Once upon a time, a group of friends came together in order to battle evil climb the ranks of an online computer game. Naming themselves Misfits, this ragtag band of, well, misfits, climbed a little further than they might have hoped. This is the story of how an unheralded group of players from Challenger went on to become the number one team in their region, almost defeating a three-time World Champion team on their way.
As I write this, the current Misfits Gaming line-up is top of the European LCS, with an impressive 10-2 record at the midway point [Misfits have since dropped two more losses and are currently at 10-4 — Ed.]. Despite accruing their first loss of the season at their hands, Misfits are still two wins ahead of Fnatic, who are tied with G2 for 2nd place [currently tied for 1st with Misfits as of week 7 — Ed.]. It is no stretch to say that Misfits are the best team in the region right now.
It is no stretch to say that Misfits are the best team in the region right now.
And yet, this is not an organisation steeped in esports history like Fnatic. Indeed, the team’s early days are mired in controversy. Once named Renegades: Banditos, they were the European sister team of Renegades, who were banned from competing in the North American LCS back in 2016.
Still, it quickly became clear that the players on that roster had something special going on. Despite the inauspicious start, the newly-named Misfits qualified for Challenger Series at the first attempt. They took Challenger by storm, dropping only a single game out of 10 in the regular season. They faced Millenium in the playoffs and annihilated them without much trouble. A 3-0 score in no way flattered Misfits, and the recipe of their future success was plain to see. Barney "Alphari" Morris crushed his lane time and time again, bullying Kaze in two out of three games. Lee "IgNar" Dong-geun’s roaming was pivotal and Misfits already looked like an LCS calibre team.
It wasn’t long before they gained LCS status for real, however. After an initial setback in the promotion tournament — a battling 3-2 defeat against Origen — Misfits went on to face FC Schalke 04 Esports in the last chance qualifier. The German-based team had struggled in LCS all split long and were no match for the newcomers. More importantly, though, we saw further signs of Misfits’ recipe for success, even at this early stage in the team’s history. Alphari dominated Etienne "Steve" Michels in lane and the team drafted for a strong composition on the rest of the map, rather than trying to win every lane individually.
Putting Alphari into a good match-up means the rest of the team can draft for composition, instead of having to try and draft winning lanes across the map.
This trend continues to the current day, despite several roster changes. Alphari being one of the constant members of Misfits is appropriate, as he is also one of the team’s most consistent players. He almost never loses lane, which grants the rest of the team a great deal of flexibility. Putting Alphari into a good match-up means the rest of the team can draft for composition, instead of having to try and draft winning lanes across the map. In that all-important qualifier game against Schalke, this is why Misifts were able to draft Sivir/Bard into Lucian and just sit back, wave-clear and out-scale the opposition.
Misfits have only recently picked up their first losses of Summer Split, and yet Alphari continues to be near immortal. His team gave up 18 kills against Splyce and Fnatic combined, but the Brit only accounted for three of those. So far this split, he has 34 kills to just seven deaths. The only people with fewer deaths than him are substitutes with a handful of appearances.
But League of Legends is a team game, and Alphari’s safe playstyle doesn’t win games by itself. After a Spring Split spent on Struggle Street, Chres "Sencux" Laursen is definitely finding his groove as well. Statistically, Luka "PerkZ" Perković is the only mid-laner ahead of the Dane. Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage seemed like a huge loss at the end of 2017, but Sencux has, after some initial teething troubles, made the role his own. He has flourished in the tumultuous meta-game of summer 2018. His Yasuo is 4-1 and has started attracting bans and counter-picks in recent weeks. Notably, Rasmus "Caps" Winther’s Wukong dunked on him in Misfit’s first loss of the split against Fnatic.
After a Spring Split spent on Struggle Street, Sencux is definitely finding his groove as well.
Despite that, Sencux’s confidence is sky-high, and it is infectious. Individually, Steven "Hans sama" Liv might not be making the same highlight reel plays we are used to, but he is still an AD Carry to be feared. Second in the MVP rankings, he is one of the bottom laners who kept the faith, playing just one game on a non-traditional AD Carry this split. His Draven continues to be a fearsome pick and Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle knows exactly how to play around it. I know supports often don’t get enough credit, but Misfit’s bottom lane really is all about enabling Hans Sama. It’s difficult for Mikyx to shine, playing Morgana over and over, but he does his job more than adequately.
I mentioned earlier that Misfits don’t need to draft winning lanes, but they can do it when called upon. Draven is the ultimate lane bully, after all, and Hans Sama being proficient on a champion who is rarely contested in picks and bans is a huge boon for the team. The fact that he is almost always ahead on gold going into the mid and late-game makes up for the fact that Draven offers very little by way of utility. Death is the ultimate crowd control, after all.
Tying it all together is Nubar "Maxlore" Sarafian. Stepping out of the shadow of Lee "KaKAO" Byung-kwon is no easy task, but Maxlore has done a solid job since joining the team last year. His relatively deep champion pool is a huge asset to the team, being able to fill almost any niche the team requires. He has looked most comfortable this split on Taliyah, going 3-0 so far and picking up his only MVP award on The Stoneweaver but his Camille is also 3-0. Clearly, Alphari’s compatriot has a penchant for engage champions. In Misfits’ only losses, he played Trundle and Graves respectively – neither of whom are great at starting fights in the same way as Camille or Gragas.
With all the changes going on around Misfits in 2018, not to mention the changing meta-game, Maxlore’s preference for engage-heavy champions is one of the few things that stayed the same.
With all the changes going on around Misfits in 2018, not to mention the changing meta-game, Maxlore’s preference for engage-heavy champions is one of the few things that stayed the same. His Gragas was a huge part of Misfits’ success at World’s last year, going 3-0 across the tournament. His Zac, perhaps the biggest instigator of fights in all of League, was undefeated in the 2017 Summer Split – 6-0 if you include playoffs.
Having a jungler who thrives on setting up team-fights and setting up ganks means the rest of Misfits can concentrate on playing to their own strengths. You don’t need to put Hans Sama on a champion he is uncomfortable on just so you have access to something like an Ashe arrow. It means Mikyx can pick a support that is good at keeping his lane-mate alive (it’s a bonus that Morgana is also great at setting up picks, of course, but that’s not the main reason Misfits picks her so much).
It also unlocks Aphari to do whatever is best for the team. This season that has mostly meant soaking up damage and running down squishy enemies on Dr. Mundo (currently 5-1 in games) or Ornn (2-0) but in the past he has shown he has both carry and split push chops. He is a noted Gnar player — a champion who is very good at, well, everything.
In their relatively brief lifespan, Misfits have been on quite the rollercoaster. In their first year in the LCS, they went to Worlds and were a gnat’s wing away from eliminating three-time champions, SK Telecom T1. Despite that, they lost key parts of their roster going into 2018 and suffered because of it during the Spring Split. The mid-season break did wonders for them, though. They came into the Summer Split looking like a new team, having fixed any team chemistry issues that might have lingered from the line-up changes at the end of 2017.
Misfits doubled down on what made them so strong in the first place and, so far, it has paid off in spades. They have more-or-less ignored the shifting meta-game and stuck to what they’re good at: engage junglers, Alphari winning lane and Hans Sama playing AD Carries. It looks set to earn them another crack at Worlds this year, and who would bet against them going a step further this time around?