EU MASTERS: THE QUARTERFINALS AND THE SURVIVORS
After the direct eliminations and quarterfinals from last weekend, only four teams remain in contention for the European Masters cup. Let’s take a look back at what happened last weekend and who the survivors are.
It all started with the preliminary direct eliminations round, which pitted the second and third seeds from all the four groups against each other in two days of Best of 3 series, after which the winners would face the first seeds of the groups. Due to the tiebreaker games, some teams had next to no time to prepare, but hey, proving you are the best challenger team in Europe is not supposed to be easy – especially if you could not beat everyone in the groups. While all but one of the series ended in a 2-0 win, many of the series themselves were quite competitive, and there were plenty of upsets. The first day was over quickly. First, Sweden’s Ninjas in Pyjamas exceeded expectations and turned what was expected to be a competitive series against Spain’s Penguins into a rout and won two to zero; then, the Balkan surprise Kliktech returned to form after a less than stellar performance in the tiebreakers and despite losing there to UK’s second seed Excel Esports, trounced UK’s first seed Misfits Academy with a quick 2-0 of their own.
The second day proved more even. Sweden’s Team Atlantis faced UK’s Excel Esports in two hard-fought games, but in the end, the British team’s macro play and two clutch baron steals were able to turn both games in their favour. Finally, Poland’s Illuminar Gaming faced off against Spain’s third seed Movistar Riders. While both teams had ended with 1-2 in the groups, Movistar had shown good shape in the tiebreakers where it clinched the second spot in the group. In this series, however, it was Illuminar who proved the better team, using aggressive picks and, despite going to a third game and looking shaky at times, showed better coordination and often outmanoeuvred their opponents.
The quarterfinals that followed had plenty of heartbreak as well. The first day pitted Origen versus Ninjas in Pyjamas and KlikTech against MAD Lions E.C. Despite coming out first of its group and boasting some truly legendary names, Origen had not shown consistently excellent performance and had some detractors; this quarterfinal series would not dispel all doubts either. After being on the back foot for much of the first game, the veterans were able to muster a solid defence and grind NiP’s efforts to close the game to a halt, eventually winning in the late game. In game two, the shoe was on the other foot with Origen getting an early lead, but they were never able to truly extend it and it was NiP who made a comeback in the midgame and eventually won the game. It was only in the decider series where one team would have a significantly better all-around game, and this team was Origen. InSec’ iconic Lee Sin was on fire in the early game and gave all his lanes some advantage. A protracted fight at around 18 minute in turned into a disaster for NiP as they got aced, with two kills going to Expect’s Gangplank and two going to Froggen’s Swain, making both absolute horrors. Origen had nearly full map dominance and a skirmish in NiP’s jungle a few minutes later got them two kills, which led to the baron, and from then on it was all over for Ninjas in Pyjamas. InSec was even able to finish the series with style, getting one of the famous InSec kicks he popularized on XDSmiley’s Varus.
The second quarterfinal of Day 1 pitted KlikTech against one of the presumed favourites of the tournament, Spain’s MAD Lions E.C. KlikTech had struggled maintaining their form in previous games, while MAD Lions had not just been their region’s first seed, but also remained a dominant force in the groups, finishing with a clean 3-0 record. In Game 1, KlikTech had a remarkably poor coordination, ceding pressure on the map despite not being horribly behind in lanes. MAD Lions sneaked an early baron and used the advantage to seal the game. Game 2 started with a big advantage for the Spanish organization, as KlikTech’s toplaner Sacre had a very hard early game and was 0/3/0 by the 8th minute with two of those deaths being solo kills for his opponent. While Kliktech tried to get back into the game with a vicious defence, they were never quite able to equalize and a 39th minute ace ended the game and the series with a convincing win for MAD Lions.
