LEC Spring 2022: The Autopsy Report
The LEC’s 2022 Spring Split has concluded and G2 stands alone at the top. As EU’s most successful organization battles the 10 other champions around the world, 9 other teams will only watch from the sidelines. For those who couldn’t quite claim the glory, how close did they get? What was their undoing? And what are their plans and expectations going forward? Let’s begin the debriefing of the LEC, going from bottom, to top. Starting with…
#10 Astralis (3-15) – You get what you pay for.
Cause of death: Everything really.
Details and what’s next: A team fields a team of 5 players where none of them are even that close to the top half of the league of their positions. It goes about as well as you would expect.
After two splits of being predicted to finish dead last on paper but avoiding 10th through factors in and out of their control, “Lastralis” finally lived up to their name as the third time was not the charm. When a team goes 0-9 in the first round-robin and their press release is a Twitlonger that references a meme about how everyone wants their support fired, it really sets the tone for what kind of organization you are dealing with.
Whether it’s from lack of budget or lack of caring, Astralis had exactly zero ways to do anything of note this split aside from 2 upsets that were admittedly good for laughs. WhiteKnight couldn’t carry the momentum from last split into becoming something more, Zanzarah’s champ pool issues got a huge spotlight as holes in his fundamentals were exposed almost every week and Dajor was not exactly LEC ready. While Promisq admittedly wasn’t as bad as the hate made him out to be, the bot lane was still nothing special. You could count the number of good moments on one hand and have fingers left over.
Even when cleaning house, Astralis’s roster decisions leave a lot to be desired. To their credit, Xerxe and Vizicsacsi were household EU names and did plenty of work on Splyce back in the day. Emphasis on the word were. Xerxe is coming from the 10th place LCS team Immortals and Vizicsacsi was not the best ERL top laner on the market. There is no guarantee they are getting them in their prime and I have little faith Astralis can bring the best out of them. Their support Jeonghoon an import from the 7th place BRION Challengers has some buzz from LCK casters, but once again, how is Astralis going to bring out his full potential?
When you look for arguments against franchising in League of Legends, Astralis are one of the textbook images. It’s unlikely to get much better next split.
#9 Team BDS (4-14) – Rough start
Cause of death: Inexperience, questionable decision making, and potential out of game issues.
Details and what’s next: That… was incredibly underwhelming for a young roster that didn’t look half bad on paper.
With the proven quality coaching of Grabbz and plenty of members from EU Masters champs and LFL darling Karmine Corp, I thought Team BDS could hit the ground running. Not enough to be anywhere near serious contenders, but certainly not whatever that was. Where to begin with the problems? While there were a few bright spots in Cinkrof and NUCLEARINT, Xmatty had a rough debut to say the least. It got so bad I have issues judging if LIMIT is also an issue given just how completely outmatched his carry was. And Adam? You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger sophomore slump in all aspects. What was once a fan favorite clearly skilled (if very raw) young gun quickly turned into a “divisive” (putting it mildly) personality that was almost a total liability on the rift. The team was already below expectations, but it was when you put all the pieces together that the true disappointment shined through.
This team was allergic to good decision making. They were actually capable of getting early leads and even transitioning them to mid game. The mechanics were there. Yet they almost always fumbled it. It was a fun weekly game. “How are BDS going to completely botch basic fundamentals?” Map movements, objective play, when and when not to take fights, there was always a wrench or 6 thrown into the BDS machine that blew them up at the last minute. Even worse was their total lack interest in improvement. When your coach comes out and says on live broadcast that players are wasting time and being disrespectful in their scrims and they stopped trying after being eliminated, it becomes a lot harder to root for the lineup to turn things around. If they don’t get their act together off the rift and start winning games on it, I fear sentiment around BDS will shift from apathy and morbid curiosity to outright vitriol.
Grabbz doesn’t deserve this. Do better for him please.
#8 SK Gaming (7-11) – You exist?
