With the sins of G2 Esports’ Mid-Season Invitational vacation faithfully upheld by the squad’s first place finish in the summer, and H2K’s renaissance at the surprisingly unselfish hands of substitute/returning AD Carry Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou, Europe’s first two worlds attendees have been determined. Duking it out in the gauntlet style regional qualifiers: Giants Gaming, Unicorns of Love, Fnatic, and Splyce pits one of the oldest and most successful organizations in Europe against a plethora of young wolves eager for their first chance to taste glory on the international stage.
In the first match, a rematch of one of the summer’s quarterfinal bouts, Giants looks to avenge a defeat at the hands of the Unicorns. The battle of mythical creatures was the first chance for fans to observe how Western teams would adapt to the standard lane meta. Giants struggled mightily as their side lanes faltered against Unicorns’ more mechanically sound laners. Giants struggles were further compounded as, outside of a monster Game 2 Ekko performance, Rookie of the Split Na “NighT” Gun-woo was stifled by fellow rookie Fabian “Exileh” Schubert. If Giants hope to stand a chance at qualifying, Night must regain his late-season form and pull enough opposing jungle attention to provide his weaker side laners a bit of relief from ganks.
The Unicorns, though successful in the quarterfinals, were unable to carry that momentum any further as they finished in fourth place following back-to-back 3-1 losses to G2 and H2k. Despite their obvious macro deficiencies, the Unicorns were able to harness rather strong laners and stay within striking distance for the majority of their losses. Strong laning performances from Exileh and top laner Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss as well as a history of pocket picks from head coach Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant can help keep things close, but UOL’s real measure of success comes from jungler Kang “Move” Min-su. When Move is able to find a rhythm in his jungle pathing and ganks, the Unicorns prove to have some sting in their horn, but when Move meanders and returns to his wardbot ways, the Unicorns are simply horses.
Awaiting the winner of Giants/UOL is historical European powerhouse Fnatic. Despite its legacy of success, Fnatic stumbles into regionals with battered and bruised egos following a clean sweep in the quarterfinals against H2k and on Twitter, where H2k’s AD carries FORG1VEN and Aleš “Freeze” Kněžínek left burns no amount of ice can soothe. Pride aside, Fnatic looks to qualify for worlds with three members of the team that placed top four at worlds just year. Support Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim looks to be the only player on the planet to participate in all six world championships, but his play has fallen off substantially compared to where he was last year. His North American experiment with Team SoloMid failed, and he returned to the warm embrace of Fnatic. For Fnatic to succeed, the whole roster will need to step up to help ease the burden of star jungler Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon and once more ascend to the promised land.
Europe’s final hurdle will come in the form of Splyce. Just one year removed from the Challenger Series and one split removed from playing in relegations, the boys in black and yellow disappointed in the finals, failing to play to the win conditions they had established all season. It took four games to remember All Pro top laner Martin “Wunder” Hansen was most efficient on carry style champions, and a master pick-ban phase from G2 forced Wunder onto Fiora against a sub-optimal comp. Splyce’s failure to stick to its guns might have cost been costly, but the lessons learned in the finals can be applied in time for the gauntlet. Splyce’s biggest advantage may be extended time they have to recoup and prepare, as Coach of the Split Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi has proven his ability to refocus his players on the objective at hand.
On today’s episode of the Rough Drafts Podcast, Chase “RedShirtKing” Wassenar and Walter “Ceades” Fedczuk take a look at a European region in which the best teams took care of business and the rest will be playing in this week’s European Regionals. They begin by breaking down the rise of H2K and how G2 managed to strike fear into Splyce’s heart. Then, they break down the EU Regionals and discuss whether Giants Gaming has any hope in this meta, how Fnatic fell apart, and if Splyce has any real threat moving toward a worlds spot.
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