Claiming the Gauntlet: EU LCS Regional Qualifier
After an explosive EU LCS Playoffs Final, with Origen taking the unbeatable Fnatic to five games, Fnatic was finally able to win, claiming both first place in the EU LCS and the #1 European seed into the Season 5 World Championships. With that victory, they allowed H2k Gaming to lock in the #2 European seed, while also (for the lack of a better word) relegating Origen into the semifinals of the EU LCS Regional Qualifier.
In the EU LCS Regional Qualifier, also known as the Gauntlet, we still have four teams fighting, each with only one last chance of qualifying for Worlds; by winning the Gauntlet.
We have ROCCAT, a team plagued by inconsistency despite high expectations. Facing them in the quarterfinals is GIANTS! Gaming, a team with the sexy storyline of rags-to-kinda-not-really-riches. The winner of that goes to face Origen, the god-slayers, beaters of the unbeatable. Lying in wait in the finals is the fan-favorite Unicorns of Love, who are looking to recover following a disappointing playoff run.
With these four teams, the Gauntlet is set and ready to roll. Of these four, who will win to represent Europe as the #3 seed at the Season 5 World Championships?
GIANTS! Gaming vs ROCCAT
Both teams failed to make it out of the EU LCS playoffs for the exact same reason; they let their opponents play their game while failing to play their own.
GIANTS! Gaming fell to H2k Gaming in a swift 3-0, with each game being a 30 minute stomp. Granted, game 3 was much closer in some aspects, but in the end, the Giants were completely dismantled by the superior macro-gameplay of their opponents, as they had no answer for it whatsoever.
On the other side of the bracket, we had the Unicorns of Love claiming victory over ROCCAT, however in a much closer 3-2 series. This is because the latter team simply surrendered to and embraced the extremely aggressive, uncoordinated style of Unicorns. ROCCAT let the Unicorns dictate the pace of the game, and they payed for it.
Now, with two teams that allow their opponents to play to their strengths (and, in the case of the Unicorns of Love, also their weaknesses), who wins this head-to-head? In my opinion, ROCCAT takes this series, 3-1. Inconsistent, yes. Lack of assertiveness in games, yes. However, GIANTS! Gaming is extremely lacking in strategic diversity, relying mostly on their star mid-laner Pepiinero to carry the game, or for Werlyb to snowball into a split-pushing god. ROCCAT has a much better understanding of macro-gameplay such as rotating around the map and controlling the pressure over the map.
Prediction: ROCCAT 3-1 GIANTS! GAMING
(Unless Fr3deric steals like 10 barons or something)
Origen vs TBD
1 game. That was the difference between making the World Championships as Europe's #1 seed and being in the place they are now. Yet with this series, they showed that they could compete with the best. Origen has done a lot with the time that they had, fixing many of the issues that had plagued them in the past, most notably knowing what to do and when in the game.
Throughout the split, they had won their games through brute force, outskirmishing and outplaying their opponents. But it appeared as though ROCCAT was Origen's kryptonite, losing to them twice despite the former's poor overall showings. This was because Origen went for greedy plays that were easily neutralized and capitalized on. ROCCAT, with Jankos leading the charge, outplayed and outskirmished the team that relied on those two tools to win, and so Origen fell, unable to play from behind.
No longer. Against the reigning champions, Origen put up a fight that few expected. Fnatic did show some uncharacteristic weakness, yes. But Origen showed some uncharacteristic strength. They reduced the number of greedy plays they took, they played their team compositions very well, and they showed a better understanding of their win conditions. Origen did all of this, while maintaining their previous style of pressuring the map constantly.
However, there are still glaring errors. xPeke took the brunt of the blame, particularly for the last game due to his poor positioning and inability to use Azir at an optimal level. This might prove to be a problem if other mid-laners are able to use this power pick against Origen to score a victory, and force them to ban it. Even then, xPeke needs to step up his game if he wants another shot at going to Worlds.
Another thing to note was Origen's inability to play primary engage compositions well. Origen floundered to play around an Olaf-Lulu composition in Game 2 against Fnatic, and soaz failed to make a significant impact on Hecarim in Game 3, going 0-8-4. Instead, they found solace in disengage and kite compositions, with Amazing taking Gragas 4 out of the 5 games and Mithy taking Braum in the 2 games they won.
Despite all this, I expect Origen to take this series, whether it be GIANTS! Gaming or ROCCAT that faces them, as neither of those teams have really shown the strengths and resilience that Origen has developed, and they most definitely will fall prey to the pressure that Origen will bring in game.
PREDICTION: ORIGEN 3-0 TBD
(unless Nukeduck/Pepiinero turn Super Saiyan and xPeke tilts HARD)
Unicorns of Love vs TBD
0% chance that Unicorns of Love wins this.
Eh, OK, maybe 10%
Well, it's the Unicorns, so.... 20%
Over the course of two whole splits, Unicorns of Love has shown little to no improvement in terms of their playstyle. Yes, with H0R0 they look better, however better does not mean fixed. They still have the same flaw, and it's how they approach the game: the so-called "chaos" playstyle.
If we look at their quarterfinals series against ROCCAT, we see five, hour-long, close games. This is mostly due to the Unicorns picking compositions high in engage, taking champions like Sivir, Annie, and Rek'sai. However, their usage of such compositions was far from optimal. Rather than manipulating minion waves and controlling vision to prepare for big objectives, they simply started fights whenever they could and hoped for the best. Thankfully for the Unicorns, ROCCAT showed some poor coordination in many teamfights, and were constantly caught out. Nevertheless, they were also able to capitalize on some of the Unicorns' mistakes to win some teamfights of their own, resulting in an extremely close series between the two teams, culminating into a 3-2 victory for the Unicorns.
If teams play the Unicorns' game, the series could go either way. But teams play the overall map better than the Unicorns, then they should be an easy team to beat. That's how H2k Gaming did it in the 3rd place match; they used their superior macro gameplay to starve the Unicorns out of resources and then capitalized on over-aggressive plays coming from their opponents.
With the skills they showed against Fnatic, Origen is more than capable of playing a more macro-oriented style, and they have shown in the past that they are more than capable of outskirmishing the Unicorns of Love. Now, if it's GIANTS! Gaming or ROCCAT that faces them in the final, I would still expect either of these teams to win, albeit in a much closer 3-2 series. Good splitpushing from Werlyb and a Giants that can successfully disengage and peel for Pepiinero is enough to sow discord into the Unicorns and force them to make indecisive calls. In the case of ROCCAT, they have a better understanding of how to play the map, it's just up to the team as a whole, particularly Nukeduck and MrRallez, to position better and avoid getting caught up in a spontaneous Unicorns engage.
PREDICTION: UNICORNS OF LOVE 0-3 ORIGEN
UNICORNS OF LOVE 2-3 GIANTS/ROCCAT
(Ah, who am I kidding, UoL is going to find like 10 cheeses to win 3-2 or something)
Disclaimer: This is my first ever post, and I'm fairly amateur in the whole writing eSports article department, so take everything with a grain of salt. Comments are appreciated!