Unicorns of Love entered the EU LCS in 2015

A brief, heart-breaking history of Unicorns of Love

With the 2017 EU LCS Regional Qualifiers finished, Europe has chosen three teams to represent them at the League of Legends World Championships, and the Unicorns of Love is not one of them. This seems to be their destiny. UOL is always good enough to be a contender, but never good enough to be the champion. They have always had a shot at Worlds, but never reached it. They have made it into the gauntlet thrice, and lost out all three times. Here is a brief look at how the Unicorns got here, and why it is so heart-breaking.

2015

Unicorns of Love qualified for the EU LCS in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unicorns of Love entered the LCS in 2015 by defeating Millenium in the 2015 Spring Promotion tournament. UOL was promoted, while Millenium was relegated. Their roster included Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás top, Berk “Gilius” Demir jungle, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage mid, Pontus “Vardags” Dahlblom AD carry and Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov support. After Millenium took a 2-0 lead, the Unicorns were able to reverse sweep the series, winning 3-2. This was the beginning of the Unicorns’ legacy as wildcards in the EU LCS.

Coming into the 2015 Spring Split, UOL replaced Gilius with a new jungler, Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek. Kikis was known for his pocket picks in the jungle, such as Sion, Gnar or Shaco. In their debut split, UOL finished with a 9-9 record to secure fifth place and qualify for playoffs. PowerOfEvil was the only player in the league to be the weekly MVP more than once (weeks four and eight).

In Spring Playoffs, the Unicorns had to face fourth place, Gambit Gaming. UOL took them down 3-1, moving them into semifinals against number one seed SK Gaming. In a massive upset, UOL won that best-of-five 3-2. This win brought them to their first playoff finals within their first split, facing second seed Fnatic. The Unicorns took it all the way to five games, but fell short to finish in second place and tally 70 championship points.

UOL came into the 2015 Summer Split carrying momentum. They swapped Gilius back into the jungle role, while Kikis went to G2 (then Gamers2). In almost identical fashion, the Unicorns finished the split 9-9, but placed fourth. Gilius left the team going into playoffs, leaving Cho “H0R0” Jae-hwan as their starting jungler.

Summer Playoffs put UOL against Roccat first, who they defeated 3-2. The victory pushed them into an even tougher semifinals match-up versus an undefeated Fnatic. Getting skunked 3-0, UOL was forced into the third place match with H2K. A win here would send UOL to Worlds as Europe’s second seed, assuming Fnatic won in the finals. However, H2K crushed UOL in another 3-0, and Fnatic won the finals, sending UOL to their first EU LCS gauntlet.

Luckily, UOL’s 110 total championship points entitled them to a full bye in the Regional Qualifiers. Giants, Roccat and Origen would have to fight each other before meeting UOL in the final. Origen, a line-up that would go on to finish top four at the 2015 World Championships, made it to the gauntlet finals and took down UOL in a final 3-0. The Unicorns’ 2015 season would end there.

2016

Unicorns of Love replaced three starters for 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Coming into 2016, Unicorns of Love decided to replace three of their five starters. Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi signed as their jungler and AD carry, previously of Gambit. Hampus “Fox” Myhre stepped into the mid lane from SK Gaming. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang remained UOL’s top and support.

UOL went through the 2016 Spring Split like past splits. They finished with a 10-8 record, showing strength against teams below them and weakness against teams above them. Most of their problems revolved around the jungle position. Starting in week three, Diamondprox had to leave Europe, due to visa issues. UOL borrowed Millenium’s jungler, Charly “Djoko” Guillard, as a temporary replacement. In week four UOL brought in Rudy “Rudy” Beltran, an unknown player, who was replaced in week seven by ex-H2K Jean-Victor “Loulex” Burgevin. These jungle player rotations hindered UOL’s ability to compete against more stable rosters.

This inconsistency came to a head in the Spring Playoffs when fourth seed Origen defeated the Unicorns 3-0 in the quarterfinals. UOL’s split ended in fifth-sixth, granting only 10 championship points. It was a disappointing placement that demanded change for the Summer Split.

In the mid-season, Unicorns of Love brought in two Korean imports to play jungle and AD carry. Kang “Move” Min-su came into the EU LCS after most recently playing for Gravity in North America. Kim “Veritas” Kyoung-min had played for Vortex, a North American Challenger team. UOL also signed Fabian “Exileh” Schubert, a mid laner with history on several European Challenger teams. Riot also changed the EU LCS regular season to a best-of-two format.

