FC Schalke 04 walked into the Friday semifinal match with a lot to prove. Sure, they went on a hot streak in the middle of the season, but a stumble to the finish has given the title of hottest team in the league to Vitality, their next opponents.
Schalke needed to get off to a hot start and that’s exactly what they did in the first game. Here’s how the rest of the series went down.
Schalke win game one on a big Baron call
As they usually do, Vitality started the first game strong. They are the best early game team in the league, after all. Strong jungling from Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek had them in the lead and in position to set up the map for split pushing. They definitely had an advantage in that department with a top lane Kled and mid lane Galio.
But then small mistakes undid that advantage. They traded a kill to Schalke mid laner Erlem “Nukeduck” Holm’s Cassiopeia, which would eventually outscale the Galio. By pressing too far in the bot lane, they also handed a kill to the best ADC in the region, Elias “Upset” Lipp.
But the biggest mistake would come when Vitality misused Rift Herald. Instead of taking a free turret in the mid lane and setting up the split push, they made a disorganized call to protect the Herald that ended up getting most of the team killed. Schalke took advantage to grab a contested Baron in the aftermath.
With the Baron, Schalke turned into teamfighting beats. Upset eventually reached full build while his lane opponent had only a couple items. That led to plays like this:
At that point, there was nothing Vitality could do as Schalke took their Nexus. Vitality were the hot team heading into the series, but Schalke have already doused the fire.
Schalke snowball game two
After an interesting game one, Vitality started with the same picks at the top of the draft. Trundle, Varus, and Poppy were the same jungle, bot lane, and support champions they chose in the first game. They were relying on top lane Ornn and mid lane Taliyah to make the difference.
The game certainly was different. It was Schalke this time that won the early game after a beautiful countergank in the bot lane.
From that point, Vitality simply could not stand up to Schalke’s damage. From top lane Rumble to mid lane Irelia to that Ezreal that Vitality let Upset have again, Schalke simply ran over the teamfights. This game was a total blowout.
Vitality now have even more soul searching to do. It’s clear that red side is not working out for them, and they need a better mid lane matchup for Jiizuke. Meanwhile, Schalke jungler Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider, the player whose champion pool we questioned the most, has been a revelation on Skarner for the first two games. He has Schalke on the precipice of the EU LCS finals.
Vitality strike back in game three
If Vitality were down on themselves after two games, it sure didn’t look like it. They banned Ezreal and Skarner away from Schalke in the first phase of the draft and got Kindred for Kikis, one of his best champions.
With their fans singing for them as the game started, Vitality got out to a terrific start. Kikis was absolutely dominant, grabbing both early scuttles and scaling into a beast with stack after stack for Kindred’s passive. And unlike the first two games, they didn’t play disrespectfully around the bot lane, but rather established solo lane priority. That gave Kikis the freedom to do whatever he wanted.
After that play, Vitality patiently set up their side lanes to control the map. It was the exact opposite to the meltdown we saw in game two. Eventually, they got big enough that they felt confident diving the fountain for a Pentakill attempt.
Attila didn’t get the Penta, but Vitality did come back and get the game. Now we’ll get to see if Schalke can come back from a loss or if Vitality can even the series.
Schalke seal the deal and head to finals
Vitality got off to another hot start in game four with Kikis on Graves, another ADC jungler. But this time, Schalke were able to punish Vitality for their roaming early game. Nukeduck, who got the advantage of counter picking mid lane on red side, got out to a big CS lead on LeBlanc.
When it did come time to fight around mid lane, Schalke proved to be the more coordinated team and Nukeduck made his enemies pay dearly. Vitality just couldn’t crack mid pressure, and because of it, were behind in moving players around the map.
That allowed Schalke to grab the first Baron, and with it, crack Vitality’s base. Vitality did come back through some fights of their own, but Schalke had a counter for nearly everything Vitality could do. Their Draven and Graves were under-framed and too short-ranged and Schalke’s Poppy could keep Jarvan IV away.
So then it came down to a desperation Baron for Vitality. They actually secured the objective and for a moment, it looked like the ensuing fight would be close.
But they were simply too far behind at that point. Schalke wiped them off the map and marched down mid lane for the victory.
For the first time in their history, FC Schalke 04 are on the way to the LCS finals. This is a huge turnaround for a team that didn’t even make playoffs last split, and an indicator that coach Andre Guilhoto deserved the Coach of the Split award that he won this morning. Vitality coach Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi came up second in the running for that award, and his team will have to settle with coming up short against Schalke.