For a while, FC Schalke 04 were the hottest team in the EU LCS. From the start of week four through the first day of week nine, they went on a 10-1 tear through the region.
But then they ran into trouble. A season-ending loss to H2k was concerning, but no reason to panic. But then they lost again, this time to Vitality in the tiebreakers. They salvaged a win against a suddenly-vulnerable G2 squad to end the split in third, but an unconvincing quarterfinals match against Splyce last week has them back on the hot seat.
Now, they have a rematch in the semifinals against that Vitality squad. It’s especially ironic because Vitality picked up the “hottest team” title that Schalke dropped.
With the teams heading in opposite directions, is there any hope for Schalke on Friday?
The first thing that Schalke have to do is get off to a good start. That may sound like rhetorical advice, but it’s especially good against Vitality, who are the best early game team in EU.
Per League stats site Oracle’s Elixir, Vitality have the best early game rating in the region. But that’s not the whole story. The team has actually gotten better since the addition of jungler Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek a few weeks ago.
The problem for Schalke is that they’re not that good an early game team. That was proven in spades last week when Splyce seized tempo in most games in the series. Don’t forget that Splyce was miles ahead in game one before getting backdoored to lose the game. Oh, and Splyce themselves are probably the worst early game team of the six that made playoffs. So the fact that Schalke couldn’t start fast against them was a problem.
Amazing in the jungle
For Schalke to get the early start that they need against Vitality’s aggressive style, they need jungler Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider to match Kikis.
Of all five Schalke players, Amazing probably had the worst series against Splyce, who smartly banned the Sejuani he’s been so good on this split. In the first game, he lost pressure taking Trundle into Gragas, which should never happen. So then he took Gragas into Trundle in the second game and lost again.
His best game in that series was when he pulled out Jarvan IV on the deciding map. For once, he was being proactive and making room for his carries to push.
He’ll need to do the same against Kikis, who’s shown a decently deep pool in the few weeks he’s been with Vitality this summer. If Schalke can’t find an alternative champion for Amazing, this series could be over quick.
Whose carries will show up?
The real reason that Schalke beat Splyce was because mid laner Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm and bot laner Elias “Upset” Lipp refused to let them lose. Nukeduck won game one by himself on that backdoor play. And when Upset wasn’t getting himself killed by walking straight into the enemy team, he was putting out huge amounts of damage in teamfights.
We can expect a strong performance from Vitality mid laner Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro, a rising young star who’s totally at home in the meta of control mages. But it will be Vitality bot laner Amadeu “Attila” Carvalho who will need to stand up to Upset.
Since changing his name from Minitroupax—seriously, who let him choose that name—Attila has been on a tear, morphing from an inconsistent player to one of the best at his position.
Attila didn’t have to do too much in the tiebreaker win over Schalke—Jiizuke basically won that by split pushing. But when Vitality drafted an engage comp short on damage in the second tiebreaker against G2, they needed him to carry. And even though he didn’t rack up a ton of kills, he came through in a big way in teamfights. It wasn’t an accident that he was the one survivor that ended the game.
To prevent a scene like that, Schalke need to get out to a strong start and their carries have to bring it home. Nukeduck has to stand up to Jiizuke in the side lanes. And Upset has to play more focused, clean League than what we saw from him last week. Only then do Schalke have a chance to reclaim the title of hottest team in the region.