The Cursed Contenders
In the latter third of 2012 a European line-up, under the Curse Gaming banner, came together and within two weeks had beaten Moscow five in an offline series, making them only the third team in history to accomplish such a feat, to that point in time. Yet the five man line-up did not last even three weeks before spiraling out of control and losing a member days before the biggest event of the year for them.
Even now, only the M5/Gambit line-up has only ever lost eight offline Bo3/Bo5 series, and only four of those have ever been to European teams. How could a line-up come together, soar to such heights so quickly and then flame out in under a month? After contacting four of the five members of that Curse.EU line-up, and members of the organisation from that time, I've put together the pieces of the story of the European contenders that briefly were, and perhaps could have been for longer, a pivotal team in European League of Legends.
This is a story of talented individuals, intuitive team-play, momentary brilliance and contentious personalities. This is the story of the Curse.EU line-up of late 2012 and it's quick rise and fall.
Curse.EU - September to November 2012:
Aurimas "Angush" Gedvilas (Top)
Tobias "Malunoo" Magnusson (Jungler)
Vytautas "extinkt" Mėlinauskas (Mid)
Jakub "Creaton" Grzegorzewski (AD Carry)
Piotr "SuperAZE" Prokop (Support)
The Genesis of the Core
Long before the line-up this article is centered around was formed its core came together in late 2011. On December 4th 2011 Team Mistral acquired a line-up including Sleper, Angush, Svenskeren, Prepared and extinkt. The same month Kottenx replaced Svenskeren. By the end of January the team had already found a new home, moving to AbsoluteLegends, who had lost their European team to Counter Logic Gaming, famously.
Immediately the team took a solid third place in the online Kings of Europe tournament, a promising result in light of the field. In the group stage they had lost to Moscow Five but beaten SK Gaming. In the playoffs they'd been slain by CLG.EU, the previous aL line-up, but beaten Sypher in the third place decider. In February they removed Prepared and kottenx, bringing in xinec and Malunoo, at Support and Jungler respectively.
The next two months and a half months saw this new look Absolute Legends line-up performing to a consistently high level in online competitions. Playing in eight online tournaments they placed top four in all of them, winning two and placing second four times. That online run saw them secure victories in series over SK Gaming, fnatic, CLG.EU, TSM and Na`Vi. In single games they defeated Moscow Five twice.
This aL team were well in the mix amongst the top tier European competition, trading series back and forth with Froggen's CLG.EU, consistently beating ocelote's SK Gaming and typically only being dominated by the mighty Moscow Five and the superlative online monsters of aAa. Their first offline event came right towards the end of that run, with much expectation over whether their offline play would back-up their online power. The debut offline event for aL was Gamers Assembly in France. Despite losing to Sypher in the upper bracket, aL were able to edge out CLG.EU, who were themselves making their LAN debut, to reach the final. There, they lost to Sypher again to finish runners-up.
Absolute Legends at Gamers Assembly 2012: xinec, Sleper, Malunoo, Angush and extinkt
Nine days later, and only four days after winning the DLCompare Pro Cup 1, which had seen them defeat M5 in the group stage and 2:0 SK Gaming in the final, Angush left the line-up.
"Angush became increasingly disrespectful towards every other person in the team. This escalated to the point where we honestly felt that we didn't want to be in a team with him any longer. Since Malunoo, Sleper, extinkt and myself wanted to carry on playing as a team, we decided that the best solution was to part ways with Angush."
-Support player xinec's public statement at the time
The team brought in YoungBuck shortly after and their online success continued. Across the next seven online competitions, aL placed top three in six, winning four and placing second once. Their rivalry with CLG.EU began to go more in their favour, they finally won series off M5 and they even broke Sypher. With an ever improving online form, coupled with their initial offline success, expectations were for this aL line-up to become one of Europe's best.
On the 1st of June the Curse Gaming organisation purchased the Absolute Legends roster, making the line-up their European team. The same day they would make their debut as Curse.EU at the offline finals of the Reign of Gaming International Invitational, but with a key component missing. Mid laner extinkt could not attend, so Saintvicious, legendary Jungler of the North American Curse Gaming line-up, was drafted in to play AP Mid. The team lost all three series, going 0-6 in games. A few days later extinkt arrived and the team attended the MLG Spring Championship in Anaheim, California. In their first match of the upper bracket they lost 1:2 to Team Dynamic.
Just over a week later, on June 12th, Youngbuck was replaced by the returning Angush. In the lower bracket they won a series, but then fell 1:2 to CLG.EU.
"As I'm now aware, I wasn't able to express my frustrations and emotions in a constructive way. The last few weeks before my departure it was really tense due to team results, and I had chosen the wrong way to express myself, which ended up hurting my dear teammates."
- Angush, speaking on his return to the line-up.
