and the other half for his team. Capable of huge mechanical outplays, he is also quite prone to mispositioning and often costs his team important objectives. Which side of Deadly will we see at the EU Masters?
United Kingdom and Ireland — Forge of Champions: Misfits Academy and Enclave Gaming
Is the EU Masters coming home? Not if you ask the Misfits Academy coaches whom I quote from the finals against Diabolus Esports; he said: “I dunno but, we’re bad, they’re bad but they are even worse”. Oh dearie me. The UK faithful are certainly not amused, especially last split where Misfits Academy exited -or ‘Brexited’- the tournament just after making it out of groups against the Balkan team KlikTech. But guys you might say, this is the UK’s number 1 team! How can this be all doom and gloom already? Is there no redeeming Her Majesty’s finest?
Truth be told Misfits Academy are not a bad team. They have the same members -and Head Coach Zen- from the last EU Masters who are no doubt hungry to make a mark. With an incredibly fast, bloody and high tempo early game, one can be forgiven if he/she thinks they are watching another league. A unique team who can play standard meta picks or run a full squishy damage comp and have all 5 members take turns to carry, their strong drafting allows the team to run multiple strategies, making Misfits Academy a difficult opponent to plan against.
According to Alphari, the best toplaner not in LCS is a UK resident going by the name of Shikari. And he sure did show why: during the Grand Finals he was racking up solokills left and right against former LCS top laner Flaxxish. However, the team usually plays around the flamboyant botlane of Chrisberg and Prosfair. The unlikely duo often shows up big time and can outskill anyone on the Rift…or be a pressure point for the opponents. That’s where Afflict comes to play: his clutch interventions, driven by his uncanny sense of urgency, save his laners with timely counterganks and clutch objective steals. And yet for all their prowess, the bunny overlords tend to be slightly slow on map movements when it doesn’t concern fighting, especially when it comes to objectives like Baron around the mid to late game. More than once have they suffered from their own indecisive plays in that period and conceding what was once a clear lead.
To describe their style, here’s a thought: Misfits are bunnies. Bunnies are animals. Who would you bet on for a good showing of “Animal Style”? In the land of mythical beasts and legends, Misfits Academy reign supreme. Will they finally live up to expectations and bring it home for the lads and lasses, or will the sun tragically set once again on the Misfits Empire?
Player to watch: Special. We know you expect the starpower, the 1v9, the solokiller, the new Caps. Instead, Special is just a rock. But not just any rock…think “Rock of Gibraltar” Rock. Whether he’s snowballing or turtling, playing aggressive or disengaging, he just does it in the most solid way possible. He rarely oversteps his boundaries or surrender to the “Animal Style” that Misfits Academy bring to the table. Despite his discontinued time with the roster (he took a long pause halfway through the Summer Split), he seems just to be ready to be a plug-and-play midlaner for the team. When everything else fails, he doesn’t. Oh, and let’s not forget his Yasuo: he’s the only Yasuo player anyone would want in their team.
Play-In: Ah, Enclave Gaming. By far the most puzzling team we’ve encountered and even after many vod reviews, back and forth discussions, none of us have managed to quite figure them out. Enclave were one of the stronger teams in FoC this split and made 3 Grand Finals out of 4 mandatory circuit tournaments, even winning one over UK powerhouse exceL eSports and taking first place in the UK circuit. Yet they got exposed and unceremoniously dismantled at the FoC Grand Finals event last week and had to settle with a place in Play-Ins. How did this happen?
Enclave in general resembles a glass cannon. They tend to have high damage compositions and skirmish often to dish it out. But more often than not, this team have issues with counter engage and fighting when it isn’t them who started it. Most games start with jungler Munckizz planning smart ganks on the lane that has the highest chance to carry, toplaner Rift is often the recipient of this early on as he likes to play champions who have a lot of damage or bully the lane such as Darius. If enabled Rift has shown he can wear the primary carry pants on the team. Eren, their midlaner, will hold down the fort and gain advantages through better farming no matter the matchup, comfortable taking the fight to his opponent on either assassins or mages. Despite their good lane setups from early planning,this falls apart in the midgame: both Munckizz and Eren have notorious tendencies to become overaggressive, disrespecting enemy positioning or important cooldowns, and overdive resulting in their deaths. The bot lane of Enclave is usually conservative and wants to scale, Bendy tends to struggle with his positioning during skirmishes and support Hadow -who plays better on tanky engage supports- needs to delay his warding duties to assist him.
