The second round of the EU LCS Gauntlet featured a tremendous showdown between H2K Gaming and the Unicorns of Love. With smart adjustments to the playbook, the once-cursed team has broken free.
Both teams came into the game with something to prove. After another premature exit from the LCS Playoffs, H2K sought to prove they could succeed in the postseason. On the other hand, the Unicorns of Love looked for redemption. Their embarrassing 0-3 loss to Misfits took them out of the Worlds discussion, and they looked to prove the promise they showed in the mid-regular season. It all came to head in an absolute war that was nothing short of epic. Finally, after 5 long games, H2K Gaming emerged victorious, defeating their rivals 3-2.
H2K and UOL have fought tooth and nail this year in the EU LCS. Throughout the season, they have battled for control of Group B, and an automatic berth to the semifinals. While the standings have been neck-and-neck all year long, the head-to-head record tells a different story. In four games across the Spring and Summer Splits, H2K Gaming didn’t find a single series victory. For the most part, their sets have always gone down to wire – three of the four games have gone the distance, and H2K have often managed to establish early leads. And yet, despite their advantages, H2K have consistently missed the mark.
Analysts have chalked up H2K’s inability to shut down their demons as a matter of playstyle differences. H2K rely on early-game leads to snowball their way to victory. Jankos puts early pressure around carries like Febiven and Odoamne, and gets them so far ahead of their lane opponents that the enemy can’t come back. After the early game though, their weaknesses become apparent.
They often have difficulty finding intelligent teamfights, and lack consistency when holding off an opposing comeback. This makes UOL the perfect counter to H2K Gaming. The Unicorns find their strength in mid-game skirmishes and off-the-wall engages. Even if H2K manage to find an edge early on, the Unicorns take it right back, and eventually take the series.
However, this occasion was a little bit different for the two rival squads. While both teams effectively maintained the same overall style, H2K had improved in areas where they had struggled before. They seemed to perform better as a unit, and were able to consistently win relatively evenly-matched teamfights. Importantly, they were much stronger at maintaining their leads in scary situations. Through a number of frightening fights that looked to turn the team’s lead sour, H2K stayed strong, and were able to either win outright or effectively disengage. They’d finally found the answer to the UOL curse.
We're coming for you tomorrow @FNATIC . We're fucking hungry
— Pascu Andrei (@OdoamneLoL) September 9, 2017
This is not to say that H2K have given up their style. In each of their three games, the team still turned to early lane advantages to carry them to success. Without Nuclear’s game two Xayah or Odoamne’s game five Gnar, they may have dropped an extra game to UOL somewhere in the series. However, they seem to be expanding beyond the strategies that led them to success in the regular season.”Get Febiven fed” is far from the worst playbook, but against Europe’s elite and the international competition, it might not hold up. It’s good to see H2K with a more well-rounded style as they defeat their rivals, end the curse, and advance in the Regional Finals to play against Fnatic.