The 2023 LFL season premiered Wednesday, January 18 as an opening act for the first week of the LEC Winter split, giving LoL esports fans a taste of what’s to come on the European scene, and delivering the first ranking of one, if not the most stacked European Regional League.
And as the dust has settled, it’s time to draw our first conclusions based on those two first days of competition. Knowing that, of course, behind those juicy conclusions lies a hidden guide to watching this split of La Ligue Française.
1 – Solary finally is a true title contender
All aboard the Solary hype train! The Tours-based, web TV-owned famous team, supported by one of the three biggest fanbases in France with Karmine Corp and Vitality, really decided to invest more on their League of Legends roster this year, with the signings of Melonik on the toplane and Peng on the midlane, who both had a solid 2022 LFL season, Shlatan in the jungle, joining his support Steelback as a former LEC player, and TakeSet as the AD carry, a highly valued player in the offseason.
During the traditional preseason tier lists, analysts as well as fans were seduced by this line-up, with Solary often being regarded as a potential top 4. But the roster led by KiKi, former LDLC OL assistant coach, more than lived up to expectations by clinching a clean 2-0 week. Even more impressively, both of their early games were shockingly dominating they led BK Rogue 11 kills to nil and BDS Academy 10 kills to nil before conceding a death. And if their midgame proved a little bit shakier against BDSA; and a crafty, Yuumi-powered Reeker on Akali, they quickly closed the gap without showing much concern.
(Image credit: Solary)
Individually too, Solary have been very convincing. An unleashed Melonik took the lead of the LFL toplaners’ leaderboard with an incredible weakside Gnar 1-vs-3 as his team was securing the baron in game 1 and an almost top-damage Fiora in game 2. TakeSet’s aggressivity earned Solary’s botlane first bloods with the exact same early ganks from Shlatan against both opponents, when Peng’s Syndra was waiting for the midgame to carry skirmishes and teamfights. Meanwhile, the now legendary captain Steelback pulled out in great fashion the first Jhin support in ERL as an answer to Heimerdinger.
If Solary still has to prove against more skilled teams, the first version of their synergy is even better than expected and the organization has probably never had a better team.
2 – BDS’s musical chairs sacrificed the Academy
Team BDS Academy was very much expected considering their performance last year with three (lost) finals, in the LFL Spring and Summer splits and in the EU Masters Summer playoffs. Maxi, former Fnatic TQ jungler, was their only outside recruit from the offseason. Other than him, Agresivoo and xMatty joined from the LEC parent team, while Adam, Sheo and Crownshot have gone the opposite way. This roster therefore seemed like a “stable rebuild”, composed admittedly of 3 new players, but including 4 players who already were contracted with the organization last year (Agresivoo, Reeker, xMatty, Erdote).
However, they completely sank in both midgames facing LDLC OL and Solary as if they had never played together before. Showing no proactivity, poor reactions and disappointing individualities, their production was that of the worst teams in the league. If it continues to go down this road, the mission of an academy team to help players lacking confidence to get back on track (as there are no rookies to develop here) will completely fail. Let’s at least hope that the main team is able to perform in the LEC then.
3 – White will not stay long in the LFL
And I mean that in a good way – as in, this is potential LEC material we are witnessing right there. A young rookie among an interesting mashup of Swedish former LEC players (Kryze and Jeskla), LFL veterans (Backlund and also Jeskla), and French prospects (Zoelys and him), White (formerly known as Whiteakitout) will be this year’s jungler and guardian of LDLC OL’s DNA, as a promoted teenager from TPAA, the team’s second division academy in a partnership with Tony Parker.
White’s meteoric rise did not even require an adjustment period. Having started in the third division 2 years ago, White, who only turned professional in 2022, is currently setting a standard of one promotion per year, and was elected MVP on his first game in France’s top flight on Wednesday.
Tracking Maxi to the perfection, initiating very good fights, shoutcalling a game-breaking baron and stealing the game-winning one, he really mesmerized the league’s commentators on game 1, before achieving another satisfying performance against Djoko on the following day. Needless to say, sky’s the limit if this is the beginning of his progression. Will he follow Yike’s footsteps, going from Div2 to the LEC through LDLC OL’s jungle over just the course one year?
