By Petar Vukobrat
February 4, 2020
LEC Rogue is a team that certainly didn’t move the needle back in the first half of 2019. From their underwhelming roster to their slightly bland and edgy branding, Rogue was never meant to accomplish much in the grand scheme of things. After all, the LEC is as stacked with talent as humanly possible. It is, at the time of this writing, the second-best region in the world. A team with a couple of solo queue phenoms and up-and-comers shouldn’t have much to offer, right?
Well, not exactly. That might be an unspoken rule, but we’ve seen our fair share of exceptions over the years. Misfits Gaming burst onto the scene and reached Worlds in just a single calendar year. They went from the Challenger Series to challenging SKT T1 to five games at the biggest stage in the world. That’s about as quick of a rise as you can get.
Team Vitality took everyone by surprise and created a legacy that will long be remembered — a team defined by unrelenting aggression and bravado. They were rarely perfect in execution, but they fought their hearts out any time they stepped foot on stage.
But both challengers faded into obscurity about as fast as they rose to fame. Misfits Gaming is currently one of the worst teams in the region (for the second year in a row). Vitality certainly looked emasculated and subdued throughout 2019, right after they gave Royal Never Give Up and Cloud9 a run for their money at Worlds the year prior.
Rogue, on the other hand, seems different. They didn’t accomplish quite as much, but they still made the region take notice. Despite their confusing trajectory, it feels like they’ve adapted and improved gradually through a very organic process. They didn’t have the best of starts overall, but they’ve built their reputation play by play, game by game. Such an approach certainly isn’t as awe-inspiring or entertaining as Misfits’ or Vitality’s, but it’s better in the long run.
Because they worked on their issues and grew over time, they became bona fide challenger, a team that is without any huge glaring weakness. They can still be exploited and bested both individually as well as a five-man unit, but they’ve displayed admirable skill on the Summoner’s Rift. Because their growth wasn’t rushed and because they had the right guidance, we get to witness stuff like this:
Larssen v Febi
This play comes from the Swedish phenom Emil “Larssen” Larsson. While he always had such talent within him, it wasn’t until he blossomed under the Rogue banner that we truly got to see such mind-blowing outplays. This was Larssen outplaying the “boy who killed Faker,” a Worlds semifinalist, and a mid laner who traded heavy blows with some of the best players to ever step foot on stage.
Now, there’s no doubt that all League pros attack and engage with more fervor whenever they scrim. That’s a fact. After all, there’s no reason not to when there’s nothing on the line. Playing on stage, however, is an entirely different beast. Most players either lack the confidence to go for huge outplays, or don’t want to risk dying and, therefore, putting their team in a disadvantageous position. But you can always notice when a talented player assumes control and reaches that oh-so-important point in his career when graced with supreme confidence and belief in his abilities.
We see that from LEC Rogue as a whole. Confidence, bravado, and trust in one another. Even if one player drops the ball, there’s always a teammate or two to right the wrong. That’s a rare quality. It’s present only in the best teams out there. Is Rogue one of them? Well, our minds say “no,” but there’s evidence that proves otherwise.
Coming into the 2020 season, they certainly were considered a Top 4 team. Because the organization never attained much success (other than reaching playoffs last Summer), the bar is low, which means they’re bound to deliver.
Finally, they’re a challenger brought into existence through many tempering sessions against the very best teams the LEC had to offer. They fought against better teams which meant they could learn from the best. When you have a couple of young and talented players willing to learn and hone their craft, odds are you’re going to end up with a highly capable roster that’ll eventually become a threat.
Rogue is the perfect example. Their many losses never hindered their growth. After weathering the proverbial storm, they’ve emerged stronger than ever.
What a spectacular storyline. It came from the unlikeliest of sources, too. That makes their whole journey that much more special and worthy of following.
Whenever LEC Rogue competed, however, there was often something missing. Most people knew it was a strong and dangerous bottom lane duo. It’s not that they were weak per se, but they lacked the oomph, which was necessary for Rogue to compete at the highest of levels.
Most top-tier teams have at least one behemoth in the bottom lane. Fnatic has Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov; G2 Esports has Luka “Perkz” Perković and Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle; and Origen has Elias “Upset” Lipp and Mitchell “Destiny” Shaw. The bottom lane duos need just a small opening to capitalize and swing the game in their favor.
Rogue never had such a stellar bottom side of the map, and they knew it. Oskar “Vander” Bogdan was certainly stellar as expected from such a venerable veteran. However, he couldn’t do it alone. Fortunately, he now has one of the best AD carries in the region by his side: Steven “Hans Sama” Liv.
Hans had a metric ton of hype coming into the LEC. He lived up to the most of it. His 2019 season was bad all things considered, but he shouldn’t get much of the blame as Misfits Gaming imploded as a whole. After the season, Hans said he wasn’t looking to be a leader. He just wanted to style on his opponents and flex his mechanical prowess.
With Vander by his side, he’ll no longer have to micromanage anyone but himself and can focus solely on his play. With a week of play behind us, we’ve seen more than enough to board the LEC Rogue hype train with incredible plays by Hans and Vander.
They’re so well-rounded right now. They truly have all the right tools to compete with the very best teams in the region. If they finish the season in third place (and therefore lock down a ticket for the World Championship), no one will be overly surprised.
Their growth has been staggering. Watching them develop into the superstars of tomorrow will be an absolute joy. Finally, it seems as though the long-established (and perhaps a bit dull) LEC status quo might finally change. Watching G2 Esports and Fnatic dominate beyond measure is exciting and fun, but that’s the only thing we’ve seen for years. It’s time for a brand-new challenger to enter the fray and challenge for the LEC throne.
Does Rogue fit the bill? It’s impossible to know for sure now, but they have a solid chance of going deep into the playoffs.