The LEC Summer Split has concluded. With G2 Esports and Fnatic (FNC) on top, the remaining six teams in Europe have begun their climb to challenge for the trophy. For the four teams that have reached playoffs in the lower bracket, however, the road ahead is long and difficult. The LEC is maintaining the playoff bracket system from the 2019 Spring Split and keeping the two-bracket system.
The first round of the playoffs will feature Splyce (SPY) playing against Rogue (RGE) and FC Shalke 04 (S04) playing against Vitality (VIT) on the 23rd and 24th of August, respectively. The winners of these games will then play against each other in Game 1 of Round 2 on August 30th. The upper bracket, G2 and FNC, will play against each other in Game 2 of Round 2 on the 31st. The winner of Game 1 will then play against the loser of Game 2 in the Semifinals held on September 7th. The winner of the Semifinals will later play against the winner of Game 2 in Round 2 the next day for the Finals.
The top teams have reached peak form, while the bottom teams are coming in struggling. G2 has looked dominant for the past year, FNC has consistently been improving since Spring Split, and SPY are finally challenging above the fourth-place spot. S04 and RGE are inexperienced, while VIT is inconsistent. Coming into playoffs, there is a visible difference between teams in contention for the title and the organizations that will need to prove themselves.
The Easy Winners
Of the top three teams, only one team dropped more than a single game to S04, RGE and VIT. That team is surprisingly G2. G2 have been unstoppable this entire year. Coming off their win at MSI, they have maintained a 15-3 record for the Summer Split. G2 has been pressing teams into the dirt, breaking multiple records with their nonstop aggressive play during the split. The only sign of weakness came from their basic playstyle. Because of their tendency to rotate and recall constantly, if you can find their rotation paths, you can catch them out of position when they’re separated.
By exploiting this earlier in the season, FNC showed G2 isn’t unstoppable and took them down. FNC has always been a top tier and respected team in the LEC. They have once again demonstrated their ability to foster talent, making Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek a star player like they did with Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau and Rasmus “Caps” Borregaard Winther before him. With strong players that they can play through in every lane, there are very few weaknesses other teams can target to find wins. But the most significant crack in the armor comes from the inconsistency of Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov. Hylissang is one of the best supports in Europe and even the world. But that's only when he’s playing on form. When he isn’t on form, he gets caught out constantly and provides opportunities for the enemy team to gain advantages.
The Middle of the Pack
Joining the two most historically dominant teams in the upper echelon of the playoffs, Splyce has evolved their play to the next level. Prior to recent times, SPY has been a late-game team that stalls until they can win. Now, they have given their players the tools to fight early and play as aggressively as the rest of Europe. Marek “Humanoid” Brázda has grown from a Lissandra locked player to one of the best mid laners in Europe. This shift in playstyle and growth in their mid laner has changed SPY from the perennially fourth-place team to an actual competitor for first. Unfortunately, this latest version of Splyce hasn’t proven their strength in high-pressure situations and has fallen short when they don’t get an early advantage.
The bottom three teams are in a tough position. They’ve each taken at least one game off the top 3, but the circumstances make all of those wins questionable in value. S04 is the only team that took two games. While they’re still big-time underdogs, S04 has shown their ability to play fast games. The strength of S04 comes from their jungler. Kim “Trick” Gang-yun has looked phenomenal all split. To pull off the victory, S04 will need to use their high tempo ganking jungler to snowball and secure leads throughout their games.
Inconsistency is Exploitable
Rogue is like S04 in their lack of experience. The current roster hasn’t even been together for an entire split, but they have clawed their way into playoffs. While RGE is good at piloting both traditional and more aggressive team comps, they are incapable of stopping plays. The weakness for RGE comes from the opponents they play against; they’re all proactive, but don’t lose all hope. The top laner Finn “Finn” Wiestål has proven his strength as a carry while playing aggressive picks such as Qiyana and Rumble. If they get the Finn ball rolling, they might be able to ride it further into playoffs.
Unlike the other two bottom teams, VIT has plenty of experience in playoffs, both as an organization and as a roster. Vitality has never missed a playoff because of the consistent highs that the team produces. There is rarely a situation where you can count out Vitality; they’re the team that started the comeback of the West in the 2018 Worlds, defeating both Royal Never Give Up and Gen G. But the problem that the team always runs into has stayed with them, Vitality is inconsistent. If they play on form, Vitality could likely make it to the Finals and challenge any team in playoffs. The much more likely outcome is they pull off a single impressive game before losing in the first round.
The first match of playoffs will be SPY against RGE. Splyce is likely to win the series quickly with a 3-0. For SPY to win, they will need to keep the tempo of the games high; they will need to force plays on RGE constantly until they crack under the pressure. If RGE wants a chance at winning, they will have to do so through the top lane, empowering Finn to carry the game. The second match will feature VIT vs S04. A rematch of the final regular Summer Split game of the two teams, Vitality will look for revenge for being forced into a tiebreaker. The victory of the set will be determined by the impact the Shalke jungler has on the game. S04 3-1 is the most likely outcome. This set is the most volatile and a VIT 3-2 is just as possible.
Regardless of the expectations, there is still a lot of uncertainty with these teams. They’ve had a week to prepare for their best of fives and every team can pull out pocket picks. Europe has taken off with unique styles for each team and playoffs is the first chance to see how these different playstyles interact — not in a single game, but when the teams have prepared for a best of five. To see these clashing styles, tune in for these series at 9 a.m. PST / 12 p.m. EST on August 23rd and at 8 a.m. PST / 11 p.m. EST on August 24th here on ESTNN TV.
Photos via LoL Esports and LoL Esports Flickr.