For League of Legends‘ pro side Gambit Gaming, losing is inconceivable. The team’s roster has competed at the highest levels on a consistent basis since it was first formed under the name Team Empire in 2011.
But this season, Gambit was one match away from falling out of the League Championship Series—the top tier of pro League play—entirely.
Their last chance victory against the Copenhagen Wolves in the LCS Spring Playoffs fifth place match will keep them alive for another season in the LCS. But how did they come so close to the edge in the first place?
Gambit’s regular season was anything but ordinary. After dominating in the first several weeks, they topped the rankings and remained in the top two for a majority of the Spring Split. But in the second-to-last week, Gambit suddenly lost control of their season, winning only one game in their last six. The losses sent them plummeting to fifth place.
Things only got worse in the playoffs. Gambit was knocked out of their best of three quarterfinal against rivals ROCCAT without winning a single game, going 0-2 in a pair of ugly, one-sided games.
That set them up for a must-win situation in the fifth place match. Losing there, Gambit would be forced to qualify for the LCS in a series of promotional matches next month.
The stage was set for one of the most dramatic playoff matches so far this year.
Gambit’s opponents, the Copenhagen Wolves, had their own redemption tale to spin—after dropping out of LCS in 2013, they spent some time seriously rebuilding the roster and managed to rejoin for the 2014 season. They were the underdogs going into playoff, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell from their first match against Gambit.
In Game 1, the Wolves scored a major coup with some excellent gameplay. Gambit, who raised questions after choosing to use the jungling champion Volibear, appeared to be thoroughly on tilt. The Wolves’ star marksman, Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou, who set the all-time creep score record just earlier this year, made another case for greatness with five kills and zero deaths.
With the match being a best-of-three, Gambit knew they had to win the next two games or their LCS dreams would be shattered.
Game 2 turned out to be the most dramatic yet. At over 53 minutes, it turned into the longest playoff game of the year. Both teams played hesitantly, clearly scared to lose. Gambit, however, proved they had what it takes to pull out a win under such a high-pressure circumstance.
Gambit jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov, who in the previous game played on the unimpressive Volibear, put on a show with a champion much better suited to him. Kha’Zix, the Voidreaver, is a melee assassin who can provide excellent bursts of damage, and Reshetnikov showed just what the champion is capable of with pulling out five kills and six assists.
With a grueling Game 2 victory secured, it all came down to the final match. And though important, both teams attempted to overcome the other with unusual champion picks. Gambit’s top laner, Evgeny “Darien” Mazaev, selected Irelia, who has been inconsistent throughout the season, while the Copenhagen Wolves decided to arm their mid laner, Viktor “cowTard” Stymne, with Twisted Fate, who was popular in previous seasons but is considered very vulnerable in today’s meta-game.
The stage set, both teams took to the fields to fight for their last chance to stay in the LCS. It turned out to be a very even game, but one thing soon became clear—Gambit’s years of experience at the highest stage was paying. Captain, Alexey “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin landed spell after spell, devastating the Wolves. With Ichetovkin racked up 13 kills and eight assists—his best performance of the playoffs—Gambit finally overpowered the Wolves.
Their win seals their placement in the LCS for the Summer, and they left nothing on the field. The Wolves, on the other hand, will have to fight to rejoin the league next month.
Everyone’s eyes now turn to the final day of playoffs, where ROCCAT and Alliance fight to determine who gets third place. In the final match, SK Gaming will attempt to stop Fnatic from winning their third championship in a row.
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