Rogue vs Misfits, with Georgia "Troubleinc" Paras
Last match they played: Week 5, Misfits won a tense and relatively close game at around 36 minutes
Why should you be hyped for this match:
“Rogue made some interesting roster swaps at the start of the split and had everyone thinking if they're going to be as strong, they came back even stronger. This time, it might not just be one man's job to carry the entire game because Rogue looks really strong. Misfits managed to take them to five games last year, is it going to be the case again?”
Keep an eye on: the jungle matchup between Kim "Malrang" Geun-seong and Lucjan "Shlatan" Ahmad
Ah yes, the rematch of last summer’s iconic series which succinctly highlighted how broken Viego as a champion was. Unfortunately, Misfits were the victims sacrificed in that show with Kacper "Inspired" Słoma dragging Rogue across the finish line with a memorable pentakill.
Poor Misfits. First, Rogue immortalised the Crowstorm moment against them then used Viego and pentakilled the killer bunnies’ hopes to reach Worlds. Surely third times a charm for Misfits to banish their demons against Rogue?
Troubleinc believes that the revenge arc for Misfits is indeed one of this series’ biggest storylines and if not for Inspired’s pentakill, they might have pulled off a huge upset win.
“I was actually lucky enough to have cast this series with Trevor "Quickshot" Henry' and we expected it to not be a huge thing because Rogue pretty much stomping the regular season,” she said. “it ended up going all five games and had it not been for Inspired getting a pentakill, I think Misfits could have taken that and knocked down Rogue to the lower bracket. Misfits will want revenge for that one game where you could blame the developers for making Viego broken, you could blame Inspired for being so damn talented and 1v9 in that game. But it was what it was and even if it’s just one moment that makes a difference, it's all you need to go through.”
Last summer’s infamous “Rogue Time” has been notably absent as well, with jungler Kim "Malrang" Geun-seong being the talk of the town with his selfless playstyle as well as bot laner Markos "Comp" Stamkopoulos explosive return to the LEC. Statistically Rogue are very scary to face when they’re on form, according to Oracle’s Elixir: lowest Average game time (30.6), second highest total kills (280) and the lowest total deaths (174), second in Gold difference at 15 minutes (+1524), highest first blood rate (67%) and the highest first Baron rate (78%) among other stats.
In contrast, there is Misfits. This spring, they have made some ridiculous comebacks from the backfoot, notably against G2 Esports and Fnatic. The good work the coaching staff have done since 2021 has not unravelled despite the introduction of two rookies into their team — and they finished third with a 12-6 score. Mid laner Vincent "Vetheo" Berrié in particular has had a standout season, making it into the first All-Pro team along with Malrang.
Misfits stay true to their identity of ‘killer bunnies’ with some interesting contrasting statistics: highest total kills (286) but also second highest total deaths (287) which shows their willingness to throw down for a fight, and seventh in Gold difference at 15 minutes (-527) that explains some of their big comebacks from their sometimes quieter early games.
For Troubleinc, the matchup to watch for her is not between the mid lane superstars of Vetheo and Emil "Larssen" Larsson, but the contrasting styles of Malrang and the Lee Sin enthusiast Shlatan, which she thinks could swing the series.
“I've been watching Shlatan ever since he was in the Ultraliga, back when he was playing in the ERLs. I've had my eye on this guy for a long, long time,” she said. “He's a super aggressive jungler and maybe a little bit selfish back then. On the other hand, I feel Malrang is the opposite. Malrang will sacrifice for his lanes to get them ahead and allow them to carry versus Shlatan who will try to use the pressure of his lanes to get himself an advantage and then carry through that way, I think is going to be a very cool matchup this series and a contrast of playstyles between the two junglers.”
While there is Rogue’s reputation of being chokers in playoffs, with some people calling them ‘Chogue’ as a portmanteau of ‘choke’ and ‘Rogue’, many forget they made the finals in 2021 spring and lost by a single game to MAD Lions. It would be unwise to think Rogue are not favoured here, even if it’s not by an overwhelming margin. Both teams are 1-1 from the regular season and this best-of-five series will determine if it will be a repeat of last summer.
Even though players like Wunder do not think Misfits will be series playoffs contenders, Troubleinc thinks the series will deliver.
“Misfits are stronger but now Rogue are even stronger. I think it's going to be a banger and I don't think Rogue is gonna step all over Misfits,” she said.
“Listen, my NLC predictions have not been going great. I don’t want to be jinxing anyone, any name I've put down in the last two weeks have lost!
