As the confetti dropped at Hamburg in the European League of Legends Championship Series finals last spring, G2 Esports carried the trophy and claimed the European crown for the third time in a row. Other teams had tried to prevent that outcome, but they faltered one by one.
For the seven teams that are returning to the LCS summer split, the objective is clear: dethrone G2 Esports. Some teams may need minute adjustments -- or even stay put -- to contend against the kings of Europe, but other squads' problems might be dire enough, turning survival into their primary objective.
Whose got next on G2?
Team ROCCAT - get Pridestalker involved
Team ROCCAT (6-7 during the season) got next, but it missed the playoffs. Despite finishing the season with a six-series winning streak (including a 2-1 series victory against G2), its poor 0-7 record before the turnaround kept it out of the playoffs.
Sitting still would have been the best option, but the organization lost jungler Nubar "Maxlore" Sarafian during the offseason, putting a wrench in its ability to repeat the feat. If ROCCAT still has G2 in sights, its new jungler, Milo "Pridestalker" Wehnes, needs to set up his teammates during the laning phase no matter what the game plan requires. Pridestalker has proven during his stay in Misfits Academy (now Mysterious Monkeys) that he was receptive to feedback from teammates and from the coaching staff, but if his perception of the game misaligns with that of the squad, another 0-7 start may be in sights.
Unicorns of Love - cleaner execution
The Unicorns of Love faltered against G2 Esports in the EU LCS Spring finals. G2 showcased UoL's weaknesses in positioning during skirmishes as it separated the damage-dealing back line from the front line. However, UoL also displayed its ability to adjust mid-series, and the ability to execute a mid-game centric game plan against the best European mid-game team.
What it needs is cleaner execution from Samuel "Samux" Fernandez Fort (who has adapted to G2's flanking by being with his front line - a counter-intuitive yet safer option), and Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov, who has at times taken unnecessary risks while warding and/or team fighting, both of which boil down to better communication and improved in-game focus.
Fnatic - improved skirmishing
Fnatic had set its "beat G2" plan in motion upon parting ways with Nicholas "NicoThePico" Korsgaard, after Week 7 of the EU LCS last spring. The squad stopped thinking about ways to play the game "as optimally as possible," a matter that had caused it to play a style that was not fit for it. Instead, it has centered its play around lane dominance and skirmishing to set up for objectives. The plan may have failed in the spring split, but Fnatic has proven that it could work as they contended against G2, and wiped H2k-Gaming and Misfits out in faceoffs.
The next step for Fnatic is to follow UoL's footsteps: acquire experience with skirmishing and early-game decision-making through trial by error in scrimmage sessions and on stage. In that manner, they may pave a way for victory through the same team-fighting prowess that it displayed against Misfits. The squad's new coach, Dylan Falco, has a clear task: balance the all-out aggression with methodical mid-game play, without strictly enforcing the latter.
Misfits - less predictability
Misfits's rookie season ended in a fourth place finish; squads adapted to its predictable playstyle centered around strong laning and rotational play from its bottom lane, and teamfighting around Barney "Alphari" Morris and Lee "IgNar" Dong-geun. As soon as that happened, its ability to pave the way for IgNar's warding and team-wide rotational play was hamstrung. As such, the problem had been about getting there as well as overcoming the language barrier on Lee "KaKAO" Byung-kwon's side.
Misfits's signing of Nubar "Maxlore" Sarafian in KaKAO's stead greatly helps communication on that regard and broadens drafting possibilities, as Maxlore has played front line disruptors and carry junglers proficiently throughout his career. The signing is significant as it provides flexibility at the drafting stage, given that their most glaring weakness resided in their drafting, as far as denying core picks from other squads, and failing to set up (or safeguard) compositions that lean on Barney "Alphari" Morris's strengths as a front line disruptor.
H2k-Gaming - look back to move forward
What had been H2k's strongest point throughout the season had failed them during the playoffs. Gone was the methodical takeover despite shaky early game play, as well as Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski's ability to pave the way for satisfactory mid-game conditions. When Fnatic pressed the "SKIRMISH!" button, it had disabled H2k's ability to dictate the flow of the game.
If H2k is to contend, it must take a page out of its 2016 LCS summer split playbook: play around bot lane and improve communication there, as well as recognize metagame changes as they come. Sin "Nuclear" Jeong-hyeon and Choi "Chei" Sun-ho (146 kills and 391 assists combined, highest in the European LCS for a bot lane duo) are back, but the departure of Son "Stardust" Seok Hee from the coaching-interpreter role may hamper communication - a matter that H2k must address if it is to contend.
Splyce - bolster the laning phase
Splyce's strength in the 2016 LCS summer split was in its ability to handle the lane-swap meta, where objective takedowns took precedence over straightforward laning advantages, and where the transition to mid-game would happen seamlessly. However, as the meta switched to direct laning and confrontations, Splyce's lack of experience playing in a straight laning meta at the highest level showed. Some of their issues (regarding either communication or awareness of available cooldowns and the resources to use them) yielded kills and sizable advantages to opponents, preventing it from contending against the Unicorns of Love, H2k and, more importantly, Misfits.
As Splyce hit a wall in its progression, it parted ways with YamatoCannon. For their sake, one has to hope that Fayan "Gevous" Pertjis tends to the minutia of its early-game play, while preserving its ability to play efficiently in the mid-game stage. Otherwise, the change would have been for naught.
Team Vitality - clearer decision making
Team Vitality lacks the methodical approach to the game in the mid game that G2 has harnessed, and has repeatedly conceded games after securing strong early-game leads. The players' lack of direction has also shown in teamfights, as they relied on disorganized team-fighting to scrape by -- usually a recipe for disaster.
A good starting point would be to the refine decision-making past the mid game. Erlend "Nukeduck" Holm and Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet are particularly effective in 1-3-1 side-lane pressure setups, and they need a guiding voice to secure leads and go further into games. The acquisition of Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi as a head coach, and Oskar "VandeR" Bogdan as a support bolsters Vitality's chances at more than surviving the LCS.