Cause of death: Inexperience and underperformance
Details and what’s next: SK Gaming had pretty much the exact same split as every single one they’ve had since they rejoined the LEC. They are the furthest thing from contenders but aren’t quite as bad as they’re made out to be. A step below mediocrity and almost twice as boring. Terrible starts to games put them in holes they were rarely able to climb out of. Gilius looked very little like his Schalke 04 days. Jenax and Sertuss weren’t the worst in the league, but they were hardly world-beaters. To their credit, they did turn things around in the 2nd half substantially. But everything from their brand to their playstyle to their star power is just so underwhelming I can’t bring myself to care.
I mean, at least Treatz got to actually play support again and looked pretty good? Jezu and Sertuss could end up being nice prospects? Maybe the lessons of how not to lose early game horrifically finally stuck? There are just so few ways this roster becomes more than a fringe playoff contender at best. And given that SK is staying the course in Summer it is likely going to be more of the same.
SK Gaming is a team that exists in the LEC. That is about all that can be really said about them. Not good enough to gain a big following, but not terrible enough to have people begging for relegation (although that talk still crops up from time to time surrounding them).
#7 MAD Lions (8-10) – Extinct
Cause of death: Massively underperforming stars and the rookie coin finally coming up tails.
Details and what’s next: That has got to be one of the hardest falloffs of a defending champion only rivaled by Team Liquid in Spring of 2020 in recent memory.
Yes, the drop-off wasn’t entirely their fault, losing your star shot calling mid laner and star AD Carry would hurt anyone. Yes, Reeker wasn’t ready to fill Humanoid’s shoes and makes for an easy punching bag (even though he doesn’t really deserve it). But this collapse I feel falls on 2 of the players who stuck with MAD.
What on earth happened to Armut and Kaiser? They weren’t flawless last year (Armut’s sheer hype covered up a lot of mechanical failings) but they barely looked like the same players if you took the nameplates off! The team had a complete lack of identity. There was nothing they really did particularly well, no style of play you could lock down. It just felt like they were throwing team comps and stylistic decisions at a dartboard and seeing what stuck. That resulted in a lot of issues with consistency and them not getting it together until destiny was out of their hands.
As for going forward, Unf0rgiven did look amazing in his first few weeks and was solid throughout the split. Elyoya also didn’t fall off quite as hard as Armut (albeit he still looked worse off from last year). Reeker will be headed back to the EU Master scene while MAD will be bolstering the mid lane with Nisqy. Given how vital he was to Fnatic’s playoff run last split, it was almost criminal that he wasn’t on a starting roster in a western league. I am glad to see that rectified and it should be a significant boost for MAD. While the entire season wasn’t his fault, it can’t really be argued that Reeker was a significant downgrade and looked out of his depth against the best of the best. While MAD has received some criticism for tossing out a rookie after one split, I feel that extra time in the EU Masters oven will do him well, and at the end of the day, MAD Lions simply want to win titles.
Nisqy won’t be able to do it alone though. MAD’s chances at a Worlds berth will rely on developing Unf0rgiven, getting the staple players back to full strength, and finding a style that works for them and sticking to it.
#6 Excel Esports (9-9) – Big steps taken
Cause of death: Natural causes
Details and what’s next: Despite the placement, I can’t harp on Excel too hard. They finally killed the jokes about eternally being 7th place, being owned by Fnatic and never making playoffs. Good thing too as they were getting stale.
There is very little to criticize about Excel. Yes, they got bounced round 1 of playoffs by a turbulent Vitality, but that was their first playoff berth in org history. They were more than just a punchline and were an actual threat. Their X factor in Mikyx only came on a few weeks into the season. Now that the roster has had some time to gel, I am curious to see how far they can take it in summer. Do I think they can contend with the top dogs? That is a very hard ask, but Finn is recovering nicely from CLG, Markoon is growing, and Nukeduck is shedding a lot of the negativity from his signing. They are a solid team and look leagues above the bottom teams. Given that they seem to be funning it back for summer, Excel should have playoffs as their floor now. Where they go from here is up to them.
Godspeed Excel, you have expectations now.
