2021 LEC Spring Split Week 1 Report Card
The first week of the 2021 LEC Spring Split is officially behind us, so let’s quickly go over what happened and come up with a report card of sorts for the 10 competing teams. As is always the case, there were numerous surprises, with specific teams standing out in all the right ways. Now, the sample size that’s currently at our disposal is by no means vast, but it’s still big enough to provide us with a preliminary read on everyone and their long-term potential (or lack thereof). The conclusions we’re about to highlight are not wholly definitive. As always, they will surely change and evolve over the coming weeks (in both good and bad ways), so have that in mind.
Regardless, we’ve got a short glimpse at the 10 LEC teams and their 2021 lineups, and there’s a lot to talk about! So, without any further ado, let’s begin with our very first 2021 LEC Spring Split report card!
G2 Esports — As Good as Expected
The defending LEC champions are first on our 2021 LEC Spring Split report card. The team made quick work of their opposition last weekend and that, in short, was pretty much expected. By signing the most revered marksman in Western history — Martin “Rekkles” Larsson — G2 Esports have completed the “Exodia” and are set for yet another bafflingly dominant season. They’re the biggest favorites to win both Spring and Summer, so if you were hoping for a change in the long-established LEC status quo, you’d probably end up disappointed. G2 Esports getting dethroned? Fat chance!
Furthermore, one could argue that G2 looked a bit more controlled and subdued than what we’re used to, and that’s praise-worthy. By the looks of it, they’ve unlocked yet another level of play, which, to be fair, was the whole point of signing a player like Rekkles — reaching new (and previously unknown) heights. Speaking of the Swedish veteran, he was pretty darn spectacular in his first three outings under the G2 banner. With a combined KDA of 25/1/47, he was able to put on an absolute masterclass. It’s impossible not to get hyped for his future with G2.
It’s not that Luka “Perkz” Perković was bad by any means, but rather that a player like Rekkles brings a sort of stability and poise under pressure that’s unmatched across the West. Despite competing at the highest of levels for years, he’s still at the top of his game and is the benchmark by which all other marksmen — both old and new — are measured.
There’s truly no weak link over at G2 Esports, and it’s impossible not to wonder: is this the year they go all the way and win Worlds? We can only hope that Rekkles was the “missing ingredient,” and even though the odds aren’t exactly on their side, they’ve never had as good a chance as they do now.
Fnatic — A Slow Start
The boys in black and orange have always been slow starters, and this incarnation of Fnatic is no different in that regard. We’re just three games into the 2021 season. It’s fair to say that they’ve done admirably well, especially given the changes they’ve made throughout the off-season.
Whether they’ve regressed in potential (and by how much) remains to be seen, but there’s a reason for optimism, despite community-wide skepticism.
The thing is, they’re much better than their current 1W-2L record would suggest. They’ve made numerous mistakes in both of their losses, but they had flashes of brilliance as well, and the latter is far more critical at this point. Furthermore, the mistakes they’ve made could’ve easily been avoided — they were more the result of slight limit testing than anything else. Fnatic made a great play or engaged more often than not and then just stayed around a bit too long. They were greedy, but at least it came at the tail end of a good move — probably the main reason why they thought they could go for more in the first place. Their new mid laner is vastly different (playstyle-wise) to his predecessor so it’s only natural that they’re testing things out. Some of their plans worked flawlessly; others, however, not so much. But this kind of experimentation is not only natural but even highly welcome. They need to figure out what works best for them and how they can replicate it every week.
As far as history goes, this is far from Fnatic’s worst start, and things will only get better from here on out. In any case, we’re excited to see them grow and evolve over the coming weeks and months as there’s ample potential.
Rogue — Better Than Ever
Next up on our 2021 LEC Spring Split report card is Rogue. Coming into 2021, most of us expected Rogue to do incredibly well, and there’s a good reason why. With a more seasoned top laner and promising young support, one could argue that they’d made the perfect changes to their starting lineup. Losing a shotcaller like Oskar “Vander” Bogdan isn’t what one would call a positive turn of events. Still, they’ve more than compensated by bringing over Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu, who, incidentally, used to play with Vander back on H2K.
In the end, one could argue that they’d emerged from the off-season with a slightly higher skill ceiling and with fewer exploitable weaknesses.
So, now that we’ve seen them perform, what’s our first impression? In short: they’re phenomenal across the board. Heck, they’re much better than anyone expected, and even though we’re still talking about meager sample size, it’s still more than enough to warrant our benefit of the doubt. The thing we want to see most at the start of the season is potential. A team doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does it have to win, but it needs to show us a glimpse of what’s possible, and Rogue did precisely that.
By the looks of it, they’re all but guaranteed to finish in the Top 3. The only question now is: will they be able to go any further? Could they dethrone the former “kings of Europe” and take sole possession of second place? If Fnatic doesn’t get on the same page, the door will wide open for the boys in blue.