These changes did not seem to affect Unicorns’ consistency much. If anything, it hindered their performance. UOL finished the regular season Summer Split in sixth place with a 6-5-7 record. This line-up was clearly better than tenth through seventh places, but also a step below first through fifth. The Unicorns would go into playoffs as underdogs.

Once there, UOL was able to take down third seed Giants 3-1. Moving into semifinals, UOL had to face an undefeated G2. The Unicorns lost 3-1, which sent them into their second third place match against H2K. Winning 3-1, H2K pushed UOL into the Regional Qualifiers for the second year in a row.

With only 50 championship points, Unicorns of Love found themselves in a difficult position. Giants, Fnatic and Splyce stood in their way of going to Worlds. UOL defeated Giants and Fnatic 3-0, propelling them forward into the gauntlet finals again. 2016 looked like UOL’s redemption. Sadly, Splyce took the series 3-2, keeping the Unicorns out of Worlds for another year.

2017

Unicorns of Love signed Xerxe and Samux for 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This third year has been Unicorns of Love’s third opportunity to go to Worlds. In an off-season full of roster swaps, UOL made some questionable changes. Bringing in European veterans in Spring 2016 did not bring the success they wanted. Korean imports in Summer 2016 was not fruitful, either. For Spring 2017, the Unicorns brought in two low-profile Europeans, Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort. Xerxe had played for Dark Passage in the TCL, but could not participate in the International Wildcard Qualifiers, due to his age. Samux had played once in the LCS in 2012, but was quickly relegated. He only played in the Challenger Series after that.

Riot further changed the EU LCS format to have two groups that play best-of-threes each week. This format seemed to suit UOL, as they finished the Spring Split in first place for Group B with an 11-2 record. Topping their group afforded UOL a first round bye in the playoffs. They were met by Group A’s second seed, Misfits, who the Unicorns defeated 3-1 to qualify for the finals. This was their first playoff finals over five EU LCS splits. They met defending champions G2 and lost 3-1. UOL was granted 70 championship points.

For the first time since entering the LCS, Unicorns of Love did not change their roster between splits. The team seemed confident coming into the Summer Split with Vizicsacsi, Xerxe, Exileh, Samux and Hylissang. But the summer regular season was slightly worse than spring, mostly due to problems surrounding Exileh and the mid lane. UOL put up a 9-4 record, placing second in Group B behind H2K, based on game score.

Quarterfinals did not look to be much of a problem, as the Unicorns would face Group A’s third seed, Misfits. Unfortunately, UOL could not take a single game, and lost 0-3, ending their playoff run earlier than expected. UOL’s 90 total championship points put them behind Misfits and Fnatic. Unicorns would go to their third straight regional gauntlet.

The Unicorns sat in the second notch of the Regional Qualifiers, after H2K versus Splyce, but before Fnatic. H2K took the victory over Splyce, which meant they could face UOL in a critical moment, once again. In a nail-biter series, H2K secured the 3-2 win, spoiling the Unicorns’ chances of representing Europe at Worlds this year.

2018

 

What will Unicorns of Love do in 2018?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

What will Unicorns of Love do between now and the 2018 season? Every member of this roster has shown promise in 2017. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang have been with this team since their induction in 2015. Coach Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant and manager-mascot Romain Bigeard have been staples, as well. Xerxe and Samux have solidified themselves as LCS talents. Exileh may have had a rough Summer Split, but his high points are unquestionable.

Like splits past, Riot has already announced major changes to the EU LCS format for 2018. The LCS will be split into four domestic leagues with a greater league running parallel. UOL has claimed their slot in Berlin, as reported by ESPN, with Roccat and Schalke 04. The current two-group format has treated the Unicorns well during the regular season. Maybe this update will too.

Regardless, the pink-and-white have made their mark on the EU LCS since joining in 2015. Despite falling short of Worlds year after year, UOL has cemented itself as a top contender in the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet. European teams fear this organization as a competitor, because they know that UOL is destined for greatness. 2015 may not have been their year. 2016 may have been rocky. 2017 may have been heart-breaking. But who knows what 2018 may bring? Will falling short remain Unicorns of Love’s legacy, or will Love finally conquer?


