Buckle up for the 2019 LEC offseason!
The 2019 offseason is in full swing in the LEC as the league enters a new franchising era, and as contracts expire even in teams that have made it through Riot Games’ selection process.
Of the 10 teams that featured in the 2018 EU LCS, six remain in the league — and they seek to maintain their rosters or upgrade them. For the three new organizations and a returning one (according to Jacob Wolf’s report — addition: Nov. 19 article), there is no time to waste. If they are to play a factor in 2019, their offseason must have started long ago.
To understand the offseason, one must acquire the full picture of free agency in Europe. Fortunately for you, we have it covered.
Update @ Nov. 19, 21:22 CET — Jacob Wolf has since released another report, and Splyce have returned to the LEC, alongside newcomers exceL. North and Movistar Riders are out of the picture.
Offseason moves in the franchising era
Fnatic, Team Vitality, G2 Esports, FC Schalke 04 Esports, Splyce and Misfits Gaming have retained their spots in the LEC. However, the same cannot be said about Team ROCCAT, Giants Gaming, Unicorns of Love and H2K Gaming. The teams that remain in the league strive to keep their assets or upgrade wherever possible.
Fnatic’s mission is different as their highly valued players enter free agency: it’s all about damage control. On the other end of the spectrum, Splyce have endured one day being virtually outside of the LEC. As such, they may have lost some of their prized assets before learning that they would be part of the LEC.
The listings below gather the offseason moves of the teams currently involved in the 2019 franchising era in one place. Following Riot Games’ official release, the teams below have locked their admission to the LEC.
The moves showcased below are official, but links to rumors (or deals that haven’t been finalized yet) are also supplied.
- Jan. 7: Fnatic reveal Forge of Champions (UK) lineup, will inflict tons of damage in the UK scene.
- Jan. 3: YoungBuck moves to the Head Coach position, assembles coaching staff.
- Nov. 29: Nemesis is officially on board.
- Nov. 27: Gaming.si reports that Nemesis may be joining Fnatic.
- Nov. 24: Caps officially leaves Fnatic. G2 move likely.
- Nov. 23: Dylan Falco leaves Fnatic
- Nov. 23: Bwipo returns to Fnatic in an unsurprising turn of events.
- Nov. 20: sOAZ set to hold the top lane for Misfits Gaming. (Confirmed on Nov. 22)
- Nov. 19: Caps’s contract expires.
- Nov. 15: Dylan Falco to test free agency
- Nov. 11: sOAZ to explore free agency
- Jan. 8: Vitality Academy roster revealed through the Contract Database, to compete in France.
- Nov. 28: Mowgli has officially joined Team Vitality. Kikis is also out of the lineup.
- Nov. 22: Kikis may be on the way out.
- Nov. 22: Mowgli, who Team Vitality befriended during their trips to Korea, is joining the team.
- Nov. 21: Vitality renew the contracts of Cabochard and Jactroll until 2020
- Nov. 14: Attila and Jiizuke’s contracts expire on 2019. The remaining players become available to other teams on Nov. 18.
- Aug. 30: YamatoCannon on board until 2020
- Dec. 20: Boris joins G2 Esports as their General Manager. GrabbZ and Duffman’s contracts are extended.
- Nov. 29: Mikyx and Caps are officially on board, PerkZ is moving to the bot lane, and Wadid is going to Rogue. Hjärnan’s fate is uncertain.
- Nov. 24: G2 Esports are close to signing Mikyx.
- Nov. 20: Per Jacob Wolf, G2 is in the process of acquiring Caps. PerkZ would move to the bot lane if the deal materializes.
- Nov. 18: The players are currently signed to long-term deals. Roster changes are unlikely unless G2 perform transfers.
FC Schalke 04 Esports
- Jan. 2: Schalke 04 may have finalized their academy roster.
- Dec. 12: Odoamne is also on the lineup. The team’s LEC roster is complete.
- Dec. 11: IgNar has officially arrived. The team also opened applications for its academy.
- Dec. 10: Amazing joins as strategic manager, academy coach
- Dec. 6: DLim joins as assistant coach
- Nov. 30: Abbedagge has arrived to Schalke 04
- Nov. 26: Schalke 04 announce the departure of Vizicsacsi from the organization
- Nov. 25: Schalke 04 eyeing deals with Abbedagge, Odoamne and IgNar
- Nov. 24: Memento joins the organization, reunites with Upset
- Nov. 23: Schalke 04 hire Dylan Falco as their head coach
- Nov. 23: Vizicsacsi is possibly on the way out
- Nov. 21: Guilhoto parts ways with the organization
- Nov. 20: Schalke 04 lose Nukeduck to free agency
- Nov. 14: Upset’s contract runs through 2019, and Schalke 04 are unlikely to trade him. The rest may be available via free agency.