4 – The expected bottom two will be a bottom three
What a difficult LFL debut for BK ROG. This new organization, born from the fusion between amateur club Bunker Esports and Asus’s gaming brand, with famous French personalities like rap artist Orelsan as ambassadors, surprisingly and lately bought Team Oplon’s LFL slot after one year in Div2 with a negative win rate.
Such a late notice didn’t prevent them from assembling a very ambitious roster, though, with the likes of experienced Pridestalkr and Czekolad, returning reliable LFL support Veignorem and two intriguing Korean imports, Howling from Sandbox Academy and Trigger from T1 Challengers. This list of names strongly contrasted with the traditional promoted team struggling to adapt to the first division we expected, so much so that some held BK ROG in high regard among their lists of favorites to clinch playoffs.
It was however well and truly a bottom-of-the-table team that we saw during these first matches. They certainly faced the two biggest sensations of the week, but they showed next to nothing, seemingly lost and in a fatal lack of synergy. Of course, a new organization with two imports will need some time to adjust, and this 0-2 week may not be representative of the strength they might display on Day 18.
This nevertheless just doesn’t look like an LFL team at the moment, and more than not being on the same page, individualities have been severely struggling whereas their experienced topside arguably had a chance to dominate Vitality Bee’s very young counterpart. And that is why BK ROG might unfortunately be less exciting than anticipated and join the designated bottom two with Izi Dream and Gameward.
5 – Jactroll will be awarded the split’s MVP title
Vitality Bee built a very interesting roster with the ambition of finally winning an LFL title after having lifted the 2022 year-end French Cup. And although the French iconic organization has come under fire from critics for this exclusively foreign line-up, which additionally deserted the Stade de France to play from the Berlin LEC gaming house, this roster appears as an exciting balance between development and ambition.
As was mentioned earlier, they signed a juvenile topside. In the jungle, Daglas, 17, still is a part-time player with planned school time. Patkica has been around for a little bit longer, but remains inexperienced in a major ERL. As for Czajek, he is better known as one of the hottest Polish prospects and former midlaner for late Misfits Premier, but is only 19. This very young and for now shaky top-jungle-mid is counterbalanced by a terrifying and experienced botlane made up of two former LEC players familiar with the LFL: Innaxe and Jactroll.
The latter, acclaimed King of France for his outstanding interviews and relationship with the French viewership, truly acts as the leader of this team, and not only because he is the only one to have re-signed.
He personifies the playstyle Vitality Bee wants to achieve this season – an entertaining, proactive and aggressive approach to the game, with original drafts and crazy initiatives that are themselves not immune to throws. And all the plays (maybe excessively) currently tend to come from this botlane, of which Jactroll is the boss. With 0/1/16 on his Nautilus against Aegis, and 2/2/16 on Bard (with a four-man ultimate) in their victory against BK ROG.
The Vitality Bee support definitely is a nominee for this week’s MVP award and will have to be considered for the split’s if Vitality continues its rise.
One could not have ended this article without mentioning Gamers Origin and Karmine Corp, the two biggest favorites for the title, and Aegis, the exciting new organization anticipated as a solid playoff contender. It is, however, hard to evaluate them as all three have pulled out very contrasted (and intertwined) performances.
Aegis played as poorly on Wednesday as they were promising on Thursday. The brand-new organization, owned by three famous French streamers with a former EU LCS coach among them in Shaunz, and led by the 2022 LFL MVP Eika, choked its debut against Vitality.
Meanwhile, Team GO managed to outdraft (in spite of a 3-ban penalty) and dominate Karmine Corp in the first game, while failing to maintain that form against… Aegis on day 2, exactly when KC regained confidence by beating Gameward.
Even hasty conclusions have their limits in the face of such unequal recitals with the weight of the highest expectations in the league, but we surely will have plenty of occasions to reassess them…
Feature Image: Team Vitality