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Names, dates, etc.: Leaguepedia

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The Clash of Clowns is trending up in EU LCS week 10

Trending in EU LCS: Week 10

The final week of the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split regular season was one of the most dynamic yet. There were match-ups with pride on the line, and others with no real consequences. Most draft phases looked familiar, as many champion priorities remained the same as week nine. It is difficult to put too much stock into each team’s gameplay this week, because the standings were already locked after week nine. However, there were clear “serious” games and “fun” games between teams in week ten.

Taking all of these elements into account, there are some clear winners and losers coming out of week ten. Trending in the EU LCS is back with your weekly dose of Europe’s ups and downs on the Rift.

TRENDING UP

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing after week 10 of the EU LCS. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put the team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

Underdog upsets are trending up in EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Underdog Upsets

Thursday and Friday’s games were full of upsets. Roccat beat G2 2-1; Ninjas in Pyjamas beat Fnatic 2-0; and Team Vitality beat Unicorns of Love 2-0. H2K was the only one to take down their lesser opponent in the first two days. As mentioned above (and outlined in Kelsey Mosers recent article for Slingshot Esports), it is unclear how serious these losses are for the top teams.

Nonetheless, these match-ups did appear to be legitimate wins for the underdogs. G2, Fnatic and UOL did not seem to hold back against Roccat, NiP or Vitality. It was a bit exciting to see some semblance of parity within the EU LCS, since most of the split has felt more stagnant in the standings. Roccat’s bottom lane, NiPs Profit, and Vitality’s solo laners proved why they have received praise at various times throughout the Summer Split.

Another layer of significance pertains to the EU LCS promotion tournament, which began Thursday. NiP will enter their series against Giants with momentum from their victory over the top team in Europe. Meanwhile, Mysterious Monkeys enter the promotion tournament with only five total game wins, finishing week 10 with a 0-2 loss to H2K. The last week of the regular season could be a preliminary indicator of how these teams will defend their LCS slots.

“Clash of the Clowns”

On a less serious note, some series in week 10 amounted to show matches, as the standings were fully locked in after Friday’s match-ups. Roccat and Misfits kicked off these “Clash of Clowns” games by locking in Heimerdinger, Master Yi, Kayle and Draven. The players also role swapped. For example, Wadid tried his hand at Lee Sin in the jungle, and IgNar drafted Kled. Game two included a Malphite-Yasuo combination against a Nasus, Karthus and Vayne.

Splyce and Vitality picked up the torch on Sunday by playing jungle Bard, Fiddlesticks, Garen, Shaco and jungle Twitch in game one. Their second game involved Mikyx’’s mid lane AP Gragas, Steeelback’s AD Thresh and Djoko’s support Pantheon. The casters were quite disappointed with Trashy’s choice of Ardent Censer Lulu, but spirits were high throughout the series.

These types of exhibitions are always immensely fun for the fans. Seeing professional players let loose and go full solo queue style is refreshing when compared to the high stakes of the Summer Split. Since G2 played Fnatic and H2K played UOL in the afternoons, these lighthearted games acted almost like true clown fiestas to preface more serious match-ups.

Janna is trending up in EU LCS week 10

Image from boards.na.leagueoflegends.com

Janna

Within the serious games of week 10, Janna saw a rise in priority among supports. Rakan, Alistar and Thresh have had the highest priority over the last few weeks, but Janna rose to fourth priority last week. Since the inception of patch 7.15, Janna has maintained a 35 percent draft presence with seven picks and four bans. Out of the 14 “serious” matches in week 10, Janna was picked five times and banned twice.

Janna currently keeps a strong presence in solo queue. According to OP.GG, Janna has a 55 percent win rate with a 22 percent pick rate. This trend is bleeding into the EU LCS, as she has a 57 percent win rate right now. Her uptick in professional play can be attributed to the current strength of Ardent Censer, an item intended for healing and shielding supports.

Ardent Censer has been in the spotlight lately, as analysts have computed the massive power spike for enchanter supports after finishing the item. During one of G2’s games versus Fnatic, the EU LCS broadcast team was cued into the race between Mithy’s Janna and Jesiz’s Karma to finish Ardent Censer. As long as the item remains in its current state, expect Janna to stay towards the top of the support champion tier list.

