At long last, the LEC’s new season kicks off again. The already-fading memories of Rogue—now KOI—hoisting its first-ever LEC trophy and Europe’s embarrassingly grounding performance at Worlds make way for fresh hope and excitement. New rosters, new adventures.
There are plenty of adventures to follow. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson returns to Fnatic in a modern retelling of the Bible’s Parable of the Prodigal Son. G2 Esports shipped Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski off to Team Heretics, where the legendary jungler spearheads a wildly diverse roster. Team Vitality and Excel Esports underwent near-full rebuilds and once again hope to break into the tiny list of organizations that grabbed a gold medal in Europe.
In anticipation of the new season, many tier lists have made their rounds. Whether they rank the LEC players individually or the teams as a whole, everybody excitedly hypothesizes how the new year will shape up.
We don’t know for sure how the season pans out, of course, but there are plenty of lessons to be learned from the past. In 2022, we clearly saw that good roster building goes beyond checking if someone has hands and making sure they ‘fit the playstyle’ of the team. The best puzzle pieces fit perfectly into the atmosphere of their team as well.
Flakked — G2’s infusion of youth
Victor “Flakked” Lirola bore a monumental task in 2022. The young, unproven Spaniard followed in the footsteps of legendary players Luka “Perkz” Perković and Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and had to restore lost glory to the G2 brand. The signing was met with a lot of questions and criticism.
It took a few weeks in the 2022 LEC Spring Split for G2 to come together, but once they did, Flakked’s role on the map became clear: play a safe bot lane, allowing Raphaël “Targamas” Crabbé to roam and help Rasmus “Caps” Winther and Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik carry the game. Needless to say, G2’s plan worked. The team won the Spring Split and reclaimed its seat on the throne of Europe.
But Flakked’s impact on the roster went far beyond knowing how to play Senna well without dying in the bot lane. As became clear very quickly, his vibrant, youthful personality shone a bright light on the team. Flakked boosted the inner child of Broken Blade and Caps, dragging them along for 2020 MAD Lions-esque post-game celebrations. For Jankos, the appointed captain of the team, Flakked was a perfect foil. When there was time to play, Jankos would let go of the reins and his teammates could bounce off the wall to get worked up. When it was time to get serious, Jankos could assert his authority, and the immense amount of respect Flakked had for the jungler would be on full display as the tone shifted instantly.
This year, of course, G2 has bought Steven “Hans sama” Liv to play in their bot lane. It’s not a dramatically surprising decision. Though Flakked played a solid safe bot lane with Targamas, G2 struggled when they had to play through the bot lane. Aside from a few games at MSI 2022 where, admittedly, Flakked played a great Kai’Sa, the bot laner could not keep up with his contemporaries in a carry position. Nevertheless, it’s clear how G2 pieced the puzzle together last year. Flakked walks away with an LEC trophy, and MSI semifinal, and another LEC final under his belt, which is more than many other ADCs can say.
Nisqy — MAD Lions’ jester in times of need
MAD Lions faced dire times in the middle of 2022. After a phenomenal 2021, which saw the team break into a mythical group of claiming back-to-back LEC titles, the team didn’t even reach the 2022 Spring Split playoffs. The hole left by Czech duo Marek “Humanoid” Brázda and Matyáš “Carzzy” Orság had turned the team strikingly directionless. A roster that once vibrantly lit up the LEC fell quiet and whimpered in a corner.
Enter Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer. The mid laner, who confoundingly did not find a team at the start of 2022 despite playing an outstanding 2021 LEC Summer Split, replaced rookie Steven “Reeker” Chen heading into the Summer Split. It took the adjusted MAD roster three weeks to adapt to the new dynamic, but the improvements were clearly visible from the start. With Nisqy, MAD Lions forged a simple but effective game plan. He would push in the mid lane, find jungler Javier “Elyoya” Prades on the map, and together the two would roam and find opportunities to get their team ahead. It proved to be one of the most effective adaptations in LEC history. MAD Lions shot to the top and finished the regular split in shared first place with a 12-6 score. It was enough for an instant ticket to Worlds.
Besides creating a night-and-day difference on the Rift, Nisqy turned the frowns upside down in the team atmosphere as well. Naturally, a team that wins is happier than a team that loses, but there’s more to the mid laner’s impact. Nisqy’s jokes lightened up MAD’s environment after a tough split. He willingly serves himself up to be the punching bag of jokes to help his teammates loosen up. Nisqy’s tenure tells him when it’s time to focus, and when it’s time to kid around.
To no-one’s surprise, MAD Lions kept Nisqy and Elyoya as their core in the 2022 offseason. While the team took a nosedive in the Summer Split playoffs and stranded in the Worlds Play-In Stage yet again, the duo formed a solid basis to work around. In just one split, MAD Lions discovered their identity and rediscovered the joy of playing League of Legends.
Malrang — Rogue’s baby brother
The third and most shining example of a player fitting perfectly into a team is jungler Kim “Malrang” Geun-seong. Like Flakked’s signing at G2, Rogue bringing Malrang on board raised many eyebrows. The South Korean came as a substitute from DAMWON in the LCK and succeeded Kacper “Inspired” Słoma, the 2021 LEC Summer Split MVP. Furthermore, players from South Korea had historically been underwhelming in the LEC. What could Rogue possibly see in Malrang?
Malrang’s impact on Rogue’s playstyle became abundantly clear, almost instantly. It was a complete identity shift. With Inspired, the team had largely played around the jungler. With Malrang, the team’s excellent laners got a chance to carry more consistently. Though the LEC has had other junglers that play for their lanes—Jankos, for example, did this for a long time at G2—Malrang’s ganks hit differently. He is full-on gank mode. He sacrifices his own farm to help accelerate his laners. Many thought that Malrang’s style would be figured out eventually. But when the team stared into the eyes of G2 Esports at the Summer Split finals, he tuned everything up to eleven and annihilated the opposition with outright mind-boggling aggressive Jarvan IV plays.
In contrast to Flakked and Nisqy, though, Malrang’s impact on Rogue was not one of the energetic, humoristic kind. For Rogue, the new jungler became their baby brother to take care of. Since Malrang’s English skills did not extend much beyond basic in-game lingo, especially at the start, his peers took care of him. It’s precious to watch Rogue’s players help Malrang answer a question at the 2022 Summer Split post-finals press conference, as he searches for the right words to say.
The group dynamic of Rogue (KOI this year) has historically been a calm one, especially compared to the teams mentioned earlier in the article, but Malrang tied the group together. In-game, he did everything he could to help his teammates find success. In return, those teammates took on the task of making their new jungler feel at home as much as possible in a foreign country.
No blueprint for success
While 2022 offered some great examples of players fitting into their team in more than the usual to metrics of “do they play well” and “can they play what we need them to”, it’s absolutely no guarantee that a group of players that gets along succeeds in the LEC. Players getting along is another metric that can contribute massively to the team’s performance. However, there is no need to be best buds at all. Fnatic, for example, is an organization that has a history of fielding successful teams where the players were in conflict. They were just able to put aside their differences when it mattered most and rose to the occasion.
Yet, as the 2023 season plays out, it will be interesting to see which puzzle pieces fit well into the LEC roster. We already have a good indication of each player’s skill and what roles they can and cannot play on the map. But when the pressure is on, and the heat of the league breathes down the neck of each roster, that’s when we’ll find out whose environment can withstand the stress of the competition.