At the end of the day, expectations became reality in every way throughout the 2019 Worlds Play-In Stage. Each 1st seed topped their group with each 2nd seed following behind. Then each 1st seed won in their series to make it through to the Group Stage. Spylce is the last team to finish their knockout series, silencing their former regional partner, UoL, and qualifying to the Group Stage.
~ But before you read on, please watch this series. It is some of the most intense, entertaining games that the Play-Ins have seen. From the back and forth aggression, to the chants from the crowd in the background, this series is worth the time. Now back to it. ~
Just as expected, Splyce start the series off strong, choking out the Unicorns of Love throughout the early and mid game, keeping on the front foot and showing their 1st seed dominance. Except... How does one fight against a Kayle, Kai'Sa, and Gangplank? Easy, you beat them in 25 minutes, and don't allow them to scale!
Unfortunately, that was not in the playbook for Splyce in their opening game. After securing 15 kills in less than 20 minutes, completely silencing the former European team in what seemed like would be an easy victory, a botched Baron attemp allowed UoL back in the game.
A strategy often implemented by underdog teams is "Scale harder and stall," and that is exactly what the Unicorns had drafted for themselves in the opening game. Usually the stronger team will come out on top anyway through insurmountable early game leads. And while Splyce followed that same trajectory, they were lazy in their Baron prep and it ultimately cost them the first game.
Not To Worry
While the second game was a bit closer throughout, Splyce was definitely always one step ahead controlling the pace of the game. Much like a seesaw, each team would push and pull, trying to gain advantages while giving as little as possible on the other side - Splyce always seeming to do so more successfully than their counterparts.
The Unicorns were usually the first to push, starting with failed aggression top side that ended in multiple members down. Then when Splyce themselves went for a big play bot lane, the Unicorns flanked to try and mirror the play that had just gone against them before.
But, of course, Splyce was already a step ahead, teleporting two additional members down and winning on that fight as well. Splyce was then sitting on a comfortable gold lead, better vision, better pacing, and a better teamfighting comp. The Unicorns didn't have the crazy scaling as an insurance policy this time around.
A few teamfights later, Splyce went for that same Baron play from Game 1, except they prepped this one properly, turned off the Baron, and sent four Unicorns to the gray screen. Not long after, the base was taken, the Nexus exploded, and Trevor "Quickshot" Henry greeted us with the classic, "We've got a series on our hands."
Yet immediately after in the next game, Splyce ran it back the exact same, always staying one step ahead starting from the first minute. They split the map yet again, but this time around, UoL's bot lane was pressured so much, they lost all agency in the early game.
That lack of pressure gave Splyce such a strong early lead, they racked up a 10K gold lead by just 18 minutes. At that point, the only way UoL could have ever found themselves back in the game is with multiple picks and a Baron steal, but Splyce learned from the first time and finished the game cleanly.
Leading the series 2-1, Splyce finally had a more compelling finish and looked set to complete the series with just one more game.
Once More Unto the Breach
Down in the series with the season on the line, the Unicorns of Love shake things up and pull out Heimerdinger bot lane and Karthus jungle. After successfully splitting the map, then utilizing a winning top to invade late securing multiple extra camps on the Unicorns side, Karthus got well ahead and began pressuring the map early.
The Unicorns got such an early lead they dictated the pace, stealing away objectives, winning skirmishes, and looking strong up to the Baron. But just like in Game 1, they fail to properly execute their Baron setup when ahead, and Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir flies in to steal away the Hand of Baron giving Splyce some relief.
Except UoL won the fight anyway, retaining their lead in both gold and pressure. Fast forward five minutes to the next Baron which would surely catapult the Unicorns to their second win, and yet again, they lose that one to another Xerxe steal but win the fight and leave their base in shambles.
After what seemed like a lifetime of Splyce fighting their way back into the driver's seat in this game, the Unicorns finally find a proper Baron, and with the power of a fed Elder buffed Karthus in the late game, they obliterated the European representative and tied up the series.
Bring on the Silver Scrapes
As it always goes with Game 5, the last of this series was sloppy and aggressive, rife with mechanical errors and outplays, and intense moments. Another Karthus for UoL meant Splyce needed to be more calculated with their health bars. A Qiyana-Syndra mid-jungle duo for Splyce meant the CC and burst was fully present and UoL would have to hover close over their flash buttons.
It's a game that's hard to describe, each team threw their all into the game. UoL fell behind in the mid game, but snuck a signature Baron at 23 minutes to equalize the game. But Splyce bounce back and grab away the second Baron for themselves and were right back in the lead.
Fight after fight, these teams pushed for their way into the enemy base to steal away the series. But at the end of the day, "Splyce show up, Splyce eliminate the Unicorns of Love and move on to the Group Stage," Daniel "Drakos" Drakos pronounces.
Man of the Match
With such an incredible series, it's hard to nail down one person. Xerxe had times where he completely outclassed his opponent, Marek "Humanoid" Brázda came up huge in the mid games constantly finding picks for his team, but Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup ultimately won the Player of the Series for Riot and will as well for InvenGlobal based on his consistency throughout.
In their wins - especially in Game 3 - Kobbe and Tore "Norskeren"Hoel Eilertsen made the UoL botlane a non-factor. Even when not given resources, Kobbe played these late game, trditional ADCs wonderfully, always being that insurance policy for the team and backing up their engage and early game aggression.
After an incredible, grueling series, Splyce finally closed it out, and they will join the other two European seeds in the Group Stage as the final qualifier from the 2019 World Championship Play-In Stage.