TRENDING DOWN

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week 10 of the EU LCS. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past. These elements are downward trending in the EU LCS.

G2 is trending down in the EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2

Fans and analysts alike expected the top teams of Group A to battle it out as the “Kings of Europe.” However, G2 fell flat in week 10. Not only did they lose 2-0 to Fnatic, but they also lost to Roccat. For a team with hopes for Worlds, G2 did not look convincing at all. In their series against Fnatic, Perkz and Trick simply fell flat. Perkz’s Galio lacked impact, and Fnatic completely punished his Lucian pick.

More important than individual performances, G2’s overall team gameplay seemed off. Soaz, Caps and Rekkles drafted Gnar, Orianna and Ashe in both games, and G2 could not avoid the crowd control in the later stages. Fnatic was sure to answer every lost objective with an objective of their own. However, this loss felt more like a faltering from G2, rather than an out-classing from Fnatic.

Zac

Zac has been the most contested champion in the EU LCS for the entire Summer Split. He has maintained an incredible 93 percent pick or ban rate and a 71 percent win rate. Most teams ban him in the first round just to take him off of the table for the rest of the draft. However, week 10 was a little bit different.

Zac was picked four times out of 14 “serious” games in week 10 (28.6 percent), and he was banned eight times (57.1 percent). Altogether, this amounts to an 85.7 percent draft presence. More importantly, though, teams that drafted Zac only won once out of four matches (25 percent). Jankos showcased one win, but lost two others. Trick was the other jungler to give Zac a shot, but he also fell short.

Riot has hit Zac with changes every single patch since the tank update in patch 7.9, yet he has continued to be a mainstay for professional junglers in Europe. Zac’s unique combination of long distance engage, sustain and clear speed puts him above all other junglers. His weak presence and performances in week 10 raise the question, “Are junglers still practicing Zac?” It is possible that he has become more balanced and teams just have not been able to gauge it. It is also possible that Zac is still strong, but no one is actually playing him in scrims, because he is permanently banned.

H2K is trending down in EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K

On that note, two of the losses involving Zac came at the hands of H2K. Their win against Mysterious Monkeys was fully expected, but their loss to Unicorns of Love was a tough blow. Game one of the series went extremely well. H2K secured an early couple of kills, which snowballed almost perfectly. UOL ended the game with just six kills, two turrets and one dragon.

Game two was different. By 21 minutes into the match, H2K was over 2,000 gold ahead. They had secured four turrets and a Cloud Drake to UOL’s single turret and Rift Herald. This all came crumbling down when the Unicorns grouped in the mid lane and activated the Rift Herald.

H2K grouped in response, lost their turret and poorly engaged onto Xerxe’s Poppy. Jankos pulled Xerxe into the rest of his team with Zac’s ultimate, which triggered H2K to focus him down, including Syndra’s ultimate. However, Xerxe responded by snap-casting Poppy’s ultimate, knocking up Jankos, Nuclear and Chei. Exileh flashed in, and the rest of UOL moved in, to assassinate Nuclear’s Tristana, kill Odoamne’s Gnar and chunk the other members to a point where they could not contest a Baron attempt.

That is the moment that tilted H2K beyond return. The Unicorns pushed down two turrets, took another Baron, and ended game two. In game three, UOL almost skunked H2K, who only finished with six kills. They did not secure a single turret, dragon, Baron or Herald. Being the last series of the regular season, this is an uninspiring note on which to end. Luckily, H2K earned Group B’s quarterfinals bye, so they will have adequate time to decompress, strategize and adapt for playoffs. They still have a tumultuous road ahead, if they are to qualify for the World Championship.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, League of Legends boards

Video Highlights: TheGameHaus Vibby

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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Reflecting on Pre-Split EU LCS Expectations

On JANUARY 20, 2017, the second day of the EU LCS Spring Split, I wrote a piece with my initial thoughts on four teams. I chose these four teams, because they seemed to have the widest possible range of results. The final standings would be determined by their performance. Check out that article here.

As the EU LCS finishes Week 9, it only makes sense to revisit my preseason thoughts. There has been a smaller gap between groups than expected. Some teams have performed as expected, while others have been surprisingly strong or weak.

G2 and Splyce

Preseason Thought: “G2 and Splyce decided to retain their entire starting rosters. None of the other teams seem prepared to challenge these two for group dominance. Unless the new pick-ban phase exposes unforeseen weaknesses, we expect these two teams to stay at the top.”

