2021 LEC Spring Split Playoffs | The Five Burning Questions
We are three Best of 5s into the 2021 LEC Spring Split playoffs, and there are five burning questions left. Fortunately for us, almost all of them will be answered in just a couple of days! Things have pretty much developed “according to plan,” with the sole exception being MAD Lions’ surprising win over Rogue. It was always a possibility, but it still felt remote. We witnessed a fight between two flourishing lineups, and the younger one prevailed, despite the unfavorable odds.
As a result, the 2021 LEC Spring Split playoffs have become all the more entertaining, and so have the questions and overarching narratives coming into the second week of play.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s begin!
Will Fnatic Deliver?
The jury’s still out on the 2021 Fnatic lineup. Some people love them; others aren’t quite as impressed. And, in a way, both sides of the spectrum are right in their analysis. Fnatic has shown immense potential. They’ve also fumbled and failed in a myriad of ways. Some of these failures were relatively negligible — a blemish that could easily be justified and excused. Others, however, were quite egregious, made all the more worrying given the amount of talent and experience present within this five-man lineup.
They were often too eager to skirmish and tended to throw caution out the window, regardless of whom they were up against. And, more often than not, things didn’t pan out their way. It was as if they fought and played, thinking they were much better than they were — a bit of hubris, no doubt. In actuality, their execution was all over the place. Their drafts left a lot to be desired. Performances went from amazing to abysmal in what felt like a blink of an eye.
That’s Fnatic’s 2021 in a nutshell.
Still, they have the potential — we’ve seen it on display on more than one occasion. The only question now is: will they realize it in time to challenge for a spot atop the LEC? Beating SK Gaming is by no means a praiseworthy achievement. And, frankly, the same goes for Schalke 04 — their upcoming opponent. Fnatic will need to deliver and execute without fault if they intend to trade blows with MAD Lions, Rogue, and G2 Esports. Unless they can shore up their weaknesses and learn to play with a bit more reserve (tamed aggression would be the best way of describing it), they probably won’t be able to leave much of a mark in the grand scheme of things.
Schalke 04 | Forever a Gatekeeper?
The fact that Schalke 04 found themselves in the upper half of the playoffs bracket was a blessing. They’re always fun to watch and can trade blows with the best teams in Europe. Still, “trading blows” is by no means equivalent to “winning.” These two concepts are vastly different. While Schalke has been trading blows for what feels like an eternity, they haven’t been winning much.
Well, at least not when it mattered most.
They’re a gatekeeper through and through. While that’s generally far from an enviable position, it is still a fairly commendable one given the level of opposition they’ve been facing weekly. Being a mid-tier challenger in Europe is far from easy. Schalke deserves a ton of praise for the speed at which they’ve grown. Still, it hasn’t been enough in the past, and it almost surely won’t be enough in the present either.
The fact that they had taken G2 to the brink of defeat is in no way indicative of their long-term potential. The “Kings of Europe” love to spice things up. They’re no strangers to fooling around and experimenting, ill-advised as it is. They know they have the tools and resilience to claw their way back no matter how big of a deficit they’re facing. And we saw this extraordinary virtue on full display last weekend as well.
Be that as it may, Schalke 04 can pack a punch and are fed up with everyone underestimating them. No one’s expecting them to beat Fnatic but, if the stars align, they could pull off the seemingly impossible.
Rogue — A Short Detour or a Worrying Sign?
Rogue’s loss to MAD Lions last week was a fairly surprising one. Now, losing is one thing — it happens to everyone. But losing in this particular fashion is almost always an indication of a much broader issue.
Coming into this action-packed Best of 5, Rogue had a perfect head-to-head record against MAD Lions, which, by and large, implied that the boys in blue had their “number.” At the very least, they knew what their opponents might bring to the table and had ample confidence because they’ve always found a way to win whenever they faced off in the past. And sure, two games are by no means a huge sample size, but it’s all we have. More often than not, it’s enough for us to make well-educated guesses and predictions.
This time around, however, it gave us a false impression. MAD Lions always had a puncher’s chance — of that everyone was aware — but Rogue was much more consistent and dominant throughout the 2021 LEC Spring Split, which is why they had earned everyone’s benefit of the doubt.
In the end, though, it wasn’t enough against a very motivated MAD Lions who decided to play almost exclusively through their potent bottom lane duo. And what a showing it was! Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság and Norman “Kaiser” Kaiser played out of their minds, with the latter being especially clutch with his late-game engages and pristine positioning.
Still, it’s not like Rogue got outclassed by any stretch of the imagination. It was an insanely competitive Best of 5 that was ultimately decided by the slimmest of margins. MAD Lions found a couple of weaknesses and exploited them beautifully, which eventually netted them the series win. It certainly wasn’t the best possible showing on Rogue’s end, but at least their weaknesses were easy to spot. This, in turn, means they shouldn’t have too much trouble ironing things out in time for their upcoming Best of 5.
That said, another bad outing could cost them dearly — there’s no room for mistakes in the lower half of the bracket. It’s a “one strike and you’re out” kind of deal. Expect everyone to be on their best behavior!
MAD Lions — Are They the Real Deal?
The boys in white and gold made everyone take notice last week, but their unexpected triumph brought forth more questions than answers. Are they the “real deal,” or was it just a one-off kind of thing, a moment of brilliance in which they overperformed and got their hands raised? It’s impossible to know for certain right now, but we’re at the very least intrigued to find out.
The MAD Lions from last week is undeniably a Top 3 team, but only if they can maintain that impressive level of play which, in all fairness, is far from easy. And even though they did so many things right, it’s impossible for us to board the MAD Lions hype train as Rogue fumbled and failed a lot more than usual. One team delivered beyond expectations and the other failed to execute — hence the surprising result.
Be that as it may, this MAD Lions bunch is playing without reserve. They’re also incredibly creative, both in terms of draft and in-game play. If there’s one team that might surprise the reigning LEC champions, it’s probably MAD.
Fortunately, that’s exactly the match-up we’re getting! Mark your calendars and prepare enough popcorn as a spectacle is all but guaranteed!
Can Anyone Challenge G2 Esports?
This leads us to the final question of the 2021 LEC Spring Split playoffs: can anyone actually challenge G2 Esports? We cannot know the answer in advance but, based on empirical evidence and a bit of logic, we’d be inclined to respond with a resounding “no.” Still, the reigning LEC champs will have to face a slew of highly idiosyncratic challengers, each of whom carries a unique set of skills. MAD Lions will attack them in a vastly different way than, say, Rogue, and the same goes for Fnatic. None of these three teams have more experience or talent, but if they show up on the day and execute to the best of their ability, they’ll definitely have a puncher’s chance.
Many things, of course, will need to happen and transpire for that to occur, but at least they have a shot, no matter how minute or negligible it might be. Until we see it with our own eyes, though, G2 Esports will always be favored, as is only natural given their immense depth and tremendous success.