Even though Rogue is called “Chogue” in best-of scenarios, I think that this particular iteration of Rogue, with the way they can play multiple playstyles rather than the one we knew them for last year, I'm gonna give it to them. It's gonna be 3-1 or 3-2, but I'm leaning towards 3-2 for Rogue. They haven't played the best-of series with this roster yet so I have to be a little bit more conservative, but I definitely think they're gonna take the series.”
Fnatic vs G2 Esports, with Mikkel "Guldborg" Guldborg Nielsen
Last match they played: Week 6, Fnatic trounced rivals G2 on the back of support Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov’s Pyke in 32 minutes.
Why should you be hyped for this match:
“It’s the rivalry between the two greatest teams we've ever had in the LEC coming in with completely new rosters and it's probably going to be the match we'll look forward to in the future, setting the new rivalry between these two teams. The old G2 and Fnatic are gone. These two teams we’re watching now, they're gonna be the ones that future generations will watch and think back on.”
Keep an eye on: Fnatic’s bot side against G2’s top side
This is it folks, the return of old LEC cliched catchphrases: Legacy, kings, dynasty and so forth because this matchup is full of it. It’s the premier matchup between the two most successful organisations in the LEC and they’re ready to write another chapter in their long history of butting heads.
For current events, they met last summer in playoffs with the G2 superteam with Martin "Rekkles" Larsson transferring from Fnatic. Fnatic won that series 3-2 and went all the way to the finals and made Worlds, denying G2 that which they sought most.
Now, there is a ticket to the Mid-Season Invitational 2022 on the line. Along with bragging rights and avoiding the Lower Bracket, this is incentive enough for both of them. For Guldborg, the storylines coming into this historic matchup for him is the focus on former teammates top laner Martin "Wunder" Nordahl Hansen and mid laner Rasmus "caPs" Borregaard Winther.
“I think the obvious one is definitely Wunder versus his ex teammates, that's one storyline I'd go for. Another storyline will caPs in terms of his performance leading up to playoffs,” he said. “I think caPs had a really bad start to the season but he really stepped up towards the end of it and I'm really excited to see the matchup in the mid lane between him and Marek "Humanoid" Brázda.”
Guldborg also mentions he is very interested in seeing how supports Hylissang and Raphaël "Targamas" Crabbé navigate this tricky series, since they tend to roam towards mid lane and top lane respectively.
With no rookies or roleswaps this year, many have touted Fnatic to potentially be Europe’s strongest team this spring despite finishing second in the regular season at 13-5. With the legacy and size of their brand, aiming for anything less than first is not in consideration. And for G2, they share the same sentiment: To be at Fnatic or G2 is to be the best. Nothing else matters.
For Guldborg, it’ll be up to the team’s strong sides to carry the series to move one step to reclaiming their past glories.
“I think that there are different points of attack and it's very difficult to say that it's going to be an isolated matchup since it's the best-of-five,” he said. “It's not so much bot versus bot and top vs top, it's more of which strong side will carry the team the most in the early game. G2 will play for top and Fnatic will play for bot.”
Statistically, Elias "Upset" Lipp tops the KDA charts at a whopping 16.5, first in Gold difference (+395) and Experience difference (+186) at 10 minutes, which Hylissang also shares (except KDA), making them the most dominant bot lane in the LEC. They’ve been having a stellar season so far, with Hylissang making the All-Pro team with near unanimous support.
G2’s top laner Sergen "Broken Blade" Çelik reflects G2’s style of carrying through top lane so far as well, with the highest total kills (67), highest kill participation (61.3%), highest kill share (27%), second highest damage per minute (493) and damage share (26.3%) of all top laners. Compared to his counterpart Odoamne, Broken Blade has favoured picks like Akshan, Akali, Tryndamere and even Yone top lane, being the only player in the LEC to pick it.
Both teams are 1-1 from the regular season, and Wunder has previously said he is really looking towards facing G2 again. Who knows, we might even see another Fnatic vs G2 finals this spring, something that has not happened in over a year. Will this series see the return of the old kings? We’ll soon find out.
“I think it has the possibility of being close, though I think Fnatic in the regular season has just shown way better performance than G2. Am I willing to say 3-2? No, I'm not. I think it will be 3-1 to Fnatic.
I think Fnatic is just too good right now and I can only imagine that with a little break to get together, they're going to be better. I think right now, a lot of the teams are playing catch up to Fnatic and I think they'll continue to do so until summer comes.”
Despite Guldborg lavishing praise upon Fnatic, when pressed on if this gives EU fans enough ‘hopium’ in which Fnatic wins MSI, Guldborg gave a laugh and a straight answer.
“No T1 is too good right now and the other teams are still too good. But in terms of EU, Fnatic is just a level above,” he concluded.
Excel Esports vs Team Vitality, with Alex "Nymaera" Hapgood
Last match they played: Week 5, Excel Esports won the game in 38 minutes.
