As another exciting European LCS season draws to a close, there’s one place devoid of drama—the standings. Unicorns of Love is on top of Group B with H2K and Splyce just behind. On the other end, Origen is officially headed to the relegation tournament again, while Vitality should be thanking their lucky stars that the new EU format prevents them from joining Origen.
The real drama is what happens between groups. Despite solid results this season, none of Unicorns, H2K, or Splyce have been able to challenge G2 Esports, the true kings of Europe. Do any of these teams have a legitimate shot at beating G2 for the European crown? What do they have to do in order to get to that level?
The weird thing is that these questions may be the toughest for the best team of the group: Unicorns of Love.
UOL: Unable to break through
Unicorns is in the unique situation of having played G2 twice this split—once in cross-division LCS play and once at the IEM Katowice World Championships. And through both of those series, Unicorns has won exactly zero games. Even when they get so, so close, it usually ends in disaster.
Through these two series, UOL have displayed the teamfighting prowess that landed them on top of their group. In a straight five-on-five fight where both teams have decent vision and nobody is out of position, Unicorns can stand up to G2.
Their problem is usually the 15-20 minutes of game time before those teamfights start. G2’s duo lane of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez remain the best in the region, and they’ve given Unicorns fits. Despite the Season 7 meta being famously unfriendly to ADCs, Zven is able to control the bot lane in nearly all matchups.
The Unicorns duo lane of Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort and Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov has performed better than anyone could have expected. A complete wildcard before the season, Samux has been just fine in lane. But he also dies too much—a lot of UOL teamfights are finished by mid laner Luka “PerkZ” Perković while Samux watches with a grey screen.
The ADC meta has slowly evolved over the season from a utility-focused role to more damage-oriented champions like Ezreal and Caitlyn. Unfortunately, this should only serve to increase G2’s relative advantage in the duo lane. It’s unlikely that UOL find the secret sauce that allows Samux and Hylissang to win lane. Instead, they should focus on positioning and shot calls in teamfights to allow Samux to survive and put out more DPS. That may allow UOL to more consistently win late-game fights, even against a team as talented as G2.
H2K: What happens after the lane phase?
Right behind UOL is H2K, who were in control of the group for much of the split. H2K is known for their laning prowess, and with Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten manning the middle, the team has indeed dominated the lanes. Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu is right up with UOL’s Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás in his domination of top lane while the new duo of Shin “Nuclear” Jung-hyun and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho have been good as well.
In fact, even with Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski’s first blood rate just average among EU junglers, the team’s laning strength has given it the highest first blood percentage among teams. The problem for H2K, as it has for some time, is what happens after the lane phase is over.
Especially in their losses to UOL and G2, H2K has thrown away games on bad calls and teamfights. They have superb dragon and baron control rates, but those mean nothing if they don’t capitalize on their advantages. In their second game against UOL last week, they had every advantage and had just pushed UOL off the Baron. But instead of disengaging, they went back in and were wiped.
If H2K can’t avoid fatal errors like this, it doesn’t matter how far ahead they get in lane. Forget about G2, they’ll continue to lose to the likes of UOL until they clean up the late game.
Spylce: Can the 1-3-1 work?
Splyce made it to Worlds last year by consistently dragging opponents across the map with a full-on split push. No matter the opponent, they came out and played with identity. Splyce brought their whole team back this year, mirroring UOL’s strategy to build on their successes. Unfortunately for Splyce, that hasn’t gone as well.
Split push styles are hard to play consistently. You need strong laners who are used to playing both with and without help. You need to have a strong map and vision control. And you need to know what to do when the enemy starts grouping.
In their series with G2 a couple weeks ago, Splyce won the first game by cross-mapping effectively and getting top laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen on spit push Renekton. But G2 stayed patient with teamfight-oriented team compositions. With superior fighting and neutral objective control, G2 snuffed out Splyce’s win conditions.
Neutral objectives are one of Splyce’s big weaknesses. Jungler Jonas “Trashy” Anderson has not taken a step further this year, and neither has mid laner Chres “Sencux” Larsen, coming off a third-team EU LCS nomination from last summer. With the way they are playing, perhaps the decision to bring everyone back was a mistake.
Of course, G2 is another team that brought back its entire starting five. The problem for Unicorns, H2K, and Splyce? That G2 lineup may have been more talented to start with. Each of these teams will have to fix major weaknesses to truly contend for title of European champion.