Photo: Riot Games
After an incredibly exciting playoffs, there is just one more week of play left before the World Championship in Korea, and that’s the regional qualifier.
But before we delve deeper into our analysis and reasoning for the last week of EU LCS play, let’s focus a bit on what’s the regional qualifier in the first place.
The qualifier – also known as the “gauntlet” – is a small tournament at the very end of the playoffs, where the top four teams in the region that didn’t qualify for Worlds get to duke it out on the Rift against one another in order to determine who will be the third seed representing their region.
Pretty straight-forward stuff, right? The format is also Best of 5, so the setting is incredibly competitive, and there’s a lot on the line for all of these teams competing. They’ve spent countless months preparing, watching VODs, developing team-specific strategies, overcoming numerous meta shifts and swings, and it all comes down to this.
Depending on how well a team did in the regular season as well as the playoffs, they get dynamic seeding, so since Schalke 04 went all the way up to the finals, they’re waiting at the end of the gauntlet and they have to play just a single Best of 5 match in order to qualify for Worlds.
G2 is waiting in round two, which means we have a clash between Splyce and Misfits in the very first round – and it’s quite an exciting match-up in every way, shape, and form.
Splyce vs. Misfits
This really is an incredibly layered match-up, and it’s incredibly hard to predict as well, but there are numerous aspects that we could go by in order to reach a conclusion.
Misfits are entering the gauntlet without any hype or momentum. While they did outclass G2 eSports in their quarterfinal match-up, they weren’t able to outperform Fnatic which was somewhat expected. The thing with Misfits is that you never really know how strong they’ll come out.
One thing is for sure though – they’re playing a lot better than they did near the end of the Summer Split, you have to give them that. But will it be enough? Probably not.
Most people thought they’d have a chance against Team Vitality after almost taking Fnatic to five games just a week earlier – but they didn’t.
Sencux couldn’t keep up with a very game, highly capable Jiizuke who had a very easy time playing picks like LeBlanc and Ryze. Vitality were always faster on the map, and even though they were sloppy at times as well, they always outperformed Misfits, even in the macro department.
When Misfits didn’t have a lead, they couldn’t do much and they’d simply regress to their passive state – unwilling to go for plays or be the proactive team. They had the edge against Fnatic on multiple occasions, but they were never able to capitalize fully.
For this Best of 5 specifically, we’re betting on the fact that Misfits shouldn’t have been able to rebound after their crushing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Team Vitality. They were close on numerous occasions but they were never strong enough to compete at the highest possible level.
They had amazing early games, they could capitalize on small openings that their opponents gave them but when it came time to transitioning their leads into the mid and late game they always faltered. It was either a botched Baron start or a mindless engage – but they always made a mistake no matter how you spin it.
Opposite them are Splyce – the most confusing and inconsistent team in the entire region. On a good day, Splyce can beat anyone – even Fnatic. On a normal day, they can take almost an hour to take down the ninth ranked Unicorns of Love, or perhaps even lose to H2K – a team that was winless until they managed to upset Splyce.
What’s up with their level of play, and why they’re so painfully inconsistent is still a mystery, but they have all the necessary tools in order to compete at the highest possible level. After all, they managed to end their Spring Split run as the third best European team for a reason.
The last we’ve seen from Splyce was an insanely competitive, crazy close Best of 5 against Schalke in the quarterfinals.
Now, had Odoamne played to the best of his ability (not feeding, in other words) they would have almost certainly taken down Schalke. The first game – the one where they were backdoored at the very last minute while taking down Elder drake was theirs from the beginning. They had the lead from the very get-go, they had three Infernal drakes, they played better in every way, shape, and form and yet just a single blunder on their end lost them the game.
They managed to bounce back immediately and outclass Schalke in the very next game – they’re veterans after all, mental fortitude is an absolute must. Xerxe and Nisqy in particular had a couple of absolutely insane games – their mid/jungle duo demolished Amazing and Nukeduck in almost every single game.
Even in their losses, both Nisqy and Xerxe played out of their minds – and Kobbe and KaSing didn’t slack behind much, although they did have a couple of iffy moments throughout the series.
If Splyce manage to fix their issues, they should, by all means, have the edge over Misfits. They’re not as dominant early game but they’re very clean and strong when the late game comes – and that should be more than enough to take Misfits down.