Six days after that Curse.EU headed to their fourth ever offline event as a line-up, their second with their full team, as Dreamhack Summer had arrived. In the group stage they were able to defeat fnatic and progress in first. Winning their group proved a Curse in this case, as M5 had lost to CLG.EU in a now infamous group stage game. That meant Curse drew the Russians in the semi-final and were quickly dispatched 2:0. In the third place decider match they again beat fnatic, by 2:1 this time, to secure a respectable third place and $7,500 in prize money. The team seemed to be on the brink of contending for offline titles against Europe's best, certainly their peers thought so.
Malunoo at Dreamhack Summer 2012
"I don't think that you can say something like 'best team in Europe'. I would say there are 4 top teams (M5, Fnatic, CLG and Curse) in Europe that can win each other. And I won't say one team is better than another out of these 4."
- Alex Ich, Mid laner of Moscow Five, speaking about the hierarchy in European LoL in early July 2012.
Back online Curse.EU continued the kind of form they'd established with their two previous incarnations. In the Elites of Europe competition they defeated fnatic in the quarter-final, TSM in the semi-final and mousesports in the final. Days later they beat SK Gaming and Moscow Five to quality for the European Challenger Circuit: Poland offline event. Three days before that tournament they finished second in the Cdiscount Cup 4, losing to fnatic in the final.
In Warsaw, Poland, the team came in with high hopes to improve on their previous outing at Dreamhack. The group stage went according to plan, defeating SK and Team Acer.pl, but then they were upset by the Poles of MYM. Despite this loss they still finished the group in first place, only to run into the same problem as in Sweden: Moscow Five had finished second in the other group, again losing to CLG.EU.
Again faced with a semi-final against the team many considered the best in the world, Curse.EU again found themselves unable to break through the Russian roadblock, again losing 0:2. This time the third place decider would be now consolation, as SK Gaming defeated them 2:1 to put them in fourth.
Curse.EU at ECC Poland.
"Losing to M5 was tough. Before the games we thought we had a really good chance to beat them, but they prepared a really good strategy that completely shut our game plan down. I took the loss really tough and was frustrated for a few hours.
They just outsmarted us by picking Udyr, a champion we had completely forgotten about. Their strategy was really aggressive, but centered around having a stronger jungler for 2v2's or 3v3's. Second game they pulled out the Zilean + Jax combo that we had no idea how to shut down."
- extinkt, Mid laner of Curse.EU, speaking on their loss to M5 at ECC Poland.
Days later, and back home, the team reached the finals of the online IPL Elites tournaments, beating fnatic along the way, only to be humiliated 0:3 in the final against the very same Moscow Five who had stopped their last two offline outings from reaching the finals. Things looked better outside of the server though, as the team moved to Germany on the promise that the Curse organisation would provide them with a team house. Before that could be setup they stayed in hotels and practiced in some office space rented from mousesports.
With the S2 European Regional Qualifier around two weeks away they had their hopes set on a top three spot and the World Championship place it would ensure. With the teams they had defeated online and off the Curse.EU team could reasonably believe they could finish in at least third and qualify for the Los Angeles final. During the bootcamp period they played in the SK Trophy July online tournament, losing to M5 0:2 in the semi-final.
On the 18th of July the S2 European Regional event began at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. Drawn against fnatic in the first round Curse.EU could be confident of a win, having gone 3:1 against fnatic at Dreamhack and with numerous victories over xPeke's men online. Instead fnatic shocked the Curse men, defeating them 2:0 and eliminating them from Worlds contention.
Curse.EU at Gamescom 2012: Flyy, Angush, extinkt, Malunoo, Sleper, xinec and Panky
The following week saw another offline event, also in Germany. Campus Party Berlin featured neither CLG.EU nor M5, so Curse.EU could reasonably be considered one of the favourites for the title. Even more alluring was the potential of getting revenge on fnatic or SK Gaming. Those teams had even been placed in the other group, meaning Curse.EU looked a lock for a deep playoff run.
The tournament began terribly, as Curse lost to a CandyPanda-powered mouz 1:2. After beating MYM 2:1 they only needed to beat their last opponent, BLACK, 2:0 to secure a playoff spot. When they shockingly split the first two games there was no need to play the third, as they would have been eliminated on map difference even if they'd won the final map. Coming on the heels of their harsh elimination at the S2 Regional this LAN result was a warning sign of problems within the team.
The next two months were all taken up with online competition. Rough losses to Eclypsia.Solaris in the September IPL5 EU Qualifier #3 quarter-finals and fnatic 1:2 in the SK Trophy August semi-finals, seemed to spell trouble for a team who had always thrived online. They soon revived their form over the wires though, racking up three straight tournament wins. In the EmpireTV Challenge they won 2:0 in series over M5 and fnatic, in the 4Players.de All or Nothing 5 cup they swept past inferior opposition and in the October IPL5 EU Qualifier #4 mouz and fnatic were slain 2:0 in the semis and final to grant them a spot at the IPL5 offline event in late November, to be held in Las Vegas, USA.
