Splyce have had an interesting road to Worlds this year. They’ve been consistently one of Europe’s top performers throughout 2019, but with G2 Esports and Fnatic on the scene, they knew they would have to battle hard to get to the World Championship. It all looked to have gone wrong after Splyce lost 3-0 to Rogue in the Summer Playoffs, but they bounced back, coming through the Regional Finals to make it to Worlds as the LEC’s third seed.
“I was honestly very shocked that we could lose 3-0 to Rogue,” Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup says. “We had been on a downhill trend the weeks leading up to it, but still I expected to win, so it was just a big wake up call I think. And after that, we started trying a lot harder coming into the Gauntlet.
“It was really important to bounce back and make it to Worlds. We had some talks and made sure everyone gave it their all for the two or three weeks of practice before Gauntlet – and it worked out.”
For Splyce’s head coach Peter Dun, it’s been something of a long-term road to redemption as well. He says, “Last year, Splyce were playing extremely well coming into Gauntlet, but ended up losing 3-2 to G2 in the penultimate round. Because of events outside of our control in the off-season, the roster had to be remade at short notice, and many analysts predicted Splyce to possibly even miss playoffs in the Spring Split.
“To prove the doubters wrong feels great, but to reward our fans who stuck by us through the rough times has always been the primary goal of players and staff this year.”
The brand new roster has indeed proven a lot of people wrong, and they’ll be looking to do the same again when it comes to Worlds. Kobbe has been before, but for the rest, it’s something of a new experience.
“Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir, Tore “Norskeren” Hoel Eilertsen and Marek “Humanoid” Brázda are all still teenagers at their first Worlds; it must be exciting for them to test themselves and see where they stand against the best the world has to offer,” says Dun. “Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss is here after years of trying, and Kobbe has finally made it back after three years.”
With the fairly youthful lineup Splyce have, it might not be such a surprise for analysts to see them back on the international stage again next year. As for 2019, they’re remaining grounded in their expectations, but will still be pushing as hard as they can.
“I think we could make it to the quarter-finals,” Humanoid says. “But there’s a lot of strong teams and we’re not really at the top level. I don’t think we can win a best-of-five against a team like FunPlus Phoenix.”
“My goal is just to get as far as possible in the tournament, and then I can see after if I’m happy with what we achieved or not,” Kobbe tells us. “I want to finish top two in our group.”
To start off with, they need to make it through the Play-In stage. Luckily for his team, Dun has been doing a lot of research into the matter.
“As a coaching staff we split responsibility for following international meta, and my focus is generally on China, Vietnam, Brazil, Turkey and Latin America,” he says. “I’ll leave Hadrien “Duke” Forestier and James “Mac” MacCormack to fill the team in on what to expect from North America and Korea.
“Isurus Gaming are not to be underestimated,” Dun continues. “Sebastián “Oddie” Alonso Niño Zavaleta and Édgar Ali “Seiya” Bracamontes Munguía have a lot of experience, and I have a lot of respect for them from preparing for Lyon Gaming/R7 when I was at INTZ. Also their banter is Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng or Luka “Perkz” Perkovic-level. Oddie vs Xerxe is the matchup of the Play-In Group stage and should be exciting to watch.
“DetonatioN FocusMe play the game smartly, but we have some plans for managing Shunsuke “Evi” Murase in the mid game, and will not underestimate them.
“Obviously Damwon are the standout team from Play-Ins, but there are a lot of talented individual players from emerging regions that EU fans may not know so well, but should be respected: Lowkey’s Nguyễn “Artifact” Văn Hậu, Unicorns of Love’s Kirill “AHaHaCiK” Skvortsov and Flamengo’s Leonardo “Robo” Souza to name three off the top of my head.”
Humanoid is confident in his coaches: “We should win every game,” he says. “If we somehow lose in Play-Ins, it will be a huge disappointment.”
Gunning for Groups
Negotiate the Play-Ins successfully, and Splyce will be back at the main event for the first time since 2016. They can get placed into Group B or D, avoiding G2 and Fnatic’s groups. Fortunately, this means they’ll also be skipping out on some of the bigger teams at the tournament too. Of course, with it being the World Championship, there are no easy groups. There’s one in particular that Dun wants to skip though.
“Give me group D. I hear Heimerdinger is coming back into the meta and I would love to see Kobbe and Doublelift, two of the best Western ADC players play Heimerdinger vs Sona bot lane for 20 minutes. I’ve also heard rumours that FPX’s Kim “Doinb” Tae-sung has some very spicy picks prepared for Worlds in solo queue, and I would prefer if he tested them on someone else first!
“Group B looks like a nightmare for Splyce,” he says. “GAM, J Team and FPX are all super aggressive teams that will fight you to the death early, and many Western commentators and fans are vastly under-estimating the quality of that group.”
Splyce have become known for their late game prowess, so early aggression from opponents will be an obstacle to overcome. Dun has some tricks up his sleeve, though.
“Everyone knows that you don’t want to go to 35 minutes against Splyce. Of course as a coach, I would love to see my team win games consistently at 25 minutes like G2 and not rely on going late, and we’re trying to get there in scrims. However, knowing that there is a timer on every game is always a nice thing to have – it’s up to us to defend that reputation at Worlds, and show our new early game prowess from pre-tournament boot camp. Going late is great, but you can’t play your ace immediately every game, and sometimes some variety is a good thing.”
If they do make it to the main event, Splyce will be looking to vastly improve on their performance from three years ago, when they went 1-5 in Groups.
“I remember a lot of lost games, we had a really tough group,” Kobbe says. “I think we had no chance against Samsung Galaxy who eventually went to finals. We could have taken both games against TSM but didn’t have enough experience, and the most memorable games were against Royal Never Give Up. One game I got absolutely destroyed by Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao, but the next time we adapted and beat them in an unfavourable matchup… I would like a rematch against Uzi, or a rematch with Doublelift could be fun too.”