What is the LEC? Unconventional Lol

A league of diverse styles, cultures, and innovations.

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Defining the League Of Legends European Championship (LEC) is a more difficult task than one would think, because the only consistent characteristic of the league is that it’s so undefinable. The LEC is made up of teams from many different countries with different LoL-playing cultures. It is home to some of the most conservative as well as the most aggressive teams in professional League of Legends. When it comes to team compositions and champion picks, Europe seemingly always marches to the beat of its own drum and plays like no one else in the world. Put simply, the LEC is best defined as a league of diverse styles, cultures, and innovations.

History of the league

Before the launch of LoL in Asia, Europeans were the undisputed kings of the game. They won almost every tournament put on before the creation of the World Championship and, subsequently, one of Europe’s teams – Fnatic – won the Season 1 World Championship. Europe’s dominance over North American teams started in Season 1 and has largely continued to this day. So, naturally, when Riot announced the LCS for North American teams in 2012, there had to be a league for their rivals in Europe. That’s how the EU LCS was born.

EU LCS

The EU LCS was initially an eight team league that effectively could have been a one team league, as Fnatic won 5 of the first 6 splits. Fnatic was so dominant from 2013-2014 that all of the best players from other teams in the league got together to form their own super team – Alliance – in order to have a chance to compete. Even this was a relatively unsuccessful endeavor, as that team only took one split off of Fnatic and were never able to accomplish anything internationally. 

The old structure of the EU LCS mirrored that of European soccer leagues, with promotion and relegation for the best lower-tier teams and the worst top-tier teams, respectively. As more money came in, investors were eager to get the guarantee of their teams staying in the top league, bringing about the new franchised league – the LEC.

LEC

After finally seeing two of their clubs defeat Korean teams and make the semi-finals and finals of a World Championship in 2019, European LoL was ready to take on an identity apart from their North American rivals. Now clearly the superior of the two regions, Europe rebranded as the LEC and has since outshone the LCS in almost every conceivable way. Their teams are better, their broadcast is better, and their player-base almost doubles North America’s despite similar population sizes. When it comes to Western LoL leagues, the LEC is in a class of its own.   

Era of international contention

Europe’s supremacy over North America remains on the rift, where their teams have become legitimate contenders on the international stage. Although Fnatic won the first World Championship, they did so at a tournament that did not include any of the Asian teams that have dominated LoL since. For a lot of fans, that one doesn’t really count.

Both of the most recent World Championship finals featured teams from the LEC. G2 and Fnatic have cemented themselves as legitimate contenders by beating Chinese and Korean teams at Worlds. Unfortunately for them, they still haven’t jumped the final hurdle to bring an asterisk-free World Championship to Europe. 

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Comparison to other leagues

Some LEC teams play like LCS teams, some play like LCK teams, some play like LPL teams, and some have their own unique take on how the game is played. This is the strength of European LoL: a unique diversity of playstyles and compositions.   

Innovation

European League of Legends is commonly referred to as “spicy”. Where the vanilla teams of the LCK and LCS often play the same ways in an agreed-upon meta game, Europe has always added flavor with unique strategies and champion picks. In the past, it was thought of as a sign of weakness that LEC teams relied on cheesy strategies to defeat their opponents, rather than beating them with solid, fundamental play. In recent years, however, LEC teams have become leaders in showing the world what the best champions and team compositions can be.

This was perfectly summarized in the LEC’s Spring Split 2020 Finals, in which every other region in the world was struggling to solve the strength of two champions: Ornn and Aphelios. Because the game allows each team 5 bans, even the best teams in the world were banning these two champions. The eventual LEC champs – G2 – decided that, rather than banning the Ornn and Aphelios duo, they would try to bait their opponents into picking them. G2 had cooked up a unique strategy for beating the duo, which worked out perfectly as they quickly dispatched Fnatic with counter picks in the first two games.

Europe’s willingness to buck the meta-game and try to play directly into what is thought to be the strongest team compositions in the game, has started to catch on across the world. Teams in the LPL and LCK in particular are often seen picking up some of the champions and compositions that are played in the LEC a few days after they are introduced in Europe. This has even led to something that would have been unfathomable a few years ago, a Korean team – Sandbox Gaming – hiring a long-time European coach and analyst.       