Despite those two series victories over fnatic they fell to the very same team in the quarter-final of the ESL Major Series Season X on September 22nd. Three days later it was announced that xinec and Sleper had been replaced in the line-up by SuperAZE and Creaton, respectively. The latter two players had been the botlane of the Team Acer.pl line-up who had shown some promise online, but failed to manifest any significant results offline. This new Curse.EU line-up would prove to be the one which would exceed all others, but also fall no sooner than they had ascended the European mountain range.
The Arrival of the Magical Line-up
"It's hard to say what caused [our problems], but we rarely had pressure from bot lane so we all felt it needed a change, I think."
- Malunoo, Jungler of Curse.EU, speaking in 2013 about what Curse.EU had lacked prior to the addition of SuperAZE and Creaton.
Speaking on the removal of xinec, the Support player, Malunoo cited internal conflicts between the Dane and top laner Angush.
"The core factor for Curse.eu was always me and Malunoo, our cohesion with each other. That was the main factor for being the unstoppable team or not. But what what was dragging us down all The time was bottom lane ,both mentally and ingame. When I say 'us', I mean me and Malunoo in particular. Obviously it had a toll on extinkt too, as we three couldn't trust our bottom lane ever. Not on ganks, on roaming, on winning lane, on being stable or any kind of profit or benefit in the early game.
-Angush, speaking in 2013 on the problems in the line-up before the arrival of SuperAZE and Creaton.
"It’s really hard to say what happened in the team and why they decided to replace such players as Sleper and Xinec. As an outside observer it seemed to me that their bottom lane was doing quite fine. I even remember their play-style and with their typical three gold/10 item rush on Soraka, they were able to outfarm in global gold even as they were giving away dragons one after another. Probably after underperforming at offline events such as ECC Warsaw, Season Two Regional Finals - Cologne and Campus Gaming Party: Berlin, the team felt like somebody needed to take the responsibility.
The bottom lane (Sleper + Xinec) got the blame. Flyy, who was the manager in that time, was trying to convince Creaton to join even before the Gamescon, if I remember correctly.
The offer was way too good to refuse for the conditions at the time; mixed with the deteriorating team spirit and rapidly increasing doubts regarding Season 3 with our then-current line-up (me, Creaton, Niq, Overpow, Anthomania), it led Creaton to the decision to leave and sign with Team Curse.EU. First games they played with another support player (frÂgger), but soon Creaton asked me if I would like to play with them. After a few hours of talk I agreed and so it remained."
- SuperAZE, Support player of Curse.EU, speaking in 2013 on replacing Sleper and xinec in Curse.EU
The Curse players had not met their new team-mates, and only knew them from competition and solo queue, but they were soon convinced this new line-up was the way forwards for them. In an AMA on September 30th Creaton expressed his feelings that "our main goal is to be the best team in the world, but we know that we have to do small steps, and next objective is to become top 3 in Europe".
Destiny Manifests in Paris
The team had not yet received their promised gaming house, meaning they were still stuck in the limbo of staying in hotel rooms and practicing from the office space of mouz. On November 11th the Tales of the Lane final was to be played, held at the Casino de Paris in France. The four teams who had qualified for the offline portion were Curse.EU, SK Gaming, Moscow Five and Eclypsia. SK and M5 had been the top two finishers at the S2 Regional, so this event would provide a number of potential hurdles for the men of Curse to clear en route to the title.
As ever the draw saw Curse.EU facing Moscow Five in the semi-final, the exact phase and opponent their previous three line-ups had lost from twice collectively, in offline competitions. This was not the same Curse.EU who had been bested those previous occasions though, in spite of their living situation they had dedicated themselves to studying the Russian powerhouse for holes in strategy and picks.
In the first game of the Best-of-3 Curse.EU lept out of the gates, with Angush's Jax forcing Darien to give up first blood, on the back of a Malunoo attempted gank. Diamondprox tried a gank of his own but was unsuccessful, as he headed up the river to middle extinkt and Malunoo caught him and killed him. The game continued to go in Curse.EU's favour, even the team-fights, an area Moscow Five were notoriously strong in, went the way of the men behind the flame-emblazoned banners. When M5 began dragons they found themselves forced into team-fights they came out the wrong side of, giving up more kills.
All the dragons had gone the way of Curse.EU and the same went for the lone baron of the game, around 26 minutes. The last grasping attempt to turn the game came as M5, around the 31 minute mark, went for a dragon only to be aced without taking a single kill. Curse.EU pushed through the base and secured the first game.
The second game began with fireworks as a level one invade from Curse.EU left both teams down two men. At around 6:40 Diamondprox ganked botlane with Darien, due to a lane swap, to kill Angush. Despite securing the kill, tower hits took down the Russian jungler and then Malunoo's rotation allowed him to chase Darien all the way to the Curse.EU base, where he felled the top laner.
