While I haven't watched as much challenger scene this season as I did last year I'll still march out my predictions for EU LCS for this split. These predictions are how I believe the season will end.
#10 - GIANTS! Gaming
Starting Roster: Werlyb, Frederic, Pepinero, Adryh, Rydle
I actually don't know a single one of these guys other than Pepinero who I barely know anything about. There's something to be said for being all one country and one language (hell look at Roccat last year). It's also worth noting that the EU LCS is relatively shallow this year with a lot of teams in transition and new teams all over the place which will yield and overall weaker field but I just don't see this ending well for Giants. Hopefully they prove me wrong.
#9 Copenhagen Wolves
Starting Roster: Youngbuck, Airwaks, Soren, Freeze, Unlimited
They're back!! I doubt anyone is that excited. Freeze can be good and traditionally the new young Danish mid laner is usually good but I'm not so sure Soren continues that tradition. Youngbuck and Airwaks have been around for awhile but never seem to do anything impressive. This team is just unexciting to me. They have the savvy veterans to steal some games but there's just not that much going on here.
Starting Roster: Huni, ReignOver, Febiven, Steelback, YellowStar
The beginning of the era for Fnatic. With Xpeke and Soaz off starting Team Origen, and Cyanide retired (?) the core trio that were together for years and multiple worlds appearances is finally disbanded. As if that wasn't bad enough, their young ADC prodigy that they groomed for over a year had finally come to the big stage and performed very well only to be frustrated at the changes and moved to rivals Elements (Alliance). This is a new team. They may not be as bad as I think with potential stars in Febiven and Freeze as well as Korean imports Huni and former Incredible Miracle player ReignOver but until I see it I'm just not sure. Late changes, language barriers, and previous lack of coaching infrastructure (the old Fnatic kinda just did things the way they wanted) mean that a lot of things need to go just right for this team to even be average and I just don't see that happening.
Starting Roster: Odoammne, Loulex, Ryu, Hjarnan, Voidle
Four challenger scene veterans with time on and off LCS teams and a Korean who used to be one of the best in the world. Sounds like a weird sitcom. On paper this actually looks like a decent enough team to be relevant. H2k stormed through the challenger scene most of last season but it's still just the challenger scene. Odoammne was one of the names tossed around by a lot of LCS teams in both EU and NA to replace top laners that were struggling like Innox and Seraph and was considered by many to be one of the best non-pros in Western League of Legends. Loulex and Voidle had their times on and off various LCS rosters with varying levels of success. Hjarnan has been in the challenger scene for awhile looking for his chance at the big time. The big question here is Ryu. The former KT Bullets superstar known by most people as "the guy that lost to Faker in a Zed duel" was actually one of the best players in the world during Season 3 and has had a long and storied career in Korea. But since then he and Horo attempted a move to Europe and were unsuccessful in getting into the EU LCS with Millenium. Ryu didn't look like the same Ryu and while I want to say he's washed up, something tells me that the whole Millenium situation was a bit of a wake-up call for him. If Ryu can channel even a fraction of what he used to be he'll be one of the best mid laners in Europe especially during this currently weak split and if he and Odoammne can perform well then H2K will have a leg up on the bottom tier teams in EU LCS.
#6 Gambit Gaming
Starting Roster: Cabocharg, Diamondprox, NiQ, P1noy, Edward
I might be underrating this roster but I tend to think that off-season LAN tournaments are not a good indicator of LCS success. They're usually on unbalanced patches, teams can get hot, and in the case of this split, it was in Europe for Gambit. I think this roster is perfectly fine. NiQ had huge weight on his shoulders to replace the legendary Alex Ich last year and performed admirably enough to earn the respect of most players. He's well rounded and solid. Edward is still an excellent support and Diamondprox apparently has a renewed passion for the game after suffering what seemed to be a bit of burn out last season during a lot of their roster changes. Cabochard is unexciting but P1noy was extremely exciting at IEM. Now let's be real here. He's not as good as he played there. At least I don't think he is. That being said there's the possibility that his high risk, high reward style could prove beneficial. Overall Gambit is somewhere in the middle. Not a high tier team but one that could be coming in hot off their off season performances. They'll probably come out strong and fade as the season goes.
