Now they’ve done it. They’ve come back from larger deficits (admittedly, by a pittance) as well as ones sustained for far more time. But to lose a sizable — up to 5.3k — 14-minute gold lead and an inhibitor, yet to hold on long enough to snatch back the lead and close out the game. An important factor in their comeback was how Fnatic stayed in the game through PePiiNeRo’s power spikes. Their ability to track the ebb and flow of a game, using their talent to hold fast whenever they face a disadvantage before pouncing on opponents’ mistakes, was crucial to the win, and this game showcased it. They continue to prove themselves worthy of not just the European title but the international stage. At this point I’m impatient to watch them take on the best of the Eastern leagues again.
This is the team that goes into a week that for any other team would be a nightmare. Fnatic has long been able to handle H2K, who last week crept back into a tie for 2nd. The objective-driven team comes off a pair of solid victories over Elements and the Unicorns, in the latter instance with Ryu once again putting the team on his back. The next day, Origen seeks revenge for their tension-filled but rather one-sided defeat in Week 4. Their loss last week to the Unicorns is not a big hit, but with no CP from last split they’ll want the second semifinal spot badly so as to maximize their chance of ending up at the top of the gauntlet. With so few games remaining, any Origen loss could give H2K a boost in the playoffs and from there toward Worlds. I anticipate Fnatic taking both games, but expect much closer battles than the previous outings for both teams.
Origen’s first game is against GIANTS!, and after how the 4th-place team has been playing (especially against Fnatic) it’s not a clear-cut contest. H2K has a weaker opponent in Roccat, but after some of Roccat’s excellent games against stronger opponents they can’t rest on their laurels. This should be doubly a concern with the mismatch of Jankos, one of Roccat’s strongest features, against the merely-capable loulex. All three top teams face relatively tough weeks.
Through the third week in a row, GIANTS! maintain their .500 record. More than most records, however, this really doesn’t tell the whole story. Not by half. Their win over SK was decisive and keeps them in a tenuous 4th, but it pales in relevance compared to their loss against Fanatic, a game that easily ranks as a contender for Game of the Split thus far. The first iteration of the game saw a strong start, with early towers and dive pressure giving GIANTS! solid momentum before the call came to restart the game. PePiiNeRo, re-introducing AP Ezreal in one of the flashiest carries we’ve seen in Europe this year, takes . Only a poor teamfight around the 36:30 mark blew their lead (and from there the game); GIANTS! shotcalling broke down, with Werlyb throwing a Shen ultimate onto an Ezreal who was safe from the fight and G0DFRED finding himself a little far from his team. Against Fnatic, one lost fight is usually enough.
But the takeaways? They’re the first team to take an inhibitor from Fnatic in the entire summer split and forced Fnatic into their toughest game yet. The early restart offered us a rare opportunity to see an extra early game performance, and in both starts GIANTS! looked good against Europe’s best team. This week, they take on Origen (a place above them) and Gambit (a place below) in what may prove to be two of the most crucial games for the standings, and it’s not quite clear who has the tougher week.
To the Playoffs?
Only a game behind GIANTS!, three teams — Roccat, Unicorns of Love, and Gambit — sit in a tie for fifth. If the current standings hold (and they should, with Roccat and Elements being my estimated wildcards), only two of them can go to the playoffs.
Gambit’s win over the Wolves was convincing, but their win over Roccat was more important for gauging the upcoming week. Not only does it help in head-to-head (and thus any potential tiebreakers) and give Gambit two wins for the week, but the fashion in which it was done. As soon as Gambit reached the game’s first major teamfight (over twenty minutes in), they took control of the game. Before that point, Roccat outmaneuvered them, picking up towers and kills in a strategically sound fashion. Gambit faces off with SK in what should be a close game — in Week 3 the crushing victory went to Gambit, but after an 0-6 start SK has picked games off both the Unicorns and H2K. Roccat’s faceoff against H2K is much less promising.
The Unicorns pulled one win out of what had promised to be their toughest week of the split, slowly piling up advantages and victorious fights over Origen until they couldn’t be stopped. Though still 5-7, their remaining schedule is mostly against the middle and bottom of the standings. Barring a real collapse (3 losses or more), PowerOfEvil and crew should have little trouble making playoffs, where their performances in best-of series are likely to carry them at least to the semis. More concerning is their continued inability to guarantee a majority of wins over teams they should be beating. Inconsistency is much more forgivable in a new team than in a Worlds contender.
Fading Toward Relegation
Ah, Wolves. Replacing YoungBuck and Unlimited with Lenny and Je suis Kaas (respectively) did not bear any discernible fruit. Nor has the addition of Shook for Airwaks had a noticeable effect. With only six games remaining the Copenhagen Wolves have no chance at an even record; at best, a late season surge could see them avoid relegation entirely, but a last place team on a six-game losing streak has no easy schedule. Whether due to internal struggles or simply being outclassed this summer, the Wolves’ quarterfinalist spring finish is looking awfully good at this point in the season.
Of course, if that finish seems far away, SK must be feeling the hurt even more. Sitting on as few wins as they had regular season losses last split, the best they can hope for now is a 9-9 record…with games still to play against Origen and Fnatic. This week, taking on an inconsistent Gambit (in the second FORG1VEN grudge match of the split) and the struggling Wolves provides them with a decent opportunity to gain ground, but as with the Wolves SK has no easy game. They may be able to grab a pair of wins this week to boost themselves toward a meager but safe 7th-place finish. Playoffs are unlikely unless the tossup of mid-tier teams continues through Week 9.
For all the roster changes and expectations that Elements carried into the summer, they’re still unlikely to place higher than they did in the spring. Bringing support-turned-coach Nyph back to support in an effort to staunch the bleeding, the team still dropped two in unsurprising losses to the 2nd-place teams. This week they take on Roccat (who they defeated in their first matchup) and the Unicorns. The Elements-Roccat matchup will likely be long and bloody; the Unicorns are an uphill battle at best.
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