The No. 6 seeded Wolves gave No. 3 seed Alliance a run for their money, taking the first game of the series and securing early leads in the next two before succumbing to the favored squad.
Alliance entered the playoffs on a role. The so-called all-star team, built around the former Evil Geniuses mid laner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, took half the season to figure out how to win. But once they did, they couldn’t stop.
Through Week 5, Alliance were in last place with a 4-8 record. Since then, they’ve gone 12-4, including an 8-0 run from Week 8 to Week 10, boosting them to third in the league.
And after today, Alliance are on to the semifinals, where they will face the No. 2 seeded Fnatic. During the regular season, two teams split their series 2-2. But Fnatic took the most recent match in Week 11.
“It’s going to be a more explosive matchup than this one,” Hansen said.
Alliance came back from a one game deficit against Wolves by going back to their roots and channeling the farm-centric style played by their mid laner Hansen and top laner Mike “Wickd” Petersen on their Season 2 and Season 3 teams, CLG EU and Evil Geniuses.
With late game champion Ryze in top lane and Karthus in middle, and backed by scaling items Tear of the Goddess and Rod of Ages, Alliance outlasted Wolves by simply playing safe on their towers until the 30 minute mark.
The match was a “farm fest,” as Hansen put it in his post-game interview.
That wasn’t Alliance’s plan entering the series, however. In the first game in the series, they intended to split push with Ziggs’ lane clear in middle. But Alliance ran into trouble when Copenhagen Wolves shrewdly picked Jax for their top laner after banning out Alliance’s counter options, Irelia and Renekton. With Ryze off the table thanks to Alliance’s own ban, that left Petersen no comfortable counter in the top lane.
“We basically couldn’t handle Jax,” Hansen said. “So he could always go off to the side and split push. He didn’t even need to buy magic resist because I had to stay with the team at middle. So we had to send Shyvana after Jax and that wasn’t that favorable.”
Copenhagen Wolves jumped ahead quickly, pushing down Alliance’s bottom inhibitor turret in the early minutes as the teams split three players on opposite lanes of the map. Alliance took too long to back and defend their base, a theme throughout the game. Their rotations were slow in response to the speedy Wolves, whose unstoppable Jax in the side lane left Alliance unsure of where to commit their team.
Rotating objective to objective, Wolves squeezed Alliance off the map until they eventually took the game.
“We really wanted to play Ziggs and have the stronger split pushers, but we had to change our strategy after game one,” Hansen explained. “So we went Ryze and Karthus.”
The two late-game champions proved a solid choice as Alliance played two safe games, eventually outscaling Wolves, who couldn’t capitalize on early advantages.
In game two, Wolves managed to gain a couple thousand gold lead, securing the first turret and dragon, but hit a wall in the mid game. Their mobility-focused lineup, which featured Lulu, Karma, and Evelynn, gave them superior control over the map.
But Alliance didn’t care. They were content to freeze their lanes and wait it out until the late game. As the timer ticked higher, Alliance showed that Wolves simply didn’t have the damage to best their powerful scaling. At the 36 minute mark they took three kills while challenging Wolves’ middle inner turret and pushed in for the win.
Wolves swapped out Karma for Leona and Lulu for Ziggs in game three, looking for more damage and harder engage, but still had no answers for the passive Alliance team content to play safe in their lanes.
This was epitomized at the 29 minute mark, when four members of Wolves tried to catch out Petersen’s Ryze in top lane, but couldn’t secure the kill despite blowing four ultimates.
Despite their elimination, Copenhagen Wolves still has a game to play: the important fifth place match, set for 4pm EST tomorrow. The loser is doomed to relegation, forced to compete for their LCS lives in the Summer Promotion tournament next week.