Diversity in style

Not every team in the LEC is as spicy as G2 though. In fact, one could argue some of the most boring, stock-standard teams in LoL play in the LEC. Every team in North America and South Korea comes up playing in a similar scene and solo queues centered around their esports meccas – Los Angeles and Seoul. Conversely, European players and teams come up through a system of tangentially-related country-specific leagues and the region has two separate solo queue servers. This makes the monoculture that defines gameplay in those two regions irrelevant in Europe. Players will bring identities formed in their lower-tier leagues across Europe with them to the Berlin-based LEC, resulting in the largest diversity of style of any league in the world. 


Teams

G2 Esports

  • Abbreviation: G2
  • Roster
    • Top-Wunder
    • Mid-Caps
    • Jungle- Jankos
    • Adc- Rekkles
    • Support- Mikyx
  • LEC championships: 8
  • Best International Finish: 2nd Place at Worlds 2019, MSI 2019 Champions

Every conversation about the LEC has to start and end with G2. They are the undisputed best team in league history, with 7 championships in their 9 seasons. They have Europe’s only championship at an international event since Asian teams started competing in that realm. Caps, Perkz, Mixyx, and Jankos would probably all make a “top 5 players of all time in the LEC” list. Their aforementioned tendency to go left when everyone else is going right has defined this era of the LEC and has inspired many copycat teams. Every team in Europe is trying to catch G2 and, so far, they’ve always fallen short.

After yet another LEC Title and 3rd place finish at the 2020 World Championship, G2 will start the 2021 season with their first roster change since 2018. The face of the franchise, Perkz, departed for Cloud9 and a change back to the mid lane position after being bumped to ADC by Caps. G2, arguably, upgraded by replacing their out-of-position star with the LEC’s best ever ADC, Rekkles from their bitter rivals Fnatic. G2 will be hoping  the fresh face and perspective can finally bring them over the hump to their first World championship in 2021.


Fnatic

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  • Abbreviation: FNC
  • Roster
    • Top-Bwipo
    • Mid-isqy
    • Jungle-Selfmade
    • Adc-Upset
    • Support- Hylissang
  • LEC championships: 6
  • Best International Finish: Season 1 World Champions, 2nd at Worlds 2018, 3rd at MSI 2018

Fnatic was once the greatest team in League of Legends. At the Season 1 World Championship, FNC’s grasp on the  game and individual mechanical play stood above everyone else, as teams learned how to play effectively. At the time, the game was much more focused on individual skill and no one could match their legendary mid, Xpeke. As the LEC was formed, FNC was a singularly dominant team. They won 5 of the first 6 splits and represented Europe at every international competition. But in 2016, G2 joined the league.  Since the introduction of their first true rivals, Fnatic has remained one of the best teams in the league and at times in the world, but has only again reached the status as the best team once in 2018. Fnatic’s one true flaw is that they can’t quite beat the top Asian teams or G2. 

The current iteration of FNC is still trying to catch G2. After strong regular seasons in both the Spring and Summer of 2020, FNC fell short when it truly mattered, going 0-3 against G2 in both LEC Finals. Their clearest weak point, Nemesis, has left the team and was replaced by former Cloud9 mid-laner Nisqy. But the team will also start 2021 without Rekkles for the first time since 2015 as he left for greener pastures with G2. Their replacement ADC, Upset, has long been thought of as the next great European ADC, but will have enormous shoes to fill. Although almost every power ranking will have them second behind G2 again in 2021, Fnatic will hope that the transition into a team firmly built around their superstar jungler, Selfmade, as the carry can pull off the upset.


Astralis(formerly Origen)

  • Abbreviation: AST
  • Roster
    • Top-Whiteknight
    • Mid-Nukeduck
    • Jungle-Zanzarah
    • Adc-Jeskla
    • Support-promisq
  • LEC championships: 0
  • Best International Finish: N/A


Astralis (formerly Origen) has made their name in the LEC by being the complete opposite to Fnatic and G2’s aggressive, flexible style of play. Astralis traditionally plays more like an LCK team, rarely straying from the meta while focusing on compositions that scale well into the late stages of the game. They were sometimes disparagingly called Borigen because of the slow nature of their gameplay. They have enough talent to consistently beat the non-contenders of the LEC but, unlike the LCK teams they try to emulate, Origen can never quite beat G2 and Fnatic.