The second day of games began with UK’s remaining representatives Excel Esports facing off against France’s GamersOrigin, another tournament favourite. The French team quickly amassed a significant lead in Game 1, being over 3K ahead at around the 8th minute, which grew to over seven thousand over the next several minutes, and thirteen by the time the Baron appeared on the map. GamersOrigin took it, killing Excel’s jungler in the process, then just moved to the toplane, pushed in with a superminion wave from a previously destroyed min inhibitor, and ended the game with an impressive 22:07 time and only 2 deaths separating them from a perfect game. Unfortunately for Excel, they did not have much luck at the start of game 2 either. GamersOrigin executed a four-man botlane tower dive around the 4th minute that killed Excel’s ADC and almost got the support as well. A few minutes later, Excel tried to revert their fortunes with a lane gank bot, but it was turned apart with both the ADC and support dying, as Tynx’ Kha’Zix was able to pick Excel’s midlaner in a separate skirmish. Tynx picked up several more kills and while his aggression led to him dying a few times as well, his team was generally there to pick up the slack. By the time Excel were grouping to keep him under control, GamersOrigin’s ADC Toaster had revved up his Xayah and Tonerre’s Ryze was coming online as well. Excel was able to find a few picks but Gamersorigin were firmly in control. An aggressive 4-man Ryze ult near Excel’s bot inhibitor gave GO the fight they needed, and with Excel’s mid and ADC killed, the French team won the second game decisively as well.
The last quarterfinal had Illuminar Gaming against the other French representative in the quarterfinals, Millenium. Illuminar would take the first game as Kikis’ Olaf played around Woolite’s Caitlyn and set her far ahead from the early game; as the game went on, Millenium never got anything better than an even trade. Game 2, on the other hand, was as long and contested as they come – for a while the gold was even with Millenium slightly ahead on kills, while Illuminar had an advantage in turrets and dragons, until Illuminar had a successful chase near baron around the 28th minute and got two kills and the big purple worm for dessert. They used it to push and extend their gold lead, but Millenium fought back hard and won several skirmishes with clutch Orianna shockwaves. Another shockwave made what looked to be an even fight in the midlane in a 4-0 rout, which allowed Millenium to take the baron and equalize the game. Illuminar secured the elder drake, giving them an impressive combat buff with the 4 elemental drakes they had so far, but were unable to make a big difference with it until Millenium got a pick on their midlaner during a rotation and then won the resulting 5:4 fight despite their based being without any inhibitor turrets. However, when they tried to take baron again, Illuminar’s IceBeasto showed why Cho’Gath is so feared in such situations as he flashed in the pit, stole the baron and was able to survive as his team disengaged. Millennium’s backs were to the wall again with 2 inhibitors down, but they won a teamfight in their base around the 50th minute mark and take the elder drake away from Illuminar. It was the next teamfight, nearly 55 minutes after the game started, which would decide the game as Millenium got 3 people, including Woolite’s Caitlyn, down and used the powerplay to end the game. It came down to Game 3 to decide which team would advance to the semifinals in Leicester. The game again started off as mostly even, as while Iluminar got the first blood, several aggressive decisions were turned against them and there was no telling difference in gold. Illuminar was slowly racking up the dragons, however, and despite how dangerous Millennium’s Kassadin and Caitlyn could be in the lategame, the two – later three – infernal dragons made Illuminar’s own carries quite scary as well. Illuminar had the first baron, but unlike the previous game they did not get a massive in-game advantage with. Millennium took the next baron and Scarlet’s Kassadin looked like an absolute beast, easily able to solo Kikis’ Olaf shortly after. Illuminar were able to defend their inhibitor towers, however, and soon after set to take the elder drake which would have been massive with the 5 elemental drakes under their belt - except this time it was Satorius’ turn to show them he knows how to steal with a Cho’gath, turning the ensuing fight into a hair-raising sequence for the Illuminar fans. Illuminar were able to break free from the dragon pit, however, and Scarlet’s aggressive moves to chase them down cost him his life - and indeed the game, as Illuminar chased the remaining Millenium members down, elder drake buff or no, and destroyed their nexus before Millenium could fully respawn and preventing the total Franco-Spanish dominance in the semi-finals.
The European Masters tournament continues this Saturday, 28 April, with the semi-finals - Illuminar Gaming vs Gamersorigin and Origen vs MAD Lions E.C. The games will start from 18:00 CEST and will be keep the Bo3 format of the quarterfinals. The grand final to determine the European Masters champion will take place on Sunday, 29 April, and will be single Best of 5 series.