The word “rookie” has become almost synonymous with European League of Legends. Every year, the LEC plays host to a plethora of young talent from across Europe’s minor regions, and 2020 was no exception. At the 2020 World Championship, five of Europe’s 20 starting roster representatives had just finished their first full year of competitive play.
But the nature of League of Legends is that players will come and go like seasons. Those 2020 rookies are about to be replaced by a fresh wave of talent hailing from both the EU Masters circuit and the wider world. Keeping up with Europe’s multitude of Emerging Region Leagues can be daunting, and seeing so many new names in the pick-and-ban phase is enough to overwhelm even the most hardcore LEC fan.
Making it as a rookie is one of the biggest gambles in competitive League of Legends. Here are the five most exciting players who will be making that gamble in the LEC this year.
Rogue’s new support enters the LEC off the back of one of the most star-studded EU Masters lineups Europe has ever seen, Rogue’s Academy roster AGO Rogue. After taking a convincing victory in the EU Masters Summer tournament, almost the entire roster has found a home at various spots in the LEC. Trymbi was the only player to remain with the organization, however, taking the spot of the much more experienced Vander who will now be competing for a starting spot on Misfits.
If there were a player to whom Trymbi could be compared, it would probably be someone like Hylissang. Engage is the name of his game, and his unparalleled performance on champions like Rakan and Leona is a huge part of what won his team EU Masters. He will be paired with Hans Sama, who as of recently has favored a safer playstyle to allow jungle attention to be focused around the mid lane. But there are still flashes of the hyper-aggressive Draven player that once was, and if there’s anyone who can provide the perfect lane partnership for Hans Sama to be unleashed, it’s Trymbi.
He’s also an excellent roamer, which will be of huge benefit to Rogue in setting up for mid lane skirmishes with jungler Inspired and golden boy mid laner Larssen. Rogue made a surprising run to the top in last year’s regular season but fell off in the summer playoffs. Could the addition of Trymbi and Odoamne be the final piece this team needs to secure themselves a finals spot?
Zanzarah is the second AGO Rogue alumni to make an appearance on this list—although not for the reasons you’d expect out of a rookie jungler. In the past few years of the LEC, we’ve been treated to aggressive junglers with hard-carry champion pools: Razork’s Ekko, Selfmade’s Evelynn, and Shad0w’s Lee Sin all earning the players immediate respect. But Zanzarah joins the newly-formed Astralis roster with a remarkably different playstyle.
In their EU Masters run, his most-played champion was Sett, followed closely by Skarner and Sejuani, according to esports statistics site Games of Legends. In a meta of Evelynns, Lee Sins, and Lilias, Zanzarah broke the mold on supportive, tanky picks designed to set up for laners rather than pump out tons of damage. His playstyle harks back to days of old, much closer to a player like Jankos than the Selfmade style that gained so much popularity in 2020.
Not only does Zanzarah have the burden of making an unconventional playstyle work, but he’ll also have to do it on a very unconventional team. Astralis’ roster announcement left many fans confused, with the organization choosing to re-sign ex-EU LCS players who had since dropped down into Europe’s second division. Zanzarah is the roster’s only true rookie but will be playing alongside previous EU Masters opponents, and will have the burden of proving the worth of a roster that many consider to be a last-place finisher.
Elyoya comes into the LEC for MAD Lions on a trusted recommendation. Ex-pro player and current caster/content creator Caedrel marked him as a player to watch in an interview with LoL Esports during his time as a caster for EU Masters. He’s one of three junglers on this list, hailing from the Superliga Orange’s Movistar Riders in Spain. The roster came fourth in EU Masters Summer, with Elyoya showcasing an unconventional playstyle: picking meta junglers like Graves and Hecarim, but choosing to focus on early skirmishing rather than the farm-heavy style more typical at the time. Although his early-game stats were not the best in EU Masters main stage games, invariably going down in gold and experience to his opponents at 15 minutes, he had a first-blood percentage of 57 and 100-percent win rates on Sett, Volibear and Hecarim, according to Games of Legends.
Elyoya, like almost all the players on this list, comes into the LEC with big shoes to fill—although in a different way to someone like Trymbi, who’s replacing an established name. Elyoya will be a new component in a rookie roster that made Worlds in their first full year competing as a team and who let go of two players after one of the worst major-region performances in World Championship history. Last year’s Worlds left a sour taste in the mouth of a lot of European fans, and MAD’s new players will now be tasked with fixing a reputation that they had no share in tarnishing. Taking the place of Shad0w, who made a name for himself as a talented but inflexible Lee Sin one-trick, Elyoya will need to showcase a champion pool depth if he wants to differentiate himself from the rookie that came before.
European Masters provides ample experience for players to hone their individual mechanics and decision-making in the lower leagues of competition. It does not, however, offer many opportunities to work with experienced players who have been in the European scene from the very beginning and learn by playing alongside them. This is where Vetheo sets himself apart, as the ex-mid laner for LDLC OL in the LFL, whose support is none other than ex-Fnatic veteran Yellowstar. At the age of 18, he’s already had a chance to learn from one of the most iconic names in European League of Legends, and he hasn’t squandered it.
His champion pool is diverse. There’s an emphasis on burst mages like Zoe and Syndra, but he’s also not afraid to tackle more skirmish-heavy picks like Akali and Lucian to facilitate team compositions. On Misfits, he’ll be joining jungler Razork, and this flexibility will serve him well in being able to play around Razork’s often creative drafting. Misfits haven’t showcased much in terms of success in recent years in the LEC, and Vetheo will be tasked with rejuvenating a spectacularly underwhelming 2020 showing from the team.
It’s nebulous as to whether Dan can truly be called a rookie, since he’s the only player on this list with previous LEC experience. Admittedly, that experience came from 2019 Rift Rivals—hardly the most competitive environment—where he subbed out for Broxah on Fnatic after an underperforming year for the team. Since 2019 he’s been a consistent presence on Fnatic’s Academy roster, winning the NLC in convincing fashion before falling at the first hurdle of EU Masters after mid laner MagiFelix was sequestered by Fnatic’s main roster as a substitute for their Worlds run in Shanghai.
Despite their lackluster EU Masters showing, Dan was a shining light on Fnatic Rising’s roster, favoring more control-focused jungle picks to facilitate his team through shotcalling. He’s not afraid to pull out the Nocturne when necessary, and this flexibility will serve him well in a 2021 meta that is proving to be fairly volatile.
He, much like Vetheo, has the task on his hands of reviving a team whose downfall he had nothing to do with. But in Dan’s case, it’s less of a downfall and more of a consistent underperformance since their entrance into the LEC. Excel remains the only team currently in the LEC to not have made playoffs in the last three years, and despite coming closer than ever before last year, fans are beginning to lose faith in the long-term project the org laid out in 2018. If Dan is going to reverse this public perception, he’s going to need more than just mechanical skill on his side. It’s going to take experienced gameplay and a level head, two things that are difficult to come by in your first real split in a major region.
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