- Jan. 14: Splyce Vipers (Academy) finalize the construction of a juggernaut, to compete in Spain.
- Dec. 6: Tierwulf arrives from Latin America South, provides huge upside to Splyce should he be used well.
- Dec. 4: Splyce have signed Norskeren to the lineup, finalizing their offseason. However, they have yet to announce the status of their coaching staff.
- Dec. 1: Vizicsacsi has officially joined the lineup.
- Nov. 30: Splyce announce the signing of Humanoid to the lineup. Suddenly, the race for rookie of the split has become truly interesting.
- Nov. 28: Kasing leaves Splyce, transfers to exceL
- Nov. 25: Odoamne potentially heading to Schalke 04
- Nov. 23: Splyce may have signed Vizicsacsi for 2019, reuniting him with Xerxe. The move would free Odoamne to explore free agency.
- Nov. 22: Nisqy may be on his way to Cloud9. (Confirmed: Nov. 23)
- Nov. 19: Splyce are unexpectedly back into the LEC. Whether it is too late for them to hold onto their assets is up for debate.
- Nov. 14: Player contracts run through 2019. Splyce may still earn transfer fees when offloading contracts.
- Nov. 6: Nisqy free to discuss with other teams
- Oct. 31: KaSing free to explore his options for 2019
- Oct. 29: Peter Dun formally enters free agency
- Oct. 19: Kobbe to explore free agency options
- Oct. 18: Odoamne allowed to explore free agency offers. So is Xerxe.
- Oct. 9: Duke, MacC announce free agency
- Dec. 5: Robert Yip joins as Misfits’ performance coach. He will also take care of the Overwatch League team, Florida Mayhem.
- Dec. 3: PoohManDu joins as assistant coach
- Nov. 24: Misfits officialize Jesiz’s promotion to head coach.
- Nov. 23: GorillA has joined Misfits Gaming, rounding out their starting roster.
- Nov. 22: sOAZ is officially on board. The team is a support signing away from ending its offseason signing spree.
- Nov. 21: Maxlore signed a contract with Misfits Gaming until 2021
- Nov. 20: Febiven officially joins Misfits Gaming. sOAZ and Maxlore set to follow suit. Jesiz possibly promoted to head coach.
- Nov. 20: Special returns for the 2019 season, per the Contract Database
- Nov. 20: Alphari leaves Misfits Gaming after three seasons spent within the organization.
- Nov. 6: Misfits’ players enter free agency
- Oct. 20: Moose moves to front office role
- Jun. 14: Hans sama extends contract until 2021
- Dec. 12: Sheriff renames to Patrik.
- Dec. 3: Kold and mithy complete one of the most stacked lineups in Europe. Guilhoto is set to coach them.
- Dec. 3: Origen (through newly appointed assistant coach Fabian Broich) confirm the signings of Alphari, Nukeduck and Sheriff.
- Nov. 21: Origen may have hired Guilhoto, who was Nukeduck’s head coach at Schalke 04
- Nov. 20: Alphari, Nukeduck and Sheriff join Origen
- Nov. 20: Deficio has officially assumed General Manager duties. xPeke has become the brand’s ambassador.
- Nov. 19: RFRSH have acquired Origen and will manage the brand in the LEC. They will not be using the Astralis name in League of Legends.
- Dec. 18: Mapache joins as head analyst. Angel Archer returns after a split spent in the German scene.
- Dec. 16: exceL add Jarge, Unlimited to their coaching staff
- Dec. 14: Innaxe returns to exceL for their 10-man roster
- Dec. 13: Taxer returns to exceL as a secondary jungler
- Dec. 12: exceL sign Special as their secondary mid laner. Mystiques also joins.
- Dec. 10: SendOo returns to the organization, to be Expect’s backup
- Dec. 7: Expect completes a surprisingly well-rounded roster
- Dec. 4: Exileh joins from the Unicorns of Love
- Dec. 2: Caedrel has arrived from H2K Gaming
- Nov. 30: Jeskla arrives from Movistar Riders
- Nov. 28: Kasing leaves Splyce, transfers to exceL
- Nov. 20: exceL formally announce their status as an LEC franchise
- Jan. 15: Xirreth signs with Rogue as their performance coach. She previously worked with Team ROCCAT and Fnatic.
