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Rift Recap: A F***ing Beautiful Game of League

Hey again everyone! The EU LCS rounded the first half of the spring split, and the standings were Shook up while Fnatic and G2 emerged as frontrunners once more. Vitality have fallen off in the meanwhile, and H2K’s new blood is amping up the pressure in each of their games. Also, a contingent of Irish fans stopped by in Week 6 to make it one of the most memorable live studio experiences yet. All that and more on Rift Recap!

1. A Cataclysmic Clash of Kings

Cataclysmic-Clash-Kings

Last Saturday saw the two titans of the EU LCS go head to head for the second and final time in the split. Unlike their previous bout, however, both squads were at their full power, and what resulted was an incredible match that lived up to its billing. High-octane action filled the game from the very beginning when Broxah’s Skarner wiggled his way around the G2 botlane tri-brush, to assist Rekkles and Hylissang in a fast First Blood and a second kill for the Fnatic ADC. Jankos would soon return the favor up top side, where he wrapped around the FNC jungle to deliver a kill on sOAZ to Wunder’s Gangplank. Ganks, counterganks, and skirmishes continued throughout the early and mid game, with G2 amassing a gold and tower lead.

Despite this, the game was anything but one-sided, as Fnatic fought back through their gold deficits and claimed many G2 lives in the process. A late positional error by Perkz netted Fnatic a kill on the G2 midlaner, the Elder Dragon, and soon an inhibitor, and Fnatic were off to the races. Forcing a Baron and taking a messy, but extremely tense teamfight in the process, Fnatic ended the game in classic style. With death timers ticking, sOAZ teleported into the G2 base, leaving his team to play catchup as he whittled away at Nexus turrets. G2’s Wunder tried a last ditch attempt to save the game, but to no avail, as Fnatic’s Baron buffed minions and champions crashed against their final structure. In the end, Fnatic extend their unbeaten streak to 7, and ended G2’s in the process.

2. H(eart-attack)2K

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Since H2K have added the veteran talent of Shook and Selfie to their roster, the team has managed some clutch performances, picking up two wins in Week 5, and challenging Fnatic in their rematch on Friday. But their final game of the week against Giants Gaming might just go down as the most pulse-pounding bout of the Spring Split. It began as any other game, with laning, ganks, mid-game skirmishes, and eventually Giants pulling ahead, holding H2K to a single kill and winning a fight right on the doorstep of their opponents’ base. But Giants couldn’t quite finish the game from there, and we watched as H2K defended their base, miraculously.

And then they did it again.

And again.

And then, a truly incredible thing happened. H2K, backs against the wall, aced a Baroned-up Giants team and a horde of buffed minions, inches away from their exposed Nexus. The next minute ticked by in disbelief, as Selfie’s Corki TP’d into top lane to end the game unopposed. I couldn’t put it any better than Drakos’ call myself: That was F***ing Beautiful.

3. When Irish Eyes (and Faces) Are Smiling

Irish-Eyes-Fans

The EU LCS experience is incomplete without some live crowd interaction. Whether it’s a diehard UOL “FEAR OUR HORNS” chant, a simple but classic “Let’s go X”, or even the occasional eyeroll-inducing “T-S-M, T-S-M”, crowds play an integral part of watching the game. But every now and again, the live studio gets a jolt of audience energy.

Enter the Irish. Last week, a crew of intrepid fans from one of EU’s westernmost islands flooded into the stands, and made their presence known. Keeping themselves (and everyone else) entertained throughout pauses and game downtime proved to be a speciality of sorts. In the H2K vs Giants game, the crowd gave some love to GIA midlaner Betsy, but he was certainly not the only target of their affections. Before Week 6 was over, they’d shouted out Djoko, Wadid, Hylissang, Alphari, Jiizuke, Jankos, Mikyx, and EU Color Caster Andrew “Vedius” Day. Valentine’s day might’ve come and gone, but thanks to the Irish crowd, everyone at the EU LCS felt a little extra love.

4. Team Vitality is Losing Life

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Week 6 (like some before it) had its fair share of triumphs, comebacks, and feel-good stories. But for every happy team flush with victory, another must fall in defeat. Such was the case for previous top dogs Vitality, who suffered a second winless week after going nearly undefeated for the start of the split. The tables have really turned for the fiery rookies-and-veterans roster in their four losses. Gone are the huge, snowballing victories, the flashy outplays, and the ecstatic faces of Jiizuke, Minitroupax, Gilius, Cabochard and Jactroll. Instead, they find themselves losing hard, and even more distressingly, losing fast.

In those winless two weeks, the team has averaged about 33 minutes and 12 seconds of gametime before their Nexus has fallen. It will be vital for them to figure out how to stop the bleeding if they want to right the ship before Playoffs begin. It doesn’t get any easier for Team Vitality either as they’ll kick off Week 7 up against a win-hungry Schalke 04, before taking on the surging squad of Fnatic.

5. This Could be EU's Most Competitive Split Ever

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With Week 6 of the regular play in the books, we are nearly two-thirds of the way to playoffs, and the race is tight. While teams like Fnatic and G2 appear to be shoe-ins for Playoffs, things are much less certain for the rest of the pack. For the first time in years, the distinction between mid-tier and bottom-tier teams seems to be blurring. On a given week, a last-place Unicorns beats Splyce. A beleaguered Schalke 04 notches a needed win vs Misfits. Then Splyce beats Schalke the next day.

One could explain this with a casual mention of the format, but the parity of teams isn’t solely due to “Best of One”. Going back in history, the last time EU ran with single games and ten teams, there were far less upsets, and a lot more certainty in game outcomes. Teams like SK Gaming and Copenhagen Wolves lived firmly at the bottom, and Fnatic reigned undefeated at the top. Today’s league showcases much more even ground between teams, meaning the playoff picture is far from certain, even with three weeks of games to go.