Moscow Five again fell into the trap of forcing dragon only to lose a team-fight before finishing, this time being dealt four deaths with no response from their side. Losing more kills along the way M5 were put into the difficult situation of needing to make a big play to start turning the game. Deciding to dive on extinkt's Zilean with multiple members, they secured the kill only for Curse to descend on them and take back four kills without another death. Down 10k gold M5 were all but out of the tournament. Baron baiting allowed more kills to be racked up on the Curse.EU side of the ledger and the finishing blow came three minutes after taking the baron, winning the game at 27 minutes.
Curse.EU had been all over M5 at seemingly all points of both games. Even if M5 took a kill and edged closer the response would be immediate from Curse. Of particular note was the play of Jungler Malunoo, who stood out as the MVP of the series. In game one his Xin Zhao had finished 6/0/7 in contrast to Diamondprox's Dr.Mundo at 1/3/2. Game two saw Malunoo's Skarner put up a ridiculous 6/1/10, while Diamondprox languished at 0/4/4 on Xin Zhao. Malunoo's strength had not been in counter-jungling or fighting Diamondprox straight up, instead he had repeatedly rotated to the correct lane to gank or ensure a team-fight went Curse.EU's way.
Also of note was Curse.EU's decision to go with Zilean and Jax in the second game, the combo they had complained had been too difficult to figure out when M5 had used it against them at ECC Poland. Clearly Curse.EU had studied their Russian opponents well. SuperAZE would later state that while they had focused intently on only M5 for their preparation, the Russians had barely trained, after returning home from a top four finish at the S2 World Championship.
"It might sound cocky, but I knew we were gonna beat Moscow Five, because for 2 weeks in the bootcamp we prepared only for them. Every ban and pick we knew before the game. We knew what they were gonna play and we knew what were gonna play, so it was a matter of mistakes and we didn't make mistakes."
- Creaton, AD Carry of Curse.EU, speaking in 2013 on how Curse.EU prepared for Tales of the Lane.
Prior to the event beginning Eclypsia, placed on the other side of the bracket and scrim partners for Curse.EU, had members who predicted Curse would either beat M5 or play the Russians very close. Of the four teams in attendance Curse.EU had tunneled only onto M5.
"Analyzing their gameplay and picks. Everytime we played them before, we didn't prepare at all on what to ban/pick and just thought of something in picks and bans. Before TotL we dedicated a week to preparing for the game against M5.
Honestly, we just didn't take it seriously enough [previously]. This event showed that practice and analyzing wins you tournaments. Picks and bans are like 70% of the game for us."
We always thought we were one of the strongest team in EU, we just had to prove and apparently this was the event to do it"
-extinkt, speaking shortly after Tales of the Lane on their preparation for the event.
In their practice they not only found picks that would work, but also identified the dynamic of how the Diamondprox, the M5 Jungle star, was able to put his team ahead.
"To beat M5, which seemed impossible, became real by the middle of week. What we did was we analysed their gameplay a lot, their recent matches, their behaviour when winning or losing, their champion pools and the many possibilities of the draft pick phase.
In the end we all agreed the key was to stop Diamond from giving the advantage to Darien to let him play like madman, who just goes through everything. So we had to analyse, all of us, the jungle. How it is played, the paths, so everyone Would know what to do when we predicted his movements.
A big part of it was my past with M5 overall, and Malunoo's style at that time. I still remember, it could be seen in replays, how Malunoo and Diamond were staying at bottom for a really long time. For me, at that moment, it felt like 10 minutes straight of intense waiting, to see who does the first move. The rest, 2v2 and 1v1. we wanted only to go even, and crush them in team-fights, as again, if Malunoo and I were on games we had good synergy with the rest of team in team-fights
We were scrimming against Eclypsia at that time, and the first 2 or 3 days we were losing every game, but somehow it didn't feel that bad, because we were actually learning new things and getting the teamplay right. Then we started winning and overall we had confidence. Psychologically, the two new players gave us new hope and relieved us for a moment from the stress and constant disappointment of our bottom lane."
-Angush, speaking in 2013 of his team's preparation for Tales of the Lane.
Alex Ich and Angush on stage at Tales of the Lane
The other semi-final had also been an upset, with Eclypsia beating SK Gaming 2:0. Facing off against their practice partners, who had beaten them up prior, as Angush attested to, Curse.EU faced a tougher challenge than the M5 series. Eclypsia took the first game and, with the format Bo3, were a single map from the trophy.
"We prepared so much for just m5, looking at all of their games we could find and was thinking of strats for weeks. Once we won we almost lost the finals because it felt like we had sort of accomplished our goal already."
-Malunoo, speaking in 2013 on the final of Tales of the Lane.
Curse.EU rallied to win the next two maps and secure their first ever offline title. 15,000E (~$20,273) in prize money, a trophy to hoist and the distinction of being the third team to ever defeat M5 in an offline series had elevated Curse.EU from mere contenders to champions of Europe, if only for a brief period. The win over M5, and in such calculating and coordinated fashion, left many wondering if Curse.EU were set to become one of the world's best teams, following in the footsteps of CLG.EU, who had followed up an offline victory over M5 with such an ascension up the international food chain. Instead, the Curse line-up would not last three weeks more.
