The UK didn't make it to the EU Masters finals, but there's promising signs for the future

ENUK editor Dom Sacco looks back on the EU Masters so far and how UK League of Legends is taking positive steps forward.
The UK might not have reached the final stages of the new European Masters League of Legends tournament, but we gave a damn good go of it.
In fact, this is the best European performance from teams with UK scene experience in some time: two teams with UK scene experience made it to the quarter finals.
A few years ago, when it was first announced that the winners of the ESL UK & Ireland Premiership would progress to the EU Challenger Series qualifiers, Misfits (back then playing as the Renegades Banditos) took full advantage of this path to pro, moving from the UK scene to the Challenger Series and straight into the LCS in one fell swoop.
Since then, however, teams from the UK Prem haven’t performed as well. MnM Gaming won two back-to-back ESL Prems, but failed to progress from the Challenger Series Qualifiers group stages.

“The EU Masters tournament has been a brilliant tweak by Riot Games. It’s the change the Challenger Series has needed for some time.”

With the introduction of the European Masters, a new ‘champions league’ style format replacing the old Challenger Series, it has given the UK more than one opportunity to progress further.
The top four teams from the UK League of Legends ESL esports season took part in the tournament: excel Esports, who won the Autumn 2017 ESL Prem), Wind and Rain (WAR, from the 2017 Challenger Series), plus Enclave Gaming and Misfits Academy (who won the Spring 2018 ESL Prem).
As well as this, Ninjas with Pyjamas signed part of Diabolus’ recent UK scene roster: Larssen, Smiley and British mid-laner Caedrel.
The European Masters started earlier this month and we are now down to the final four teams:

Of course, this means all those aforementioned UK teams are no longer involved. But that doesn’t tell the full story.

How did UK scene teams perform?

Firstly, it was great to see the teams banding around the #TeamUK hashtag, with different orgs supporting one another with the overall goal to try and represent the UK as a whole.
This probably wouldn’t have happened when I started following the UK scene two to three years ago, and it was fantastic for the community to back #TeamUK.
First up, Enclave Gaming beat Team Ascent but lost to K1ck Esports, however while this was enough to reach the next stage, they were sadly beaten by LDLC and didn’t make it through to the group stages proper.
Next, Wind and Rain progressed to groups, but were placed into the tricky group B, facing Millenium, Team Atlantis and current ESL Prem winners Misfits Academy.
WAR never really got out of second gear, going 0-3 in the group stages. However, their fellow UK scene compatriots, Misfits Gaming (pictured), went 2-1.
Misfits lost 2-0 to Kliktech, sending them out before the quarter finals.
exceL Esports, the current UK Masters champions, did very well in groups, going 2-1 and losing only to Origen.
They then brushed aside Team Atlantis 2-0, but were defeated 2-0 by GamersOrigin in the quarter final.
Finally, Ninjas in Pyjamas also made it to the quarter finals, where they would face Origen. It was a very close game but Origen won 2-1, knocking NiP out of the tournament.

There is just one link left with the EU Masters semi-finals and the UK scene: experienced ADC Augustas “Toaster” Ruplys (above, who previously played for Origen) is playing for GamersOrigin, and will face Illuminar Gaming.
The other semi will see Origen face-off with Mad Lions.

Reaction & analysis

For me, the EU Masters tournament has been a brilliant tweak by Riot Games. It’s the change the Challenger Series has needed for some time.
The stream has regularly reached more than 40,000 viewers, the casting talent has been a nice mix of seasoned Riot pros like Quickshot and UK talent such as Excoundrel and now Foxdrop, who brought their own slice of UK humour and love to the table:

I love how it’s become regional, so Spain is represented by Origen, the UK by exceL etc, and that has been highlighted as part of the production.
It’s also, of course, great to see the talented production team at ESL UK providing the backbone to this tournament, and I can’t wait to see the EU Masters finals take place at the revamped Leicester Haymarket Theatre next weekend – the first esports event of its kind at that venue.

“It was great to see rosters banding around #TeamUK, with orgs supporting one another to represent the UK as a whole.”

For me, it’s still a shame that the winner of the EU Masters will not progress to the LCS. I’m disappointed that promotion and relegation has been removed from the EU LCS, like it has been in the NA LCS for a while now.
However, it’s good to see Riot supporting the grassroots, whether it’s at a university (NUEL), school and college (British Esports Championships) level, and giving the UK its own tournament, Forge of Champions, this summer.
So much has changed in two years in the UK LoL scene, and I can’t wait to see what the next two years hold for it.

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