- Dec. 23: Woolite and Inspired complete the Ultraliga roster. To be fair, Rogue’s squad looks more like a 10-man roster at this point.
- Dec. 22: Finn and Larssen are officially on board. So are Blumigan and VandeR.
- Dec. 2: Profit joins the roster as its final piece. The team heads to South Korea for boot camp.
- Dec. 1: Sencux has formally joined the lineup.
- Nov. 30: HeaQ is officially on board.
- Nov. 29: Rogue add Wadid on the lineup.
- Nov. 28: Rogue officially announce the arrival of Kikis on the lineup.
- Nov. 27: Sencux and Larssen might also be joining the lineup.
- Nov. 27: Fredy122 formally joins Rogue as head coach
- Nov. 26: Kenzi notes that Wadid and Profit might have joined Rogue.
- Nov. 23: Rogue announce Edward as their assistant coach.
- Nov. 22: Rogue may have hired Kikis in the jungle.
- Nov. 21: HeaQ is possibly reuniting with Flyy, to be Rogue’s bot laner
- Nov. 20: Anna Baumann to headline Rogue’s League of Legends division. Team ROCCAT’s former general manager, Flyy, will manage the team.
- Jan. 8: SK Academy finalized; Jenax, Sacre in.
- Jan. 4: SK’s Academy roster loses SozPurefect, Scarface.
- Dec. 20: SK announce their full LEC lineup. Werlyb, Selfmademan, Pirean, Crownshot and Dreams join.
- Dec. 19: Sheepy and Realistik join SK Gaming’s coaching staff
- Dec. 1: SK Gaming may have approached Pirean for the mid lane position.
- Nov. 20: SK Gaming officially join the LCE
- Nov. 14: The team has fielded a lineup in the DACH region since Jun. 15, but there is nothing official yet regarding their arrival in the LEC
- Jun. 15: T-Mobile partners with SK Gaming for LEC franchising application
Outgoing teams and other free agency moves
Splyce, Team ROCCAT, Giants Gaming, Unicorns of Love and H2K Gaming are on their way out, but some of them have assets available via free agency. In addition, the teams’ coaching staffs are valuable assets to incoming organizations, making eventual free agency announcements worthwhile.
- Nov. 18: Giants’ players are free to explore free agency as their contracts expire.
- Nov. 13: Giants allow Djoko to talk to teams
- Oct. 4: Kubz announces free agency.
- Nov. 18: Team ROCCAT’s contracts expire. No further changes will be documented here.
- Nov. 14: Team ROCCAT officialize departure from LCS
Unicorns of Love
- Dec. 19: Sheepy leaves the team under his family’s care, joins SK Gaming.
- Nov. 18: UoL’s player contracts expire. Sheepy is the only one currently on a contract until 2019.
- Nov. 6: Unicorns of Love players to explore free agency
- Nov. 2: UoL formally announce that they are out of the LEC (see above)
- Dec. 6: Selfie joins FlyQuest’s Academy squad in the LCS.
- Nov. 20: Origen claim Sheriff’s contract.
- Nov. 18: Selfie (2020) and Sheriff (2019) have ongoing contracts, which may net H2K Gaming additional monetary considerations in the event of a transfer.
- Nov. 17: The majority of the players head into free agency without additional catches. See above for exceptions.
Status before the franchising era
The listings below showcase the situations of the teams that are in the LEC, as well as the assets that outgoing teams currently feature.
* denotes unconfirmed players whose contracts run past the offseason. Fnatic can retain them or transfer them to another team.
Fnatic scored the best finish for a Western team in the World Championship since Season 1 as they reached the finals in 2018. However, they did so with several players that are on their way to free agency. As a result, change is likely on the horizon as they enter the franchising era, but I am fairly positive that it would be minimal.
At the very least, the organization has retained Broxah’s services for 2019, and they have Rekkles and Hylissang on their payroll should they choose to retain them. Broxah is an excellent building block for any team with his skill set as a moral anchor and macro facilitator. With the right talent (or with the same players), Fnatic can only go upwards.
However, they have to choose which players to retain among Bwipo, Caps and sOAZ. Considering the price tag at which they come, expect Fnatic to surrender one of them to the 2019 offseason. Furthermore, considering the organization’s emphasis on nurturing Bwipo’s growth, sOAZ seems like the odd man out. On top of expressing discontent at the situation during the 2018 MSI, it is unlikely that he would return to Fnatic as Bwipo’s substitute.