Curse.EU win Tales of the Lane: Malunoo, Flyy, SuperAZE, Creaton and extinkt.
The Nightmare of Dreamhack Winter
Dreamhack Winter took place just under two weeks after Tales of the Lane. With Moscow Five skipping it, due to being off playing show-matches in China, the only rivals for the title for Curse seemed to be fnatic and CLG.EU. Placed in a group with fnatic the men of Curse knew they didn't even need to beat the black and orange to reach the playoffs, second place would do fine enough too, so their opening game loss was not the end of the world. Beating The Mighty Midgets meant a win over the unknown Danish team Copenhagen Wolves would secure that second playoff spot, and a match-up with CLG.EU in the semi-final.
Copenhagen Wolves shocked Curse.EU, upsetting them and putting the group into a three way tie for second place. Bo1 tiebreakers were played and a second consecutive loss to Wolves saw Curse.EU eliminated in the group stage. As much as things were wrong inside the server there had also been significant problems outside of it. Going into the event Angush had hardly been the picture of confidence when he had stated simply that they "expect to get through the group stage."
"We were traveling a ton and had some internal problems in the team again."
-Malunoo, speaking in 2013 on the failure at Dreamhack.
Four days after Dreamhack SuperAZE left the team officially, all of two days before IPL5 was set to begin. Just like that the line-up that had won Tales of the Lane was no more, with the team desperately searching for a replacement. Responding to the confusion over his departure SuperAZE told reddit the team had been severely lax in their practice post-TotL.
"I'd like to tell you my point of view of the story. Some will have their own opinions; regardless, we should focus on the future anyway. We had 3 tournaments to win: ToTL in Paris, DH Winter in Sweden and IPL5 in Las Vegas. Our practice until the first one was quite okay, but after first victory at the offline event, the center of gravity of the team shifted towards partying, instead of preparing for the upcoming tournaments. We haven't played a single serious training game after the Tales of the lane in Paris. We haven't even talked about the game since then. After numerous disappointments I decided finally to leave the team, before the IPL5, which I won't take part in. I would like to wish my former teammates good luck in the game and a successful life. Maybe in the future our paths will cross again. See ya on the other side of the river :)"
-SuperAZE, gives a statement to reddit following his departure before IPL5.
Given a choice between using Canadian player Elementz, of CLG fame, or Patoy, Support for Team Dignitas, the team opted for the latter, feeling his champion pool fit them better. Their replacement had little to no experience of their team and was called upon to play the tournament after a mere handful of scrims.
"I didn't know anything about them as I only kept up with Gambit at the time, I only looked into them when they asked me to sub. I had heard that beat Gambit (at the time M5) so I was impressed, but even so I hadn't looked into anything specific."
I only played with them during a few practice scrims before the games started, other than that we had a few warm-up talks with what Ben, their coach/manager, had to say about the other teams in terms of his scouting. To be honest I think me and Creaton meshed well together at the time, I was surprised at how aggressive he was in lane and i had to quickly adapt to that."
"I never asked them directly [why they picked me], but I gather it was due to Blitz and Lulu. I played every viable support other than Leona at the time but I'm under the influence it's mainly because of Lulu and Blitz."
- Patoy, Support of Team Dignitas, speaking in 2013 on being selected as the ringer for Curse.EU at IPL5.
Placed in a group with TSM, Singapore Sentinels and Meat Playground, Curse could likely count TSM as a loss, but knew that they could potentially beat the others, and the structure of the tournament meant that rather than top two in the groups going to the playoffs and the others being eliminated, instead top two went to the upper bracket quarter-finals and the bottom two the lower bracket.
In their opening game they played TSM, year long champions and dominators of the North American scene, and bested them. In spite of all the success TSM had experienced that year, securing six consecutive offline tournament titles, TSM had still shown a little weakness, falling at the MLG earlier than month in 5th-6th. Still, those losses had come at he hands of NaJin Sword and CLG.EU, both top eight finishers from the World Championship. The upset against Curse came as a shock, with Curse's Dreamhack result and hasty pick-up of Patoy in the background. Following up with a win over SGS the Curse.EU team had unbelievably managed to reach the upper bracket, ensuring themselves a top 12 finish at worst.
"If memory serves me right, Extinct, Maluno, Creaton and I, were able to win our lanes which simply just led to a victory as we simply got objectives on the map and avoided team-fights. We just won small skirmishes and made the most of them."
-Patoy, speaking in 2013 on how Curse.EU bested TSM at IPL5.
Paired up with CLG Prime, the North American line-up containing names like Doublelift and HotshotGG, they fell in a three map series. In the lower bracket their opponent was their North American sister line-up of Curse. Another three map series, again with Curse.EU showing moments of brilliance, went the way of the opponents, and Curse.EU had been eliminated from IPL5 in 9th-12th place. One could only imagine what the full Curse.EU line-up might have been able to accomplish, had it lasted to the Las Vegas event.
