The Origen of the LEC’s Biggest Gatekeeper
Gatekeepers always play a fascinating role. As strange as it might sound, they’re the unsung heroes of esports and any kind of competition. Depending on their talent and potential, the competition itself might be one-sided beyond belief, or competitive enough to actually draw you in and entertain up until that inevitable grand finale during which these gatekeepers fall short of greatness. This was the story of many teams throughout history, and it’s also the story of Origen, arguably the biggest LEC gatekeeper yet.
Whenever their backs were against the wall, whenever they had to overcome a seemingly unassailable hurdle, Origen fumbled and failed almost by default. Origen is a top-tier LEC gatekeeper, and while such a role might sound illogical or contradictory, it doesn’t make it any less true. That’s the unflattering position of always playing second-fiddle to a team that’s favored from the very get-go. They’re always insanely talented, dangerous, flexible, and highly capable — and yet it’s never enough.
No matter their strength, starting line-up, or meta in which they compete, they just can’t break through. It is as if there’s a palpable skill ceiling above them, and whatever they do or try, it never makes a difference. Their trajectory throughout the regular season is always the same. They start somewhat shaky but confident. Then, after finding an identity and playstyle to call their own, they start stringing wins — games in which they’re dominant enough to get you thinking: “is this the year they break through?” As the regular portion of the split develops, however, you start to notice the cracks in their armor. Their inherent flaws become more and more visible as the sample size increases, and the best teams in the region — the Fnatics and G2s — always find a way to capitalize when it matters the most.
Origen is always miles ahead of teams below them, and yet so far away from the ones above. The phrase “stronger than the sum of their parts” is the most apt description of their talent and potential. Make no mistake, the Origen of 2019 and 2020 is a cliche prototype of the LEC gatekeeper. Nothing more, nothing less.
If you’ve been following the LEC for years, you can spot such top-tier gatekeepers almost instinctively, without even watching them play. Sometimes it’s the players. Other times, it’s the way the team comes together. One thing, however, is for certain: there was never a team that looked like a gatekeeper and ended up defying the odds. In the LEC, that just doesn’t happen, for a multitude of reasons.
Multiple well-rounded gatekeepers are necessary for the LEC to be even remotely entertaining. If it was just Fnatic, G2 Esports, and a bunch of scrubs no one would tune in to watch. Instead, it’s the many nuanced narratives that catch our attention right before the split begins.
Are MAD Lions the real deal? Can Rogue compete with the LEC pantheon? Will Schalke surge with a legendary veteran in the bottom lane?
These are the questions and narratives that make you wonder. They subconsciously force you to watch because you’re dying to find out. What if this is the dawn of a new era? What if we do see the status quo shift in an unexpected direction?
The fact that it never does makes no difference. What is important, however, is that you believe in the possibility of it happening at least for a brief moment. That’s all it takes. A few good questions and you’re hooked, watching every week, rooting for the upset to happen.
So in many ways, whether or not a split is “successful” and engaging depends solely on the many gatekeepers and middle-of-the-pack contenders. They’re used to pad the narrative, to feed a much bigger, overarching storyline. They’re scapegoats, used to strengthen someone else’s impending triumph.
It’s Not the Brand…
In the case of Origen, it’s not literally about the brand itself. This concrete line-up is like a fascinating cocktail of LEC mainstays — players who’ve been around for what feels like an eternity and yet they’ve never actually tasted absolute success. They’ve been close but something always stood in the way. In most cases, it was a team that was better and more talented, an obstacle they simply couldn’t overcome.
Barney “Alphari” Morris is known as a very talented top laner who can dominate on a wide range of champions, but he never made much of a splash. He’s always “there,” dangerous, capable, talented, but nothing more. In any other scenario, these virtues would be more than enough for fans to proclaim him as an absolute legend. But when you’re up against the likes of G2 Esports and Fnatic — two titans and brands that are arguably larger than life — that just doesn’t cut it.
Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir isn’t much different. Ever since he donned the Unicorns of Love jersey, he’s been a stable jungling madman, a player with pristine cerebral pathing, always present at the right moment and time. He’s a bona fide pioneer, someone who’s unafraid of pulling out insane pocket picks and playing them to perfection. He rarely dies and yet his damage output and in-game impact are mind-blowing. But even though he’s a rare talent, he was never able to break through and leave a mark. As an individual, he’s graced with supreme flexibility, but that goes out the window if he doesn’t have teammates who can follow suit.
Origen is a somewhat one-dimensional team. You know what they’re good at, what they’re going to draft, and how they want to execute. They’re not that much weaker on paper when compared to the “LEC kings,” but they do have fewer weapons to work with because they often force themselves into a corner. Once all of a sudden, Xerxe’s champion ocean cannot be utilized correctly. Instead, he’s forced to play just a handful of meta champions to support the team — Gragas, Jarvan, Rek’Sai, Olaf, with the rare Trundle or Karthus thrown in for good measure. If he’s up against a weaker team he’s known to flex, but against a top-tier behemoth, it’s always the same meta slew of champs.
When you know what Origen wants to pick and where their biggest strengths lie, it’s easy to counter them in draft. This is something that can perhaps best be seen in their most recent series against Fnatic (games one and two, in particular). Once they got their hands on comfort picks, however, things changed completely.
Then we have Erlend Våtevik “Nukeduck” Holm. If you’ve listened to the LEC casters over the years, you must’ve heard the “year of the Duck” phrase for about a million times. Year after year, this mid lane veteran is being hyped up beyond measure and yet he never actually accomplishes anything. He’s always good, if not even great, but that’s just not enough at the highest level of play. Many focus on his staggering champion pool, but of what use is it if he’s not impactful in-game? In that case, being dominant on just a handful of champions can get you a lot further. Take Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro for example, a player who made his name on Ryze, Zoe, and LeBlanc. Sure, he can play stuff like Taliyah and Corki, but when he pops off in patented Jiizuke ways, that’s always on one of the three aforementioned champions (his Ekko also deserves a mention, but he’s rarely a meta pick).
Finally, we have Elias “Upset” Lipp in the bottom lane, a player hyped up as the second coming of Konstantinos-Napoleon “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou back when he first joined the LEC with Schalke 04. He’s still getting a lot of leeway from the community, although it’s hard to understand why. Sure, he had a few noticeable performances over the years but nothing too extraordinary. If he does have the same potential and talent like, say, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson or Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, he certainly doesn’t show it regularly.
That’s Origen in a nutshell as well. A team assembled from top-tier players who still don’t know what it feels like to get showered in confetti. And, frankly, they probably never will. They’ll continue playing at their current level because that’s the only thing they can — there’s no more room for improvement. Even if they do diversify their arsenal, it still won’t be enough to take down the likes of G2 Esports or Fnatic.
Still, they play an integral role in the region, one that is deceptively important in the grand scheme of things. Without them — along with teams like Rogue and MAD Lions — things wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. We always know how everything will resolve. In that sense, there’s no mystery or intrigue at the beginning of the split. But the road towards that point is what makes the whole journey worthwhile. If Origen was any weaker, things wouldn’t be the same.
It’s not exactly a prestigious or flattering spot to be in, but it’s an important spot nonetheless.