The ESL Premiership kicks off 2018 with a brand new format and arguably the most competitive teams it has ever seen. We have new faces, old rivalries and some of the best talent the UK and Ireland have to offer. With that in mind here's my TL;DR of the teams competing and what you should be looking out for during the group stage.
The reigning champions looked just as strong during the qualifiers as they did last split and would've had a perfect record if it wasn't for a very close match vs Misfits Academy. Investing in a strong team and bringing in some fresh talent, this lineup looks to have set their sights on top spot and might have found a winning formula for getting exactly that.
Positive signs so far for this team and people will expect them to make another appearance in the finals this split to defend their crown.
Player to watch: DuaLL - Support
He might not get the flashy kills but DuaLL is the backbone of this exceL lineup and enables his team with the vision and pressure he puts on the map. If exceL are to be denied a title defence then DuaLL needs to be nullified or else he'll assist his way to victory.
NerdRage find themselves back in the thick of the Premiership, just not looking as convincing as previous iterations of the team. Having to come through the losers bracket and knocking out last seasons finalist, Team Singularity, they definitely deserve to be in the Premiership but not without plenty of things to work on if they want to make playoffs. Overall this team could steal an upset win or two but will have to work hard in order to make that happen.
Player to watch: Jakamaka - AD carry
Jakamaka is the experienced AD carry you want on your team. With the ability to channel the gold funnelled into him into a win condition, he definitely gives NerdRage a much needed boost to their roster and gives them more threats to work with. If NerdRage want to make the push for playoffs they have to make sure teams don't keep Jakamaka out of the game.
Misfits Academy, playing under the name stifsiM Gaming, came out swinging in the qualifiers. Going undefeated over the 2 days and demonstrating in fairly comfortable fashion that they are the team to beat. Strong macro as well as very talented individual players gives Misfits Academy one of the scariest teams to ever come into the Premiership and should be expected to reach the grand final.
Player to watch: Chrisberg - AD carry
Chrisberg is the biggest threat any team is going to have in the bot lane this season. His positioning and understanding of how a team fight will play out is something all teams should fear.
The surprise package of the qualifiers came in the form of No Org No Problem. Slightly off meta picks and some good team synergy saw them take a spot in the Premiership but not without some hiccups along the way. The team will be looking at playoffs as a very achievable goal and maybe a semi is on the cards if the meta floats their way.
Player to watch: DanXD - Top
DanXD has shown that he is no stranger to the off meta picks and that just plays to his team's strengths. If No Org No Problem can keep DanXD free to do what he needs playoffs could be possible.
A storm is coming and WaR are right in the centre of it. An org hailing from the nordics, and veterans of the CSQ, WaR have invaded the British isles seeking glory and a challenge. They met only one team they could not best but looked strong in all their games on the run up to qualifying.
A strong history in international competition and a solid roster make the expectations for this team pretty high, playoffs should be on the cards for the new challengers and maybe more.
Player to watch: Dan - Jungler
Going through the entire qualifiers and only dying to one team is a feat most teams would dream of doing and Dan pulled it off with ease. Having his tried and tested Zac get through picks and bans will be bad news for anyone brave enough to let it slip through.
If WaR are looking to cause an upset and continue their winning ways in the Premiership then they'll need Dan on top form throughout the tournament.
New org with old faces, Diabolus Esports have christened their inaugural season in the Premiership with an almost perfect start. Losing only to Misfits academy in the qualifiers, Diabolus find themselves coming into the season as one of the hot favourites to make the grand finals.
Small weaknesses showed during their match vs Misfits that teams will most likely try to exploit but after looking at all of their matches so far, anything lower than top 4 for this team of UK veterans would be a major disappointment and they should be looking at a finals place if they can tighten the screws.
Player to watch: Larssen Reborn - Mid
Mid lane dominance is how Diabolus usually like to play their games and Larssen Reborn is as consistent as you get. Over the qualifiers he suffocated his opponents making almost every trade go in his favour. If teams want to shutdown Diabolus, they're gonna have to get past Larssen.
The old Kings of UK LoL looked frail during their qualifier run. MnM have a lot of question marks over their lackluster performance and have left themselves with a lot to prove coming into the group stage. But it wasn't all doom and gloom for the team, despite them being plagued with connection issues, they showed flashes of brilliance and that's something they'll need to have more often if they're to make it to the playoffs.
Player to watch: Joekerism - AD carry
Despite the results in qualifying for MnM being a less than stellar performance, Joekerism was the standout player for his team, showing that he's still a force to be reckoned with and given the right resources can take over a game.
After a very up and down qualifiers, Enclave are the wild card of this tournament. They were the 50/50 team of the qualifiers and when playing at their best could take a game off anyone in the Premiership. They play a very strong early game and know how to build an early game lead.
Unfortunately not being able to capitalise on gold leads and letting games drag on a bit too long has been their Achilles heel and they'll have to improve their mid-late game shot calling if their to take wins from some of the bigger teams.
Player to watch: Shogun - Support
Behind every good AD carry's KDA is a solid support that sets up the kills. Shogun is exceptional at finding early game opportunities and getting his team a gold lead. Enclave need Shogun to pop off, but whether or not other teams allow him to is a different story.
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