#5 Team Vitality (9-9) – The walking punchline
Cause of death: Lack of cohesion and individual mistakes
Details and what’s next: When Team Vitality signed a roster with one of the best western top laners to never win anything, one of the best western junglers to never win anything, the undisputed western G.O.A.T, a back-to-back EU champion, and Labrov, they were only ever going to end up as EU’s newest hope, or their biggest disappointment.
Given the placement and title, take a wild guess as to which one they turned out to be.
There is no way around it, measuring against what they were expected to be, Vitality was atrocious. A roster with that much firepower should not go barely .500, and their playoff run should not be a 5-game series against a team happy to be there, and a 0-3 slaughter in the 2nd round. It wasn’t just one player; almost everyone had their moments of ineptitude. Alphari continued to reinforce the tired narrative of getting big leads in lane and doing nothing with them. Perkz looked very little like his prime self and showed flashes of his lowest moments in NA. Carzzy was underwhelming given MAD Lions’ accomplishments last year. Labrov did not belong on that star-studded roster and looked completely out of place and out of his league. The only consistently good player was Selfmade, and even he had his blunders.
And that was the single biggest issue with Vitality, consistency. They weren’t completely inept, every few games, the roster would finally click and these players would remind you why they were some of the hottest names on the market. But they rarely all clicked at once or stayed clicked on for very long. One day they’d look incredible, the next they’d almost lose to Astralis. Their coordination looked completely off as well. There were times it looked like they weren’t even speaking the same language. They, much like MAD, lacked a true style or identity to call their own and the players were far less than the sum of their parts.
Given Vitality’s penchant for skull cutting and the unacceptable performance from the super team, it is no surprise that changes are being rumored. Coach Mephisto is being rumored by Selfmade not to have a job in summer. And given the consistency issues, the high-profile talent not panning out, and his not-so impressive track record before this year, I cant exactly fault them. What I can fault them for is the rumor that they will be replacing Selfmade with Haru (After signing Selfmade to an extension till 2024). Yes, Haru was good in the ERLs and has a great history. Yes, this is still a rumor and not confirmed, but given Vitality’s track record with baffling personnel decisions I wouldn’t put it past them. And I would just have to ask one question.
Out of all the issues Vitality had, all the players not living up to the hype they thought Selfmade was the biggest issue?
“It’s all Selfmade’s fault” is a meme, not an adequate roster building strategy.
Just try not to bungle Summer as hard as you did Spring. There are no excuses given the names, and I don’t think Vitality ever lives it down if they don’t make Worlds.
#4 Misfits Gaming (12-6) – One man band
Cause of death: Lack of win conditions.
Details and what’s next: There is little sugarcoating it. Misfits throughout most of the season was “The Vetheo Show” and his backup dancers were inadequate.
Yes, it wasn’t all Vetheo all the time but when a player receives MVP in 10 out of 12 of his team’s victories, makes 1st team All-Pro in an incredibly stacked role, and wins the LEC MVP while none of his teammates can even nab a 3rd team spot, the picture painted is clear. It varies from person to person as to how well the rest of Misfits stacked up though. Shlatan did win Rookie of the Split, but looked completely outmatched in the playoffs. There might be a foundation for something nice there. Neon was the 2nd best carry on the team. In the playoffs when Vetheo was targeted and silenced, he did a good job in picking up the slack.
But the other two are where the cracks start to show. Mersa is a rookie, but he falls under the same banner as Dajor in Reeker in potentially needing more time in the oven. He was serviceable at best, irrelevant against the top teams, and far worse on his bad days. HiRit showed massive regression after a solid 2021 Summer. Nowhere near his old self in the regular season, constant underperformance despite being given carry champions, and exploited ruthlessly come playoff time.
As for what they are doing going forward, I can’t say I am entirely a fan. I understand keeping Shlatan and to a lesser extent Mersa. They are both incredibly raw and have room to grow. And I can understand moving on from HiRit, if the rumor mill is as solid as it usually is. Irrelevant is an inhouse option, but is this really all the firepower you can give a player like Vetheo? If a team with bigger pocketbooks comes knocking and snatches your star away, what will be left? And will you regret not giving him more options to win now? Perhaps all the top teams having good mid laners is a blessing in disguise.