Team Vitality’s offseason may end before it begins, as large scale changes are unlikely to occur — especially given their promising performance at the 2018 World Championship. Their core carry duo (Jiizuke and Attila) and head coach extraordinaire YamatoCannon are on board for at least one more year.
However, the team has plenty of expiring contracts heading into a potentially vicious LEC offseason. Moreover, the players stood out in their own right, making them potential free agent targets for teams seeking upgrades. Cabochard’s performance level and leadership in 2018 will likely draw offers his way. The same can be said about Kikis, whose presence within the team led to its resurgence during the summer split.
Team Vitality’s safest course of action would be to retain the whole starting lineup, and to add substitutes with different play styles in the jungle and on support. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t believe the hype about a potential support change yet.
* G2 Esports have not publicly confirmed that their lineup would remain the same. But do they really need to do that?
Had you asked me about G2’s prospects during the 2018 summer playoffs, I would have called for a wide-scale reboot of the roster. G2’s team play was lackluster, and chemistry was at an all-time low.
However, if we are to base assumptions solely upon their run ever since then, a reboot would be wasteful. Jankos was finally able to play around the bot lane, and the latter stepped up heavily at Worlds. In fact, the whole team stepped up. Their 2018 run paralleled Fnatic’s 2017 campaign, and their follow-up year could mirror Fnatic’s dominance in 2018 should they develop.
G2 showed their potential as a lineup at the World Championship, and they can build upon that in 2019. The stars seemingly align towards that as their contracts run through 2019 at least. The only way the roster changes is through transfers, but it could happen. Should that occur, questions around team chemistry would inevitably arise once again.
Based on the events that transpired during 2018, G2 could level up its coaching staff and provide GrabbZ with more means to stabilize team morale. G2 know how to read the meta, but keeping the players in high spirits had been a challenge during the summer split — and I will not pretend that their abrupt quarterfinal exit didn’t happen.
FC Schalke 04 Esports
FC Schalke 04 Esports had one of the best lineups in Europe, but circumstances caused their undoing. Team Vitality’s better point total and G2’s surreal resurgence during the gauntlet left them stranded in Europe, when a team of their caliber would have been at Worlds otherwise.
Schalke paid the price for a misfire in the 2018 offseason, when they hired the mechanically-oriented Pride rather than the team-centric Amazing. At least, they fixed their mistake, and reached the summer split playoff finals. However, the damage was done: their spring split result forced them to participate in the gauntlet, where G2 awaited.
Before we talk about anything related to Schalke’s offseason, let’s get something out of the way immediately. Schalke without Upset in 2019 would be like cake without sugar: it just shouldn’t happen. The eventuality of a transfer doesn’t matter: he is their most prized asset, and one of the strongest and most consistent bot laners in the region. As such, there is no way that they would let him go.
Nukeduck’s status is not as clear, and the same can apply to Amazing, VandeR and Vizicsacsi. But the team’s biggest free agent is their coach, Guilhoto, whose signing could signify the reunion of the lineup (or at least a bargaining chip towards retaining Nukeduck, who has stated his fondness for the coach).
Despite their strong 2018 run and their fostering of young European talent throughout their EU LCS tenure, Splyce nearly wasn’t a franchise in 2019. In the eleventh hour, Riot Games revived their application as Movistar Riders and North fell through.
Suddenly, the talk is no longer about offloading assets, but on holding on to them for dear life. Splyce went from finding suitors for their players, to doing their best to retain them overnight. However, for their coaching staff, it might be too late.
Splyce’s 2018 struggles serve as a foreshadowing for a brighter 2019 season. Odoamne was still rock solid despite the team’s initially bleak outlook early 2018. His patience paid off, as Xerxe and Nisqy improved and became steady performers. Kobbe and KaSing’s performance level was never in question, yet they stepped up further, be it in terms of performance, mindset, or leadership (with KaSing’s shotcalling notably evolving).
However, they may have to do it with a different coaching staff. Peter Dun, Duke and MacC were significant actors in the team’s development, and they may have already explored free agency. Should that not be the case, I, for one, would be overjoyed to see that coaching staff back in action for one more year.
** Misfits Gaming have already performed a radical change as they transferred Moose towards a front office role, and out of coaching. The organization have traditionally given full control to the coaching staff, making their upcoming coaching hire all the more important for setting the tone.