But if the team hasn’t already surrendered to their midgame nightmares, they somehow find a way to come back through hard splitpushing: sending Eren or/and Rift in a different lane to push with impunity. They do have a tendency to get caught but for them it’s a small price to pay to gain map pressure. To us, it seems that Enclave is torn between two choices at all times: they pick scaling compositions, but then they tend to fight too much during the midgame. If Enclave can solve their own duality puzzle, they will be able to compete at their best.
Player to watch: Eren. If you covered the nametags, you would mistake him for Exileh from Unicorns of Love. He usually is the main carry and Enclave Gaming seem to lose whatever they attempt to do if he’s missing. Most times he will earn a greater advantage (a solokill, a tower, an inhibitor) or when he groups it’s up to him to make the clutch play. Often overaggressive, he plays on the edge and constantly looks for outplays: if he fails, Enclave fail; if he succeed, Enclave does as well. It doesn’t always work out, but when times are the bleakest Eren will try to shine the brightest.
Baltics — Baltic Esports League: Turing Esports
Turing Esports couldn’t be better than this. Seriously: the team was named “Could Be Better” until August, but now they aren’t anymore, after being acquired by Turing Esports! With a close, hard-fought victory over Latvian team Escort P9 (and in my opinion one of the best Bo5s among regional leagues, together with Spain), the Lithuanian revamped roster looks to represent their country again under the banner of the leader toplaner ChosenOne.
With their mechanically focused and chaotic early game driven by crazy and reckless jungler Eckas, they’re likely to throw a wrench in more than one team’s plans. Favouring scaling picks for the main carries, this doesn’t stop Turing from looking for skirmishes, solokills and aggressive plays, but always shying away from dives. Truly representing the “animal style”, Turing also heavily relies on chaos: when this doesn’t happen they either bleed out or attempt for desperate plays, trying to bring the game back into the wildness where they excel.
Player to watch: Zty. I know little of the Lithuanian language, but if I had to guess a translation for “coinflip” I think it would Zty. The young midlaner really likes taking solo actions and often plays a selfish game (but he’s not Estonian!). This can either lead to impressive solokills, splitpushes and escapes…or getting caught red-handed in a sidelane! Special mention to his Azir: when on the Emperor of Shurima, Zty turns into a real menace that nobody should underestimate.
Benelux — Benelux Premier League: Team Echo Zulu
The champions of the newly formed BPL Echo Zulu had a path to the Grand Finals -and win- rather much like their acronym: EZ. This is not discrediting their opposition, but instead a testament to how dominant Echo Zulu looked in their circuit. Of the 7 games played for the semis and grand finals, only 1 game slightly exceeded 35 minutes in length. Echo Zulu loves driving up the tempo to the n-th degree especially when they know they are in the driver’s seat.
This doesn’t mean Echo Zulu are stupidly aggressive. Utilising calculated aggression throughout the game to pressure lanes and force mistakes, they prey and collapse very quickly upon their foes. All the laners in the team are very strong individually and are almost ‘Alpha’ in their laning mentality. This is especially true for top laner Alois, who can play both tanks and carries but really likes lanes bullies like Darius. Jungler Poeza personifies the team’s quick and bloody style by utilising mobile picks such as Trundle or Skarner to punish lanes or capitalise on that greedy sidelane splitpusher. Chapanya -no, not that Chapanya- is the rock of the team, capable of playing aggressive champions such as Ahri/Akali or sitting back with his Azir.
Despite being a relatively new roster, the main strength of Echo Zulu is their decisiveness. They always have a plan, they know what do next and they do it very quickly. However, this is also their weakness as the way they execute tends to be: we want what we want now. This team has a bad tendency sometimes to tunnel vision on what they want, forgetting important cooldowns such as teleport. After their dominant run through the BPL, Echo Zulu remain untested as they head into the EU Masters for the first time. Will they be the ones surprising and typing EZ at the end, or will it be their foes?
Player to watch: Dommy. Ever had that solo queue game where the enemy support is just everywhere, takes kills, protects his carries and just outrights annoy the heck of your team? That’s Dommy. Playing Braum or Alistar, Dommy tends to roam along with Poeza or Chapanya and appear at the worst moments for his enemies, while still arriving back in timely fashion to protect his allies and pull off big engages in teamfights. All in a day’s work for the Echo Zulu support. An aggressive laner, he doesn’t mind taking the occasional kill for his effort to assert his dominance and show his opponent who’s the boss in famed Supportal Combat.
