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How to Stabilize a Sinking Ship: The H2K Conundrum

It’s been a roller coaster ride for H2K in 2018. Do they have enough left in the tank to make another run at Playoffs?

H2K has had one hell of a year. They’ve sunk to the depths in their 1-8 start to the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split, yet they’ve also soared sky high on their way to reversing their fortunes and making playoffs. Now that they’ve unfortunately dug themselves into a hole with another rough start, H2K fans have only got one question on their collective minds: “What gives?”

It’s a fair question, and one that’s deserved after the team’s second-straight slow start. H2K has the talent to make another unexpected run, but time’s running out if they want to put the puzzle pieces together and figure out a way to get games back into the “win” column.

Deja Vu?

If there’s one comfort to H2K’s league-worst 0-8 record, it’s that they were in an eerily similar position just a few months ago. As mentioned above, H2K started off 1-8 in the Spring Split, so there’s a glimmer of optimism that it’ll end up as a Deja Vu-esque situation where things will start clicking just in time for a mind-blowing playoff run. There’s a big problem with that theory, though -- sorry H2K fans.

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The biggest catalyst of H2K’s Spring Split turnaround were the additions of Marcin "Selfie" Wolski and Ilyas "Shook" Hartsema. In particular, Shook’s leadership and shotcalling from the jungle breathed new life into H2K’s lifeless early-to-mid game. When that was paired with Selfie’s solid presence in the mid lane, H2K really hit their stride and started racking up the wins.

The catch? It doesn’t apply this time around.

H2K’s Summer Split trajectory won’t be altered by high profile pickups. They can’t rely on a timely injection of new talent and that makes recovering from a 0-8 start even more daunting. The well has run dry and there’s not many options outside of the starting roster that would be a clear cut upgrade. Even though they've resigned Marc "Caedrel" Robert Lamont, getting him back up to speed in time for another miraculous Playoff run feels like it's next to impossible. Looking through the lens of a team that wants to stun the EU LCS once again, they’re going to have to run this race with the horses they’ve got.

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This all sounds like a lot of doom and gloom, right? Well, there’s still a silver lining. They’ve already got the pieces that made the difference in the Spring Split. Shook and Selfie haven’t gone anywhere, so H2K still have the power to make things happen. It’s all a matter of being able to tap back into their potential, because when they’re in sync it opens up the rest of the team to get aggressive and play proactively. The change must come from within this time, rather than relying on an outside jolt to revitalize their Split. It’ll take an introspective approach to lead them to the promised land, not a divine roster intervention.

Arrested Development

The meta is not anyone’s friend and it's adapt or die in the post-8.11 world we're in.

Another way that H2K’s path to redemption differs from Spring Split comes down to one simple word: meta. The meta is not anyone’s friend (except perhaps G2 Esports and Misfits) and it's adapt or die in the post-8.11 world we're in. Times are a-changin’ and just about everything in this gigantic meta shift has worked against H2K’s recovery efforts.

H2K were at their best in the Spring Split when they were taking games late and using their veteran leaders to out-shotcall the opposition. When they coupled that with their young, up-and-coming AD carry Patrik "Sheriff" Jírů, they became an absolute late game menace. It’s hard not to reminisce about crazy plays in the Spring Split like Sheriff’s one-man base defense that turned what looked like a sure loss into a hard-fought win.

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The problem is that, in the current meta, games are often decided well before they eclipse 30 minutes. This makes getting to H2K’s late game mark something relegated to the past, unless an upcoming patch vastly reworks how quickly teams can snowball in order to close out games. It’s an early game league right now, and that’s simply not where this iteration of H2K’s strengths lie. The meta is swirling around them and not only have they had to adjust, but they’ve also been forced to play against their strengths.

The changes to bot lane have completely hampered what made Sheriff such a strong prospect.

It’s not just that the game is sped up, it’s also that the changes to bot lane have completely hampered what made Sheriff such a strong prospect. It used to be a very simple formula: Get Sheriff a scaling hyper carry and then set your timer for 40 minutes to when the real fun begins. With those types of champions largely off the table, it has become difficult for Sheriff to continue growing in his role. He can’t fall back onto what he’s grown accustomed to playing and it’s made it difficult for H2K to get a consistent damage threat out of the bot lane this summer. Sheriff and H2K aren’t the only ones who’ve had a hard time adjusting; big names like Cloud9 and SK Telecom have experienced similar struggles due to the huge shift in the meta.

From 0-8 to Great

There’s no way to sugar coat it, things aren’t going well for H2K. They’ve started as terribly as they possibly could have, and there’s not a win in sight after four weeks. With just about half the Split in the books, it’s the worst position they could find themselves in. There’s still time to right the ship, but the clock is ticking and the water’s cascading in.

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It’s easy to sit here and type out solutions, but these changes are hard to implement, especially when time’s not on your side. Perhaps the shifting sands of the meta created a perfect storm that was unavoidable for H2K. Adapting has proven difficult for top teams around the world and H2K has shown to be one of the teams hit the hardest.

It’s possible that Playoffs are just not in the cards for H2K this Split.

While reading the meta is one thing, being able to play it is another thing entirely. Again, the practical implementation is a much steeper mountain to climb than the theorycrafting itself. It’s possible that Playoffs are just not in the cards for H2K this split, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned. With the door closing on their Playoff hopes, they can still learn to adapt and to find the willpower to push through and finish strong -- even if going all-in means they are swept away by a royal flush.

At this point it’s all about growth and developing the players on the roster to be able to better handle catastrophic meta shifts in the future. If all hope is lost, they can instead focus on creating antifragile tendencies -- or the ability to flourish in chaos -- that they can harness to become a better team in 2019. It’s anyone’s guess as to what’s on the horizon for H2K, but it’s never too late to start the transformation from 0-8 to great.