A packed crowd at Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre watched Spain’s Origen sweep Poland’s Illuminar Gaming aside in the grand final of the League of Legends European Masters last night.
The story lines for the tournament’s debut year couldn’t have been better. Illuminar, an underdog team made up of entirely Polish players against Origen, a team of former LoL superstars.
Origen has faded over the past couple of years after an amazing run in the 2015 World Championships. But with the EU Masters title under their belt, are they going to step back into the spotlight?
Mail Esports spoke to commentator and host Trevor ‘Quickshot’ Henry about the EU Masters tournament, and about Origen’s future.
Origen were crowned the European Masters Champions last night at the Haymarket Theatre
The success of the European Masters
After hosting the pick and ban phase of the first game of the final, Quickshot dashed out to talk to me while the match got underway. Although he’s most known for casting, he’s a versatile on screen performer, often taking on all kinds of roles for League of Legends broadcasts.
Even before the cameras were rolling, he was out warming up the crowd in a cheeky fashion that only someone who has grown a huge fan base over the years can do. ‘Why do you pronounce Leicester wrong?’ He joked to the crowd before the final began. ‘It’s clearly “lie-sess-ter”.’
‘I have some fun with the local fans, I do enjoy picking on the audience a little,’ Quickshot told me. ‘It gets them riled up and fired up just before a show.’
The UK League of Legends crowd was out in full force to see Origen easily beat Illuminar 3-0
The UK doesn’t see a lot of high profile League of Legends events. There was a road show for the League of Legends Championship Series, and the quarter finals of the World Championships were held in London in 2015. But most of the time, fans have to watch from home.
It was a freezing cold day in Leicester, and trains to the city from London were non-existent due to engineering work. Yet the venue was full and rowdy from the start, and there was a very clear crowd bias towards the Origen veterans.
‘The British crowd is a very special crowd,’ said Quickshot. ‘There’s an energy in the British fans you don’t get elsewhere. It borders on aggressive,’ he said with a smile, ‘but aggressively supportive, happy, intense.
‘It’s great to be back in the UK. And it’s even better a UK team made top 8. Nobody expected it, and that was a pleasant surprise.’
The EU Masters is a fairly unique tournament that brings together a lot of teams, many of which have a squad comprised of a single nationality.
‘I’m very excited that one of the two finalists is a representative from Poland with an all Polish roster,’ said Quickshot. ‘When you look at the ethos and vision for EU Masters, for the very first event to have a team like that in the final, it’s already a success.’
For Quickshot, it’s the national rivalries which make this tournament so unique and special. He told me he made a joke to the crowd the day before about both French teams exiting the competition in recent weeks.
‘I said “England loves seeing France lose,” and the crowd lost it.
‘I come from a pretty healthy, active competitive sport background. Watching rivalries between countries is something which drives me. I grew up when I had a cricket and rugby team in South Africa that were good. I didn’t know anything about Australia, England, Ireland, or Wales, but I knew who I wanted to beat. I didn’t mind losing to the All Blacks because they were the best.
‘Those rivalries mean a lot to me, and that’s why I draw a lot from events like this.’
It’s not just about the rivalries though, it’s about the platform that a lot of these teams are being given. Quickshot is excited about what the future holds for the tournament, given how successful this one has been.
‘A lot of the Spanish viewers will know the Spanish LVP teams, a lot of the French playerbase will know the Open Tour teams. But this platform has allowed them to compete against one another, and you get to see the British talking to the Spanish, talking to the French, talking to the Germans, and it’s this mixing pot that we’ve not had before.
‘I’m so excited for the future because we’ve had such a great debut, I can’t wait to iterate. We’ll take away the learnings that we had from this event and make it bigger and better.’
Does Origen have a future in the LCS?
Neither Illuminar nor Origen were expected to reach the EU Masters final. Both were inconsistent earlier in the tournament, and there were particular doubts about some of the Origen squad.
Both Konstantinos ‘FORG1VEN’ Tzortziou and Choi ‘inSec’ In-seok have had successful League of Legends careers (there’s even a Lee Sin mechanic named after inSec), but they’ve put in questionable performances in recent times.
‘Although Origen have been inconsistent, we’ve seen any one of them can solo carry games,’ said Quickshot. ‘At any point, one of them could have a good game and take over the series.’
That’s exactly what happened in the final. FORG1VEN had an awful game on Kai’sa in the group stages, but picked it in the first rotation in champion select for the first game of the final. He ended up going 9-0-4.
The second game was a fairly cagey affair until an incredible play from Henrik ‘Froggen’ Hansen ended the game almost instantly. In game three, all the players stepped up, with only three deaths across the entire team.
Overall, it was a pretty dominant performance, and it raised the question over Origen’s future as a professional team.
With the EU LCS moving to ‘long term partnerships’ for next season, what most are referring to as franchising, will Origen be in the picture?
‘I know for a fact they’re not staying as a team,’ Quickshot told me, referring to the players in the current squad, most of whom were only under contract for this tournament. ‘But I’ve been asked the question about the organisation Origen and the 2019 EU LCS.’
He says that now that they’ve won the EU Masters, ‘the organisation will lean on the fan support and the interest they have generated just with their brand name and players.
‘But,’ he continued, ‘that’s only one element of what goes into a successful application. I still have a lot of personal doubts… The organisation has made big mistakes in the past with not only how they treated their brand, but also their players, growth, business development.
‘I need to be convinced that they’ve learned from those mistakes and built a solid foundation for the application. I need to see they’re not just a sideshow team.
‘One of things I really appreciate, is that a team of superstars have all gone out and said “it’s not good enough just to be good at the game anymore.” They have struggled in every way and I think if they were going up against slightly more experienced teams, they wouldn’t have made it to where they did.
‘You look at every single game, every single series. Origen should not have won many of them. I believe that experience is what has given them the edge. Many of these players have been in games where they’ve had to defend nexuses at 300hp, and it happened here at EU Masters and is what allowed them to win.’
Quickshot will be back in action at the Mid-Season Invitational next month. As for Origen and its players, we’ll just have to wait and see.