The European LCS, the region’s top-flight League of Legends competition, ditched its old best-of-two format for a brand new one this year: splitting the teams into two five-team groups and moving to best-of-three series. The idea behind it: to help introduce more narratives into the season and help foster rivalries between division opponents.
While there’s a gigantic difference between the top and bottom teams in each group, that experiment has, for the most part, worked. Each group has two teams that are clearly ahead of the pack, and they’ll face each other Friday in what should be a jam-packed day of games.
While the later series between Group A favorite G2 Esports (currently undefeated at 9-0) and second place Misfits (7-2) might get more attention, the first set between Unicorns of Love and H2K could quite possibly end up deciding Group B.
Both teams sit at 7-2, well ahead of third-place Splyce (5-4). And when they play at 12 p.m. ET Friday (17:00 local time), one will emerge as the favorite for first place in the tightly-contested group. You’ll be able to watch at Lolesports and on the EULCS1 Twitch channel.
These teams have already played once: back in Week 2, when UOL won 2-1 to take an early lead in the standings. Since then, H2K has been on a 5-1 tear, while UOL has gone 4-2. H2K has the better record in games (16-5 compared to 15-7), but the first tiebreaker is head-to-head record, so if UOL wins this series they’ll have the advantage over H2K if the two end up with the same series record.
But the H2K that the Unicorns face Friday isn’t the same as the one back in Week 2. The new roster took a little time to gel, especially with a brand-new bottom lane, and H2K has swept a remarkable four straight 2-0 series (including recent sweeps against 7-2 Misfits and 4-5 Fnatic).
In the sweep against Misfits — likely H2K’s most impressive performance this year — the team relied on many of the elements that brought it to the Worlds semifinals last year. Aggressive play from Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski in the jungle (a combined 6/3/12 on Kha’Zix and Lee Sin) and solid play from Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu in the top lane (10/4/9 on Nautilus and Rumble). The newcomers came through in the second game, too: mid laner Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten was 4/0/1 on LeBlanc in the 9-4 victory, while the bottom lane of Sin "Nuclear" Jeong-hyeon and Choi "Chei" Sun-ho went a combined 0/0/11 on the super utility bottom lane of Ashe and Lulu.
What does UOL have to answer that? One of the brightest young stars in Europe in jungler Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir, a veteran top laner of its own in Kiss "Vizicsacsi" Tamás and mid laner Fabian "Exileh" Schubert, whose 123 kills leads all EU LCS players (by a whopping 17). Combine that with Spanish AD Carry prospect Samuel "Samux" Fernández Fort, currently leading all EU LCS players with a +8.3 CS at 10 minutes differential and veteran support Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov, and UOL seems to be the one Group B team that can weather the storm of a hot H2K lineup.
You’ll want to particularly watch the matchups in the solo lanes. Odoamne and Vizicsacsi are arguably the two best top laners in the region, and both Exileh and Febiven have given excellent and ... not so excellent performances in the mid lane. Jungle pressure will play a big role in determining the outcomes of those two lanes, and luckily we have two of the best junglers in the region to watch as well in Xerxe and Jankos.
No matter what happens in this series, each team will have time to right the ship and stake their claim for first place. UOL plays hapless 0-10 Origen next week, while H2K plays 3-7 Vitality. In Week 10, both teams play two series: UOL against 5-4 Splyce and Vitality and H2K against Origen and Splyce.
Picks to watch:
UOL: Vizicsacsi’s Shen (6-2), Xerxe’s Ivern (6-1), Exileh’s Ryze (6-3), Samux’s Jhin (7-3), Hylissang’s Malzahar (5-1)
H2K: Odoamne’s Rumble (7-1), Jankos’s Kha’Zix (6-2), Febiven’s Syndra (5-2), Nuclear’s Varus (6-1), Chei’s Zyra (5-2)