Astralis in 2020 made a swift fall from their place as the LEC’s perpetual 3rd place team all the way out of the playoffs. It was clear that team chemistry had fallen apart and, in particular, mid-laner Nukeduck had lost a step. So for 2021, Astralis understandably went with a full reboot and signed players from the second-tiers of European LoL. Curiously though, they kept their biggest underperformer in Nukeduck and built around him. Expectations have never been lower for Astralis coming into split than they are in 2021. Many have them ranked as the worst team in the league.  They will need to have struck gold with one of their prospects in the jungle or top to outperform those expectations. 


Mad Lions

LOL Esports
  • Abbreviation: MAD
  • Roster
    • Top-Armut
    • Mid- Humanoid
    • Jungle-Elyoya
    • Adc-Carzzy
    • Support-Kasier
  • LEC championships: 0
  • Best International Finish: 2020 Worlds qualifiers

As the newest team on the block, Mad Lions took the league by storm in 2020. After making the playoffs in their first split with a collection of young talent from across the continent, Mad Lions pulled off one of the greatest upsets in LoL history by beating G2 in the first round of the playoffs. G2 did eventually come back through the losers’ bracket to knock out MAD en route to their 7th LEC championship, but the message from MAD was clear: “We’re here to win.”

In the summer, Mad Lions did just that. They have consistently sat atop the standings by taking a page from G2’s book as the most innovative and aggressive team in the LEC. However, as the season progressed into the playoffs and into the World Championship, Mad Lions fell off. Their demise was partially due to the inability to adapt to a changing metagame and partially due to over-aggressive, bordering  on disrespectful play. The two players who received the most criticism for their wild and inflexible play, Jungler Shadow and Top Orome, have been removed from the team. Orome was replaced with rock-solid veteran, Armut, who is known for being a capable, controlled role player and Shadow was replaced by a young prospect from the Spanish league who is known for fundamental, adaptable play. Mad Lions will look to build on last year’s success with the rest of their roster remaining in place, but this time with a little more control.


Rogue

  • Abbreviation: RGE
  • Roster
    • Top-Odoamne
    • Mid-Inspired
    • Jungle-Larssen
    • Adc- Hans Sama
    • Support-Trymbi
  • LEC championships: 0
  • Best International Finish: Group Stage at Worlds 2020

The other newbies of the LEC – Rogue – have also pushed themselves into instant playoff contention, making the playoffs in both of their first two splits. If Mad Lions is the second coming of G2, then Rogue is the succession to Astralis. Rogue plays fundamental team fighting LoL with traditional tank and carry compositions almost every time they take to the rift. Unlike Origen in this split, however, Rogue is winning. Their commitment to being the first to every objective, playing under control with leads, and out-executing their opponents in late game team fights saw them finish an impressive 3rd in the LEC in summer 2020 and had them exceeding expectations at the World Championship despite going out in the group stage.

Rogue’s one clear weakness in a fruitful 2020 was their top lane and they were convinced to make a change for 2021. This year they will have LEC stalwart, Odoamne, in the top lane. Odoamne is a player who has often been thought of as the best player on his middling teams. It will be his first chance to play with a full team of other players of his quality and LEC fans are excited to see how it will turn out for him. If he turns out to be a substantial upgrade, it could be Rogue, not G2 or Fnatic, who wins the LEC in 2021. 


SK Gaming

  • Abbreviation: SK
  • Roster
    • Top-Jenax
    • Mid- Blue
    • Jungle-ynx
    • Adc-Jezu
    • Support-Treatz
  • LEC championships: 0
  • Best International Finish: 9th at Worlds 2014

As one of the original teams of the LEC, SK Gaming has had plenty of opportunities to take home the championship, but have never quite managed to do it. This is not for a lack of talent, in fact SK has fielded multiple rosters that probably would have won the North American LCS. Rather, SK has the simple misfortune of playing in the same league as G2 and Fnatic. They have consistently put together teams that fall a tier below the league’s two titans.