Misfits will be one of the biggest players in free agency as they seek to reach heights unseen since 2017. With the bulk of the lineup headed to free agency, they have the freedom to build a super team around Hans Sama. Let that sink in.
On the top of Misfits’ priorities should lie the Alphari situation, as he has been the most consistent member (and a highly rated top laner in the LEC). Unless the team hunts for Ssumday or sOAZ, there is little reason to look elsewhere. Even then, I would argue that Alphari could hold his own against them.
However, the rest of the team’s signings need to synergize and offer possibilities for the coaching staff, with communication, leadership and team fighting as the primary characteristics they need. The old roster provided that, but there is room for further optimization. One less facilitator and one more in-game leader would greatly help.
Current offseason moves
One of the most storied teams in the EU LCS is no more. Unlike Splyce, Team ROCCAT have no assets to offload — but plenty to offer. The 2018 roster combined raw talent with veteran savvy, as Profit and Blanc watched over three players attempting to set a foothold in the professional scene.
The free agent with the highest value in ROCCAT’s batch is AD carry HeaQ. Gone are his “two-time” days (two-time relegated from the LCS), and in came an in-game leader nearly propelled the team to the gauntlet in 2018. Profit and Blanc could also come in handy as disciplinarians and solid role players (with occasionally funny behavior, especially in Profit’s case).
Norskeren and Memento are still developing, but they have also shown promise when enabled during 2018. Their playmaking has occasionally allowed ROCCAT to play games on easy mode, and a little more consistency would greatly help them in 2019 (as they would face situations where playmaking will not be enough). Under the right circumstances, and in the right lineup, they will make an impact in the LEC — as long as they take the lessons learned under head coach Fredy122 and performance coach Xirreth to heart.
Giants Gaming’s LCS odyssey ends with the unfulfilled promise of a lineup that could have evolved into a European powerhouse. The arrivals of Kubz and SirNukesALot raised several questions regarding the lineup’s potential with more time, as contention for an LEC playoff spot would have been a matter of time — and nothing else.
Kubz improved an already decent lineup, with Djoko in particular heavily improving from 2017. Without the shackles of Team Vitality’s old coaching staff, he evolved into a potent lane-assist jungler and team fighter. His relaxed attitude can also help stabilize teams when they face adversity, should an organization hire him as a moral anchor.
Steeelback also stepped up following his pairing with SirNukesALot. However, the pairing is unlikely to happen for a year as the support serves his military service. As such, the French AD carry is left looking for the next best bot lane partner on his own… or with Djoko, should they represent a package deal.
Unicorns of Love
**** Samux is on loan to Movistar Riders, who nearly joined the LEC.
The Unicorns of Love are no more. Long live the Unicorns of Love, their crazy family spirit, and the relaxed atmosphere through thick and thin.
Among their free agent lineup resides the biggest jungle free agent in the LEC: Kold. It won’t be a matter of landing in a contender, but how far that contender goes with him in tow. I would go as far as to say that he is an upgrade over any jungler not named Broxah. In fact, he does match toe-to-toe with the latter, and only their teammates separate them.
The other big free agent from UoL is Totoro, as he is able to communicate in English and plays at a high caliber. Considering that Europe is a region that seriously lacks on the support department, he will find suitors. As for the remaining players outside of Samux (see above), they are serviceable role players, but the league is stacked at their position.
Perhaps, the big question mark lies in whether head coach Sheepy will leave the organization he founded in 2013. Wouldn’t that be something…
H2K Gaming’s demise at the application stage of the franchising process is hardly surprising considering their back-and-forth dialogue with Riot Games in the 2018 offseason. The team’s downscaling (to break even, fairly reasonable) didn’t help, as they struggled to win games during the 2018 summer split. However, their performance was not without bright spots.
The team was a bargain LCS squad, built with emerging talent that will find its way in the LEC or in the Academy tier in 2019. For some of them, mindset evolution is key to securing further offers. For others, further development awaits, provided teams are willing to invest.
At least, the season went to show that Veteran and Kelsey Moser had a keen eye for talent scouting and team building; a pity H2K couldn’t afford the infrastructure to leverage their talents to the fullest.
Other free agents
The names below are among many that could be available. They are a combination between the hottest free agents in other regions, players that have expressed discontent with their current situation, and emerging talent not listed previously (credits to Ram “Brokenshard” Djemal for highlighting several of them).