Two teams will begin their professional gaming careers in Cologne this weekend as the European Expansion Tournament comes to a close.
Four teams will compete for two berths in the League Championship Series, the biggest League of Legends competition on the planet. H2k Gaming, Reason Gaming, GIANTS! Gaming, and n!faculty each need to win two best-of-five series to secure their esports futures.
But the first day of competition lacked any of the drama that made the North American version of the expansion event so fierce.
Giants and H2k are one step closer to living their esports dreams after obliterating Reason Gaming and n!faculty in two straight three game sweeps. The losers looked outmatched and outgunned in both series, struggling to even make a single map look close.
Spain’s entrants Giants Gaming dazzled fans with their play in the online portion of the tournament, with mid laner Isaac “PePiiNeRo” Flores breaking out as a star thanks to Xerath play that had people accusing him of scripting. Today he shut up his doubters as he lead Giants to a 3-0 sweep over Reason Gaming. While his stat line wasn’t as outstanding until game three’s 12-3-3 KDA line, Flores still impressed with his play, especially his penchant for landing every skill shot with LeBlanc. His teammates also looked strong, especially top laner Jorge “Werlyb” Casanovas, who handled Reason Gaming’s former LCS player Jakub “Kubon” Turewicz with ease.
The other match was even more one-sided. But in some ways, that’s no surprise when it involved H2k Gaming. The terrors of the European Challenger scene in 2014, they’ve reigned at the top of it all year long. But in both of their promotion series tries, they failed to win a game, succumbing to the pressure of competing on the big stage. Today it seems those early jitters are behind them as they looked in-form against n!faculty.
Mid laner Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten is heralded as the top talent in the challenger scene, but his former challenger rivals Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage of Unicorns of Love and Hampus “watdefox” Myhre of SK Gaming reached the LCS before him. Today Diepstraten made a case the community shouldn’t write him off so quickly. He opened the series against n!faculty with a 9-0-0 game on Zed before running up a 20/1/12 KDA line over the three-game stomp.
Tomorrow the expansion tournament continues alongside the Intel Extreme Masters Cologne event. Reason Gaming and n!faculty will face off in an elimination game where one team’s dream will die and the other will live to fight another day.
On Saturday, H2k Gaming and Giants will face off in what should be a closer battle. The Spaniards will be an underdog, to be sure, but Flores is the only man who can stand up to Diepstraten in this event. The victor will reach the LCS, the loser will get one last chance on Sunday.
The European Expansion Touranment may lack the drama of the North American event, which featured three favorites in Curse Academy, Fusion, and Team Coast. But it’s still one of the most important tournaments of the year—one that may not decide champions, but something more important. Esports careers themselves. And Giants and H2k Gaming are one step closer to realizing that dream after the first day of play in Cologne.
Screengrab via ESLtv/Twitch