It’s finally playoff time in the LCS. After a wild race to the finish that saw a whole slew of tiebreakers, it’s time to really show up in the best-of-five quarterfinals.
Friday’s match features one of the league’s stronger teams in FC Schakle 04 and a Splyce squad that struggled to even make the playoffs. That meant Schalke were the favorites to come out on top. Here’s what happened on the first day of the EU LCS playoffs.
Schalke backdoor the Nexus to win game one
Years ago, it was a given that Schalke mid laner Erlend “Nukeduck” Holm would be in the playoffs. He previously led ROCCAT and Vitality to the playoffs as one of the region’s best mechanical mid laners. He could always be counted on to hold strong in lane.
But recent years have been more of a struggle and Nukeduck’s weaknesses in the late game haven’t helped. That must have made it sweet when he not only made playoffs again with Schalke, but won the first game almost by himself on a late-game Ryze.
He splitpushed his way to two inhibitors, and when Splyce went for Elder Dragon, he simply backdoored the Nexus with a sick Ryze ult. It was an incredible ending to the first playoff game and an worthy homage to past EU teams like Origen who made the backdoor popular.
Splyce use a pocket Vayne to shut down Schalke
Needing a big response and opting into the red side in game two, Splyce pulled out a surprise Vayne for bot laner Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup. Kobbe is a strong late game teamfighter, and Vayne fits that identity perfectly. But they had some trouble getting the short-ranged Vayne online.
But despite losing multiple towers and even an inhib, Splyce managed to keep Schalke away from the Baron pit. It was one of those pivotal Baron fights that eventually swung the game.
Rather than patiently focus on their splitpush potential with Nukeduck on LeBlanc, another slippery mid laner, Schalke kept trying for that Baron. Eventually, Splyce’s tank composition simply outscaled LeBlanc’s damage, and Splyce support Raymond “kaSing” Tsang’s clutch Morgana shields and bindings gave them an advantage in teamfighting.
Add in some uncharacteristic mechanical errors from Upset, and you had a game where Splyce won every late teamfight, tying up the series.
Splyce split Schalke apart at the seams
The third game in the series went very similar to the first. Splyce found all the early kills and four elemental drakes, including two infernals. But the big difference in this one was that Splyce had the splitpush advantage.
With top lane Gnar and mid lane Ryze, they could push the side lanes with Abandon. And unlike Schalke in game two, they were able to control the Baron pit as well. When Schalke tried for Baron, Splyce were able to reply. Nisqy got into the pit just in time to help the team kill nearly all of Schalke.
With the win, Splyce are up 2-1 and can end Schake’s hopes in game four.
Schalke force game five
With the series on the line, the first few minutes of game four were all Splyce. They picked more unconventional champions with a mid lane Veigar with the Predator keystone rune for Nisqy. Then they picked up Kog’Maw as a counter pick to Schalke’s bot lane Kai’Sa.
Again, the early game went to Splyce, which is a far departure from how they’ve played most of the split. Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir was proactive all series and helped snowball his bot lane ahead. It almost looked like the series was over.
But Schalke were able to pick up some kills elsewhere, notably for Nukeduck’s Akali. Nukeduck was able to translate a kill into splitpush control of the top lane. Eventually, the Schalke lineup came online on a nice fight for their mid lane tower, the first time in a long time they had won a straight up teamfight.
That seemed to invigorate the whole team, Upset in particular. Schalke took another fight near the Infernal Drake and had the audacity to take the game’s first Baron. They then patiently pushed all three lanes to victory. That meant there will be a deciding game five with a trip to Madrid on the line.
Schalke seal the deal in game five
In the deciding fifth game, Schalke finally decided to do something about their early-game disadvantage: They drafted Jarvan IV for jungler Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider. Splyce took advantage of Amazing’s limited champion pool for most of the first four games.
But with the early power of Jarvan, Amazing grabbed first blood in the top lane and set up his splitpushers for success. Just like in every Schalke win this series, Splyce simply couldn’t keep up with Nukeduck in the side lanes. Eventually, after an excruciating Baron dance, Schalke were able to pull off that objective and break the Splyce base.
Despite more mistakes from Upset and some questionable macro controlling minion pushes, Schalke were able to take down all three inhibitors and overwhelm Splyce with Baron-empowered minions. It felt strange after four hyper competitive games for Splyce to bow out like this, but there just wasn’t anything they could do.
After five hard-fought games, Schalke will head to Madrid for the EU LCS semifinals. But they’ll have to improve a lot over the next week to have a chance against Vitality, a much better early-game team than Splyce. Their Baron control and ability to close games were also issues that won’t fly in the next step in the EU LCS playoff journey.