Surprising departures, shocking arrivals, a team rebrand, and an influx of new blood to the league. Simply put, the offseason preluding the 2021 League of Legends European Championship (LEC) Spring Split has been one for the ages.
As the dust settles for the offseason and teams finalize their rosters and strategies prior to the start of the 2021 LEC Spring Split, each side will be accompanied by a certain storyline that will serve as a measuring stick for future performances.
Some will fight for the championships and a shot in the playoffs, others will flock to ascend the standings so they can escape the trenches of mediocrity. Every storyline will intermingle for the next seven weeks in the 2021 LEC Spring Split.
Here are the storylines each team in the LEC will conduct for the 2021 spring split, which will begin on January 22nd.
(Teams are ordered based on placement from the 2020 LEC summer split)
If there was ever a team that had the capacity of getting unanimously picked as the frontrunner for a major league, G2 surely fits that bill. The four-time defending European champions approach the 2021 season with the same fierce motivation that catapulted them as one of the world’s best League teams. Their star-studded and dominant lineup remains…star-studded.and dominant.
But though G2 continue their hunt of becoming the first World Champions to hail from the West since 2011, they took the extraordinary step of tweaking their roster by shipping off the long-standing captain and perennial legends of the game, Luka “Perkz” Perković, for Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, the best AD Carry that Europe has produced.
With the shocking move, the alleged disharmony in G2’s bottom lane that plagued them at the end of last year has been fixed, and with their pressing concerns for the offseason mended, all eyes are set on G2 as they will attempt to conquer everything that stands against them, be it in international or European play.
Much like Fnatic’s fiercest rivals, the 2021 offseason had been an era-altering time for the team as well. Not only did they let go their starting mid-laner Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek, they saw their greatest and transcendent son, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, jump ship to G2 and transform the latter overnight into a major international contender. It’s an unpleasant headache for Fnatic fans to withstand, but such unforeseen movements that include superstars are the case in the ever-dynamic League of Legends pro scene. There is nothing else to do in reflection than looking forward.
Fortunately for the team, they field a share of suitable replacements that will ensure their competitiveness for 2021. Fnatic brought in Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer from Cloud9 to man the mid-lane and ADC Elias “Upset” Lipp from Origen to perform with support and lane partner Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov at the bottom lane The rest of their core in Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau and Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek stays put for another year, so except for them to lead the front in the hunt for wrassling the LEC spring split title away from the defending champions.
Undoubtedly, 2020 was a watershed year for Rogue’s LEC squad. Not only did they crack first place in the LEC summer split regular season–a first time in the team’s history–they also booked a ticket to the World Championship, a shocking occurrence since it comes from a team that started its existence literally in the basement of the league.
To make things better, the team accomplished this with a first-class lineup that had four of them getting named to the LEC All-Pro Second Team last summer. For a team that never tasted a drop of success, to relish in the experience of being a winner, it’s only appropriate for them to yearn for more.
And to do that, they must rework their roster, to which they did in the offseason. Rogue bid farewell to top laner Finn “Finn” Wiestål and support Oskar “Vander” Bogdan and enlisted Andrei “Odoammne” Pascu from Schalke and Adrian “Trymbi” Trymbus from AGO ROGUE as their replacements. For the new members, they join Rogue after compiling strong performances during last summer. Odoamne was one of the members that spearheaded Schalke 04’s Miracle Run that had them go within one match win shy of qualifying for Worlds, whereas Trymbi blossomed in his short stint with AGO ROGUE, winning the summer Polish Superliga and European Masters.
Rogue was born in 2019 as a team battered in distress. They languished in last place before slowly growing in prominence with their amelioration by the addition of talented rookies and veterans. Soon enough, Rogue became one of the best squads in Europe. Though the team sputtered in Worlds 2020 during the group stage, they see themselves as ready to take the next step and fight for the LEC trophy–no, really. It’s only logical to consider when one looks at their historical trajectory, no?
All things considered, MAD Lions enjoyed a relatively successful 2020 season. In both LEC splits, they finished inside the Top 4 in the regular season and playoffs, and thanks to their collective performance, they qualified to Worlds as Europe’s fourth seed. However, near the end of the year, MAD suffered an irredeemable collapse where they lost first place to Rogue on the heels of a 1-3 regular season run and were eliminated from Worlds by losing to Turkey’s SuperMassive in a five-game series, becoming the first major region team to be eliminated in Play-Ins by a non-major region team.
