The League of Legends European region has been in a mournful mood following the performances of its representatives at the 2016 World Championship group stage. Odds are, there will be more grieving by the end of this week when the tournament resumes on Thursday.
The grief is particularly sharp because of the triumphs from only a year ago. The European region had two Worlds semifinalists in 2015, and some of its most vocal fans openly mocked North America's 0W-10L showing in Week 2 of that year's group stage. Fast forward to Oct. 3, and Europe's record is 1W-8L with things looking grimmer by the day.
While there once was EUphoria, EUlogy came in nearly unprompted. As the news of Europe's "demise" spread, some fans lashed out at their representatives while others attempted to embrace Wildcard team Albus NoX Luna from Russia as theirs to alleviate the pain.
In truth, these fans are undergoing a trial by grief, exhibiting its five classic stages.
Denial, anger and depression: G2 Esports
Fans are particularly outraged by G2 Esports because the team's failings hurt their pride. G2 took first place in the EU League Championship Series regular season and the playoffs, entering Worlds as EU's top seed. The tables have now turned in a big way. As a redditor framed it, "the strongest EU team heavily outclassed a Wildcard team" -- only the "wildcard" team wasn't Albus NoX Luna.
Has G2 Esports truly sunk lower than anyone could have expected? Not quite, but I am left wondering how a squad that lost a game to South Korea's ROX Tigers due to a poor Baron Nashor call proceeded to play and draft carelessly against Albus NoX Luna, then follow it up with poor map vision.
Despite having a chat with G2's Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez before the World Championship where he was not fully confident about his team's chances, I hadn't expected G2 to be in a 0W-3L position in such a group. There is a slim chance that G2 could pull off a reverse-Cloud9 circa 2015 and proceed to the bracket stage following a three-game (or four-game) winning streak, but one has to wonder if such a phenomenon is even possible considering the nature of its Week 1 losses.
"This Worlds is going to be an experience for [G2's] rookies to get all their ego issues, small mistakes, things that they don't think of, [and] stage experience," stated mithy, almost prophetically, a few days before the European LCS summer split finals. "This Worlds is going to give them a lot of experience. It's going make G2 grow into a strong team next year, but I'll be surprised if we get a good run in this World Championship."
As such, European fans ought to hope that Luka "PerkZ" Perkovic's jitters in the first week are a result of inexperience and lack of in-game polish, rather than the beginning of a mental block.
Measured hope and bargaining: H2k
There is still hope for H2k, and I would go as far as to say that its Week 1 showing was par for the course. In some ways, it has gone slightly better than initially predicted, and also slightly worse.
H2k is one game away from the leading squads in its group -- ahq eSports Club and EDward Gaming -- and the team may thank INTZ eSports for closing the gap between it and EDG. However, H2k has also showcased lackluster play at times, and a lack of awareness during others. Some might single out Oskar "VandeR" Bogdan for his initial mistake against EDG, but Konstantinos "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou, Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu and Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski also had their moments.
But H2k also showed that it was a contender for second place in the group, provided the players kept their nerves under control. Here's to hoping that they can save themselves (and Europe) from an embarrassing Worlds campaign (and from a full-blown EUlogy movement).
Despite Splyce's qualification for the 2016 World Championship, it was not the favorite to advance from groups unless it had a favorable draw. When it fell into Group D alongside high caliber teams like Team SoloMid, Samsung Galaxy and Royal Never Give Up, its fate was sealed on paper.
The main reason for these low expectations is Splyce's dearth of experience at the top of the League of Legends ecosystem; it had taken eighth place in the spring split regular season before its meteoric rise in the summer. Like many rookie squads in 2013, Splyce is undergoing a challenging rite of initiation at Worlds, notable other examples of which include the Flash Wolves (then named Gamania Bears), Lemondogs and Cloud9 in their first outings. The squads dominated their region for the most part but lacked exposure to international play, and only two of them have established themselves as fixtures year after year.
To Splyce's credit, it has performed as best as they could considering its opposition in the region. The organization's agenda going into 2017 is clear: stick together, dominate Europe and propel it upward much as the Flash Wolves did in 2014, and not like the Lemondogs who disbanded following their Worlds appearance.