#5 Meet Your Makers
Starting Roster: Mimer, H0R0, Selfie, MrRallez, Nisbeth
I don't know much about Nisbeth but I do know that MrRallez is a savage. Maybe the 2nd best ADC in Europe. Mimer while unexciting is an EU veteran. Selfie looked outstanding for a majority of last season. Now it comes to H0R0. From SK Telecom T1 S to Millenium (with Ryu) to MYM this guy has had one hell of a tumultuous offseason. He was one of the stronger junglers in Korea when the "Great Exodus" happened and it was rather strange that a Korean team didn't pick him up from SKT but to Europe he went and, well, it hasn't been good so far. I think with time to settle down and just focus on playing, he'll find his old self. He's still an excellent player and likely the best jungler in Europe if he can play up to his previous level. He could be the catalyst that propels this team into a higher ranking but for now I'm going to assume he'll still be adjusting during this split. If he remains on this roster for the Summer than I could see them progressing.
Starting Roster: Overpow (top), Jankos, Nukeduck, Woolite, Vander
These guys are a blast to watch. Last year they were an aggressive, innovative, grab life by the balls kind of team. Now I'm not sure how Overpow is going to work out in the top lane but with the champion pool for top beginning to grow pretty large I'm sure he'll be fine by season's end. He's a great individual player and he'll find a way. Jankos is a first blood machine and the best jungler in Europe and if H0R0 doesn't live up to his previous self. Nukeduck's return to the professional scene will be interesting. His former champion pool (a year ago...) looks fine but a lot of things can change between then and now. Just remember he was a former worlds competitor. Vander and Woolite, while unexciting are serviceable pros and together form a formidable duo for the laning phase. If Nukeduck pans out then this should be a solid roster and with Europe as weak as it's been since I can remember, they shouldn't have any trouble finishing in the top 4.
#3 Unicorns of Love
Starting Roster: Vizicsacsi, Kikis, PowerOfEvil, Vardags, Hylissang
These guys are EVEN MORE FUN to watch. Innovative, ruthlessly aggressive, willing to experiment, and a very "nothing to lose" kind of attitude can combine to form a lethal combination. PowerOfEvil is the real deal and is potentially the only person that can challenge Froggen this season. For my money, he was the best non-pro in the West and it's going to be exciting seeing him for a full split after brilliant performances in the qualification tournament and at IEM. Vizicsacsi is another game changing playmaker in top lane and in a meta where more and more champions are becoming viable. Kikis gets things going consistently for his solo laners in much the same style as Lovelin of OMG and the bot lane function as role players. Hylissang will have to show some proficiency on champions other than Thresh but overall I really like this lineup. They're fresh, exciting, and they themselves are excited to be here.
#2 SK Gaming
Starting Roster: Fredy122, Svenskeren, Fox, Forgiven, nRated
I'm still convinced that if Svenskeren didn't get banned that SK would've made it out of groups over TSM at worlds this year. They're an outstanding strategic team and are very well coached. The loss of Jesiz could make an impact here as his ability to maintain control of the game by slowing it down was noticable however, Fox brings an aggressive side to things that Jesiz was inconsistent at and overall could provide a more well rounded player for SK to build strategies with. Svenskeren is right there with Jankos as one of the best junglers in Europe and Fogiven is immensely talented if he can keep his head in the game and focused. nRated, while unexciting, is another seasoned, solid veteran and apparently Forgiven likes. This is a solid roster of veterans plus new comer Fox to bring some energy and diversity which is a great combination that I believe will lead to a top 2 finish.
#1 Elements (former Alliance)
Starting Roster: Wickd, Shook, Froggen, Rekkles, Nyph
Elements are the clear cut favorites for EU this split and likely this year. I just don't see any of the other European teams on the same level as they are. They made a slight upgrade at ADC with the addition of former Fnatic member and young prodigy Rekkles but other than that kept the same roster. On the worlds stage Wickd and Shook are weak links but domestically, this is a rock solid roster with next to no challengers. They'll dominate because they're good top to bottom and only made one change for a slight upgrade. They won't dominate because of Rekkles. The fact is that he was only a slight upgrade. Even though he's the best ADC in Europe he's really not that much better than Tabzz was so no much is changing here. More of the same means more victories for Alliance... I mean Elements.
Prop Bets and Individual Awards:
League MVP - Froggen
Rookie of the Year - PowerOfEvil
Biggest Disappointment - Ryu (I kinda think he'll get his shit together but this is the most likely disappointment option)
Biggest Surprise - Fox (Good team around him puts him in a good spot to succeed)
Best in Role:
- Top: Vizicsacsi
- Jungle: Jankos
- Mid: Froggen
- ADC: Rekkles
- Support: Edward