"Just going off the few games I had with them, their style to me is one that ignores grouping unless it's for an inhib turret, and they try to win lanes and force small skirmishes. Their communication was a bit lacking, I remember a few small arguments during scrims and during the matches. Coordination, given their communication being off, was actually on point. Ganks went nicely, turret and objective transition went smoothly, it was really impressive."
-Patoy, speaking in 2013 on the style of the Curse.EU line-up.
Even in finishing outside of the top eight at IPL5, the remaining four members had shown enough of a spark to suggest their line-up could have given more, had it survived the trainwreck of Dreamhack and their internal difficulties. As Creaton explained: "if we change one person it's not a big deal. One person can't destroy our team-play".
"Yeah, I think we just fit together really well. Angush, extinkt and I had played for so long we just learned how the other people were gonna play. I think we did talk a bit less too, since it was a new guy and it felt a bit weird"
-Malunoo, speaking in 2013 in response to Patoy's comment about their communication.
The Fellowship is Broken
Back home the team played in the online competition The Seige, using Haydal as their Support player. Reaching the final from the upper bracket, by virtue of M5 having lost a game to tT Dragons in another group stage, Curse.EU found themselves facing M5. Two straight 0:2 Bo3 losses saw them place second and the bigger cheque of 6,000 Euros (~$8,117) go to the Russians.
One day later Angush and Creaton left the team, later ending up in Millenium.
"Basically, we didn't really mesh together anymore. If TotL was the big victory for us then after that we wanted to keep practicing... the main reason why we couldn't continue was because somehow we couldn't trust each other for some reason, [there's] a really deep meaning to that and somehow I can't explain [it].
It was basically only our players' decision. We don't have bad blood between us, it was [a] mutual decision."
maybe [IPL] was the turning point where we had to split."
-Angush, talking in an interview with SK Gaming shortly after leaving Curse.EU
Despite Angush's words at the time, others in the Curse organisation did not feel the move as quite so mutual.
"The plan was to go on as 4 and find a new 5th player but at the time supports were not easy to come by and when it came down to choosing extinkt and Malunoo were on one side of the fence and Angush was on the other, with Creaton still sitting comfortably on it, or so we thought. When Angush, Creaton and Flyy told us they were planning to join millenium with a mixed squad of the disbanded Eclypsia it was a surprise. While the divide was obvious the fact that Creaton and Flyy would be following Angush was not something that was seen coming."
-Panky, Curse.EU house shoutcaster, speaking in 2013 about the end of Curse.EU.
Angush and Creaton's Millenium would go on to be highly tipped to qualify for the first split of the new LCS, thanks to devastating online scrim performances, but instead were stunned by defeat at the hands of a Bjergsen-less Copenhagen Wolves and MYM. Placing well in IEM events over the following months was not enough, and the team disbanded in the middle of April. Creaton would then find his way to Team ALTERNATE, where he would eventually qualify for LCS Summer and establish himself as one of the best AD Carries in Europe.
Malunoo joined Dragonborns, becoming their starting Jungler, and extinkt came onboard as a substitute, though he was never used during the LCS season. Dragonborns performed poorly during the LCS Spring season and at the end of the split Malunoo departed. Early into the Summer split Malunoo and extinkt were brought into NiP, the new organisation of the Copenhagen Wolves line-up, playing Jungler and Top laner, respectively. Despite great success, turning the fortunes of NiP around and into those of a top tier LCS team, extinkt soon grew tired of professional play and retired.
For a time, during LCS Summer, three of the ex-Curse.EU members had shone brightly, once more reminding those who knew the story of their 2012 run, that they had once been members of one of Europe's elite sides. To this day no member of the Curse.EU line-up has ever placed top three at a major international tournament, or come close to the prestige of their victory over Moscow Five. Angush is still pondering a return to professional play in Season four.
Breaking Down Curse.EU's Style and Set Roles
"I think we were just pretty strong overall: good laning phase, great team-fights, we were usually super synced in our initations, which suprised other teams, pretty often we just went crazy all-in."
I'd say extinkt and Creaton did most of the carrying, I was playing like a second support for the team, leaving farm and not taking kills if I could etc. Angush played some different stuff but mostly bruisers over tanks as a semi-carry and SuperAZE was supporting the team, I guess."
-Malunoo, speaking in 2013 about the style of Curse.EU.
"Our style was really quite straightforward. Generally, Creaton and I were playing separately from the other three, which was a position we felt very comfortable in. We didn’t have any team strategies at all to be honest. With regards to creativity, extinkt was the guy who always managed to pull off some crazy picks (e.g. lulu, teemo, darius) and it worked in most cases."
We had only like 1-2 picks for each player, aside from extinkt, who could play absolutely anything and probably during champion selection just went with what he felt like playing. After taking bottom tower, Creaton went mid and just stole all of the farm from extinkt and I must say extinkt was extremely forgiving, never saying a word about it."
