It’s safe to say that Rogue are one of the best teams to never win an LEC title.
They’re one of the most consistent well-performing teams in the league. So far in Spring 2022, they haven’t dropped a single game, sitting comfortably at a 5-0 record alongside Fnatic. Their games have showcased the best version of what we’ve come to expect from the team, with pixel-perfect macro gameplay and stellar team fighting.
This isn’t the first time a Rogue team has got off to an incredibly strong start in the LEC. In fact, it isn’t even their first 5-0 start. In Spring 2021, they won every game in the first two weeks of the LEC, breaking the streak with a loss to Schalke 04 in Week 3. They’ve been one of the LEC’s best-performing regular season teams since their roster revamp in 2020, and this split looks to be no exception.
But how long can this hot streak last, with Rogue’s poor playoff record? Were their offseason changes enough to shake the best-of-five curse that’s haunted them throughout their time in the LEC?
Rogue’s wins so far in the spring split have been much the same as every Rogue win we’ve ever seen in the LEC. Scaling picks in the mid and bottom lanes, a self-sufficient pick in the top lane, and strong early-game junglers with high skirmish potential.
Top laner Andrei ‘Odoamne’ Pascu is the team’s rock, and currently leads the LEC in MVP votes. He’s performed exceptionally with limited jungle attention, and has brought a whole new meaning to the term ‘weak side top lane’.
Support Adrian ‘Trymbi’ Trybus has already come on leaps and bounds since his debut last year. When at times his engages looked frantic and spur-of-the-moment in 2021, he looks to have synergized with AD Carry Markos ‘Comp’ Stamkopoulos perfectly so far in 2022.
Jungler Kim ‘Malrang’ Geunseong has seamlessly filled Kacper ‘Inspired’ Sloma’s shoes and has looked like one of the LEC’s strongest junglers in the opening weeks of Spring.
At first glance, this roster looks like it will easily contend for the LEC title in the Spring playoffs. But the same could have been said for Rogue in 2021, and they failed to win an LEC title in either Spring or Summer. So what’s changed?
Rogue have always been a team who play by the rules. They were criticized frequently throughout 2021 for a lack of innovation and a slow, ‘boring’ playstyle. They’ve never really been the team to pull out the meta-altering picks, or showcase a unique strategy that flips the league on its head.
They are consistent, but that trait makes them exploitable.
The best-of-five format is Rogue’s weakness. It’s a known fact in the LEC, and it’s what cost them the Spring 2021 title after they were reverse swept by MAD Lions.
They don’t suddenly forget how to play the game when confronted by a multi-game series. They still perform well in best-of-fives, and have won more than their fair share, but they are also undoubtedly the best team to never win an LEC title. And it’s not because of their performance in best-of-ones.
And already in 2022 we’re starting to see a few exploitable trends in their playstyle. They’ve massively favored both Viktor and Jinx in their drafts, with both champions appearing in four of Rogue’s five games. They almost universally play to scale, a style that can be shut down if their opponents are willing to go all-in on an early game strategy.
But the same can be said for any team that plays to a specific win condition, regardless of how good they are. Rogue are working on their weaknesses, even from week-to-week. Mid laner Emil ‘Larssen’ Larsson was criticized by the LEC broadcast for a lack of impact in Rogue’s first three games in week one. He then proceeded to win his lanes in week two, and acquired the second-most kills of any player in the league across those two games.
But have Rogue actually improved since 2021?
With a sample size of five games, this is a difficult question to answer. On paper, their offseason roster moves looked as though they would weaken the team. Jungler Inspired and AD Carry Steven ‘Hans sama’ Liv were two of the LEC’s brightest stars, and losing them to the LCS was a massive blow for Rogue.
Rogue’s current AD Carry Comp is a player who’s flown under the radar for a large portion of his career. However, he’s been quick to turn public opinion to his favor after a stunning opening performance in 2022. He has the highest damage per minute of any AD Carry in the league, and has managed to do that while dying an average of only once per game so far in spring.
Jungler Malrang has also quickly found favor with LEC fans as an aggressive player who keeps a clear head around major objectives.
Are these players upgrades over their predecessors? Honestly, probably not. However, they bring something to the team that’s more intangible, but infinitely more important, than individual skill: cohesion.
In an interview on the LEC’s post-game lobby for week 2 of the spring split, Odoamne went in-depth about Rogue’s offseason changes. He explained that on the 2021 roster, “the players might not get along the best” even if “the talent was there”, and that there had been a “constant struggle to put our differences aside and get on the same page”.
These “differences” could offer some explanation as to Rogue’s lackluster best-of-five performances, a format where mental fortitude and cohesion can mean the difference between winning and losing. Odoamne went on to explain that the 2022 roster had “clicked” in a way that had never quite happened for the team in 2021.
Five games is too small a sample size to call Rogue the next World Champions. But it’s enough of a sample size to see that this team is heading in the right direction. And if what Odoamne says is true, then the personality changes in the offseason may have been just the thing this organization needed to push it into true LEC Champion contention.