Splyce rounded out the EU LCS summer split at 8-5, solidifying their position among the top teams of Europe, but falling just short of H2K and UOL in Group B through the regular season. They marched on to face their rivals G2 Esports in the quarterfinals of the summer split playoffs, falling just short in a nailbiter 2-3 series.
The young squad has left its mark on the EU LCS, and despite recent coaching change has fielded the same roster in its last 4 splits, rallying from the Promotion Tournament of the 2016 Summer Split to a 2nd place finish in Sprint Split 2017. They now finish their Playoffs just short in the quarterfinals.
In a RealSport exclusive interview, we speak with Splyce owner Marty Strenczewilk on LCS franchising, EU LCS competition, and the future of Splyce.
RealSport: With franchising on the way for North America, do you think Europe is better off without it? How do you feel about the official reason given?
Marty Strenczewilk: It’s really hard to say whether EU is better with or without it until we see what the EU plan fully ends up being and how it fits the region. As a company, we are very aware of how differently EU and NA are as regions, and so I get that it isn’t as simple as creating something and applying it across both regions. The important things are really that there is structure, longevity, security and sustainability. If you get those things, then I’m sure many different formats can be successful, but it’s not a simple formula to get all of those.
RS: How do you rank the European LCS teams?
MS: I honestly don’t think there is a clear pecking order anymore. I know everyone is so excited about Fnatic, but at the end of the day all of the teams in Group B only get to play them one time and, depending on which patch is current, it could affect how the matchup plays out. One of the great things about the NBA is that you come back and play the same team a bunch of times. That allows you to have off days and not be defined by a single time you meet up. To me, there is a clear group of top teams and a clear group of bottom teams, with the ROCCAT outlier that no one can make sense of (they beat top teams and lose to bottom ones).
RS: What does Splyce need to take things to the next level on the international stage?
MS: We are very focused on allowing our teams to grow with good resources behind them, rather than just trying to purchase success (like we might see out of the Yankees or Lakers). If you look at our team right now, three of our players are only eighteen years old; they’ve got long careers ahead of them. So the main factor of taking things to the next level for us in League of Legends is time. Time to grow, to build systems, to evolve our style, to become the best version of ourselves as a team. This team is nowhere near its peak and I’m happy to see it continuing to evolve.
While it's a distant memory now, Rift Rivals saw Europe fall to North America. Do you feel that Splyce could've been the hero Europe needed? Which teams do you think would’ve best represented Europe in the tournament?
MS: It’s very hard to say, simply because the event was outside of the norm of competition (such as regular season, MSI, Worlds, etc). I think it’s a great event, but you didn’t have teams going to Korea to prep for it or having remotely the time necessary to prep for all of your opponents (since it was just an off week mid split, when your main focus was the regular season). Not to mention that the patches were constantly fluctuating the meta, to the point where players were still figuring out what the meta was going to settle into. In my mind Rift Rivals was akin to the All-Star break in the NBA: totally a worthwhile and fun event, but not a point of comparison between teams/regions because of the nature of how it fits into the season and how it fits into the competitive landscape.
How has the team been affected since parting ways with former coach YamatoCannon? As the team transitions from previous replacement Gevous, are there any coaches you have your eye on?
MS: We’re still working to figure out the best coaching structure. One of the biggest current challenges on the performance side of an esports team right now is coaching. Most coaches are former players, which means they bring game knowledge and the ability to speak the players language but may not be inherent leaders or know how to build out a system. The few others who are not former players have for the most part struggled to get a foothold, likely because of how challenging it is to get the respect of the players when you haven’t played on their level. In the long run, we’ll look back at this time decades from now and likely have a good laugh about the good ol’ days of coaching, when we have structured systems built by legions of coaches who have been in the industry for ages. But until that time, it’s a lot of trial and error, as we’re all figuring out the best foot forward.
Competitive League of Legends is spread across many active markets. How can Splyce best reach these fans, despite issues like language barrier?
MS: The simple answer is human stories. In esports, there’s a hell of a lot of focus on the pentakill but not enough focus on who is making that great outplay. Where did they come from? What hurdles did they overcome? What’s it like to be in their shoes? That’s how we’ve always connected with the best athletes on another level, and it’s a place we’re looking to put a heavy focus as we move forward.
One of the critiques fans have had of Splyce is that the roster lacks a certain star power in its individuals. How do you feel about this assessment?
MS: We decided that star power was something that we could build over time, rather than going out and buying it. Look at Kobbe, for example. He’s a monster of an ADC - easily one of the best in the region. But in his first year, he needed to come into his own. Now he’s finding himself. I’m excited for us to be part of that process of creating greatness.
Is there anything you'd like to mention that I haven't asked about?
MS: My faith in this five has not changed, and I believe that we can and will be the best team in EU and a threat globally in the near future. Time is something that most teams don’t want to give their players, but I am willing to be the one that is patient to build for a long future. I’m often heard saying I’d rather have three championships in ten years than one right now.