Czech Republic and Slovakia — Hitpoint Masters: eSuba
The defending champions of the Hitpoints Masters once again assert their dominance at the highest level of their circuit, ready to take revenge in the EU Masters. Czech and Slovakian fans alike will remember the heartache of eSuba disappointingly getting eliminated in a best of one in Spring. Here is the good news however: this time eSuba are getting directly seeded into the Main Event!
A patient team overall, eSuba’s greatest asset is adapting to the pace of the game and tailoring it to suit their game plan (or a game plan to suit the pace). Lose towers and objectives early? Sure. High tempo game? No problem! They will bank on some other strength in their composition, which is usually their skirmishing and teamfighting. Central to this is Robocop, or as we like to call him, the Czech Dyrus. He is mostly put on matchups where he will usually lose and receive a lot of pressure but still comes out alright after the laning phase, his champions usually contributing massively later on. Although, more often than not, this means usually eSuba lose their top turret quite quickly. With their reliable top lane, the Czech powerhouse can also rely on their nitro fueled jungler Sawyor for some much needed oomph. Favouring strong, aggressive dueling champions like Olaf and his famous Lee Sin, Sawyor times his ganks very well and chooses his invades carefully but never shying away from a good scrap! If not babysitting Nardeus, support Kamilius can be seen roaming together with Sawyor, ready to pounce with his big engages.
eSuba this time around has a trick up their sleeves, which is the rotating midlaners of xTyLk and Random. Both are very solid midlaners in their own right, capable of playing a large amount of champions and stepping up as the primary or secondary carries. xTyLk looks to be the more consistent and slightly more conservative of the two and Random is the more explosive playmaker, looking to fight his opponent face-on. With hopes of redemption within their grasp, eSuba is entering the competition on an all-time high and we think this smart team will definitely be one to keep a keen eye on.
Player to watch: Nardeus. The Ace of eSuba, usually heavily targeted by opponents and with good reason. Nardeus is the main carry on eSuba and if left alone with Kamilius, the botlane duo are known to hold up against even the toughest matchups and turn it on its head. A very well rounded marksman, he can play safe or go ham when his team needs him to most, consistently providing excellent DPS and obliterating his foes during even the most chaotic of teamfights.
Greece and Cyprus — LoL Greek Championship: Panathinaikos AC eSports
A household name in Greece and one of the most successful football clubs locally, Panathinaikos AC eSports finally managed to take a small step towards honouring the name of their historical club. Formed in 2016, before entering the LGC Panathinaikos competed in the EBL (Esports Balkan League) until 2018, trading their spot to the LGC with Hungarian team Rift Esports. Panathinaikos then went on to win the Grand Finals in their first season, representing Greece and Cyprus as their sole seed in the EU Masters.
Hailing from the Balkans initially, it seems Panathinaikos has brought a lot of that flair from the region and injected it hard within their own circuit. If the Greek circuit is a circus, then Panathinaikos is the ringmaster. Relying on their star duo in the midlane and in the jungle to dictate the game, this team tends to set up traditionally with a strong, reliable tank top and a safe bottom lane to ensure consistent DPS during midgame/lategame skirmishes and fights. After that, a healthy dose of the Balkans is mixed in it, and this is none more evident with their jungler Dom1nant. Extremely aggressive, almost to a fault, his only purpose in life seems to involve making his counterpart devoid of one. His partner in crime is the solid Paris in the midlane. Panathinaikos often try to set Paris up for success as the main carry due to his incredible laning and teamfighting prowess, even when behind. As such he is often the big target for enemies. Luckily for him, Dom1nant and support Raxxo often roam to his lane and contain the chaos. Rock in the top Delitto usually plays tanks but with Urgot in the meta the team trusts him to disrupt and sow terror with it. However when there is miscommunication in their engages or fights, Delitto tends to be left out to dry, often going too deep to disengage.
Other than their love for a good scrap, Panathinaikos then transitions into the midgame by applying slow, controlled pressure to choke their opponents and forcing them to fight. Drafting comps which allow them to go hard, Panathinaikos play with no fear and will gladly drag you down into the mud with them. Newcomers to esports, newcomers to Greece and newcomers to the EU Masters: how far can Panathinaikos ascend up their proverbial Mount Olympus?
