Brawls, fiestas, heart attacks, close calls and ties: Welcome back to Europe. The gladiatorial slugfest of the group stages in the Main Event draws its curtains to a close. In the arena of stars, the colosseum of valour, 16 teams have duked it for the honour of advancing into the playoffs. Only the eight best go through to continue their road for the ultimate prize: The EU Masters trophy.
Missed some of the action over the five grueling days of competition? Fret not, for once again we’re here to run down a recap of the best matches, as well as what to expect going into playoffs. So continue to wear your country's pride on your sleeves and keep the flags waving high – the road only gets steeper from now on.
Our top 5 matches and moments of the group stages
To charm a Viper (SK Prime vs Splyce Vipers)
The Spanish Vipers and champions were projected by us to be possibly the strongest team coming into the tournament, besides Team-LDLC and Rogue Academy. However, SK Prime, who absolutely dominated the play-ins and still possessing the fearsome reputation of being terrifying to face online, decided to bring a potent antivenom to this match.
We nicknamed SK Prime “The Blitzkrieg” and they showed why. Despite the Vipers drafting their usual comfort of a full teamfighting composition, the Spanish kings could not keep up with the frenetic pace of jungler Phrenic and support Doss’s incredible Thresh. SK Prime did have a dip in tempo and attempted a botched dive which nearly gave Splyce Vipers an avenue to return. Picking themselves up, SK Prime proceeded to reorganise and trounced the Vipers in the following teamfights, taking a vital win in Group D before eventually advancing in first place.
Mages, Assassins and...Tanks? (Team-LDLC & SK Prime)
Can you hear it? There’s a rumbling in the depths of solo queue that whispers faintly, “Tanks are returning”. Like a mantra, this is chanted as you randomly see your midlaner lock in Nautilus. Of course this is rather puzzling since Nautilus, the Godfather of Crowd Control, is mostly used as a tank in the support or top positions. Even Cho’Gath midlane is not an extremely common sight but recently tanks have been on a tear. And thus unsurprisingly, they have made their way into the EU Masters. See for yourself in the matches below.
Eika decides to play the Titan of the Depths here against Azir and Blitzcrank. While he didn’t have a chance to carry the game himself, he proved to be useful in several key engagements, earning Team-LDLC a hard fought victory.
Jenax displayed why Cho’Gath was such a menace to deal with even when built the AP route. Zoning away multiple enemies and threatening to Feast in one fell swoop, he became nigh unstoppable towards the end and led SK Prime onwards to the nexus.
Portugal’s first win in the EU Masters (FTW Esports vs Campus Party Sparks)
Portugal hasn’t had the best time since the inception of the European Masters. Failing to qualify in the first edition and going winless in the second, FTW were desperate to show that the region that has produced numerous talents for Europe could still field a competitive team. Against the loud, flamboyant Ferrari in Campus Party Sparks, FTW did not disappoint.
Playing with their signature reckless aggression, Sparks obtained an early lead by attempting repeated early dives onto FTW’s botlane duo, but FTW were not shaken. They bit down and held on, waiting for perfect opportunities as their composition scaled. And that they did. Multiple times they punished Sparks’s poor positioning and overeagerness, eventually proving too much for the Italian Stallions. FTW Esports obtain Portugal’s first ever win in the EU Masters and they can hold their heads high going into the next edition.
When Knights met Winged Hussars (Fnatic Rising vs Rogue Esports Club)
The clash of giants, the meeting of behemoths, whichever way you name it this was one of the most anticipated matches after the group draws were over. Despite the UK’s reputation, analysts and coaches alike have mentioned multiple times Fnatic Rising are not a team to be taken lightly. Even Rogue Esports Club, a team many touted to take the title, did not expect the onslaught and fury from Her Majesty’s finest
Rogue hoped to capitalise on Fnatic’s sometimes indecisive spells past 25 minutes into the game with a near full scaling comp. However, Fnatic would have none of it. They would not be cowed into submission and from the get-go it was pure aggression and pressure from Fnatic. The British powerhouse gave Poland’s finest no room to breathe, conceding no turrets and only a single dragon. Rogue eventually succumbed and surrendered first place to Fnatic Rising.
Madness in method or method in madness? (Rogue Esports Club vs Misfits Premier)
Rogue Esports Club had one hand already on the trophy if you asked every expert and even us. But the group of death takes its toll, and when the Polish representatives met the Killer Rabbits of Caerbannog…the resulting match is beyond comprehension. Misfits Premier adds another step to their miraculous chain of unlikely last minute qualifications, as they keep improving their run against harder and harder challenges along the way.
Punishing mistakes is Rogue’s bread and butter, but Misfits knew that. They knew it so well… that they made a lot of them. In perhaps what was the strangest example of “divide and conquer”, Rogue’s eagerness to punish the overaggressive plays by Misfits made them lose sight of their win conditions. Throughout the whole game, the hooded Polish squad held the upper hand in the killcount, but the gold advantage was never in their favour. Despite their superior scaling draft, Larssen’s Kayle couldn’t turn kills into pressure and eventually Dan Dan’s splitpushing Neeko and LIDER’s clutch Zed assassination pulled the trigger, with a stunning backdoor that shattered Rogue’s journey and incredibly propelled Misfits premier to a quarterfinal spot.
