During an era of eSports where Korean nationality is seemingly innately linked to League to Legends genius, in an attempt to close the gap between the Asian nation and the rest of the world, a number of European eSports organisations fielded all-European rosters to complete in the 2017 EU LCS Spring Split. Despite being obviously outclassed on occasions, each of the EU LCS’ all-European rosters earned themselves a playoffs spot.
The European experiment has delivered mixed results within the EU LCS, naturally dependant on the strength of individual rosters. Fnatic, Unicorns of Love and Splyce fielded full European rosters for the 2017 Spring Split and will each compete in the playoffs for a shot at the title.
The Unicorns of Love’s decision to compete with an all-European squad was arguably a forced hand as opposed to an active preference towards ‘native talent’. Following the team’s first ever piece of silverware at IEM Oakland, the team revealed just weeks before the start of the Spring Split that Korean AD carry, Kim “Veritas” Kyoung-min, would be leaving the squad.
Despite having the Korean contracted until November 2017, Veritas’ decision to return to home (on account of homesickness) left UOL scrambling to find a replacement:
Seems like we just can’t seem to avoid emergency roster changes before every split…Either way, I believe @SamuxLoL will do great, welcome!
— Kiss Tamás (@UOLVizicsacsi) 4 January 2017
Without the Korean’s talents, many were uncertain as to how the newly formed roster would perform in the Spring Split with Spaniard, Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort, filling the vacant AD Carry slot. Yet the Unicorns have triumphed with their new addition, finishing top of the EU LCS’ Group B and amongst the favourites to be crowned champions. UOL’s team manager, Romain “Khagneur” Bigeard has since become a champion of the all-European philosophy:
“In Europe, organizations are learning from their mistakes, capitalizing on their success and even on failures. We don’t really have the years of high-level experience Korean teams have, but we learn fast.
“We need to understand how our own player can work and evolve, so we can find our own way to become a dominating region.
“I have the feeling the most successful Koreans players are always going to work for Koreans teams – we can nurture some of them for a while, they would would still prefer to play and perform at home.”
Romain “Khagneur” Bigeard
By contrast, Fnatic entered the new year already firmly on board with the European philosophy. After the collapse of the team’s 2016 roster, only Martin “Rekkles” Larsson was left to wave the Fnatic flag. Given the team’s failure with Koreans throughout Season 6, the team’s management were quick to outline their plans for a 10-man roster, consisting entirely of European talent:
Would like to reiterate that we are looking to build a full EUROPEAN roster. Around players that will stay together for more than a year.
— Finlay Quaye Stewart (@fnaticquaye) 18 November 2016
It became immediately apparent that in spite of the rosters shared European origins, synergy was not forthcoming. The team slumped against sides that many perceived to be their rivals for the split, at times struggling to secure victory over even the weakest teams in the league. Whilst Fnatic’s failings were often an account of poor team drafting, the team’s performances on the rift were far from a convincing argument for choosing Europeans over Koreans.
After replacing both aspects of the starting roster and their management, FNC rallied towards the end of the split to fend off the pressures of Team ROCCAT. With too many variables to factor for, Fnatic’s European experiment has produced inconclusive results.
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Splyce have quietly occupied the region of no man’s land within Group B, earning themselves a spot in the playoffs without ever challenging either H2K-Gaming or Unicorns of Love for a top spot. Splyce were the original professors of the European philosophy in 2016.
Only three out of eight teams in the 2016 EU LCS Summer Split fielded all-European rosters: Schalke 04 eSports, Origen and Splyce. While Schalke and Origen both finished in the bottom three, Splyce provided strong evidence for the cause by finishing second in the EU playoffs and qualifying for Worlds.
With an unchanged roster from their appearance at the 2016 World Championship, many expected Splyce to push on and challenge the might of G2 eSports in the Spring Split. Inexplicably, the roster appear to be playing within themselves, outclassed by the talent of their rivals.
Whether all-European rosters truly have the calibre to compete with the might of teams laced with Korean imports remains to be seen, though the Unicorns of Love squad are perhaps in the best spot to provide solid evidence towards the experiment’s theory.