The first match of the lower bracket in the 2020 LEC Summer Split playoffs is deadly. On one hand, we have SK Gaming, who improved their consistency and climbed to a playoff spot after finishing ninth last split. But Schalke 04, on the other hand, have won seven games in a row to snatch away the last playoff spot from Excel Esports, a feat deemed impossible by many League of Legends players and casters.
While SK are looking to make a name for themselves after being mediocre since they joined the LEC, S04 want to continue to make miracles happen. After being in last place with all odds stacked against them, they managed to climb through the shattered path after LoLEsports Stats projected them to have only a 4.16-percent chance of reaching the playoffs.
While other teams will get a second shot if they drop down to the lower bracket, SK and S04 only have one. It’s a win or go home situation. Every match of this series will matter for these two squads and one small mistake could cost them a Worlds appearance this year. The pressure and stakes for this match are much higher compared to the upper bracket and we might get to see unusual misplays from players who may falter under pressure.
S04 have had their second season in a row with a terrible start but celebrated an interesting comeback in the second round robin of the regular season.
After the previous season started poorly and former ADC FORG1VEN said he stepped down when management was unwilling to make changes, most pundits thought S04 would be doomed following their poor start. With Nihat “Innaxe” Aliev in the driver’s seat of the ADC role, though, S04 showed signs of life after winning a couple of games in a row. But their winning streak didn’t last and they finished eighth in the Spring Split.
The Summer Split wasn’t kinder to the boys in blue, who acquired 10 losses and only one win by week four. Their situation seemed unlikely to improve, but the substitution of jungler Erberk “Gilius” Demir in place of Lukas ”Lurox” Thoma had a positive influence. The S04 squad started picking up wins left and right, securing seven victories in a row to finish the second round robin with a 7-2 record.
S04 are on the path to redemption, and so far, it’s been successful. The next step is acquiring a Worlds spot.
Who to watch: Gilius
Gilius has been in the professional League scene for some time. He began his journey in 2014 on SK Gaming Prime before having to fill in for the main SK Gaming roster at the World Championship due to Svenskeren’s suspension for three games.
SK lost the first three games with Gilius as their main jungler and eventually failed to make it out of the group stage. Since then, Gilius has been absent from the international scene. His hunger for glory alongside his improved mindset might be the factor S04 needed to take on the giants of the LEC and get a shot at this year’s World Championship.
He leads the LEC in a number of jungler stats, according to data from gol.gg, boasting a 4.9 KDA (second), four average kills per game (first), 2.1 average deaths per game (ninth), average kill participation of 73.7 percent (second), and average vision score of 1.68 (third). His mechanical prowess alongside his smite skills will make him the man to watch during S04’s matches.
S04 will likely live or die by Gilius’ performance.
The organization was absent from the League scene for a couple of years after losing its spot to Gamers2 (now G2) during the 2016 EU LCS Spring promotion tournament. Following the LEC’s rebranding, SK came back to regain its former glory. With fierce competition in the region, SK had a bumpy road in its return but the team is gaining steam as the splits go by. They keep improving split by split and this is their best season by far in the past two years.
SK finished fifth this season, a huge improvement compared to coming in ninth place last split. Putting Janik “Jenax” Bartels in the top lane and acquiring mid laner Dirk “Zazee” Mallner has brought them a lot of success. Even though they were tied for third for a couple of weeks, SK’s recent performance in the second half of the split was subpar and netted them the fifth spot in the LEC Summer Split standings.
But they now have a challenge coming up. With jungler Kim “Trick” Gang-yun reportedly ineligible for this year’s World Championship, the morale of the team might be affected and they might make a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. If they can overcome this barrier in the playoffs and secure a spot at Worlds, then they’ll need to find a worthy jungler to be subbed in for the tournament.
Who to watch: Crownshot
ADC Juš “Crownshot” Marušič, a known monster in the regional leagues, joined the LEC in the 2019 Spring Split under SK’s banner alongside his former teammate Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek. He was hyped up from the get-go and while he didn’t shine as bright as other carries, he was consistent.
He doesn’t lead the league in any stats and is constantly sitting in the middle of the pack in terms of KDA, average kills, average assists, and creep kills per minute. But he’s consistent and you know what to expect from him. It’s unlikely that his consistency will be useful in this match if SK want to overtake S04, though.
Crownshot will need to perform above expectations if SK want to qualify for the next round of the LEC Summer Split playoffs and for a chance to participate in this year’s World Championship.
Prediction: S04 3-1
While SK’s first round robin performance would easily put them over S04, the momentum that S04 have gained over the past couple of weeks is unmatched. It seems unlikely that SK will be able to keep up with Schalke’s current form. Look for Gilius to try to destroy the opposition and keep S04’s streak going for at least another round.
Tune in on Friday, Aug. 21 at 11am CT to see if S04 can keep their miracle run alive.
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