G2 Esports versus Unicorns of Love is not the semifinal many were expecting a reminder that anything can happen in the playoffs. The safe bet was for Giants Gaming to continue its huge improvement over the final weeks of the EU LCS regular season and comfortably beat the Unicorns. They would earn a spot in the other semifinal against Splyce and force G2 Esports to contend with H2K. However, this one upset altered the entire makeup of the EU LCS playoffs.
Unicorns’ 3-1 demolition of Giants proved just how big an improvement they made over the course of the split, leaving Giants as the lowest seed going into the regional qualifier. For the Unicorns, their reward is a semifinal match against Europe’s top seed and a guaranteed trip to Kraków, either in the final or the third-place playoff. G2 Esports managed to avoid what they would consider to be a tougher matchup, though a tough one nonetheless. This match promises to be a fascinating encounter, and another upset by the Unicorns could turn EU’s Worlds seeding completely on its head. Tune in on Sunday, August 21st at 17:00 CEST catch all the action!
KISS OF DEATH
Last week we identified Unicorns’ top laner Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss as a crucial component in a resurgent Unicorns of Love side, and against Giants he showed exactly why that’s the case. He deftly outplayed Giants’ (also very talented) top-laner Lennart "SmittyJ" Warkus in three of the four games, with wins on Kennen, Gnar and Irelia, and the attention he commanded from Giants’ jungler Nubar “Maxlore” Safarian allowed his team to be successful elsewhere on the map.
Vizicsacsi’s performances in the Irelia-versus-Gnar matchup, winning a game on both champions, indicate the current strength of his play. Many players have their own opinions on who wins that volatile matchup, but Vizicsacsi showed a level of competency that allowed him to take victory on both sides, highlighting his dominance over SmittyJ. That’s not to mention the number of times he thwarted Maxlore’s attempts to camp top and force an advantage for SmittyJ.
Vizicsacsi wasn’t the only heroic performer on Unicorns of Love against Giants; a lot of praise has to go to their often maligned jungler, Min-su “Move” Kang. Those who followed the North American LCS in summer 2015 know the impact Move can have on the game when playing at his peak, but Unicorns fans rarely saw that this split. The old Move returned in the series against Giants, however, as he dominated on Rek’Sai, winning all three games he played on it with a combined score of 13/2/34. He was vicious, unrelenting and a standout performer in a series where his teammates all shone individually.
Vizicsacsi and Move will be important figures in the series against G2. There are still questions around Dae-han “Expect” Ki and how he’ll perform in standard lanes, and if there’s a top laner left in the playoffs that will give him a tough time, it’s Vizicsacsi. Move on the other hand must keep G2’s jungler Kang-yun "Trick" Kim in check. Trick is a favourite for the EU LCS MVP once again; after his MVP performances in his debut split in Europe, Trick hasn’t taken his foot off the gas and he will look to dispatch Move with ease in this series.
Though Unicorns performed admirably in the series vs Giants and came away with a comfortable win, G2 are on another level completely. Unicorns of Love’s penchant for upsetting top teams is legendary in Europe, but G2’s plot armour might just be too strong for them.
TALENT TO SPARE
On paper every one of G2 Esports’ players are better than their opponents. That’s to be expected when you consider it’s a match between the reigning champions, now with a better bot lane, and current number-one seed versus the sixth seed, but that doesn’t accurately portray just how big a difference in ability there is between these teams. G2 features both the MVP (Trick) and Rookie of Split (Luka "Perkz" Perković) from the EU LCS 2016 spring split, as well as the current best bot lane in Europe, and 2015 Worlds semifinalists Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. The level of talent on the team is staggering. It’s been a while since we last saw G2 Esports take to the Rift; their last series was a 2-0 victory over Fnatic in the final match of the EU LCS regular season. By the time they play Unicorns of Love on August 26th they’ll have had almost four weeks of practice on patch 6.15, the patch on which the entirety of the playoffs will be played. They haven’t played a competitive series on it, however, meaning the Unicorns will have an experience advantage going into Sunday’s clash in Berlin.
As with any standard lane matchup, all eyes are on the bot lane as teams are no longer able to hide weak laners behind a lane-swap. It’s no surprise then that analysts and fans favour G2 in this matchup considering the team’s ferocious bot lane. Zven and Mithy are the best Europe has to offer right now. As 2015 Worlds semifinalists, they proved they can dominate on the biggest of stages, and Unicorns bot-laners Kyoung-min “Veritas” Kim and Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov will have a mammoth task in keeping them in check.
Mid lane remains a focal point in the current meta, despite the spotlight shining on the bottom lane. With the Azir era now behind us, mid lane quickly became the most diverse role on the Rift. Champions like Cassiopeia, Taliyah and Kassadin are now high-priority picks, while Vladimir is as scary as ever, and champions like Ekko and Aurelion Sol beginning to make their way back into contention. It’s refreshing to see the role in such a good spot, though Taliyah fans should not expect to see the Stoneweaver make it through the ban phase any time soon.
The mid-lane matchup between Perkz and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert will greatly affect the outcome of the series. Exileh looked fearsome on Vladimir and Kassadin against Giants, easily getting the better of Giant’s star mid-laner Gun-woo “Night” Na. Fans voted Korean rookie mid-laner NighT onto the EU LCS All-Pro squad, edging out Perkz by 2 points and beating Splyce mid-laner Chres "Sencux" Laursen by a hefty 32 points. Exileh, himself a rookie, could really make a name for himself should he manage to beat PerkZ in this matchup, but that’s no easy task.
Perkz’ rookie-of-the-split performance in spring hasn’t quite translated to the summer split, though a lot of that comes down to a shift in priorities within G2. In the spring split, the mid/jungle combo of Trick and Perkz was fearsome and led to the majority of the team’s victories, while G2’s former bot lane of Kim "Emperor" Jin-hyun and Glenn "Hybrid" Doornenbal played consistently and safely. In the summer split, Trick’s priorities lean towards the bottom lane, which makes sense considering the calibre of players they signed. This exposed Perkz to a degree, allowing other mid-laners to shine over him, but he’s still incredibly talented and ought to play a big part in G2’s playoffs run.
TIME TO SHINE
Should Unicorns pull off this upset it would be one of the biggest in the history of the EU LCS playoffs, but it’s hard to see them doing so. The individual talent on G2 Esports is the strongest in the league, and they’re incredibly macro-proficient to boot. We’ve identified the key matchups in the series, now it’s up to the teams themselves to give it their all and book a spot in the EU LCS summer split final in Kraków.
The road to Kraków concludes this Sunday with G2 Esports vs Unicorns of Love, live at watch.lolesports.com from 17:00 CEST!