In order to address their failures, MAD opted to replace their top-laner and jungler by signing a foreign import and a regional league starlet. For the top-lane, MAD signed Turkish player Irfan “Armut” Tükek, who was a part of the SuperMassive team that eliminated them from Worlds. As for the jungle, the team signed Javier “Elyoya” Prades, the young Spaniard who garnered split MVP honours from the Spanish regional league for Movistar Riders.
With these pairs each receiving their chance to grace Europe’s biggest stage, not to mention the presence of Marek “Humanoid” Brázda, Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság, and Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser in the lineup, MAD looks ready for their shot at redemption and continue challenging in the top half of the league.
The miracle boys! It’s still amazing to remember their unexpected run at the end of the summer split and not be mesmerized by it. From holding a 1-10 record at last place of the league, Schalke mounted a seven-game winning streak and made the playoffs via a tiebreaker against Excel Esports. Unfortunately for them, they failed to qualify for Worlds as they lost their second round lower bracket series to MAD Lions in four games during the playoffs.
Looking to capitalize on their momentum while stressing the importance of starting off at the right foot–the team went 7-22 in the regular season in spring and summer combined before their Miracle Run–Schalke signed players for top-lane and support. In the top, they nabbed Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik, an LCS champion who last played for TSM; and for support, Dino “LIMIT” Tot will play as the next starter.
Broken Blade will reunite with starting mid-laner Felix “Abedagge” Braun after four years of separation (they last played together with Mysterious Monkeys and Galatasaray of the TCL). LIMIT will switch to Schalke after playing for SK Gaming in 2020.
Both newcomers will be assisted by the likes of Abedagge, ADC Matúš “Neon” Jakubčík, and jungler Erberk “Gilius” Demir. Not looking to be dissuaded from the season’s outset, Schalke is eager to break out of their usual dormant form and perform as a cohesive team that they know they can become.
With the sour memory of a summer split that finished with a sixth-place finish still fresh in SK Gaming’s mind, the revitalization of the starting roster was stressed as their onus to fulfil for the offseason. And as expected, SK released four of their five starters at the beginning of the offseason, paving the way for a rebuild. The lone player who wasn’t transferred away from the team was Janik “Jenax” Bartels, the German mid-laner who switched to top-lane for SK after playing in mid-lane for his entire career.
To finalize SK’s rebuild, the organization signed a quartet of esteemed players including Kristian “TynX” Hansen, Ersin “Blue” Gören, Jean “Jezu” Massol, and Erik “Treatz” Wessén. Some have lingered within top leagues and achieved success, such as it was with Blue (TCL 2020 winter split champion with Fenerbahce) and Treatz (2020 LCS summer split champion as Team SoloMid’s substitute), whereas others have done the same in regional leagues, which includes Jezu, and TynX. That said, all referred players will have to synchronize and perform as the sort of team SK envisioned when the team signed them all for 2021.
The road to respectability despite having a rather green roster will be a difficult one to travel for SK, but they look fit to take the challenge in the upcoming spring split. The ceiling for them is not that high for them to reasonably fathom, but it’s not too low for them at the same time.
One of the teams that scratched the surface of playoffs but never quite succeeding in breaking through, Excel boasts a particular roster that is mixed with familiarity and peculiarity.
Along with the return of their star AD Carry Patrik “Patrik” Jírů, support Tore “Tore” Eilertsen, and top-laner Felix “Kryze” Hellström, Excel will deploy British jungler Daniel “Dan” Hockley and Czech mid-laner Paweł “Czekolad” Szczepanik in the LEC. For Dan and Czekolad, who had never performed on Europe’s main stage besides scarcely sitting on the bench, this is a chance for them to finally show themselves as those who belong in the limelight. After all, both have proven themselves as winners in their previous teams. Dan was a winner of the 2020 United Kingdom and Nordic League split championships whereas Czekolad was a member of AGO ROGUE’s domination of the Polish Superliga and European Masters.
Nevertheless, questions will hover whether the novice tandem will fare in an already stout field of mid-laners and junglers and if the team can relieve Patrik of his carrying duties compared to last season.