G2: EU LCS #1 team

courtesy of Riot esports

G2 has truly secured their spot at the top of the standings. Sitting at 11-0, few teams have even been able to take a game off of this squad, let alone a series. Maintaining the starting lineup from Summer 2017 has allowed G2 to remain dominant within EU. Even through meta shifts from patch changes, G2 has adapted to every opponent they have faced in the LCS. They may even be performing better than analysts expected.

Splyce: EU LCS #5 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Splyce, on the other hand, has seemed much weaker than last year. Early losses to H2K, Unicorns of Love, and Misfits proved that Splyce would need much improvement to reach the top of Group B. Spring has shown them beating teams below them, but losing to teams above them. Splyce currently sit third in their group, with a 7-4 record. They have generally performed below preseason expectations, but fans have seen flashes of Splyce’s former dominance.

Origen

Preseason Thought: “Origen seems to be the only team that did not catch a break in the off-season. After a 9th place finish in the Summer Split last year, the entire squad dissipated. Origen’s pick-ups each appear to be a downgrade from their respective predecessors…The floor is low on this team, and we expect that they will round out the bottom of Group B.”

Origen: EU LCS #10 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Poor Origen. Boasting a series record of 0-12, and a game record of 2-24, they have performed at the lowest possible level. The lineup has been plagued with issues this split. Substituting in the support and jungle roles has not been ideal.  Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez has had to step into another new seat. Unfortunately, Origen will be heading towards the Spring Promotion Tournament to defend their spot in the LCS. They have performed as analysts expected.

Roccat

Preseason Thought: “I am keeping my eyes on this new ROCCAT. They could get a few wins under their belt and avoid the Summer Promotion series this year. They could end up in last yet again, but everyone loves an underdog, right?”

courtesy of Riot esports

ROCCAT began the split 0-7, which had analysts believing they would be destined to return to their third consecutive Promotion Tournament. However, over the past few weeks, ROCCAT has swung back, going 5-0. They currently sit in fourth in Group A, just below Fnatic. Depending on the results of Week 10, ROCCAT can actually slip into the playoffs and boot Fnatic. Being one of the only teams to truly climb through the standings, ROCCAT have performed much better than many preseason expectations. (I kind of called it, though.)

Misfits

Preseason Thought: “If Misfits want to make an impact, they will need their remaining players to continue to play at the top level, while incorporating PowerOfEvil and KaKAO seamlessly. Barney ‘Alphari’ Morris, Steven ‘Hans sama’ Liv, and Lee ‘IgNar’ Dong-geun will need to maintain lane dominance against tougher lanes. This team does have a high ceiling, but these roster changes will need to prove themselves fruitful.”

Misfits: EU LCS #4 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Misfits have definitely made a splash in their first EU LCS split. Their 7-4 record is nothing to overlook. Misfits sits solidly in second place in Group A, four wins below G2, two wins above Fnatic. The team has looked slightly weaker in recent weeks, but should still be a force in playoffs. Barney “Alphari” Morris, Steven “Hans sama” Liv, and Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun have meshed right into the professional scene. Each of them have had standout performances. Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon have proven my skepticism wrong. Misfits demonstrated team synergy earlier than expected, and PowerOfEvil looks like an entirely new player compared to last year.

H2K

Preseason Thought: “Will the momentum of last year continue, or did it fizzle in the off-season?…Febiven has proven himself to be a top-tier European Mid laner. He should be able to step in without issue. However, Nuclear and Chei are Korean imports, which could prove to be dangerous.”

H2K: EU LCS #3 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski and Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu are as good as ever. The jungler and top laner have maintained dominance while allowing Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten to have a successful split thus far. H2K was obviously disjointed in the beginning of the split, but Shin “Nuclear” Jung-hyun, and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho have assimilated into the rest of the team relatively well. This team has probably performed slightly higher than many expected, but they are nowhere near the ceiling they experienced at Worlds 2016. H2K is far from the best team in EU.

Fnatic

Preseason Thought: “This roster has a lot of combined experience. But will it be enough?…Most EU LCS fans are probably pulling for Fnatic to do well in 2017. While this line-up’s ceiling is quite high, they could also finish middle-of-the-pack.”