Our 5 things to watch out for in playoffs
Fear the Lion (or #FearTheLion)
The MAD Lions entered the European Masters with their prides battered and bruised. Losing to Splyce Vipers in a 3-0 sweep and on their first day in Play-ins they lost three straight matches to Diabolus Esports, Misfits Premier and SK Prime. Times looked bleak for the defending champions. But as champions do, they do not take their losses lying down. Star coach Araneae rallied his pride together once again and they have thus far looked unstoppable, going on an eight game unbeaten streak. MAD Lions even went up against Team-LDLC, “La Grande Armee” as we dubbed them, and took them apart piece by piece. Their game against enSure last 15 minutes, the shortest in EU Masters history.
Now they are back at the foot of where it all began for them: the playoffs, and the Lions are hungry for blood. They face the Splyce Vipers, their nemeses from the Spanish circuit who sent them to play-ins in shocking fashion. This time, they will not go quietly into the night. They are back with resounding roars so teams best beware, for when Lions hunt, nothing is safe.
When is Brexit again?
It’s official, Fnatic Rising has done more heavy lifting in salvaging the UK’s flailing reputation within the continent than Theresa May. Is EUM coming home then? The UKLC fans would love to think so. Despite being drawn into the jaws of despair in the form of Group C (the group of death), Fnatic Rising remained true to their namesake and rose above all. Even against tournament favourites Rogue Esports Club, Fnatic’s well drilled and prepared answered to the Sona/Taric draft emerged triumphant, trouncing Rogue’s hopes of emerging first.
The UK superteam have looked like one of the most dominant teams thus far with an incredibly proactive and calculated early game, extremely reminiscent of their LEC counterparts’ playstyle in recent times. Now they have made it out as the first seed, all eyes will be on them. With the elimination of Rogue Esports Club, teams will take heed not to underestimate the team who soundly defeated them.
Sona/Taric shenanigans and their host of counters
By now our fellow viewers must be familiar with the prevalence of the phenomenon in the botlane that is Sona and Taric – affectionately dubbed Sonic OR Tona-Saric. This once unconventional, and very much still oppressive and incredibly annoying pairing has terrorised both solo queue and competitive matches alike.
Although, this pairing is not invincible. In order to counter this troublesome duo, many teams have dug out every shred of knowledge within league not named ‘just ban it’. We saw G2 Esports in the LEC destroy Origen’s ‘Sonic’ with the even more infuriating funnel composition.
However, the regional leagues are just as creative. Fnatic Rising for example, countered Rogue’s mostly scaling comp with an aggressive early game plan and using Veigar and Pyke. FTW did their damndest with a Jarvan jungle and Vayne/Janna but were outclassed despite finding some early chances. Misfits Premier brought out Griffin’s infamous Taliyah/Pantheon botlane as well in an attempt to bait out the Sona/Taric from Rogue Esports Club. There is no doubt that some teams will let ‘Sonic’ through the ban phase in the playoffs and with the quality of the teams presents, we look very much look forward to the signature European creativity they will pull out as counters to this threat. And who knows: maybe MSI teams will take inspiration from these young European upstarts!
Spain, France and DACH with eyes on the prize
While Spain and France having both seeds advancing is usually taken for granted, it is the DACH region that has surprised many in 2019. Traditionally considered to be one of the weaker major regions, Euronics Gaming’s Top 4 finish in the last edition become the catalyst for the scene in 2019 to strive for even better results. All three major regions have both their representatives advancing into the knockout stages, with France and Germany facing each other twice and the Spanish representatives facing each other.
Truthfully, there has been quite a gulf in terms of skill this EU Masters between the Major and the Minor Regions. While some of them like Poland, the Nordics and to some extent the Balkans, have floundered, the other teams from Major Regions have looked a cut above. This means the playoffs race will be incredibly close and the matches are likely to be balanced on a knife’s edge. If the EU Masters is already this good in its third edition, who knows what the next edition will bring?
EU tops man...
The League community often repeats the favoured phrase of “EU mids man…” due to the midlane having a long association of excellence on the international stage worldwide. But coming into this edition of the European Masters, without disrespect to the predictably flourishing talent in the midlane, we’d like to say “EU tops man…” for the sheer amount of talent available in that position.
All 8 teams feature different styles of toplaners, but each more than capable of carrying their team on their backs. Just take a look at some of the names: WhiteKnight from BIG, Sacre from SK Prime, Yoppa from MAD Lions, Orome from Splyce Vipers, and Dan Dan from Misfits Premier. At some point over the tournament and their local circuits these brave warriors have served both as sword and shield for their comrades. With the variety of carry champions being played in the top lane, it has shown each and every one of them is a capable carry threat for the team. Underestimating them will be fatal; empowering them will be key.