MAD Lions — Hard to Read
No one’s still quite sure how high to rank MAD Lions and whether or not they’ve made the correct changes to their starting lineup. For some odd reason, most people forgot that Zhiqiang “Shadow” Zhao was integral in most of MAD’s success back in 2020. Even though his play dropped off considerably as the year went along, he was still a hugely important catalyst. Now, will MAD Lions be any worse (in the long term) with İrfan “Armut” Berk Tükek and Javier “Elyoya” Prades? Probably not, but they’ll still face an uphill battle, with teams like Rogue, Misfits, and Vitality stepping up big time.
The gap between them all, by the looks of it, has shrunk, and considerably so. We still believe MAD will eventually end up above the rest of the surging LEC gatekeepers, but the road towards that point will undoubtedly be paved with many surprises.
The thing is, most LEC teams upgraded in important and nuanced ways. MAD Lions just sidegraded. They improved in the top lane but arguably regressed in jungle. We’ve seen just how big of an impact aggressive, high-tempo junglers can make these days, and without a well-performing playmaker in that oh-so-important role, MAD Lions probably won’t stand a chance of reaching 2020 levels of success.
Either way, they’re still one of the best teams in the region, despite being somewhat weaker than anticipated. It’ll be interesting to see how well they can adapt and further grow as a five-man unit.
Promising Contenders — MSF & VIT
Simply put, Misfits Gaming and Team Vitality looked exceptional last week. Were they perfect? Far from it, but they did more than enough to impress and make us excited for what’s to come. The players’ Misfits signed from the European Regional Leagues wasted little time letting everyone know they meant business. If you were to remove their name tags, you’d never be able to tell them apart from their more seasoned peers and colleagues — they’re that good.
As for Vitality, it’s more a case of players settling into place and finally “clicking” as a five-man unit, rather than anything else. They’ve only made a single change to their starting lineup (a good one, it seems), so it’s not like they had to rebuild any synergy from the ground up. Every player is carrying his fair share of the weight, and even though they still have many kinks to work out, they’ve shown immense promise throughout the first week of play. Vitality’s early game, in particular, is something else. If you were to judge their starting lineup based solely on sheer name value, you probably wouldn’t think they have much to offer. And yet, their early game performance is amongst the very best in the LEC. Simply put, Vitality’s early game is what dreams are made of.
However, the only problem is that once the mid and later stages of the game come around, they tend to fall off a cliff. Of course, that indicates their experience (or lack thereof) and is an issue that can be alleviated over time.
After the first week of play, they have an EGR rating of 78.9 (second best, only behind Rogue). However, their MLR (mid-to-late rating) is flat-out dreadful at -45.5 (absolute worst amongst the 10 competing teams). Talk about a night and day difference! Still, such staggering volatility implies that there’s a respectable skill ceiling — a positive takeaway for sure, even though it isn’t always discernible from their play.
Iván “Razork” Martín, in particular, has been performing out of his mind. The former “Rookie of the Split” recipient has already shown immense potential in the past, but it seems as though he’s a bit more consistent this time around. With a veteran bottom lane as well, Misfits Gaming will have about as good a chance of leaving a mark as Team Vitality, although their consistency might give them an edge in the grand scheme of things.
In any case, watching them grow and develop will be an absolute must — they’re echoing the Rogue and MAD Lions of 2020, and that’s exciting!
Better Than Expected — XL & SK
As for Excel Esports and SK Gaming, it’s still too early to predict anything with confidence. They’re doing well, though, and are performing quite a bit better than most people expected. Excel went blow for blow with a very game G2 Esports, and the same goes for SK — a team without even a single LEC veteran. These are promising lineups. They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder. They know they’re the underdogs (in nearly every match-up), but they don’t care much for the odds. They’re used to being underappreciated and undervalued, so there’s nothing new this time around.
They have nothing to lose, which makes them quite dangerous opponents. Now, frankly, no one’s expecting them to leave much of a mark in the grand scheme of things, but they pack a punch. So far, their play was fairly commendable albeit inherently flawed, but it’s a good start nonetheless.
Astralis & S04 — The Jury’s Still Out
Lastly, we have Astralis or, as they were known up until recently: Origen. Don’t let the change in branding fool you. They’re still as bad as they were last year. However, this time, they can at least make excuses — they don’t have a particularly potent lineup (unlike in 2020), so no one’s expecting much as a result. Based on what we’ve seen so far, we’d say they’re a bit better than anticipated but still far from impressive.
And the same goes for Schalke 04, who didn’t exactly live up to the hype after going on that mind-blowing miracle run last split. They’re pretty much in the same boat as Astralis, albeit for entirely different reasons. They have a higher skill ceiling, but that means very little if they don’t get on the same page and start playing as a cohesive five-man unit. In any case, they have lots to prove and will need to step up sooner rather than later if they intend on reaching the playoffs.
That’s it for our 2021 LEC Spring Split Week 1 report card! We’re at the very start of the season, and if last week’s games are any indication, it’s fair to say that we’re in for quite a ride! There’s a slew of exciting matches this week, so make sure to tune in!