After G2 Esports crashed out of Worlds with a 1-5 record in Group A, the pressure was on for H2K to perform and pick up at least two wins to have a chance at making it out of groups. Their day started with a crucial match against AHQ, the second seed from the LMS, who they lost to in week one. H2K were very disappointed in themselves for losing that game, having led for a significant portion of it, and needed to start strong in the rematch.
Start strong they did, as H2K crushed AHQ in every lane. Odoamne and FORG1VEN dominated their counterparts in cs and pressure, but Ryu in particular showed how good he can be as he picked up Ryze. Ryu repeatedly pushed Westdoor out of lane, and it says a lot when a player can out-lane, out-roam and out-pressure a Lissandra, especially when Lissandra is in the hands of a veteran like Westdoor.
H2K almost threw the game after a ridiculous failed baron attempt allowed AHQ’s support Albis to get the steal with a support Karma Q, but H2K were resilient. They recovered from their gaffe, pushed their advantages from the laning phase to out-macro AHQ in the mid-late game. They found picks, they secured their own baron, and they closed out an impressive victory to draw level with AHQ at 2-2.
FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP
Following that victory they had to face China’s first seed Edward Gaming, then on a three-win hot streak following their shock loss to Brazil’s INTZ on the first day of competition. EDG looked in mean form, H2K themselves felt their wrath in week one where a poor face check from Vander cost H2K the bottom lane matchup, and ultimately the game. H2K would not have expected to win this game, but as this Worlds has undoubtedly shown so far: expectations are regularly thrown out the window.
EDG inexplicably left open Ryu’s Ryze, an ill-advised decision considering how he dominated AHQ in the previous game with that pick. Similarly, EDG allowed FORG1VEN to grab Caitlyn, his comfort pick this tournament and a crucial component to H2K’s lane dominant strategy in the early game. Add in a Kennen for Odoamne and the Rek’Sai for Jankos, and H2K secured some of their best champions for this enticing clash.
EDG felt the effects of their draft early into the game as Ryu continued where he left off against Westdoor, dominating Scout from the early laning phase. Scout on Malzahar simply could not handle Ryu’s Ryze, as Ryu secured first blood in a one-for-one trade. FORG1VEN and Vander found the bot lane matchup more difficult against EDG, but Odoamne exposed Mouse, solo killing the Chinese top laner early in the game.
A masterful Baron play by H2K after a failed attempt on Odoamne’s life allowed them to assume direct control of the game, but it was not over yet. EDG pushed constantly to find an opening in H2K’s strategy, and the game was achingly tense going into the 40 minute mark. One moment allowed H2K to seal their victory, and for that they must thank Jankos. The Polish jungler stole the Elder Drake from under EDG’s nose, allowing H2K to pick up multiple kills and eventually close out the game, an historic win for the European team who fell twice to EDG in Groups last year.
With one final, straightforward victory over INTZ, H2K secured their place in the Quarterfinals of Worlds for the first time in the team's history, and rekindled the hope for European teams after a devastating first week. Their night was not yet over, however, as they had one more match to play: a tiebreaker for the top spot in the group between themselves and EDG, after the Chinese team overturned a massive deficit in the late game to beat AHQ and secure their own spot in Chicago.
The final boss awaited H2K as they returned to the stage, having already defeated EDG’s first form with Scout they now had to win stage 2 of the fight, with former Worlds champion Pawn subbed into the mid lane. With their the place already secured in Chicago, a win here would be the just rewards for H2K, having performed so well in the three regular group games. Though Ryu would not get to play his Ryze again, FORG1VEN picked his favourite Caitlyn for the final time in San Francisco.
By now you probably know the story: H2K win lanes, build up a strong early lead, and then almost throw at baron. Clearlove secured the steal with his Lee Sin as EDG attempted to wrestle back control from H2K. They were not able to do so, as Odoamne, Jankos and FORG1VEN carried H2K to victory. FORG1VEN had the final word in this game, his snipe onto the reviving Ekko was nothing short of genius as he finished off EDG to secure the win and the first seed going into the Quarters.
What a win, and what a day for H2K. Four wins, two over the first seed from China, and a ticket to Chicago as a top seeded team. Only one question now remains: how far can H2K go? They are world class laners, and now bring the macro game to back it up and close out games. No team will find an easy win against H2K, and a place in the Semifinals is not out of reach. Can they channel Fnatic and Origen from 2015 and continue the EU-phoria? Tune into the Quarterfinals next week as Worlds heads to Chicago!