The favourite:Vitality, just a bit
Why should you be hyped for this match:
“Two teams, who most people would have never imagined being in this position, are now fighting for a chance that true relevancy and the LEC. Vitality, no one expected to be there because they're a superteam and Excel because of their history, and yet somehow they found different trajectories to get into this Lower Bracket match! It’s going to be feisty, it is going to be a bit of a brawl, and it's going to be very, very exciting.”
Keep an eye on: the support matchup between Labros "Labrov" Papoutsakis and Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle
We have what is perhaps the most unexpected Lower Bracket matchup if we’re going by organisations, with both teams finishing 9-9 for 2022 spring. Team Vitality, a bona fide European superteam, struggled for much of the season and only made it here on the final day of the regular season. I suppose this fulfils the legacy of EU superteam formations, besides G2’s 2019 record breaking monster.
And of course there is Excel, a team that everyone has memed to death since they are perennial playoffs dodgers. Then there was the controversial player change by bringing in Mikyx over starting support Advienne. But after 1142 days, Excel have finally broken their curse. Perhaps signing on Marc Robert "Caedrel" Lamont once again helped their chances? Nevertheless, it’s time to write a new chapter.
For Nymaera, the big storyline is how both these teams now finally have a break to reflect on their issues and perfect their tools before engaging each other in this best-of-five.
“I think one of the potential flaws of a team like Excel was that towards the beginning of spring, they were a little telegraphed, they didn't necessarily know how they wanted to play out the game,” he said. “They worked on that through the season and that ended up being pretty successful since they made playoffs. But one thing which we hadn't seen too much of was how deep their champion pools go, and how deep do they go, while also still being impactful?”
On the flipside, he adds that Vitality's issues were pretty much the opposite.
“Even though Vitality struggled to get to playoffs, they did show more versatility. You see Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek playing lots of different kinds of junglers and you see that the whole team has more flexibility even if they're not as polished,” Nymaera said. “Rather than trying to diversify what they're playing, they can take what they already have in the wheelhouse and perfect it. Now that both these teams have had time, it's a bit of a race to see who can overcome the next couple of hurdles along in their team's development to actually really hit home in this first best-of-five.”
It is difficult to place expectations on both teams and what their Lower Bracket run could look like. Of course, it’s easy to say Vitality will wave the French flag all the way to the finals because of the infamous Luka "Perkz" Perković best-of-five buff as well as the sheer talent on their roster, but their regular season performances do leave a trail of concerns more than confidence.
On Excel’s side, they’ve been relatively consistent in how they play their games which can be an advantage or a detriment in a best-of-five scenario. Whether they can go further in playoffs as said in their video by Time Reichert when they signed Mikyx, remains to be seen.
To kickstart their ambitions to potentially wreck the LEC’s hierarchy this season, Nymaera thinks there are several key matchups in this series worth watching.
“You have the top lane in Barney "Alphari" Morris vs Finn "Finn" Wiestål which is gonna be important. I think that when Vitality have had their most clean wins it's been through Alphari getting a dominant but scaling matchup,” he said. “Other than that, I think that the support matchup is really, really key. When Excel have suffered, it's been when Mikyx has been stuck on Tahm Kench duty and hard focused by the enemy jungler. Labrov has been one of the more inconsistent members of Vitality, but he’s had a really good last week of the regular season.”
He also adds with a laugh that Labrov’s Tahm Kench was very impressive: “When Labrov got into the mid and late game, his Tahm Kench was really cool to see. And that's not a champion I often get excited by!”
For Vitality, this is a must win series to prove their superteam project is not dead in the water before they’ve achieved anything. For Excel, they want to a playoffs run to remember and shatter all expectations. One sore spot for Vitality is that Excel holds the head-to-head between the two teams, beating them both times they’ve played. Will the bees in Vitality finally overcome the plucky British underdogs?
“I'm gonna liken this to Perkz on Cloud9 last year coming into Worlds Play-ins last year. When I was talking about play-ins because DFM were in the group at Worlds, I was like “oh, C9 have shown these problems throughout their entire year” and they finally got themselves a break before heading over to Iceland, and they managed to sort out a lot of those issues.
Now, Vitality have had some very clear cut issues in terms of you have information but you're not using it well and amongst other things, right? They finally have a time to have a break and say, “look, we can actually sit down and sort this”. I think Vitality with the time off are going to come in and they're gonna be really dangerous. I think it's 3-1 Vitality.
There is every chance though Excel do the same for their own issues in terms of the depth of champion pool and the like. That could also be an absolute game changer in a best-of-five scenario. I just feel like Vitality have the upper ceiling to build towards and I feel like they will be able to reach a little closer to that than what Excel have shown.”