Player to watch: Dom1nant. Plato (Greek Philosopher) once said, “courage is knowing what not to fear”. And the star jungler of Panathinaikos fears nothing. Before he was a jungler, Dom1nant played as a midlaner and an ADC, so he knows the limits of his prey. His aggression is both the main strength of the team and its weakness. Often picks dueling bruisers like his notorious Olaf, he will gank, invade and seek out the enemy junglers to murder. Complementing his style are often extremely aggressive builds, like attackspeed AD Trundle among others, which can lead Panathinaikos to their landslide victories or some harsh defeats. One thing is for sure, regardless of who he faces, Dom1nant won’t shy away from living up to his name.
Italy — PG Nationals Predator: OutPlayed
After years of standing in the shadow of Team Forge, 2018 is the breakout year for Outplayed: a stunning Spring Split comes up just short in the Finals, handing Forge the ticket to the first EU Masters. But following a mediocre Summer Split, they stepped up to the challenge and managed to win a back to back Finals in Lega Prima, ESL Italia and ultimately PG Nationals Summer, making a good case for us to call them “The Best in the Boot”.
Early game is the name of the festival when OutPlayed are on the rift: drafting strong lanes for midlaner DrMatt and Polish ADC Bullet enables jungler Demon to set the tempo and make the enemy jungle his own. Timeless veterans of the country, Demon, DrMatt and support Brizz have a proven alchemy of attacking the enemy jungler: every time Demon steps over the river, the two lanes have his back. This sets up a terrifying early game, where enemy lanes are forced to either win hard or surrender to jungle pressure. Brizz in particular is a true artist of making opponents look like fools: his escapist skills somehow all him to survive even after setting up engages on the edge of the impossible. His Rakan is ready to charm you and should he need to carry, his pocket Brand will incinerate you.
But, truth to be told, they also have weaknesses: when their A plan doesn’t come to fruition they attempt to force unnecessary skirmishes or fight to turn the tides of the game, and DrMatt especially puts himself in risky spots by shooting for desperate plays. Compared to other nations, OP are quite slow in their playstyle, but if nothing opposes their plans they never hesitate to press their advantage. For the first time since their inception, OP steps into the European Arena. Whether they play to their namesake or have it used against them, Outplayed are more than willing to play with their hearts on their sleeves with the statement “we are here to stay, so enjoy it!”.
Player to watch: WeiZor. It has been said almost every time OP played: the Swedish toplaner is just 16 years old. This explains some of his shakiness during regular season matches, but he knows what to do in clutch matches, especially when on his comfort picks of Poppy and Kled: just watch him CHAAAAARGE!!!! through his enemies!
Portugal — Moche LPLOL: For the Win Esports
For the Win managed to do what no other Portuguese team did before: kicking K1ck in the shins to assert supremacy in their nation. And they did that by embracing what facing the Atlantic Ocean can give you: diving. FTW are not reckless divers though. They plan it carefully, catch their enemies mid-rotation in their own jungle and then proceed to zone enemies off towers and objectives. But if they can pick a kill or two, you can be sure they will go for it: they seem to always know exactly how far they can go.
Pillar of this strategy is the Ukrainian jungler Reativo, who moves gracefully around the map and focuses on tracking enemy jungler and setting up vision. His attention hovers around mid, to enable Xaky and then bring his friend to the sidelanes where they can start their signature diving expeditions. Their comfort picks are also designed to maximize diving efficiency: whether it’s Aatrox, Galio, Zac or Rek’Sai, they always make sure no enemy feels safe even when they are hugging their structures. And this is not forgetting the legendary Heimerdinger support from Plasma in the Grand Finals!
It’s all fine and dandy for FTW… until lategame approaches. Once all outer turrets crumble, the Portuguese squad at times look almost clueless, often overextending or resorting to desperate plays around Baron to crack the base. Most of their teamfights past the 25 minute mark look scattered and unfocused, dragging already won games unnecessarily longer. If they can transition this uncanny precision in executing early dives and outrotating opponents to the late game (their most troubling phase), FTW could potentially challenge even the highest rated teams.
Player to watch: Lastwolf. If lategame is one of FTW’s dark moments, Lastwolf is the shining light. Banking on scaling ADCs like Kai’Sa and Tristana (sometimes Lucian), he is the best performer in FTW’s chaotic endgame fights. Despite some struggling in lane, his teammates set him up by diving his lane and he repays in kind by being extremely hard to kill, showing great skill at kiting and delivering the much needed killing blow.