Seven weeks into the League of Legends European Championship, the playoff picture remains unclear as seven teams are fighting for five playoff spots.
Although Team Vitality and Splyce are ahead of the pack, Fnatic and SK Gaming are on the rise. In the meantime, Schalke 04 are in danger of falling off, whereas Misfits Gaming have prevented themselves from tumbling out of the playoff race.
In the middle of it all, Origen are going through the motions with little external pressure.
After starting the season 1-5 with a four-game losing streak, they surged with a four-game winning streak and scored a momentous victory over G2 Esports on Week 5. Their 0-2 Week 6 showing was a stumbling block, but they reversed the tides once again on Week 7 with victories over Splyce and Team Vitality.
At the very least, there had been no backlash waiting for them when they lost, and there will be little backlash should they fail to reach the playoffs. After all, Origen have built a roster from the ground-up upon becoming an LEC franchise.
Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez is familiar with the situation, as he has been part of three beginnings: Origen's 2015 run from the Challenger series to the League of Legends World Championship; G2 Esports' overhaul midway during the 2016 season; and Team SoloMid's 2018 revamp.
The 2019 rendition of Origen is a fair departure from those pressure-filled atmospheres.
"I'm definitely very comfortable here," the support said. "I feel that things are tough sometimes, but it's easier to work things out."
North America, and TSM, was a high-stakes environment for mithy but a good experience for the support player, who is now helping to lead a team that is overperforming in an LEC that remains up for grabs. When he and longtime AD carry partner Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen joined TSM, winning domestic titles was the expectation.
"I wanted to experience that," mithy said. "I took on the challenge knowingly, but looking back at it, it's a tough one.
"When I got to NA, I joined the best team in NA, and I expected something similar to what I did when I went from Origen to G2 with Zven. Things didn't really work out; we had to work on so many basics and fundamentals, and we couldn't really grow at the pace I wanted to grow. That created a lot of conflict and stress, and on top of that, the expectations."
Team SoloMid's players have faced incredible pressure from the community and from their fan base throughout the years, and mithy was be no exception. Although he arrived to much fanfare, his weaknesses were more apparent, and Team SoloMid were unable to reach G2's levels of synergy.
Despite that, TSM were the fourth-best team in their region, possibly No. 3 at the conclusion of the summer split and regionals. But third-best without qualifying for the world championship doesn't cut it for TSM and made the team the object of ridicule in North America.
By contrast, Origen's fan base, widely centered on Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martinez's legacy since 2015, has been unconditionally supportive.
"It's just a better emotional state to be in to have fans love you regardless of whether you win or lose," he said. "They hope you win and do well, but there's not that much hatred."
The Team SoloMid experience also allowed mithy to learn what he wanted in a team, and he sought that in the offseason. When Origen knocked on the door, he wanted to make sure that they had a strong support staff to ensure peak performance.
They did, as they and Astralis share the same support staff courtesy of RFRSH Entertainment.
"When I joined, I said what I wanted, and they had everything ready to go, with what I wanted culture-wise with this team," mithy said. "Especially, usually when you're on a losing team, that's when you really crave for those things. When you're winning, it doesn't matter if you don't have this or that resource."
Origen's brand-new roster is one game ahead of a stack of four teams fighting for a playoff spot. Their work isn't done, but mithy has been enjoying the process so far.
"There's a lot of outside support to make things easier," he said, "and personality-wise in-game, it feels easier somehow."