League is a team game and the era of 1 player carrying 4 to greatness is over. The rest of Misfits will need to step up to Vetheo’s level if they want to go further than a playoff afterthought.
#3 Fnatic (13-5) – Last second collapse
Cause of death: Inexplicable drafting and a mental breakdown.
Details and what’s next: The most promising regular season in years, new additions fitting in seamlessly as the old members hit new heights, a weakened region ripe for the taking. A golden opportunity that comes rarely and must be grasped when it comes.
All of this was on Fnatic’s plate entering the 2022 spring playoffs. And all of it was chucked off a bridge over the course of 6 games.
They had their favorite punching bag dead to rights, Rogue pulled out their signature magic trick of disappearing in clutch moments. They even gave over one of the highest priority mids in Twisted Fate for game 3! And the Rogue beat them so badly you’d think they were unleashing 3 years of pent up aggression. And instead of putting it back in the bag and adapting to Rogue’s new gameplans, Fnatic doubled and tripled down on the pick. Humanoid’s TF was no Nisqy TF and it showed as Rogue won the last 3 games in dominant fashion. A team that had yet to take a game off them in the playoffs ever, convincgly reverse swept them. And they had nobody to blame but themselves.
And that G2 series? They were dead on arrival. Wether it was because they thought they got better, or because they were doing it out of spite, they ran back the TF pick game 1. It worked about as well as it did the last 3 times. Games 2 and 3 finally saw them move away from it, but the team was a hollow shell of their former self. And thus they suffred the worst fate imaginable. Swept aside by their biggest rival with no chance to fight back. Watching the finals weekend from the stands as G2 goes on to win their 9th title. Almost 4 years without a title for one of the oldest organizations in the entirety of LoL Esports. There isn’t even an easy scapegoat or path to take, this collapse falls on everyone’s shoulders.
While Fnatic would almost have to actively try to throw away their Worlds spot (too much talent and that regular season was phenomenal), I am unsure if they or their fans will be satisfied with just a 2nd or 3rd seed. If they have another split of being 2nd best there might be questions if Fnatic will ever get back to the top of the mountain.
#2 Rogue (14-4) – Status quo
Cause of Death: (what else?) Choking
Details and what’s next: At this point I would compare Rogue’s quest for a title and respect to Charlie Brown and the football. They always look primed to kick it, you want them to finally succeed and bury their demons. Their veterans are some of the best players in the league to never win the title and their young guns are incredibly likeable. But it always gets ripped away at the last second in brutal fashion.
It’s impressive. Given the roster moves in the offseason, this team shouldn’t have been anywhere near the position to pull their usual brand of disappointment. But against all odds, Rogue played well enough for 99% of the season to get even the most cynical of viewers to buy in. They went 9-0 in the first half. They finally beat G2 in the regular season. Malrang and Comp fit into the team like a glove and played well above all expectations. The returning pieces were as excellent as ever. They pulled off another 1st place finish, their X in X seasons. They put Misfits away convincingly. They struck down their old playoff boogeyman in Fnatic! They came back and didn’t completely collapse in a playoff series!
But one series is all Rogue needs to stick the dagger in those that dared to believe in them.
Rogue reverted to status quo and shut down at the worst possible time against their biggest kryptonite G2. Everyone played scared, well below expectation and showed no resilience or fortitude in the face of ultimate adversity. In a split where it looked like they finally got the monkey off their backs, the doubts, memes, and naysayers have returned and have more ammo than ever.
The worst part is that I have no idea how you go about fixing this. Everyone is either the best or top 3 in their position so likely no amount of head cutting is going to work. The only ones who can reasonably be put on the chopping block is the coaching staff (those finals drafts were atrocious) but is it their fault so many of the stars have massive mental blocks and are allergic to showing up when it matters most?
They clearly have the talent to win a title. All their biggest problems are mental. And there is no easy way to fix those. There really aren’t any big changes they can make or any advice that I can give them. Just run it back and play up to your potential in the most important moments for once.