For most people, the UOL story begins with the LCS Expansion Tournament, but it goes further back than that. They were, of course, a Challenger team, and they did quite well in the Challenger scene. They joined up in Spring and did not even make it to the Playoffs. They started to show their true potential in Summer, where they demonstrated confident play. In Summer, they were able to make it to the Playoffs, and that is where the story of their rise to power begins.
A Brief History of UOL in the Challenger Scene
I chose this particular part of the UOL career because it directly leads up to where they became known among casual people, and it was their best performance in the Challenger League. Their first match was against Gamers 2, a tough team to beat, despite their many screw-ups. They did well in the series taking a 2-1 bysnowballing early game leads into the mid and late game. They were ineffective against H2K and lost 1-3, but against NiP, they just crushed. They lost to H2K by playing passively, and they won against NiP by making plays. There seems to be a pattern here. From seeing them against TSM and Lyon and then C9, sometimes they really show up to play, and other days, they don’t. The Playoffs do show that quite well too. As I think about this, I am perplexed when I thinking about whether LCS is good for them or would tournaments be better because LCS provides security, but on the other hand, they have the potential to shine in tournaments. Maybe, when they are motivated, they do well, and that’s why they lost to H2K and C9.
Becoming a Fan Favorite
A team doesn’t become a fan favorite just by getting into the LCS, they have to be confident and flashy when it really matters. They got paired up against Millenium, the sixth best LCS team but were a team who had a high regular season standing with a good roster. The Unicorns of Love were definitely not a favorite to win the match. They didn’t have a good early game, but they were able to bring the game back for a time during the mid game, just a rocky start. The second game was very even, and it looked like the series was slipping away from UOL. The miraculous part of the series was that they were able to bring it back for a three win streak. In the next three games, they had shown their key to success, snowball from the early game. Besides showing up strong after being up against the ropes, an oddball name helps to win over the more casual fans.
Their Performance at IEM San Jose
They did amazing, absolutely amazing at the most recent tournament. They surpassed all expectations, even the crazy predictions of the fan boys. They swept TSM and Lyon, easy. They were probably pretty happy after getting a 2-0 on Lyon, but when they took down TSM without losing a game, that definitely caused them to go crazy. They must have been extremely hyped for C9 because it shouldn’t be too hard to win after destroying the best. Their spirits were then slowly crushed as the series against C9 went on. They were disgraced by a 0-3 after having a perfect run until that point, but hey, they still had an amazing performance for the two other matches. Also, they should be proud of a spectacular first tournament when everyone doubted them. UOL fans should also be confident in their team too.
Understanding the Unicorn Style
To make a general statement, their style is one based on winning the early game, but they are not 100% dependent on it or having good early game picks. After being in the spotlight for such a short time, their jungler, Kiki’s, has become a pioneer at his position. They have a new outlook on the aggressive style of play. Their jungler farms up during the early game while everyone else wins lane by making smart plays. They always win the early game, but their problem has been, every once in a while, the inability of transferring that lead into the mid and late game. All of the players on UOL, except Hylissang showed that they have very large champion pools at IEM. What is a bit unusual about UOL, for a western team, is that they have grouping and laning strengths, whereas most teams are good in only one area. Kikis is an interesting jungler because his unusual picks take pressure off the lanes while allowing him to farm up in the jungle. What comes to mind when I think of the Kikis jungle method, is his TF pick. It wasn’t just the pick throwing TSM off, but it was also the map pressure that he caused, not just in his ults but also his ganks. He may like to farm, but he doesn’t afk farm the jungler like the Chinese do. As you can probably tell, I could write a whole article on Kikis, but the laners deserve credit too. The solo laners are not committed to any style, which throws off their opponents, and can even switch in the middle of a game. With many different styles Power of Evil and Vizicsaci are not restricted to a small champion pool. The bottom lane seems to be a weak spot for the team because both players are limited a bit more in their champion pool and ability, but that is not to say that they are weak players in general.
The Unicorns of Love have demonstrated that they have what it takes to be a top team in Europe even though it was one tournament. They will definitely be a top 4 team, especially with Fnatic practically gone and Millenium for sure not in the LCS. Hylissang just needs to improve his champion pool. At first, I thought Kikis would be a bad choice considering how well Gilius did at Worlds, but now, I think he has helped to transform the team into a superpower. Although this excitement for a new good team and greater viewership for EU LCS may be premature, I have seen them in Challenger and at IEM and think they have what it takes to do well in the LCS. Come on, they have strong lanes and good grouping, and their grouping skills have driven good objective control, especially on a major patch like 4.20. The Unicorns of Love are not just cheese, and this split, many people are counting on them to prove that their skill is not just a fantasy. Maybe, in time, they will journey beyond the LCS and IEM’s.
Photo credit: Leaguepedia, Riot, IEM, lolesports