Photo: Riot Games

With the regular season behind us, there is only one thing left to find out. Which team is going to be Europe’s third seed at this year’s World Championship in China. Teams are surely exhausted as a result of the constant grinding, however for the four teams in the gauntlet there is no time to waste. This is their chance for redemption, and their potential ticket to Worlds so expect a lot of tryharding and some great League of Legends.

Fnatic awaits in the final day of qualifiers, with Unicorns of Love being locked in a day earlier. H2K and Splyce will duke it out this Friday for a chance to go farther up the qualifier bracket.

As the gauntlet is played over three days, we will cover each day individually in this post and update it as the games are played.

Let’s take a closer look at the first series!

H2K vs. Splyce

Regardless of which team advances, there is a tough road ahead of them. They essentially have to win nine games in a span of three days, and while it’s not impossible – it’s mentally and physically draining. It’s also somewhat hard to come up with a complex game plan as they have less than 24h before the very next series.

That said, these teams are all staple organizations in the region. They’re experienced veterans and they’re used to high pressure setups and games.

Splyce are coming in from an extremely competitive five game series against G2 eSports in the Quarterfinals. It was a lot closer than most expected, and even though they’re coachless for almost a month – they managed to take the best European team to the brink of defeat. That speaks volumes about their skill both as a team and as individuals. The Splyce boys have been playing together for almost two years now and it shows in the way they play together.

They’re at home with the meta right now as Wunder can play both tanks and carry fighters, Trashy is best when on a tank like Gragas or Sejuani, Sencux is extremely flexible and has an insane champion pool while their bottom lane is incredibly formidable. So what’s their problem? They don’t always come well prepared, and they don’t always play their best. They lack the mental fortitude and confidence and that loses them a lot of games. They’re also prone to overextend or go for an awful play and completely lose all momentum.

That playstyle gets punished heavily against top tier opposition. To make matters even more interesting, H2K and Splyce already fought not too long ago – in week 8 of the regular season. It was a 2-0 shellacking, as H2K had their number from the very beginning of the match. It all started with an abysmal Splyce three man dive on the H2K bottom lane duo who managed to not only kill all three enemies but survive in the process.

H2K on the other hand are also coming in from a very competitive five game series against Fnatic. While they eventually came up short, they showed a lot of good things. Above all, they showed the willingness to adapt, and that is not something seen often from them, if ever really. They want to start strong and as fast as possible, which is exactly the playstyle that Splyce can’t always contain. Seeing how the meta didn’t change from then, it’s tough to give Splyce the benefit of the doubt.

H2K are surely looking for vindication, and Splyce are a familiar opponent. It couldn’t get any easier for them, however this is far from an easy win. Splyce had a lot of time to recuperate and come up with a gameplan so expect it to be extremely close.

Winner: H2K, 1.50 (odds @ Betway)

Unicorns of Love vs. H2K

H2K emerged victorious after their clash with UOL last night, and while it was a relatively quick 3-0 victory, it was far from an easy one. Splyce went toe-to-toe in almost every stage of the series, almost defeating H2K on multiple occasions. That said, H2K were the better and more cohesive team in the moments that mattered the most.

They adapted well, they put Odoamne on champions that he’s extremely proficient on, Nuclear on comfort ADC picks and Jankos on engage tank jungler. Speaking of their star jungler, he rightfully won “Player of the Series” right with 80% Kill Participation. His consistent, high-quality play and great teamfighting was exactly the element that allowed H2K to play like they had to. Add on to that a playmaking Febiven and you have a very threatening H2K squad.

Now to be fair, they still haven’t proven themselves as a worthy contender. They did some things right, they showed some improvements however as it always comes with H2K, their play degrades in high-pressure matches when there is something at stake. When they’re the closest to their goal, it seems like they’re at their weakest point.

For their second Best of 5, they have just the right opponent. At this point, the UOL vs. H2K clashes have evolved into something out of an anime. These two teams met four times this year, and the Unicorns of Love won all four encounters. It is simply a stylistic matchup, they’re H2K’s krytonite as illogical as it might seem. There is just something in their playstyle that counters H2K’s. What is that? Two things stand out – late game teamfighting, and decisiveness. When the Unicorns decide to go for a play or an objective, there is almost never hesitation – they’re all on the same page. H2K isn’t like that, they have lapses in judgement and they’re not always on the same page regarding how to play the game on a macro level.

We don’t have a solid read on the Unicorns of Love however. They’ve had a considerable amount of time to fix their issues, however the problems they have aren’t exactly fixable in two or three weeks time. They might have succeeded, however if they failed to adapt to the meta and come up with something new and exciting after a couple of weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, chances are – they’re coming in with the same strategies as they did before, and that could just be their downfall.

Exileh performing is the crucial element to their victory. He has been a huge detriment to his team, as he is consistently losing lane and giving up kills, and in essence it’s not just him, the complete team underperformed during the later half of the Summer Split. Vizicsacsi gets caught at the most random of times and has big fluctuations in the quality of his play, Xerxe wasn’t able to transition with the meta and adapt well enough and Hylissang constantly made significant positioning mistakes. Samux is their best performing player and he simply cannot carry by himself.

As ludicrous as it might seem, betting on H2K would be the more logical choice here. The Unicorns simply have too many question marks regarding their play and effectiveness in the current meta.

Winner: H2K, 1.61 (odds @ Bet365)

Fnatic vs. H2K

It actually happened. For the first time in 2017, after four straight losses, H2K managed to take down the Unicorns of Love after a closely fought, five game series. H2K finally stepped up. They finally did what they had to. They adapted, they fought through adversity, through early game deficits and won handily. They were the better team, more in-sync. They were fearless and it showed on the Rift, with a clear gameplan.

The Unicorns tried their hardest however. Xerxe had a couple of outstanding games, especially on Kayn and he even managed to play his staple Ivern pick, to great success. The biggest surprise however was just how well Exileh played. He even managed to solo kill Febiven and go toe-to-toe. They brought out surprises in the draft and H2K always responded adequately.

Sadly for the Unicorns, the majority of the team underperformed. Vizicsacsi wasn’t influential at all, Hylissang was too impatient and mispositioned and Samux even though he didn’t fail by any stretch of the imagination – couldn’t do anything worthwhile on his first-picked Tristana.

Looking ahead, we have a repeat of the third place match between Fnatic and H2K. There is a lot on the line – winner goes to the Play-In stage at this year’s World Championship. This is literally the Third Place match we had just a week ago, and things cannot get more interesting. While Fnatic looked strong, they didn’t look unbeatable. If Jankos hadn’t gone for his game five Kayn pick, things could have very well turned out differently. Predicting this match is almost impossible. However the edge has to go to Fnatic.

Not only did they defeat them once, but they also had the opportunity to watch H2K play two best of fives, back-to-back. They should be perfectly capable of coming up with a solid gameplan. They’ve played them a lot over the year and they know their abilities inside and out. However it should be extremely, unnervingly close.

Note: While Fnatic are favored, this could very well be the chance to earn some money. H2K are coming in with some serious momentum and confidence, and they’re looking better than they ever did this year.

Winner: Fnatic, 1.25 (odds @ Betway)