2021 LEC Spring Split — A Photo Finish Packed With Exciting Narratives
The regular portion of the 2021 LEC Spring Split is coming to an end with just three games left to be played, which means we’re in for one heck of a photo finish! There’s a lot on the line too, although the playoff picture isn’t nearly as chaotic as is the case in North America. In the LEC, despite a couple of remaining question marks, things are a lot more clear-cut. But even though we can confidently predict what’ll happen and how, that doesn’t mean entertainment will be absent. On the contrary!
All of the ten permanent partners still have a reason to try their hardest which should, in turn, result in some insanely entertaining League of Legends. Plus, with three games on the line, teams don’t really have the luxury of fooling around. So, as a result, expect everyone to be on their best behavior! G2 Esports and Rogue are basically guaranteed to finish the split in first and second place, which means we already know who’ll occupy the upper half of the playoff bracket. Everyone below them, however, still needs to deliver.
This is especially true for two groups of teams: the one right behind G2 and Rogue, and the one that’s fighting for that last playoff spot. Teams from the former want to finish as high as possible so that they can secure a favorable match-up in the playoffs. No one in their right mind would want to go up against the defending LEC champions as that would be a guaranteed — and quite immediate — exit from the playoffs. Teams from the latter, however, just want to reach the playoffs by any means necessary.
That overused phrase “every game matters” is a disgusting cliché, but it sure is correct.
Either way, a photo finish is all but guaranteed, so let’s focus on the most interesting questions and narratives coming into the last week of the 2021 LEC Spring Split!
The Fight Between MAD and Fnatic No Longer Matters
One of the more interesting stories that has developed throughout the split is definitely the rivalry between Fnatic and MAD Lions. By and large, they’re the third and fourth best team in the region and their play tells the same tale as well. Who’s better than whom doesn’t really matter at this point, although MAD have already won the head-to-head battle. Still, most folks tend to side with Fnatic just because of their veterancy and sheer experience — those things matter immensely once Best of 5s come around.
And even though both teams are tied for third right now with nine wins and six losses, it matters very little how this tie will eventually resolve. G2 Esports, being the first seed and all, will have the option to choose either Fnatic or MAD Lions as their playoff opponent. Whom they’ll eventually go for is anyone’s guess at this point, but if we were to take a wild stab in the dark, we’d go with MAD Lions as they have less experience in the Best of 5 format and should, therefore, be more susceptible to fumbling once their backs are against the wall. Being strong and competitive in a single game isn’t nearly as complex or challenging as it is to prepare for a five-game series.
Think of the former as an explosive sprint; the latter, on the other hand, is a grueling triathlon that’ll challenge your mind and body in equal measure.
So who’ll finish third and who’ll go down to fourth doesn’t really mean anything at this point — G2 already know whom they’ll go with.
SK Gaming — Fortune Favors the Brave
With eight wins and seven losses, SK Gaming are the biggest surprise of the split. There’s no other way to put it. They’re far better than anyone expected and are echoing much of what made Rogue and MAD Lions so darn special back when they first broke onto the scene. They’re not perfect, mind you, but they’ve done incredibly well given what they had to work with and whom they had to face.
Finishing a split in the LEC with a .500 record is nothing to scoff at, especially not for a line-up stacked with so many rookies and ERL prospects. But whatever SK might lack in experience, they more than make up for in dedication and preparation — not to mention a stellar coaching staff which undoubtedly plays a huge role when it comes to the latter.
That said, their upcoming schedule is pretty unfavorable. They have Rogue, Astralis, and G2 Esports lined up for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Two-thirds of that line-up are all but guaranteed losses, which means SK needs to beat Astralis in order to lock down a spot in the playoffs. Fortunately, that shouldn’t prove to be that big of a challenge. If they get their hands raised at least once this week, they’ll finish the split with nine wins and nine losses which would put them above both Schalke 04 and Misfits Gaming.
A spot in the playoffs without even a single superstar player or seasoned veteran is quite an incredible feat, and you just love to see it!
Schalke 04 vs. Misfits — It’ll Go Down to the Wire
Beneath SK Gaming we have none other than Schalke 04 and Misfits trading heavy blows in an attempt to salvage their Spring Split. Neither have been all that impressive lately (to put it mildly), and neither have the tools to compete at the highest of levels. Still, by securing a spot in the playoffs they would at least end the split on a somewhat satisfactory note.
In the absence of great and momentous triumphs, these little ones will do.
It is a negligible consolation prize given how they’re not expected to accomplish much, but for these players it’s certainly a motivating goal to play towards. The fact that they’re struggling so much isn’t necessarily indicative of their efforts (or lack thereof) — sometimes things just don’t “click” and it’s too late to correct course.
The interesting thing, however, is that they’ll probably remain tied once all is said and done. Misfits are scheduled to face MAD Lions, Fnatic, and Vitality. They should be able to beat the last team of the bunch, but even that’s far from a guarantee given Vitality’s recent resurgence (if we can even call it that).
Schalke 04, on the other hand, will go up against Fnatic, Vitality, and EXCEL Esports. They have a slightly easier road ahead, but they’ve been playing a lot worse than Misfits. They’re 1W-7L in their last eight games which, frankly, is quite a dreadful record. So while they certainly have the tools to beat EXCEL and Vitality, it’s nigh impossible to give them our benefit of the doubt.
Overall, both teams will need to be on their “best behavior” going forward if they want to stand a chance of reaching the playoffs. They’re also tied in their head-to-head record with one win apiece, so if things pan out as expected, they’ll clash off once again at the very end of the split — a fight for all the marbles!
Any Upsets on the Horizon?
The conclusion of any split is always a load of fun. Top-tier teams try their hardest to maintain their leads, mid-tier contenders try to ascend the ranks and punch above their weight class, and bottom-tier dwellers try to upset the long-established status quo and bring someone down with them.
It’s like a badge of honor.
We’re looking at Vitality, EXCEL Esports, and Astralis — all three have the potential to upset, as proven on so many different occasions throughout the split. And sure, the odds of it happening are quite slim (if not non-existent) but that won’t stop them from trying.
Last week it was Vitality who took down a surging SK Gaming, and no one saw it coming. We also saw Rogue dropping a game to Schalke 04 back in early February — a twist that made no sense whatsoever. And while that certainly feels like a one-off kind of thing, it’s impossible to ignore that it happened.
The tail end of the split is always incredibly stressful for the vast majority of those competing. It’s a “do-or-die” kind of moment, and the margin for error tends to shrink considerably. This is the moment they’ve all been waiting for — everyone wants to make a good impression, make a statement, and potentially enter the playoffs with as much momentum as possible.
But there are also those who’s playoff dreams have been shattered and dispelled weeks ago. They don’t have anything left to prove or fight for — they’ve failed as competitors. Still, these teams often try their hardest to end the split with a couple of solid performances, before inevitably going on a “forced” vacation. This means they can play without pressure and reserve which can, in some cases, empower their play in the most important of ways. That’s when the most mind-boggling upsets tend to happen.
So keep an eye on the many LEC bottom-tier dwellers and gatekeepers as they’ll surely try their hardest to go out with a bang as we come to the finish of the 2021 Spring Split!