They can’t change their complete playstyle in a matter of weeks, so they’re probably going to be playing it out safe in the early game up until they accrue a bit enough gold lead to start team fighting with confidence. When they do get a solid enough lead (paired with enough items) they don’t need long to close things out, and their fantastic individual play and stellar team fighting almost always becomes the determining factor.
Splyce have a seriously big upper hand coming into this Best of 5. They had the opportunity to rest, to relax and recuperate after a very long and draining season. They also had the opportunity to watch other teams play their hearts out and show everything they have – and that’s quite the upper hand in the strategic department.
In the end, this could potentially go the five-game distance, if both teams come out swinging. We’re betting on Splyce on this one, but it could be insanely close.
Winner: Splyce, 2.40 (odds @ Betway)
Day Two – Splyce vs. G2 eSports
For our second gauntlet Best of 5 match, we have a pretty hype clash between Splyce and G2 eSports. Before focusing on G2 and how this match could unfold, let’s first focus a bit on how Splyce got here and how they were able to best Misfits in a very close, highly competitive five-game series.
Essentially, it was an insanely close back-and-forth game that could have gone either way. Both teams threw some really big punches, they went blow-for-blow with each passing game, and it was literally anyone’s series for the taking.
What’s important to highlight is that Splyce pretty much lost every single early game expect one. They were constantly playing from behind, they were always at a deficit, but you could never really see that from their play. They were fearless and proactive when it mattered, and they always drafted easy to execute team comps that were team fight oriented, so even when they were behind in gold and objectives, they just needed a good engage from Odoamne or Xerxe to turn things around – and the engage always came.
Speaking of Odoamne, he played a lot better than against Schalke a couple of weeks ago. He wasn’t getting caught out of position (that often), he was always at the right place at the right time, he didn’t go for Gnar which meant Splyce always had a beefy front line, and he was pretty impactful in team fights, which was integral in Splyce’s wins.
Perhaps the biggest factor though in their win was Kobbe – and that’s somewhat surprising seeing how almost everyone was focused on Xerxe and Nisqy to take the series, much like they almost did against Schalke in the quarter-finals. His play was absolutely top-notch in every way, shape, and form, and that’s partly due to the support he got from his team and KaSing. They were also the better duo in the 2v2, which was also somewhat surprising – no one really thought that Splyce’s bottom lane had what it took to go blow-for-blow with Hans Sama and Mikyx.
If there’s a bottom lane that G2’s bot duo could stand a chance against in the entire gauntlet, then it has to be Kobbe and KaSing. But after seeing Kobbe play out of his mind in a very intense Best of 5 – and not falter once – it’s kinda hard to give Hjarnan and Wadid the benefit of the doubt. Kobbe was absolutely insane and he was exactly the kind of player Splyce needed – subdued, careful, but always at the right place at the right time, ready to dish out consistent damage.
You give the guy some peel, and a solid beefy front line and he will do the damage and carry the game. Had he been just a tad more inconsistent or badly positioned, Misfits would have won, without a doubt. But it was his pristine positioning and insane damage stats (40% Damage Share in game one, 54.3% Damage Share in game two with 1330 DMG/min) that obliterated any kind of front line Misfits had.
He didn’t make any flashy plays but he didn’t have to, and he won’t have to do it against G2 either. He’s an impactful, careful player that knows his role – he won’t go in without a plan, and you can always count on him. When you pair that with a consistent hard carry in Nisqy, a very solid consistent jungler with a champion ocean in Xerxe, and you get a very solid team that’s capable of going toe-to-toe with the very best.
Splyce always had the tools at their disposal, you just never knew whether or not they would play up to their potential or not. They’re also somewhat one-dimensional, which doesn’t help them one bit, but they also have some insane late game teamfighting, so even if they’re at a gold deficit they never play like it. They do lose pretty often because they allow the opposing team to accrue an insurmountable lead, but they still fight tooth and nail every single time.