Fnatic: EU LCS #6 team

courtesy of Riot esports

Spring Split has been difficult for Fnatic. Sitting at third in Group A, they hold a 5-6 series record and a 14-16 game record. The same team that took games off of G2, Unicorns of Love, and Splyce also dropped games to Giants and Vitality, even dropping a series to ROCCAT. It seems the combined experience of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, and Jesse “Jesiz” Le has proven insufficient. Substituting at the jungle position has not helped anything. Fnatic’s rookie mid laner, Rasmus “Caps” Winther, has definitely shown strong potential as a solo carry at times. Overall, Fnatic has performed lower than many analysts expected. It has not been entirely surprising, though.

EU LCS teams have one last week to settle the standings leading into playoffs and relegation. This split has had its fair share of exciting match-ups, but much of it has gone according to my preseason expectations. The group format and Best-of-3’s have brought pros and cons, but mostly stagnation within groups. ROCCAT’s recent climb has essentially been the only major action, especially when compared to the NA LCS. Playoffs should be exciting and less predictable, due to the parity between Unicorns of Love, H2K, Misfits, and Splyce. Mid-Season Invitational should be another great test of EU’s relation to the other major regions.

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Storylines going into the EU Promotion Tournament

Well folks, it’s that time of year, everyone’s second favourite tournament: Promotion tournament. This is the chance for squads coming out of the Challenger Series to make their mark, enter the LCS and prove to the world that they deserve a place in the most prestigious of leagues. On the flipside of this are the defending teams, the bottom three teams from the Split, who must defend their claim against the newcomers. Almost every time they’re upset, teams that people thought for sure were going to make it and don’t, and times teams that didn’t stand a chance to most analysts pulling it off. It’s always exciting, if not a bit scrappier and filled with more errors, and it’s coming up this Thursday!

 

The format works a bit different this year too. Rather than three Challenger Series teams against three LCS teams, only two Challenger Series teams are in. Also, the way the seeding works is different. The 8th and 9th seed have a bigger advantage, with 8th having two cracks at making it back into the LCS, 9th having two as well but in much tighter contentions, while 10th has to fight through the second seed from Challenger and then win again before making it into the LCS. It’s all a bit complicated, so here’s a  helpful diagram Riot put together to describe it further:

 

Diagrams are fun kids! Courtesy of lolesports.

Diagrams are fun kids! Courtesy of lolesports.

The promotion tournament is a great improvement on prior years, giving a higher chance to the LCS side team to make it back in, while removing Auto-relegation for 10th place and yet still punishing teams for doing so poorly. It favors those who placed higher in the regular split quite heavily, while also putting pressure on the Challenger side to do well in the playoffs. 1st place Huma has a much easier time ahead of them than 2nd place Copenhagen Wolves. Still, it’s anyone’s game currently, and it’ll be fascinating to see how the new format takes shape.

Giants come into the promotion after the most disappointing split of their careers. Can the new roster turn things around for the slumping Giants? Or will they be be back into the Challenger Series to figure out what happened? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Giants come into the promotion after the most disappointing split of their careers. Can the new roster turn things around for the slumping Giants? Or will they be be back into the Challenger Series to figure out what happened? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

So what are the stories to watch going in? Well, the first set between Giants and Copenhagen Wolves seems to have the most going on. Giants have recently swapped out four of their five members for new players, two Koreans of note, and are hoping to prove that last splits horrible showing was a fluke in their overall history. And proving is definitely the name of the game for this Giants team, as a lot hinges on this first battle. If Giants manages to succeed, they’re back in the running for an LCS spot. If they lose, they’re out, and will have to be reconsidering their Challenger Series team’s name from Underdoges to Giants gaming. Again.

The Wolves are pretty much a staple of the Promotion Tournament, so it's great to see them back at it. Can they repeat their upset victory against Millennium here and make it through the toughest running into the LCS? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

The Wolves are pretty much a staple of the Promotion Tournament, so it’s great to see them back at it. Can they repeat their upset victory against Millennium here and make it through the toughest running into the LCS? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Copenhagen Wolves, on the other end, are no stranger to the promotion tournament. They’ve appeared in every single one of them since they were a team in the Challenger Series. They’ve always, against all odds, managed to claw their way back in, until they were auto-relegated to the Challenger Series after a 10th place showing. If the Wolves manage to again qualify, it’ll be quite a story. Nobody expected the Wolves to take down Millennium, the clear favourite in the EU CS, let alone to do it in a 3-0 fashion. A worrying sign, though, was their inability to close out a series against Huma which they had a 2-0 start in. Still, Copenhagen Wolves are not a team to count out ever when it comes to relegation/promotion tournaments, and it’ll be quite the story if they manage to overcome all those odds to make it back in.

