As the 2016 League of Legends World Championship approaches, the time to reflect on the previous editions has come, for there are many parallels between this iteration of G2, H2k and Splyce and the previous ones.
Of course, dissimilarities arose here and there. South Korea's dominance ramped up for two seasons, culminating in total dominance of the circuit over the past four world championship contests. Once the cradle of the League of Legends competitive circuit, North America has since experienced ups and downs. The Taiwanese circuit is no longer a surprise attendant, with the Flash Wolves seeking to emulate the legacy the Taipei Assassins left behind through their victory at Season Two.
Throughout the history of League of Legends, the European region remained defiant. Its teams rose to the challenge of North America in Season One and South Korea and Taiwan in Season Two and have established themselves as perennial bracket contenders, save for Season Four.
Here is their story.
Season one (2011):
Fnatic -- 1st
Against All Authority -- 2nd
gamed!de -- 6th
As Fnatic and Against All Authority sent North America's finest at the time -- Andy "Reginald" Dinh's Team SoloMid, Dan Dinh's Epik Gamer and George "HotshotGG" Georgallidis's Counter Logic Gaming -- out of the tournament, it established the region's position as the main hub of competitive League of Legends in the short term.
Fnatic's hopes and dreams nearly crashed as Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martinez encountered flight delays on the way to the DreamHack venue in Jonköping, where the world championship took place. But the squad survived with Bram "Wewillfailer" De Winter's help, and they unleashed Double Ability Power compositions (reliant on two mages at the solo lanes) en route to the finals.
On the other side was Against All Authority, with Paul "sOAZ" Boyer in the top lane and Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim as the AD Carry. The latter might have scored one of the most dazzling highlights at the time (an Ashe arrow across the map), but Maciej "Shushei" Ratuszniak and company prevailed in the best-of-three series 2-1.
Gamed!de had prevailed in the World Championship qualifier rounds against SK Gaming's lineup, one of the strongest in Europe at the time, but its presence in the main event was a relatively low-profile one compared to the others. However, three players would become staples in the European scene until their retirement: Kevin "Kev1n" Rubiszewski, Adrian "CandyPanda" Wubbelmann and Patrick "Nyph" Funke for SK Gaming.
Season two (2012):
Counter Logic Gaming Europe -- 3rd-4th
Moscow Five -- 3rd-4th
SK Gaming -- Group Stage
Moscow Five and Counter Logic Gaming Europe were two of the greatest lineups of their era, and they had plenty of momentum. With Mike "Wickd" Petersen, Henrik "Froggen" Hansen and Mitch "Krepo" Voorspoels in their ranks, CLG.Europe played a slow and calculated style, producing a visual contrast to Moscow Five's skirmish-heavy play. As such, its presence in the World Championship semifinals was par for the course.
CLG.Europe clawed its way through the semifinals, but not before popularizing Silver Scrapes as a result of nearly interminable delays against Team WE in the quarterfinals. The fall in the semifinals against Azubu Frost was as hotly disputed as a series with a similar outcome in the 2012 OGN Summer Finals.
Moscow Five forced its way into the bracket stages, much as it did toward the semifinals. Its dominion over the European circuit, spearheaded by Alexei "Alex ich" Ichetovkin and Danil "Diamondprox" Reshetnikov, allowed the team to bypass the group stages, and the swift dismissal of China's Invictus Gaming preceded its fall against Taipei Assassins, a team whose lane pressure left little in terms of windows of opportunity for M5 skirmishes.
SK Gaming might have indirectly led to Fnatic's nonparticipation in the Season Two world championship, but its participation marked the beginning of a tradition: There must always be a European team in a Group of Death.
Season three (2013):
Fnatic -- 3rd-4th
Gambit Gaming -- 5th-8th
Lemondogs -- group stage
The inception of the League of Legends Championship Series format allowed many up-and-coming teams to stamp their mark in the European circuit, and Erlend "Nukeduck" Holm's Lemondogs stood as proof: Any squad with enough skill and focus could take on some of the best in the world. The Lemondogs' lack of experience internationally was its downfall, especially in a group that contained SK Telecom T1 and one of China's finest at the time, OMG.
For the more seasoned squads, the LCS format provided an opportunity for fine-tuning despite roster shake-ups, and Fnatic used it to extents that would have long-term significance (chief among them, Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim's transition into the support role). Its presence in the bracket stage was all but assured, but Samsungs's collapse allowed them to reach higher than projections at the time.
Samsung's implosion also allowed a struggling Gambit Gaming (formerly Moscow Five) to advance to the quarterfinals. Gambit's rigorous travel schedule left little room for practice outside of bootcamps, and the revolving door at the support position did not help. Unbeknownst to them and to European League of Legends fans, Alex ich, Diamondprox, Evgeny "Genja" Andryushin and Evgeny "Darien" Mazaev would not return to the world championship after this appearance.
Season four (2014):
Fnatic -- group stage
SK Gaming -- group stage
Alliance -- group stage
The 2014 world championship represents Europe's darkest time in League of Legends history. Unlike the previous editions, in which European squads wrought havoc during the bracket stages, its presence at that year's quarterfinals was nonexistent.
Fnatic's participation in the bracket stage hinged on emerging from a group of death that included Korea's Samsung Blue, China's Oh My God and North America's LMQ, and it was a mere auto-attack away on OMG's nexus from succeeding. The same cannot be said about SK Gaming, as Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen's suspension effectively doomed the squad's chances of advancing. But the worst was yet to come.
Following an otherwise stellar display during the World Championship (with a clean victory against NaJin Shield), Froggen's Alliance needed one victory against the wild-card squad, Brazil's KaBuM! eSports, and NaJin to beat Cloud9, to secure its place in the quarterfinals. Despite Ilyas "Shook" Hartsema and Froggen's best efforts, the squad collapsed at the last moment, inexplicably choking when it counted the most.
Thus was Europe's campaign put to an abrupt halt that led to colossal roster shuffles.
Season five (2015):
Fnatic -- 3rd-4th
Origen -- 3rd-4th
H2k-Gaming -- group stages
Fnatic was the biggest casualty of the 2015 offseason, as they lost xPeke, sOAZ and Martin "Rekkles" Larsson to free agency before the spring split ... or so many would have thought. Under the lead of Korean imports Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon and Kim "ReignOver" Yeu-jin and with Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim's guidance, the squad emerged at its strongest point ever. After a 3-2 defeat at the hands of SK Telecom T1 at the 2015 Midseason Invitational, they rehired Rekkles on the way to an EU LCS summer title.
As the only squad to contend against Fnatic, xPeke's Origen boasted veterans in four of its five positions: sOAZ in the top lane, Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider in the jungle, xPeke in the middle lane and ex-Lemondog Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez at the support position. However, the biggest contributor during crunch time was rookie AD carry Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen.
The two teams reached the semifinals and fell to South Korea's finest 3-0 but helped reassert the European region's strength on the international level. Origen's feat in particular was most impressive, as they advanced in Group D, which included South Korea's KT Rolster, China's LGD Gaming and North America's Team SoloMid.
As for H2k-Gaming, its experience served as practice for Yoo "Ryu" Sang-wook and Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu. SK Telecom T1 and EDG outclassed them.