-SuperAZE, speaking in 2013 about the style of Curse.EU.
"I think Angush and malunoo they work really good together, so it was just perfect. extinkt, he's a really wise guy, he's smart, he's making good calls in game, he's a good leader. I think we were really good, like individually really good, but shit happens!"On paper Curse.EU had the makings of legitimate contenders. In Angush they had someone who had long been considered one of Europe's best top laners. Malunoo showed consistently excellent synergy with Angush and extinkt, who he had played with through the entire year, and soon adapted to the botlane of the Poles. extinkt had one of the widest champion pools of any Mid laner in Europe, top tier mechanics and a mind for strategising before the game, in terms of specific tactics, and during the pick and ban phase. The botlane had history in Team Acer, with Creaton soon emerging as perhaps Europe's best Ezreal player, he went on to prove his worth in Millenium and ALTERNATE later on.
-Creaton, speaking in 2013 about the style of Curse.EU.
Their line-up had the organisation, theoretically, to provide them the resources to succeed, they had enough firepower and smarts in the line-up to win and they had players who have, perhaps with the exception of SuperAZE, repeatedly shown themselves to be at the top of the European scene with numerous teams. Curse.EU's communication might have seemed lacking to some, but their coordination nevertheless allowed them execute without hesitation when it came to rotations or team-fighting. Had the team which showcased solid map control against Moscow Five at Tales of the Lane been able to reproduce that form elsewhere one imagines they could have racked up more offline series wins.
The Problems the Team Faced
The team house that never appeared
Rather than leave the team's internal problems as vague allusions from interviews around the time or shorter after their line-up split up, I received more in-depth explanations from the players when I contacted them this year. The first, and most obvious, of their problems was the unfulfilled promise of a team house to practice from in Germany. This left the team stranded for months in hotels and practicing from someone else's office space.
"We were told that we were gonna get everything, but I think that the connection between our manager and curse, because they were in America. I heard different things from organisation and our manager. We didn't manage to get the house, we were just stuck in the hotel and we were practicing in small office, I think it was mouz office in Berlin. So pretty much that's it, I think the connection between Curse and us was really poor."
-Creaton, speaking 2013 on the problems in securing a team house in 2012.
"It definately worked against them, the hotel setting meant the players were split into social pairings in their down time. This created divides right from the start, then they became restless with the travel to and from the office for training and add to all that the lack of proper cooking facilities."
-Panky, speaking in 2013 on whether the lack of a team house played a role in the team's problems.
"Honestly, if we'd had a gaming house since the Summer, I would be playing even now I think. Mentally it was hard for us, the life, the food and all other stuff."
-Angush, speaking in 2013 on the effect of not having a team house in Curse.EU.
As referenced earlier on, the team strayed from the diligent practice which had yielded victory at Tales of the Lane, barely practicing beyond that. When they did practice Saintvicious, Jungler of the NA sister team, said the European team "didn't take scrims seriously" and would "play champs they wouldn't play [normally] and give up early".
The two key players who have been cited as responsible for the internal problems of the team are Angush and SuperAZE. Since SuperAZE's departure was the most obvious turning point in their line-up we will address his impact first. Some of his ex-team-mates suggested his communication in-game was poor, he rarely timed and outside of the game he was difficult to get along with as a person.
"The problem arose when [SuperAZE] arrived in Germany and became a completely different person to that everyone had believed him to be. He would be very reclusive, never spent any time with the team outside of scrims. After ToTL the team never really settled back into practicing quite like they had done before hand, this in turn annoyed each player for his own reasons. Each had their own idea of how they should move forward from there and there was no real controlling figure to guide them, eventually 4 of the players talked it out and settled into practice.
Superaze, however, had stayed in his reclusive state during these discussions and never really got his point across, disagreed with the approach the team decided to up and leave mere days before [IPL5].
-Panky, speaking 2013 about the internal problems of Curse.EU.
"[SuperAZE] destroyed the team, literally."
-Angush, speaking in 2013 on the impact of SuperAZE on Curse.EU.
The warning signs with SuperAZE could be seen even during the team's period of success, as even their preparation prior to their win at TotL foreshadowed some of the issues they would face with SuperAZE.
"When we added creaton and superaze, even then the problems didn't just disappear. We had to play and train and get in-sync with each other. We weren't friends IRL with SuperAZE, as he had a really difficult personality. On first day I tried to get closer to him he told me 'I don't want to be your friend'. Though it might have hurt me as person, the others weren't like me, they didn't really care about being close or not.
I coped with it and still tried my best, which resulted in me being really bossy for a whole week before the LAN event of Tales of the Lane. I took my role as captain, I was the bitch in the house, literally. I expressed my deepest feelings, about how we are slacking and not communicating and wasting our potential, and at same time I apologised for it. But we found the same goal for each of us."
-Angush, speaking in 2013 on the team's preparation for TotL.