Taking the term “unorthodox” to another level, Misfits enter spring with a seven-man roster after suffering a lacklustre finish to the 2020 season. After finishing sixth in the spring split playoffs, Misfits floundered in the summer by going 7-11, which ultimately eliminated them Worlds contention at a tie for eighth place.
Much like some teams in the LEC, Misfits had their hands full during the offseason as they signed four players into their main roster to formalize their rebuild. They signed Vander from a Rogue team that just appeared in their first Worlds. Additionally, they promoted Tobiasz “Aggresivoo” Ciba and Vincent “Vetheo” Berrié from their Misfits Premier academy team to debut in the LEC. Rounding things out is the signing of Korean top-laner Shin “HiRit” Tae-min, who won the TCL 2020 winter split with Fenerbahce before foregoing the summer in free agency.
Contrary to the conventional method of slotting one person to a starting spot before the start of a given split, Misfits announced they will have the top-lane and support position up for grabs as two players in each role with competing against each other at a weekly basis. Aggresivoo and HiRit will squabble in top and Vander and denyk will vouch for support.
Misfits will see Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup return to the lineup as their starting ADC and Iván “Razork” Díaz for the jungle, but with the question of who will play alongside him persisting, one must wonder if the subsequent teammate camaraderie they’re hoping to achieve for the season will carry out as they foresaw. Having players jockey for a starting role week in and week out can only take a team so far before everything crashes down.
Despite living in the bottom half of the LEC standings for all of last season, Vitality has hints of promise for the future in their possession. Their gradual ascension to respectability can be attributed in large part to their youthful lineup of Duncan “Skeanz” Marquet, Aljoša “Milica” Kovandžić, Markos “Comp” Stamkopoulos, and Labros “Labrov” Papoutsakis. Most notably, in recognition for Vitality’s exemplary young core, Labrov was recognized as the Rookie of the Split for last summer.
As such, to stay in line with their youth rejuvenation, Vitality filled their top-lane vacancy by bringing in Mathias “Szygenda” Jensen, another alumnus of the AGO ROGUE squad, after they let go the team’s captain Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet early in the offseason. Considering Cabochard’s general decline in performance from 2020, it should be logically discerned that with Szygenda’s entrance, he would alleviate Vitality of their setbacks in the LEC.
Even so, this is the LEC, where the best players in the continent display their great skill in front of a large audience. Unlike the rest of Vitality who have acclimated to the bright lights of the LEC, Szygenda’s case is a slight cause of concern since he will debut in the professional scene this season. Add to that with the rest of the league readjusting themselves for the oncoming split, it will be interesting to see if Vitality’s improved maturity will help them move further up in the standings than what they have been accustomed to.
A new year, a new team, and a new brand to represent. Astralis finally appears in the LEC after rebranding from the Origen name for the 2021 season. In lieu of their transformation, the organization manifested a total change to its League squad. As a result, everyone in the starting lineup, save for mid-laner Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm, were allowed to pursue endeavours elsewhere.
What Astralis ended up signing as their replacements during the offseason to complement their mid-laner were esteemed veterans of the regional league scene. This included Nikolay “Zanzarah” Akatov, Matti “WhiteKnight” Sormunen, Jesper “Jeskla” Strömberg, and 2019 Mid-Season Invitational winner Hampus “promisq” Abrahamsson.
Although the squad contains a vast amount of cumulative experience, with some even competing in the EU LCS/LEC, it does bear mentioning that few have revelled in success at the main stage–besides Nukeduck who finished second in three different split playoffs. Besides promisq’s pair of LEC titles as a substitute for G2 in 2019, Jeskla appeared for Excel as the starting ADC for all of the same year. Meanwhile, WhiteKnight played for Unicorns of Love in the 2018 EU LCS spring and summer splits. Of those mentioned, all finished near or below the mid-table in their respective seasons.
Such is the way for Astralis. They have introduced themselves to the LEC with a crop of distinguished regional league veterans. It’s an experiment that is sceptical, prone, but brazen nonetheless. Of course, no one should be quick to discard a team like Astralis who’s head-strong about their devised lineup, but time will tell if their plan comes to fruition.
The 2021 LEC Spring Split is going to be an interesting one for sure.
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