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Buckle up for the 2019 LEC offseason!

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.

Team Vitality

Splyce

Misfits Gaming

Origen

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.

Giants Gaming

Team ROCCAT

Unicorns of Love

H2K Gaming

  • 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.

Fnatic

* 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

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

* 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).

Splyce

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

** 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

Team ROCCAT

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

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

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).

Adel Chouadria

Adel Chouadria is a League of Legends writer covering the LEC for five years, and the European Regional Leagues starting 2019. He has witnessed the Unicorns of Love's rise and fall from Day 1, as well as G2's sudden ascension to contender status. Besides that, he is fond of basketball, pro wrestling, and cake.

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