SK in the present day is in the midst of yet another rebuild after not achieving the heights they had hoped with a mix of rookies and veterans in 2020. This time around, SK will try to build something brand new with 4 players with almost no LEC experience in Treatz, Tynx, Blue, and Jezu and a player who recently changed positions in Jenax. SK is, perhaps, the most difficult team to project in the LEC in 2021. It could be that this is a collection of 5 diamonds in the rough or they could show to be undeserving of their place in the league and be replaced mid-season, only time will tell. 


Misfits

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  • Abbreviation: MSF
  • Roster
    • Top-Agresivoo
    • Mid-Vetheo
    • Jungle-Razork
    • Adc-Kobbe
    • Support-Vander
  • LEC championships: 0
  • Best International Finish: 5th at Worlds 2017

When Misfits entered the league in 2017, they looked like a serious challenger to Fnatic and G2’s dominance, and instantly finished in second place. They had a good mix of in-their-prime veterans and talented upstarts. Unfortunately, that first season proved to be a single flash in the pan for Misfits, as they slowly lost all their players to better or wealthier teams. At one point, Misfits had Alphari of Origen, Mikyx of G2, Hans Sama of Rogue, and Powerofevil and Ignar of Flyquest – all of whom would be upgrades over their current roster. 

In 2021, Misfits will try to find their next generation of stars by promoting from their home French league. In Agresivoo and Vetheo, Misfits have replaced their underperforming vets with standouts from a level below the LEC. These two have consistently impressed in the EU Masters tournament, a second-tier European tournament that has produced a lot of the current crop of LEC’s budding stars. On the other half of the map, Misfits kept some veterans in an effort to “rebuild on the fly”. If everyone pops, Misfits should see themselves solidly back in the playoffs.  


Team Vitality

  • Abbreviation:VIT
  • Roster
    • Top-Top-CabochardSzygenda
    • Mid- Milica
    • Jungle-Skeanz
    • Adc- Comp
    • Support- Labrov
  • LEC championships: 0
  • Best International Finish: 9th at Worlds 2018

Once the home of the first European export coach, YamatoCannon, Vitality used to be a team that consistently outperformed their collection of talent. When put on paper, Vitality has never had a first rate roster but, under the direction of YamatoCannon’s experimentation, they were one of the great punch-up underdogs of the LEC. 

Now that YamatoCannon has moved over to the LCK, Vitality has come back down to Earth. Without the unique picks and strategies, Vitality’s talent deficit has become painstakingly obvious. They finished in last place in Spring 2020. Following this disappointment, Vitality opted for a rebuild and have seemingly found a few promising pieces for the future. with a mid-table finish in the Summer. The 4-man core of Milica, Skeanz, Comp, and Labrov will be joined by another young prospect in Szygenda for 2021 and the team will try to make it back to the playoffs. 


Excel Esports

  • Abbreviation: XL
  • Roster
    • Top-Kryze
    • Mid-Czekolad
    • Jungle-Dan
    • Adc- Patrik
    • Support- Tore
  • LEC championships: 0
  • Best International Finish: N/A

A lot of the book is yet to be written on Excel Esports, as they joined the LEC in 2019 and have one of the youngest rosters in the league. So far, their commitment to playing and developing young players has been admirable and is starting to show returns. Their 20-year-old ADC Patrik has been particularly impressive after being let go by both Origen and Splyce prior to joining the team. Top laner Kryze, while at times being over-aggressive and getting himself into trouble, has also shown carry potential. Excel will need one of their other lanes to pop for them to join the perennial playoff conversation in 2021.


Schalke 04 Esports

  • Abbreviation: S04
  • Roster
    • Top-Broken Blade
    • Mid- Abbedage 
    • Jungle-Gilius
    • Adc-Neon
    • Support-LIMIT
  • LEC championships: 0
  • Best International Finish: N/A

Schalke’s main claim to fame is that they are the only team in esports directly managed by a traditional sports organization. The team is a division of the German soccer club of the same name, and their actual performance in the LEC has not been particularly noteworthy. Since entering in 2016, Schalke has alternated between being a lower tier playoff team and occupying the bottom of the standings. 

In Summer 2020, Schalke went on a miracle run after and nearly made it to the world championship on the back of Gilius’ best season. Gilius is a player known for alternating between the best jungler in the league to the worst. If he’s still his best self in 2021, Schalke will return to the playoffs. The rest of their roster has steadily improved with mid laner Abbedage looking poised to make a leap into LEC elite status. 


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