"I'm not gonna tell names, but people were just... they just didn't listen, like single things, not just in-game, but in real life, like when we were at bootcamp. People were really immature and stupid, I can't call it another way, that's it. It's like I said, if you don't match up together [...] if one member doesn't like everyone else then it's not gonna work, cos we have to work together for at least 5-6 hour day"
-Creaton, speaking in 2013 on the break-up of Curse.EU.
The second player listed as a potential problem was Angush. Historically he is a player who has been followed by the shadow of fallings out with past team-mates, including his departure from the Absolute Legends team prior to Curse.EU being formed, and some suggest this continued on into Curse. When he left to Millenium with Creaton it left a bad taste in the mouth of some members of the Curse organisation, with the feeling being that perhaps Angush had convinced Creaton to leave as opposed to the Pole making the decision entirely of his own volition.
xinec's removal from the previous Curse.EU line-up was also, remember, partly a result of an inability to get along with Angush, who some have suggested could be toxic at times. In Millenium, the team Angush played in after Curse.EU, their Support player Haydal left, citing his desire to no longer play with Angush as his primary reason for leaving.
"So, I'm just gonna explain with my true feelings, when I was in Eclypsia with Tabzz & Fresh, Fresh contacted me on skype and asked me if I was ok to play support with Creaton and Angush, I said yeah of course since I respected Creaton as an AD (and I don't regret it, he is a good player and a good friend to me) but I told Fresh, for me Angush was not a good player (no offense) and I asked him If I want to switch role with Angush is it gonna be ok ? He said yes of course but apparently changed mind after. Every top laner I played against before always won their lane against him, I felt like he lack alot of knowledge and mechanics (he was always asking what he should build and we had to tell him lot of thing, like to not freeze against shen, or to give information when shen hit 6..)
So I told the team I didn't wanted to stay as a support if we keep Angush in top, I went mad mode when we lost season 3 qualifier cuz I felt like he was not tryharding at all and lost CWolves games by himself while I was giving my best (even if Im not the best support in term of warding/map awareness) cuz I was kinda playing for my life. So I told them I quit the team its too frustrating for me to play support with a player that I don't appreciate."
-Haydal, Support player of Millenium, speaking out about his departure from the team and Angush's role in it.
The Future that Might Have Been
In light of the team's magical moments, and the members' inability to replicate that kind of success in later teams, it's understandable that some might look back fondly and imagine the team could have endured, internal issues aside. I asked them if they thought their problems could have been worked through.
"We had some issues, but I think all teams do, even if it doesn't show much. If we worked on it, I think we could have stuck around, yeah."
-Malunoo, speaking in 2013.
"It is obvious that the team consisting of five young, talented and success-hungry people must face many conflicts and some differences might emerge. Perhaps we could continue, but people have their ambitions, honor and their own goals; I think that the internal issues and conflicts of interest were too much for us to stay together in the long term.
I don’t look back. I can only say that there was a moment when I (we) felt like we’re the best on the continent, but it was gone in the minute it came."
-SuperAZE, speaking in 2013.
Creaton even looked as far back as Dreamhack Winter, suggesting that their poor results there were a direct outcome of their problems. The Pole felt that they "just couldn't play together anymore" due to those problems.
Beyond merely sticking together, the question remains: had they lasted even two more months they could have attempted to qualify for LCS, so do they think they would have made it?
"I'm sure we would have qualified for LCS if we just found a new support after IPL5. I think we could have done pretty well in LCS as well, maybe not first but as one of the stronger teams."
-Malunoo, speaking in 2013.
"They would be a lower end LCS team."
-Saintvicious, Jungler of Curse.NA, speaking in 2013.
The Cursed Line-up
Curse.EU were the third team, and only the second that was European, to take down the nearly unbeatable Moscow Five line-up in an offline Bo3, they won a LAN event during that era and they racked up ~$22,473 as a quintet. Yet history will remember them as much for flaming out in three weeks as much as for the high of their peak in Paris. They had the line-up, in-game at least, and the coordination to be in the mix with Europe's best, but the social side of the team was never consistently smooth enough to allow them to play at a high level long-term.
Asked about his pattern of problems with teams that suffer from internal problems Creaton told me "I think I'm cursed", but more than Creaton alone the members of that line-up were perhaps all cursed, in one way or another. None would ever reach those heights again, despite numerous seemingly ripe chances collectively. All would be left to wonder what could have been had the first week of their time together been rekindled beyond. Curse.EU had their moment, and what a moment it was, but in the end the curse of their characters proved too strong.
"Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
―Lao Tzu, 5th century Taoist philosopher.
Thanks go out to Malunoo (@Malunoo), Angush (@AngushLoL), Creaton (@creatonnn), SuperAZE (@SuperAZElol), Saintvicious (@CrsStvicious), Patoy (@Patoylol) and Panky (@LoLPanky) for their aid in answering questions during the creation of this article. A number of them also wished the opportunity to thank the Curse Gaming organisation for the support during their time with the team. Special thanks to Sigrid Aasma (@SikuMiku) for providing the excellent artwork which began the piece.