A year later, how have both organisations adapted after stepping into League of Legends?
Last season kicked off a new era of competitive League of Legends, as Europe introduced its own answer to the North American LCS’s franchising model, with the introduction of long-term partnerships and a rebrand to the LEC.
It was a time of monumental change, and with it came two wide-eyed organisations new to the league and ready to take advantage of the incredible opportunity before them.
One was American organisation Rogue with world-famous musicians DJ Steve Aoki and pop-rock band Imagine Dragons as investors, with hopes they could bring that same level of entertainment to the game. The other was Excel Esports, which had been born over a conversation and a pint in a British pub between two brothers. Rogue was completely new to the game, while Excel had never looked outside of the UK’s regional tournaments. For both, this was a massive step up.
After the applications had been accepted, neither had much time to prepare for the, in some cases, literal, storm that awaited them. It was a long season with highs and lows for both with plenty to learn from. With the LEC not returning until January 24, it has been a long off-season with a long time to reflect on the last year. Excel and Rogue will be busy figuring out a plan of attack as they look to establish themselves among the upper echelon of Europe’s top 10 teams.
It’s not about how you start, it’s how you end. At least, that’s what Rogue will tell you as the organisation recovered from a dire start to life in the LEC, to produce a much more convincing performance in the Summer.
The Spring Split was abysmal for Rogue. None of the players managed to make an impact and the team only picked up a measly two wins. In hopes of turning things around, Rogue recognised the need for drastic change and looked to their talented academy roster. Three young players stepped up to the plate as Finn "Finn" Wiestål eventually made the top-lane spot his own, mid-laner Emil “Larssen” Larsson finished his studies to make his highly-anticipated pro debut, and 17-year-old Kacper "Inspired" Słoma impressed so much from the jungle that he pipped his teammates to the Rookie of the Split award.
Along with veteran support Oskar "Vander" Bogdan, who is key to the team’s success, Rogue made it into the Playoffs at the second time of asking and, to the shock of many, decimated Europe’s eventual third seeds Splyce. Had Rogue performed better in Spring, they could’ve qualified for the Regional Gauntlet and attended Worlds in its first year.
With eyes still set on that goal, Rogue has made one change with Steven “Hans Sama” Liv joining the team. ADC was somewhat of a weak point for Rogue last year with neither Martin "HeaQ" Kordmaa or Paweł "Woolite" Pruski making much of an impact. That won’t be a problem now, as the Frenchman is an explosive player and will be desperate to leave an impression after last season, considering Misfits benched him for the first time during his three years with the organisation.
In a recent interview, the Frenchman revealed that next year, he’s going to be unleashed and has his confidence back:
“I managed to switch off this organised style I had in my head and went into solo-queue monkey-style I guess. I played a decent amount and I haven’t been happier playing the game since I went pro. Going into Misfits with Lider and the others, I felt free to do my own stuff because before I didn’t feel that before for some reason.”
Hans Sama says he can play all different types of champions now, if Rogue can unlock the full potential of himself and his teammates, the squad could challenge Europe’s top teams.
Exceedingly bad luck
While Rogue managed to recover and reach the Playoffs, Excel was not so fortunate - recording ninth and tenth place finishes last season. There were still some positives but, overall, it was a bitter disappointment for the organisation and the higher-ups haven’t held back in making changes.
The organisation has made huge acquisitions this off-season with the signing of a powerhouse bot-lane duo in Patrik "Patrik" Jírů and Tore "Tore" Hoel Eilertsen but perhaps the biggest move of all, was securing six-time European champion Joey "Youngbuck" Steltenpool as the team’s new coach.
The Dutchman surprisingly left Fnatic for the tenth place team as he says it will be a more “fulfilling” challenge. He enjoys developing players and that is exactly what he will have to do if he wants to turnaround Excel’s fortunes. The experienced coach says with talented players like Ki "Expect" Dae-han and Marc Robert "Caedrel" Lamont it made no sense that Excel finished tenth last split, and he believes the team can fight for third next season.
Which is convenient because Excel’s Head of Operations Grant Rousseau says the organisation is aiming to qualify for Worlds within the next two years. That’s a tall task awaiting Youngbuck but, fortunately for him, he already has Excel’s mistakes from the first year to learn from.
The British organisation has never been one to shy away from trying new things. The organisation didn’t hesitate to implement its vision as the organisation boldly fielded a 10-man roster and tried to have its LEC team based in London’s Twickenham rugby stadium, where Excel’s headquarters are based. Unfortunately for Excel, both ended in disaster. An inconsistent starting line-up only slowed players’ progress and the first two attempts to fly to Berlin were disrupted with horrendous weather one week forcing Riot to delay one of Excel’s matches.
Next year, the team will be permanently based in a gaming house in Berlin and will only have to worry about weathering the storm in-game as the new-look roster aims to climb the standings. Excel’s placements last season may not suggest it but the team showed promise, especially in the early-game as the players would regularly pick up significant leads but couldn’t execute on their advantages. They were almost the first team to hand G2 a loss in Spring. That’s an issue that’s easy to fix and with a more experienced and likely consistent bot-lane, Excel’s future looks bright.
Images via LOLEsports / Excel Esports