The regular season has ended and after nine weeks, the best European teams have finally left the group stage behind. The playoff spots are held by a mix of old faithful teams and some plucky underdogs, and before the quarterfinals start this weekend, let’s review who is left where after the 18 games – 19 for two teams – are over.
Their winning streak kept on going. With a 12-4 record, they had already guaranteed their first place before last week, and unfortunately for Giants or Schalke 04, two teams that had a chance to make the playoff, they did not feel like taking an early break. Whether with Soaz or their substitute toplaner Bwipo, they showed that they can win easily enough. If they can translate this form into the Bo5 format and adapt to the new patch, things look good for the venerable organisation.
After a 2-0 week that could have been a lot less successful as both the game versus Unicorns of Love and the one against Vitality were fairly close (and in fact UoL had the lead for a significant part of the game), G2 had a chance to take the second spot with a tie-breaker against Splyce. They won their third game this week, and after stumbling in week 8 they were just barely able to catch the second bye spot and the bye to the semifinals. This time, Perkz was on point, and the team rallied around him, bringing the regular season to an impressive second place that, in the initial weeks, looked possibly out of reach. Now, they are back and look poised to get a fifth consecutive season title.
Splyce started on the wrong foot with their loss to Vitality, which not only set them behind but also gave them a 0-2 head-to-head against a team that was one of their direct competitors for the second spot. They looked a lot better in their following game against Giants, whom they stomped in 26 minutes flat, and this set them up for a tie-breaker with G2 as both teams ended with a 11-7 record. However, things didn't look so good in the deciding game against G2 – while Splyce got an early lead in kills, once teamfights started, G2 quickly pulled ahead. Splyce are now left with patching the holes that held them back despite a generally successful season. If they manage to do that, they have shown that there are very few teams they cannot beat.
While Vitality had almost guaranteed their playoff spot before the week started, their win against Splyce in the first game made it certain that the team would go to playoffs in their rookie split. The loss to G2 on the second day prevented them from making it to the top 2, but still, they ended in a respectable 4th place. A team with a meteoric rise and an almost as great fall, how well Vitality will do in series is one of the big questions for the playoffs.
For a long time, H2K was the undisputed worst team in the EU LCS, but the changes they made in the middle of the season paid off big time. With two wins this week against direct competitors Schalke 04 and Roccat, and a grand total of 3 wins in their next 4 matches, H2K was able to squeeze in the 5th place and clinch a playoff spot in a season that looked to be an unmitigated disaster. This makes them somewhat of a dark horse in the playoff, and adapting to the new patch and making changed mid-series could be decisive for whether H2K can make their turnaround even bigger.
The other big winner of the fight for the playoffs, Roccat's win over Misfits essentially gave them the other remaining spot – and sent the Worlds quarterfinalists on vacation by eliminating them from the playoffs. While Roccat, alongside H2K and Misfits, ended with an 8-10 record at a joint 5-7th place, the former two had a better head-to-head record and ended up taking the two playoff spots. During the season, they have been plagued by inconsistency, but have shown some of their old ‘kingslayer’ mojo as a team that could defeat anyone. The question is, can they manage to do it three times in a best-of-five series.
After a good start to the season, Misfits were unfortunately unable to keep up. They entered the last week in an unenviable position as part of the 7-9 pack, and they end it with a 8-10 that puts them just outside of playoffs. The game against Roccat sealed the deal - Misfits' early aggression was punished, and their attempt to steal the baron did not pan out, ending in a stomp. The win against UoL was only for bragging rights, and for the first time since they came to the LCS, Misfits aren't going to playoffs.
Unfortunately, Schalke 04 is – again after their first appearance in the LCS – a disappointment. A team that came with a lot of hype for its quality players and advanced infrastructure was not able to collect enough games to make it further, ending at a joint 8-9th team with a 7-11 result. Unlike the other such team, however, there was a lot of hope for Schalke, and most other teams spoke with a fair bit of respect for their scrim performance. However, their last week had them face a resurgent H2K and the already sure 1st team Fnatic. H2K easily won the first game with early pressure bot and good baron control, and the second game was no better - after an early kill, Fnatic were tower diving at the inhibitor turret around the 11th minute. Schalke tried to fight back, but Fnatic was just too much for them.
The returning team entered the split with fairly low expectations, and at times looked like it could surpass them. In fact, at the start of the week, it had a chance to make it to the playoffs, but it needed wins against Fnatic and Splyce, two of the best EU teams at the moment, and it did not get them. Still, Giants put a surprising amount of fight against Fnatic, but ultimately Rekkles and Broxah pulled it for the five-time EU champions, with Rekkles almost getting a pentakill – and while Steeelback denied the pentakill, Fnatic got the win. Splyce didn't give them nearly as big of a chance, with Xerxe – and to a lower degree Odoamne – putting on a clinic, completely demolishing Giants. Unfortunately, the team could not go further this season, but ‘not quite making playoffs’ is perhaps a bit more than was expected of them.
Unicorns of Love
By now an established EU team, Unicorns had lost players many times, but this split was one of the hardest as only coach Sheepy was left from the original roster. Still, the Unicorns had a late-season 5 games winning streak that made playoffs at least a possibility before Week 9. Unfortunately, they had to start with a week against G2 to keep the dream alive, and despite a great start, they couldn't bring the game home and missed their first playoffs since they joined the LCS several years ago. Their second game for the week was versus Misfits, another team that knew they would miss the playoffs. UoL again started well, but after a bloody game with plenty of traded blows, the team was not able to take that game either, left at the unenviable 10th place – and while commentators have often noted that UoL is the best 10th-place team EU has ever had, it is still a 10th place and a sign that the team has a lot of work to do before the next split.
This week marks the start of the playoffs. The first series on Friday evening puts one of the more consistent teams – Splyce – against a Roccat team that has at times tried to play a similar style, but struggled to find their groove. In the second quarterfinal on Saturday, two of the biggest surprises of the split face one another – Vitality, which was dominant early on in the season, takes on H2K, a team that started as the clear weakest team in the league but had a resurgence late in the season after they substituted in Shook and Selfie, two experienced players who helped turn the team around. While Splyce and Vitality can be seen as favourites, with the change of patch and the switch from single games to best of five series nothing is certain until the last nexus falls.