Photo: Riot Games

Finally, for our third Best of 5 in a row — and also the series that will not only close out the regional qualifier but also the regular portion of the season — we have a rather exciting clash between Splyce and the former “kings of Europe”. This is, by all means, the most exciting and best way to end the season, and if everything goes “according to plan”, we should be in for one heck of a match.

First of all, it’s important to highlight that there’s very little on the line this time around. Both teams have locked in their spots for the upcoming World Championship, and they’re basically just fighting in order to see who’s going as the second, and who as the third seed. Now, generally speaking, getting that second seed is always preferable, seeing how you’re immediately guaranteed a spot in the Group Stage. The third seed, however, will have to go through the Play-In stage which, to be fair, isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. G2 Esports and Cloud9 had to go through the Play-In stage last year and yet they both finished in the Top 4 once all was said and done.

Being the third seed is not indicative of a team’s actual strength, and it can even be a positive thing as they actually get on stage and acclimate before anyone else.

Regardless, both competitors are going to represent Europe at the biggest of stages come October, and we cannot wait to see them in action.

Because they already attained a bunch of success just by qualifying, they’re surely going to play without pressure, and that’s always a positive thing. They’re going to step foot on stage and test their might against a challenger of seemingly equal strength. But before we delve deeper into the match-up at hand and how it might develop, let’s take a closer look at where each team is at right now and how they got to this point.

For Fnatic, the 2019 season can only be deemed as a resounding success. Now sure, they failed to dethrone G2 Esports, but that’s also understandable. After all, G2 is the most stacked, capable and flexible team Europe ever fostered. Anyone who faces them will automatically be considered as a heavy underdog.

Fnatic lost one of their most important players and yet they still found a way to persevere, to thrive in such a hyper-competitive environment and meet their perennial adversaries in the finals. Heck, they nearly won. That would’ve been a shocker. They went blow for blow with the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational champions; they nearly ended G2’s regional reign. That’s an accomplishment worthy of the highest achievement, and they did so after a pretty tumultuous and inconsistent regular season.

They lost the best and most accomplished European mid laner in history and yet still found a ton of success. That’s a hallmark of a truly great team, and of an equally capable coaching staff. Fnatic had to rebuild from the ground up — more psychologically and style-wise than literally.

Their two recent Best of 5s against G2 Esports left no one indifferent. It was the moment when Fnatic proved that they still belong at the very top of the region and that if G2 Esports wasn’t as staggeringly flexible and stacked as they are, Fnatic would be right next in line for the LEC throne. While their recent losses to G2 did feel somewhat bittersweet and heart-breaking, they were formative experiences and they will surely fuel the former LEC champions for months to come.

Perhaps most importantly, they showcased that they are not as one-dimensional as everyone previously thought. They’re still not a flexible behemoth — not even close, but at least they have deep enough champion pools to actually contest in a Best of 5 against a team of G2 Esports’ caliber.

And the man who filled the void created by Caps’ absence — Nemesis — did far better than anyone expected. He even solo killed the guy he replaced with relative ease, one might add. All in all, Fnatic stand shoulder to shoulder with the best European team in history, and that’s downright spectacular. The sheer fact that Europe will have two such challengers on the Worlds stage is more than enough reason to get excited beyond measure.

Splyce, on the other hand, are a mixed bag right. If you’ve been following their 2019 run, you’d know perfectly well what that means. One day they’ll struggle to execute even the most basic of strategies and team comps. Another, they will blow your mind with their split-second engages, spectacular team fighting and sheer bravado. That’s just the Splyce way of doing things, and that’s why we love them.

That said, their inherent inconsistency is oftentimes worrying. When they’re at the top of their game, when they draft well and when they start off on the right foot, they’re fantastic. But that’s not always the case. In fact, as the season progressed, their bad days were far more frequent. You never know what would happen, and whether or not it would impede their chances of attaining success.

The fact that they had multiple avenues for success — top, mid and bottom lane — meant they were no longer a one-dimensional team. They could win through Vizicsacsi, Humanoid or Kobbe, and how they went about their ways didn’t really matter. What did, however, is the fact that they were competitive from the very get-go, and didn’t need to wait for the late game and a Hail Mary team fight that would swing the game in their favor.

This fascinating mix of players also performed much better than most expected, and they found an identity to call their own. They were proactive, and their patented aggression came in handy on more than one occasion. Their mid laner Humanoid quickly became one of the best mid laners in the region — when he got his hands on a hard carry pick like Akali or Qiyana, and their jungler Xerxe (of Unicorns of Love fame) also (low-key) solidified his spot as a top-tier jungling behemoth.

And for a good couple of weeks, they didn’t even rely on their AD carry to do the heavy lifting. Kobbe, who became known as a late game insurance kind of player, rarely had to do much, seeing how his teammates shared the burden. He couldn’t even flex his late game team fighting prowess because Splyce won a lot earlier than anyone expected.

Until last night, that is. His stellar play was the last nail in the coffin for Schalke 04. But he didn’t win alone, nor did he exactly carry Splyce over the finish line. Once again, everyone played their part. Vizicsacsi’s incredible Gankplank pick absorbed a ton of pressure and created absolute chaos once the late game came around, Xerxe’s early pathing and impact completely outclassed Trick, and Humanoid… Well, Humanoid did Humanoid things, depending on the pick.

It was an absolute shellacking, a masterclass in every regard — but it was also a picture perfect scenario. Schalke imploded in every conceivable way. They didn’t draft well (taking Karma for Odoamne two times in a row is basically a self-inflicted death sentence), they left Gankplank open three times in a row, they didn’t prioritize Aatrox, and they had free reign from the very get go. Any other team would’ve adapted. It’s not that hard, really, and yet Schalke failed to change even a single thing.

As a result, Splyce basically employed similar methods three games in a row and won with relative ease. To their credit, we saw a night and day difference when compared to their previous series against Origen, and it’s obvious that they attained a ton of confidence over night. They were proactive, they were the ones dictating the pace of the game and they were unwilling to give Schalke much room to breathe or focus. They knew they had to overwhelm their opponents, and they did a stellar job in doing so.

That said, they’re not going to have such a field day against a team like Fnatic, that’s for sure. Fnatic are much more flexible, and they share much of the same champion pools. They’re also far more aggressive and in sync when compared to Schalke. It’s not even a close match, frankly.

The Splyce boys are going to have to play their best League of Legends in order to stand a chance, and even then it’s probably not going to be enough. Fnatic are simply too good at this point in time, too synergistic and too capable in order to lose today. That said, the Splyce five-man unit is no pushover, that’s for sure. They were “supposed” to lose against Schalke — all signs were pointing to such a conclusion, and yet they took control of their fate and for the second time ever (as an organization) secured a ticket to the World Championship. A seismic achievement in every regard.

So this probably won’t be a clean 3-0 in favor of Fnatic (although that’s always a possibility). Splyce is going fight to the best of their ability and they’re going to do so without any pressure to perform. They’ve already accomplished what they set out to do, and anything they attain beyond this point is extra. They want to see just how well they can play against a team of Fnatic’s caliber when there’s nothing on the line, and even if they lose in one-sided fashion they’ll still be able to learn something from it. As far as Splyce is concerned, there’s nothing to lose in today’s Best of 5.

Regardless of how things eventually resolve, we should be in for one hectic, skirmish-heavy series.

Winner: Fnatic, 1.15 (odds @ Betway)