Our next pairing is that between Challenger side Huma and LCS side Roccat. Huma have, in a lot of ways, looked quite all over the place in their play. Sometimes they seem unstoppable, an absolute terror squad of death, with solid plays out of star Holyphoenix and a familiar Danish face in GodBro. Other times nothing seems to stick. Still, the mental composure to come back from a 2 win deficit against the Wolves is promising for this squad. If they can manage to get one of those games where it all just clicks, they might have a shot into the LCS. But if they crumble and look disorganized like they have before, I’m hard pressed to see them in the LCS.

Financial troubles and questionable practices aside, Huma looks like one of the strongest teams coming out of Challenger. But at other times, they look just like a Challenger squad, disorganized and out rotated. Which Huma will show will determine their fate in the tournament. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Financial troubles and questionable practices aside, Huma looks like one of the strongest teams coming out of Challenger. But at other times, they look just like a Challenger squad, disorganized and out rotated. Which Huma will show will determine their fate in the tournament. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Roccat, too, have some proving to do. The team just… seems lackluster. They simply weren’t able to really manage to close anything out for the longest time. The team’s looking a lot better, with some solid team management choices to bring in Tabzz and Noxiak in the botlane, hoping to solidify the squad. But it’s a question of whether this is too little too late. Huma are a strong team, and Roccat hasn’t necessarily looked that strong this split. They need to look inside themselves, find their identity, and use it to win their way back in to the LCS. Otherwise, they’ll have to do it from the outside looking in, either in the Challenger Series or by dissolving.

Roccat look about as shakey as they have all split going into the tournament. Still, a surprise upset against Vitality might have given this squad the confidence they so sorely have been lacking. They'll need to prove that to hold onto their LCS spot, that's for sure. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Roccat look about as shakey as they have all split going into the tournament. Still, a surprise upset against Vitality might have given this squad the confidence they so sorely have been lacking. They’ll need to prove that to hold onto their LCS spot, that’s for sure. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Splyce is our last contender, and it seems like they’re also the most likely to make it out of the whole ordeal, if for no other reason than their seeding in the tournament. Splyce were locked for most of the split with Elements for that 7th place safe ground, missing it by one game, and had a very similar story to much of the bottom half of Europe: inconsistency, with a side of ‘Holy crap that was a good play.’ Some games Sencux would go completely insane. Other games, he’d at best go even. The top lane for Splyce seemed a difficult thing their whole split, and it’ll remain a question whether they can hold onto their LCS spot, and if they do, whether they’ll keep the same roster.

Notice how Splyce is the only one with an accurate team roster photo...? Will this be the advantage of the team, or their hindrance? The Danish boys will need to show up against possibly their brethren, or a radically new Giants team, but they probably still have the best shot at Summer going into the tournament. But this is promotion: anything can happen. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Notice how Splyce is the only one with an accurate team roster photo…? Will this be the advantage of the team, or their hindrance? The Danish boys will need to show up against possibly their brethren, or a radically new Giants team, but they probably still have the best shot at Summer going into the tournament. But this is promotion: anything can happen. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Still, Splyce did have the most success of any team, and are the only LCS team who has not made any roster swaps. This kind of consistent team building for the team might prove just what they need to move on and back into the LCS. Or it might be what holds them back and loses their LCS spot. They face the winner of either Giants or fellow Nordic squad in Copenhagen Wolves, arguably the easier path, and a single series won will allow them to rest on their LCS laurels.

As with every promotion tournament, it’s an exciting and stressful time for both sides. As recent events (Ember) have shown, too, the pressure on Challenger series teams to make their way into the LCS is higher than ever, and in Europe, too, with a weakening of the bottom half, there has never been a better time for Challenger teams to ‘break in.’ Still, they have to prove themselves here, and for some teams they have to prove themselves again and again, before they can see that beautiful stage of the LCS regular split. We’ll see which banners rise and which fall this week into the weekend, with the tournament ultimately being decided by Sunday.