We’re only one series into the 2016 Summer LCS Playoffs, and there’s already been an upset. No. 3 Giants Gaming was taken down by the No. 6 Unicorns of Love Saturday in Europe, as UOL took advantage of some recent patch changes that favor standard lanes and some sloppy play from their opponents to take the series 3-1.
The Unicorns of Love will face No. 1 G2 Esports in the semifinal next Sunday. The winner of this Sunday’s H2K vs. Fnatic series will face No. 2 Splyce next Saturday.
The series was heavily focused around top laners Lennart “Smittyj” Warkus and Tamás “Viziscasci” Kiss, especially in the early game. Both junglers made a point of trying to make early plays to get their top laner ahead, and many of the games were pretty much decided by which top laner was able to get an early lead.
Whenever one of the top laners did get a lead, his team followed up with what is becoming a popular play on the post-lane swap Patch 6.15: the bottom lane recalls, ostensibly to buy items and return to lane, but instead sneaks to the top lane for a surprise 4 vs. 1, earning a kill and the game’s first tower taken (which now comes with bonus gold).
That’s what happened in Game 1, when a well-timed gank by Min-su “Move” Kang top gave Viziscasci an early lead. Unicorns of Love followed that up with sending the bot lane top, a move Giants did not expect. A minute later, UOL was up 3-0 with first tower and basically won the game from there.
The other notable moment from this game was this clever use of the new Ryze ultimate by Fabian “Exileh” Schubert to get his team out of the Baron pit safely.
Unicorns of Love won this game 21-5 in 32 minutes, led by Vizicsacsi (4/3/13 on Kennen) and Hylissang (1/0/17 on Braum).
Game 2 was Giants’ best game of the series by far. This time it was Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian who successfully pulled off an early gank top lane, doing so twice in the span of two minutes and picking up four kills for his team.
Support Morgan “Hustlin” Granberg’s pick of Taric in the game was crucial, with his ultimates allowing teammates on Ekko, Trundle and Elise to play aggressively. By 20 minutes, Giants were up 12-5 and 5.5k gold. By 31, they took the game, with Smittyj 5/0/12 on Trundle, Gun-woo “NighT” Na 10/1/4 on Ekko and Hustlin 0/2/16 on Taric.
The Unicorns got back on track for the next two games, returning to their proactive play from Game 1 with strong lanes, timely ganks and superior team-fighting. Exileh was the story of Game 3, pulling off a few outplays on Vladimir.
He finished the game 8/0/8, and the Unicorns won the game 25-16 in 40 minutes.32:00 exileh another vlad outplay, UOL gets 4-1 in two separate places, after another 4-1 it’s a massive lead.
Game 4 was pretty much over when it started. Maxlore attempted another early gank in the top lane, but his cocoon hit a minion instead of Vizicsacsi, spelling disaster for Giants. UOL picked up two kills, building up a lead they’d never look back from.
Up 10-2 by 22 minutes, UOL took an uncontested Baron. Six minutes later, Exileh picked up a triple kill and his team nailed the ace, winning the game 15-3.
After qualifying for the 2015 EU LCS Spring Split out of Challenger, the Unicorns of Love made a surprise run to the finals in their first split as an LCS team, taking Fnatic to five games despite only finishing in fifth in the regular season. The past two splits haven’t worked out quite as well, finishing fourth and fifth/sixth in the playoffs, but this is still a team that has never missed a postseason in the LCS.
In five EU LCS splits, this was only the second time Giants Gaming had made the playoffs. After finishing in 10th place last split and retooling the roster with mostly unknown quantities, expectations weren’t high heading into the season. But a strong performance in lane swaps and a good mid-portion of the season gave the team an 8-3-7 record, good for third place in the regular season.