But to focus a bit more on G2 now, they’re entering this match after a pretty abysmal showing against Misfits just a couple of weeks ago. The sight of them getting outclassed on all fronts in clean 3-0 fashion is still pretty fresh, and there are a lot of question marks regarding their current line-up as well as their realistic power level. Sure, Perkz is always a fantastic player but he wasn’t nearly as impactful recently as we’d come to expect, Wunder cannot play carries or bruisers in the top lane or he’ll get smashed much like he did against Alphari (solo killed twice by Cho’Gath in a match-up that should have been in his favor) so his impact will be lowered by quite a lot, their bottom lane is pretty non-impactful even though they’re very serviceable, especially if you give Wadid an engage support like Pyke or Rakan.
Finally, there’s the Jankos conundrum – will he come out and dominate? Will we see the return of the “First Blood King” or will we get the badly-positioned, mechanically flawed jungler that goes for illogical invades at the worst possible times? They’ve had a lot of time to prepare, and they surely did. But they haven’t been that strong overall, and they haven’t exhibited excellency in any stage of the game – they’re not particularly good at anything.
Splyce aren’t much better, but at least they’ve always had a very clear win condition, and they always stick to it. Draft for late game, don’t go for any crazy team comps, farm it out for fifty minutes and then engage or go for Baron. If things go according to plan they win, if they don’t survive the early and mid game then, well, they pretty much lose by default.
They also have the added benefit of a well performing mid laner – Nisqy was never really a powerhouse in the classic sense but he’s been performing out of his mind recently and that is exactly what you want to have in the regional qualifier. It’s do or die for all these teams, and to have a mid laner that’s able to clutch it out in high-pressure situations is of the utmost importance.
So essentially both teams have somewhat clear win conditions. What’ll happen in reality is pretty much up in the air, but one thing is for sure – it’s probably going to be extremely close.
We’re siding with Splyce on this one, but not will full confidence. If they execute properly, if they give Odoamne the tools to survive possible early pressure from Jankos, and if Xerxe focuses on the mid lane match-up and getting Nisqy ahead then they should, by all means, have the edge over G2. That said, G2 has the talent on their roster so if anything, this should be an extremely engaging five-game series.
Winner: Splyce, 2.55 (odds @ Betway)
Day Three – Schalke 04 vs. G2 eSports
Well, no one really thought it would be one-sided, but to have two insanely competitive Best of 5 matches in two days was about as good as things could have went for the average EU LCS fan.
Predicting the outcome of this very last Best of 5 is as hard as the ones that came before it. We don’t have a lot of intel on Schalke, but they do have an edge. They’ve had an extra week to recuperate after their defeat to Fnatic – and they have nothing to be ashamed of, they’ve had the chance to see G2 show their cards and now they have 24h to come up with a thorough game plan which shouldn’t be too hard seeing how they already know very well how G2 want to play the game.
The thing with G2 is that they’re not consistent, and you could see their flaws even against Splyce. If they manage to get the ball rolling early on in the game, if they accrue a big enough lead then they’re pretty much set to win though their snowball and individual skill, but if they don’t get a lead early then they pretty much lose by default since their late game decision-making and – even more important – team fighting isn’t that good.
Schalke’s late game, on the other hand, is pretty insane. They know very well when they can fight, and they always manage to clutch things out in their favor. They don’t make as many mistakes as Splyce does, so the G2 won’t be able to create the leads they need.
Now, after seeing Perkz play out of his mind on picks like Irelia and Akali, it’s kinda hard giving the edge over to Schalke, but they’re the more layered team, they’re all playing incredibly well on an individual level and they have more tools and avenues to win. Furthermore, Upset will always be able to carry his team when the late game comes, so if they find a way to contain Hjarnan’s Heimerdinger – which can be easily solved by simply banning it out – then they should have the edge in every lane except mid lane.
G2 looked good, but not that good. Had it not been for Hjarnan’s insane Heimerdinger in the very last two deciding games, G2 would have lost. His impact on traditional AD carries was pretty much non-existent whereas Schalke has a Top 3 AD carry within their starting line-up. If Nukeduck manages to hold his own against Perkz, then Schalke should have the upper hand.
That said, this is an insanely close series (especially if Perkz manages to repeat his performance from yesterday) and it could, by all means, go the five game distance. Much like in the first two gauntlet matches, nuances will be the determining factor.
Winner: Schalke 04, 1.65 (odds @ Betway)